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
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
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
nest and that is the feeling when on this property and in this house.
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
flowers in it. The old vase becomes a cut flower vase this time of
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
rocks, thus decided to work around them, additionally the roots from
Shagbark Hickories were prevalent in this garden, both got in her way
keeping her from digging deep holes. She added compost making it as
as possible, so shallow rooted plants could survive. She kept these
plants low thereby highlighting the bark of the Shagbark Hickories.
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
One of the qualities of a great garden is - it fits the site. One way
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.
stone on the patio is called Panten Stone and is a very soft stone.
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
the waterfall can be heard. The sound of water over rocks is very
Additionally this area provides a sense of mystery because one doesn't
know where the sound originates, since the waterfall is hidden from
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
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
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
spot to keep moisture away from the house. The stones are the same
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
relatively formal ornamental spheres. They provide formality and
organization to the area. Looking down we notice an arbor, it is
with Yellow Trumpet Vine. Next to that is a high intensity Blue
flower that highlights the area, she continues the blue accent using
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
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
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
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
Link :: The Inn at Essex
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