If your like me, then you are always looking for someplace beautiful to visit. Scenes from movies, magazine articles, and travel books, all provide inspiration. There is a misconception though, that all the lovely places on earth, are far off destinations, requiring exorbitant travel budgets. Thanks to The Garden Conservancy, finding a garden to visit, is as easy as becoming a member, for with membership comes the Open Days Directory. The directory is a list of private gardens, that are part of the Open Days Program, who open their gates to visitors, for just a day or two during the year. It’s arranged by state and date of opening, so it’s very easy to plan a trip to a local gem that you might not otherwise get to see!
Thanks to The Directory, I found a garden worthy of many visits right here in Connecticut , Hollister House. From the website we learn the following:
Hollister House is owned by George Schoellkopf and Hollister House Garden Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the house and garden. In 2005, George Schoellkopf entered into an irrevocable agreement with the Garden Conservancy and Hollister House Garden Inc. to donate the entire property, including house, garden and twenty-five acres, either during his lifetime or through his will, to Hollister House Garden Inc.
Hollister House Garden is an American interpretation of such classic English gardens as Sissinghurst , Great Dixter and Hidcote, formal in its structure but informal and rather wild in its style of planting.
That’s right, this beautiful garden has been given to us, the garden visitor, to enjoy for many, many years. It is a wonderfully stimulating garden, and an amazing gift. And, since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll let the garden speak for itself.
What did you want to be when you grew up? An astronaut? A baseball player? The President? I bet none of you chose garden designer, I know I didn’t. But here I am, happy in the profession I have chosen, and unable to picture myself doing anything else. There have been quite a few people along the way who have provided inspiration, but I’ll refrain from calling them idols, as I’d hate to place such a burden on anyone. Let’s just say the folks you are about to meet have each played an important role in shaping the person I have become.
Any discussion about me and the landscape has to start with Al Glazier. In late winter of 1981, after stocking shelves at the local supermarket had lost its appeal, I answered an ad for landscape laborers, and the rest, as they say, is history. Al ran a small nursery, and had several landscape crews that performed installations. The nursery grew mostly ericaceous plants and several needled evergreens, typical of what was being used in the industry then. It was while working here that I was introduced to botanical nomenclature, learned how to install a brick walkway, and was taught to prune, plant, and mulch. Al was a cranky, impatient man back then (with good reason as I think back on the makeup of those crews), and was quick to chew anyone out who wasn’t towing the line. But he also had a great sense of humor, and was generous with his knowledge of the industry. I loved every minute of my time working at Landscaping by Glazier, and it was during those three summers, working while home from college, that the foundation for my life in horticulture was set.
As I began to find my way in the green industry, now having struck out on my own, I discovered, and fell in love with perennials. So much more exciting than the standard fare of Rhodies and Azaleas, I began reading everything I could about these wonderful plants. My search brought me to the works of Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden, principals of Oehme van Sweden Associates. Their groundbreaking use of ornamental grasses and huge groupings of perennials captivated me. It would be many years later before I would get my hands on a copy of Bold Romantic Gardens: The New World Landscapes of Oehme and van Sweden, but it was well worth the wait. Bold Romantic Gardens is their story, of how they changed the course of landscape design in America. In the introduction, James van Sweden describes the book as “a subversive text: a chronicle of our methods for overturning outmoded approaches to landscape design and plantings, and a guide for bringing nature more fully into our lives”. Their work inspired an industry and continues to inspire me as I make my mark on the landscape. I can think of no higher complement for a garden, than to call it “bold and romantic”!
Have you ever experienced a moment, after which you knew that nothing would be the same ever again? In March of 2004, I experienced just such a moment while attending an Ecological Landscaping Association winter conference in Boxborough, Massachusetts. I had spent a considerable amount of energy reading and researching organic methods to use in the field prior to attending the conference, so it was with some confidence that I walked into the keynote presentation by a woman who was to speak about compost tea and the soil FoodWeb. The woman was Dr. Elaine Ingham, and for the next one and half hours, the entire room sat spellbound as she told of her research at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, into microbiology and the brewing of Actively Aerated Compost Tea. Her work has revolutionized the organic industry, and inspired in me a passion for using compost tea as a powerful tool in building healthy vibrant soil on our projects.
So there you have it, three (four actually) people who have inspired me to be the Hortie (horticultural person) that I am today. One who introduced me to the green industry, two who inspired the artist in me, and one who awoke my inner (soil) biologist. I’m glad these folks were around when I needed them, I hope I get to pay it forward one day.
I would love to hear about your influences, please leave me a comment! And don’t forget to visit the other members of Garden Designers Roundtable, along with our Guest this month Thomas Rainer, to find out who inspires them.
Our topic this month for Garden Designers Roundtable “Getting from here to there” can mean so many things, but movement is at the heart of each. The experience of a garden is movement through time, movement through space. A garden is ever revealing, changing perceptions, altering the senses, and for me, a metaphor for the journey taken and the experiences gained as each of us travels the path chosen.
When designing a garden, attention to movement is essential to offering the visitor an experience. Where the path does traverse is so very much more important than the final destination or the materials used. Consider then the following:
Is it warm?
Is it dramatic?
Slow to reveal?
Does it lead you on?
Change your course?
Remind you of the past?
Does it make you wonder?
For me the journey is one I travel everyday, and find inspiration in the simplest of vignettes. How about you? Do the images connect to something more than just a garden path or a set of stairs, or is a cigar, just a cigar? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Please visit by the rest of the Roundtable bloggers this month and see how they are “Getting from Here to There”.
A wave of change is moving through the world of horticulture, a wave that intends to wash away the great lawn culture of
the past 60 years. Tired of boring monocultures, faced with restrictions on water use, and more sensitive to environmental impact, landowners and managers are reimagining their yards, and their views on lawns are changing. Its Garden Designers Roundtable time again on the Blue Heron Landscapes blog, and this month we’re talking ‘Lawn Alternatives’.
I’m not anti-lawn, at least in regions of the world where it’s practical and sustainable, but I would like to propose that you consider an alternative thought process when considering your existing lawn or before establishing a new one. Instead of just grading your property, spreading grass seed, and buying into the whole premise that to be an upstanding neighbor, you need to have a lush green manicured lawn, consider the following questions and approach the design of your property and the inclusion of a lawn, in a more thoughtful manner.
Ask yourself the following:
Is it appropriate?
Here in the northeastern United States, drought is not an issue, but in arid regions of the country, the lack of water makes installing a lawn not only impractical, but irresponsible as well. Each year we hear of farmers out west having to bring water in for their crops from farther and farther away. Reservoir levels are dropping, rivers and streams are reduced to unhealthy levels for migratory fish and ground water is harder to find. Honestly, is having a patch of green really more important than any of these issues?
Is it proportionate?
Ok, so you are in an area of the country where water shortages are not an issue, good for you, you can have a lawn. Does the amount of lawn you desire however, match the amount of lawn you need? How large an area do your children need to play? How much of your property actually receives enough sunlight for a lawn to grow? Are there deed restrictions as to the uses of your property? Do you simply enjoy having a small patch of grass to walk barefoot in or have a picnic on? These may seem silly, but you’d consider some of the very same questions when purchasing the house, a car, or even new suit. So why wouldn’t you subject something you will be spending many hours each year with, to the same criteria?
Does it work with the design?
This is the most overlooked consideration when designing a property. Most often the lawn is considered separate from the garden. Why? They both are living planted environments, and they usually reside within the same boundaries. Lawn is not just a part of your yard it’s an important element in the design of your landscape, and of your garden. Where appropriate, an expanse of lawn can tie a garden together providing a resting space for the eyes or pathway or border for your creation. Lawn space is defining, engaging, and accessible, as long as it’s creatively used and proportionate with the design.
Will it be worth the effort?
This is a question for the ages. One person’s relaxation is another person’s afternoon of hell behind a mower. Once you’ve decided that having a lawn is appropriate for your region, proportionate with your needs, and is in harmony with your design, you’ll need to decide if you want to take on the task of maintaining it. It’s a question that can only be answered from within.
For the record, I love having a lawn. I love the feel when walking on it barefoot, the smell of freshly mown grass, dew in the early morning, and I even enjoy raking in the spring and cleaning up leaves in the fall (especially when their dry enough to pile up and jump in!). What I grow increasingly tired of is large patches of singularity without the beauty found in a perennial border, or the weak growth under the shade of a mature tree, or unused areas of productive space, that could be planted with veggies. The classic yards from our youth have changed dramatically but with a little thought, and after answering a few questions, maybe we can recreate come of the magic, and in the process, give this planet a well deserved break!
I would love to hear your answers to these questions and your feelings about lawns, please leave share a comment below, then follow the links below and see what thoughts our other bloggers have on ‘Lawn Alternatives’.