October 7, 2009

Elisabeth Zander's Home and Garden


After last weeks trough workshop, North American Rock Garden Society member Elisabeth Zander, invited us and a few other guests to her home and garden which was twenty minutes away from Robin Magowan's garden, in Goshen, Ct. Do you know that feeling you get when you suddenly realize that you are about to see something extraordinary? That's how we felt, when driving into the driveway at the Elisabeth's home. Massive rocks, limestone and granite lined the property and we're placed everywhere, since her husband Rod Zander is a stone mason, a craftsman really, and a well known builder of masonry ( stone) heaters which we have never heard of, but which we found to be an amazing
green' alternative to our old oil furnace. Be sure to check these out, for they have heated alpine lodges in Germany and Switzerland for generations, and they work. Rod is one of the few, if not the only person in the US who builds them.

When your husband is a famous stone mason, fantasy can become reality. Check out Elisabeth's stone sand beds in her beautiful glass greenhouse. I want, I want!
Elisabeth's garden was amazing, with a long, crevice garden built by Czech Crevice Garden and Saxifrage expert Zdeněk Zvolánek complete with dozens, if not a couple of hundred silver saxifrages hybrids and species, and an amazing assemblage of Ramonda seedlings ( a colony, really) which would make any plant enthusiast more than jealous (Ramonda are fussy high alpine relatives of the African Violet family, exceedingly challenging to grow unless you have the perfect spot, ( I have kept one and a half plants, alive in a trough for two years now), but Elisabeth had, oh, I don't know, about fifty which she started from seed. For alpine gardeners, it's like a chef saying "Oh, I brought two white truffles back from France last week", and another saying " Oh those? We have so many in the back woods that we use them as golf balls". She clearly is an expert at cultivating alpine plants, but then again, that should come as no surprise to those who have seen her name in Rock Garden and Alpine journals.


I particularly loved the Zander's home, for it was one of those homes where even if you never met the owners, you just sensed that they were interesting and curious. Not fussy, nor curated, instead it communicated that very interesting people lived here. An amazing ornate Victorian mutitiered plant stand, well worn oriental carpets, botanical books, the warmth of pure, unfussy stone and ancient wood floors all felt perfect.

The Zander's garden view, while under major construction, as we were warned, still offered the horticulturist plenty of things to look at. You know what I mean, not exactly a designed garden, instead, it's an interesting one. The plants and stone are thoughtfully placed, and when complete, everything will live in harmony. This sort of 'design' isn't assembled in a day, or in seven. It must be thoughtfully and consciously 'crafted', and that is the sense I had while viewing Elisabeth's garden. Even on a chilly autumn day, there was alot to see.

A Thyme tumbles over a massive rock

Ephedra ( yeah, it's really a plant too), poking over a boulder looks a but like a scene from under the sea.

Ramonda's are well rooted in the Czech crevice garden. I can only imagine these when they are in full bloom.



The Zander's sweet Australian Shepherd keeps guard.

A Ligularia dentata shout 'Look, yellow!' against the turning leaves, who were only, sort of wispering it at this point.

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