Tag Archives: gardens to visit

Lotusland: Our midwinter visit

Lotusland. Just pics.Words can’t capture what can only be described as the ultimate fantasy garden in America. The images speak much more eloquently. A reminder of what midwinter is like in southern CA.

The dramatic weeping Euphorbia ingens off Mme. Walska’s residence

One of the Cactus Beds. Note the mountain backdrop, yet we’re within minutes of the Pacific.

The pond view in early February.

Orange Aloe arborescens with the arching flowering stems of Agave attenuata.

Imagine this space in early morning light. OMG!

Epiphyte Ensemble

Year round succulent planter

Barrel Cactus

Late afternoon sun back lighting Cacti.

Imagine the scent of the lemon blossoms

Lotusland is open by appointment only. Please contact the reservation office for dates and times available. A limited number of guests are allowed at one time.


Moon Gate Backdrop for Roses, Perennials and Annuals

Who needs to see another public garden with masses of primary colored annuals and 50 different tea roses? I’d rather be in a garden that is intimate, formed by the signatures of people who love it. This is difficult to achieve in a public space. Blithewold is a unique example of a property open to the public which manages to capture the intimacy of a carefully tended private garden.
Blithewold is a Mansion, Garden and Arboretum in Bristol, RI overlooking Narragansett Bay. The first dwelling on the property was built in 1895 as the summer residence of Augustus and Bessie Van Wickle, and from the very beginning the family began planning stone walls, establishing rare trees and developing gardens. Marjorie Van Wickle Lyons, Augustus and Bessie?s oldest daughter, loved this property immensely, and continued to nurture the gardens until her death in 1976. Fortunately for us all, the current stewards of Blithewold Inc. have continued to care for this property in a tradition that Marjorie would be most pleased with.
This is why we love Roses

This is why we love Roses

As you wander Blithewold’s grounds, you’ll move from one planting to the next, each a testimony to the keen plantswomen and men who tend these gardens. The Rose Garden exudes summertime romance. David Austin roses mingle with both blowsy and supportive perennials, such as Coreopsis ‘Full Moon’ and Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and annuals such as Nicotiana ?Lime Green? and Salvia ?Indigo Spires?. A stone wall and a classic moon gate serve as a dreamy back drop.
The North Garden, an outdoor room planted in pastel shades, is a popular spot for wedding ceremonies. ‘Limelight’ panicle Hydrangeas, Garden Phlox, Kalimeris incisa ‘Blue Star’ and a blend of annuals surround you, as a double seated Adirondack chair beckons you to pause and gaze out across the great lawn towards the bay. (I hope the gardeners at Blithewold remember to pause occasionally).
You?ll pass through the bosquet (a French term referring to a somewhat formal grove of trees), towards the stand of towering Bamboo, Phyllostachys aureosulcata (yes they know it spreads!) or veer right to the Enclosed Garden with its inviting summerhouse accented with a stand of massive Hydrangea ‘Alpengluhen’. Either path will eventually lead you to the Display Gardens and Greenhouse.
The Display Gardens are where horticulturists Gail Read and Kris Green have fun! In neatly lined out beds go sturdy backbone plants such as Sanguisorba, Agastache ‘Summer Love, Asclepias, tender Phormium and Citrus (over wintered each year in the glass house) as well as a mix of Dahlias they have been collecting for years, and dozens of annuals they start from seed.This summer check out Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’, Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ and the various annual grasses. The assortment not only provides a riot of color for garden visitors, but attracts an abundance of butterflies, bees, beneficial insects and hummingbirds. The Display Gardens also provide a wealth of cut flowers for arrangements to grace the mansion?s tables.
Hakonachloa and Hydrangea

Hakonachloa and Hydrangea

There’s more…the Rock and Water Gardens, the working vegetable garden, and the trees, after all Blithewold is an arboretum. There’s a Garden Map on their website, listing all the trees, including a Giant Sequoia. The trees may not demand as much attention in high summer as all the flowering plants do, so you must come back again, in early fall. The trees and shrubs, not to mention the grand finale of herbaceous plants will be painting the landscape in early October. One last chance to experience this garden’s intimacy before the killing frost.
Blithewold is open to visitors mid-April through Columbus Day.
A little Architectural Detail

A little Architectural Detail

A Weekend Away for Garden Photography

Arrangement from the garden

This gardener needed a getaway. So what does she do? She catches a flight to the Philadelphia area and takes in a garden photography workshop at Chanticleer, one of the loveliest gardens on the East Coast. And a garden has to be pretty lovely to draw you outdoors when temperatures top 100 degrees F.

That’s right. The rental car temperature gauge read 95 when I picked it up at the airport on Friday afternoon at about 1:30 p.m. but Chanticleer is 25 minutes inland, and by the time I reached Wayne PA, the temperatures had soared to 108 F. Hot tamales!

Tennis Garden View, Early Morning

Tennis Garden View, Early Morning

Thankfully, our opening session on Friday evening was indoors. The excellent instructor, Allen Rokach, gave us the rundown of what he had planned for us: on both Saturday and Sunday we would meet in the morning by 6 a.m. to catch the early morning light, shoot until 9:30, then take refuge in the air conditioned luxury of the Main House to review and select our images (and fill our tummies with healthy goodies).  A group review would follow with 10 images we each selected for feedback. We’d end the afternoon with scouting for more shots before Chanticleer closed their gates at 5.

Gomphrena 'Fireworks'

Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’

The artistry of Chanticleer’s plantings offered countless photo-ops. What’s always fun for me are the new plant discoveries….this year the one that charmed everyone was the unusually large flowered Gomphrena ‘Fireworks‘,  a tender perennial we can all grow from seed. I also discovered an unusual tropical plant, Mussaenda frondosa, with little orange blossoms and showy white bracts that resemble the green leaves.

Portrait of a Lotus

To briefly summarize what I learned despite the heat’s affect on my memory retention:

1. Just because something is interesting or beautiful, does not mean it is photogenic.

2. Take lots and lots of pictures. Look, and then look some more from other angles. Then, delete what is not good.

3. Observe how light is complimenting (or not!) your image.

4. Skip the midday picture taking. The bright sun washes out too much.

5. Use a tripod! Use a tripod!

6. Have fun using Photoshop.

Bromeliad in bloom

Datura bud

Datura bud

Visiting  Chanticleer is a must! Here’s more info.

Winter Escape to Huntington Gardens

Almost everyone we know is getting weary of winter and shoveling snow. If ever there was a year to retreat to a warmer climate this has been one. We must have had an intuition when we booked flights to San Diego/LA back in December. The first week of February couldn’t come soon enough.

Aloe in Bloom

The weather was perfect….60 degree days with incredible sunshine, 40 degrees nights. There was a light frost in the valleys one night, but signs of an early California spring were everywhere. We had a list of nurseries, greenhouses and gardens to visit, but there was no way we’d be able to get to see them all in a week, so we prioritized. Our first stop was Huntington Gardens just north of LA, and we timed it just right to see the Aloes in bloom. Huntington has an incredible succulent collection, and the size of the specimens along with the colors and textures was breathtaking.


If any one color predominated in the early February landscape, it was coral, which was vividly offset by its opposite on the color wheel, teal blue. The Aloe’s coral red pokers were often seen en masse, like emphatic exclamation points. We got busy snapping photos and jotting down botanical names so that we could fact check/identify some of the unnamed specimens sitting in our greenhouse back home, or perhaps to seek out in one of the nurseries we planned to visit. But enough of this chatter. Pictures tell the story so much better.

Barrel Cactus and Succulents

Barrel Cactus and Succulents

The late winter beauty of the Asian garden was effective because of the well placed structural elements.

Asian Garden

Asian Garden with Chinese Scholar Stones

The Camelias were just passing, and seeing them made us envious…if only we could enjoy them in our winter landscape. An unnamed flowering plum was in full bloom and we took solace in the fact that in a month or two, we would see a similar display in Massachusetts.

Flowering Plum in bloom