Tag Archives: art in the garden

Haskell Public Gardens, a treasure preserved

An unexpected find, winter blooming Edgeworthia outside the Haskell office, under the canopy of a Japanese Maple

Greeting you at the property entrance: Emilia and Verbena bonariensis join silvery Artemisia in a pocket in front of a stonewall.

On an otherwise unassuming avenue in New Bedford MA is a  6 acre public garden that carries on the legacy of the  renowned nurseryman and garden maker, Allen C. Haskell.  The main greenhouses and nursery yard are now gone, but The Trustees for Reservations, who acquired the property in 2013, have preserved the main plantings and made the gardens open to the public free of charge 365 days a year. It is now a tranquil oasis enjoyed by local residents.

A towering Dawn Redwood underplanted with Hosta, a genus that. Allen Haskell avidly collected.

Numerous consultants were brought in to advise on what plantings should remain and how to deal with open space. Horticulturist Kristin McCullin has been the steward of the property since the beginning and her sensitivity to the details of Haskell’s original design is to be praised. That being said, Kristin has invited playful creativity by engaging local artists to collaborate with on the grounds.

The old glasshouses may be too expensive to heat these days, but artist Tracy Silva Barbosa turned these structures into an interactive colorful installation. I love the way the light filters through the colored panels creating multi-hued spotlights on the stonework.

Bring a picnic! There are various spots to pause and take in the flora and fauna.

If you live in southeastern New England and have never visited the property, you must. Visiting the area from afar? Put this garden on your agenda. The property is located at 787 Shawmut Avenue, New Bedford, MA . For more information on the Haskell Public Gardens and other Trustees Properties, visit their website. https://thetrustees.org/place/allen-c-haskell-public-gardens/

Cool plants, cool pots…a visit to Solana Succulents

We just returned from a “too quick” visit to the San Diego area. On this trip we had the joyful distraction of our adorable 6 month old grandson, so there was not a lot of time for plant exploring. We did however get to check in at one of our favorite haunts, Solana Succulents.  This little succulent oasis is owned by Jeff Moore, whose book Aloes and Agaves in Cultivation, is a reference we use often.

I love nurseries where there are one of a kind treasures everywhere you look, and this is the case at Solana Succulents.  There are always new plants to discover,  and on this day we were introduced to  Eulophia petersii, commonly called Corduroy Orchid (center foreground), awaiting transplanting to a more decorative pot.

The dramatic black and white coloring of this Dyckia caught my eye…

as did this Hylocereus undatus, the dragon fruit cactus.

Another thing I love at these little specialty nurseries is the choice pottery that are featured in their displays, and often for sale. The containers themselves are unique sculptural elements. Elevate this art form with a perfectly matched plant and you have created arresting eye candy.

A textured tan and turquoise rectangular planter featured a choice caudiciform Ficus. Call it minimalism or abstraction, but there’s no denying that the plant and pot together command attention.

Perhaps we intuitively picked up on this art form  on our first visit to California years ago. We’ve been collecting cool vessels for planters for quite some time and feature an assortment of small and large fine pottery to showcase individual specimens or ensembles. These sculptural elements are little luxuries that please the eye and enrich the soul.

Early Summer Container Report

My goal each season is to plant containers that are easy to maintain and will carryon summer through fall. For sunny areas, I’ve come to look at succulents as such reliable performers. They always oblige… often looking even more fabulous at season’s end. For areas with more shade, I lean towards Begonias and other plants with great foliage. This season I’m starting to play with Bromeliads more.
An older  28″ cast stone bowl on a pedestal mixes up various  larger succulent specimens with trailing Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’.The intriguing dark finish on this ceramic pot from Campania has nuanced tones of lavender and light green. The Echeveria ‘Dusty Rose, Mangave ‘Inkblot’, Trailing blue-green Sedeveria and String of Pearls pick up this coloring….and for fun, (because I just cut them from the bed behind), dried allium stalks add a little height.This blue salt glazed version of the previous pot has been planted with succulents which pick up its color tones. Senecio (now Curio) cylindricus is usedfor height, with Aeonium , Echeveria, Pachyveria , Othonna ‘Ruby Necklace’ and Sedum album.

This tall gray cylinder pot mixes up a large specimen Aeonium ‘Blushing Beauty’, with dark leaved Echeveria, Kalanchoe, Sedeveria ‘Sorrento’, Senecio cylindricus, and trailing Dichondra.Our pair of iron urns now get dappled shade much of the day. Here I used some succulents that can take less sun: ‘Aeonium ‘Kiwi’ and Rhipsalis. Other plants that like the same conditions are Iron Cross Oxalis and Coprosma ‘Evening Splendor’.A non-succulent ensemble similar in coloring (it is right near the Iron urns) has a Cordyline ‘Cha Cha’ with the everblooming Abutilon ‘Harvest Moon’ ,yellow leaved jasmine and dark leaved Begonia ‘Ebony’. A specimen of Mangave ‘Mission to Mars’ keeps it company in a classic rolled rim pot. This spot gets morning sun and afternoon shade.In a different part of the garden is this cast stone urn that gets morning sun for a fe w hours.  Begonia ‘Art Hodes’ is backed by the bromeliad  Vriesea (Flaming Sword) and has Maranta (Red Prayer Plant) skirting its base.Bromeliads make great  shade plants in warm climates. This is the first time I have used  them in mixed containers. In the is large Grecian style urn, the showy Aechmea fasciata comes into spectacular bloom paired with a Begonia ‘Escargot’ (which I hope doesn’t become a problem). Trailing Callisia elegans and Dichondra (it does well in some shade) spill over, and for added fill there’s a couple of small Athyrium ‘Pearly White’ ferns.Not all of our pots are large and busy… this old 14″ terracotta bowl has a simple pairing of Abutilon ‘Harvest Moon’ with Tradescantia ‘Sitara’s Gold’ hidden behind.Finding the perfect plant that works with the personality of the pot is always fun. Here the ruffly leaved Echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’ (curiously called Mexican Hens and Chicks) fits the cavity of this cast stone Chicken Planter.The always popular clamshell container features plants that have that under the ocean feeling: Crassula undulata, starry little Sedum album,  and trailing Rhipsalis which does kind of resemble Kelp…

Yes, I always come back to succulents since they are so easy and reliable. The various tones of the succulents chosen match the coloring on this 13″ ceramic pot .One challenge using succulents is finding complimentary plants which tolerate the same conditions that can add height. The colorful linear leaves of Phormium work well with this mixed composition of Echeverias, Graptosedum and Sedum tetractinum

There are more pots, which you will see if you visit. Look for the End of the Season blog post to see how they look in late September.

Our winter visit to the Montreal Botanical Garden

Traveling always presents challenges…What to do when you have a 22-hour layover in Montreal? Book a hotel, get up early and take an Uber to the Montreal Botanical Garden, otherwise known as Le Jardin Botanique de Montréal…after all it is in the French-speaking province of Quebec. Yes, there was an icy layer of snow outdoors, but inside the 10 greenhouse complex, there was flora to excite even the most jaded botanist. Check out this sensational planted wall with Begonia, Pothos, Tillandsia, Prayer Plants and more.The orchid house was full of treasures. Epiphytic plants cascaded from the rafters.

Each greenhouse focuses on a specific plant group, with specimens arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner.  Here is the view from the catwalk in the Aroid,  Cycad and Palm House.The Succulent Greenhouse … with Mexican themed architecturecloseup of the hanging Rhipsalis floccosa

More temperate plantings were found in the cooler Asian themed greenhouse.An  exquisite 45 year old Penjing specimen of Pyrancantha crenulataSweetly fragrant Wintersweet, Chimonanthus praecox, which wouldn’t be hardy outdoors in Montreal or most of Massachusetts for that matter, was in full bloom indoors in January.There are many educational exhibits that are artfully conceived. Here cut stems of Red Twig Dogwood are inserted in a wooden platform, echoing the stems outdoors in the distance. Floating from the rafters above is a montage of recycled trash…yes…what we fill our landfills with.Another view of the recycled assemblage.Chris and I didn’t have time to walk the grounds, even though the winter landscape beckoned. The staff we spoke with were extremely knowledgable and quite proud of their garden, as well they should be.  If you are looking for a flora filled winter escape, the greenhouses here are exceptional. We definitely want to return this summer or fall. 

Photographing Plants, Gardens, Chanticleer


A view from inside The Ruins

It’s been on my calendar for months: Oct. 23-25, a 3 day weekend at Chanticleer, taking photographs with guided instruction from Rob Cardillo and Lisa Roper. Rob is an accomplished garden photographer who recently collaborated with Adrian Higgins, garden writer for The Washington Post, to chronicle the seasonal beauty of this “pleasure garden” as well as honor the artistic creativity of the talented staff in Chanticleer, A Pleasure Garden. Lisa  Roper is one of the horticulturists at Chanticleer, who combines her artistic training with horticultural knowledge to design, implement and tend special garden areas, most recently the celebrated Gravel Garden. Lisa takes much of the imagery that graces the Chanticleer website.


The Gravel Garden: Aster (Symphyotrichon) ‘October Skies’ with Grasses

I was also a tad worried. I knew that frost had struck the gardens just the week before (as it had here in my own garden), and I was wondering if the photo ops would be minimized by one freezing night’s wrath.


Fall color…Oak leaves in the Ruins

No need for concern, as a  garden as beautifully composed as Chanticleer always has imagery to offer. There was luminous autumn foliage of course,  and the grasses were at their prime, as well as seed pods which offered curious if not whimsical subject matter.  I tend to look at things differently and find beauty in decay, as the garden surrenders to shorter days and limited temperatures.


An early arrival on Friday allowed me time to do some scouting as to where I should  zoom in for image taking. The light in the garden was a bit harsh before 5pm,  but this vignette on the covered porch had possibilities, so I made a mental note.


Chiaroscuro Orchid

Good thing I did, because Sunday morning brought drizzle and skies of gray, and the porch was a safe refuge. The light turned out to be exquisite. I haven’t succumbed to orchid addiction yet, but this Lady Slipper Orchid caught the light most pleasingly in a chiaroscuro sort of way. Overcast days can present opportunities.


Chanticleer: Outdoor Living Room

The Ruin and its surroundings have always been my favorite part of the garden, although I am apt to change my mind depending on the season. This outdoor living room, with its cut stone sofa and chairs, is both whimsical, functional, and works as year round sculpture.


Chanticleer…the reflecting pool with succulents

Within the walls of the Ruin is the most elegant raised reflecting pool. After taking several shots at different times from different angles, a few images were quite pleasing but this one really sang. Yes, I am a succulent fanatic, and isn’t it delicious the way the succulents are reflected, not only in the pool but on the polished stone apron as well?


An admission here:  I was unleashing my individualist’s streak here trying to work out this composition. (I had stopped at the Barne’s Foundation on Friday morning and absorbed a lot of Impressionist and Post Impressionist sensibilities.) I wanted to capture the pattern on pattern of the Poncirus (Hardy Orange) with the tree trunks and fall foliage in the background. There wasn’t a positive response from my classmates when I shared this image, but y’know, I still like it.

This brings me to a strong recommendation: whether you’re a budding photographer or involved in any artistic pursuit, you should consider signing up for workshops with peers. It is quite astonishing how everyone sees things differently. Each individual has his/her own point of view, and most points of view are valid. Positive or constructively critical feedback provides you with an awareness you are unlikely to arrive at on your own. Our instructor, Rob Cardillo, always found something positive to say about each participant’s work, and was kind and generous with his instruction on how each image could be improved.


Fall Finale

One last note: if  you’re someone who loves gardens and has never been, plan to visit Chanticleer.  There are only a few days left before they close for the season on November 1st, but the 2016 season begins again early next spring. It is a public garden that is intimate, artistic, and full of horticultural treasures.  It truly is a Pleasure Garden; there is no better way to describe it.

Gardener Portrait: Ellen Lathi

Ellen at the garden gate with Jenny

Some folks grew up with a family member who tended a garden, a mom or dad or aunt or uncle who spent most of their free time growing any number of plants?vegetables, herbs, perennials, fruit trees, conifers.  No need to add that what they learned through osmosis could fill a book or two. And then there are the folks who never played in the dirt, only to discover in adulthood how seductive making and caring for a garden can be. Ellen Lathi was seduced and this is her story. Ellen spent her youth and early adult years in big cities. She grew up in Philadelphia, and then moved to New York for college and medical school.  Next big city move was Boston, where she did her neurology residency.  You can assume that she had a pretty full schedule.

Family life came next. Ellen bought a house in Needham, a suburb of Boston, and here she raised her two children. About a dozen years ago, her son Jono, who was 11 at the time, wanted a hangout, a cabin in the woods at the back of her property. Not realizing what she was getting into, she was game, and the two of them took on the project of clearing bramble to create pathways to navigate. Truckloads of wood chips were shoveled onto the paths. A few hollies were exposed from the cut back bramble. All of a sudden Ellen realized there was this wonderful woodland escape in her back yard. Now that the potential was uncovered, she began to consider what new plants she could add.  Jono liked the idea of planting Hosta ‘Sum and Substan’ for a “moat like” effect around the cabin.  It did look pretty cool, until they discovered soon enough (like the next day) there were some obstacles in garden making, particularly deer browsing.

The covered bridge to the woods…

And so Ellen’s education as a gardener had begun. She consulted with Kevin Doyle, a garden maker from nearby Dover MA, who helped her in making sense of the original woodland which included some pretty wet areas. She visited many nurseries to observe plants and ask questions (I remember Ellen’s first visit to Avant Gardens) Ellen soon met up with one of the most encouraging and well known gardeners in New England, Gary Koller.  Gary, a horticulture mentor to so many of us, guided Ellen in all aspects of garden design, structure, negative space, working with nature, taking risks and making mistakes. One lesson he offered, have fun and don’t take yourself  or the process too seriously, is one we all need to be reminded of from time to time.

A walk through her garden shows that Ellen learned her lessons well. Her passion/obsession with plantsmanship is evident in the choice specimens she has sought out. Trees and shrubs flaunt foliage in shades of yellow, gold, green and burgundy. A vast array of forms contribute to the garden composition, whether it is the exclamation point effect of a fastigiate beech, the cascading branches of a weeping Japanese maple or the texture and movement of ornamental grasses. Perennials with good foliar display play an important supporting role, as well as late bloomers that add a colorful last hurrah to the garden. Bold potted tropical foliage plants add drama to the summer season, and change the flavor of the garden a little each year. As much as her medical practice is her bread and butter, Ellen’s pursuit and acquisition of  horticultural knowledge could be the basis for a new career. She attends lectures, visits horticultural trade shows and travels to visit gardens and nurseries in faraway places. And like so many great gardeners she shares her knowledge, and has graciously opened her garden up for Garden Conservancy tours and horticulture groups many times over.

All images are courtesy of Ellen Lathi.

Early Spring

A view of one of the borders, late spring

The tuteure adds structure as well as support for the white Clematis.

A beautiful Luna Form Pot acts as sculpture in this bed.

Bold Bananas and Colorful Coleus in summer.

Structural interest from a low retaining wall, which will play a role in winter

Love the changing picture, as autumn takes hold.

You may ask “How does Ellen find the time?” Priorities, I might answer. Yes, she still has a full schedule practicing medicine.  She is a dog lover, and now that her children are adults, she has taken up training service dogs for MS patients. Her life is wonderfully full and yet her garden still seduces her to come outside, to observe, and to play.

The garden still beckons, even in winter.

A Garden Cemetery: Mt. Auburn

Strolling through Mt Auburn Cemetery

As Halloween approaches, our human curiosity regarding death and the afterlife gets played out in various and perhaps even gleeful ways. Macabre decorations adorn our dooways and activities associated with this autumnal celebration fill community calendars: haunted house openings,  pumpkin extravaganzas, cemetery strolls. One cemetery you absolutely must consider if you are so inclined is  Mt Auburn Cemetery, America’s first Garden Cemetery in Watertown/Cambridge (…more details after the images).

A view of the cemetery from one of the hillsides.

Another view.

A formal entrance to a family plot.

A touchingly sad gravemarker.

Another unique grave marker.

Sheath of grain embellishment on an above ground crypt.

An ancient weeping Japanese Pagoda Tree, Styphnolobium japonicum pendula

Paperbark maple, Acer griseum, with its rich exfoliating bark.

Fading yet Verdant

The concept of a garden cemetery came about in 1831, when the citizens of Boston were looking for a practical and aesthetic solution for burying the city?s deceased. The original architects of Mt Auburn Cemetery,  Jacob Bigelow, Henry Alexander Scammell Dearborn and Alexander Wadsworth drew their inspiration from the hauntingly beautiful Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, remarkable for its rolling hills, ancient trees, winding paths with distinctive “street” names, magnificent sculptures and elaborate grave markers. They envisioned a beautiful and tranquil setting for families to gather and find peace.

A walk through Mt Auburn Cemetery today assures us that the early founders achieved their goal. The landscape of rolling hills, ponds, sylvan paths and garden artifacts offers a tranquil sanctuary for both the living and the dead. Magnificent trees, labeled as you would expect in any arboretum, dominate the grounds.  Elaborate and exquisite garden statuary is everywhere. Lanes and paths are named after botanical subjects. On any given day you will encounter folks from all generations enjoying this peaceful escape from urban life: birders, young mothers with strollers, and joggers.

Enjoy this visual stroll, and if you live within a reasonable distance,  plan a visit to Mt Auburn Cemetery soon. It is open to the public every day of the year, although the gates close at different times depending on the season.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

You just might be in New England. You might also be interested in gardens, (most likely, if you’re on this website), and stonework, and sculpture. You may also have a child or several in tow and are looking for a fun excursion for adults and kids.  If this sounds like something up your alley, you might want to take a road trip to visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden.

We visited in August, and these were some of the most photogenic subjects:

And there is a whole of a lot more than you see here.


Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Boothbay, ME 04537

207-633-4333 (phone)

207-633-2366 (fax)


Gardener Portrait: Jill Nooney

I, for one, think gardeners are the most curious people.  Young or old, they never cease to wonder about the natural world around them, and this curiosity infects so many aspects of their lives, especially in the arts: drawing, painting, sculpture, literature, cuisine. Often when asked about when they first became aware of this curiosity, they recount tales of childhood adventures playing in the woods, building dams in streams, making potions from wild berries and seeking out foraged foods.

With this in mind, please meet Jill Nooney:  a gardener, sculptor, and landscape designer, she is one of the most curious plantswomen we know.  And to confirm that she’s a renaissance woman, I might add that she has maintained a private practice of psychotherapy for the past 30 years, to ensure she gets sometime to sit down every week. When I first visited her Bedrock Gardens in Lee, New Hampshire, I was astonished and humbled. This 30 acre property, acquired in 1987, is a collaboration of the vision and hard work of Jill and her husband Bob Munger.  (Jill gets top billing but Bob is the ultimate “man behind the scenes”.) The Gardens (are you ready?) consist of a parterre formal garden with pool, a 3/4 acre wildlife pond with bridge, a 400 foot allée, a pinetum, a rock garden, a 1/2 acre ornamental grass ‘painting’, various fountains and water features, several pergolas and shelters, and the many fantastic sculptures that Jill creates from salvaged farm equipment. There?s more, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you.

a view to the barn at Bedrock Gardens

Jill grew up in a humble 18c farmhouse on 7 wooded acres in what was then rural northern New Jersey. One of her childhood?s clearest memories was an almost religious experience. She found herself lying on earth softly carpeted with fallen petals under an apple and pear tree. At the same time, she realized she was gazing up into branches still laden with the pink and white blossoms.  For Jill, this was a totally magical experience. She was about 10 years old when she remembers creating her first garden. Jill and her mother foraged for plants in the nearby woods and along the roadside. They brought home a collection of birch seedlings, moss and an assortment of rocks that sparkled and these were the ingredients for her first creation.  She remembers planning escapes from everyday chores to visit her little sanctuary, bringing a blanket to lie upon, admire and daydream.

'Odalisque', a sculpture by Jill Nooney

‘Odalisque’, a sculpture by Jill Nooney

Jill likes to make things, and has her whole life: pottery, wood carvings, bookbinding, quilts, drawings. When her own garden turned middle age she began making sculptures to grace the plantings.  Since Bedrock Gardens was originally a working 18c farmstead, the idea of using old farm implements and artifacts to create sculpture was a natural conclusion… from the farm, then back to the garden. Jill scouted for materials and created one a kind pieces which took form as arches, wall pieces, and containers, as well as small and large sculptures, which can be both whimsical and strikingly bold. Many of her pieces are for sale and can be seen at her website http://www.finegarden.com/

Love the blue tree!

Like most lifelong gardeners, Jill has gone through many plant obsessions: perennials, unusual annuals, dwarf conifers. They all grace beds at Bedrock Gardens.  Her years of experience have steered her away from invasives, and she shies away from plants dependent on staking, use of pesticides and lots of irrigation (hint: this means lower maintenance besides being ecological).  Jill’s adventurous spirit has always been spurred on by her “act now, think later” rationale and this has often allowed her to delight in unexpected results.  So what happens if an impulsive plant purchase turns out to be a space “waster”. Out it goes, or as our mutual plant friend, the talented Gary Koller says, “Plants need to earn their spot.”

So have I piqued your interest about Jill and her garden? You can visit, and you absolutely should. Check out the open garden dates on the Bedrock Garden website http://www.bedrockgardens.org/

Environmental Sculptor: Ron Rudnicki

“To the illuminated man or woman, a clod of dirt, a stone and gold are the same”….Bhagavad Gita

Rudnicki's Pedestal Basin

Rudnicki’s Pedestal Basin

A man reaches for the end of a strap hidden within a pile of stone. From a void his hand appears with the strap.  Now cradled in the strap is a mass of stone. This stone, the fertile ground to where our sculptor, Ron Rudnicki, brings his tools, is now just a great mass. All acquaintances left behind, soon it will be freshly minted and asked to play in ensemble. For now, all is in flux, all possibility: Ron and the stone standing still between reflection and rotation.  The only certainty is that a new relationship will develop. Now a piece, formed from Ron’s reflections and memories, will inform his admirers, his clients and their communities. Perhaps some of Ron’s reflections will become theirs, but the overwhelming presence of the piece will remain, bridging generations, creating new communities. Prescience from a pile of stone.

Ron Rudnicki portrait

Ron Rudnicki

Ron’s sculpture gardens invite interaction. He places stone, found and composed, or tooled and contrived, into the landscape. Often it is both. He builds sculpted garden environments with stone that create a sense of permanence, perhaps because his work sometimes appears to have been uncovered rather than constructed. These gardens, united with their sites, honor existing and future stewards where stone is not seen as a static, unchanging mass. Stone is an active participant in the garden construct and will continue to find new expression through the eyes of the viewer.  Stewards of these gardens may enjoy these spaces framed through their windows, observing the changing light through the course of the day and the seasons. Others will find repose within these spaces.  No single right or wrong connection can be brought to these living, breathing, rhythmic spaces, dynamic in themselves but which allow those of us with stronger biological rhythms to draw out new meanings as we continue to engage them.

You shouldn’t be left thinking that no plant can grow where stone is so dominant. Though Ron confesses nomenclature isn’t his strong suit, he instinctively integrates  strong architectural plants, whether they be bamboo, hellebore or forest grass, into his stone environments.The individual who becomes the caretaker of his sculpture gardens may want to play with companion plantings. Ferns, grasses and the occasional burst of color are welcome suitors in spring and summer.

Ron’s work is part of the permanent collections at the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, MA and Jack Lenor Larsen’s Longhouse Reserve in East Hampton, NY, as well as in the gardens of private collectors.