Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Perfect 24 Hours

Coffee at 7:30 a.m.

Put on jeans and an old shirt and go outside at 9 a.m.

Walk around. Look at things. Quite cool, it is still in the 50s in the morning.

No breeze. Sun.

Check the solar panels -- the net meter says we are producing abundant energy. Good.

Start some projects. Dirty work, edging and digging up things that need moving. Kneel, dig, stand up, tote, schlep, dig some more, wrestle big woody plants out of the ground, kneel, go look for the pruners, come back, then go look for the bigger loppers. Why does the wheelbarrow have a flat tire?

Back and forth. Tools in one place, bucket in another.

Lunch. It's in the 60s now, still sunny, no breeze yet at 1 p.m.

Crossword puzzle. I finish it with Jim's input. There are sports clues, so he has to help.

Afternoon, and the temperature is now in the 70s and there is the slightest breeze and it is lovely.

No more heavy lifting, now the day is given over to aimless activity. Cut some rose canes, prune the viburnums a little more, change the locations of some pots, sit. Think.

What if I put a cherry tree in that spot, or what if I planted another fothergilla over there?

Hose stuff off.

Pull some weeds by hand from moist but not soggy soil. They come out easily, roots and all.

Refill the hummingbird feeder. One quarter cup of white sugar dissolved in a cup of very hot water. It doesn't need to be boiled.


Pour a glass of wine and sit in the warm sunshine on the patio and watch the sinking sun light up the plants in the distance one by one. The air is still, the light is incredibly luminescent and the temperature is 72 degrees. There is just the lightest breeze and the humidity is low.


Tired. Very tired.

A gentle rain shower moves in from midnight til dawn, then the clouds completely clear away at sunrise.

Why can't every day be like this?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

And Now a Little History

I recently got to hear Andrea Wulf talk about the history of the transatlantic plant trade that took place from 1730 into the early 1800s -- the decades when England and America sent thousands of seeds and plants across the ocean in an incredible exchange of botanical riches.

Andrea Wulf is the author of several books, including The Brother Gardeners, the book she was invited to talk about to the Hartford Garden Club.

I read it a while ago, and loved learning about the fraternity of men who formed relationships with each other in different countries, pursuing their obsession with discovering and growing new plants.

And this was in a time when transporting plants meant keeping them alive for months at sea, boxes of seeds were eaten by ship rats, correspondence by letter was a drawn out process, and just gathering the plants and seeds to share meant perilous expeditions into unsettled forests.

She's a remarkable speaker, able to communicate how her subject fascinated her and how the letters and documents she researched came to life across the centuries.

She charmed us by admitting she is no practical gardener at all, and then proceeded to demonstrate she knew plants in detail and had mastered botany, all from immersing herself in the lives of plantsmen of 250 years ago.

There is nothing like hearing an assured speaker talk about a topic she knows well and loves.

Andrea Wulf lives in England (but was raised in Germany -- her German-British accent is unique). She states simply that any tour of any garden in the United Kingdom today is a tour of American plants.

Because of the trade between England and the American colonies, thousands of new plants were introduced to England and eagerly adopted. Interest in the novelty of these New World plant marvels caused an explosion of gardening and made England the gardening obsessed culture it is today.

Why did the British become more obsessed than any other country during these years? Several reasons, including Empire -- they had so many global sources to supply new plants. And climate -- imported plants, as long as they weren't from the tropics, all grew so well in England's benign climate.

But the brother gardeners made it happen: John Bartram, the American farmer who collected specimens and shipped them to Peter Collinson, an English merchant who sold them in increasingly huge orders. They had a decades long correspondence and friendship.

The oddball Swedish scientist Linnaeus, of course, who finally made sense out of the hopelessly confused names of all these botanical wonders flooding Europe. And Philip Miller, who wrote the first ever plant dictionary, which made practical garden knowledge accessible to amateurs as never before. There were others too, explorers and scientists. Her book brings them all to life.

America was populated by British settlers whose legacy, language and dominant culture have had profound effects on us. In turn, England was overwhelmingly planted in American trees and shrubs that have had a lasting effect on their entire physical landscape to this date.

Fascinating reading. Impressive talk.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Out, Out

This past weekend was glorious and sunny. And warm -- in the low 70s. Just lovely weather finally.

I spent these past days outside cleaning up and edging and puttering, my favorite thing of all to do in my garden.  Bring it on.

Jim patched the vole tunnels in the front lawn and seeded them with grass. The lawn is greening, especially in front where it is was over fertilized last season.

We brought up one hose and hooked it up -- as long as I drain it at night and shut it off at the faucet end (there will still be below freezing nights for a few more weeks), it should be fine. It is always so hard to do any spring clean up without water!

In this good weather I finally got all the cotoneaster plants out from under the fir tree by the front door.

Cotoneaster horizontilis
Cotoneaster is pronounced Koh Tone Ee Aster. It has no common name that I can find. That is unusual -- it's an awkward plant in name, and and awkward plant to grow.

(The genus name comes from cotone, which is an old Latin word for quince and the suffix 'aster' means resembling -- so it is a plant that resembles quince.)

It is widely used in foundation plantings. I had one on each side of the front door at my old house in West Hartford. The stiff branches caught debris and looked drab in winter, and I paid them no attention.

They were glossy green in summer, had red berries, and stayed low.

But here at this house, the cotoneaster plants near the front door have driven me crazy for years.  The builder put several in, at the foot of a fir tree that was always destined to grow way too large for the spot and overtake the cotoneasters.
In 2006 the bare woody branches of several cotoneaster plants surround a tubby new fir tree.
It looks like there is plenty of room but there isn't.

The plant has a few things to recommend it -- not in winter when the branches are bare. But in summer it is a shiny green, it stays low, and there are berries. In fall it has deeply colored foliage. That's nice, especially in front of the dark green mass of the fir tree.

Red berries and maroon foliage in 2012 were stunning under the now big fat fir tree.

But the problem with the cotoneasters planted around my fir tree were twofold: first, the fir tree got too big. Obviously that was going to happen.

But secondly, the structure of the cotoneasters is a problem. The branches arch over every which way, leaving open areas underneath, and that allowed all manner of grasses and weeds to grow under the low canopy of the tangled stems.

I spent every summer trying to weed the cotoneasters and I never could pull anything up from under those congested branches.

When I decided to eliminate the cotoneasters and began digging them out, I was amazed at the lush hayfields of grass and robust tap rooted weeds that were entrenched under each woody shrub.

Besides turf grass, I found juniper seedlings, young thistles, a solid carpet of popweed (ugh), and more. (There's an article on popweed here.)

Out, out.

Of course digging up all the shrubs was a nightmare. They are spreaders -- where an arching branch reaches over and touches soil, it roots, so there were a dozen tenaciously rooted shrubs where the builder had originally planted four. They get big woody stems and they did not want to come out. Jim helped me dig out the rootballs of several, but in the end I just cut back the branches of the rest of them, and covered the decapitated remains with mulch.

Now, what to do with the open space around and under the big fir tree?

I hate looking at brown mulch. I don't want to plant a shrub or groundcover in there and then have to take it out in a few years as the fir gets even bigger.

The purple iris reticulata blooms will go by, then there are red 'Lucifer' crocosmias that bloom in summer around the light post but I never got a real stand of them going, so there are only a few.

Maybe just some annuals in the mulch? A carpet of white alyssum? At least until I figure out what to do with this oddly shaped empty patch of mulch I created.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Winter Bloomers

A chilly spring so far. This past week has been rainy, drizzly and in the 40s. The weekend promises sun and a little more warmth.

I want to talk about my winter bloomers -- no, not my knickers. Winter bloomers are plants that save us from the despair of a long cold season by flowering at the end of winter and some even smell fragrant.

Plants that bloom in the cold have a real appeal for me. At the end of a long, wet New England winter, fragrance and color are so welcome.

But I haven't been very impressed with the ones I've tried to grow.

Here is my experience with winter bloomers that open in February or March, which after a winter like the past one we had, means April, maybe early May. (Despite spring's arrival on the calendar at the end of March, April here is mostly a winter-feeling month.)

Lonicera fragrantissima - winter honeysuckle.
Here is my experience with it.
MoBot tells me mine will look big and vase shaped
like this one at some point
I planted it four years ago but have nothing to show yet.

Last year it was eaten to the ground, and regrew from the roots, so I had a small arching shrub with green leaves, but never got any flowers.

In its first year I cut a few branches to force indoors, and at least I got a few white, fragrant blooms to open and I got to smell the perfumy sweet scent.

I brought branches in again this March, but only had some green leaves open indoors, no flowers. There are no blooms on the shrub at all this year.

Viburnum bodnantense 'Dawn' - Dawn viburnum
This is how mine has performed.
'Dawn' blooms, but I can't detect fragrance
I have never actually smelled the fragrant pink blooms of this tall, upright viburnum. I've had flowers, but no detectable scent yet.

I don't even know what 'Dawn' is supposed to smell like.

This is also a plant that I put in four years ago.

Its form is wildly out of control, but I have hopes that it will mature into an upright shrub, and I am trying to help it along with judicious pruning, which involves randomly cutting off sideways branches.

After four years it is a big, rangy, arching, splayed-out shrub, and not the vase shaped multi-stemmed plant I expected.

It is planted by the dining room window so that I can open the window on an April day and gather its scent.

Alas, no scent, few blooms, and even when I brought branches in to force in March, I got nothing -- a few browned buds tried to open but there was no scent, and the blooms dropped off.

Hamamelis vernalis, Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' - Witch hazel
My experiences with witch hazels are here and here.
Indoors I do catch a whiff of scent

If anyone has read this journal in the past, they will know I have complained for years about witch hazels. Their brown leaves hang on all winter, the flowers are too teeny to see and there has been no fragrance wafting on the cold air.

But then. . . .

I cut some of the branches of 'Diane' and brought them inside in late March, and a very deep, sweet perfume was occasionally detected if I stuck my nose into the middle of them. Delightful, but fleeting.

Then, the first sunny day in April, while I was outside in the meadow, I got a whiff of sweet perfume and it came from the vernal witch hazel there. Again, it was just a whiff, but such a lovely, full fragrance. For a moment anyway.

The flowers of both 'Diane' and the spring witch hazel are so small I can't see them even up close, and "Diane' in particular is still fully clothed in dry brown foliage that hides every bud, but I am encouraged to have smelled, even briefly, the rich scent in April.

Corylopsis glabrescens 'March Jewel' - Dwarf Winterhazel
My tiny one can be seen here.
MoBot shows a full blooming plant in late winter
I only planted it three years ago, and it was tiny when I got it. I moved it once, setting it back. There isn't much of a plant there yet.

Unlike the usual large spreading corylopsis shrubs, this variety is a very low dwarf winterhazel.

It can look like a forsythia, but paler and more refined. Mine, however, has only offered one or two blooms so far and those were oddities one October.

It isn't supposed to have any fragrance, but that's ok. It actually has "March" in its name, but there are no March jewels to be seen and it's April, so like my other winter blooming shrubs, this one promises to be a spring flowering plant. I think it will need a few more years to reach maturity and bulk up a bit.

Cornus mas - Corneliancherry dogwood
How mine have grown can be seen here.
I've had better experiences with Cornus mas than with other winter bloomers. Corneliancherry dogwood doesn't have any fragrance, though.

It has yellow blooms that make this small tree also look like a forsythia, but it is a much more shapely and tree-like size.

I have two -- one little seedling tree was decapitated in 2010 but is now taller than I am. It regrew amazingly fast.

The other was a large 15 gallon container sapling that I planted four years ago and it is about the same size as the little one is now. Proof that paying for larger trees is not worth it; seedling or bare root stems are just as large after four or five years as big expensive trees.

Both are still small, though. Cornus mas is considered a winter bloomer because it flowers in March, but mine don't open that early. They flowered last year in mid April, making them more like the redbuds and magnolias of early spring.

I'm still waiting to be wowed by winter blooming shrubs and trees -- it hasn't happened in my garden yet.

If I cut branches to bring inside and force in March, I can enjoy some early blooms to brighten the end of winter. I can even get a whiff of witch hazel perfume.

But it also means I have to listen to Jim complain about looking at piles of brush in the living room.

He's right.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Oak Sapling

I vacuumed the porch and took the desiccated overwintering pots outside. The porch looks inviting now. It's still too chilly to sit out there, but I did anyway. I'm anxious for spring.

I poured a glass of wine, sat in my rocker and surveyed the yard from inside the porch.

It was bare and brown outside, but sunny. The storm door is still on, and the windows are closed tight, so sitting on the porch on a windy April afternoon was comfortable enough. For a while anyway.

As I looked around at the empty gardens and the sticks of naked trees on the hill, I felt such a sense of familiarity. I know every inch of my gardens in detail and every tree in my emerging forest intimately. I have scrabbled in the dirt, kneeled in the deer poop, and tangled with every vine in the woods -- it's all so known to me, even in its dormant state.

I know what it will look like in a few weeks as everything leafs out, I know what I need to tend, I am aware of each plant as its own individual with its own characteristics. I know who came through the winter fine and who needs some help.

A comforting sense of place settled over me. My garden.

Then I looked over to the left and saw a skinny young oak tree, with rusty brown leaves standing out from the brush on the hill. Oak trees, known for their hard, dense wood, are surprisingly whippy when young. They are bendy.

This tree was bobbing and weaving in the wind and, I swear, trying to get my attention.

The day before I had risked limb and life to untangle this sapling from Oriental bittersweet that was strangling it, and from multiflora rose canes that engulfed it. In the process a thorn caught my ear and held me fast -- really, have you ever been held hostage by a rosebush snagging your earlobe? I can't even describe it. There was blood. And a ruined pair of garden gloves, used to sop up the carnage.

But I chopped and hacked and freed the oak sapling from its tormenters and maneuvered the rose thorn out of my ear, with some histrionics.

And then there was the little oak tree, a day later, calling to me, moving and fluttering so I would notice. Thank you. Thank you.

It's not the first time I have had a sense that trees respond to, maybe even communicate with, people. They do.

I have unpotted a tuliptree sapling from its too-small container, untangled congested roots to plant it, and heard it sigh with relief.

I have limbed up the lower branches of a viburnum and it looked so pleased to see its knees, it danced and swayed.

I know, I know. Stop. This is silly.

No it's not.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Getting To Work

April arrived with some sunshine, chilly but not uncomfortable breezes, and temperatures in the 40s and 50s. I think we even reached the low 60s briefly.

I got to work:

I took off all the mesh tubes that protect the tree trunks from antler rub in the fall and winter. It's nice not to have to look at those green plastic things now. There are about 45 trees that I put protection around -- the ones I think are most vulnerable.

I pruned back the roses in the cul de sac. The lawnmower guys who "maintain" the cul de sac and common areas won't do it. The roses are in bad shape, lots of dead wood and no form at all. I pruned them hard.

I took off a lot of the climbing hydrangea by the garage. Now that it has reached the pergola, I want to limb up the lower stems, but it will take several seasons I think. I pruned quite a bit, taking off side branches and the stems that arch out in the wrong direction. I sacrificed a lot of flower buds.

I took off the two tall spouts in the middle of the Cornus mas by the driveway, and then did a half-ass job staking it. The tree needs to be pulled upright. The soggy soil there has allowed it to tilt over too much. My staking is not really effective.

I cut back some of the dried perennial stalks. More to do -- that chore will take several more days. The transplanted Knock Out roses at the back of the driveway garden got pruned hard, and the pink Knock Out rose by the front door got a good chop.

I sprayed the kinnikinnik that appears to have powdery mildew with Neem oil. No effect.

I cut multiflora rose stems and Oriental bittersweet vines on the back hill and painted the cut stems with vine killer. It always seems like I must have gotten most of them, but I have probably stunted 10 percent or less of these aggressive vines.

I did some winter pruning, which meant walking around with pruners and randomly cutting branches off whatever I walked by.  The winterberry hollies got limbed up and shaped, although they could surely use much more trimming. I want a more open, slender look for these rangy shrubs.

I cut back the smokebush, but not coppiced all the way. This year I want to experiment to see if I get a fuller, rounder shrub by only cutting the long stems back by half, still leaving a large structure of multiple branches. Sticky sap got all over my hands and pruners.

I put up the hummingbird feeder for the early male scouts. Migrating ruby throated hummingbirds have been spotted in Virginia, so they will be up here soon.

So much clean up still needs to be done, but I got to work and got a good start.
First week of April:
Hummingbird feeder is up, purple irises are appearing with the snowdrops, 
the walk to the back is snow free, and the glacier at the top of the driveway is retreating.
I've been lopping and chopping, including the climbing hydrangea by the garage.
The Easter bunny came to check out the forced forsythia blooms in the dining room!

Everything is soggy, not to be walked on without damaging turf or emerging plants,
but of course I've been tromping over everything for several days now.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Plants for This Spring

Here's what I want to do this spring, and the plants I ordered:

Spigelia marilandica - Yep, I am going to try growing them for the third time. Sigh.

Indian Pinks will fill the empty spot along the walk as you round the curve. I always loved the bright red carpet roses there, but they were too big and they were a little too much. The roses are gone now, the weigela that had gotten too shaded under the baptisia is also gone.
The too big, too bright red roses are gone -- wouldn't a stand of Spigelia look good there?

Indian Pinks would be subtler, and would do well in the partial shade under the magnolia and baptisia.

Curtis Adams did a great write up here. He specifically mentions planting spigelia with tiarellas, which is exactly what I have there already. The spigelia is slow to come up in spring, so the tiarellas can do their thing first, then the Indian Pinks bloom as the foamflower goes by.

Niche gardens has them.

Lindera benzoin - More spicebushes to fill out the empty spot where the two blue spruces were removed from the berm. Let the two that are there already grow wide, and as big as they want to, and add more behind the bench and under the river birch.
Wouldn't a stand of spreading spicebushes look good around and under the river birch?

Niche gardens has them and Forestfarm too.

Cephalotaxus harringtonia - Japanese plum yew 'Korean Gold' to fill the spot along the east side where I put the witch hazel seedling. The witch hazel will get too big and shrubby so near the house. The plum yew is a fastigate plant, but with a loose look because of its long fluffy needles.

It can take shade. It is zone 6 and after this winter that worries me, but it will be up against the house, in between other plants and somewhat protected.

Slow growing. It will be years before I get good narrow height in between the two windows there.

Wouldn't an upright narrow plum yew between the rounded box and wild viburnum look good?
It would rise up out of the dwarf deutzias below it.
Forestfarm has a small one.

Annuals - seeds

I ordered a bunch of seeds.

Nasturtiums: I'll start them outdoors in May. 'Moonlight' pale yellow to vine up the twig towers. 'Whirlybird' mixed orange and red jewel colors around the edges of the gravel garden.

Tobacco: I planted the dust-like seeds in a flat under the dining room window two days ago at the end of March. The big N. sylvestris 'Only the Lonely' will be transplanted to the back of the Birch Garden (I wonder if there will be any self seeded from last year), and N. alata 'Grandiflora' will go in the middle of the Birch Garden. 'Baby Bella Red' will be transplanted into pots or scattered in different spots in each garden for a pop of red.

California poppies will be sown at the top of the stone wall among daffodils and around the gravel garden, outdoors around May 10. They don't start indoors well.
'Fireworks' dahlias - kind of gaudy

Dahlias: I ordered some smaller ones -- 'Fireworks Mix" -- to grow from seed. I planted the seeds in a flat indoors a couple days ago as well. I'll put them along the front walk (I'm going to take out the floppy 'Frosty Morn' sedum there.) They appear to be gaudy and colorful, but what the heck. They're dahlias.

Basil: I planted some seeds indoors of a dwarf, compact Genovese basil a few days ago.

There are problem areas that I want to fill in the garden, and spots where I'd like to try a particular plant.

I'm still thinking about a 'Bracken's Brown Beauty' magnolia, and maybe a cherry tree -- 'Okame' was a delight when I had it before.

Somewhere I'd like to put in a male Ilex opaca. The female holly on the east side is being pollinated from somewhere, but I wonder if I would have a much heavier fruit set if there was a male American holly nearby.
Red berries on my Ilex opaca -- but would there be more with a male holly nearby?

There is some snow still on the ground, but it is diminishing now. Until the gardens are snow free and last year's debris is cleaned up a bit, it's hard to picture what I want and where.

Spring: I am waiting on you.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Alarming Sights

It spit snow all day yesterday -- a constant, unrelenting shower of white that did not accumulate.

Today is sunny, and I went out to see if snowdrops had appeared in the warm corner of the front walk where the snowpack is finally gone. Why yes, some clumps have popped up.

But I was immediately distracted from their pretty faces by two alarming developments in the area:

1. The Japanese maple 'Crimson Queen' splits in two every winter. Zeno's Paradox gives me less and less of a tree each year, diminishing itself by half, then half of half the next year, then half again the next winter. Once again I saw the dangling branch pulling away from the trunk.

It's always the largest branch that cracks and separates. One year Jim and I put a stainless steel bolt through the trunk to hold the two sections of main stem together, and that is still holding. The bolt is still there, with new bark grown over it.

But this latest crackup could not be clamped back on. So I cut it off, and when I was done, fully half of the tree was once again gone.

Last summer 'Crimson Queen' looked small but not unshapely. I am hoping the tree that is left will look artistic and graceful and open this summer, and not like the slowly sell-amputating disaster that it is.

And I have to admit I don't care about the shape or size of the tree when it colors up in fall -- just the rich intensity of its garnet red foliage is enough to justify it, even as it gets smaller and smaller each year.

2. The second alarming sight was a patch of kinnikinnik under the Japanese maple that is silvery white and does not look right. At first I thought it was an area that was frost coated, but it's not. I think this is a fungal issue.

Arctostaphylos uva ursi is described as trouble free and I could find nothing online about susceptibility to powdery mildew, but that's what this really looks like.

I've never seen powdery mildew as a winter problem. But low light and high humidity are the usual culprits for powdery mildew, and spending an entire winter packed solidly under three feet of snow might count as too dark and too wet.

This low groundcover wants hot and dry and lean conditions, but this cultivar -- 'Massachusetts' -- will take winter wet. I think the winter wet we had was too much even for this variety however.

The snowdrops sure aren't much to see yet. They're cute but clumps are isolated and sparse . . . I keep telling myself they will spread and make a nice show, popping out of the green kinnikinnik some day.

They'd be a lot more interesting if I didn't get so alarmed at the state of the maple and the condition of the kinnikinnik, though.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Open Conservancy - to tour

There is a garden in Glastonbury I would like to visit. It is at exit 10 right off Rte 2, the same exit as Pam's former house. Easy to get to. Sounds interesting:

It is open June 27 and 28 and then again September 12 and 13.

The Murray Gardens

The Murray Gardens

Glastonbury, CT
Open Days, Water feature

Our property is a colorful collection of gardens carved out of a woodland setting, punctuated by unusual and native trees. The two-acre landscaped property features three long-blooming perennial borders and a hydrangea bed in the front. As you enter the garden through the stone gates you are greeted by a small pond with a copper weeping maple sculpture that gently rains all day. A journey down the front walk leads you to a weeping camperdown elm, and beyond, a larch and a Cornus controversa that extends over a rock pointing to a bank of carpetflower roses with daylily garden above. Next, cross the lawn past the red buckeye and bottlebrush buckeye and enter into a naturalized woodland setting with a twisting stone path, where you can enjoy a myriad of shade and woodland plants and garden sculpture surprises with soft music in the background. Walking through the garden gate into the back yard, you will find shade gardens built into the pool deck and a formal triangle garden containing ‘Knock Out’ roses and oriental lilies inside a boxwood border. Beyond is another daylily bed running along an old stone wall and a garden patio with curved steps ascending to a fifty-foot rose bed. Amble into the Japanese garden over the footbridge, beneath which a waterfall runs from the little upper pond to the fish pond below. There you will see a spectacular Heptacodium and several large Japanese maples surrounding the pond. Descending four more steps, you will enter into the dry stream bed bordered by perennials, a sweet bay magnolia, and a weeping hemlock.

Open Conservancy tour June 21

On June 21 there is a garden in the Berkshires, in Stockbridge, that I would like to see. It's an easy day drive. It's only open that Sunday, Father's Day -- so that might be a problem.

Apple Hill

Apple Hill
Photo credit: Rich Pomerantz.

West Stockbridge, MA
Open Days

This magical writer’s retreat was once an apple farm and many old apple trees still grow here. It is a place of quiet trees; a forest of silver birches flows into drifts of orchards, amid the tranquil green of white pines. There is a harmonious unity between the house and its setting. A cobblestone terrace at the back is set with drifts of ferns and blurs the division between indoors and outdoors, as does the wisteria-draped pergola. A harp-shaped grass garden along the driveway leads to the lovely curving rhododendron plantings, and these in turn connect to the long garden, which runs the length of the houses and beyond, set with evergreen and deciduous shrubs, roses, irises, peonies, delphiniums, and other perennials. The long garden culminates in a rock garden and a meditation bed that the children call “The Secret Garden.” A series of smaller ponds flows down the hillside to the main pond, which is set about with willows, planted with water lilies, and flanked by a borrowed landscape of blue hills. An arbor walk featuring a fish pool links the house with the writing studios. Woodland beds among the birches are planted with hosta, maidenhair, and ostrich fern. Come discover the gardens that Tina Packer has described as “among the most beautiful and inviting I’ve ever seen.”