Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sally & Jim Gibbs' Garden

As I mentioned in the previous post, I volunteered last week to serve as a "bus captain" on one of the day tours associated with the national Perennial Plant Association's Symposium in Atlanta.  Here are some photos of the Gibbs garden, visited later that same afternoon.

To give you some background, this property is 292 acres, and is about an hour north of Atlanta, just at the base of the mountains. Mr. Gibbs owns one of Atlanta's leading landscape design, build and maintenance companies, and this is his personal home.  The long term plan is to open the garden up as a public space.  It took Mr. & Mrs. Gibbs several years just to locate and choose the property, based upon its natural topography, and abundance of spring-fed water features. 

What a fantasy to have the resources, the technical skill, and (most of all) the forty years of experience under your belt before taking on your "new" garden. This one is now in its second decade, and things are starting to flesh out beautifully.

Because our buses wouldn't fit all the way up the driveway to the main house, we went in via the lily pond, which contains the largest private collection of waterlilies in a natural setting in the US.
One of the Gibbs' large collection of bronzes is mounted in the middle of one of the lily ponds, which also features a full-sized copy of Monet's famous bridge over the lily pond at Giverny. 
Close up detail of a very cool little maple in the Japanese garden.  Have I mentioned that the Japanese garden covers FORTY acres? 
One of the spring-fed ponds in the Japanese garden. 
Another of the ponds in the Japanese garden.......they seem to never end...... 
As one walks up the path through the woods to the main house, the first view is of the enormous rose arbor which separates the lawn in this area from the flower garden.  It must be incredible earlier in the season! 
A little further up the driveway, I found this urn, which I think is just exquisite in its simplicity. 
One view of the flower garden.  It's important to note that there are lots of perennials here, but also an enormous number of annuals.  As a company, Gibbs does a great job with annual color displays, and this garden gives that classic look while using mostly annuals. 

I happen to love this combinaton of Perovskia (Russian Sage) and Lythrum virgatum "Morden's Pink" lythrum, which I may replicate at the Big House, in a bed that is almost entirely daylilies, and fries out by early July.  My home is that this duo will come up and explode in color just as the yellow daylilies are going to sleep for the season.   "Morden's Pink" is a sterile variety; having said that, I know there have been some issues of it spreading in other parts of the country.  I've had it in another area at the Big House and in my home garden for three years now with no sign of casually sending off seeds. This is one of those "do what you are comfortable with" plants. 
Looking down from the main house over the flower beds. 
Another angle showing effective use of annuals that do well in Georgia's crazy summer heat. 
As always, click on the photos to see them in more detail. As for me, I'm off to pull some weeds.......

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bernadine Richard's Garden

Earlier in the week I had the pleasure of volunteering as a "bus captain" for a group visiting Atlanta as part of the Perennial Plant Association's national meeting.  Whenever I'm with groups like this, I'm always pleasantly surprised by how humble and delightful gardeners can be, particularly those who are on national (and international) speaking circuits, etc.  I get such enjoyment from spending the day with all of those creative people!

One of the gardens we visited was the home of Bernadine and Jena-Paul Richard, where I had been a couple of times before, and always love visiting.  This time was different, as well, in that it was a group of about 75 of us (between two buses) rather than the hundreds that are often present on some tours.

The Richard home was built in 1929, from stone quarried on the site, and has beautiful oak doors and trim that were also created from trees growing on the site at the time.  It is a big property (about 9 acres), with an enormous art collection, yet no pretense, which says a lot for the Richards'  warmth and demeanor.

Mr. Richard is French, which explains the hybrid mix of European styling and Southern hospitality that this house and garden exudes. 
The large house is beautifully nestled into the plantings, and the stone color adds a real element of warmth.
There are several art installations around the property.  This is one that I particularly love, since it adds a whimsical note to an otherwise very formal building.  I would love to go back when this wisteria is blooming! 
This waterfall is truly massive, extending the length of the pool deck, above.  The water slowly pours down the wall and adds that necessary cooling element needed in Atlanta in summer. 
Another whimsical touch in the garden off the kitchen. 
At first glance this front door seems a little "staged," until you realize that those incredible blooms were all picked that morning from existing plantings in the garden.  No silk here! 
As always, click to see them bigger!  More gardens from this tour later.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The White Bridge Dilemna

The garden at the Big House is divided in half by a natural creek which runs through it, from front to back.  It is a fabulous feature to have in the garden, and the original landscape installation incorporated two bridges crossing the creek, essentially one at each end of the property.  We have named them brilliantly in my mind, to differentiate one from the other....."The Brown Bridge" is in the wooded garden, and "The White Bridge" is nearer the house, and crosses from the rose garden to the koi ponds.  Since that part of the garden is much more formal, the white bridge is also more "done up" than the brown one.
 The brown bridge was having some real structural issues, so was rebuilt last week, with the new version being virtually identical to the original.  Since this bridge is in shade and only a few feet above the surface of the water, nature takes its toll on even cedar.  Since both bridges are similar in overall design, I've put a photo of the new not yet brown bridge.

The White Bridge is also having some issues, and needs some attention from Tony the fabulous contractor.  Before he begins work, I'm looking for some input from the brilliant individuals who follow this blog.

As you can see from the other two photos, there are hanging baskets which are suspended from the sides of the bridge, which are used for annual color.  They are changed out twice a year, and are equipped with misters from the irrigation system.  They are the "hayrack" type of basket, each 56 inches long, and are lined with moss/cocofiber liners.

Here are the issues I'm trying to correct:
1.  In order to replace the plants, at least one person is standing on a 12-foot stepladder in the creek to work.  This doesn't sound so bad, until you are faced with having to replace the potting medium with giant bags that are being balanced on a non-too-sturdy ladder (on the rocks in the water).  Another person has to lower the plants from above to the planter, since building codes only allow a 4 inch space between balusters.
2.  Because of the constant moisture in the baskets, we've replaced the sideboards once already (the bridge is only ten years old).  We line the back of the baskets with heavy black plastic, but I'm thinking about a new type of container and/or taking the baskets to a metal fabricator to have a new solid back panel installed.

Has anybody out there seen any brilliant designs that would allow for annual color in this situation, without ruining the bridge (and almost killing the gardener)?  I think I've figured out the access issue by exploring the idea of a railing section that can be removed, but I'm not married to that idea.  With reference to the baskets, they can certainly be replaced with something else, but I'm out of ideas.  (The window box type that are sold to hang off deck railings are simply not "high end" enough in appearance, and aren't really in scale with the bridge.

Any ideas, guys?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunflower Farm Festival

We spent the morning with Tony & Nina at the Sunflower Farm Festival in Rutledge, Georgia.  It is always a great, simple way to start the July 4th festivities, and an excuse to eat peach ice cream at 10 AM.  This first photo is a pretty substantial "container arrangement" near the entrance to the artists market.
The fence around the sunflower fields becomes a little more "artsy" every year, as different treasures are added to the old fence. 

Another great container arrangment, next to one of those "necessary" outbuildings.  The ones that are actually in use aren't a lot more sophisticated than this one, though. 

This little boy was having a grand time having his own parade in a mixed cottage garden on the property. 
The farm produces sunflower seeds for planting, eating, and bird seed mixes, and the family is incredibly generous with their property, sharing all gate proceeds with various charities.  The artists market and food vendors all set up tents in a shady grove in the midst of 15 acres of blooming sunflowers.

As always, click them to see more detail.

Enjoy the Fourth!

Celebrate what makes you happiest about being an American!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Summer Whites

July came into Atlanta with a roar of heat, and it was still in the high 70's when I left for work this morning before the sun was up.  Here are a few photos from the garden at the Big House, taken around 7:30 this morning before the furnace heated up for the day.

This is a good example of why, in my humble opinion, there are few plants that can rival the Natchez Crape Myrtle for tough-as-nails beauty in a Southern garden.  They're just starting to bloom, and will continue this way for many weeks.
Two types of hydrangea, below.  In the distance, the paniculata "Pinky Winky" is just starting to flush out.  In the forground (under the crape myrtle) is macrophylla "Mme. Emile Mouillere," an incredible white mophead with a tiny blue eye that gradually bleeds the faintest blue color throughout the blooms.  The macrophylla has been blooming for several weeks now.

Hydrangea arborescens "Annabelle," will keep that form until the blooms ultimately dry looking almost exactly as they do now. 
The front of the house faces Northwest, so it's a challenge to get some things to grow well there.  These guys all look pretty light and fluffy, but they're all extremely tough, and hold up beautifully to the Atlanta heat.  For the plant geeks, this begonia is called "Baby Wing," and will take full Atlanta sun and heat without the leaves bronzing.

The gazebo near the pool offers some respite from the crazy heat, and it's where many of the ferns and houseplants spend the summer months. 

A Single Errant Sunflower Glowing Just Before Dawn

This baby self-seeded right next to where I park at home.  I've been watching it for days, and this is what greeted me this morning as I left for work!