Category Archives: destination

The Landscapes of Canada gardens at the Museum of Nature in Ottawa

Many of us already know the dioramas at Canada’s Museum of Nature in Ottawa: the grizzlies, the caribou, the pronghorns and even the dinosaurs.  As a child, I would gaze at these immobilized animals behind glass and imagine living among them, either in the distant past or in the wilds of today.

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Pronghorns diorama, Canadian Museum of Nature, 2007; photo Denis Larouche

But I was also always mesmerized by the scenes that surrounded these beasts: the painted flora, the cliffs, the expansive plains….all landscapes that seemed to have disappeared along with the animals that populated them.  Not only the scenes but the dried plants and paintings of plants that dressed the landscapes…

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Artist Denis Larouche working on the vegetative display in the Pronghorns diorama at the Canadian Museum of Nature, 2007; photo Jenni Walker

As I grew up, I longed to see these distant landscapes as they lived and breathed, rather than preserved …. and this is probably why I became a gardener.  And if I couldn’t always go to these far away landscapes, I could try to grow the plants that inhabited them.

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The western edge of the Canadian Museum of Nature in downtown Ottawa has been park-like for as long as I can remember.  And by park-like, I mean predominantly lawn and shade trees….a perfect complement to the early 20th century “Scottish Baronial” structure, designed to reflect the centre block of the Parliament Buildings.  To understand the history of the lawn, read this.  To be entertained by the concept of the lawn, read Michael Pollan’s wonderful book Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, particularly Chapter 3, where he talks about our cultural imperative of mowing (courtesy the 1830 invention of the lawnmower).

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Aerial view of the Canadian Museum of Nature, pre-2004; image courtesy of Canadian Museum of Nature website (www.nature.ca).  The west side park is on the extreme right.

This western side of the Museum was also home most recently to a family group of woolly mammoths.  It was a striking sight to pedestrians, dog-walkers and lunch-time loiterers and a portend of what visitors would find inside the historic building:  giant animals from our past.

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In late 2011 and early 2012, plans began to take shape for the new appearance of this piece of green space.  It would represent the last stage of renovations to the building and its surroundings that began in 2004.  According to the Museum’s Advisory to the neighbourhood:

“This plan is one that will ultimately result in restoring more than half of the existing west side property into parkland for the enjoyment and benefit of the community.”

Happily, the result of this design is not simply a “parkland” but a carefully designed microcosm of Canada’s main four eco-zones, each with their own distinctive plant species: namely, the boreal forest, prairie, tundra (Arctic) and steppe grassland (this last area was included primarily to embrace our old friends, the woolly mammoths).

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So in June 2015, the Museum made public their concept for fully Canadian-izing this public space and issued a press release that included this announcement:

“A living outdoor botanical exhibit will soon enliven the grounds of the Canadian Museum of Nature. Starting the third week of June, the museum will begin landscaping the west side of its property to develop the Landscapes of Canada Gardens.”

A full year later in June 2016 the new landscape of Canada will be unveiled to the public.  There will be the usual benches, pathways, signage and light standards, but there will also be some things that are very unusual….

Starting with the iceberg.

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William Lishman with iceberg sculpture at Canadian Museum of Nature, 2015.  Photo: Alan Neal, CBC

Glistening stainless steel.  Monumental.  Interactive.  Stunning.  And designed by Father Goose, William Lishman.  Of course it represents Canada’s North in a very modern way, but also hearkens back to the paintings of Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris who travelled to the Arctic in the 1930s aboard the government supply ship “Beothic.”

The vegetation around the sculptural highlight of this garden mimics the tundra, with plants that are indigenous to the Arctic.  They have also been chosen according to what will potentially thrive in Ottawa’s sweltering summers and unpredictable winters.  This was largely Paul Sokoloff’s job: he is the Museum’s Senior Research Assistant with the Botany Department and he wrote about the gardens here.  In preparation for the installation, Paul worked with the team at CSW Landscape Architects, namely Martha Lush, and came up with a list of plants that would suit this planting.  And here they are:

TUNDRA PLANT LIST

Shrubs

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry)

Betula nana (Dwarf birch)

Rhododendron groenlandicum (Labrador tea)

Salix arctica (Arctic willow)

Vaccinum caespitosum (Dwarf blueberry)

Perennials/Grasses

Allium schoenoprasum (Chive)

Anemone patens subsp. multifida (Pasque flower/crocus)

Calliergon giganteum (Arctic moss)

Carex saxatilis (Rock sedge)

Empetrum nigrum (Black crowberry)

Puccinellias (Alkali grass)

Saxifraga cespitosa (Tufted saxifrage)

Saxifraga oppositifolia (Purple saxifrage)

Silene acaulis (Moss campion)

 

The Arctic planting will essentially be low-growing, because that’s the way things grow up there, and include novel plants (to you and I, anyway) like Betula nana ….

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Betula glandulosa; July 2009, NWT, taken by Jeff Saarela, Canadian Museum of Nature

This is Betula glandulosa, which the experts will tell you differs from B. nana in that it exhibits glandular warts on the shoots and longer leaf petioles — alrighty then.  Betula nana, which will be planted in this garden, is a monoecious shrub (that is, having both male and female parts – making reproduction a snap in its challenging native habitat) growing upwards to 1 or 1.2 metres high.  Its growing habit is low and spreading, with leaves that are shiny and diminutive and it produces catkins that stand upright, awaiting the wind to help with pollination.

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Carex saxatilis; Roger Bull, 2012, Canadian Museum of Nature

Russet sedge, botanically called Carex saxatilis, grows up to 80-90 centimeters high in a dense, well-behaved tuft.  This sedge grows in northern regions around the earth, preferring wetlands but also grows  on ridges or ledges, shores of rivers or lakes and wetland margins.

This brings me to moisture.  The water loving plants in the Arctic garden at the Museum are being given a helping hand through the installation of a drip irrigation system, and the area is being mulched with granite rubble.

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Artist’s rendering of the Arctic eco-zone in the Landscapes of Canada Gardens; courtesy CSW Landscape Architects, via Canadian Museum of Nature

This new “park land” replaces turf grasses with native grasses.  Grasses like these:

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The rusty brown narrow inflorescence are rendered conspicuous by the often large numbers of flowering stalks within a single stand.  Photo by Matt Lavin — originally posted to Flickr as Calamagrostis stricta

And these:

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Deschampsia caespitosa; photo by: Christian Fischer

The prairie eco-zone in this garden will showcase plants that are familiar to many of us: Echinacea, Achillea, Aster, Rudbeckia and Liatris, and they will mingle with prairie grasses.  However, these are not the showy cultivars you’ll see at the nursery, but rather the native species that you may see at Fletcher Wildlife Garden at the Central Experimental Farm.

Indeed, the folks at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden have provided many of the plants that have already been put in place or seeded in the sunny prairie garden, which will over time look quite like this:

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Butterfly meadow, June 2009, Fletcher Wildlife Garden, Ottawa: photo by Christine Hanrahan — showing fireweed, brown-eyed Susan, yarrow & feverfew, etc.

A circular area will be mown in the centre of the prairie garden to allow a space for contemplation and for educational opportunities where students can learn about native Canadian wildflowers and meadow ecology.

PRAIRIE AND BOREAL PLANT LIST

Large deciduous trees

Acer saccharum (Sugar maple)

Quercus rubra (Red oak)

Populus tremuloides (Trembling aspen)

 

Small deciduous trees

Amelanchier alnifolia (Saskatoon berry)

 

Coniferous trees

Abies balsamea (Balsam fir)

Larix laricina (Black larch)

Picea glauca (White spruce)

Pinus banksiana (Jack pine)

Tsuga canadensis (Hemlock)

 

Shrubs

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry)

Empetrum nigrum (Crowberry)

Juniperus communis (Common juniper)

Juniperus horizontalis (Creeping juniper)

Matteuccia struthiopteris (Ostrich fern)

Potentilla tridentata (Cinquefoil)

Rosa acicularis (Prickly wild rose)

Rhododendron groenlandicum (Labrador tea)

Vaccinium caespitosum (Dwarf blueberry)

Vaccinium vitas-idea (Bog cranberry)

 

Perennials

Achillea millefolium (Common yarrow)

Allium stellatum (Pink flowering onion)

Anemone patens subsp. multifida (Pasque flower/Prairie crocus)

Anemone quinquefolia (Wood anemone)

Armeria splendens (Common thrift)

Asclepias incarnata (Swamp milkweed)

Aster alpinus (Alpine aster)

Aster novae-angliae (New England aster)

Cornus canadensis (Bunchberry)

Echinacea angustifolia (Purple coneflower)

Eupatorium maculatum (Joe Pye weed)

Liatris ligulistylis (Meadow blazing star)

Papaver nudicaule (Iceland poppy)

Ranunculus acris (Tall buttercup)

Rudbeckia hirta (Black eyed Susan)

Trillium grandiflorum (Large flowered trillium)

 

Grasses

Calamagrostis stricta (Slim stem small reed grass)

Deschampsia caespitosa (Tufted hair grass)

Much of the seed mix in the prairie garden has come from the Living Prairie Museum in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  This city-run nature preserve comprises 12 hectares (30 acres) in the middle of the city of Winnipeg and protects 160 species of prairie plants and wildlife.  The Living Prairie Museum is a virtually untouched tall grass prairie, an eco-system that once covered one million square kilometres from Manitoba to Texas.  Seeds that are native to the tall grass prairie were sent to the folks here in Ottawa and planted in the prairie garden in the spring of 2015.  I’m sure the spring and summer of 2016 will see a glorious display!

PRAIRIE SEED MIX

Perennials

Agastache foeniculum (Giant hyssop)

Allium stellatum (Pink flowering onion)

Anemone patens subsp. multifida (Pasque flower/Prairie crocus)

Aquilegia canadensis (Wild red columbine)

Asclepias incarnata (Swamp milkweed)

Aster novae-angliae (New England aster)

Echinacea angustifolia (Purple coneflower)

Epilobium angustifolium (Fireweed)

Eupatorium maculatum (Joe Pye weed)

Dalea purpurea (Purple prairie clover)

Liatris ligulistylis (Meadow blazing star)

Ratibida columnifera (Yellow coneflower)

Rudbeckia hirta (Black eyed Susan)

 

Grasses

Agrostis scabra (Hair grass)

Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama grass)

Koeleria cristata (Junegrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

 

Tall grass mix

Andropogon gerardi (Big bluestem)

Bouteloua curtipendula (Side oats grama)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wild rye)

Panicum virgatum (Switch grass)

Sorghastum nutans (Indian grass)

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Artist’s rendering of the Boreal eco-zone in the Landscapes of Canada Gardens; courtesy CSW Landscape Architects, via Canadian Museum of Nature

The boreal forest will be a shady retreat for visitors to the Landscapes of Canada gardens.  Healthy existing trees have been supplemented with sympathetic native species like Sugar maple, red oak and trembling aspen, alongside some iconic evergreen species like Jack pine, hemlock, white spruce, black larch and balsam fir.

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Picea glauca (white spruce) 2014; Paul Sokoloff, Canadian Museum of Nature

And finally, the mammoths have been moved but they have not been forgotten…

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No longer next to the rushing traffic on O’Connor Street, they have been shifted to their new north-facing home next to McLeod Street.  And rather than a bed of gravel, they will graze in a planting of shrubs, grasses and perennials that would have been around when they traveled across the Bering Strait into our northern landscape.

MAMMOTH STEPPE PLANTING

Shrubs and Grasses

Juniperus communis

Potentilla tridentata

Rosa acicularis

Calamagrostis stricta

Deschampsia caespitosa

 

Perennials

Anemone patens

Achillea millefolium

Armeria splendens

Aster alpinus

Papaver nudicaule

Ranunculus acris

The final plantings of this series of gardens will be in the Arctic Garden this spring.  By Saturday June 18th, the gardens will be open to the public and are invited to come and enjoy this spectacular botanical display.  Go to http://www.nature.ca for updates on this launch.

I really look forward to being one of those visitors who sit, saunter, eat, read, listen to the birds and watch the butterflies in this new space.  The garden will be such a joy in the middle of town, just one mile south of the Parliament Buildings.

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Artist’s rendering of the Prairie garden, Landscapes of Canada Gardens, Canada Museum of Nature; courtesy CSW Landscape Architects and Canada Museum of Nature
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Planting plan for Landscapes of Canada Gardens, Canadian Museum of Nature; by CSW Landscape Architects, Ottawa.  Courtesy Canadian Museum of Nature

LES QUATRES VENTS: PART II

I was reminded by a reader the other day that I had promised an additional entry on this iconic garden.  I had visited it way, way back in 2013 but somehow my second installment never made it onto the page….

IMG_4719Let’s try again.

Time and space made me realize I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was left unsettled by this garden.

It is perched high above the surrounding valley, with views reaching down to the St. Lawrence in what was, and remains for many, the playground of the well-heeled.

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When the gardens at Les Quatres Vents were created in the last quarter of the 20th century, Francis Cabot’s horticultural, historical and architectural aspirations were reflected through these landscape expressions.  This level of excellence was made possible through wealth and high-society connections and Cabot’s creations mimicked the famous gardens in England, France and Japan, drawing upon (literally, physically and ideologically) the most influential gardeners, artisans and horticulturists of the day.

All this was taking place during the gardening boom in North America, when the work of contemporary British gardeners like Rosemary Verey, Penelope Hobhouse, Christopher Lloyd and Graham Stuart-Thomas were being heralded for the first time to us colonials.  More than this, the historical gardens of British icons like Gertrude Jekyll, Vita Sackville-West and Russell Page were being documented in lush picture books that beginner gardeners began to devour (much to the delight of the big publishing houses in New York and London).  Cabot’s hedges channeled those in almost every English estate garden, while his languorous half-circle stone staircases reflected those designed by the famed British architect and “taste-maker” Edwin Lutyens.

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He sought their advice and held to it strictly …..

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…witness the rose garden under-planted with pinks (Dianthus), a la Russell Page’s instruction.

There are allees, precisely clipped hedges and regimented sight-lines galore, which in my mind are a stereotypical fetish of the male gardener.  Think Lawrence Johnston of Hidcote Manor fame.

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But I ask you, when is rigidity visually pleasurable and when is it claustrophobic?

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When is repetition satisfying and when is it predictable and formulaic?

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And when is monumentalism awe-inspiring and when is it simply exhibitionism?

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There were moments in this garden when I couldn’t help wondering, “Where is the authentic spirit of the place? Where is the place I can sit and feel at peace near the mouth of the St-Lawrence, without feeling the uncomfortable imposition of prestige and power?”

There were moments when I thought I had found that place …. but the question remained:  were these choreographed moments where the garden designer had anticipated the blurring effects of time or simply nature triumphing over artifice …?  And did it matter?

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In this new 21st century world where we are loosening our grip around nature, letting plants be what they intrinsically are without shaping, coddling, orchestrating and overseeing, it was the moments where wildness seemed to win where I found the most pleasure…

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But there were also dream-like “garden” moments that were clearly the result of intensive construction projects.  The relative instant gratification they must have provided Cabot is almost breath-taking.  Take his homage to the Japanese garden.

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Cabot’s Japanese garden, like its inspiration on the other side of the world, combines stone, water, temple and plants.  There is no question that it creates a place of contemplation where the furthest thing from your mind is artifice or incongruity (if this Asian art is new to you) …… and yet, in this Quebec countryside, it is exactly that.  It tries but it is not an authentic Japanese garden experience.  But, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

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And then there were the plants….

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As Cabot himself characterized it, his garden had to be a “greater perfection.”  A skilled stonemason constructed the terraces, walls and stairs; a craftsman borrowed from Japan built the tea house; visiting professionals were asked for input on the plants and gardens.  Cabot sought instruction from the very best and when he couldn’t do some of the practical stuff himself, he hired those who could.

Many of these plants are moisture lovers that require cool summers and humous-rich soil.  And so, in order to grow these spectacular Asian beauties (Rodgersia, Primula, Lilium, Iris, Meconopsis), soil was moved, trees were planted, water was directed and misters were rigged.  It is the perfect man-made environment.

So isn’t that what a garden is anyway?

Perhaps it’s just sour grapes.

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Still, I choose imperfection.  Because I am.

I will visit what is presented as perfection, with my eyes gazing up and down in awe and my mind overwhelmed with the logistics.  But I will feel at home with much less.

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Hardy, healthy roses in our own backyard!

Wunderkind Mark Dallas is the brain and brawn behind Galetta Nurseries, a specialty rose grower and retail supplier located just this side of Arnprior.  I say Wunderkind not because he’s a whippersnapper but because he must be young at heart to continue to run an independent plant nursery!

Emily Carr redRosa x ‘Emily Carr’

From the Canadian Artists Series, 4′ tall and 5′ wide, Zone 4, summer flowering, go here and here for more info

I spoke with Mark the other day about his business and the challenges he faces in 2015.  Here is our conversation:

Question:  Why the heck do you do it, especially if sales are down and people can buy roses cheaply elsewhere?

I’ve always loved roses, and I continue to do it because I believe that people deserve to have  roses that are reliably hardy in our cold climate.   The biggest challenge continues to be that most people think roses are difficult to grow.  The hardy roses I grow on the farm thrive in the Ottawa area, and I continue to hope that people will stop buying roses that just aren’t suitable for our climate…and that they will start to focus on the plants that thrive here.

Felix LeClercRosa x ‘Felix LeClerc’

From the Canadian Artists Series, 6-9′ tall and 4′ wide (yes, a climber!), Zone 4, mildly fragrant, flowers all summer long, go here for more info

Question:  What does the future look like for Galetta Nurseries?

To be blunt, not great.  We’re competing with cheap imported roses. Many of these imported roses won’t survive the winter here, but they are cheap, and price seems to be the big driver these days.

We carry a great selection of truly hardy roses at Galetta Nurseries, and we have some very rare and unusual varieties, but we still struggle to convince gardeners that there are reliable roses for our climate.

Morden BlushRosa x ‘Morden Blush’

From the Canadian Parkland Series, 2-3′ tall and wide, Zone 2, heavy bloomer summer and fall, go here for more info

“Please note: Pickering Nurseries will not open for the 2015 season.

The rose growing industry has seen a great many changes in the last 10 years. Unfortunately, the majority of these changes were negative for both the companies involved and their bottom lines. The pesticide ban enacted by Ontario in the mid 2000’s, an increase in hybridizer royalty rates and how they are calculated, a glut of cheap US grown roses coupled with the Canadian government changing both import and export regulations (unable to ship to the US 2013 and additional ongoing issues with our root stock) have left me with no choice but to stop shipping roses for this season. Over the last several years Pickering Nurseries has been exploring alternative propagation techniques and changes to our business model. Both of these things are still a work in progress. We hope to have a small, core selection of rooted cuttings available in the spring of 2016.

It is also with great sadness we announce the passing of Joseph Schraven, my father and founder of Pickering Nurseries, on May 27th.

In closing, I would like to extend thanks to all our long time customers and our colleagues in the industry and we hope to be able to serve you in the future.

Best regards,
Joel Schraven
Pickering Nurseries”

Question:  This makes me so sad.  Who are the other suppliers that have closed?

Enderlein has quit roses to go in to growing marijuana and Adamson’s (in BC) is closing to all but very large growers — they’re the only reliable supplier of own-root.  Lemay near Montreal has cut back from 450 to 40 varieties.  Finally, another retailer in the Eastern Townships who did only roses has quit…..

Morden BelleRosa x ‘Morden Belle’

From the Canadian Parkland Series, 3′ tall and wide, Zone 3, moderately fragrant, flowers all summer, go here for more info

Question:  Are they ones that you have done business with?  Do you just have Hortico now?

These were key suppliers of some of my initial stock for growing on. As you note, Hortico is still around, but they don’t appear to do own-root roses.

Question:  What is your production routine?  Do you grow your roses from seed or cuttings?

They’re all from cuttings:  most roses are hybrids, and they don’t come true to seed.   So the seeds will develop into roses, they won’t be the same as the original plants.

Question:  How do you choose the roses you sell?

Only the ones that will survive here.  I consult with other rose growers in similar climates, and I then test each variety for hardiness and disease resistance.  If a variety doesn’t survive well over many winters,  I drop it.  I expect a survival rate of greater than 99% — while most rose varieties sold in the box stores have a survival rate of 50% of less.

Because of this approach, I can guarantee all the roses for a full year.

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Question:  Do you give advice about growing roses to your customers?  Is it foolproof?

Yes: every purchase comes with a full set of instructions, and there’s a detailed web site describing most of the issues that people will have to deal with.  I also send out regular email notices to remind people of any special care instructions.

Generally, though, the roses I grow don’t need much care at all.  They just need to be planted and watered occasionally, and they don’t need any special winter care — we just leave them alone for the winter and they survive very nicely.

I also send out regular email newsletters outlining the best practices for pruning and care.

B Hope for HumanityRosa x ‘Hope for Humanity’

From the Parkland Series, 2-3′ wide and 2-4′ tall, Zone 3B, marks the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Red Cross, go here for more info

Go visit Mark at his home and nursery this spring and summer.  But in advance of that, visit his website for his 2015 Availability List of roses.  I guarantee that you’ll find several roses that you won’t be able to live without!

Website:  http://www3.sympatico.ca/galetta/index.html

Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/GalettaRoseNurseries

Sorry, Mark’s roses are *not* available by mail order.  Pick-up only.

942121_381927818575643_819908953_n Rosa gallica var. officinalis ‘Versicolor’ (aka Rosa Mundi)

Dates prior to 1581, 3′ wide and 3-4′ tall, Zone 4, fragrant blooms in mid-summer, extremely resistant to black spot, go here for more info

The Secret Gardener Nursery

More relationships break up in January than any other month I read.  Also more people sign up for gym and dating site memberships. January is tough enough.  Let’s try to make it a tiny bit easier.

On my garden tour trip last summer, we visited a charming plant nursery in Hudson, New York, called The Secret Gardener. IMG_0674Behind a vintage wrought iron gate, this nursery is clearly a work of love and attention. IMG_0676Our first view was after closing and we peered in and saw the beautiful pots, colourful vignettes and wood framed building that housed the cash counter and a selection of choice tools and accessories. IMG_0863We made a point of returning the next day before it closed and were delighted to walk around the beautifully curated sales and growing areas, carefully avoiding being drenched by the plumes of water. IMG_0868A boulder dressed in lichen and moss, an rusted iron table with a bright red dump truck planter and everywhere you look, artfully orchestrated plantings.IMG_0866   Not simply arrangements in planters, but striking islands of colour and joyful perennials bursting from the ground.         IMG_0854   Even opportunities for moments of repose.  This could be your garden!       IMG_0858   But here in this nursery, there is always work to be done …propagating…   IMG_0856   ….watering…. IMG_0860   ….deadheading and primping…. IMG_0873   If you’re in this neck of the woods, it would be unfortunate if you didn’t visit this unique nursery.  Because there aren’t many like it.  And you will be deeply and deliciously inspired. IMG_0874

The romantic garden of Page Dickey or Garden Conservancy Tour: Part IV

What I believed to perhaps be the highlight of our garden touring was the North Salem, NY, home and life-work of Page Dickey.  She is known for her garden writing, primarily two books that chronicled her life alongside her garden here at Duck Hill (Duck Hill Journal: A Year in a Country Garden, 1991; and then Embroidered Ground: Revisiting the Garden, twenty years later in 2011).

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The garden is clearly mature.  A product of years and years of love, both volumptuous and restrained, overgrown and controlled.  Dickey has called this garden home for the last 30 plus years.

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One of the first things I thought upon entering this garden was, “Gosh, her husband must really like to prune.”  And I see in this personal article by Anne Raver in the NY Times from 2010 that her new millenium husband, Bosco Schell, does indeed enjoy clipping.

Thankfully so.  Because these boxwood balls (what is it about men and their boxwood balls?) are barely navigable, but who wants to nix such mature specimens?  Not Page Dickey who says in her most recent book, “I don’t have the energy to start again.”

The crabapple trees that form a grid in the courtyard garden next to the house are really what she is referring to when she says this.  If there was any thought to taking them down and starting again, it is clearly not an option.  For they are floriferous in the spring and then demonstrate such linear architecture in the winter months that taking them down would be nothing less than criminal.  Embraced by neatly clipped yew hedges, these trees need constant attention so the paths can be navigated without getting a branch in your face.

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But there are such beautiful moments here; moments where the visitor can breathe a bit easier and smell the fragrance on this hillside.

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I have always gardened in confined spaces.  Urban gardens, bounded by garages, fences, walls.  My hands ache and my back weakens when I imagine tending a garden that is even a little bit bigger than mine in the city.

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There is a lot to do here.  And Page Dickey is keenly aware of what happens when your garden grows beyond your capabilities.  Replacing perennials with shrubs and ground covers in order to help curb the maintenance is an important focus.

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And this is exactly what she’s done in parts of the property.  The shady parts.  The wild parts.  The parts that become a focus, and a relief, with age…

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All made more spectacular because of the contrast with the civility closer to the clapboard house: the highly organized and pristine vegetable garden that was a naive inspiration to me…

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But this garden is not simply a set of views, images or lessons.  It is someone’s home.  Someone’s passion with plants, moments in time and space, shared with family and animals.

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I really appreciated the glimpse.  And the imagining without the work.  Thank you to all those gardeners who clip, rake, sweep, snip, stake, and primp so that when we come and visit, it all looks so easy.

 

 

Garden Conservancy Tour 2014: Part III

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Are you as crazy about these pebbled concrete pools as I am?  This garden is the little jewel in the middle of Hudson, NY, called ‘Hudson Hood’ and the third private garden we visited on our tour this summer.

Hudson is worth visiting for the history alone.  What I didn’t know is that although much of its downtown core has been gentrified and adopted by ex-NYC’ers as their ‘retirement project’, there still exists a very real divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’.

Be that as it may, as a tourist you can choose to learn as much or as little about the place while you’re there.  I will save what I’ve learned for another post.  In the meantime, more about ‘Hudson Hood’.

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This urban garden is characterized as a ‘shotgun’ garden — meaning it is long and narrow.  Indeed, it is — plus it is shaded by a giant tulip tree, giving it a feeling of repose and calm.

It is primarily a green garden, with care and consideration given to shapes and textures of plants and their leaves.

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Much of the garden is viewable as you enter.  As you walk through it, you are totally surprised when you come upon a totally hidden – and modernist – pond and screened-in sanctuary…

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What is there not to love?  Such a bold departure, but a perfect spot to sit, contemplate life and watch dragonflies zip around the waterlilies….

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Having a place where you can enjoy your efforts, with a cushioned bench to snooze and have a glass of something refreshing is golden — make sure you include a special spot like this in your garden in order to make it truly magical.

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Garden Conservancy Tour 2014 – Part II

 It was the greenhouse, really, that made me stop breathing for a moment and stand there with my mouth open.  The English ivy growing up the walls, the aged paned windows, the vintage cupboard, and the stained and curling photographs.  Even one showing Mrs. Greenthumbs, Casandra Danz, in one of her comic poses…

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I don’t know if you share my opinion on this, but I could live here quite happily…

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… and know that I had found my place in paradise … is that too corny?

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But wait, there’s more.

This is the garden belonging to Peter Bevacqua and Stephen King, no, another Stephen King, in Claverack, NY.  I don’t know who these two are besides very committed, enthusiastic and experienced gardeners — with a bit of disposable income in their retirement years.  The pair moved here in 1988 from the Upper West Side, aka Manhattan, and have been showing their garden to the public as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days since at least 2004.  Although not a competition, being chosen to participate in the Open Days is, Bevacqua says, “…like winning an Oscar or something.”

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This two-acre garden (they purchased the property next door in 2000) feels like an impeccably maintained estate.  Languorous trees over verdant lawns, crisp edges and tightly clipped hedges make touring this garden immensely satisfying, since absolutely nothing is amiss and everything looks lush and well cared for.

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Unfortunately, I’ll have to leave it here since for the last week or more my computer is refusing to download anymore photos :c(    Does it not want me to share my experience of this lovely garden with you?  Or is it just being a jerk.  I would guess the latter *sigh*