“We are perishing from want of wonder and not from want of wonders, GK Chesterton”
During 2015 I visited nearly 100 gardens in a dozen states and every garden delighted me. Reflecting on my garden adventures I have looked through the photos and notes of my travels and found a few I want to share with you. While the gardens I write about here are all unique and worthy of a visit for so many reasons when you go there will be something new and interesting to see. Here is the most memorable moment discovered just when I wandered through the garden.
1. Profusion of Purple, Longwood gardens is considered one of the best gardens in the U.S.
It is known for spectacular fountains, grand conservatories, and over 20 varieties of garden styles. Open year round there are always beautiful things to enjoy. The Long Garden is planted each year in a linear color wheel mixing complimentary colors along its borders. The day I was there the walk was a profusion of purple with foxgloves, ranunculus, alliums, and other pinks, whites and lavender blooms. The first turn off the Long Garden leads down to the Wisteria Garden.
Here purple and white blossoms hung in long tendrils and their creamy vanilla scent filled the air. Not a spent blossom was to be seen anywhere, it was perfection. It was a brief beautiful moment in May, for when we returned 10 days later for another look the wisteria blossoms were gone. The spring flowers of the Long garden had been pulled out and new summer plants were in place. All the colors were changed. 300 acres, Kennett Square, PA, http://longwoodgardens.org
2. Ironwork Gate, Mt Cuba Center, The drive to the Mt Cuba center is a narrow winding road in the rolling hills of the Appalachian Piedmont. This is an estate and native plant garden in a woodland. The forged iron double entrance gate caught my eye. A visual delight in itself, the double gate features a nearly ten foot oak tree as part of the asymmetrical design.
Oak leaves reach to the sky from the branches. Around the tree trunk are trilliums, rhododendrons, ferns, lady slipper orchid, jack in pulpit and violet wood sorrel.
The opposite side gate is a large rhododendron bush with more woodland flowers. It is three-dimensional with the plants swooping out and around creating a crafted meadow of the best of what you find in the garden.
The artisans, Greg & Camille Leavitt designed, built and hung this magnificent piece. The work required a year to complete. 500 acres, Hockessin, DE, http://www.mtcubacenter.org
3. Ribbon of Pink, Clark Gardens,
April is full of delights in this garden and the day I arrived there was a ribbon of pink running through the rose pavilion, along the pathways, and under the trees. The mass planting of thousands of pink poppies, both singles and double ruffle, were at peak bloom. The climbing pink roses and potted pink azaleas were all in flower.
A background of bluebonnets and multicolor iris accented this amazing scene. 50 Acres, Weatherford TX, http://www.clarkgardens.org
4. Outdoor Furniture, Chanticleer is the estate and botanical garden of the famed pharmaceutical family, the Rosengartens. It is a pleasure garden with integrated artistry and great sweeps of lawn.
The cutting garden, teacup garden, and ruin garden are particularly memorable. A great garden is inviting and welcoming and Chanticleer does that by offering the most remarkable outdoor furniture.
The first is the patio table and chairs at the main house. From here you can sit and look out of the rolling lawn or cozy up to the fire on a chilly day.
Walking down the hill there is a perfectly positioned pair of yellow adirondack chairs sitting near the edge of the pond color coordinated with the surrounding flowers. The ruin garden is designed as a folly, (elaborately artful element in a garden) built upon the site where once one of the family homes stood.
Out front there is a surprisingly comfortable stone chair and sofa with a view of poppies and peonies. Walking further on there is a row of wooden chairs on the side of a hill.
It is a gentle reminder that gathering here with your friends to take in the view is just what you need to do. 27 acres, Wayne, PA, http://www.chanticleergarden.org
5. Walk in the Woods, Winterthur is a woodland garden with stately trees underplanted with large drifts of Azaleas and Rhododendrons which bloom in May.
This former home of Henry Francis du Pont (1880–1969), a renowned antiques collector and horticulturist, his 18th century country house holds an extensive museum collection of American antiques.
979 acres, near Brandywine Creek, DE,winterthur.org
6. Formal Flourish, Neumors When your ancestors once worked with French Kings you design your Delaware property as a French Chateau with gardens patterned in the style of Versailles.
The 47,000 square foot classical chateau opened in 1910. The Long Walk strolling lawn begins as you walk out the grand entry doors. The Long Walk is edged with symmetrical plantings of Japanese cryptomeria,(conifers) pink flowering horse chestnuts, and pin oaks.
It’s a leisurely stroll to the one-acre Reflecting Pool where 157 water jets shoot water 12 feet into the air.
The 23k gold statue of “The Magnificent Achievement,” designed by French sculptor Henri Crenier rises out of the nearby Maze Garden.
The Long Walk ends at the 16 column classical colonnade. 300 acres, Wilmington, DE, former estate of Alfred I. duPont, nemoursmansion.org
7. Painterly Planting, Untermyer Gardens, Entering a walled garden, an area slightly larger than a football field, immediately creates a frame to focus your eye.
This is a Persian garden with four intersecting water channels running the entire length of the enclosure.
The planting was designed by the head gardener as a painting with plants using a limited palate of foliage in black, chartreuse, and deep purple.
Blooms in lavenders, spots of yellow, and silvery dichondra provided depth and accent.
In mid-September the plants were magnificently full and lush creating a living masterpiece worthy of the finest museum.. Stephen Byrns, chairman of the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy believes “these are the greatest Persian gardens in the Western Hemisphere.”
Once the pride of Samuel Untermyer, attorney, investor and horticulturalist Yonkers, NY, 43 acre public park,untermyergardens.org
8. Relaxing Stroll Wave Hill, After navigating the streets of Manhattan and the Bronx we eagerly climbed out of our rental car to stroll along the paths of Wave Hill Park.
Here we could move slowly enjoying the views of the Hudson River and the Palisades cliffs of New Jersey on the other bank. Located in a crowded city of over eight million people here was calm, quiet, and natural beauty. The variety of plants in the 12 thematic gardens was colorful and inviting. The pleasure of the setting was shared with the birds, bees, and butterflies. A flock of wild turkey, towering trees, and boats on the water all added to the sense of remoteness. 28 acres Bronx, NY, wavehill.org
9. Mystical Vistas Innisfree Garden This is a garden of trees, water, space to view the sky and artfully composed rock. A garden loved into beauty 50 years in the making, it was once the country home of Walter and Marion Beck. Often included on the list of the 10 best gardens in North America, it is not a space of flowering borders and formal designs.
It is the creation of minimal place-making within the large grounds featuring cup gardens, or small spaces scooped out of the whole. Arranged to create a composition of the best of natural elements it is modified just enough to invite a visitor to pause to immerse themselves in the immediate surroundings. Influenced by Chinese and Japanese garden design it is distinctly not an Asian garden, but a modernist American garden.
The name comes from the W.B. Yeats poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”
I will arise and go now,
and go to Innisfree.
185 acres, Millbrook, New York, Innisfreegarden.org/garden
10. Sculpture Exhibition, Maine Coastal Botanic, Here the wind blows in off the Atlantic Ocean and George Sherwood’s sculpture exhibition of “Wind, Waves & Light” spent the summer in the garden. Bright, shiny, and constantly moving each of the 12 kinetic and reflective sculptures dazzles. A contemporary genius, Sherwood creates sculpture drawing on his life with degrees in art and engineering, theatrical performance and as a concept developer for LEGO. He writes of his work, “Each sculpture is a three-dimensional painting of shifting light, drawing all the colors of the environment, pulling down the sky, drawing up the earth and gathering everything in between.” It is common to see bronze cranes in a water garden, here Sherwood created abstracted, moving cranes more beautiful than anything I have ever seen.
I believe you can wander into a garden at any time of the year and find something wonderful. Arrive on a perfect spring day or in rain, even snow, or the hottest weather of July and you are close to discovering magic. In the new year it is my deepest desire that you will find your way into a garden to experience a serendipitous surprise appearing on the day of your visit.