Monday, June 06, 2011
Garden as Biography
It might not be polite to say it out loud, but I love to go on garden tours for the ideas I can steal about landscaping and plant varieties and combinations. Plus it's so much better to see them in place, in the same conditions that I have to contend with (freezes, soggy soil and overly shady patches, for instance).
I was fortunate to be able to walk through one such garden, that of Barbara Ashmun (below right), author of seminal books on garden design like "The Garden Design Primer,""Garden Retreats"and "Married to my Garden." On the near-acre plot you can tell that this is a garden that is always a work in progress, with boggy areas, shade and hot sun making it challenging to work in.
That said, there are definite statements of authority here, too. A tall sturdy tree dominates a slope of lawn leading down to the body of the garden, a perfect place to sit and survey (and probably make mental notes on what is and isn't working). Some unusual species occupy the "I didn't know that could grow in Zone 8!" territory, letting you know that this is a gardener who knows her stuff.
Ashmun herself was there, sitting in a bright pink folding chair under a favorite tree mid-garden, chatting with admirers, answering questions and watching tour-goers walking through, pointing and smiling. I introduced myself and thanked her for opening her private space for the day, but I didn't stay to chat. I'd already met her through her garden.