Apparently many gardeners are finding the need to leave their beautiful old gardens and move on to new gardens, and finding books to find a new way. I can speak to this urge myself, having left my gardens in Heath, to create a compact stroll garden filled with trees, shrubs, flowers and a place to sit in Greenfield. I also needed a garden that would not need so much work.
Windcliff: A story of people, plants and gardens
Daniel J. Hinkley, plant hunter, nurseryman, and lecturer, had been living on the grounds of the Heronswood Plant Nursery in Kingston, Washington, which he created in 1987. With his husband, Robert Jones, they built a home, a great business, and a beautiful private garden. In 1999 they bought the property Windcliff located on a bluff above Puget Sound on the Kitsap Peninsula, but practically next door to Heronswood. Now they could build their own garden all over again.
Hinkley is an engaging author. In Windcliff: A Story of People, Plants and Gardens (Timber Press $35) He tells stories of how they went about answering the question we all ask when facing the prospect of a new garden space – what type of garden do we want? He answered that question as he slowly planted and created amazing vistas. From his overlook he admired the Puget Sound basin and the Olympic Range beyond.
The book really gets going with Design Principles, and talks about the garden as play, the need to evaluate and edit, the impact of texture and foliage, height and movement and more. Later he gives special attention to the house and terrace and the potager. He said he never knew the meaning of the word potager, but from the very beginning of his career he was a vegetable gardener.
Hinkley was the gardener, but Jones was the architect. Hinkley explains that he nobly kept himself under control and watched as the house was re-imagined and rebuilt with three pavilions joined by glass enclosed connectors. I was particularly fascinated by the idea of a library pavilion. Hinkley and Jones agreed that the plan concentrated on the “communication with the views framed by existing trees along with a sense of privacy.”
There is no way our gardens in Massachusetts will look anything like the exotic plantings at Windcliff. Our climate is very different. Our soil is different. The space we have for our gardens is different.
Even so, Windcliff gives us lots of advice and lots of ideas, or we can just enjoy Hinkley’s charm. The photographs are fabulous and we can thank Claire Takacs for that.
Uprooted: A Gardener Reflects on Beginning Again
Page Dickey has been a gardener and a writer for decades. Her house and famous garden, named Duck Hill, was located in North Salem, about 50 miles from Manhattan. For 34 years she lived at Duck Hill, but she realized the time had come to find a place where she could make a garden with fewer demands. She married her husband, Bosco in 2000 and he was about to turn 80. Their house 50 miles from New York City was expensive. In Uprooted (Timber Press $27.95) she tells her story.
But where? In the end they moved to Litchfield County in Massachusetts. New England might be colder than New York City, but they would have the beauty of the seasons, and the expanses of the countryside with its green hills. She had happy childhood memories of relatives and events in Massachusetts. Even Bosco, a teenage refugee from Hungary, had visited New Hampshire, and spent a summer waiting on tables. He also went on to college in the Berkshires. They both had familiarity and affection for those days and landscapes.
The building they found in Litchfield County was an old meetinghouse. They quickly called it Church House. This old house did need work and an addition was planned. As a wife myself I know that husbands and wives sometimes have different needs. Dickey’s old house was filled with books. Every room had books. Bosco firmly required that the new living room have no books. I have to say the bright and sunny living room is a delight. It has sun and flowers and really comfortable places to sit. But no books.
There were beautiful plantings around the house, but new gardens were just waiting to be installed. The new gardens included the front borders around the house, an enclosure around the swimming pool, and a cutting garden.
Anyone who has left a long-tended garden will bring some of those ideas to the new garden. Dickey recreated an orchard, a small greenhouse for Bosco, and cold frames for forcing bulbs. Many of her plantings are very familiar to me including Virginia sweetspire, fothergilla with its spring blooms, Clethra with its amazing fragrance, and Viburnum opulous var.americanum, to feed the birds.
In one of her last chapters Dickey talks about putting different emphasis on the importance of the habitats of wild creatures, ecosystems and biodiversity. One unexpected joy was the number or birds that enjoyed their gardens, a horned owl, barred owls, pileated woodpeckers, Baltimore orioles and others. There were new delights in this larger, wilder landscape.
Spirit of Place also allows for dreaming. In his book, Spirit of Place: The making of a New England garden, (Timber Press $35.) Bill Noble describes looking for a new home and finding an “early Greek Revival cape set close to the road” in Norwich, Vermont. This property had been a farm ever since 1767, but by the 1950s it was no longer being farmed. Noble found the property in 1991.
As he started cleaning the collapsed barns Noble began uncovering the history of the farm. That was the beginning of restoring plantings, and designing new gardens.
He describes his various gardens, each one named, with details and plant names. There is the flower garden, the front border, the barn garden, the rock garden, the long border, and the fruit and vegetable garden. I was glad to see his interest in wildlife, providing shelter and food for birds in all seasons, and all other creatures that wander in the fields and forests of farmland.
On his property and over the years, Noble has created many gardens on the property. He began slowly, but made an amazing list of his guiding principles when he began. He says they changed over the years but I found the principles thought- provoking and useful to all of us. What are the goals of any garden? Consider the views. The garden should be maintained according to ecological principles. Vegetable gardens should be organic. Garden management should be manageable. Native plants should be considered and used. Noble also wanted his garden to have an emotional impact.
I think we all look for many of these ideas and plants in our gardens even though we might never put them in words. It is helpful that Noble can be so clear about what he wants. Many of his plans clarify our own plans.
Spirit of Place is a beautiful book. The many excellent photos almost bring us right into his gardens.
Noble’s stunning home gardens are included in the Smithsonian Institution’s Archive of American Gardens. He is also the former director of preservation for the Garden Conservancy. He has worked with individual garden owners as well as public and private organizations. His beautiful website is billnoblegardens.com.
All of these books are very special and make wonderful gifts. Christmas is here!