Showing posts with label Garden Tours. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Garden Tours. Show all posts

February 27, 2011

Greenhouse Mecca - A visit to The Lyman Estate

The Camellia's are in full bloom this month, at the 200 year old greenhouses at the Lyman Estate, a half hour west of Boston.

View from the service entrance, of some of the oldest greenhouses in America at the Lyman Estate, in Waltham, MA.
Camellia's in the Camellia house at the Lyman Estate. February and March is the peak blooming season for Camellia in New England ( in greenhouses, since they cannot be grown outdoors here).

Today we visited the Lyman Estate, which is one of the properties today managed by Historic New England, and it is open to the public year round. One of the best times to visit is in late winter, when their famous Camellia collection is blooming. Historically important for many other reasons, for people like us who keep home greenhouses, the estate holds a noteworth record of having perhaps the oldest greenhouse in America.

The entire greenhouse complex was built over the span of the nineteenth Century, far before electricity and furnaces. In the UK and Europe, early greenhouses were still being perfected, with primitive glazing systems, complex heating systems using everything from manure to heated air which came from coal and wood fired stoves ( early greenhouses were even called Stove houses).

On the Lyman estate, there is a well known older pit house, which most likely is the oldest greenhouse structure in the United States. It was featured in a rather unsuccessful yet collectable book from the early 20th Century entitled Winter Flowers in Greenhouse and Sun Heated Pits by Katheryn S. Taylor, which is one of my favorite books on keeping a cold greenhouse ( you must track one down if you are ever to grow such plants in the north!).
Images from Kathryn S. Taylor's books on Sun Heated Pit's showing the old pit house at the Lyman Estate when it was still in use.
Today, you can see the same pit house in the back, covered with plastic while it is being repaired. It most likely is the oldest greenhouse in America.

The Grapery with 200 year old vines of Muscat grapes.

Cast iron heating pipes keep the Grapery just warm enough for the fancy grape varieties to winter over.

In 1804, the Lymans began building a new greenhouse system, starting with a ‘Grapery’, which was heated by a boiler in the new ‘English style” popular at Kew, with pipes, glass and brick walls that could hold in the radiant heat from the sun where they could grow fancy Muscat grapes which required protection from New England’s harsh winters.

Grape vines are trained on wires that lead the vines along the panes of glass. This greenhouse must be cozy in the summer with the canopy of leaves.

Mr. Lyman also collected grape varieties from his business trips to England, bringing back via ship Black Hamburg grape cuttings  from the Royal Greenhouses at Hampton Court, to grow on trellises that elevated the vines near to the glass, these vines are still alive today. Green Muscat of Alexandria grapes were a popular table grape in the late 1800’s, and they are golden colored, with a brownish bloom, and extremely sweet.
The grape vines are just starting to come out of their dormancy.

The long greenhouses are actually lean-to's, which take advantage of a southern exposure. Backed with a brick wall which retains heat, the system is still efficient, even today.

October 5, 2010

Dahlia Farm Tour, part 2


I almost forgot to publish the other half of my post from two weeks ago, when we visited Pleasant Valley Glads & Dahlias, the  amazing farm and mail order company near us, just over the border in Connecticut. With acres and acres of colorful gladiolus and dahlias, it was overwhelming to photograph. So much color, so many varieties, that one quickly becomes numb. 

September 21, 2010

A Pleasant Visit to Pleasant Valley

First, the Glads....

 Sunday we visited a local farm just over the border in West Suffield, CT called Pleasant Valley Glad's and Dahlia's. A family owned business in it's second generation of business, they are one of the countries few last growers and breeders of Gladiolus. I have an affinity for these most underused and under-appreciated of all summer bulbs, and I don't know quite why. It might simply be by association, for the remind me of late summer gardens, and the gardens that my mom maintained. Regardless, anyone looking for late summer color should think about planting some exhibition glads, for the colors and varieties are endless, and as I found out on this visit, some new varieties might be perfect for large clumps in perennial borders, which is how they look best. So if your idea of gladiolus is limited to the handful of commercial varieties used by florists for funeral baskets, think again. Go Google Gladiola grower, and see what fancy varieties you will try next year in your garden. You might be pleasantly surprised!

September 7, 2010

The Curated Delights of Maine's Snug Harbor Farm

Image from the Snug Harbor Farm blog

It's Sunday morning in the near-coastal town of Kennebunk Maine, in a section known as ' Lower Village' . Kennebunk, once the town of wealthy sea captains, sea merchants, and known more for it's Wedding Cake house than it's garden centers, it is now the lesser sister to Kennebunkport ( where I spent summers as a kid). Before you hit the crowds, lobster rolls and traffic of Kennebunkport, why not stop and visit the peaceful and retreat-like garden and virtual escape of Sung Harbor Farm. Pick up some rare gourds, or perhaps a hand made garden pot.

A pair of chickens, 'free range' through the manicured topiary. Photo by Susan Costello.

This is a such a special place. The sort we plant lovers crave, and only rarely find. Walk amongst Pleached Hedges, the Topiary, the heirloom vegetables, the peafowl the collector fuchsia, hand-thrown pottery for the garden- all of this carefully created and curated by owner and garden designer  Tony Elliott, clearly a talented and well-informed plant person. If Linnaeus shopped here,  it wouldn't be long before there was an Antonius magnifageekii  ssp. curatoriata.


A Bespoke Poly Hoophouse at the Farm

 Thanks to fellow blog reader, and photographer Susan Costello who shared with me most of these images (except two from their blog), I now have discovered Snug Harbor Farm, in Lower Kennebunk Village, in Maine.  Only rarely does one find the perfect recipe of style, botanical geekness and quality design- clearly the owners know much, much more than just how to shove gallon pots of mums around on black weed-block cloth. The American Garden Center is changing, ( not fast), but the few who have the vision, guts and knowledge will rise quickly to the top.
 A wide selection of hand-thrown pottery at the farm

 A new consumer demands more, and sometime less. They want more style, more personality, more instant planting, or they are more knowledgable and expect hellebores in spring, and some at Christmas too. To sum it up, todays garden center customer is much more complex. Sure, there will always be the need for fast, instant disposable material like the most common of annuals and seasonal display material like bushel basket mums, but those are now easily found at the big box stores. Even my local super market has dwarf purple fall asters and white pumpkins. If you want heirloom speckled hungarian pumpkins and brilliant violet or white berried Callicarpa shrubs, you will still need to go to the specialist nursery.

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.

October 3, 2009

A visit to Robin Magowan's garden in Connecticut

Anemone japonica in the Connecticut garden of Robin Magowan. Nearly more beautiful than any Mary Cassatt or Willard Metcalf painting.
One of the greatest pleasures of being active members of plant societies such as the North American Rock Garden Society, ( NARGS), is the people you meet. Over the years we have met many interesting people, with amazing life stories, incredible gardens and have made long lasting friendships, and in a world of Facebook, blogs and email, meeting real people is a rare thing sometimes! Last weeks' workshop on trough-making was held in the western Connecticut garden of Robin Magowan, well known for his alpine garden plantings, and frequently featured in journals, magazines articles and on television programs. It was a treat to be able to take some time after the workshop and tour Robin's garden.

A Zinnia grandiflora blooms in the rock garden

Grasses and maples in full, autumnal glory edge the clearest and cleanest Koi pond I have ever seen. These are the luckiest fish in the world.
A Colchicum 'The Waterlily" blooms solo, near a large rock.

I'm guessing that this is a Glaucium grandiflorum or G. flavum, a 'horned poppy' in bloom on the slopes of the massive rock garden in full sun.

These 'mountains' mimic the real hills in the distance, a thoughful landscape design is the first thing I noticed about this garden.

A good garden has both humor, folly and botanical interests in it. Robin's garden has it all. Plus art! It's not too serious, nor too horticultural, with tags ruining the view. I like that. I try to remove all of my tags in the rock garden, opting to look things up, instead.

An autumn Clematis never looks much better than this. Clematis paniculata is the king of fall vine displays.

July 29, 2009

Garden Tour -July in the Kris Fenderson Garden

A Classic New England Barn in the Fenderson hillside garden in New Hampshire, the perfect
setting for a collection of Asiatic Primula and many rare plants, including trees and shrubs.

Last weekend, as I started my vacation ( actually a 'staycation', to allow me to work on a new venture that I will announce here in a week or two - one that will change everything.), we visited the garden of Kris Fenderson, not only a friend of ours, as well as a bit of a distant neighbor in New Hampshire, but also the Kirs Fenderson the rest of the world knows, that of respected garden designer, author and an expert on the Genus Primula. Kris researched and authored on of the few guides to the Genus, A SYNOPTIC GUIDE TO THE GENUS PRIMULA by G.K. Fenderson, still a respected key to the species and available on some rare book sites, since it is currently out of print. Kris' home was inspirational, high on a mountain slope reached only be following a remote unpaved New England road up a wooded hillside on the border of Vermont and New Hampshire.

This is one of those garden locations where you begin to anticipate the experience for before reaching the destinations, for like many gardeners with vision, Kris carefully selected his habitat long before building a garden. A gift the best garden designers have, like Fletcher Steele, is the innate sense to craft a garden in the perfect location,that being one that already is essentially a garden of nature. The steep, single lane dirt road that leads up to Kris's nineteenth Century home ( maybe eighteenth?) helps set the tone for the garden, with native birches lining gushing mountain streams, then deep woods of Hemlock and Beech, Hornbeam and Maple, one eventually emerges into a meadow that suddenly is a garden, whether Kris planted it or not.

One cannot tell where the garden actually begins or ends, but there are hints, such s the drifts of Asiatic Primula along a stream that crosses the road, or to the really keen eye, some faded Meconopsis clump, virtually unheard of in these parts of the country, except in the gardens of Wayne Winterrowd, a neighbor of Kris' , and who sort of made the culture of the sky blue poppies from Tibet and Nepal famous for a moment, in their book, 'A YEAR AT NORTH HILL". On my bedside at the moment is their newest book, A LIFE OF A GARDENER, and in it, they reveal the secret, that Kris Fenderson was the one who actually shared his Meconopsis with them. I have never met Mr. Winterrowd, but had hoped that someday we could either meet or live as they do, knowing fascinating people, grow the most interesting plants, and live where cars cannot be heard. Perhaps we are closer than I thought. And, now, knowing the less than romantic history of the Meconopsis, actually coming from a friends' garden, I am feeling a little more 'in', and less like an outsider.