Daniel Webster Inn
Heritage Museums and
The Giving Tree
In this show we visit a quaint town on Cape Cod called Sandwich and
explore two very different gardens. Cape Cod is historic and charming,
it has inviting shops, historic inns and churches throughout. As well,
the people are friendly and hospitable and there is a large artisan
community. The climate is pleasant with mild winter temperatures and
warm and breezy summer days. And, this climate is perfect for
gardening; plants and flowers are thriving everywhere one looks. One of
the most visited gardens on the Cape, The Heritage Museums and Gardens,
is a large public garden. It sits on 100 acres and has wonderful
Rhododendrons that are over 20 feet tall. The other garden would most
likely not be seen from the street but once discovered will be
remembered for a long time. It is a diamond in the rough and the result
of a mother/daughter team that are proprietors of The Giving Tree
Gallery. It incorporates sculpture throughout the garden. There are a
lot of attractions in Cape Cod and plenty of reasons to visit. We show
you several in this show.
Jim Ingram is a Vice president with Bartlett Tree Experts and is also a
Trustee for Heritage Museums and Gardens. Jim feels fortunate to be in
the Village of Sandwich, Cape Cod's oldest incorporated town. Going
back over 300 years the trees and other forms of vegetation on Cape Cod
were utilized by the colonists for making glass, salt and a myriad of
other uses. Because of this, for the most part the Cape was denuded of
all its forests. They were fortunate, however, because the sea
captains, who called this area home brought back trees from all around
the world - China, Manchuria, Japan and all of Europe. Heritage Gardens
is a beautiful place, the museums are spectacular, the gardens are
beautiful and this garden has significant historical significance.
Jeanie Gillis is the horticulturist at Heritage Museums and Gardens.
She has been here for 29 years.
She feels fortunate she's a Cape Coder and gets to live and work in
this wonderful environment and be a part of the green industry. Jeanie
went to school at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and
received a degree in Plant and Soil Science. After that she did an
internship at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. Her predecessor at the
Hermitage also worked at the Arnold Arboretum and gave her a job at
Heritage. She came here for a summer job and 29 years later she's still
here and loving every day.
Jeanie tells us a little about the garden. In 1968 Josiah K. Lilly
established Heritage Plantation (the name then, it's Heritage Museums
and Gardens now). He established it as a museum in honor of his family.
He hired a landscape architect by the name of Phil Lansel. Phil's job
was to marry the existing buildings, the new buildings, the thousands
of rhododendron, as well as put in some new garden features. Jeannie
thinks he did a wonderful job; he married rhododendrons with velvet
lawns that they encourage people to enjoy. In total there are 100
acres, about 75 are presently developed. They have another 25 acres
still to be developed, which is promising because they have a lot of
fun, future goals. It's always nice in gardening to have something to
look forward to.
Their legacy or specialty plants are their rhododendrons. Charles
Dexter owned this property before Mr. Lilly and he had a passion for
rhododendrons. There are 4 acres in this garden devoted to
rhododendrons. Mr. Dexter was the quintessential gentleman. He was a
yachtsman, a photographer and an astute businessman. He had business
dealings all over the world through his Beacon Blanket Company. On his
doctor's advice he was asked to retire at an early age and to lead a
less stressful life. Fortunately, he didn't become too sedentary and he
started hybridizing rhododendrons. His legacy is thousands of beautiful
rhododendrons named after him. The Dexter Rhododendrons are nationally
known yet he only lived on this property from the 1920's till mid 40's,
but during that time he created as many as 10,000 crosses a year, an
astounding number of hybrids.
Joe asks, "If people are new to Rhododendrons and want them in their
garden what are the main things they need to know to keep them
healthy?" Jeanie feels the most important factor is location. One needs
to site them in a location with over-story protection. Here they have
Oaks and Pines, but they need some wind and light protection. If grown
in too much sun, they will need more water and they then start to brown
out. They don't really like a hot, sunny environment, they like dappled
light and less harsh conditions. They also like a well-drained, acid
soil. They will grow throughout the country but they need acid soil.
Here they have naturally occurring acid soil, thus perfect for
rhododendrons. Also needed is mulching, for weed prevention and water
retention. Jeanie also thinks they need to be sited where their beauty
can be enjoyed. Don't put them behind the back of the garage, put them
where you'll see them and be able to enjoy their regal flowers.
Rhododendrons are a great choice for anybody that wants an evergreen
shrub, something that blooms in the shade. It's adaptable across the
country, all the way south to zone 7 then east and west and all the way
north. So, if you want a flower that blooms in the shade, has fragrance
and is evergreen, plant a rhododendron. Give it good drainage, lots of
mulch, acidic soil and it will be a great plant.
Jeanie next shows us how to prune rhododendrons. It is an important
part of their horticulture care. Many are intimidated or squeamish
about making a cut. It's easy, first look for deadwood. Deadwood
pruning is a practice that can be done year round. When pruning
deadwood, select the branch, then make the cut as close to the main
stem as possible. However, one should normally prune them when in
bloom, then put the blooms on display, in your living room, etc. This
allows one to enjoy the blooms inside. They form their buds for next
year's flower at the end of the growing season, thus you don't want to
prune that off. Jeanie says here they prune to open up the plant, to
get light to the center of the plant. This triggers future vegetative
and flowering growth. Although they prune a lot here Jeanie would like
to do more. It's a big job and never seems to get completely done.
We move on and as we turn the corner, Joe notices a beautiful windmill.
Jeanie says that this does provide the "wow" factor. The old east
windmill with its white sails is particularly beautiful when accented
against the blue sky, it just doesn't get any better. Windmills have a
history in this area. They were prominent in the older days, every Cape
Cod town had a windmill. They were an important part of industry.
Whether one ground corn, salt or grains, there was a windmill
associated with it. The way they created this scene and view wasn't by
accident, it's set up that way. For many years there were trees growing
in front of the windmill, thus many visitors would leave the property
without seeing it. They had to make a big decision. Take down large,
mature trees which is always difficult or choose the view. They opted
for the view and this is the result and it is spectacularly beautiful.
When they took out the Hemlocks they needed to put something else back
in. To frame the view they've purposely planted a mixture of low
growing annuals, perennials and shrubs. In addition to being low
growing, they all have primarily white flowers. This was done to
reflect the view of the sails on the windmill and to showcase a bride's
dress. This is a beautiful spot for brides to have their ceremony or
have their photographs taken. There's something magical about the white
sails of the windmill, the white flowers and the white of a bride's
Joe notices an obedient plant, 'Miss Manners', (Physostegia virginiana
'Miss Manners') which, of course, has white flowers. It was hybridized
by one of New England's horticultural couples, Darrell and Karen
Probst. Darrell hybridized the plant and Karen named it 'Miss Manners'
because it won't outgrow its space. Obedient Plant tends to spread
around the garden, this one won't. Sometimes gardeners are looking for
that plant that will stay in one spot. This is it.
Joe also notices an astilbe and hosta. But, he also notices that
they're in full sun and these plants are typically planted in shady
situations. Jeanie says they like to break the rules here. And the
reason they can in this instance is because these plants are next to
their beautiful lawn and their lawn has irrigation that comes on every
morning which means these plants, too, get a nice soaking. The Hostas
get plenty of moisture, but importantly she believes that varieties
that have white in their leaves or some yellow tones do better in sun.
The big blue ones don't hold up in direct sun, they prefer shade.
Milkweed is prolific here. It's a beautiful plant called Butterfly
Weed. It has a pink flower. As the name implies, it is normally covered
with butterflies. The flower is attractive and the seedpods are
striking. It's in the Milkweed family and the seedpods spread around
the garden. Here they have a woodchip path, which helps control
spreading and when the seedlings land in the garden they just pull them
out. In your own garden you might want to be more careful and cut some
of the seedpods off before they get a chance to open and spread around.
This all, of course, depends on the look you're trying to create.
Joe notices some rhododendrons that are only knee high, yet we just
visited some that were 20 feet tall. This is a variety called Yaku
Princess (Rhododendron x 'Yaku Princess'). It's a Yak Rhododendron.
It's distinguished by its low growing characteristics. It also has
fuzzy indumentum on its leaves. It's a mossy looking structure and what
Jeanie has found is that it seems to be more disease resistant and pest
resistant. Bugs don't want to chew a leaf that has the fuzzy
A signature plant here and on Cape Cod is the hydrangea. One sees many
beautiful blue hydrangeas, primarily the 'Nikko Blue' variety
(Hydrangea macrophylla 'Nikko Blue'), the big mophead blues. As well,
there are lace caps (Hydrangea macrophylla normalis) and other colors.
Hydrangeas and Cape Cod are a natural mix. They have the correct soil
combined with the correct climate. The temperate zone here is ideal. Go
a little further north, they don't grow as well. Even here, some years
when it gets really cold, they lose some of their blossoms, because the
buds get blasted. This plant will grow in the shade or sun. If in the
sun, water must be addressed.
We next visit their Maze Garden. This is their newest garden attraction
and called the Hart Family Maze. It's about 3 years old, so it's still
young. It was designed by landscape architect, Steve Simpson, who
wanted to promote a concept of family fun. Fun for the kids to run
through and get lost in the maze but also entertaining for adults. And
it's educational. While the kids are having fun, the adults have
something to do; they can learn about vines. The Maze features their
newest plant collection at Heritage, an unusual collection of diverse
annual and perennial vines. Joe notices a climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea
anomala petiolaris). This is a fast grower and will grow either on a
fence or because it has holdfast feet, will grow on a wall, even grow
up a tree. They're growing very well here. Jeanie feels their drip
irrigation system is one reason and most helpful. Since this is a hot,
sunny location, which is perfect for vines, they need water. The drip
irrigation provides that constant flow of water. As one enters the maze
there is a beautiful perennial Chinese wisteria vine (Wisteria
sinensis). Wisteria is a fun, romantic plant because of the beautiful
purple and pink colors. The landscape architect built trellises over
the top of the maze, so you can run through and have wisteria hanging
down. Wisteria is a vigorous grower, so they have to keep after it
because eventually it could take over. Thus, they prune it regularly.
They also have a corkscrew vine (Vigna caracalla). It has a flower that
is in the shape of a corkscrew, which is fun. For adults everyone loves
annual passion vine (Passiflora spp), which has a stunningly beautiful
purple blue flower. This area is a learning center as well. Here one
can see plants that screen or block something they don't want to see.
Almost everyone has something they want to screen in their yard. It's
also a good learning experience because here all senses are stimulated.
Sight, fragrance, even taste are highlighted. For taste, they've
planted a grapevine that within several years should produce grapes,
even wine if someone were so inclined.
We next visit a labyrinth. It is similar to a maze, but different. In a
maze one must make choices, right, left, forward or back. Whereas in a
labyrinth it's one continuous path. It helps reduce stress and that
goes along with their mission statement of quiet contemplation. At
Heritage Gardens they use the garden for different things. We could and
should as well. Marty Cain, a nationally known landscape designer,
designed this labyrinth and has designed others all over the world. She
taught the staff how to use dowsing rods to actually lay out the 7
circuit path. They then came along with Cape Cod clam shells and lined
the path, then edged it with pink granite. This labyrinth is really a
form of garden sculpture.
Joe thanks Jeanie for showing us this beautiful garden. It has been a
wonderful experience and Jeanie has been a great teacher.
We next visit the garden of Judith and Rachel Smith. Not only are they
mother and daughter but also co-owners of The Giving Tree Gallery. This
is a breezy day and great for showing off their wind sculptures. And
they have some striking wind sculptures.
Rachel tells Joe how the name came about. When Rachel was in high
school Judith took her to this piece of land and said she wanted to
start an art gallery and sculpture gardens. Rachel couldn't see it. But
when prompted about a name suggested The Giving Tree, as it was the
first book she ever learned to read. It was a story of giving and
giving and not getting anything back. Rachel was worried that was what
would happen here. But, Judith started to carve out these gardens and
invited local artists to place their work here. Barry Pinsky was the
first, he did chainsaw art. Later, Nashville artists Lyman Whitaker
(the well known wind sculptor) and Craig Ritchie would come. Lisa
Horowiitz from Philadelphia also started exhibiting her work here. It
just started to build, it was where art and nature met. Judith provided
the place and the artists provided the art. When they were cleaning up
after Barry one day, Judith found some pieces of wood. She started to
carve those, making bangles and found people wanted to buy them, thus
they started selling jewelry. A national artist named Jeanine Payer put
some of her pieces here and Judith decided to make a website for her.
Jeanine got an article in People Magazine and the next thing they knew
they had a web business. So now they have a jewelry business, a
sculpture business and beautiful gardens to display the work.
We next visit a garden in front of a beautiful pond that includes some
of their sculptures. This area was all wooded when Judith bought it.
They cleared everything. Working with Barry Pinsky they dug the pond,
collected the rocks from a construction site and started building. It
was a labor of love. There is artwork incorporated in and around the
pond. Rachel loves this area because there are little things hidden.
For example, a bronze sculpture in the waterfall and a fountain by a
local artist named Steven Lynch. It has been here awhile thus has
gotten a patina, kind of a green color. One of their philosophies is to
let the art sink into nature, not to treat it like it shouldn't be
touched or to put it on a pedestal. It just incorporates itself into
the setting and makes a great look. Again, this is where art and nature
Joe likes the way the garden rooms all have their own look and feel. In
the next room, although only a few feet from the pond, we're in a
completely different space, one that has its own look and feel. Not
only are we just a few feet from the pond but additionally not far from
the main road in Cape Cod. They carved out this little nook in the
bamboo and called it their Garden of Self Solitude, because the third
element of art and nature is the people that come and build memories
here. Many people say they maintain a relationship with the place and
visit every year on their trip to Cape Cod.
As they depart and go through the Asian entranceway that took us into
the bamboo room they go into another meditation garden. Here they've
laid down broken glass from one of their glassblowers, all his
mistakes. They've taken those glass chips and incorporated them into
the pathway. It's striking. Our journey now takes us along the marsh
and to a labyrinth, where one sees Scorton Creek Marsh. It provides a
huge landscape vista. The tide comes up and down and is always
changing. It looks different at any point during the day. The view is
truly spectacular. Doug Irving works with them and has done a great job
creating the pathways, working with the marsh and creating an
incredible journey. The next turn leads us to a 52-foot long suspension
bridge. Going across the bridge completes the circle and we end up at
the wind sculptures, where we started.
It has been a breathtaking trip, loaded with wonderful, unusual
landscaping design ideas. Now that Joe has finished he wants to do some
shopping. But first he thanks Judith and Rachel. This has been a real
treat. The gardens and sculpture have been wonderful, very unique.
There are many lessons one can learn from this walking tour.
Back to Top