Berkshire Botanical Garden – Jewel of the Berkshires

  • Post published:08/21/2010
  • Post comments:3 Comments

Berkshire Botanical Garden

The Berkshire Botanical Garden is one of the jewels of the Berkshires. This summer it is sparkling more than ever. In addition to the regular plantings of trees, shrubs, perennials and vegetables, the Garden is hosting several special exhibits this year.

I was particularly taken with the display of garden sheds. Five fantasies consisting of standard pre-fab garden sheds are arranged around the Garden grounds. Naturally I was delighted with the Garden Blogger’s Retreat designed by Michael Devine even though it looked like a better place for napping, or at least dreaming and reading. Why, it didn’t even have a laptop or point and shoot camera, basic tools for all bloggers.

Swedish Shed at the BBG

Having attended the Larson Family Reunion last month it is no surprise that I also loved the delightful Swedish Reading Retreat designed by Annie Selke of Pine Cone Hill.  The most elegant shed, all black and white geometry was also the most humorous. This shed was turned into an 18th century privy (by Bories/Shearron) that might have been at home at Monticello.

18th Century Privy at the BBG

There was a Tolkein-esqe shed, and a Berkshire Cottage shed (by Sarah and Peter Thorne) with cozy seating and a table for playing well-used board games. This shed had additional artistic and whimsical seating outside created by Peter Thorne.

All the garden sheds were donated by Barn Raiser of Saugerties as were the designers’ labors, and some of the furnishings to raise money for the Botanical Garden.

Another exhibit was titled Sitting Pretty: Artists Reveal the Garden Bench as Sculpture.  Most of us have at least an Adirondack or resin chair or two in our gardens, although I am fully aware that gardeners themselves rarely take the time to sit and admire, but the Berkshire Botanical Garden has invited six avant-garde artists to create benches that not only provide seating, but exciting sculptural accents to the garden.

Chair by Jack Larrimore at the BBG

Nico Yektai, Jack Larimore, Douglas Thayer used a variety of woods from ipe, paulownia, Atlantic white cedar, and sapele with steel and concrete, and create their benches. Terence Debreuil works in concrete and glass mosaics while Vivian Beer and Lisa Fedon work in metal. The twenty benches are arranged throughout the various gardens.

More and more people are planting containers, everything from vegetables to exotic flowers. I’m quite happy with pots of geraniums myself, but I am trying to be more creative when planting my pots.  Recognizing the increasing interest in imaginative container plantings the Berkshire Botanical Garden invited nine of their favorite local plant professionals to create container plantings that have been placed throughout the Garden.

Some put their plantings in fancy pots, but I was entranced by the dramatic planting that included a wire vine, staghorn fern, a voodoo lily and a ‘Big Red Judy’ coleas in a large windowbox  on a weathered tool shed.  Jenna O’Brien of Viridissima Horticulture and Design in Becket was the designer. O’Brien spends her days working in large conservatories and estate gardens, as well as putting together beautiful container plantings.

Viridissima windowbox at the BBG

With a business name like the sophisticated Viridissima, I was surprised that O’Brien did not choose an antique urn to plant, but she said, “I chose the tool shed as my venue because, as a horticulturist who spends the majority of her life in the garden or greenhouse (physically and in thought)… well, where else?  That is my element.

I chose the plant material because I love begonias and foliage plants.  Our poor flowers are under such pressure to perform while foliage is just so consistent, reliable and interesting all on its own.  Flowers are the “icing.”

Making a greater and better use of foliage plants is a lesson that was brought home to me during my tour of Buffalo’s gardens earlier this summer, and here was a local person making the same point in the most delightful way.

The Berkshire Botanical Garden teaches through its plantings, but it provides more direct instruction through its lectures, workshops and classes.  One of those programs will precede the Pond Dedication on October 16 at 4 pm  Anthony Archer-Willis, water gardening expert, will lecture about water gardens and bring participants to the newly planted Pond Garden. This program is a seminar format in which gardeners at all levels can participate.

Other programs through the fall include Invasive Plant Control for Homeowners (September 4), All About Apples lecture (September 19) and a Traveling Landscape Design Clinic with Walter Cudnohufsky (September 25).  I have traveled through gardens with Cudnohufsky myself and tours like this were not only instructive, opening my mind to new perspectives, but also a delight.

Sue Reed, author of Energy-Wise Landscape Design and Shelburne resident, will give a talk and sign her book on November 13. For full information about programs from mushroom hunting to ikebana,  fees and registration logon to

Only one more week until August 21 at 2 pm in the Energy Park  when the sunflower judging begins.  Bring your sunflowers to the Energy Park on Miles Street in Greenfield between noon and 2 pm.  There are five prize categories for both Youth, under 16, and Adult, 16 and over. They are: the tallest, the most flowers on one stem, the heaviest flower, the largest flower and the best arrangement of sunflowers. There may also be a Judges’ Choice. Ribbons and bags of apples will be awarded.  While waiting for the judging you can enjoy the music of the Fiddler’s Reunion.

Between the Rows  August 14, 2010

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Flaneur

    You mentioned seating in the garden at the Berkshire Botanical Garden: Although I’m feeling like the kid in the third grade classroom frantically waving his hand and saying, “Miss Leuchtman! Miss Leuchtman, me! Me, me, me!” I have to say, “But what about your own chaise de St. Fiacre?” Tell your many readers about your fabulous garden seating!

  2. Laurrie

    Berkshire Botanical Garden is one of my favorites too. I loved the shed exhibits this summer, and could picture myself working (or napping) in each one!

  3. Lisa at Greenbow

    Yes, please tell us.

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