My summer road trip began in Mesa, AZ and went as far east as Niagara Falls, Ontario, CA. I’d heard about the beauty and power of Niagara Falls since I was a kid, but this was my first look. The center of the Niagara River marks the border between the US and Canada. It is overwhelming to see the volume of water cascading over the falls. All my years of living in a desert landscape makes the exposure to swift moving rivers, great lakes, and the accompanying bridging structures quite startling. Everywhere you look there is water moving, alongside the road you are traveling, and then surprise, the location you are seeking is across yet another bridge. It is difficult to imagine living around so much water, there is moisture in the air, plants grow in abundance, and trees are everywhere. The change in landscape was demonstrated so clearly in the two gardens I explored, one on each side of the Falls.
The Ladew Topiary Garden in Maryland is on the list of 1001 Gardens to See. Another list counts it among the top ten topiary gardens in the world. Others rank it as one of the top five gardens in North America. Wherever it falls on a list, it’s a true wonder. Yes, today topiary has its critics as it is not a naturalistic style for gardening. The best shrubs for topiary of yew, hemlock, and privet are not popular in today’s small private gardens. Yet a visit to Ladew Topiary is a walk in a world of green filled with art, color, and surprises.
This year is a celebration for the 100th anniversary of the signing of the law founding our National Parks Service. In February a 3D IMAX film, National Parks Adventure, narrated by Robert Redford was released. The film flies viewers over canyons, red rock arches, and walks them into ice caves near Lake Superior. Highlighting 30 of the 58 national parks, there are moments where you feel the urge to reach out and touch the ice crystals and rock walls. Seeing the film will inspire you to “Find Your Park” which is the theme for the yearlong celebration.
“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.
When I was 10 years old I read a novel about two student nurses spending a summer at an adventure camp in Maine. I read about the blue ocean water, the sun sparkling on the ripples lapping the craggy shoreline. I saw the bright blue skies with white puffy clouds floating overhead. I could smell the pine trees and hear the loons calling in the night. I don’t remember what happened to the girls at camp, but I remembered those images of a state so far away. Oh so many years later it was all as I pictured it when I arrived in Maine this summer. Maine has a magnificent color scheme of blue ocean, green trees, and white puffy clouds against an endless blue sky. Yet even with so much natural beauty all around, in 1991 a small group of residents came together to promote the idea of building a botanical garden for Maine. They believed a garden would “protect, preserve and enhance the botanical heritage and natural landscape of coastal Maine for people of all ages through horticulture, education and research.” (Mission statement, website)
The Blithewold, Mansion sits surrounded by woodlands and a grand lawn looking out on an ocean view. Established in 1895 the last surviving family member lived in the home until 1976. These old estate gardens change over the years but some specific elements remain to help you see what was there. The word Blithewold means “happy woodlands” and so trees were an important part of the landscape. A 90 yr. old Sequoia is doing very well.
Visiting gardens I see so many beautiful plants growing from the ground, on the vine, the bush, the stem. Yet gardeners have a bit of a competitive streak and when fair time rolls around the very best of the garden is picked, cleaned, and shined to taken to the fair. The Bethlehem, CT fair had some great garden specimens on display.
There are truly special days when I wander into a garden and it is perfect and it was just such a day at Untermyer Park. It is a walled garden, the size of a football field. Persian gardens inspired the creation of this walled space with its four quadrants defined by low water ways. Classical Greek columns and a Temple to the sky are part of the white stone framework of the space. In 1922 it was described as “America’s Most Spectacular Garden.” Now as a public park of NYC it underwent a revitalization beginning in 2011. This year’s planting worked with a limited palate of plants with black foliage, deep purple, lavenders, chartreuse and spots of yellow. The plants were elephant ears, sweet potato vine, verbenas, anemones, and hostas. Mid September, put the plants at a peak of growth. Enjoy the photos and if you are ever in Yonkers, NY, do stop and be dazzled!
“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.”
W.B. Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” (1888)
A garden with a Scottish poet’s reference for its name, a woodland plant palate, a lake and a Asian influence creating a garden of individual style. This isn’t a flower garden, yet there are blooms. This isn’t a Chinese garden, there are no statues of Buddha. This is a woodland of trees, moss and ferns. Set among all of these ideas are stones creating pockets of space for a visitor to linger and inhale the scent of trees, and contemplate the intimate space within the 200 acres of grounds. A landscape designed by one inspired landscape architect , “Lester Collins, FASLA (1914 – 1993), with important contributions by his clients, artist and teacher Walter Beck
I am not alone in my admiration for Eleanor Roosevelt and the contributions she made during her life. She is, I believe, one of the most remarkable, compassionate, empathetic individuals to influence our country’s history. Her cottage, Val-Kill (Kill is Dutch for Stream) is part of our National Park System in Hyde Park, NY. Touring her home you see a comfortable, welcoming space which was visited by famous and infamous leaders from around the world. She was not only First Lady of our only four term president, author of 13 books, 7000 “My Day” newspaper columns, first U.S. representative to the U.N and author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to name just a few of her accomplishments she was also considered the First Lady of the World. Looking through “A Personal Album by A. David Gurewitsch’s book about Eleanor, I was stunned to see this photo of her gathering flowers from her garden to bring into her home. She loved having fresh flowers especially marigolds in her home, and enjoyed arranging them for her guest’s room.