Porch Update, July 23

Construction of the porch is continuing at a good pace although progress has slowed because of the nature of the work. Large parts of the job, including windows and wiring, are now in place and contractors are beginning to get to grips with details.

Most of the exterior trim is complete and you can see from the photo below the alignment of wood and masonry columns.  The roof, which is only a little more than 2-feet tall, is not visible from the garden, but lifts the ceiling height inside the room to 10 feet, adding to its spaciousness.

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From the opposite direction, you get a better sense of the space under the porch.  Soon, the brick mason will return to lay footings and walls between the columns, raising the patio level to within inches of the basement door.  Before the job is complete, the area will be regraded so it is an easy step from garden to the paved surface.

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I’m particularly pleased with the patio ceiling, completed just yesterday.  The trim around each of the columns and the extra stringers creating the effect of a coffered ceiling are handsome details.

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Inside, the ceiling’s drywall is up and nearing completion.  I can’t wait to show you the ceiling color I’ve chosen, but will save that surprise for later.  Next week, work will begin on the interior columns, as well as the window and wall trim that will complete the space.  The floor will be red oak, finished to match existing hardwoods throughout the house.

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The room is dark because of a protective film which coats both the inside and outside of the windows.  I like to imagine the day, sometime soon, when I’ll be dazzled by the light!

Many thanks to my friend and neighbor, Mike Carter, plus the Renaissance crew, for their excellent work and making the process so easy.

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A Day at the Beach

All year, Tim and I look forward to our family vacation at Litchfield Beach.  With two grown boys relishing busy lives of their own, it’s the only time we can count on everyone being together.  Though books, puzzles, games, and cuddles with the little ones didn’t leave much time for the camera, here’s a quick look at some of last week’s fun.

6 am:  Catching the sunrise along with scores of other photographers.

6 am: Catching the sunrise along with scores of other photographers.

10 am:  Kicking up our heels in the pool.

10 am: Kicking up our heels in the pool.

1 pm:  Waiting out the heat of the day with Kindles for the big ones and naps for the little ones.

1 pm: Waiting out the heat of the day with Kindles for the big ones and naps for the little ones.

4 pm:  Engineers at work.

4 pm: Engineers at work.

6 pm:  Beaufort Stew!  Recipe for 8:  4 lemons, halved; 1/2 cup Old Bay seasoning; 5 pounds small red potatoes, halved; 3 pounds smoked sausage, cut into 2-inch pieces; 8 ears corn, halved; 5 pounds fresh shrimp.  Add to pot in order listed, boil potatoes with seasonings for 10 minutes, and then add following ingredients at 2 to 3 minute intervals.

6 pm: Beaufort Stew! Recipe for 8: 4 lemons, halved; 1/2 cup Old Bay seasoning; 5 pounds small red potatoes, halved; 3 pounds smoked sausage, cut into 2-inch pieces; 8 ears corn, halved; 5 pounds fresh shrimp. Add to pot in order listed, boil potatoes with seasonings for 10 minutes, and then add following ingredients at 2 to 3 minute intervals.

Come and get it!

Come and get it!

8 pm:  Last beach walk of the day, watching vacationers trying to save their sandcastles from high tide.  Never works, but worth the fun!

8 pm: Last beach walk of the day, watching vacationers trying to save their sandcastles from high tide. Never works, but worth the fun!

Thanks to Dan and Cori...

Thanks to Dan and Cori…

and Danielle and Andrew...for spending their week with the old folks!

and Danielle and Andrew…for spending their week with the old folks!

The Main Perennial Border, stunning even in early season.

The Garden at Wollerton Old Hall

Three weeks ago, I traveled home from England with a million and one ideas swirling through my head and an eagerness to tell everyone, or at least those who read this blog, about the remarkable gardens I had visited. Life intervened, however, and after I attended to work, family, garden, and the new porch, exhaustion set in and the idea of sitting at the computer trying to articulate even a single thought was overwhelming.

Happily, after a much need week of R & R, the brain fog has begun to lift and my enthusiasm for blogging has returned. So here, finally, is an effort to share my impressions of one of the most pleasurable gardens visited—Wollerton Old Hall in Shropshire.

The word “pleasurable” is not used lightly; the garden provides both satisfaction and surprise through artful use of color, familiar elements invigorated with fresh perspective, and the highest standard of horticulture, all within carefully arranged and varied spaces that evoke gardens near and far.

The Old Hall comprises a half-timbered wing from the mid 1500s and a more recent addition.

The Old Hall comprises a half-timbered wing from the mid 1500s and a more recent addition.

The Hall itself, including the surviving wing of a sixteenth century home, gives a timeless feeling to an essentially Arts and Crafts style garden—enclosed geometric spaces formed by walls and evergreens such as yew, contrasted with a naturalistic “wild garden” at its far reaches.

The garden’s website provides an interactive map which highlights each space, but here are a few areas I particularly enjoyed.

Lower Rill Garden

Lower Rill Garden

The Rill Garden joins upper and lower spaces which have individual character but merge into a long view that gives a greater sense of spaciousness.  The Lower Garden brings Lutyens to mind, with its narrow Hestercombe-like rill emptying into a small pond with stone surround and mixed plantings, similar to the Sunk Garden at Great Dixter.

Upper Rill Garden

Upper Rill Garden

Steps away in the Upper Rill, however, the linear arrangement of hydrangea-filled terracotta pots flanked by fastigiated hornbeam and box balls in a gravel court, combined with a larger pool reflecting sky and garden, evokes a Mediterranean garden.

Font Garden

Font Garden

The Font Garden, too, with its cloistered loggia, could easy be mistaken for an ancient Italian or French landscape.  Massive box balls give the space a modern twist, but the garden’s sweet repose made it a favorite of visitors who took a moment to soak in its ambience.

At the heart of the garden, the loggia with its cobbled floor offers a quiet retreat.

At the heart of the garden, the loggia with its cobbled floor offers a quiet retreat.

I also found the Yew Walk to be particularly striking and spent a good deal of time photographing the towering pyramids in the changing light, which were even more dramatic when the sun popped from behind clouds.  Between the evergreens, bays of perennials softened the otherwise angular arrangement and led the eye towards the arched door of the Courtyard Garden.

Yew Walk

Yew Walk

The eye-catching gate into the Courtyard Garden was made on the Isle of Wight.

The eye-catching gate into the Courtyard Garden was made on the Isle of Wight.

Though my preference is typically for formal and restrained gardens such as these, the gardens at Wollerton Old Hall are perennial driven and the spaces given over to these blooming plants are simply amazing.

The Main Perennial Border, stunning even in early season.

The Main Perennial Border, stunning even in early season.

The drier Lanhydrock Garden, inspired by the red border at another spectacular  private garden and one I hope to see again next year--Bosvigo House in Truro.

The drier Lanhydrock Garden, inspired by the red border at another spectacular private garden and one I hope to see again next year–Bosvigo House in Truro.

The Sundial Garden excludes hot colors and offers softer hues.

The Sundial Garden excludes hot colors and offers softer hues.

Kudos to Leslie and John Jenkins, who arrived in 1983 and have worked assiduously to bring the 4-acre garden to perfection, and to Head Gardener Andrew Humphris, who came to Wollerton via Biddulph Grange.  There’s much more to see than can be highlighted here, of course, but the garden’s art, drama, and barely controlled exuberance can, I hope, be found in every photograph.

The Croft Garden and Croft, beautiful in their own right, also serve as a shelter belt.

The Croft Garden and Croft, beautiful in their own right, also serve as a shelter belt.

My decisive test for a garden is if I would want to see it again, especially in another season, and the answer in this case is yes, yes, and yes.  What a continual joy this garden must be for those who can partake throughout the year.  Fingers crossed I’ll get to visit again too.

 

 

 

 

 

Porch Update & the Big Idea

It’s been an exciting week, as porch construction is now progressing at a brisk pace.  When I arrived home Sunday evening after more than 3 weeks of travel, only the floor was finished, but framing took just a few days and this afternoon a roof membrane was rolled out in anticipation of shingles.

Monday morning

Monday morning

Wednesday morning

Wednesday morning

Thursday afternoon

Thursday afternoon

We’ve also received the happy news that the custom windows are complete and will be installed after the holiday weekend.  The subcontractor who will build the basement-level patio is also slated for a consultation within the week.

All of these are good things, but my thoughts are completely monopolized by a BIG IDEA.

I have a list of tips for making the most of a garden tour which I share when leading a group.  One of those ideas is to continually reference what you see on tour to your landscape at home, imagining how features or plants might work in your personal garden.

What design might work in this long but narrow space?

What design might work in this long but narrow space?

Imagine my excitement, then, when I saw a garden design at Mottram Hall, a grand property hotel in the Cheshire countryside, that offered a solution for organizing my long but narrow space.

It’s simple really—a five part garden connected like a string of pearls.

The garden at Mottram Hall, set within a large rectangle of lawn, comprised 3 circles—a large center circle with two smaller circles at each end—linked by a pair of Arts & Crafts pergolas.

One end of the Mottram Hall garden (L to R):  large circle, Arts & Crafts pergola, small circle

One end of the Mottram Hall garden (L to R): large circle, Arts & Crafts pergola, small circle

Mottram Hall garden, view across the center circle, from one pergola to the other.

Mottram Hall garden, view across the center circle, from one pergola to the other.

The question, however, is what form should the 5-part garden take?  Since the space will often be viewed from above and the garden will be set among surrounding beds of plants, rather than a lawn, pergolas are not a feasible choice.  Plus, because the width of the garden is uniformly narrow, the center section should be an oval or rectangle, not a large circle.  Here are a few ideas…

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So, what do you think?  Is a five-part design a good choice for the space?  Do you have a favorite among the options above?  And, what other possibilities come to mind?

Scintillating Salvias

Just home from England hours ago, I’m up early this morning sorting mail and other detritus and just discovered one of the newspaper columns published while I was away failed to include any of the plant photos submitted with the text.  I’m sure there was reason, but was sad to see the Toronto Botanical Garden (which I visited during the Garden Bloggers Fling, June 4-8) didn’t get its due.  To compensate, I’d like to highlight a few of its spectacular plantings here.

Meadow-Like Garden in Toronto Depends on Salvias (excerpted from the Greenville News)

Toronto Botanical Garden's Entry Garden Walk

Toronto Botanical Garden’s Entry Garden Walk

Recently, I visited the Toronto Botanical Garden, and though the garden is relatively new, there was much to enjoy.  I particularly liked the Entry Garden Walk, an area comprising a double border of herbaceous and woody plants designed by Dutch garden designer and plantsman, Piet Oudolf, which is true to his usual “sophisticated meadow” style.

More of the double border, with Phlomis tuberosa ‘Amazone’ in the upper right.

More of the double border, with Phlomis tuberosa ‘Amazone’ in the upper right.

Typically, Oudolf combines bold drifts of perennials and grasses interspersed with shrubs and small trees.  His plant selection is driven by a strong predilection for architectural form and texture, plus autumn and winter interest.

Though flower color is not Oudolf’s main focus, he has a flair for creating harmonious combinations.  The early-June mix in the Toronto garden was dominated by shades of purple, accented with touches of white, pink, and burgundy.

Baptisia 'Purple Smoke' (B. alba x B. australis)

Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ (B. alba x B. australis)

There were purple ‘Globemaster’ alliums, as well as ‘Purple Smoke’ baptisias, and a very handsome clump of lavender-hued Phlomis tuberosa ‘Amazone’.  What really caught my eye, though, was a stunning trio of salvias that punctuated the borders with vivid, upright jolts of color.

The first, Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, a plant I grew in my previous, sunny garden, is a beautiful old world sage with dusky grape-colored flower stems and striking blue-violet flowers.  Its narrow bloom spikes, crowded with flowers, typically stand 24 to 30-inches tall.  Soon after its introduction, it was honored as winner of the 2000 Outstanding New Perennial Award by the International Hardy Plant Union.

Salvia nemerosa ‘Caradonna’

Salvia nemerosa ‘Caradonna’

Similar in form and standing equally tall, Salvia nemorosa ‘Amethyst’ offers neon purple stems and calyces accented with rich, lavender-pink flowers.  Raised by Oudolf himself and honored with the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society, it’s considered the best pink-hued variety.

Saliva nemorosa 'Amethyst'

Saliva nemorosa ‘Amethyst’

The final salvia, ‘Madeline’, also introduced by Oudolf, was discovered as an open pollinated seedling in a patch of Salvia hians.  Featuring branching spikes of bicolor flowers with a violet-blue upper calyx with a white lower lip, the eye-catching ‘Madeline’ grows to about 2-feet tall.

Salvia 'Madeline'

Salvia ‘Madeline’

Perennial salvias, such as those mentioned here, are easy to grow in the Upstate, as they are both heat-loving and drought-tolerant once established.  I’ve never seen them suffer from pest or disease and they actually prefer little or no fertilizer.  Maintenance is limited to removal of old stems just as new growth begins to emerge in early spring and pruning after bloom to encourage a second or even third flush of flowers.