This month on the Garden Designers Roundtable, we have a special treat for you. Rather than exploring a specific garden design topic, we thought we’d let you peek into our own gardens.
OK, I have to admit that before I became a professional garden designer, I guess I assumed that all garden designers had these amazing home gardens. You know, something that epitomizes the best of design and is worthy of being showcased in every garden design magazine around.
Now that I’ve met so many professional landscape designers, and talked to them about their own gardens, I can tell you that many of us have gardens that are not exactly show pieces. Like the cobbler whose children have no shoes,tending to our own gardens often is not a high priority, especially during our busiest seasons.
So with that in mind, I’ll pull back the curtain and reveal what my own garden, a wooded acre located in southwestern Connecticut (zone 6b), actually looks like outside of all those staged photos you may have seen on this blog.
I think it can best be summed up in nine words…
I consider my garden a laboratory. I like to try out plant combinations, push sun/shade exposures and generally just fiddle around with the same plant in different locations and watch what happens. Last year I bought a bunch of landscape plugs to be able to experiment on a larger scale. I got Tiarella cordifolia ‘Running Tapestry’, Calamagrostis brachytricha and Geranium maculatum ‘Espresso’. I’ve learned the most from observing ‘Espresso’.
After one growing season, I’d say it is not nearly as deer-resistant as the species, it’s pretty drought tolerant and the color of the leaves, described as red-brown, are not overly attractive. They’re a bit too brown and washed out for my taste, especially with more than a few hours of sun each day. I’ll give it another few years before declaring ‘Yay’ or ‘Nay’ but I do know I’m glad I experimented in my own garden before rushing off to plant them in a client’s garden.
I’m the kind of person who likes to surround myself with objects that mean something to me and have sentimental value. Inside my home, you’ll find lots of collections of framed photos on the walls, not a print that color coordinates with the sofa fabric. My garden is the same way. I don’t have a lot of garden ornaments but the ones I do have are full of sentimental value. This old weathervane is from my mother-in-law’s garden. After she died, we decided to give it a home in our garden. Every time I look at it, I’m reminded of her and how much she loved her garden.
If asked, I’d have to admit that one my favorite trees in my garden was my coral bark maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’). Bought on a whim at a big box store several years ago, it’s ever-changing look quickly fascinated me. It was just starting to come into its own and I could see more than just hints of the spectacular tree it would become. So when a freak snowstorm in October proved too much for it to weather, I felt like I’d lost a friend.
Last summer, on a beautiful August day, a tree fell on our house! There was no wind or rain…no reason for the healthy tree to have fallen that day. Luckily, the damage was minimal because the tree basically ‘hugged’ the roof line. We needed a new roof and some gutters but, all in all, I felt like the garden was watching out for us.
One of my favorite parts about our garden is that we have two oak trees that are the perfect distance apart to hang a hammock. There is nothing quite like lounging in a hammock that is suspended between two trees. I do some of my best thinking about clients’ garden design plans (aka napping) in this very spot.
I’m an advocate for using native plants in all types of designed gardens. And my garden is no exception. One of the side benefits of native plants is the beautiful butterflies they attract.
While I love native plants, I also appreciate the beauty of exotic (non-native) plants. One of my favorite non-natives is my groundcover maple (Acer palmatum ‘Yatsubusa Kiyohime’). Mine is just a baby (only about 2′ wide) but it will eventually get to be about 8′ wide. Here’s a look at my groundcover maple on the top and a mature specimen on the bottom.
As I said in my opening remarks, my garden is often neglected, especially in the spring when my business is so brisk. Here’s a peek at all the weeds and seedlings that are waiting to pulled. Glamorous, aren’t they??
Here in southwestern Connecticut, we have a big problem with deer. While most parts of the state have about 16 deer per square mile, here in Fairfield county we have 4 times that amount, on average 62 deer per square mile. It’s not unusual to find 6 – 8 deer wandering around my garden most mornings. That means I have lots of experience with deer resistant plants, that I spray my fair share of deer repellents and that I take a perverse satisfaction in running around in my PJs, arms flailing all over the place, trying to scare away the deer.
For more peeks inside the garden of a professional landscape designer, I invite you to visit the links below to read the posts from my fellow Roundtablers …