Other Gardens

A living fence  of cllimbing hydrangea covering the foundation and railing of Bunny Williams' front porch

Lessons Learned from Some Great Ct. Gardeners

A few years ago, we made an extended trip to Connecticut to visit nurseries and gardening friends and participate in one of the wonderful Garden Conservancy Open Days garden tours. As usual in Ct., we saw many beautifully grown plants and beautifully designed gardens . I want to share a few unrelated high points/notable lessons learned -from these great Ct. gardeners.While many of these techniques are useful in our Zone 5, I do envy the Ct. gardeners their Z.6 situation.

The amazing Bunny Williams is using the railing that lines her front walkway to create a dense green and long-flowering wall of hydrangea vine(see the above photo.)

George Lotkin has made great use of a row of dead yews by cutting them down to 3′ and using them to supply the framework/support for a row of shizophragma hydrangeoides Moonlight which he is training up them to form a low floral wall. George also grows Oriental lilies up through shrubs such as rhododendron. No need to stake them, as the shrubs hold up the tall lily stems! Perhaps George’s greatest invention is his back-saving method of planting a ‘River of Grape Hyacinths.’ It proves that muscari bulbs are tough little things. George came up with his method for one major reason. His choice of location for his ‘river of blue’ had never been cultivated; mulch simply covered hard native clay mixed with rocks. In that spot, he would have spent much more time and effort digging rocks than in bulb planting. So George did not plant in the soil; he planted on the soil. First he moved into a bin the area’s top layer of mulch, then he slightly tilled what earth was tillable and scattered 400 bulbs on top of that so-called soil. He covered the bulbs with a 2-3″ layer of unadorned topsoil and then the original mulch. As George says “Done. 400 bulbs were ‘planted’ effortlessly in less than 45 minutes.” !!

Sue Weeble showed me how an unbelievably happy hosta (3′ high and wide!) can be a rhododendron substitute! (One of her rhodos equals a swath of mine!) Faithfully keeping current with her membership in the Zone-Denial Club, she is also successfully growing her banana tree in a hot pocket created by her garage wall and her full-sun heat-reflective patio.

Monique Anthony has clematis growing up every type of deciduous shrub, and though they are planted near the very core/trunk of the shrub, they still come up through the shrub and flower like crazy. She and Les have also concocted a brilliant technique for hiding an ugly chain link and woven vinyl fence (ah, neighbors.) Over the internet, they ordered fake Xmas tree branches and they wove them vertically into the fence. Seen from a distance as it is, you have no clue what you are looking at, only that there appears to be an attractive green backdrop to their amazing garden beds! They have also made a handsome ‘trough garden’ out of the bowl of a cement bird bath that broke off below the bowl.

Ellen Sonnenfroh has changed my way of thinking about designing with hostas. Her extensive rural property is filled with many large hosta sweeps of one variety each. The visual impact of just ONE leaf pattern- is stunning. (See the photo here of the hosta arbor. Doesn’t the right side look so much better than the left?) Even though my property is miniscule in comparison, I have replanted almost all my hostas in patches of one variety. No more ‘Pot ‘n Dot’ for me. She also demonstrates that sometimes plant happiness makes absolutely no sense- as when you see her very healthy happy patches of sedum autumn joy, hostas and astilbes- all growing right next to each other!!! in a solid-packed bed mulched with wood chips and under a deciduous tree, and with no in-ground watering system. Go figure!

Linda Allard’s garden designer has interplanted climbing roses with clematis- to grow up pergola columns.

In the Brush Hills gardens of Charles Robinson, he has ingeniously “hidden” garden sprinkler heads on top of 10-12′ tall homemade plant obelisks made from steamed oak lath that is painted with protective coats of fiberglass.

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