swiss pines november, 2018

I always read about Swiss Pines and the magical gardens before I moved to Chester County but I never realized where it was located until I lived out here a while.

Where it is— where it lies in ruins is along Charlestown Road.

I am really bummed out that I will probably never ever get to see the gardens and that they will probably just continue to rot into oblivion.

I actually wrote about Swiss Pines before. Why it has always interested me was because of the wonderful Japanese woodland gardens.

My personal gardens have so much of a shade garden and woodland garden component to it here in Chester County, that Swiss Pines is exactly the kind of place I would love to explore to learn what they did. Gardens like this are always inspiring.

But I am losing hope that the gardens will ever be restored and re-opened. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. My fear is someday it will all just be bulldozed under for more development.

Today when we drove by, the bamboo seemed larger and more oppressive than usual. (It can get really tricky on Charlestown Road in front of those gardens especially as we go in the winter because something is always falling into the road.)

Even in their state of ruin, the gardens of Swiss Pines still beckon. When you drive by you catch little glimpses of what lies on the other side of the bamboo. Remnants of paths and little footbridges, Japanese garden ornaments. Way overgrown plantings.

I think Swiss Pines is a treasure. Right now, it remains a tantalizing mystery disappearing into the overgrowth.

save the date for a delightful day in kennett square

On a snowy afternoon this is an awesome thing to receive in the mail! Save the date for the 2018 Bayard Taylor Home and Garden Tour!

Saturday, June 2, 2018 won’t come soon enough!

This is probably the best home and garden tour I’ve ever taken. Different kinds of homes and gardens, all interesting. If you’re looking for inspiration in your own home garden this is the perfect opportunity to find inspiration. And I will note that a lot of these gardeners tend to their gardens themselves.

In the fall I love Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s Historic House Tour, and Chester County Hospital’s Chester County Day, but once spring is here? This is one of the things I can’t wait for!

This event raises money to fund the children’s programs and adult literacy programs as well.

Planning for this event starts in early fall when the committee selects a variety of homes and gardens in a particular area of southern Chester County.

The self- guided tour showcases unique homes representing a mix of styles from historic homes and estates to charming cottages to sleek modern residences. Gardens range from large, lush professionally maintained to pocket sized patches of brilliant flowers some with sculptural accents, from the simple, but endearing, to the elaborate and extravagant.

Every detail is attended to, leading to a beautiful, carefree day of explorations into homes and neighborhoods seldom seen by the public. Thanks to the generosity of homeowners, local merchants and artists and especially the visitors, over $600,000 has been raised since the tour’s inception. These funds have greatly enhanced and enriched the experiences and lives of Kennett Square area children.

If you have never made time for this tour, make 2018 your year to attend this event!

I will note for the record I purchase tickets for this event like any other attendee. I am not compensated in any way, shape, or form by the home and garden tour committee for suggesting this event to the general public. I suggest this event because it’s marvelous.

The photos I have posted are mine from one of their garden tours, and I asked permission before taking photos outside only.

Stay safe in the winter weather this evening and dream of spring! 😊

a note from a gardener

Gardening is a process with a definite learning curve.  A lot of us are fairly experienced gardeners, and a lot of us are new to gardening. And others are somewhere in the middle.

As someone who is more experienced now as a gardener, I will tell you that I got more experienced because I did homework on my own. Sure I consult with people on occasion, but evolving as a gardener also comes from inside me based on the work I have done, research with gardening books, visiting gardens, even looking at annual plant catalogs to see how they are staging things. My evolution as a gardener was not instaneous, it took years….and many gardens, each with its own personality,

In order to garden you need to do a lot of trial and error on your own. In other words, what works in your space and what works for you and what doesn’t. I used to get really upset when I lost a plant, and now I have gotten more practical and slightly zen over the years and figure if it wasn’t meant to be it just wasn’t meant to be and I either try again or I look for another kind of plant.

It is totally cool to crowd source plants you don’t remember the names of – or things you think are weeds – for example I am going to reach out to friends to help me identify a perennial I planted a couple of years ago that didn’t do much of anything until this summer, and now I can’t remember what it is I planted.

It’s also totally cool to crowd source design ideas and planting ideas for your garden. But I have to caution the new gardeners to the fact that this is YOUR garden, so a lot of what we like isn’t necessarily going to be what YOU like. What is your personal vision for your garden space? If you can envision it, you can plant it.

My own garden as I have written before is a combination of things. It has pieces of every garden I have had growing up and as an adult. It also contains pieces of other gardens I have admired over the  years. I like a cacophony of color, but the color has to be complementary so there is a method to my madness.  Some of my favorite gardens in the world are English and Irish cottage gardens, so that inspires me as well. And layered gardens. 

Yes my garden is a lot of work, but it brings me so much pleasure and is a happy place. Most gardeners actually feel that way – no matter how large or how small your garden is it is your happy place because you created it.

Part of what makes a good garden is your own personality – your own sense of individuality. As a rabid gardener I encourage all of you to remember that.

I also encourage all of you to go out and visit gardens -Chanticleer in Wayne, Winterthur, Morris Arboretum, Jenkins Arboretum, Tyler Arboretum, Natural Lands properties, and all of the fabulous gardens wherever you live if you are not from the greater Philadelphia area.

Supprt the nonprofits that create and sustain the beauty of nature. Also check out flower shows large and small and if you like certain kinds of plants over others, there are many societies that are plant specific.

Open your senses, your mind, and your heart, and your eyes to the beauty that is created around you and you will find your perfect garden for you.

Happy gardening!

small and other gardens

When I had a small garden, I hung plants on fences.

I did not have a really big garden before moving to Chester County. I had decent sized gardens over the years, but mostly small gardens.

You can create a lot of beauty in a small space garden, you just have to use your imagination. Pots play a larger part, sometime pots on walls and fences. And you can put almost anything in a pot.

  
 
My great aunts had a house in South Philadelphia that was a big row house – and basically the entire rear “garden” was concrete. And every spring / summer/ fall it was loaded with flowers and herbs and tomato plants…and even grape vines! And a lot of what things were planted in were actually old pickle barrels and containers. But it worked!

When I had a small garden, I still had a lot of “flower power” . This floral arrangement from years ago was all flowers and plants i was growing in my quite literally postage stamp sized garden at the time.

 And one of my grandmothers who lived in another area of the city (North Philadelphia, actually and they call part of where my father grew up “Brewerytown” but all the factories weren’t breweries) near the factory my one grandfather owned with his brothers had an amazing garden. It actually had a great deep garden that was narrow but long. I remember as a little girl being out back there and looking over low fences at the neighbors’ gardens too. Gardens like that can be super cool!

 

Another photo from my small garden years ago. I hung plants in the arms of my Japanese Maple.


 

When my sister and I were little and my parents lived in Society Hill, we had a wonderful city garden. In retrospect, it was probably smaller than I remember it (I was 11 when we moved to the Main Line), but it was along one side of the house and behind the house. My father had to excavate the privy pit from the early 19th century to plant it. 

My first garden was carefully laid out. I remember two trees, and one flowered but I am not sure of what they were (maybe a Magnolia, but too long ago). There was a sand laid brick patio in the back and the bricks were old. In those days when houses were  being torn down in Society Hill you could get just about anything out of the demolition sites, most times for free: brick, stone, windows, shutters, doors, hardware, trim, flooring, etc. we even ended up with an antique doll house as a result.

Posing in a corner of the then garden under construction with my mother. My best guess this was between 1968-1970.

Around the patio in an almost circular fashion were planting beds. Shrubs, my first rose (hybrid tea John F. Kennedy had recently been introduced), herbs, flowers. Along the side of the house was another side garden and a brick path leading to a side door with more shade loving plants like rhododendron and azaleas. 

The entire garden was walled in. Neighbors houses on either side, and high city garden walls where houses weren’t. There were also pots filled with annuals. I wish I had more photos of that garden, but few survived. The one photo I am about to post is of the garden a year or so ago off a realtor page when the house was most recently for sale. Today, the side yard part of the garden and other parts no longer exist because of additions subsequent owners added. But you still see part of my late father’s and grandfather’s handiwork and that is pretty cool.

My childhood garden in Society Hill in Philadelphia circa 2015 and a couple of additional homeowners later.

My parents then had larger gardens with suburban homes, and with two I was mostly conscripted slave labor, and the final one I planted easily 80% of it.

My parents final suburban garden was around their late 19th / early 20th century clapboard house. There I recreated essentially a period garden and for the most part plants you would have found when the house was built. It felt a little bit like Sissinghurst’s white garden because my mother the benevolent dictator had a thing about essentially all white gardens. I was able to work in some very pale pink and yellow antique garden roses everytime they went on vacation or traveled, but that was about it for color other than white.

My parents’ last garden in Haverford that I planted most of.

But I still loved that garden. It was marvelous I thought. I had over 50 different rose cultivars. And wonderful white hydrangeas, and Japanese maples, and a giant puffy flowering Kwanzan cherry tree in the front, and boxwood and azaleas and hollies and Itea. Piers Japonica and host as as well. Herbs in beds and in pots and a rose arch that also had the white clematis Henryii along with the Meilland rose “Eden Climber” that I had bought from Witerthur when they used to sell plants. I wish I had more photos of that garden, it was cool.

Roses and perennials and shrubs flowed over the edges of flower beds.

Unfortunately, the people who bought my parents’ last suburban house tore it all out. Even the Kwanzan Cherry Tree. I wish I could remember the name of the landscape company that did it.  I still think they probably made a fortune re-selling the plants. Nothing was distressed or over grown and so much was specimen planting. The company had “new” in the name. Their design was uninspired and somewhat dumb for a clapboard house with original clapboards. We never planted right up to the house because it was clapboard (wood). We always kept air circulation.

After that garden I had two much smaller gardens before Chester County. They were small like little city gardens. But you got creative and you could plant all sort of things. I utilized a lot of pots, but I still had my favorite garden elements, even Japanese maples I grew from seedlings. I hope those trees still survive, they were lovely.

Smaller gardens can pack just as big a punch as a big garden. And almost anything you can plant in the ground you can plant in a pot. 

Who says pots have to be planted with everything you “expect”? Think of pots as alternative planting beds.

 I will admit every garden I have had I have layered. For season, for bloom time, for effect. I like a lushness of plantings, not the constipated shrubbing I see that has become trendy and makes everything look like you are living in a Toll Brothers development. I don’t want predictable little plant soldiers all lined up in a row, I want a riot of plants; sensory overload.

And you can do that in small spaces. With my current garden, it’s large, but I still maintain the intimacy of smaller gardens in different corners of it.

Here a small head which broke off someone’s garden statue found a new life peeking out of a flower pot.

Design your garden so you see something new every time you step out into it, large or small.  And take the time to figure out what inspires you for your garden space. Your garden, like your home, is your sanctuary, so make it count.

Thanks for stopping by on another rainy Saturday. I think if it doesn’t stop raining soon, I will be spending the rest of the summer weeding…..

Somehow in every garden, large or small, I have to have a few zinnias.