Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Garland's Gardens

For the past four days I've been visiting gardens. Got a lot of ideas and thoroughly enjoyed myself. First kudos to the NCDOT for their continuing program of planting wildflowers on the highway right-of-way. There are huge swaths of red, purple, blue, pink, white and yellow flowers all along I-85 thru the central part of North Carolina and on into the foothills of western North Carolina. In addition there are nice plantings of shrubs at most of the interchanges. But it is the wildflowers that are breath-taking in many spots. Let's hope that by good cutting practices - that is, not cutting until the wildflowers have seeded annually - that they will continue to spread. I wish I could have taken a good photo to share with you.

The big gardens that we visited were at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. There are all sorts of gardens - from the most formal English-type planned garden, to kitchen gardens, to shrubbery, to seemingly "natural" hills and valleys of native plants, trees and shrubs. All of it planned to the ninth degree and all lovely. I found that while I really liked the formal gardens and enjoyed seeing them, it was the open areas and natural glens and hillsides that really spoke to me. Somehow the planned, measured formal gardens seemed too perfect, too planned and lacked the fun and spontaneity that I really like. There were no surprises. Instead, I found the banks of native shrubs - azalea, rhododendron, and mountain laurel - just gorgeous. A bank of bamboo appearing around a bend, perennials blooming among the rocks along the bass pond, and mounds of perennials at the winery all made me happy - even on a rainy day.

But the finest garden I saw belongs to my friend, Garland. She moved home to western North Carolina nearly five years ago and started renovating the property to create the kind of garden she loves. She has cleared out old dying trees and acres of brambles in the fences, pulled weeds and poison ivy. She has cleaned out and restored the vegetable garden. But mostly she has added new beds and greatly enlarged the existing beds while planting hundreds, perhaps thousands, of flowering shrubs and perennials in colorful swaths on all sides of the house. Wherever one looks out, there are beautiful flowers to see.

Step out of the front door and there are shady beds filled with helebores, ferns, and hosta, and a sunny spot with herbs planted among the patio blocks. Look down from the porch and there are sunny beds with iris, peonies, and sedum. Many plants she moved with her from her Richmond garden, and many are native to Translyvania County. There are evergreens, rose beds, and even a 90-foot asparagus bed - all laid out in a pleasing way, each with a little surprise to be found as you wonder around the nearly seven-acre yard. Right now the rhododendron are in full bloom along with many azaleas, so it is a riot of pinks and purples with the occasional bank of white, and way over "there" a patch of bright orange as a surprise.

I took her some variegated Solomon's Seal and she sent me home with a sedum, so a bit more of her will grow here with me and a bit of me will grow in her garden - if the deer don't eat it all!

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