Monday, December 1, 2014

Becoming a Public Garden

High Glen is a newly-developed 64-acre estate in Frederick, MD,  about 45 miles northwest of Washington, DC.  The family who owns and lives on the property intends to open it to the public in 10 to 15 years.   Meanwhile, even though it's technically not open yet, garden clubs and groups can visit by appointment, which I did in late September.

I took these photographs in the middle of the day under bright sunshine, so they are not the best, and I'm not a stellar photographer to begin with, but you'll get the idea of what's there.  More and better photos are available on the High Glen Facebook Page

It's an ambitious project and one I've never seen at this stage -- i.e.,a public estate garden in its infancy.  A good deal has been achieved in a relatively short period of time. (According to the Facebook Page, the garden was "founded" in 2005.)  And, it's a generous act by the family, who wish to remain as anonymous as possible,  to create a display garden for public enjoyment.  Needless to say, having the resources is one hurdle, but having the motivation and interest is another, and they seem to have plenty of both.

There are 3 permanent horticulturists working at High Glen -- the head gardener was previously at the New York Botanical Garden -- and 2 seasonal gardeners.  That's pretty ample staffing for 10 acres of cultivated area, and it shows -- the gardens were immaculate.

Lots of seasonal color on display in the Cottage Garden

According to our guide, the owners hired a landscape architecture firm used by many of the big, established public gardens, such as Longwood Gardens, which helped them develop a master plan that will guide gradual expansion beyond the current iteration.  Establishing a tree canopy is one component.

High Glen has broad vistas all around as it appears to be sitting in the middle of former and existing farmland, so there are no large established trees, such as oaks, tulip poplar, or hickory.  It does feel a bit exposed, though the views help remind you of where you are.  That's a good thing because some aspects of the garden are reminiscent enough of other public estate gardens that you could be, well, not anywhere, but a lot of places.  Or, have I just seen too many gardens..... ?  (Here's an aerial view from the HG Facebook page.)

A view of the Catoctin Mountains 

Little Bluestem 'Standing Ovation' (?), the bluish-red grass, and
Popcorn Senna (Tall, yellow legume-like flower in the back corner) are interesting choices,
not often seen in a formal border  

The Summer House

Looking toward the rose garden and small greenhouse
As you can see, High Glen aspires to be a grand garden with many of the requisite components of the best, most admired east coast public estate gardens.   There's the grand house (photographing it is discouraged, though you can catch it on HG's FB page), formal axial centerpiece, a native garden, a horn beam ellipse (perhaps inspired by Dumbarton Oaks), a rose, herb, vegetable, Japanese, and Mediterranean garden with a rustic summer house, a long perennial border, and hawthorn orchard.  I'm sure I've probably left out something.  
A section of Hornbeam Ellipse  

The native plant garden 
One of the "Four Seasons" statues in the rose garden 


I'm not sure what else is coming at High Glen, although our guide mentioned renovating some existing areas.  (I was so preoccupied with taking photographs, I think I missed some of the 'future plans' portion of the talk and probably more), but I imagine the gardens will spread out towards the outer reaches of the property, perhaps developing more naturalistic areas.   I hope so.  Some wildness could help the garden feel more anchored, less stark.  Of course, it's just a youngster.    

Shady seating around the pool. 
Hawthorn Orchard

You can barely glimpse the turquoise pool through the palm frond 
Admiring the Purple Hyacinth Beans at the back of the vegetable garden? 

"Bedding out " in front of the house

I was encouraged to learn from their Facebook page that HG has a restored wetland and upland meadow  on the edge of the property, a seeming sign of land stewardship, whether required as part of the property development or voluntary, I don't know.  As a new garden, High Glen has an opportunity to experiment and try something different, influence attitudes about what garden-making could be -- beautiful, well-tended, but, among other things, less reliant on supplemental water, chemicals, and high levels of maintenance.   There are many ways to cultivate a garden.    Examples are out there, and perhaps High Glen's master plan will incorporate areas that are more environmentally sensitive as it comes to fruition.   It will be interesting to see how things develop.     

One of the neighboring farms seen in the distance

The barn where our tour began and ended. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Views along the Pamet: Truro's Tidal River and a Hopper Painting

For more than 10 years we soaked up the views of the Pamet River and its beautiful marshy shoulders every September until the house we rented was sold to people who planned to live there year round. We decamped to neighboring Wellfleet for a few years. Then I found a "new" house,  a little farther up the river.  So, happily, this September we were back watching the tide ebb and flow in the Pamet, which winds its way for about 4 miles between Cape Cod Bay to the west and Ballston Beach on the Atlantic to the east.  The section west of  Route 6 is the most picturesque and navigable, a kayak is perfect, but small motor and sail boats use it too, as long as it's about two hours on either side of high tide; otherwise, there's the risk of running aground on muddy flats, which appear at dead low.

Some views of high tide, then low.

Somewhere in between tides

There's a trail along the edge of the marsh.  

Follow the trail toward the Bay and you come to a slightly elevated path running along an old railroad bed.  You can walk this towards Pamet Harbor until it ends where an old trestle, now gone, used to take the trains across the river.  Just to the left of the Juniper you can barely make out the shadow of the path along the railroad bed; it runs more or less perpendicular to the river. That's Pamet Harbor to the right.  (photo below)

The house in the distance, to the left of the tree, can be seen close up below.  It belongs to a family that's been in Truro for several generations and ran a cold storage business in Truro.  These early freezer businesses were crucial to the fishing industry for processing and refrigerating the catch. Proximity to the railroad made for easy transportation of ice and seafood.  

Next door is a house owned by the same family, which Edward Hopper painted in 1936.  The painting is titled " The House with the Rain Barrel."  If you stood on the right side of the house and slightly behind it, you'd get a similar perspective as the one in the painting. (Just the side of the porch is visible in the painting.)   

The landscape is virtually treeless in the painting as it was, I think, by the early to mid 19th century. Trees had been felled for nearly three centuries by the 1930's for fuel, building of houses, ships, fences, you name it, and to make way for farming.   

 Hopper and his wife lived in Truro during the depression;  his house still stands near Fisher Beach.  

People talk about "Cape Light," the ethereal light that plays on the Cape Cod landscape. Photographer Joel Meyerowitz produced a famous series of Cape images in the 1970's with that title, which may have launched the term.   The Pamet at sunset is one of those times when the light and landscape seem especially attuned--the grasses glow and the water shimmers silver.  

This view is looking away from the Bay in the direction of Rte 6 to the east.

Looking west into the Bay.  The breakwater, the dark horizontal line at the top left,  marks one side of the gut, a channel leading out of Pamet Harbor.  The areas on either side of the channel are shallow enough that you can walk across at low tide to reach the Bay-side beach without getting  wet much above your knees.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Posies of Provincetown

People live in relatively tight quarters in the bustling town at the tip of Cape Cod.  There's just not a lot of space in Provincetown, yet gardens abound.  Sometimes it's just a container or two, a narrow street-side bed, but some sort of leafy whimsy, a dash of bright blooms in a window box, or a full blown garden, where possible, seems important to most residents of this densely packed, seaside enclave.      

I spent an afternoon, recently, photographing some of the plantings that caught my eye along or near Commercial Street, the main drag.  

Hydrangeas are popular and here are some poofy paniculatas grown as standards in a fairly traditional front garden. 

These Asian heads appear in a storefront garden.  

The entrance to a small inn with flanking manicured lawn

I love the pickets of this weathered fence and how they offer a silvery color echo of the house siding. Using Miscanthus sinensis (Maiden Grass) as a foundation plant is nice choice.  Their cascading deep red-violet inflorescence compliment the paint palette and the overall combination of colors and textures give this traditional Cape a sophisticated, unfussy look.

It took a keen eye to see this site as having decorative-planting potential!  The homeowner could have left the ledge along the driveway bare, but, instead, came up with this attractive grouping of planter boxes.  Bicycle storage be damned!

A hunky guy greets visitors in the front garden of The Mews, a local restaurant.  That's Rhus typhina'Tiger Eyes' (a Sumac cultivar) glowing yellow on the right.

A pretty traditional look; I was attracted to the first floor window with its diamond panes and the model tall ship on display.  (Look closely.)  

This very shallow bed, smack dab against the street, got a semi-tropical treatment.  How nice that such a small space got such a thoughtful planting, including a red-leafed Bromeliad, black Mondo Grass, some succulents, and Lysimachia  nummularia 'Aurea.'  The granite posts and irregular stone add depth, plus drivers won't dare get too close.  

Just off of Commercial Street in front of a large Greek Revival house is another creative street planting.  This intricate wall is decorative on its own, but the strip of Zinnias adds a punch to the pink tones of the granite.  

This planter sits on top of the same wall pictured above.  There are many large sculptures dominating the garden and you can see one behind this planter.  It's a winged creature with a sort of creepy smile.  

An  attention-grabbing planter box forms the outer edge of  an outdoor seating area in front of a restaurant in central Provincetown.  It's across from the main wharf and next to one of the busiest intersections in town so a big blast of color may be necessary to get people to stop..  

Even if you have no place for an in-ground planting you can do this!  

This house sits at the back of the alley where the house above is located.  More hydrangeas -- you can't beat those big blooms.  

I'm not sure what the beads festooning the cat mean -- leftovers from Mardi Gras?  P-town is a party town so celebration is in the air.  There is a pair of these fancy cats at the entrance to the garden.  

A hanging basket and a tall container create a vertical planting.  

No ornamental plantings here, just the signs announcing the famous Julie Heller Gallery, located just to the right of the signs.  You can find the works of many famous Provincetown artists there such as Hans Hofmann, Karl Knaths, Ross Moffett, Robert Motherwell, Jim Forsberg, and others.  

More Hydrangea paniculata standards in front of a home decor shop.  Views of planters on the side porch follow.

A little vignette in front of a gallery.

It's been a dry summer on Cape Cod, but the Perovskia looks happy.  It flops a lot less in dry conditions.

Perovskia in a storefront garden; those yellow pants make a nice accent.

The garden extends to the garbage can storage area.

That's all folks!