Gardens

Thoughtful Design – Classic Bones

Posted on Aug 30, 2013

This summer Connie and I visited a lot of gardens, mostly through the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program.   I love visting gardens to see what other people have created.  I’ve seen so many that have taught me a lot over the years.  After starting my own garden and quickly realizing a garden is more than just a collection of favorite plants, I’ve learned to look at the gardens I vistit in a way that reveals their secrets – why they work, what makes them special.  Always it is because the gardener/designer has taken the entire space into consideration and that often means turning the faults or less than ideal features into assets.  So it isn’t the pretty flowers that make the garden, it’s the thought to creating structure (aka the bones) that both hold the garden together without the pretty blooms as well as enhances those pretty flowers while in their glory.

These three gardens are all in the Chicago area and were designed by important garden designers of the early 20th century.  They have formal bones in a style you don’t see as much these days, with the current preference for curves in the landscape.  I love their strong architecture and geometry softened by exhuberant seasonal displays of perennials, bulbs and annuals.  While you might not elect to do this at home there is still a lot of food for thought here!

The Shakespeare Garden at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, 1920.  Designed by Jens Jensen.  This garden is open to the public year round.

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Entering this garden is like walking into another world.  It is completely surrounded by hedges so it has the feeling of being hidden away.

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The long borders are perfect for strolling and exploring and it’s worth coming here several times during the growing season.  The perennials have their moments to shine then fade into the backdrop as the next group to bloom has their peak.  These photos are from early May.

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Low boxwood hedges, flagstone paths, brick edging, turf paths, and the ornaments – the sundial and benches - all contribute to the simple geometry that makes up the structure of this garden.  The flowers are just the icing on the cake.

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I love how this photo shows the wide spiky foxglove blooms echoing the gable of the grey stone building beyond the garden.  Also, there isn’t a lot blooming in this view but the foxgloves don’t look isolated in a sea of mulch, they have all the different greens and textures of surrounding plants to provide a pleasing scene.

Crabtree Farm – Lake Bluff, Illinois, 1926-28.  Residence designed by David Adler, cottage garden by Ellen Biddle Shipman.

 

Pale pink roses frothing above a stone wall and two pots of purple scaveola flanking the open gate welcome you into this enclosed garden.

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This garden tucked in close to the house proves formal can be soft, cozy and welcoming.

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Crisply pruned boxwood hedges outlining beds and paths give strong structure no matter what time of the year.  This path leads to a place to escape from the sun’s heat, a shaded bench that curves around a circular garden pool.

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The side of the house features an entrance charmingly covered with a wisteria draped arbor.

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The view from the back terrace and out over Lake Michigan.

House of the Four Winds – Lake Forest, Illinois, 1912.  Residence and garden architecture designed by Howard Van Doren Shaw, plantings designed by Rose Standish Nichols, restored in 2002 by Craig Bergmann.

Simple - create an outline

Wavy hedges provide dark contrast to play up the colors of the plants in the bed.  The silver Perovskias echo the fountain and sparkling water, the spiky purple Salvias are repeated in the purple leaved beech that takes your eye beyond the hedges.

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This espalier, which I think of as a Craig Bergmann signature, dresses up a chimney along with a trough planted with a mounds of colorful and cascading foliage.

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Even with a layer of snow and winter’s low light this view thru the open gate must be just as inviting.

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The lower garden planted with boxwood cones along the canal.  The shimmering water, glossy boxwood leaves, silvery foliage, pale lavender and white blooms all work together to provide a cooling effect that was refreshing on the hot afternoon of our visit.

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The long view looking back at the house.  You can see the simple geometry that holds the garden together so it will look good all year long.

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Bull Valley Garden Walk Photo Share

Posted on Aug 29, 2013

Touring gardens is such a great way to learn what other gardeners do – to see firsthand how they deal with the conditions of their space and how they combine plants and create interesting vignettes.  I love seeing how plants grow and always enjoy talking with garden owners and fellow guests.  After picking up our tickets at the gorgeous and inspiring Kimball and Bean we went out to see what these gardeners were generous enough to share with us.
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A cozy nook in a fence with a bench shaded by grapevines not only looks great but makes you want to investigate – what’s under there?  And then have a seat and look at the view.  A classic feature that stands on its own all year long.

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This gorgeous view of Bull Valley is actually the edge of the garden which transitions without a hitch into the wilder terrain beyond.  The grasses you see in the foreground are part of the garden that the owners have been restoring to its original plants with the help of Landkeepers, LLC.  This company is able to replant the plant communities that were here before settlers came in and changed the natural habitats.  How cool is that?!

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This nicely planned garden is not only low maintenance and good looking four seasons of the year but also is tough enough to make it through the dry spells we normally get during the summer.  The bold shapes and colors read well from a distance as this border is viewed from the house from across an expanse of lawn.  The upright group of grass planted to the right of the rounded golden shrub (Golden Privet) and to the left of the burgundy barberry is Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) which turns orange in the fall.  How striking will that be with the Blue Spruce which will then go on to contrast with the other green spruces it is grouped with, providing color interest all winter long.

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This is another view of the same border and here you can see color from the daylilies and variegated miscanthus.  Come mid-August (though likely earlier this year!) the walk will be edged with the dusty pink blooms of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, attracting the eye and bees galore.  This well-known sedum’s horizontal blooms last forever, deepening in color before fading to shades of brown.  The spruces here are Serbians (Picea omorika) which are sharply outlined by the soft shape of a white pine (Pinus strobus) behind to the left.

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This scene is the edge of a shady garden – a limbed up shrub which has been pruned into a small tree form. This a great way to create more room to plant more plants! If you have a small garden or space to fill you could plant a viburnum that grows to the size you’d like – there are many that are 8-12 feet tall – and have a small tree with a long season of interest that will provide some height and screening.

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Here’s proof that shade is not boring! The variegated hosta in the foreground grabs your attention and echoes the pale color of the flowers of the Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) which will fade to tan as the season progresses.  Come fall this shrub’s leathery leaves will turn burgundy and the plant at its feet, toadlily (Tricyrtis hirta), will begin blooming its purple spotted white blooms all up and down its arching stems.  Subtle and wonderful!  In the distance you can also see a golden hosta which invites you to look a little closer and notice the textures of the waxy blue hosta under the feathery Hemlock and the glaucous blue foliage of the columbine to the bottom left, past bloom but still adding to the composition.

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Here are two more Hemlocks, this time as a part of a simple, low care planting under two Locusts.  Combined with daylilies for early to mid-summer color and some burgundy Heucheras just out of the view of the camera, this spot will look good all year round.  For some spring color I’m going to add that daylilies make the perfect partner for masses of daffodils, which very well may be planted here.  The emerging daylily foliage hides the fading and yellowing remains of the daffodils after they have bloomed and takes care of that maintenance chore without you having to lift a finger.

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With all the hot dry weather this summer this combination really caught my eye – the saturated colors of deep blue Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflora) and Jupiter’s Beard (Centranthus ruber) look great, don’t they?  I grow both, but not together.  What a mistake on my part!  In my garden these plants grow in two of my toughest, sunniest, driest spots and always look great.

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This sculptural, simple view highlights the perfect way to grow a climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala spp. petiolaris), a gorgeous climbing vine that prefers shade and demands a sturdy structure to grow on.  It blooms early summer with flatheaded, lacy  blooms in creamy white.  It adds texture and interest all year long with its 3-D growth habit and exfoliating bark.

A relaxing and enjoyable day well spent, don’t you think?

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