GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2009 show4
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Show #4/1504
Restoring 100 Year Old Estate Gardens


The Inn At Montchanin Village
THE INN AT MONTCHANIN VILLAGE was built at the time the duPont Company was producing gunpowder on the Brandywine River. Today they have 11 buildings and 28 rooms and suites that originally were used to house the laborers. And they are gorgeous. The owners have paid a lot of attention to detail. That's why the gardens are meticulously manicured. Their horticulturist is now hard at work with spring preparation but the Inn is beautiful spring, summer or fall. The gardens are always stunning.

Click here for more info

The Long Walk Or Vista
Joe and Ric decide to START THE TOUR AT THE LONG WALK OR THE VISTA. It carries the eye down through the garden and is a grand vista with huge urns that line the view. There is an alle which is created with grand Oak trees, then the Chestnut trees which are a bit smaller then the alles of Cryptomaria japonica. The Cryptomaria japonica were something that Mr. duPont had here originally but had been renovated out of the garden. Now during the restoration they are going back. But they're using a slower growing Cryptomaria japonica. They actually will only reach a maximum of 25 feet.

Click here for more info

Creating An Alle At Home
AN ALLE IS SOMETHING THAT CAN BE DONE AT MOST HOMES. It doesn't need to be this grand but the effect can still the same. Plant a large tree on the outside, then possibly an understory tree beneath that, then maybe a lower shrub and possibly perennials or annuals below that. This will provide a beautiful design effect and in a lot of cases also creates the illusion of a larger space. Thus an alle is a wonderful landscape technique.

Click here for more info

Vertical Mulching
In a homeowner setting there may not be that type budget. As mentioned, IT'S BEST TO KEEP HEAVY EQUIPMENT OFF OUR PROPERTY BECAUSE THAT WILL COMPACT THE SOIL which then doesn't allow for drainage and plant health is compromised. If there is a problem one needs to get down into the soil and allow oxygen to get in there. A core aerator will do that although the tines aren't very long. Another option is vertical mulching. That's drilling down even deeper, pulling out a plug and inserting organic material. Organic material is the best way to incorporate all the soil together and allow gas exchange, which is critical for plant health.

Click here for more info

Geo-Webbing For Planting On a Slope
Joe also notices they've planted on a slope. Many homes have slopes and we receive many questions about planting on a slope. Some don't think it possible to plant on a slope because they can't keep the soil in place. Terracing is the classic solution but there isn't always room for that. This area doesn't have room for terracing and it's a bit too steep. There are new techniques. THEY'VE USED GEO-WEBBING WHICH IS MADE FROM PLASTIC, thus will last for years. It is tacked to the top of the wall, then again at the bottom. They will tap soil in until it is to the top of the geo-webbing. The webbing will hold the soil until the plants get established. They will put in Ivy, using the variety Hedera helix 'Ivalace'. It will have a fine texture, will take over and prevent the upper layer of soil from eroding from heavy rains coming down that steep angle. This solution would work for a homeowner very well.

Click here for more info

Managing Deer
THE LILY POND HAS A DEER PROBLEM. They've replaced the Arborvitae with Western Arborvitae because it is supposedly more deer resistant.
Information on managing deer:
Article
Video


Click here for more info

Lily Pond
BACK TO THE LILY POND. It will be a wonderful place when everything is back in place. There is a fountain in the center. And speaking of center, the pond itself is centered with the conservatory which was the room they would go into to see to Lily Pond. The room itself had plants, including Palms. Thus when in the room one had the feeling of being in the garden whether in the house or actually in the garden.

Click here for more info

Four Corner Garden
THE NEXT GARDEN IS CALLED FOUR CORNERS. There are 4 perennial borders in this area and it is a formal garden. Because it is a formal garden there is much symmetry, 2 on one side and 2 on the other with a large expanse of grass in the middle. On the 4 corners they have Boxwoods and those Boxwoods at one time were in the shape of birds. This area had a bird theme. On either side one notices Dovecots which need to be replaced in the next phase of restoration. They had birds in the house, fancy pigeons, they even had some peacocks outside at one time. In this area they planted perennials that would attract birds to the area

Click here for more info

Ric's Tip
RIC HAS ONE FINAL THOUGHT. He has been in horticulture a very long time and in some impressive gardens. His one tip is - Spend time in your garden. If one sees their plants when they're healthy you will then be the first to see them when in decline. You might not be able to recognize what insect or what disease is making them decline, whether lack of water, too much water, etc. But then you can call someone, like your county extension agent or look online for causes or solutions. But when familiar with your garden you'll quickly notice changes in your plants. That's the important step in finding solutions.

Click here for more info

 


LINKS:

Nemours Mansion and Gardens

The Inn at Montchanin Village, Wilmington, Delaware

Geo-Webbing

Managing Deer - Article

Managing Deer - Video

Garden Smart Plant List

GardenSmart :: Plant of the Week



Complete transcript of the show.


From a gardener's perspective the Brandywine Valley is loaded with beautiful gardens including Longwood, Winterthur and Nemours. The area is also steeped in history. To get a better understanding of the area Joe meets with a man affectionately known as the Mayor of Montchanin Village, Jacque Amblard. Jacques tells us about some of the history of the area. The duPont family came to the U.S. January 1, 1800. They had met Thomas Jefferson when he was Ambassador to France. The duPonts had been in the gunpowder business in France and decided that America was a great place to continue their profession. They settled on the Brandywine Valley and the Brandywine River feeling it was an ideal site.
Being French they brought with them a lot of tradition, including the gardens and the quality of life around their house. The duPont family left a real legacy throughout America but particularly in the Brandywind Valley. Their homes today are museums.
The entire area is beautiful. It has rolling hills, beautiful streams of water, the four seasons and a lot of history and culture. Many travelers are surprised by the variety and richness of the area and keep coming back.
At The Inn at Montchanin Village they treasure these return visits. THE INN AT MONTCHANIN VILLAGE was built at the time the duPont Company was producing gunpowder on the Brandywine River. Today they have 11 buildings and 28 rooms and suites that originally were used to house the laborers. And they are gorgeous. The owners have paid a lot of attention to detail. That's why the gardens are meticulously manicured. Their horticulturist is now hard at work with spring preparation but the Inn is beautiful spring, summer or fall. The gardens are always stunning.
Jacques suggests we visit Nemours Mansion and Gardens and to be sure to ask for Ric Larkin. Joe is anxious to do so.
Nemours Mansion and Gardens in Wilmington, Delaware is one of the finest examples of a French formal garden in North America. For nearly 100 years this estate has provided panoramic vistas and stunning landscapes. Currently the site is undergoing a $39 million restoration. Many of their landscape concepts and ideas can apply to our yards.
Garden Smart has the opportunity to visit each week beautiful gardens across the country and most of the time these gardens are at the top of their game. But from a home gardener's perspective that's not always realistic. In this show we present a completely different perspective with the help of Ric Larkin.
Ric provides background on this lovely estate. It was the home of Alfred I. duPont. His family came from Nemours France thus the name Nemours. The house is 47,000 square feet, many say that is large and it is but the property is large as well. There are 300 acres here and the central axis of the garden is 60 acres, thus quite large. Although the house and gardens are about 100 years old during the last 40 or 50 years there has been a lot of change. Mrs. duPont died in 1970. There had been a lot of things added that kept with the design theme of the garden but many of those plants may not have been here during the time of Mr. duPont. They are now undertaking a restoration as compared to a renovation. With a renovation one can add any old thing. Now they're going back to the original plant material, as much as possible, that he had in the garden, thus it's a restoration. They're allowed to change some cultivars if they're hardier but stick with the same pant material. Since it's a hundred year old garden a lot of the stone work had to be redone thus that is being renewed but undergoing restoration, meaning going back to the historical, what was here before.
Ric was hired to head up this project. He is a horticulturist and has a Masters Degree in horticulture. He's lived his whole life in this area and is very familiar with duPont gardens. In fact he worked for one of the duPonts in their private garden for many years. He has 30 years experience in temperate zone climates which, of course, is what this is. Ric has always loved this garden and was excited when he learned they were going to restore it.
Top


Joe and Ric decide to START THE TOUR AT THE LONG WALK OR THE VISTA. It carries the eye down through the garden and is a grand vista with huge urns that line the view. There is an alle which is created with grand Oak trees, then the Chestnut trees which are a bit smaller then the alles of Cryptomaria japonica. The Cryptomaria japonica were something that Mr. duPont had here originally but had been renovated out of the garden. Now during the restoration they are going back. But they're using a slower growing Cryptomaria japonica. They actually will only reach a maximum of 25 feet.
Top


AN ALLE IS SOMETHING THAT CAN BE DONE AT MOST HOMES. It doesn't need to be this grand but the effect can still the same. Plant a large tree on the outside, then possibly an understory tree beneath that, then maybe a lower shrub and possibly perennials or annuals below that. This will provide a beautiful design effect and in a lot of cases also creates the illusion of a larger space. Thus an alle is a wonderful landscape technique.
They next visit the Sunken Garden. Mr. duPont's son, Alfred Victor, designed this area. Because it is 100 years old the walls were starting to lean in, there were some stones that were cracking and other areas needed deep cleaning. They've come in and torn down the walls, but before tearing them down they labeled every stone, then laid them on the floor to be cleaned. While down they've put in a new footer, built a wall behind it, then brought the stonework back in. Every stone is in its original location, where Mr. duPont had placed them.
In the center is a large turf panel and at one end is a fleur-de-lis made with Buxus (Boxwood). In between, in the summertime, they have Begonias or another annuals for color. When looking from above and when walking down the stairwell one sees the Fleur-de-lis in Boxwoods and the lovely flowers in the center.
Joe notices the obvious fact that there has been heavy equipment in this area. There is puddling which is evidence that the water isn't percolating which could be a real issue when planting takes place. It could effect plant health. These are issues homeowners may also face. It is a concern here and in most areas of the garden. If they could possibly keep the equipment off they would but in this situation there was no way to get in here and do the job without heavy equipment. However when the stonework is finished and the heavy equipment is out the landscapers will come in and restructure the soil back to the original different layers, so that it will percolate properly and the plant material will thrive.
Top


In a homeowner setting there may not be that type budget. As mentioned, IT'S BEST TO KEEP HEAVY EQUIPMENT OFF OUR PROPERTY BECAUSE THAT WILL COMPACT THE SOIL which then doesn't allow for drainage and plant health is compromised. If there is a problem one needs to get down into the soil and allow oxygen to get in there. A core aerator will do that although the tines aren't very long. Another option is vertical mulching. That's drilling down even deeper, pulling out a plug and inserting organic material. Organic material is the best way to incorporate all the soil together and allow gas exchange, which is critical for plant health.
Top


Joe also notices they've planted on a slope. Many homes have slopes and we receive many questions about planting on a slope. Some don't think it possible to plant on a slope because they can't keep the soil in place. Terracing is the classic solution but there isn't always room for that. This area doesn't have room for terracing and it's a bit too steep. There are new techniques. THEY'VE USED GEO-WEBBING WHICH IS MADE FROM PLASTIC, thus will last for years. It is tacked to the top of the wall, then again at the bottom. They will tap soil in until it is to the top of the geo-webbing. The webbing will hold the soil until the plants get established. They will put in Ivy, using the variety Hedera helix 'Ivalace'. It will have a fine texture, will take over and prevent the upper layer of soil from eroding from heavy rains coming down that steep angle. This solution would work for a homeowner very well.
In the Maze Garden there is a statue that is obvious. It was commissioned by Mr. duPont for this garden, it's gilded with gold and quite reflective. On a sunny day, one needs sunglasses. This Maze Garden is different from many maze gardens. It has a periphery with shrubbery, but it doesn't have the typical walled-in effect. Thus one can see from one end of the garden to the other, no one will get lost in here. It's mainly designed this way because from the house one can see into this garden and in season, when the flower beds are filled with annuals, it is quite colorful. Over the years the flowers have been red Salvia or other annuals utilized for different color effect. This year they'll use only red Salvia. It will make a splash and with the gold statue this area will be bright. It will be easily seen from the house and from the colonnade. It will be a beautiful sight. The flower beds themselves are lined with Berberis thunbergii autropurpurea nana (Crimson Pigmy Barberry). It is a common plant in the landscape but lends itself to being a nice hedge and does a wonderful job of outlining the flowerbeds. Here they've taken it back to what Alfred had utilized, which included the edging of green lawn around the whole bed, which will offset the color, that burgundy effect up against the green, and will be quite nice.
Joe thinks that for a homeowner that might want a variation of this maze garden the grass might be beautiful but one should consider the upkeep needed. The grass wants full sun, the shrubs want to grow and they will always be competing. Thus there will be some shade involved and there will always be cutting back the shrubs and keeping the lines sharp on the grass. A simpler solution for a homeowner is to go ahead and eliminate the grass and bring out the mulch, especially if there is grass somewhere else on the property. When there were fewer gardeners here that is exactly what they did.
But if one lives in a townhouse with a small area, thus not a lot to care for, the current plan might work well. The owner can bring a section of lawn into their garden, it would be very small, would compliment the shrubbery in the garden and the nice soft green look would provide a softening effect.
Top


THE LILY POND HAS A DEER PROBLEM. They've replaced the Arborvitae with Western Arborvitae because it is supposedly more deer resistant.
Information on managing deer: Article
Video
Top


BACK TO THE LILY POND. It will be a wonderful place when everything is back in place. There is a fountain in the center. And speaking of center, the pond itself is centered with the conservatory which was the room they would go into to see to Lily Pond. The room itself had plants, including Palms. Thus when in the room one had the feeling of being in the garden whether in the house or actually in the garden.
The pond/pool is lined with an 18 inch bed that surrounds the perimeter and planted with a mass of Begonias, when in season. So, no matter where one is in the house, on the terrace, in the Conservatory or in one of the bedrooms looking down on this area, one sees the beautiful pond area and the beautiful pink color. The mass of pink framing the pond would be spectacular.
Initially the pond was on axis to the front door. Thus when coming through that door, the front room, then the terrace one could see the Lily Pond. Mr. duPont had wanted to build another building thus moved the pond. After moving he decided against the additional building but the pond had been moved so he left it in the new position. But the fact that the Pond was on direct axis to - at first, the front door, terrace, etc. then on axis with the Conservatory shows the importance Mr. duPont placed on water features and the ability to see them from the house and his placement in strategic locations.
The plants in this area are historical to the garden. Since they are very large they didn't want to disturb them, they didn't want to move them because they were concerned they might die in the process or at least suffer. So they carefully pruned the roots where necessary, which allowed the workmen to come in and do what was needed for the foundation of the Lily Pond.
There will be lawn panels in this area and within the panels there will be flower beds with annuals to heighten the color in the area. In certain parts of this garden they will place topiaries of White Rose of Sharon. Historical photos showed white blooming topiaries and this is very close to that.
Top


THE NEXT GARDEN IS CALLED FOUR CORNERS. There are 4 perennial borders in this area and it is a formal garden. Because it is a formal garden there is much symmetry, 2 on one side and 2 on the other with a large expanse of grass in the middle. On the 4 corners they have Boxwoods and those Boxwoods at one time were in the shape of birds. This area had a bird theme. On either side one notices Dovecots which need to be replaced in the next phase of restoration. They had birds in the house, fancy pigeons, they even had some peacocks outside at one time. In this area they planted perennials that would attract birds to the area.
The perennial borders not only had perennials in the summertime but annuals as well. Thus there was constant color throughout the season because perennials only bloom once. Perennials are the players we can stage from one period to the next, all throughout the year but annuals can add seasonal color. To learn which plants bloom at certain times in your region contact your county extension agent on line. But remember annuals fill in and provide color and a year round punch. It's important to note that although this is a very large and beautiful garden there is nothing exotic planted in this area. These are plants available at most garden centers.
The guys next view a large Lirodendron tulipifera, Tulip Poplar. At one time there was a whole line of these trees, there is only one left. The reason they're attempting to preserve it is - it is the reason Mr. duPont chose this location. He came here with his father and his father said to him, "Son, if I could be in one spot with you and eat ice cream all day, it would be right here." That is the reason for this Lirodendron tulipifera and why this garden is here.
Top


RIC HAS ONE FINAL THOUGHT. He has been in horticulture a very long time and in some impressive gardens. His one tip is - Spend time in your garden. If one sees their plants when they're healthy you will then be the first to see them when in decline. You might not be able to recognize what insect or what disease is making them decline, whether lack of water, too much water, etc. But then you can call someone, like your county extension agent or look online for causes or solutions. But when familiar with your garden you'll quickly notice changes in your plants. That's the important step in finding solutions.
Joe thanks Ric. This was fun and informative.
Top



LINKS:

Nemours Mansion and Gardens

The Inn at Montchanin Village, Wilmington, Delaware

Geo-Webbing

Managing Deer - Article

Managing Deer - Video

Garden Smart Plant List

GardenSmart :: Plant of the Week

 
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