Daniel Webster Inn,
Sandwich, Cape Cod
Uncle Eddie's World
Cape Cod Chamber of
Cape Cod is one of the oldest and most beautiful parts of the country.
People come to the Cape year round for a number of reason, but
especially to enjoy the beauty and the comfortable weather. One of the
top destinations is a town called Harwich. Not only are there shops,
restaurants and inns lining the quaint streets but throughout the area
there are beautiful gardens. One of the most surprising and memorable
gardens is concealed behind a garden gate. In this show we take you
behind the gate and find out why the garden and gardener really stand
out. We'll then visit another garden in Sandwich that has a different
look, but one common link.
Wendy Northcross is the Chief Executive Officer of the Cape Cod Chamber
of Commerce. Wendy welcomes the Garden Smart audience to Cape Cod. Cape
Cod has been greeting visitors since the Pilgrims first landed in 1620.
Each year around 4 million people visit the Cape. An amazing variety of
people come and visit but as well the Cape has an interesting mix of
locals. Some of the locals are artists, some retirees, some just
regular folk, holding down regular jobs.
The weather in Cape Cod is generally cooler in the summer and warmer in
the winter and a lot of that has to do with the Gulf Stream that comes
along their southern shores. They're 1 growing zone warmer than the
rest of New England so as a result they have a longer growing season,
thus have some incredible gardens.
Cape Cod is home to over 4,000 artists and artisans, and these
craftsmen create artwork that runs the entire gamut of art. Why do so
many call the Cape home? Some think it's the laidback lifestyle, others
think it's the incredible light. Being virtually surrounded by water,
this is almost an island, provides a reflective light that somehow
inspires and gives artists much more to work with, more than one might
find in other places of the world. Wendy invites all in the audience to
visit. It's a magical place.
Joe meets Eddie Foisy. Eddie is one of the most interesting individuals
we've had the pleasure to meet while visiting gardens and gardeners
across the U.S. Additionally, Eddie has incredible talents not only as
a gardener but as a craftsman and woodworker. In high school Eddie
developed a great love for woodcarving. After that, in the 70's, he was
involved in sand sculptures on the beach. That's when his nickname
evolved. His nephews and nieces called him Uncle Eddie, then all the
other kids on the beach started calling him Uncle Eddie. Through the
garden his many loves came together. He would say, "What would look
good over there?" He has some masonry skills and started coming up
with, for lack of a better word, fairy castles or fairy castle
sculptures. He emphasizes he doesn't make medieval miniature castles,
he makes garden sculptures.
One of Eddie's philosophies is that when entering the garden, it's a
new world. He believes that once you go through the gate, "You're not
in Kansas anymore." It is important to note that Eddie also made his
garden gate, and it is a beautiful garden gate. He thinks it is a
magical gate. It beckons you; makes you think. Joe feels it is
beckoning him. He wants to see what is behind the gate.
Eddie was right - "We're not in Kansas anymore." To Eddie this is like
his kingdom. His interpretation of what it might look like if you fell
into a fairy tale. He likes to mix the folklore of the plants with the
visuals and the aromatics. Accordingly, he has different mints and
thymes. One must look closely, there are a lot of things to see. Adults
and children alike experience a special feeling when entering and Eddie
strives to create that feeling. The goal of what he does is to try to
hit the child in a person. The child could be 4 or 70 or 80; he strives
to take them back to that time in life before there was limitation,
when all things were possible, when there were fairies and Santa Claus
and before mom and dad started limiting you. They hadn't started saying
"no," a time when all things existed. This state of mind or place in
time is the essence of what Eddie strives to communicate in the garden.
And he says he seems to hit that chord in people. At least, that's what
he is told.
This is Eddie's show garden. He says a lot of his best work isn't here.
This is his own personal art gallery. But additionally, it's his
personal garden, and it is an evolving garden. There are different
entrances. Things come and go. To Eddie spring is an exciting time, it
is a time of expectation. There is the first flush of spring, after
that it's an ever changing palate as the seasons roll along. Things are
coming and going and that is the type of garden he likes. He tries to
create magic and doesn't know if there is a better term. He ties in the
plant life, he's big on herbs, has studied herbs and folklore. He's not
a horticulturist, doesn't know all plants, but does know the family of
plants in this garden.
Joe notices the many little castles. They have little doors. Eddie says
he even has a miniature door on his workshop. He's even built furniture
with miniature doors. He feels that with a door on a castle then all
possibility exists behind the door. Imagination is everywhere. He
doesn't want to negate imagination because that's where all is
possible. Eddie says he believes that it was Einstein who said,
"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
Eddie shows us a little ruin, it could have been here way before we
arrived. He says, "Someone still lives there." When in this garden and
you see something like this, you believe that someone does live there,
it's the realism, the idea, you know you're in another world and you
want to be a 3 inch person. Eddie has no problem with that, he loves
his gardens. This is where he would want to live. He strives for
realism, there is no plastic here. Everything is real. This is not a
visual reality, it's a physical reality.
Eddie talks about making it real with the use of plants. The hens and
chicks for example, more or less, fit the scale. He has sage, rosemary,
even simple weeds, like teasel (Dipsacus fullonum). Teasel is a
biennial but many times he cuts them off and gives them to children
because they dry perfectly allowing the children to walk away with
their fairy wands. That's why he has them because they dry perfectly.
It's the little things that make a difference. Eddie loves this wild
geranium. It's name is Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum). For that
reason alone it belongs here. Most fairy gardens that he creates
include a hawthorne tree (Crataegus oxacanthia) because, at least in
the British Isles, the hawthorne tree was one of the favorite trees of
the fairies. He read that it became one of the dominant courtyard trees
to appease nature. And the elementals, the fairies, represented nature.
So to appease nature, to stay in favor of nature they would plant a
hawthorne tree. For that reason alone Eddie has always planted
hawthorne trees in fairy gardens.
Eddie describes his castles. They are real. It's real stained glass,
the stones are real, the castle is the way a real one would be.
Starting with the larger bottom, then the window placement using slab
stones, the window ledges, the roofs are real wood - ash, cedar
sometimes copper shingles - the tops are copper. They're real. He has
used castles throughout the garden and they look real but here he's
gone the extra step and added a bridge. Joe asks, "Is that bridge there
by design to allow passage over the creek to the castle?" Eddies says,
"Sure, it's to add to the realism of the scene." There could be
miniature doors where one least expects it. There could be pathways,
some have water features, as opposed to a dry stone creek bed. He feels
one is only limited by their imagination.
Joe and Eddie round a corner and notice something different. This is a
fairy mound of moss with a standing stone. It's another part of the
magical world. It's a complete world and this is like a mill. There's a
function to this world and it has little stairs. Things come and go but
there is no doorway. It totally looks like a ruin. It makes Joe wonder
who lived here, what happened here? It makes one think about it. It's
part of the permanence or the illusion of permanence, it makes you
think something has been here before us.
If someone were to commission Eddie to make a piece he would first like
to know where it would be. The type of property. If he were doing the
complete garden, the area surrounding the castle, he would want to know
if it was in full sun, deep shade, the environment and what it is that
you're looking for. His sculptures can be very tall or stubby or
traditional, etc. He tries to work with someone and do what they want.
The process starts in his workshop, which is in his barn. He likes to
think of it as his magic workshop. If he can think of it he can usually
make it. From conception to completion it starts and ends here. Eddie
needs a special environment, it keeps his imagination going. Things
must look the way he likes in order for him to be creative. He doesn't
think he could do this in a metal building in some industrial park. A
lot of the tools he uses were his grandfather's; one was a blacksmith,
another grandfather that was a carpenter. These tools are his prized
possessions. He actually uses them in the various stages of his work.
He starts at the base, then goes up. Depending on the rocks he chooses,
it starts to evolve. A lot of times the skeleton has no bearing on what
the outside is going to look like because it's a sculpture. As he goes
through bins of rocks he knows what works and what doesn't. In one
castle, early in its early construction phase, one can identify the
stairs because of the flat rocks already used.
Joe thanks Eddie for opening up his gardens and workshop and for
letting us into his world, to see behind the scenes and let us see
these incredible sculptures. This has been a real treat. Eddie says he
has been honored by our presence today and suggests if we're headed to
Sandwich to stop at the Dan'l Webster Inn, one of Eddie's latest pieces
is in their garden.
Joe next visits the Dan'l Webster Inn in beautiful and historic
downtown Sandwich. The Inn was built in 1692 and has offered lodging in
one form or another for over 300 years. At one point during the
Revolutionary Period it was known as the patriot headquarters. The most
notable visitor to the Inn was Daniel Webster, one of the most
prominent men of his day. Located on Cape Cod and nestled in the
historic district of Sandwich, the Dan'l Webster Inn is the essence of
colonial elegance with the modern amenities and comfort one would
expect from a luxurious inn and spa. Today it also has beautiful
gardens that add to the ambience. Michael Holcomb is the landscape
manager and has done a great job designing and laying out the gardens.
One of the main gardens, features bright, bold colors. This garden is
specifically laid out so it's perfectly seen from the restaurant
atrium. It draws one outside. When Michael laid out this garden he had
a few things in mind. One was to add plants one at a time, not threes
or fives, just one. He wanted to entice everyone to stop at a certain
plant and go "wow, what is that," take it in, then be drawn down the
path to something else that's completely different. The first plant we
examine is an angel trumpet (Datura). It blooms at night, is fragrant
and very attractive. The other technique he utilized was to put in
bold, beautiful colors. He did that with an amaranthus. It has bright
reds as well as blood tone reds. With a flower this vivid one doesn't
need a flower. Below he added melampodiam. This was a plant he had not
tried before, but knew he wanted to try it and wasn't afraid to
experiment. He planted the seeds, up came the plant and he has had
great success with it and is proud of the fact that he tried something
new. He has complimented the colors here. Nice yellows play off the
reds and that works well. As one is drawn down the path there is
another new plant that he added this year for the first time; it's
called blood leaf plant (Iresine lindenii). It looks like a tropical
croton, but it's not. Michael found that one can take cuttings and
propagate it very easily. Propagation is important to Michael because
he enjoys giving plants away and it's an economical way to have more
plants in the garden in the future.
We next visit the pool side garden where they've carried forward the
tropical theme. Michael has taken advantage of every square inch of
space and he's done a good job of layering. Joe starts with the ground
cover, sweet potato vine (Ipomea batatas), this variety is called
Blackie. There is a variegated version next to it called Marguerite,
it's a chartreuse variety. This is a good ground cover and Michael digs
it up in the fall, stores the tubers and replants them in the spring
and they come back bigger and better than ever. It is not only a good
ground cover but great in a container because it spills over the edge.
As we move up we look at a plant new to Michael, one he is
experimenting with. It's a Japanese banana plant (Musa basjoo). This is
a tropical variety that's considered hardy here in zone 5. It's hardy
in the roots, not the foliage, so it'll need to be cut back in the fall
and presumably will come back strong next spring. That is complimented
by a Canna with its rich foliage. This looks great at mid level.
Several favorites along the back work very well. They are flowering
hibiscus, Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) and the perennial
sunflower (Helianthus). The tall plants in the back do a really good
job of screening an unsightly view, a fence in this case. Another
design concept is at work here. There is a borrowed view in the
background. It's a flowering mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) and the
colors work very nicely and tie in with the colors in this garden.
Michael said that this was planned. It looks great.
Many say they have a difficult time getting color on a consistent basis
in a shade garden. There are several things that can be done. First, do
your homework and find plants that work well in a shade garden, plants
that actually prefer these conditions. Another option is to do what was
done here, place plants that prefer a sunny situation in a shady spot
and as the plants start to decline, pull them out and replace them with
similar, yet fresh plants. That way there is always a fresh look. But
they do have plants here that do well in the shade; for example, New
Guinea Impatiens, always a good choice for flowers in the shade. Coral
bells (Heuchera) is a great foliage plant with delicate flowers. And of
course, there is Uncle Eddie's castle, he told us we would find it
here. They've selected a great site and then enhanced the site with
light stone and dark mulch. That provides good contrast and is a good
We've seen 2 very different gardens today but they both have 1 common
link - Uncle Eddie's castles. This has been a different show, but, very
interesting. Our thanks to both gardeners, we've enjoyed their hard
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By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
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