Garden Visits - what inspires you!

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Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14
Garden Visits - what inspires you!

This year with more time on my hands, I've had greater opportunity to visit the gardens of fellow NARGS members. Each visitation is such an eye-opening learning experience that I thought I should start this thread to document some that I have visited, to share with you those elements that I found most inspiring. I encourage other NARGS forumists to post their garden visit experiences too, highlighting positive impressions or memorable things learned.

Do not be intimidated by the length of my first 6-part entry in this "Garden Visits" thread, your post to "Garden Visits" could be as simple as a single message, sharing one inspirational element that struck you most about a particular garden. Photos are of course welcome, but it is recommended you get friendly consent from the person visited, and please, only mention garden location in generic terms, such as "northwestern Connecticutt", or the "Puget Sound area of Washinton", as appropriate.

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

In May 2010, twice I visited the gardens of Peter George in Central Massachusetts, Northeastern USA.  I start with Peter's garden as I find it such an inspiration; the various elements of the garden resonating with my own style and interests in gardening.  It is a garden unfettered by obligatory plant selections and contrivances of rock gardening convention, but one that clearly reflects the personal passion of its owner. And yet that said, it is also a garden filled with great plants and visually stunning vignettes.

The large property is classic New England, situated in a small historic town, the yard mostly flat, with an acre or two of open lawn areas, the rest of the acreage wooded and lined with informal gray stone walls so often seen in these parts. Peter's efforts is an excellent example of creating a memorable rock garden without having access to natural rock outcrops or ledge, and without spending a small fortune on labor and imported rock; it's a rock garden that seems to have sprung effortlessly on its own accord among the more conventional surroundings.

There is a calming natural appearance to the garden, achieved by adept use and placement of beautiful lichen-covered granite rocks, the boulders weathered and soft-edged, capturing the classic boulder-strewn fellfields of northern New England mountains.  Personally, I prefer this softened rock appearance, it is visually comfortable and inviting, as compared to some of the more jagged uplifted-ledge-imitations that I have seen constructed.

Now, let's get to the garden and the plants.

Peter George has three rock garden areas, the largest or most prominent being a flat area not far from the house, with lots of beautiful granite boulders and mild elevation change.  Many choice cushion plants inhabit this garden.

1    general view - impressive mat of Erigeron scopulinus in the center.
2-3  more views of the primary rock garden
4-5  lots of Iberis taurica, a beautiful Iberis that I was unfamiliar with, covered with flowers in shades of palest lavender.  Returning two weeks later for a second visit, the Iberis mounds were looking as good as ever.
6    Gentiana acaulis
7    colorful combination of yellow delosperma, pink Thymus, and red sempervivums.
8    closer view of Erigeron scopulinus mat, creeping up and over lichen-covered rocks
9    Lewsisis tweedyi
10  general view

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Peter has two other rockery areas, one is a smaller mounded bed hosting lots of dryland plants and western favorites such as Eriogonum and Penstemon; the bed situated in full sun.  The third area surrounds part of his house directly, between the house and driveway, getting much more shade than the other areas.  This is an "older" garden, one in which Peter has been rebuilding and replanting to good effect.

1    succulents!  Sempervivum are among Peters favorite plants, and they are used effectively through much of the rockery areas. 
      Here, S. ciliosum, with an Opuntia and red Lewisia cotyledon.
2    Phlox speciosus in perfect flower.
3-5  Sempervivum species and cultivars
6    a silver saxifraga cushion, very natural between the lichen-encrusted boulders
7    Orostachys, Talinum, and Sedum are also represented; here a chameleon view of an Orostachys.
8-9  more sempervivums
10  a western American sedum species in a trough, Sedum divergens?

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

This is a garden where you can walk gingerly among the firmly seated rocks and boulders, then squat down to accustom one's view to the smaller plants at hand, and suddenly find small treasures you hadn't noticed while walking around.

1    Just going over, I've never seen such a well-flowered Arenaria tetraquetra.
2    Also past flowering, but still attractive in seed, Degenia velebita
3    tight cushion of Draba bruniifolia in seed
4    furry cushion of Draba polytricha in seed
5    extraordinary mat of Eriogonum douglasii, although Peter tells me it has never flowered :'(
6    Eriogonum species, flowering modestly
7    twiggy domed mound of Eriogonum thymoides, never seen one this large in the East
8    wide-mouth flowers of Penstemon hallii, outstanding.
9    Androsace muscoidea budded
10  Asperula gussonii

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

More plants and vignettes in the Peter George gardens.

1    Androsace - beautiful plant, maybe Peter can tell us the name, I missed recording it.
2    Anemone in bloom
3    Campanula chamissonis in bloom, beautifully positioned
4    close-up of Erigeron scopulinus, foliage looks like a pygmy Globularia
5    Pulsatilla campanella
6    Pulsatilla campanella seed heads
7    Androsace among rock field
8    pink Androsace
9    Artemisia caucasica
10  Calyptridium umbellatum (now Cistanthe umbellata), a favorite Portulacaceae of mine

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Peter's older part of the garden is a shaded rockery between the driveway and house, a good home for many shade-tolerant plants and wildflowers.  As can happen in many gardens, promiscuous columbines (Aquilegia) hybridize willy-nilly, and can sometimes degenerate into a genetic soup of ugly forms and muddied colors.  While columbine hybridization has certainly happened in Peter's garden, it has done so in a brilliant harmonious rainbow of pastel colors and forms... I like them all very much.

1    general view of shady riock garden
2-3  the beautiful soft salmon pink and yellow Aquilegia barnebyi, one of the best western American species, growing in the sunny rockery.
4-7  various hybrid columbines
8    tall Dodecatheon - medium pink
9    Dodecatheon - palest lavender, with Corydalis lutea in background
10  Jeffersonia diphylla - in seed, the plant comfortably positioned between rocks

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

In this last batch, a miscellany of more special plants in the Peter George garden

1    Arisaema sikokianum, variegated form, popping out of the shady rockery
2    Gentiana acaulis and Astragalus angustifolius cushion
3    a personal favorite, western American Clematis scottii in a beautiful blue form
4    pink microphlox cushion
5    Phlox subulata 'Sneewichen'
6    Pulmonaria cultivar
7    shaded rockery scene with pink Heuchera
8    silvery Dianthus cultivars in bud
9    a parting view of Peter's mounded rockery in full sun, with dryland plants
10  Coluteocarpus vesicaria, a fine rock mustard noted for the inflated pods

In the excitement of exploring Peter's garden, I failed to get a photo of Peter himself, but I hope to remedy that situation soon.  Let me close by saying that Peter is most enthusiastic about his plants and gardens, infectiously so, generously sharing knowledge and experience of all sorts, and always eager to share his plants.  His sincere passion for rock gardening and rock garden plants speaks through his garden design choices; a most memorable garden that I'll have the pleasure of seeing through the seasons.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Booker
Booker's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-01-30

What an absolute joy, Mark and Peter, to be able to do a 'virtual tour' of such a magnificent garden. Your report cannot possibly do full justice to the scope and quality of the planting Mark but, by Jiminy, it gets darn close.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Peter, if only for a few fleeting moments, earlier this year and how I wish that meeting had taken place in his beautiful garden.
Many, many thanks to you both for this inspirational posting.

Cliff Booker A.K.A. Ranunculus
On the moors in Lancashire, U.K.
Usually wet, often windy, sometimes cold ... and that's just me!

Booker
Booker's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-01-30

The only tragedy Mark is that more enthusiasts aren't accessing and revelling in this excellent resource ... your efforts and output deserve greater and wider exposure.

Cliff Booker A.K.A. Ranunculus
On the moors in Lancashire, U.K.
Usually wet, often windy, sometimes cold ... and that's just me!

Booker
Booker's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-01-30

The alpine house at Ness Gardens on the Wirral, U.K. on 7th June 2010.

Cliff Booker A.K.A. Ranunculus
On the moors in Lancashire, U.K.
Usually wet, often windy, sometimes cold ... and that's just me!

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Cliff, those troughs are mighty impressive!  Any close up shots of what's growing in them?

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

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