I went away for a couple of weeks in August and my vegetable garden did not flourish in my absence. I’m taking the opportunity to close things down early so that I can reconfigure the space. I’m still working on down-sizing my garden to a more manageable size.
I have to admit, it feels good to be starting over. It was incredibly strenuous work removing all the layers of fencing, especially the two that were buried about 1 ft. down on either side. However, the surrounding garden, especially the trees and shrubs, were slowly encroaching on the space, stealing hours of sunshine and making me feel fenced in, rather than fencing out marauding animals. The old fence is gone. Next step is to remove the raised bed boards and then I can shuffle the flowers around. No problem. Sigh.
While I was away, I got to visit Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park, in Maine. Gorgeous. The scenery is magnificent enough, especially the coastline, but they also have some mighty impressive gardens.
I’m a huge fan of early 20th-century landscape designer Beatrix Ferrand. I love her use of layered plantings, forced perspective, and walled gardens. She is best known for designing Dumbarton Oaks in the Georgetown district of Washington, D.C., but she worked throughout the U.S. Ferrand and her husband had a summer home on Mt. Desert Island, called Reef Point. They spent years creating a garden perfectly suited to the climate and setting.
As Ferrand aged, she realized she could no longer keep up the house and gardens. Before she moved, to smaller accommodations, another local landscape designer who realized the significance and magnitude of the plants she had collected in her personal garden, purchased most of the plants and relocated them to two gardens that still exist today. Charles K. Savage, a local boy who grew up on Mt. Desert Island, created both the Asticou Azalea Garden and Thuya Garden. They are entirely different from one another, but both are visual treats and still well-maintained.
The Azalea Garden is meant to resemble a Japanese stroll garden. Since I was there in late summer, there were no azaleas in flower. No worries. There was plenty of color and beauty to be seen. What’s truly amazing about this garden is that it is sandwiched between two well-traveled roads, yet it still feels like a sanctuary.
There is a large pond in the center and Savage has managed to create a sense of a larger landscape, with rolling hills and forest, and horizons. It’s fall colors were just beginning to show and made the stroll through the garden an unfolding series of color, form, and texture. How they moved so many imposing trees and shrubs is dumbfounding. Thank goodness, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was also a resident of the are and a steward of the land. He understood the importance of keeping these plants for the future and provided the bulk of the financing.
Not far away is the Thuya Garden, built on land that was an apple orchard behind the summer home Thuya Lodge. This garden shows flowers and colors at their finest. Savage used English designer Gertrude Jekyll’s style of semi-formal herbaceous borders as his starting point. The brochure says that approximately 2,920 plants fill the borders each year. I did not count them. While my Hudson Valley garden is well past peak, these borders were positively glowing There were dahlias galore along with Joe-pye weed, coneflowers, and amaranth. It was named Thuya for the northern white cedars (Thuya occidentalis) that populate the area.
Although I got to see whales, seals, and even a puffin, these two gardens were highlights of my visit. The Beatrix Ferrand Society and Garland Farm, Ferrand’s last home, were closed when I was there. However, I did get to see what remained of a walled garden she designed at what is now the College of the Atlantic. I could cry that I did not know I needed reservations months in advance to see the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, but I just decided to consider missing it a reason to go back. Can’t wait.