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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in Gardens of a Golden Afternoon (3)


Web Photos That I Like

Delphiniums add a special touch to English style romantic gardens.

I first researched the gardens at Hestercombe when I stumbled upon a striking Delphinium composition [shown above] that had been photographed on this estate and posted by Hermes to his blog site, Gardens of a Golden Afternoon.

I learned that Hestercombe includes a collection of three gardens that span three centuries of garden history. A Georgian landscape had been designed there in the 18th century, A Victorian Terrace was installed in the 19th century, and a Formal garden was added in the earliest part of the 20th century.

Located in Taunton, Somerset, England, Hestercombe has become a tourist attraction and reception center managed by the National Trust of the UK. This philanthropic organization  protects and opens to the public over 350 historic houses, gardens and ancient monuments.


The Music of Foreshortened Flowerbeds.

A fresh metaphor has found its way into the world of gardening. It may not be fresh to the intrepid, well-read, gardener, but for bloggers, it is big news. It is about gardening as music. Yes, music! Some gardeners have a jazz combo playing in a corner of their back yard made up of a few esoteric plants, namely a tall bass player, a medium height guitarist, and a squat drummer. Occasionaly, one will place a chamber orchestra in an island garden where several unusual plants get together to create sensible but fascinating music. Some gardeners grow flowers that sing to them. Others, like me, have a symphony orchestra playing in a 60 foot mixed border. Sadly, the sound of music in that flowerbed is not as rich as I had hoped.

On occasion, I have referred to a garden bed that runs along the width of my back yard. I have remarked how the floral compositions run horizontally from left to right and vice versa. Most of the strategy of combining color, texture, height, and even repetition is lost because one can never view the flowerbed design in its entirety. What ought to be an exhilarating visual experience is not. An instantaneous admiration does not take place because I can never see my garden with one glance. The size and shape of the back yard does not permit the viewer to get a foreshortened perspective and long shots are impossible. I suppose that if I climbed into the center of the left corner of the bed and aimed my camera  at the right corner in the distance, I might get the picture I was looking for; but that is not a sensible allocation of time when there are so many clients’ gardens to be tended.

The criteria that I use to determine if a garden perspective is making beautiful music is based on the breathtaking photographs that I found in coffee table picture books that feature English gardens. Most of the images were captured on large estates, where photographers’ long shots and perspectives are abundant. The best musical images result from flowerbeds that run at right angle to the viewer’s line of vision because, according to the optical phenomenon of foreshortening, the viewer sees all of the plants, colors, height, and textures at the same time. This visual experience creates the most exquisite music that any flower orchestra can produce. Imagine listening to a passage of a symphony when practically every instrument is playing. It is a sublime experience.

Recently, while stumbling and scrolling through more gardening sites than I should, I came across a site titled Gardens of a Golden Afternoon, posted by the astute gardener, Hermes. This horticulturalist collects stunning garden images and shares them with visitors. Here is an image posted on October 30, 2009. It is a perspective of twin flowerbeds, planted with mostly Nepeta and Geraniums, that run at right angle to the viewer’s line of vision. This is beautiful music. Thank you, Hermes, for the concert.


Mambo Verbascum; a Latin Musician in the Garden

Verbascum Caribbean CrushAt first, I did not remember why I chose not to plant Verbascum.  After all, it is an attractive looking perennial. Over the years, it have never seen it displayed prominently at any of the nurseries I frequent and it never occured to me to plant it. The big box stores would carry it in tiny pots but the flowers always looked messy, as they struggled to find their patch of sunshine. In fact, very little grows at big box stores in 2 inch pots that can make our hearts sing.

Last spring, in the opening weeks of business, my favorite nursery displayed a new variety of Verbascum, already in bloom. I could not resist purchasing some for my own and my clients’ gardens. The variety is called Caribbean Crush and its hot coloration makes me want to get up and dance the Mambo! The configuration of the multicolor ruffled petals, ranging in shades of mango, yellow and rosy peach, is reminiscent of the ruffled sleeves worn by conga drum players in the Cuban dance bands of the 1950’s.

My adventurousness was rewarded when I discovered that this perennial would bloom for three months from June to August, as long as the spent stalks were removed. It was rather disappointing to see it reach dormancy at the end of the season, because it had been visually entertaining. I cannot say that it truly fit into my personal cool colored garden but it did look great in the gardens of clients that asked for showstoppers.

I found this effective composition of Salvia and Verbascum [ the pink flowers are not identified] at < Gardens of a Golden Afternoon >. Click on the image to visit a beautiful site.The perennial grows almost 4 feet tall, in sun, in zones 5 to 9. It needs a well-   drained soil because wet soil will lead to its demise. Eventually, I remembered why I never planted Verbascum in the past. It is a short- lived perennial. The nursery had posted that information on their website and I had overlooked it. If it does not return to bloom this coming season, I will not be disappointed, because it gave me, and my clients, great pleasure. Some gardeners will pay for only one season’s delight when a plant is too beautiful to ignore.