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Friday, June 5, 2015

The Very Definition of Garden

What makes a great garden?

I recently visited Jardin botanique de Montréal and as I sat at it's cafe overlooking the terraces I told my husband that it was one of greatest gardens I'd ever been to.

But what does that actually mean?  What was it that so captivated me?

Part of it, I think, is the familiar - and lot's of it.  In a large space like this, you can have the long vistas that sweep and calm your eyes.  This long stretch of tulips greeted me at the main entrance. I miss the hundreds of bulbs that I had in my northwest garden (not enough chill hours in Texas), so seeing these made my heart happy.  I really liked that they used the pink shades with the spikes of purple as accents.

Another familiar sight was this deodar cedar with it's new cones.  I certainly got my evergreen fix.  There were spruces, firs, pines, cedars, and junipers all waiting for me to brush by and inhale their fresh resin perfume.
Another thing that made this garden great was the memories it stirred.  The peonies were resplendent for my visit - both the bush and tree peony were everywhere.  The tree peony is a truly spectacular plant.  The blossoms are often larger than a dinner plate, the petals actually wave in the breeze.  They were a favorite flower of my late grandfather, Jess Williams.  Seeing the blossoms made me think of him.

My sister also came to mind as I passed this white alder.  Jeanette always calls this the "earring tree" because of the tiny cones that she fashions into jewelry.  If you read this post Jeanette - I lost mine so please send another pair!

Greatness also comes from inspiration.  Learning something new or getting ideas on how to build something is a key hallmark.  This huge spider-web hammock was awesome.  It even features pockets to store the dead bodies. 

On the more practical side were these standing towers.  They planted thunbergia in these.  I'll bet these are stunning when they grow in.  The outside is just landscape fabric that they've wired onto a frame.  Each tower has it's own drip line for irrigation.  This idea is definitely a keeper - it would be cool with sedums too.

And being a Texan, I'm always on the hunt for shade.  I like how they used a wattle fence as a shade cloth.  The frame is metal with a piece of cattle panel on top that they used to weave in the branches.  I think that was a bit of overkill but I like the idea and the shadows it casts on the plants below.

This rock island was "floating" in one of the water features.  I liked the Sarracenia purpurea (northern pitcher plant) in the middle.  I need to figure out how to do this in my tiny pond to replace the concrete blocks I use to elevate my bog plants.

 More rocky inspiration came from the alpine gardens.  I've seen this treatment before but not at this scale.  The flat rocks are placed on edge, with the plants placed in between  The texture is amazing and a great way to provide some height to better admire the tiny plants.

The garden is huge (190 acres) and has large ponds that help to separate and define the spaces.  But most important, as a feature of a great garden, it gives you a chance to pause.  They have adirondack chairs and benches placed throughout, compelling you to sit in them.  There were many people sitting in the shade reading books or just quietly lost in their own thoughts.  This sense of peace and tranquility is what's been so elusive in my own yard.  Maybe it's just not lush enough to provide that enveloping cushion of silence.

Or maybe it's just the lack of gracefulness and art.  The entrance to the Chinese garden is a great example of both. 

I leave awed, inspired, and at peace all at the same time.  THAT, is what a great garden is.

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