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Gardens often die with their makers, but not always. In 1948, garden designer and writer Elizabeth Lawrence moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where she began laying out a small garden that would embody all she’d learned about Southern horticulture. Although she was the first woman to earn a degree in landscape design from North Carolina State University (1932) and she designed many, many gardens, she could not bear to be called a “landscape architect.” It was the plants that interested her, and she determined her own garden would be a laboratory for further study. She worked in her Charlotte garden for 35 years and wrote three more books there, including The Little Bulbs. In her final years she moved to Maryland, where she died in 1985. It wasn’t until more than twenty years later that the Wing Haven Foundation bought the Elizabeth Lawrence property and set about restoring the gardens, which are lovely to walk through on this virtual tour.
Pearl Fryar's Topiary Garden started on a whim. “Gardening books will tell you that some of these things in my garden can’t be done, but I had never read them when I got started. Not knowing ahead of time that something is supposed to be impossible often makes it possible to achieve. I just figured I could do whatever I wanted with any plant I had.” And he does, to amazing effect. At the other extreme in yard art, take a look at the Topiary Gardens ingeniously built and planted for the Olympics in Beijing. And if it's hedge mazes you're after, the site for The Labyrinth Society provides a locator for modern labyrinths all over the world.
The horticultural legacy of Thomas Jefferson is vast, as is this site, but it is worth the trip—in person, of course, but if not that, then through the ether. Online you can see his 1000-foot long experimental vegetable bed, his oval flower gardens, his winding flower paths. What I like best about this site, though, is Twinleaf, an online archive of articles from the annual journal and catalogue published over the past 21 years by the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants at Monticello. At Twinleaf.org (accessible itself or through the Monticello site), you'll find PDFs of articles on Jefferson and his gardens, among them a listing of his favourite vegetables, a discussion of the Texas Bird Pepper, which he favoured in particular, and an intriguing attempt to define his "mystery plants." The main Monticello site also offers a digital, searchable library of correspondence by those who lived on and visited the plantation. This, together with the heirloom seed varieties on offer, makes the site a rare treasure.www.monticello.org www.twinleaf.org
On the summer solstice, 2009, ProximityArts, a non-profit interdisciplinary arts collective in Vancouver, British Columbia, launched it latest project — a community floral clock. It begins as a collaborative naturalist's journal, with plant-lovers in the city reporting on when and where flowers are opening. There's a species list in progress with helpful photographs, but alas, without daily bloom times. Not a garden yet, and maybe not great, but a garden-to-be worth watching.http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Vancouver_Flower_Clock_Project
In 1908 Gertrude Jekyll designed a garden for Charles Holme, a leading figure in the British Arts and Crafts movement. By the time Ros Wallinger bought the property in Upton Grey some 75 years later, it was, as he put it, "an unkempt jungle." In researching their place, the Hallingers discovered a set of garden plans and set out to recreate Jekyll's design. The Manor House Gardens are now believed to be the most authentic Jekyll gardens in existence. While the website is not extensive, it offers some fascinating and inspiring before-and-after views, visible proof of Jekyll's statement that, "Planting ground is painting the landscape with living things."http://www.gertrudejekyllgarden.co.uk
Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd are the authors of three books, all grown out of their garden at North Hill in southern Vermont. They only have one open day a year — Daffodil Sunday — but you'll get to know the gardens through their books and you can catch a glimpse of their beauty on the North Hill website.
A private garden gone public, Les Quatres Vents — the Four Winds — is the astonishing work of self-taught plantsman Francis Cabot. On twenty acres of St. Lawrence shoreline in Quebec, Cabot, over the past thirty years, has designed and planted elegant, whimsical, delightful spaces punctuated with inspired constructions: a French pigonnier, a Japanese pavillion. Les Quatre Vents is only open to the public four Saturdays every summer, as a fund-raiser to benefit the Centre écologique de Port-au-Saumon. 2009 is long since sold out; tickets for 2010 go on sale in early December. For more information on touring the gardens, see the Cepas webpage (only in French) at http://www.cepas.qc.ca. Here you'll find a link to a virtual tour of Les Quatres Vents, which is still under development. The photographs are enticing, but if you can't visit the garden, you can always read the book. (See "Of Gardeners and Gardens," on the Frugalista Bookshelf.)
This lovely, unusual garden on the northwestern edge of Georgian Bay is literally carved out of rock. Before Bill and Dawn Loney can plant, they first must hew a hole with a pickaxe, sift out the soil, amend it heavily, set in the plants, then return the screened pebbles to the top of the "planting" as mulch. There are gardens here for strolling and admiring: brilliant xeriscapes, pebble borders, trough gardens for Alpines, and of course rockeries, as well as art installations including a Keppel Henge. Some of my most unusal plants I've bought from Bill and Dawn — as well as the candle chandelier that hangs from the old apple tree.
Visit the gardens online, especially the inspiring Garden Bonsai at http://www.keppelcroft.com
Vancouver photographer Scott McFarland not only takes gardens as his subject, each image is a kind of garden, too, in that he takes a bit of horticultural nature and manipulates the elements for his (and our) inspiration and provocation. Shadows fall in competing directions, lilies bloom while their dead leaves litter the ground, two palms frame a garden that could not possibly be tropical. The digital effects are so subtly accomplished that nothing seems awry — at first. The effect is one of harmony, with an edge — just the kind of garden I like. His work is on exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography from 21 April to 3 May 2009.
Glen Villa Gardens is a 50-acre private property enhanced with Asian artifacts and works of art including granite sculptures by the internationally renowned contemporary artists Louise Doucet and Satoshi Saito. Each section of the garden has a specific theme related to the history of the site and the people who have lived there.
The Gardens are located on the shores of Lake Massawippi near the picturesque village of North Hatley, Quebec, Canada, a predominantly English village in the midst of a majority French province (1 hour east of Montreal, 30 minutes north of Vermont/New Hampshire border).
Glen Villa is owned, designed, and worked by artist Pat Webster, an accomplished gardener who pushes the limits of what a 'garden' means.
“I believe that representing the history of a site and the people who inhabit it strengthens an emotional response to the land and allows people to look deeper into the beauty that surrounds them. It opens their eyes and makes their hearts sing. If they laugh, that’s even better.”
Visit Glenn Villa at http://glenvillagardens.com.
Down House was the rural retreat in Kent, England where Darwin retired in 1842 to write up his notes from his round-the-world voyage. Not only a place that nurtured his thought, the gardens at Down House were the site of this inventive man's experiments with worms and weeds, doves and pollinating bees, among others. Visitors can pace out the Sandwalk at the bottom of the garden that was his daily "thinking path"; they can gaze out across the same fields and walk among the descendants of the living forms that surrounded him as he strove to understand the variety of life.
In honour of Darwin's 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin of Species, in early 2009 BBC Two is airing a series called “Darwin's Garden" filmed largely at Down House and hosted by Jimmy Doherty of "Jimmy's Farm" fame.
Find out more about Darwin and Down House, and take a virtual tour of his gardens at http://www.darwinatdowne.co.uk.
John Bartram is considered the father of North American botany, the first in a pioneering family of naturalists, botanists and explorers. John, a Quaker farmer born and raised in Britain, bought a small farm near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1728. The story goes that he was stopped in his tracks by a daisy while plowing his fields, and the plant so inspired him and his son, William, that they spent the rest of their lives exploring, collecting, and striving to understand nature's secrets. Together they introduced more than 200 native plants into cultivation.
Visit http://www.bartramsgarden.org and take the virtual tour: botanizers and plant lovers of every description will put it on their list of must-sees.