On a cold, sunny Saturday in February, Newfields was the place to be.
Five speakers talked about their love of plants, travel to exotic gardens, how gardens give us a sense of place and how we’re as much a part of nature as are trees, flowers, birds and bugs. The Horticulture Department’s annual symposium was exactly what about 125 of us needed on a winter day. Energizing and inspirational, as we prepare for spring and another season of gardening.
Former Newfields horticulturist Gwyn Rager shared stories of her three weeks in England, visiting centuries old estates and the gardens that surround them. One of the weeks was spent studying at Great Dixter, a sort of mecca for gardeners. Great Dixter’s head gardener Fergus Garrett gave Rager and the other students these tips.
- Look at gardens with a notebook and snap pictures. Make notes and take photos of the garden several times throughout the year. Do the same when touring gardens.
- Consider the effect of the seasons on plants, gardens and the landscape.
- Create interest in the garden without relying on flower power. Look for plants that provide texture, form and color without blooms.
- Learn to judge what you like and strive to learn from others.
Clematis or clematis?
I learned from Deborah Hardwick, one of the best experts on this species, that it really doesn’t matter how you pronounce it: clem’-a-tis or cle-ma’-tis. The Brits and many horticulturists pronounce it with the accent on the first syllable and those of us with German and Dutch backgrounds put the accent on the middle one. I feel so much better.
With more than 1,300 clematis in her Ohio landscape, she debunked lots of myths about growing this vining or trailing woody plant. One of the most popular myths is that clematis likes cool roots. Not so, she said. Clematis does just fine in full sun, including the roots. Those with lighter colored or striped flowers do best with a little afternoon shade.
Falling in Love
For Chris Woods, author of Gardenlust: A Botanical Tour of the World’s Best New Gardens, traveling the world allows him to fall in love over and over and over. It might be a museum of trees in Switzerland, the Chinese Garden at The Huntington in San Marino, California, the way land meets the sea in England, an exotic heliconia in Central America, or a rugged hillside in Singapore.
He shared why these landscapes stood out, claiming their space by embracing their environment or contouring it for beauty and plants.
We often think of nature as something out there, separate from us, but that’s false. We are nature, he said.