Gotta Garden

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Garden Education: Pamela Harper

Tuesday night, I was privileged to hear gardening treasure Pamela Harper at Lewis Ginter. You may know her from some of her books, including, Time Tested Plants.

At 77 years young, Ms. Harper was energetic and engaging. We were there to hear about the lessons she has learned in 50 years of gardening. As was quickly pointed out, this didn't mean just the successes but also the failures. Opening with Eleanor Roosevelt's quote "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself," we were laughing as Ms. Harper admitted to us that she probably had tried to make them all herself.

An adorable picture of her cats began the slide presentation. They keep her garden free of rabbits. She talked of tools and then moved on to design. Paths need to be at least three feet wide, a lesson she learned herself with smaller paths. Put perennials that need daily deadheading close to the paths so you won't trample other things getting to them. Ms. Harper quoted Tony Avent as saying, "I'm not a garden designer. I admit it. That's why God made shovels," to indicate that she, too, is not a garden designer. However, seeing her beautiful slides, one would have to disagree.

Lest I just relate to you the entire lecture, I'll hit on the high points. We were advised about balance and focal points, features and ornaments and not to believe everything you read (Clematis do not need lime, for instance). I was thrilled to hear that she also believes in "stuff and cram" and desires "one of everything."

Quite a bit of time (which was helpful) was spent on bulbs that voles do not eat. Because that is such good information, I'm going to list them for you:

Hippeastrum x johnsonii (not hardy beyond zone 7)
Amarcrinum (sometimes called Crinodonna)
Triteleia laxa
Ipheion uniflorum
Eranthis hyemalis
Anemone nemorosa

Unless they are vigorous self seeders, tulips, lilies and crocuses are favorites of voles. (So, that explains the disappearance of some of my lilies...that and lily virus, unfortunately.)

I especially enjoyed her chat on what she called Native Treasures, Native Nuisances. Here are some of the bad guys, in her garden as she was quick to point out:

Stylophorum diphyllum (celandine poppy) The Asian one self sows less.
Campsis radicans (trumpet vine)
Bignonia capreolata (cross vine)
Wild oats (Chasmanthium latifolim)
Staphyllea trifolia (bladder nut)

We moved on to color in the garden and the importance of foliage. Questions were asked and answered and then the book signing began. I had brought my copy (above) with me and here is Ms. Harper just before she signed it for me:

If you have the opportunity to hear Pamela Harper, you must go! If not, do read her books. Thank you, Ms. Harper, for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. We are the lucky ones to benefit from your knowledge.

Yes, you know I got there a bit early and did a quick look around at the gardens. Photos are still coming!


Carol said...

Sounds like a great lecture. I'll have to check out some of her books as I'm not sure I have any. Maybe we can pick one of her books for the Garden Bloggers' Book Club.

Gotta Garden said...

It was. That's a good idea...although, I have a suggestion for a book and I'm going to do a post about it soon!

Layanee said...

Pam Harper's book was one of the first in my collection of gardening books! How lucky you were to have heard her in person! I'll bet the slides were really something. Thanks for sharing the info on the bulbs.

Annie in Austin said...

Designing With Perennials is one of the books on my shelf - it sure would be fun to meet Pamela Harper as you did, Gotta Garden. And hope to heaven that I don't need the vole repelling advice.

[I guess this is somewhat on subject]
Is there something about the name Pamela/Pam that compels one to be a gardener and to write about it?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Mary said...

What a treat for you! I'm impressed with your post - it's bulging with info.

You said:

I was thrilled to hear that she also believes in "stuff and cram" and desires "one of everything."

That's me. I like that.

Entangled said...

I love her Color Echoes, one of my favorite gardening books and one that changed my thinking about plant combinations. Time Tested Plants has been on my wish list for a while too. I can't remember if it was an excerpt from that book or from an interview, where she said that as she grew older she took a more critical view of her garden plants, asking "What have you done for me lately?" And if the answer was "not enough", it had to go.

But my celandine poppies and wild oats do quite a lot for me, even if I have to weed out their offspring :-)

Kate said...

I have not come across Pamela Harper's books before. Now I'll be on a mission. I hope I look that good when I'm 77. It sounds as if she is an inspirational speaker as well - has lots of practical knowledge to impart. And how could we not love her for the wanting one of everything and the stuff and cram philosophy.

Now I'm awaiting the pictures from the gardens at Lewis Ginter.

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Never heard of her, American gardeners are not well known over here but this lady sounds delightful and knowledgeable. Besides, anyone who starts a lecture with pics of her kitties is OK by me. ;-)

Thanks for the list of vole proof bulbs!

Blackswamp_Girl said...

I don't know that I've ever read her books, but there's enough enthusiasm here for me to keep an eye out for them in the future. I will agree to respectfully disagree with her on the merits of northern sea oats, however! :)

Gotta Garden said...

Hi Layanee: You have good taste! I'm trying to remember what my first book was...hmmm, I will have to ponder this. Thank you!

Hi Annie: I hope you don't either! That's pretty funny...maybe it means gardener or love of plants in some language!

Hi Mary: Thanks...I hope it provides some're in good company!

Hi Entangled: I love that! I've been thinking kinda like that myself recently...looking at some of those roses that provide the big seven buds or something...they're taking up valuable real estate!

Hi Kate: I'm so sorry I haven't gotten to them...I really mean to...I need another 24 hours in each day! There's those and some others...the backlog is beginning to weigh me down! Plus, I got a few photos today of something really neat I want to share! I will just have to tie myself to the computer! Thank you for your patience with me.

Hi YE: She's actually English but has lived here for quite a while now. They were adorable, sleeping together...looking so sweet. I think she said she has something like five now, as others show up (you know about that!) You're welcome!

Hi BS_G: One thing about her, she wouldn't mind. She would repeatedly point out these were her opinions and her experiences...and that she didn't mean that were absolutes. She was also pretty funny, which I wasn't expecting.

Bill Smoot said...

Pam is a friend of mine and I've visited her garden. Pictures do not do it justice as they don't pick up textures, subtile shading and color, or fragrances! She is a British import that we are fortunate to have! She is also a very generous lady who donates lots of plants to Master Gardener sales and the Hampton Roads Horticulture Society! A liriope has been named after her.

Phillip said...

I'd love to hear her talk. I have discovered so many wonderful plants from her latest book. Most of the ones she grows does well for me here in Alabama.

Related Posts with Thumbnails