GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2004 show20
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Show #20

This week we visit Charlotte, Vermont. Vermont has a population of under 500,000. Burlington is the largest city and has a population of 45,000. The second largest city is Rutland, it is less than half the size of Burlington. This is the Champlain Valley and eons ago it was carved by great glacial activity. Accordingly it has interesting rock and stone formations. Vermont today is famous for its stone walls and gardens.

Today we visit the beautiful home of Nancy. She and her husband have lived in Vermont for close to 30 years. They adore Vermont and their home. She is an interior designer, and has been for 30 years, and that has been a help in creating her gardens. She says, although we don't agree, that she doesn't know a lot about plants, planting or gardening. Instead she knows about composition, design, color and texture and those ingredients were important in her garden creation. She would start with a small area and build it until she had it the way she wanted it. Nancy thinks gardening is a special hobby. She is also a golfer and finds gardening similar. In both cases when she is in the garden or on the course she thinks only about the task at hand. Gardening surrounds her with nature making it very special.

Nancy's home is surrounded by beautiful gardens that were made possible by blasting solid rock. When she first saw this space the stone walls were in place but there were very few plants. She wanted a nice transition from the woods to the garden, then to her home. Now the woods come right up to the garden, the texture, form and color of the garden blend into the woods and the gardens, with the woods as a background, are a beautiful accent to their home. This location will provide ideas for working with pebbles, stones and boulders.

The front porch is particularly inviting. As an interior designer she likes decorating with interesting objects and has a theme of man-made chickens throughout the yard. A rooster is underneath a tree with more chickens on the porch. The house is called "Aerie." An Arie is an Eagles nest and that is the feeling when on this property and in this house. It is very cozy, inviting one to look out to the gardens and beyond. Nancy is a detail person. The car vase on the front door epitomizes that trait. It is an antique vase from an old car and she has a lot of fun decorating it for the different seasons. In the summer she usually keeps flowers in it. The old vase becomes a cut flower vase this time of year. Depending on what is blooming in the garden she can and does change the look of her front door.

To the left of the front door is a rock garden. Nancy wanted to keep the rocks, thus decided to work around them, additionally the roots from the Shagbark Hickories were prevalent in this garden, both got in her way keeping her from digging deep holes. She added compost making it as deep as possible, so shallow rooted plants could survive. She kept these plants low thereby highlighting the bark of the Shagbark Hickories. Some plants didn't thrive, some didn't survive. The Dogwood Bush hasn't done well, she's tied branches together to add substance but it needs replaced. Often times we'll replant the same plant after one dies, that isn't a good idea. Learn what succeeds, what doesn't, plant plants that succeed in an area. Thus, she is constantly changing and upgrading. She likes the changing seasons, this garden looks totally different in the spring than in the summer. During spring she has a lot of Phlox, with the different colors the garden takes on a totally different personality.

One of the qualities of a great garden is - it fits the site. One way to do that is to use indigenous materials. In this part of the country, stone is common. At one time this area was under the sea, whale bones have been found in the area and fossils are often found in these stones. Nancy has utilized the native stone throughout the garden, in fact rock was blasted so this house could be built. Stepping stones, a water feature, walls, retaining walls, they all tie this site into the surrounding area with their use of stone. The stone on the patio is called Panten Stone and is a very soft stone. This natural stone patio with huge boulders is an interesting and unusual spot. It's a relaxing place to sit and enjoy the surroundings and hear the waterfall. It is a very peaceful spot.

Around the rocks, Nancy has chosen plants that volunteer. Perilla, vining plants and Mint have started to move in and among the cracks of the rocks. They make it interesting, she never knows what will survive from one year to the next.

Nate Carr created the waterfall. Nancy insisted that it look natural. She feels he has accomplished that. It is hard to tell what was blasted out and what was landscaped in. She went to the woods for Moss, peeling it off of old trees then placing it on waterfall rocks. Fortunately it has survived. This area can't be seen from the backyard but the noise of the waterfall can be heard. The sound of water over rocks is very soothing. Additionally this area provides a sense of mystery because one doesn't know where the sound originates, since the waterfall is hidden from view.

To the right of the "rock garden" is an area Nancy refers to as "blood, sweat and margarita hill." In the beginning this was a mass of weeds. Since Nancy is a designer she likes instant gratification so she put many, probably too many, plants on this hill. Now, after it's matured, the garden is about 5 years old, the plants are enormous and need to be divided. Even knowing what she knows today she would probably do it the same way, once again, because of the instant gratification. If looking for something that looks good immediately plant plants closer together. They may need to be divided or removed after several years but it looks better in the beginning. Nancy addresses one small area at a time. She then sits back and analyzes it, then moves on. Here she started with one small section and worked across the hill. Even so she has done a great job of tying the different parts together. The Hostas with purple flowers act as a punctuator, they've been used intermittently throughout the whole space and tie everything together in an informal way. One doesn't get a sense of - this is section one, two, etc.

Another part of the garden is called "frog alley." Nancy had the nickname "frog" in college and now has a frog collection. This garden, too, is a secret little room. There are real frogs in the area as well as frog statuary.

One of the most difficult challenges for any garden is to transition between different elevations. Nancy has done this beautifully with the use of stone steps, they artfully lead one to a different area. Along this path are interesting plants and places to sit allowing one to stop and smell the flowers.

The lower level has turf. Dr. Rick thinks the turf acts as a resting place, it allows the eye to take a break. There are many fascinating plants throughout this entire garden, many different forms, colors and textures; this grassy area provides a needed space for the eye to rest. Chairs are placed back against the house providing a nice extended view of the lawn and garden. The stones next to the house were placed in that spot to keep moisture away from the house. The stones are the same color as the slate and other indigenous materials used throughout. This area is particularly beautiful late in the day when this garden is backlit with the sunset.

Another lower level appears. Nancy has done an excellent job of framing the view and pulling visitors into this space. She set the tone with two relatively formal ornamental spheres. They provide formality and organization to the area. Looking down we notice an arbor, it is covered with Yellow Trumpet Vine. Next to that is a high intensity Blue Wishbone flower that highlights the area, she continues the blue accent using the same color in pillows. Wood has been used judiciously in a bench, birdhouses, etc. The borders are trees dragged out of the woods, they are starting to rot and are now covered with moss. Once in this space one would think it would continue down the hill, it doesn't, adding to the mystery but it is a very inviting space. It is also wonderful to sit down in this area and look up at the house.

If you want to highlight a garden nook consider creating interest with one large leaf and one coarse textured plant. Planting too many in a space can overwhelm an area, making them seem too big for an area. But one simple large leafed plant sets the tone and acts as a focal point, but doesn't take over the entire space.

There is a wonderful vale below the house and gardens. This is a wonderful place to observe wildlife. Deer aren't a problem in the garden, but deer are seen frequently in the vale. Nancy has had Fox in her backyard and even a Bobcat sleeping on her patio.

Nancy has hidden tool and garden supplies in a convenient utility space on the backside of the house. It's there she keeps the lawnmower and cocoa beans. She uses cocoa beans for mulch. They come from Hershey, Pennsylvania and when first spread remind everyone of brownies. They are great in that they stay a dark brown all summer. Nancy also has an interesting sculpture that was created by a local dentist/artist.

Nancy is a serious recycler. During Hurricane Floyd several years ago they lost 30 trees on their property. One tree barely missed the house. Her husband cut it into pieces approximately 10 inches thick, she then stained them with a water proof stain which preserved them. They are now used as stepping stones.

Nancy has done an incredible job with this landscape. We appreciate her inviting us into her garden and sharing her gardening ideas with us and our audience.

Link :: The Inn at Essex

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