Gotta Garden

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Garden Education: Horticulture Symposium Feb. 3, 2007

Lewis Ginter Bontanical Garden located in Richmond, Virginia, was the host and a co-sponsor of this year's The Great Garden Debate symposium with Horticulture magazine. Horticulture magazine sponsors a symposia series yearly in selected locations around the country.

Starting promptly on time, the event opened with Nan Blake Sinton, Director of Programs for Horticulture magazine, introducing the speakers. She presented a slide program of some beautiful and intriguing gardens around the world that she has visited, whetting our appetite for the lectures to follow. Her challenge to them: When collector meets designer, can they find common ground?

First up was Joe Eck of North Hill Associates whose task was to give us the design approach. Mr. Eck immediately issued a disclaimer that he, too, is a plant collector, lest we, in the audience, think he had a preference for design over plants. The audience chuckled with him; and from that moment on, the audience was his. From a stunning multi level garden in New Hampshire filled with a collector's plants from alpines to epimediums to rare trees, we saw and learned how landscaping can blend in the garden. Antique Chinese troughs filled with the owner's alpine collection were only the first of at least three levels in this garden. An extremely challenging site was revealed as a masterpiece of design to contain enormous collections.

From New England, we went south and viewed a garden contained within walls of corrugated metal linking the garden with historic structures already on the site. Another farm estate revealed gardens designed to provide a retreat from the large scale farming going on all around it. San Diego was the site of an estate surrounded by other estates; however, Mr. Eck created a haven with full size olive trees and other plantings needing little water that completely shut out the intrusive neighbors. In all the gardens presented, locally available products/stones/plants were incorporated into the projects to link them and make them one with the land. All of these wonderful gardens were able to convey privacy in challenging environs.

A break was given at this point as an opportunity to stretch and to buy books. If anything was disappointing at this event, it was the book sale. It was astonishing that Messrs. Eck and Winterrowd's books A Year at North Hill: Four Seasons in a Vermont Garden and Living Seasonally: The Kitchen Garden and the Table at North Hill were not available for sale (and signing!). None of Christopher Lloyd's books were available either. However, there were others, such as: Roses: A Celebration, Elements of Garden Design, and Annuals and Tender Perennials for North American Gardens.

Next up was Mat Reese, Assistant Head Gardener at Great Dixter (the late Christopher Lloyd's famous garden). Mr. Reese presented a moving tribute to Mr. Lloyd (Christo to his friends, apparently) as the ultimate plantsman and gave the history of Great Dixter. We learned of Christo's contributions and innovations to the family gardens. Slide after dazzling slide was viewed with eye popping color and combinations to stimulate your senses. Succession garden was not just explained but viewed in numerous examples. Seeing the long border each month from March through October was simply brilliant (to borrow some lingo!). We were ready to book flights to England to experience Great Dixter first hand after Mr. Reese's slide tour.

A question and answer session and then lunch was on the agenda. As usual, Lewis Ginter served delicious bag lunches (four choices) that were eagerly consumed.

The symposium resumed with the delightful and very humorous talk given by Carol Reese. Ms. Reese, of the University of Tennessee, had the audience laughing out loud with photographs of garden whimsy. We viewed garden havens as small as a groups of pots to full size gardens. Her eye for the unusual and the interesting helped develop our own appreciation for unique gardens. Some "don'ts" of home landscaping were also included for our edification (watch those boring shrubs dotting the front of homes).

Wayne Winterrowd was the final speaker and as he acknowledged, it was tough to follow the previous speakers. However, he was more than up to the job. His subject was 'When Obsession Takes Over: Ideas toward Organizing a Mad Mania for Plants'. As you might imagine, the visual treats were many. Personal favorites were views of his own garden at North Hill. The snowdrop collection and daffodil drifts/collection were impressive. Of course, everything he presented was a visual delight from the extraordinary vegetable gardens, the shade gardens, the stream gardens, planted walls and the pergola gardens.

All of the speakers were available for questions, both midway and at the end, and their candid answers were much appreciated. This was a most enjoyable way to spend a Saturday and attendees could not help but leave enthused, stimulated and eager to garden.

Highly recommended!

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