Adding Seasonal Interest to Older Gardens
Maintaining continued interest in a mature garden can be a difficult task, and one that requires evoking new ideas of being creative. Last year I visited Chanticleer, one of the most creative and spellbinding gardens in the country. Inspired and talented staff are constantly implementing new ideas and networking with other gardens.
At Sleepy Cat Farm, we achieve this by adding new plants, removing weak or invasive plants, while at the same time layering seasons of interest through plantings of bulbs, perennials, ground covers and shrubs. Our priority is always to consider using natives and plants not previously represented in our collections. Next is to do the latter while marrying new concepts with the overall design of the property. Charles Stick, our Landscape architect and Fred Landman, the property owner, maintain constant contact in this regard.
Visitors to Sleepy Cat Farm are always amazed at the quality of the hardscape (kudos to Mauro Fidaleo and company) when they visit. Because the gardens are relatively mature, there may not be room or proper conditions for adding additional new plant material. There is however, room for complimentary additions such as pots, garden statuary, and furniture to create additional interest.
This winter, two of our full-time garden staff, Felipe Aparicio and Jose Reyes, created a spectacular garden “railway” framing a little-used rough stone path that spans a stream bed. Mr. Landman’s excursion to the Himalayas inspired the installation of two bright red prayer wheel structures to complement an existing long red metal archway. The adjacent pathway edges were underplanted with Himalayan Maidenhair ferns, Hosta “Fragrant Blue”, and Chionodoxa luciliae. Viburnum carlesii was added behind, fronting the formerly forgotten path. As the idea came together, it was as if we had reclaimed an entirely new garden area. Existing and new Viburnums are being pruned this Winter to allow more light to penetrate the understory and rejuvenate older existing Viburnum plicatum. Ground cover understory of Korean Wax flower, Kirengeshoma palmata was planted beneath and in between Viburnums. This will bloom in late Summer to Fall, providing much needed nectar for pollinators during the driest time of year.
Felipe and Jose harvested locally sourced green bamboo in 10-15 foot lengths and created a curved railing which serves to accentuate the walkway while also holding back the arching stems of lacecap Hydrangeas and Sasa veitchii ground cover. The artistic flow of the railway, threading through the new plantings, leads one to the Japanese Iris garden, which had been replanted the previous Spring with a succession of new varieties of Iris ensata, and Hosta plantaginea “Royal Standard”.
Currently, we are continuing the restoration of our wetland area by replanting improved varieties of Cornus sanguinea (Red Twig Dogwood) and Ilex verticillata, the Swamp Holly, whose red berries will extend interest well into Winter.