the evolution of gardens

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Echinacea ‘Butterfly Rainbow Marcella’ Purchased from Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market

A garden is a constant evolution. Mine evolves in layers.

A few years ago I planted my red rhododendrons and native deciduous azaleas along with some favorite viburnum (Brandywine and Winterthur).  Over the past couple of years including this year, I have layered in witch hazels of different colors and blooming schedules that were purchased from Rare Find Nursery and Yellow Springs Farm.

This year I have also added Mountain Laurels.   They came from the annual plant sale at Jenkins Arboretum that the Valley Forge Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society puts on –  they are the NICEST people at that society and very helpful. (I also find this person called Rhody Man helpful FYI.)  These kind folks also sold me a native deciduous azalea that is red.

I also bought two really great Mountain Laurels from Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market – Kalmia ‘Sarah’ (Mountain Laurel). Species is native to North America.

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Kalmia ‘Sarah’ (Mountain Laurel)
Species is native to North America. I purchased mine at Applied Climatology and this is a stock photo which shows what my blooms will be like next spring!

And hydrangeas.  Hydrangeas are so amazing and there is such a wide array available for planting.  I have a special affinity for Mountain Hydrangeas.  But I plant them all.

I have planted layers of color as well as plants. For my shrubs and perennials, there are a lot of shades of pink and blue reds. I am not an orange red person, so you rarely see orange in my gardens.

Gardening is a favorite thing with me as everyone knows, and when I did not have as much room as I have now for me to plant, I planted elsewhere.

Many, many years ago when I was living on the Main Line and only had my tiny courtyard garden of my apartment, I used to volunteer at this little slice of heaven in Bryn Mawr, PA called Historic Harriton House. I loved walking my dogs over to there and truthfully, I have been wandering around Harriton House since I was 12 as is evidenced by this photo:

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Harriton is an amazing piece of historic preservation that works.  The land it sits on is a park owned by Lower Merion Township.  But the historic structures? Owned and maintained by the Harriton Association which I watched acquire properties over the years to sew up a good sized parcel safe from development.  The original farm and plantation was originally around 700 acres or more and was part of a Penn Land Grant (yes like Lloyd Farm and Happy Days Farm in Chester County which are currently at risk from development.)

The Executive Director, Bruce Gill, and the Harriton Association Board have truly created a very simple preservation model that works.  Part of why it all works at Harriton is the place has never been tarted up.  It has remained loyal to it’s agricultural heritage and history.

Years ago, a couple of years after the conversion of the old dairy barn into an education center and administrative offices was completed, one day I was looking at the ruins of the rest of the stone barn fragment which had been turned into a pool house, a pool, and gardens in the 1920s (I think that is when that happened).  When Harriton acquired this structure a reclusive little old lady had formerly called it home.  Before she died, it was not part of Harriton, it was a little adjoining property in the midst of Harriton, much like two other properties they raised funds and acquired.

Now this little old lady was quite the hoarder, and I remember what it was like when volunteers, myself included, help clear things out.  A lot of the decades of contents was literally garbage, but things that were salable were sold at the annual fair in the White Elephant section for a few years.  Even what had been the swimming pool was full of stuff.  It was crazy.  I had never seen what a real hoarder’s home looked like until this.

After the clean out the restoration and conversion of the barn to education center was completed, I kept looking at the ruins when had been garden spaces from the 1920s until I guess the little old lady inhabitant had gotten too old.  I saw potential for planting and I was itching to do more planting.  So I asked the Executive Director Bruce if he would buy a bunch of plants next time he was up in Lancaster,  I would totally plant up the area.

And that is what I did. It was so much fun creating something out of nothing.  After I had planted the ruin, one of the couple of garden clubs that gardened at Harriton thought Bruce had let in another garden club.  They didn’t quite believe him for a while that it was just me who had dug in the dirt and played and planted.  I never took photos back then of what I had done, which now, is close to 20 years ago if not more than 20 years ago.

But the thing about gardening is once you start, other people follow suit.  And after the first time I planted in the ruin, garden clubs took over and planted it going forward.  I can’t remember which garden clubs did this, except I think perhaps the Villanova Garden Club or the Garden Club of Bala Cynwyd.  I don’t know which garden clubs are still gardening there today.

Here are some circa 2006 -2010 photos of the garden ruin planted (again, I never photographed my work before them, sadly):

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I returned to Harriton this past weekend for their Father’s Day Ice Cream Social, which is just as lovely and old fashioned as it sounds.  I was so happy to see that the ruins were still being gardened, though not as much.  In spots it looks like whichever garden club it was lost interest. But the positive thing is it was still being gardened so many years after I dug the first plants in. And there is a community garden and the tenants garden. I do not know if any of the perennials I planted are still there or not, but after not having been back to Harriton since either 2011 or 2012 I was happy to see any continued gardening there:

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I hope whichever garden clubs are still on Harriton continue.  People change, garden clubs and plant societies are definitely groups where people age out, and not necessarily by choice. But gardening should endure. Wherever we can garden.

I close with some of my own garden’s posies:

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airing dirty laundry?

I am now a good bit into Janny Scott’s The Beneficiary and I can’t decide if I like it. Maybe I am just but one of the rubber neckers or gawkers alluded to in the book who attended the funeral? (No, I didn’t attend the funeral.)

Right or wrong, page six of the book left a bad taste in my mouth that continues to linger the further I get into the book.

Page six is where one finds the snarky criticism of her late father’s caterer. Who also happens to be my favorite caterer and the caterer many families including my own have used for years. It was just unexpected and somewhat unnecessary in its meanness.

Her late father had undoubtedly given instructions for his funeral down to the catering. It was his last big party, after all. And his money paid for it…but I guess it meant less for the heirs, right?

I think the author loved her father, but she certainly didn’t seem like him a lot of the time. This book if you distill it down is less about the familial history (which is truly fascinating) and more of a huge middle finger directed at her late father, and what is left of Philadelphia society.

Personally, I would take the old guard even at their dragon-y best over the ludicrous Oscar Wilde and Richard Brinsley Sheridan worthy characters who literally mug for the cameras today.

Now in fairness to the author obviously she didn’t choose to be born into quite literally The Philadelphia Story.

If you grew up on the Main Line, you grew up in awe of Ardrossan. It was a beautiful property. Now it’s getting carved up into McMansions and I have my doubts the great house will survive in perpetuity, sadly.

I was lucky enough to be on the property at different times growing up. Those times I was there was for non-profit events like parties for organizations like The Philadelphia Orchestra.

The great house, or mansion, was glorious and sort of like going to a dinner party hosted by Dickens’ Miss Havisham. You would have to watch your heels didn’t catch in a frayed side of an oriental rug. But it was a marvelous house. I especially liked the beautiful terraces I remember out back which lent itself to the garden party type benefit I went to one time with my parents.

There are some videos on YouTube about the estate:

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

Video 4

Now of course, developers are laying claim to Ardrossan. Which, needless to say, is a giant bleck to me.

Anyway, my people aren’t the author’s people so I can’t say I share her experiences. This book sometimes reads like therapy and revenge rolled into one. But seriously? How hard a life has the author had had? Her family money made her very existence possible, didn’t it? It opened all the doors she is now kind of thumbing her nose at it, and that is kind of sad.

I appreciate the delving into her fascinating family history and I hope by the end of the book the phrase that keeps running through my head dissipates.

That phrase is poor little rich girl, sadly.

But hey it is sure ripping open the dusty volumes of dirty family laundry, right?

one development that is looking good in chester county

I am not a fan of the color scheme which was chosen (too blah beige) but the new apartment building on King in Malvern Borough really looks good. It’s not quite done as you can see from the lawn that isn’t a lawn yet, but I like it.

They put a lot of time and attention into architectural design and detail. And it’s all the way around the building not just a false front, which is the case most of the time.

Everyone always thinks I hate every bit of development. The truth is, I don’t. When you have people like this who are thoughtful about what their finished product is going to be I totally respect that. These people put a lot of time and effort into trying to make their building blend with the surrounding area and structures. It’s a modern building with homage to the past.

visiting the lockwoods

Today I went to St. Paul’s in Exton for the Loving Our Earth Expo. It was a lot of fun and they had interesting vendors and terrific speakers including Mike McGrath from You Bet Your Garden.

While I was there, I decided to find the Lockwood family whom are buried in the graveyard adjacent to the church.

St. Paul’s is quite old and was started around 1827. It actually was apparently and offshoot of one of my favorite churches Old St. David’s Radnor. It was consecrated by Bishop William White in 1829. I will note they could probably use some angels to get some of the headstones in that graveyard repaired.

The Lockwood family are the people for whom Loch Aerie was built. I have been meaning to visit their graves for a few years, so today I made the time for it and I’m glad I did. I will also note one of the newer buildings is named after the Lockwood sisters.

april 15, 2019: the day notre dame de paris burned

Photo courtesy of my sister, who literally visited Notre Dame a few short weeks ago.

I was 14 when I saw Notre Dame. A visit to Paris at the end of a summer trip to Strasbourg through I a local historical society- I think at the time it was a historical society in Valley Forge but it has been so many years.

Photo courtesy of my friend Jane

On this trip it was teenagers with chaperones and while in Strasbourg we lived with families. That is how I made my life long friend, Marie Claude.

Photo courtesy of my friend John

When in Paris, we stayed in an old but respectable hotel near Gare De L’Ouest and my friend blew the fuses when she plugged in a hair dryer. They were definitely not luxury accommodations but to a bunch of kids it was cool!

Photo courtesy of my friend Jane

Now here is a personal fact you wouldn’t expect from me I think: I may be well read, but I am not necessarily well traveled. I have not been to Europe since I was a teenager. Life has just not happened that way.

Photo courtesy of my sister and taken March, 2019

I do remember being in Paris and being overwhelmed because it was so big and busy. I remember doing things like stopping in a grocery for a baguette and cheese and fruit with my friend Lizzie and seeing Notre Dame and part of Versailles.

Photo courtesy of my friend Jane

I do have a bucket list of places I would like to see now that I’m older, but I hadn’t put Paris on it. Maybe I should now. A great deal of my bucket list surrounds the United Kingdom. I want to visit all the gardens I’ve read about and been inspired by over the years, and I want to go to wild places like the Shetland Isles, visit the Highlands of Scotland, see Haverfordwest and parts of Wales, and visit Ireland.

Photo courtesy of my friend John

Notre Dame is indeed a structure and a place which has figured prominently in a sense over the lives of so many people. The centuries of history and what Notre Dame has seen and survived, art history classes, the very symbol of it if you are Catholic.

Notre Dame is just iconic.

Photo courtesy of my friend John

Yesterday to most in the US was just another tax day. Well, maybe not just another tax day because thanks to our current president’s great “tax incentives, tax plans” it was kind of chaotic. And miserable. But that’s not for this post.

I remember I was standing in my kitchen and I had asked Alexa what the news was. I literally dropped a glass in the sink when I heard Notre Dame de Paris was burning.

Photo courtesy of my friend John

When I first turned on the TV all the US channels of major networks had game shows and the equivalent on air. So I turned to the BBC channel for news and pretty much remained riveted there for hours.

BBC: Notre-Dame: Massive fire ravages Paris cathedral

Notre Dame has survived centuries of war. Only on April 15, 2019 it has nearly burned to the ground. The news this morning is good, and already money is being raised for her restoration and rebuilding. But I can’t help but wonder all that has been lost while I marvel at the miracle of what was saved.

BBC: Notre-Dame fire: Millions pledged to rebuild cathedral

Here we are in one of the holiest weeks of the year. Are we supposed to learn the lesson that with endings there are new beginnings once again? I don’t know. But I have photos taken by my sister and my friends Jane and John to share with all of you. Enjoy the majesty that is Notre Dame de Paris and say a prayer for her restoration.

Photo courtesy of my friend John