Monday, October 29, 2012

The view AT Federal Twist



James Golden's blog View from Federal Twist is one I've followed for years, but James has been a follower of mine for longer - he read my 1996 book The New Perennial Garden when no-one knew what a blog was.So it was with great interest I drove up last week from Philadelphia just over the Delaware into New Jersey.

I feel honored when gardeners follow my ideas and I love seeing what they do with them. The garden at Federal Twist is very much what I have in mind when I write – a journey through lots of rambunctious vegetation. Its the end of the season so the grasses dominate, miscanthus varieties especially, but some Aster tartaricus hanging on, the native asters and even ironweed having gone to seedy silhouettes. There's a big Inula which has self-sown a bit, and I can't help feeling I'm glad it doesn't with me. We are surrounded by forest: tall maple, beech and oak, and the colours are magnificent, the perfect setting for a glade of perennial seedheads.

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I wander around with James, talking about the various people in the garden world he comes across through his blog. Strong sunlight makes every shade of dead grass and perennial glow. I try to imagine it with flowers, but realize that I'm not that bothered, this late-season look is good enough for me.
These forest glade gardens are very American. So much of people's living space is carved out of forest – most of it secondary or tertiary growth after being cleared in the 19th century. Woodland here has the most remarkable powers of recovery. There are huge problems with invasive exotic species, but I can't help the feeling that if a property is abandoned, the forest will just envelop it, and eventually shade out everything that doesn't belong. Its a feeling we don't have back home. It makes Federal Twist seem very temporary, almost a gesture against the wind, which is perhaps how a garden should be.
James visits every weekend, so I should imagine maintenance is pretty light. He leaves it standing and burns it all in spring - "stand back when the Miscanthus catches fire" he warns. He's lucky he can, as fire departments can get pretty uptight about this in many areas, which is a pity as burning is such an effective and natural way of getting rid of dealing with dead herbaceous vegetation and with aggressively spreading exotics. I write this visiting another colleague, whose garden has been overrun with something he calls Chinese stilt grass, which is the most horrific spreader, shade tolerant and smothers native vegetation. I am sure burning would be the most effective way of dealing with it but he can't. I'd been to a fantastic conference earlier in the week, organized by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, where we end up listening to Neil Diboll, of prairie nursery, whose extremely lively presentations always end with praise for the burn as an essential annual maintenance tool. “There are three conditions to be met regarding my place of residence” he says, “to be able to leave my keys in the car overnight, to pee off my own deck and to burn my prairie”.
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The PHS conference is a fantastically lively event, the energy of 560 gardeners and landscape professionals is warm and positive. People are surprised when I tell them that we don't have events like this back home. There's piles of nursery catalogues to pick up and browse through, and the glories of the Scott Arboretum to explore during break-out time and afterward. Everything is very well maintained and very well labelled, it must be a wonderful place to learn about gardening.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures! Although a bit too small.... could you enlarge them? It is so interesting to see where your eyes stopped and took a pic. I hope I´ll visit James in Federal Twist some day too.
Amalia

Amalia Robredo
www.amaliarobredo.com

Layanee said...

Surely a garden to visit. Love your photos. I burn miscanthus each year and it is quite a show. I have gotten a few notes of disapproval concerning the burn. Spoilers.

Katrin said...

Thanks for this beautiful pictures of James' garden. I'm also a follower of his blog and its great to read from his garden on your blog.
Kind regards,
Katrin

Susan in the Pink Hat said...

James has a great garden. It's interesting to see it through another person's eyes, especially when those eye have been so influential on it.

Diana of Elephants Eye said...

'The forest will just envelop it, and eventually shade out everything that doesn't belong ... It makes Federal Twist seem very temporary, almost a gesture against the wind, which is perhaps how a garden should be'

Wonderful to see James' garden sparkle thru your eyes. Hoping that Frankenstorm Sandy will be gentle on Federal Twist!

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

This has been a real "Federal Twist week" - first, it was written about through Gardener's Eye's Michael Gordon, then James wrote about your visit, and now your wonderful pictures and comments about James's garden. For the moment, I'm just hoping that both James and his garden will be fine after storm Sandy...

ProfessorRoush said...

“We Americans have three inalienable rights” he says, “to carry a gun, to piss off our own decks and to burn our prairies”.

That one is entering my list of quotes to keep; I'm in full agreement.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

I have been following James's blog for ages and it's fascinating to see his garden through your eyes.

patientgardener said...

Thank you for sharing, I have followed James' blog for years. I love his garden it is so far removed from my suburban English garden. I love the why the light plays on the plants and the sense of movement in his photographs

Helen said...

Awesome view and awesome evrything about it.. The nature, the greenary, the floworld flowers.. Simply breathtaking..! Loved it..!

Gardens at Waters East said...

I just stumbled upon your blog. Went over a number of your past postings and enjoyed your travels lots. I really liked the photos you posted on this date. The Fall colors are very nice. Much like those here on the shores of Lake Michigan in USA. Jack

Christine said...

I am not into gardening but I enjoy seeing gardens and photos of nice colorful gardens, I like the Federal Twist
Thank you for sharing

allaboutsheds2012 said...

Love the pictures!!!!! I wish I had a place to relax like that in my yard, I saved the pic and plan on printing it out for my own yard. Thanks for sharing!!!