GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2005 show30
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Show #30

Outside Philadelphia on the border of New Jersey is a land rich in covered bridges, historic buildings and great gardens. It's a land our founding fathers used to travel and where some of America's first gardens flourished. Today we're in Bucks County, Pennsylvania visiting some of those private gardens that provide design ideas inspired by the Impressionist painters, gardens at an historic inn and a wildflower garden featuring native plants.

Keith Toler is the executive director of the Bucks County Conference and Visitors Bureau and tells us a little about the area. Bucks County was founded in 1682 by a Quaker by the name of William Penn. He founded Pennsylvania and was the first governor, his home was Pennsbury Manor and it can be viewed today. George Washington's troops were encamped here in 1776. Many have heard the story of George Washington crossing the Delaware on that cold December night, it happened here at a place now called Washington Crossing. Washington's troops crossed the Delaware River and blocked soldiers in Trenton, which became the turning point of the American Revolution. Today Bucks County is home to 608,000 residents and is a thriving tourist community. People come from all over the world to see New Hope, the most visited attraction. It's an artist enclave and home to the New Hope School of Pennsylvania Impressionist Art and the James A. Michener Art Museum. As well, Bucks County is home to a wide variety of bed and breakfasts located throughout the county, many date back to the 1700's and overlook the Delaware canal. Keith welcomes the Garden Smart audience and invites all to come and visit.

We first today visit with Brittany Faure whose family has owned the Golden Pheasant Inn in Erwinna Pennsylvania for about 20 years. This inn was built in 1857 and originally was a mule barge stop. The barge men would come up the canal, tie up their mules and enter the bar through one door and exit through another which today is her tool shed. Originally all buildings in the area were built of field stone but over the years the stone was often covered since field stone became considered a sign of a poor man's house. The covering was added to make it look more like brick but over the years people have been taking the added covering off or let it go thereby exposing the original surface.

Brittany is the head gardener and is using some interesting plants in window boxes or hayracks. She likes these because they can be utilized year round and they allow people inside or out to enjoy their beauty. Brittany utilizes ornamental kale and peppers which will last through January and February. After snow and frost she adds holly bush, pine tree limbs, etc. The hayrack is made out of metal and lined with coir, then potting soil. It's a nice year round structure, it doesn't rot and looks much better than plastic. Brittany has nice gardens as well, in one she has mixed mums with some perennials and some annuals. She uses a lot of perennials like hostas and peonies. Then between seasons she adds annuals, like impatiens or in the fall mums because they add a nice fall feeling. They have a lot of weddings here thus have incorporated white mums. To add color they have some purple mums and sedum with its burgundy color. The Golden Pheasant is charming, its gardens beautiful. Charlie thanks Brittany and proceeds on his Bucks county garden tour.

We next visit with Carolyn Fell a garden designer in Pipersville, Pennsylvania. She and her husband, Derek Fell, garden author and photographer have created beautiful display gardens on 25 acres at their home in the rural countryside. They also have an historic home and try to maintain an old fashioned appearance in the farmhouse and gardens. When they bought this house they wanted to create spaces for Derek to photograph, but the overall design approach was inspired by the French Impressionists. They created individual spots throughout the garden that are to be enjoyed when strolling through. In one area it is designed so that as you go through the woodlands and look at beautiful trees and shrubs and designs, it then finally opens up to more ornate gardens. The trees create a sort of dark tunnel which then opens up to an oasis of light where the gardens have specifically planned plantings chosen for their color or their seasonal beauty. That's where they live in the oasis of light. We're here in the fall and many people might say there's not much to look at this time of year, but from a design standpoint it's the best time to look at the structure of a garden. Fall is the best time to look at the bones of the garden. You have the absence of color which can be distracting and have a chance to see how light filters down through the trees, how the trees may stencil against the open sky, how the ground formation may take on a light pattern when the sun or afternoon mist or whatever comes through and patterns onto the ground. It's a great opportunity to really see if you need to re-contour your land and create a hill or valley or some kind of slope upon which you can create a falling effect with plants or even add a new design aspect. Often it's not the buildings but trees and shrubs that are important for garden design. Structure in the garden is more important to the backbone than added buildings. That's a great thing to remember when buying trees and shrubs in the fall-look at the structure of the trees without leaves. Are their branches horizontal or vertical. What kind of texture might their leaves have? Those elements will add a lot to the landscape in addition to the flowers and berries and fall foliage color.

This area looks like a natural setting but it's not - it was planned. It was inspired by Van Gogh's painting, "Two Figures in the Woodland." Here they have used the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) which has a ferny leaf and complimented it with the Heritage Birch (Betula nigra 'Heritage') which has exfoliating bark. The bark catches the light at various times of day and the trees are purposely positioned to capture the light so it goes through the honey bark. The ferny leaf of the Dawn Redwood changes to an amber color in the fall which provides another tonal effect. The underplantings, the grass, haven't been mowed and their natural color in the fall provides the third complement in the color story. This area looks like it has been here a long time but the trees grow 5 feet a year so you can start out with a little 2 or 3 foot tree and within 3-5 years have a woodland like this, one that looks like a forest that has been here forever. This area looks different at different times of the year-spring, summer, fall and winter. All garden design should employ the use of the 4 seasons of the year. This is a good example, here the under plantings are greener in the spring and summer, yellow in the fall then snow in the winter. All these elements add up to a good design. Carolyn, when looking towards the sky, likes the way the Heritage River Birch, its leaves, the bark, all kind of blend together. You can't tell one from the other. Also you have the dappled light on the ground, there's a dappled pattern where the sun is coming through the canopy of the leaves. That's another important element when choosing trees for a garden.

At the bottom of this garden is an area inspired by Cezanne's garden. Here they created a leaf tunnel and emphasize the canopy of the trees overhead which then opens up into an oasis of light. Once through this woodland area it opens up to a scenic vista which is the lawn leading up to the historic 1790 Bucks County house. They've created differences and used light between tight, intimate spaces and open lawn areas which provides a good balance to a garden design. When they first arrived at their farm there were no gardens. They took advantage of the natural slope and accented the old farmhouse, it's stone and frame. They've added a conservatory on the left to capture the cool light and a conservatory on the right to capture the sun. Each has its own special vista. The one on the left looks down the slope, the one on the right towards other garden features. The perennial beds on the right were purposely placed to create avenues for strolling. One strolls into a spring house, to the left of that one strolls into what was a utility shed. The shed today has changed, they punched out windows, planted vines, lots of roses, lots of old fashioned grandmother type plants to make it its own special place in the garden. The shed is different, it's almost black and white, like another space in time. It today seems like in the 1790's it was put up to dry flowers, maybe a special guest room but the black and white and the contrast with the rest of the garden is what makes it an important design feature. Carolyn feels many people have a little cottage or building they can turn into a special spot like this. The dried, hanging flowers give it an ancient feeling, like it has been here for years. This is made even more dramatic because you're leaving a high energy area, outside and the garden, and enter the room that has a subtle feeling. There's a softness, a quietness in this room.

We next visit another little romantic cottage. This too was an old building that was here from day one. They took away the old siding, put up cedar siding, put up trellises and planted a lot of vines to give it a vertical line. We create vertical lines with trees, we can do the same and create vertical lines along a building. Vines can help and there are many floriferous vines available. Perennial Sweet Pea (Lathyrus latifolius) is one and is great for cutting, as is the Mandevilla vine. Around the foundation they've added swaths of color by using the Flower Carpet Rose (Rosa hybrida 'noatraum') in its various color forms. Carolyn likes this plant because it blooms all summer long, it has a continual flush of color and she then intersperses things like the Wild Aster, Rubeckia, etc. Carolyn hasn't deadheaded the Rubeckia because she likes the black Rubeckia eye. There are very few black flowers available for a garden, it provides that color and looks great in the snow. When snow falls there is a beautiful black and white effect. Again since 4 seasons are important in good garden design, use winter to color with black and white. This way you're covering the entire pallet of colorful bright soft colors in spring, bright colors in summer, rusty colors for autumn, then black and white for the wintertime. This a beautiful area, a traditional cottage garden look. Charlie also likes the use of cannas and gingers. Since tropical plants aren't hardy in this area Carolyn puts them in containers. Some are large, some small but they provide the capability to move them around. She can then put them on the terrace, in the sun, anywhere. We notice the way light is coming through the Canna Tropicana (Canna 'phasion') and it highlights the beautiful colors and veining. On the side of the cottage is a Silver Lace Vine (Polygonum auberti). It's gorgeous and is placed there for a specific reason. Other than softening the side of the building it represents the lace curtains that Monet had in his garden in Giverny. Again symbolism. It has a beautiful flush of flowers this time of year and softens the fall colors and the white blooms may bloom until frost.

Charlie thanks Carolyn for showing us the gardens that she and Derek have created in Pennsylvania. He says he is going to buy a beret, a paint set, move in and get started with his painting.

Frost is in the air. If you have tender plants like basil, pepper or impatiens when that cold weather comes it will zap those plants. Often, if you can get through those first couple frosts, an Indian summer, that can last weeks and weeks, will follow. If you can protect your plants during this time you can have blooms for much longer. There are several ways to protect your plants. You can use a traditional device like a glass cloche. The nice thing about them is they are decorative and will protect plants from frost. Unfortunately it's not well ventilated so on a hot sunny day it can fry your plants. A better idea is to utilize newer materials. One is a spun bound polyethylene row cover fabric and this material lets air, light and water in but it protects down to 27 degrees fahrenheit. You just need to drape it over the plant and pot and pull the draw string tight making it snug. This will protect plants when it gets chilly. Now you do need to take it off in the morning, you can't leave it on longer than 24 hours. Another use for this cover would be when you have salt buildup along a road in the winter on evergreens. By placing this cover over the evergreens it will keep salt away and protect the foliage from burning. By using these new ideas and new devices you can protect your plants into the fall and enjoy your flowers much longer.

The next stop on our Bucks County garden tour is a home of a Garden Smart viewer. She has taken a suburban lot in Warminster, Pennsylvania and turned it into a wildflower preserve. Nancy Beaubaire is director of communications at the Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve and actually created her own preserve in her yard. Nancy has been gardening for a long time with natives and the preserve was an inspiration for her. She learned about native plants there, buys natives there and wanted to show people what you can do on a typical suburban lot. One can roll back the lawn, plant things that provide habitat for birds and butterflies and other wonderful creatures and importantly these native plants provide a sense of place. You really have a sense you're in Pennsylvania. One of Nancy's favorites is the Goldenrod, 'Fireworks' (Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks'). It's called fireworks because you can see the flowers go out like fireworks would shoot out. It has many pollinators, bees, insects, butterflies they love this plant, you can walk by they aren't interested in you, just the plant. Rustle the plant and they take off and go all over the place. When Nancy chose the plants for her garden she chose things native to Pennsylvania and all had some wildlife value, whether it was attracting birds or butterflies or other pollinators. Don't worry about this plant causing allergies, it doesn't cause the allergies that you get in the fall, that is actually a ragweed. Another favorite is Smooth Aster, 'Bluebird' (Aster laevis 'Bluebird'). It has beautiful blue flowers and is an important source of nectar for late season pollinators. She has tried to include things in her garden that provide pollen, nectar, food and shelter year round. This is as big aster. It will grow to about 3 or 4 feet tall but already seems to have grown past its stated height. But then again everything in her garden seems to do that, everything seems happy here. Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum) is an interesting plant and has an intriguing flower, it is tiny, has a tiny white flower on a starfish like structure. It attracts different pollinators and has been blooming since June. With all the insects, butterflies and other creatures the flowers are barely visible, the insects have been using this plant for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Charlie calls the next plant a hairy beast but in fact it is a native Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa. It has little brown seeds which are dispersed with the fluff and carried on the wind. It's great to have plants in your garden that seed themselves and this plant does that and as well has a special relationship with the monarch butterfly. The caterpillar of the Monarch butterfly eats the leaves and sips the nectar of the beautiful orange flowers, which are on the plant from July to August, the toxins in the leaves make the caterpillar toxic ensuring that no predators will eat them because they won't taste good.

Charlie thanks Nancy for showing us her own wildflower preserve right here in suburban Pennsylvania. This has been a great way to conclude our tour of the gardens of Bucks County. Thank you Nancy. We've throughly enjoyed Bucks County, its beautiful, interesting and so historic.

Links:

Golden Pheasant Inn

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Bucks County Visitors Bureau

Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve

Protecting Plants From Frost

 

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