Monday, September 19, 2016

A Garden Conservancy Open Days Tour: One of New Jersey's Finest

I remember reading  a couple of the garden magazine and newspaper features, published probably 10 years ago, about this Nutley, New Jersey, garden.  Back then, they described two gardening friends living across the street from one another and sharing a passion for gardening and a garden designer, Richard Hartlage, of Calycanthus x raulstonii 'Hartlage Wine' fame.  (As a horticulture student of JC Raulston's at NC State University he helped to develop this intergenetic species.  He went on to become a landscape designer.)  

Looking back toward the cottage that's near the entrance off of Rutgers St.  It faces the main house across a small courtyard.  All of this is part of the original Mountsier garden
The write-ups stuck with me; when scrolling through the list of Garden Conservancy Open Days gardens, looking for something we might visit on the way to Cape Cod, I was pretty sure the Mountsier garden was the same one I read about years earlier.  So it was serendipitous it was open the weekend we were headed to Massachusetts and only about a 20 minute deviation from our route. 

From what I can glean from previously articles, the two gardening friends, Graeme Hardie and Silas Mountsier, ultimately, combined households and now share Silas's garden, which his parents started.  Silas returned to the house he grew up in after briefly living as a young man in Manhattan, only 15 miles away.   He's been working on the garden for 60 years, he told me!

Inside the greenhouse you see in the picture above

When the property behind his house was for sale Silas bought it and expanded the garden. It is now about  2.3 acres, or twice the original size.    

The lawn at the center of the garden links the two properties together.   A walk circles  the perimeter.  That's the original main house in the distance; the house on the acquired property is directly behind this view.  
The garden is bold and restrained at the same time -- restrained by limiting the plant and color palette and using big masses of the same plant, sometimes repeating them in several areas of the garden, and bold in showcasing a range of big sculptures throughout the garden, as well as featuring tropical plants with striking textures and color.   

Numerous clipped box hedges and balls and shorn hornbeams of various heights create a rhythm in the garden, help delineate the spaces, and stops one's view, giving the eye a moment to rest before moving on to the next room or composition.    

I'm not crazy about the two cement walls.  I wish they were covered by vines, or a different color, perhaps?  They feel out of place to me.  One of the only things I don't particularly like in the garden.

I love the way the line of the walk is broken up by the circle
One of the many brilliant design features is the viewing platform.  If you look to the left in the image above you can barely see the tops of few heads peering over the hedge.  It's a wonderful place to photograph and see the garden from another vantage point.  I often think my own garden looks better out the second story window, where some of the design aspects are more apparent.  

Hakonechloa, Japanese Forest Grass, is a favorite plant and great swaths of it, in various variegated forms, stripe this berm, front and back.  It's used liberally in other places too. 

This is part of the circular path, running along the outside edge of the garden. 

The Hakonechloa berm from the  opposite side

In the view above you can see how the berm hides much of the path behind it.  It also adds privacy to a small sitting area on the side of the house.  The mass of the berm is yet another way to create drama in otherwise flat terrain and carve out different types of spaces within the garden.  

Can you see the Hakonechloa berm in the background? 

The visitors in the two images above seem to have dressed for the garden, blending in with the yellow variegated Alpinia, pink Begonias, yellow Coleus and burgundy Euphorbia.  

Besides the bold strokes, there are also wonderful details, such as the  planting below. I'm pretty sure that's Fargesia in the background, a clump forming Bamboo, used in several places as a screen, and an Aechmea (type of bromilead) with the tall red stems and yellow blooms above the Coleus.  

A mound -- Mount Mountsier -- covered in Loriope is a surprising foil for the Brahman Cow. 

Begonia 'Escargot' planted under large mauve- colored Elephant Ears make a wonderful combination. 

Bold foliage and sculpture adorn the entrance to the house at the back of the garden.  

A sheltered niche near the original main house.

The garden is an amazing mix of formality, whimsy, and sensuality.  It's hard not to appreciate the structure in this garden; the pillars of hornbeams and walls of boxwood give the garden solidity and a timeless geometry.  The more fanciful moments seems to stand out all the more because of it.  I will have to think about how I can incorporate more plant structure into my own garden.  

About a dozen seating areas offer the chance to absorb the sights and sounds until moving on to the next surprise around the corner.  

Even the cellar door is a work of art

86-year-old Silas Mountsier talking with guests.
The Mountsier garden seems to have been open regularly through the Garden Conservancy.  Consider it for next year if you are in the area.  

Friday, September 16, 2016

Bloom Day in the West End of Provincetown

The West End of Provincetown is the quieter, less commercial neighborhood compared to its East End counterpart, and it is closest to to the end of the spit of Cape Cod.  Here's a glimpse of what's blooming there this September along Commercial Street :

The weather has been dry and warm this summer on the Cape.  Good for the tourists, but not so good for the uncultivated vegetation.(The gypsy moths, for instance, have been particularly bad in the woods here because a fungus that usually kills some of them wasn't present due to the dry conditions.)
Many homes and guest houses in Provincetwon have irrigation, so lawns are green and gardens are looking good.

I thought this was an especially inventive use of Fuschia, making it look almost like a vine. Maybe there are some containers hidden up there among the plants.

Provincetown Harbor, seen above, reveals extensive mud flats at low tide.  It's fun to beach comb when the tide it out.

Don't forget to check out other Bloom Day posts at May Dreams.

Happy Fall!

Friday, July 15, 2016

July Bloom Day

Here's a look at what is blooming in my northern Virginia garden in the middle of July....

Eryngium yuccifolium, Rattlesnake Master

The remains of Veronicastrum virginicum 'Lavendar Towers' bloom, Cluver's Root,  with Echinacea purpurea 'Rubinstern', Ruby Star Purple Coneflower, behind in my mini-meadow.

The big showy flowers of purple coneflower, it's reputation as a "native" plant, (whether it's actually native to the gardener's locality is another story) and one that draws pollinators makes it one of the most popular plants around. I seem to see it everywhere in my area at this time of year; sometimes it's the only perennial that appears in a garden. I, too, am smitten.

I can remember when I first saw Purple Coneflower in my mother's Connecticut garden probably thirty years ago.  I was so impressed by the spiky orange cone paired with bright pink petals. Some people wouldn't be caught dead wearing those colors together; how cool that nature produced a flower with this combination.  So, needless to say, I had to include some Purple Conflower in the mini-meadow I planted two years ago behind our house after construction was complete on our addition.

Going strong in its second summer

Too many of the recent Coneflower introductions have proven short-lived, but 'Rubinstern' (aka Ruby Star) is a German-bred variety from Jelitto Seeds that got very good, if not top, ratings from Mt. Cuba's Coneflower trials.  And, it was one I could find it at a local wholesaler. The flowers of Ruby Star are a darker, richer purpley-pink than the straight species and they seem to hold their color longer. The petals are held horizontally, as opposed to drooping downward, and, though it's a bit shorter, it has plenty of visual impact.  It seems quite vigorous so I'm hoping to have this one for years to come.

I don't have a lot of mid-summer flowers in my front garden, aside from container plantings, but these Athyrium 'Ghost' are looking pretty good.  They are growing with Pachysandra procumbens, Allegheny Spurge, Carex pensylvanica, Oak Sedge, and Bergenia ciliata, Hairy Bergenia.

Aesculus parviflora, Bottlebrush Buckeye
This shrub encloses my front garden once it has leafed-out. I can sit near my front door and experience the idea of "prospect refuge"- I can see out to the street without being seen.  I just stumbled on this academic theory, which I was completely unaware of when I designed the garden, but, it makes sense--a space feels comfortable when it offers both a view out AND a sense of refuge, in this case, because I'm screened by the Buckeyes.  Okay, maybe it's just me, but I like the effect.

Deschamsia cespitosa 'Goldtau',  is a wonderful dwarf form of Tufted Hair Grass, and one of the few good grasses for part shade.  It takes a few years for it to bloom reliably, but when it does it is a lovely, gold, airy inflorescence that stands out against the dark green foliage.
Cissus discolor, Begonia Vine

Origanum 'Kent Beauty' with a Sempervivum

Ratibida 'Red Midget'

Silphium perfoliatum, Cup Plant

Liatris spicata 'Floristan Alba', Blazing Star, Yucca recurvifolia, seed heads of
Allium 'Purple Sensation and cristophii, and Sporobulus heterolepsis, Prairie Dropseed

Pycnanthemum muticum, Short-toothed Mountain Mint
Agave ovatifolium (maybe?) , Whale tongue Agave

Thympophylla tenuiloba, Dahlberg Daisy
This fragrant, little yellow daisy is native to Texas and Mexico.  I grow it as an annual and it self-sows in my rock garden.

Labled as Dianthus deltoides, but seems to be some variety not the straight species.  Anyone know which one?

Hydrangea quercifolia, Oak Leaf Hydrangea, given to me by a neighbor.  If it's a cultivar, I don't know which one.  
Ligularia dentata 'Othello' , Leopard Plant
Lobelia cardinalis, Cardinal Flower, in bud

Cuphea ignea, Cigar plant, growing in a container with Heuchera 'Caramel' blooming in the background

As always, check out what's blooming in other blogger's gardens here at May Dreams.  Cheers!