September 17, 2017

Botanical Treasures in Patsy Highberg's Vermont Idyll

A lily pool in the Vermont garden on Patsy Highberg, a noted plantswoman, alpine plant enthusiast and local philanthropist who's garden is occasionally on choice garden tours in the northeast.

While visiting Vermont last weekend photographing another private garden, Joe and I paid a visit to our dear friend Patsy Highberg as her garden is one which we've been trying to get up to see since forever. Patsy turns 80 this month, which is about 49 or 50 in Patsy years. She's such a remarkable plantswoman and so active that she's rarely around - last June we were hiking with her at the NARGS annual meeting at Steamboat Springs CO at 9,000 feet, and this spring when I had some free time I called her to see if I could come up and visit her amazing garden but she just happened to leaving to go hiking in the Italian Dolomites (on another NARGS tour). Plantspeople are busy folk indeed.

I've been getting so many opportunities lately as folks seem to be realizing that I am no longer working that although so grateful for the opportunities, my schedule is jam packed with all sorts of fun, creative and just plain interesting projects. Apparently some people think that I'm a good garden photographer so these photo assignments have been coming (most of which I cannot talk about as they are confidential - but then many of my projects seem to be secretive, which I completely understand coming out of my last corporate job).

This crab apple tree in Patsy Highberg's garden is pruned in such a way that it extends out in an attractive way.

While shooting a private estate in  ever so posh and lovely Woodstock Vermont, I was offered the opportunity to drive down the road to finally see Patsy's place (she actually bumped into my friend at the country store and when she heard that Joe and I were coming up for the weekend, invited us over for a drink and then dinner on our last day there). Vermont towns are small.

Patsy's driveway is long and gated, she lives on a long dirt road on a hilltop in south central Vermont, but once you enter her compound the forest of Vermont transforms into a plant hunters paradise. Asian plants, alpine plants, rare trees and shrubs, unusual woodland treasures are everywhere. This is exactly the sort of garden which one could spend hours in as botanical treasures are everywhere one looks.

At the same time , I'm busy working on my book of course with the first chapter due this week, and working through a long photo shoot list myself  - with more than 400 photos, the schedule for my book is consuming enough time already (which is why I haven't been posting much lately - I hope that the book doesn't interfere too much with blogging, but if it does, please understand.). I have so many researched and more complex posts half written, but I never seem to get them completed. Maybe someday I'll just post them all just the way they are. Rants, rambles and long. As for DIY and more detailed 'how-to' posts, I can't seem to use any of my vegetable ones as that would violate my publishing contract (for now), so posts may be more like this - just diary posts which are easier for me to toss out during Dancing with the Stars. (No, I don't watch Dancing with the Stars). During Project Runway then. I have to decompress somehow.

A potted Crinum blooms near the vegetable and cutting garden just off of the main driveway. 

One of my favorite plants is this Rodgersia podophylla. I plant many in my garden whenever I can find one in a catalog or at a nursery.

I don't believe that I've ever seen a seed pod on a Glaucidium palmatum. How extraordinary, and this reminds me that sometimes touring a botanically interesting garden in late summer or autumn is just as interesting as in May or June which is when most garden tours happen.

So many gardeners overlook great plants at the nursery simply because they shop in May and never realize that what looked like a boring foliage plant like this Kirengeshoma palmata - a plant I was fortunate to use in a recent garden I designed because the client was open to trying something new. I can't wait to hear from him once it bloom. 

Patsy and Joe checking out something interesting.  (Patsy is the one in pink, of course, because anyone who knows Patsy knows that she loves color, especially pink - even her garage is painted bright pink inside!).

Check out this amazing colony of the Japanese lasyslipper Cypripedium japonica!

Cyclamen species were popping up everywhere (and I'm still cautious about planting out my extra seedlings! I really need to get bolder with the use of cyclamen outdoors). Patsy told me that the ants have planted all of these (they do the same thing in my greenhouse, and it's how most species in this genus get sown in wild populations).
Cyclamen species all ant-sown; Looks like C. coum, C. Purpurescens maybe and C. hederifolium. Patsy wasn't sure, but who cares? When it comes to cyclamen in the garden, one can never have enough.

Patsy's rock garden is classic and large. Most rock or alpine gardens look best in early spring, but here we are in September and even in early autumn it was impressive.

Maidenhair fern colony growing below Patsy's deck.

Hardy Begonia grandis looking terrific in the setting sun. Dan Hinkley told me that everyone should be growing this plant more, so at the NARGS plant auction this past weekend, I picked up a few more for my garden.

Late blooming alpine Astilbe
( perhaps A. chinensis pumila).

I was fascinated by how Patsy's gardener staked each stem on this large clump of Anemonopsis. My plant flops terribly, so next year......

After visiting Patsy's Joe and I went back to the estate where we were guests. The woodlands around the property were green and lush given all of the rain from hurricanes, and an unusually wet summer. I adore Vermont, it would be my first choice of any state if I could afford a home there.

Joe videos a stream on the property where we were staying. Can you imaging having a waterfall like this with those moss covered stones in your own back yard? And, it was all natural.


  1. I agree about Vermont. Thank you for showing us all these rare treasures. They are not easy to grow for many of us.

  2. Beautiful post. You would be very welcome up here in the best state in the union! If you still want some R. podophylla I can bring you some next month.

  3. I would love to visit this botanical treasures in Vermont soon. Love the nature feels.

  4. Anonymous11:12 AM

    What is the variegated groundcover in the photo with all the cyclamens?


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