garden haircut

During my first spring workday in the garden this weekend, my perennial garden received a major cleanup and haircut. It looks quite barren but for the snowdrops, crocus and the green tips of daffodils poking up. Cutting back the grasses is the hard part. I’ve enjoyed their taupy forms all winter and now they look a bit like stumps. Over the years I have figured out the easiest way (quickest cleanup) to cut them back is to tie up all the grassy blades with a bungy cord and use my hedge trimmers to cut the bundle in one level sweep. On the Highline garden in NYC the crews have been working since the last snow melted and the first little species tulips (Tulipa turkestanica) are blooming among these grassy “stumps”.

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desert beauty

Just back from Arizona and the most unusual landscape I have seen. From the various canyons to the populated desert community of Phoenix, Arizona is a state with a lot of variety on offer. With extreme temperature changes and availability of water (or not) come huge changes in vegetation all with a unique sense of beauty. I was fascinated to learn about the adaptations of plant and animal life in the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden. Established in 1939, it contains awesome (and lush-looking!) plantings of many native and non-native cacti and succulents. Just don’t hug the Saguaro!

potager

On a Spring trip to Monticello in Charlottesville, VA, it was too early to admire the produce in the vast kitchen garden historically grown (beginning in 1770) to feed the large population on the estate. I won’t go into the controversial nature of its tenants here, but it is obvious from its size you will need many hands to tend this garden and harvest its offerings. What we did admire is the incredible setting and vast views of the Piedmont countryside.

On a much smaller scale, in Bavaria, I have seen lovely versions of kitchen gardens. Anyone claiming that growing food can’t be pretty and focus only on yield, is simply wrong. I’m looking forward to an upcoming project where I can let these images inspire a commissioned vegetable garden in a large sunny landscape without jumpy deer, a rarity where I live or work.

back home

Wow, the last 8 weeks have been a little busy!!! We are now back in the Garden State and happy to be home. Of course we already miss the lakes, mountains and wonderful friends we made in Bavaria but life is good for us right now, right here. We are still living without our household items (held up at customs?) which includes (among a 1000 other things) my garden tools and furniture. So now is my chance to slowly take in the state of the garden I left behind four years ago, seeing what has grown (or not) and what I’m missing. Surprisingly this list is not as long as I feared but there is much work to be done as any gardener will tell you.

But before leaving Munich I did have a chance to visit the display gardens of the Weihenstephan agricultural college. This scientific teaching garden was a nineteenth century villa garden and is now a public park. It includes habitat-based plant combinations with drifts of herbaceous perennials, a rock garden and water garden. It’s all on a small scale but it surprised me to see these habitats so similar to what can grow in New Jersey. Although… not sure I would see someone with hair to match the flowers of canna in my back yard. Look closely and see if you can find her!

granada gardens

The Alhambra and Generalife gardens in Granada, Spain are the most famous examples of Moorish garden style (and also the most visited). However, like the palaces around which they were built, they have been altered over many centuries. The exterior of the palaces have remained plain and austere and the column arcades, fountains with running water, and reflecting pools are used to add to the aesthetic and functional complexity. As a garden designer one hopes to be fortunate enough to make a pilgrimage here once in a lifetime…