Sunday, July 13, 2014
Two very different gardens
Lily, Pine Ridge Gardens
While visiting my family in Buffalo last weekend, I had the privilege of visiting two very different private gardens: Pine Ridge Gardens in Orchard Park and Smug Creek Gardens in Hamburg. Both are participants in Garden Walk Buffalo but since I was in town for such a short time, the owners were gracious enough to accommodate me on a weekend day when they were not normally open to the public. I wish that my photos could do justice to these gardens; it was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for garden touring, but not ideal for photography. I had to adjust the contrast in some of the photos but I hope they give some idea of how wonderful these gardens are!
Pine Ridge Gardens
Japanese maple, Pine Ridge Gardens
The first stop was Pine Ridge Gardens. Gary and Kitty Bannerman are daylily fanatics and much of their sunny back yard is devoted to several hundred different cultivars. The gardens were perfectly manicured, not a weed to be found and not a plant out of place. The one letdown was that, because of the unusually cold winter and late spring, everything was a week or two behind and few of the daylilies were open yet. I've visited this garden previously, when the daylilies were in full bloom, and it is truly a spectacular sight. My first thought on seeing this garden was that it must be a deadheading nightmare! At peak bloom, the Bannermans can spend hours deadheading every morning. But when you truly love something this isn't work, it simply comes with the territory.
In shady areas around the periphery, they also grow numerous hostas. In most places, daylilies and hostas can mean only one thing: an all-you-can-eat buffet for deer. Amazingly, they don't have any deer fencing around their property, depending on a deer-repellent spray. My sister, who lives nearby, likewise has no trouble with deer eating her hostas or daylilies, even without spraying; perhaps the deer populations aren't so dense yet, or perhaps there is simply enough other food during the growing season; the surrounding area isn't densely developed and nearby farmland may provide even tastier treats. My parents in a more suburban area nearby haven't been so lucky.
Even without the daylilies, the gardens were lovely with both sunny and shady spots and great combinations of contrasting foliage colors and textures; dark-leafed japanese maples and smoke bush glowed when backlit by sun. A shaded patio was the perfect place to sit and chat with our hosts out of the sun, but there was a sunny place to sit as well--probably welcome on chilly spring days! For more photos, visit my Flickr album: Pine Ridge Gardens
Cotinus (smoke bush)
Smug Creek Gardens
Smug Creek Gardens could not have been any more different. Mike and Kathy Shadrack have sprawling gardens planted in a semi-naturalistic style on a large, heavily wooded property with mature trees and abundant shade. One of the most striking features is that a creek runs right under their house; on the downhill side are 2 decks overlooking the shallow creek gorge about 20 feet below. The gardens featured a bewildering variety of plants but particularly hostas, as Mike Shadrack is a well-known hosta grower and breeder, literally having written the book on the subject with co-author Diana Grenfell, The Color Encyclopedia of Hostas (later updated as The New Encylopedia of Hostas, both from Timber Press). There were also many small and downright miniature hostas, in trough gardens and in the ground, because together the Shadracks wrote The Book of Little Hostas, likewise from Timber Press.
As an aside, I first "met" Kathy Shadrack through a gardening group on Facebook, making me one of her "imaginary friends" (as Mike puts it). Last November, when I posted on Facebook that my father had had a stroke, she contacted me to let me know that she worked at Mercy Hospital--where my dad was in the stroke unit--met with me and gave me some much-needed encouragement, and invited me to stop by to see her gardens sometime. I'm so glad I took her up on her offer! This is the kind of garden I would have if I had this kind of property (I can dream, can't I?). For many more photos please visit my Flickr album: Smug Creek Gardens
Lilium 'Cafe Noir'
Hosta 'Mike Shadrack'
Dark-leafed peach adds an exotic touch
Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
It was a treat to see both gardens: such different reflections of the gardeners themselves. But both gardens emphasized how different the gardening climate in western New York is from my own in Washington, DC. It made me cringe to see hostas growing in mid-day sun that would scorch the same plants in my own garden in a matter of minutes. The Buffalo area is deservedly famous for its snowy winters but it seems to be a well-kept secret that it has a magnificent climate for gardening, something I took for granted while growing up and never really appreciated until I left. The winters may be long and cold, but the summers are very pleasant and it's comfortable to sit outdoors on all but the very hottest days. Delphiniums, tuberous begonias, nasturtiums, and fuchsias all grow well. I think I miss the fuchsias most of all; they just don't hold up in mid-Atlantic heat and humidity. Even the "heat tolerant" triphylla hybrids don't look their best during DC summers.
As the hosts showed me around their gardens I was also reminded that, almost without exception, I've found my fellow gardeners to be warm, welcoming, and generous. But I came away with a question: what should I call my own garden?