In the garden with interesting plants
The over-all design of the garden is generally informal although there are some more formal features such as the rose and herb garden with outline in brick and center walk of gravel with center pool and fountain, or the ‘great Allee’, even though it is in the middle of ‘the meadow garden’, or the 140′ long ‘tapestry’ hedge (not on the level of Hidcote, but a tapestry of foliage nonetheless.
Sections are identified by location (front garden upper garden, side garden, lower garden) or by function based on predominate plant types (rock garden, miniature conifer garden, rose and herb garden, bodacious herbaceous border). Pathways are nearly all of grass (and therefore a bit uneven) and meander, pretty much following the contours of the property. Most of the plantings are in ‘borders’, nearly every one has a pathway on each side. These are labeled according to broader location and then by more specific location within each section. (Don’t let this confuse you; it is mostly to make it easier for the gardener to keep track of where things are.) The location of each plant is noted in the plant list, if available, and they may be a bit easier to find if you are on an unaccompanied tour.
Every gardener has been asked, at some time or another, “what’s your favorite plant”. My answer has almost always been, “Whatever I’m standing in front of that looks good at the time” and I afraid it’s basically true! The general rule is: there should ALWAYS be something interesting to look at, regardless of weather or time of year, and I believe that we have achieved that, at least to some degree. The garden is not really large enough to have a section called, ‘The Winter Garden” where ALL the plants look stunning in the winter, but there are beautiful things to catch the eye scattered throughout each section, even at the end of February (when this is being written).
Gardeners are also often asked, “When’s the best time to see the garden?” (I keep a wall plaque over my desk that says, ‘My garden peaked last week….sorry you missed it.’) I am reminded of a story told by Helen Dillon (who has what is probably the most stunning garden in Ireland) of a visitor who, while standing in midst of scores of striking, rare and unusual plants, beautifully grown, most at full tilt, an even more jaw-dropping question: ‘When’s a GOOD time to see the garden?’. Ms. Dillon said she never felt so notched down in her career! Can’t say I blame her. But the point is that the time to SEE the garden is when you’re in it!
Unless you are also a lunatic collector (and there are many who make us look like the amateurs we truly are), I can pretty well guarantee that you will see plants here that you’ve never seen before. And if they are not contributing to the overall interest and beauty of the garden, I can assure that they are probably on their way out – with plans for either improvement in appearance/performance or replacement. And that is a process that is far more painful to plan than to actually do. But so it goes.