The spring garden tour

Collector’s gardens are frowned upon by designers, most likely because the parts are of greater importance than the sum, and that is true to some degree in this garden. Sacrifices, most very minor (I think), have been made to cram in another Japanese maple, or any of a dozen (or more) other small collections. Hopefully, I have not thrown in the towel completely on design, but I cannot dispute that there is a bit of a hodgepodginess to the garden. In any case, I could not imagine changing a thing to suit somebody else’s idea of proper design.

To satisfy curiosity that there is at least some aesthetic appeal, I will occasionally take photos of random corners of the garden for a more overall view, rather than only of individual plants. And, what better time for photos than late May when the growth and blooms are most lush and abundant.

the garden

The view down the slope to the rear garden will be more obstructed in a few weeks as the Silver Cloud redbud fills in. Alliums are most evident in the foreground of this photo, but there are also toad lilies, black mondo, Blue mist shrub, roses, Graham Blandy columnar box, Francis Williams hosta, and Chardonnay Pearls deutzia. There are a number of toad lilies and hostas in other parts of the garden, and at least a handful of various redbuds with colored and variegated foliage.

The front of the house is hidden behind Japanese maples and dogwoods. A purple leafed beech off the left corner of the house has become huge.

In this older photo, the front of the house is obscured by Japanese maples and dogwoods. Today, less of the house is visible from the street. The stone path to the front door is overhung by branches of two Seriyu Japanese maples. A purple leafed beech off the left corner of the house (just out of view) dominates the front lawn. With deep shade and the beech’s shallow roots, the lawn thinned each year until the sparse grass was removed and replaced by hostas, epimediums, and native carex.

Koi pond

Looking across the koi pond to the stone patio and fire pit. Shallows of the pond are planted with yellow flag and Japanese irises, rushes, and sweetflag. The yellowish upright on the left is Golden fernspray cypress. The juniper to the right is Gold Cone, which is striking in the low humidity of the west coast, and in Virginia in May, but then it fades to green by mid June.

This blue hosta is tucked between stones that border the patio and beneath a golden Fernspray cypress. By mid summer this spot is a bit too sunny and the hosta fades.

This blue leafed hosta is tucked between small granite boulders that border the patio, and beneath a golden Fernspray cypress. By mid summer this spot is a bit too sunny and the hosta fades slightly. Then, a white flowered coneflower snakes from beneath the hosta’s wide spreading leaves. In the foreground are Creeping Jenny and a small leafed, variegated sedum.

Snow damaged branches of the Gold Cone juniper must be pruned sometime soon. The geraniums in the foreground are seedlings from Espresso, a dark leafed selection of the native wild geranium.

Snow damaged branches of the Gold Cone juniper must be pruned sometime soon. The geraniums in the foreground are seedlings of Espresso, a dark leafed selection of the native wild geranium. The tree behind the gold juniper is red Horse chestnut, and to the left side, behind the wagon wheel bench is the Golden Full Moon maple.

The green leafed Viridis Japanese maple has grown ten or twelve feet across, at least. It is difficult to measure its spread since a third of the tree protrudes over this small pond. The pond is the first of five that were constructed, this one more than twenty years ago.

The green leafed Viridis Japanese maple has grown ten or twelve feet across, at least. It is difficult to measure its spread since a third of the tree protrudes over this small pond. The pond is the first of five that were constructed, this one more than twenty years ago.

Stone steps lead from a lower patio, with a step across a part of a pond to the upper patio beside the house.

Stone steps lead from a lower patio, with a step across a part of a pond to the upper patio beside the house. Toad lilies and hostas will continue to grow through spring to fill this area, and soon Ostrich ferns will arch over this path. Several of the stones are local fieldstone, with the lower stones from a Canadian quarry. The lack of continuity in the stone steps does not bother me at all.

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This pond, just below the deck, has become partially obscured by a seedling hosta that sprouted in a small island between two waterfalls. The hosta’s roots grow in shallow water and are completely exposed through the winter, with no ill effect. Another small hosta has seeded to the rear in this photo, along with Leatherleaf mahonias that will be weeded out since they will grow too large.

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A narrow stream begins beneath this stone slab, then winds past Carol Mackie daphne and sweetbox to a small pond. Three of the garden’s five ponds, including this one, were constructed while my wife was away for long weekends visiting family.

Cinnamon ferns and prostrate plum yews

Cinnamon ferns, prostrate plum yews, and Robb’s euphorbia are deer resistant, and grow lush in this dry shade.

 

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12 thoughts on “The spring garden tour

  1. This is a beautiful garden! I love the collection of plants and the way they are put together is quite appealing. I don’t know if collectors gardens are frowned upon by designers. I am a landscape designer and I have a collectors garden. I am also an admitted plant geek : ) I find myself defending my own garden as a “test garden” but in truth I am always falling in love with a new plant and find myself bringing it home and trying to find a place to cram it in! I do know I would never design a collectors garden. I am not sure you can. These are gardens that evolve with tender loving care and are often high in maintenance. Botanical gardens are both designed and collectors gardens and handle it by putting plants in vignettes. This seems to be the case here and it is well done. Thank you for sharing!

    • I say that I would not design a collector’s garden, but I am assisting my son and daughter-in-law with their new garden and my first inclination is to feature a Japanese maple here, a variegated dogwood there. This project is more personal than a real client, and fortunately, growing up in this household, my son (a chemist) has a hankering for unique plants. So, once the edges are softened a bit, I’m certain it will work out.

      Plants must come first for me. Though I admire gardens where varying colors and textures are interwoven, this doesn’t fit my thinking.

      • I swoon at for July. Maples. I have 3, one a rescue from a clean up we did, very small lace leaf, a waterfall and the newest is a Acer Palma tum ‘Rysen’ also called dragon spirit…looking up. Love ferns and hosts too…was rough during our drought but last 12 months we got 80″ of rain 😀 Hope you share pictures of your son’s garden.

  2. Hi!
    Finally I’m commenting. I’ve been reading this blog, anticipating each new entry, and simply enjoying being walked through your garden. I just like everything … the writing, the “humor,” and of course, the plants, the garden parts and how they all come together as showcased in the beautiful photos. Perhaps I relate to your gardening style, writing style, whatever. I guess, there is the maverick streak when it comes to rules and rigidity that may take away from the joy and pleasure of gardening. Yes, there may be rules because there are consequences (a tree outgrowing it’s spot, extra work correcting misplanting oops later), but minus uncorrectable mistakes with expensive consequences, gardening one’s own property can be primarily self-expression, a personal project that brings joy to oneself and those who also find pleasure in it. Simply, I’m a fan!

    • A garden should be personal for those who care enough about it. The design need not conform to convention, though it is worthwhile for the gardener to make informed choices in plants and placement.

  3. Without a doubt a labor of love. My wife and I tried to move those heavy-duty Red Rocks a few years ago and failed miserably. Time to hire some help to make it happen. Intrigued by your pond hostas growing. how exactly do you do that? Can i divide one of my hostas and adapt it to my pond? CouldI impose upon you to identify a tree/plant in my garden? I purchased it at Meadows Farms a few years ago and today even they don’t know exactly what it is. Could i attach a picture here or how would you prefer I send it to you?
    Gratefully,
    BillP

    • On occasion a hosta will appear, growing in the gravel or moss at the edge of the stream, but I’ve planted several by removing all soil and anchoring the roots into the gravel. There doesn’t seem to be anything more to it as long as the water is very shallow and the crown is above the water level. I will respond directly to your email so you can send me a photo of the tree to be identified.

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