Honoring National Public Gardens Day – And Breaking Ground on My First Public Garden Design Project…

May 7th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

New Beginnings at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center and Marlboro College in Vermont…

LaRock Excavating at Work…

Today is National Public Gardens Day, the second annual celebration of a day set aside to honor the importance of community gardens throughout the United States. Over the past year, I have occasionally written about public gardens in New England, and my goal to visit more of them. However, there has been a research-oriented reason for these visits which, until now, I have neglected to tell you about. National Public Gardens day seemed like the right moment to let you in on a very exciting project I have been involved with over the past year. This week marks a small, but special moment in my local community, and a satisfying professional milestone in my career. On Wednesday, LaRock Excavating broke ground on my design for the new Brattleboro Museum and Art Center Garden, a small public sculpture park and landscape honoring Linda Rubinstein’s service to this landmark of creativity and culture in the heart of downtown Brattleboro, Vermont. I was recruited by Judy Freed, chair of the BMAC garden committee, for this volunteer project approximately one year ago. My role on the garden committee has involved landscape consulting, the drafting of several garden design plans, and working with contractors to secure bids and scheduling. Now, at long last, we are finally breaking ground!

Although I have created many private, residential gardens, this is my first public garden design. This is also the first time I have worked with a museum board    -and committee- on a landscaping project. The garden will be important to many people, but because it occupies a prominent location between the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center and the Brattleboro campus of Marlboro College, it has a special communal and aesthetic significance.  The garden design has also been something of a logistical challenge, as it is situated at the corner of a busy downtown traffic intersection, (a hub serving as commuter rail station, Connecticut River bridge and VT/NH, MA state-line), serving an interstate community with various cultural, educational and commerce-driven activities….

A look at the base of one seating/planting area…

Public gardens are important for many reasons of course, but two of the most significant are the valuable green space provided to the community at large and of course the environment. I will be writing more about this challenging and rewarding project over the coming weeks; covering various design aspects of the multi-use space including the display of three dimensional artwork, support of local ecosystem with native plantings, creation of inviting social areas with wireless network access, communal seating and more…

A clean, fresh canvas for the new BMAC garden serving my local community…

Some of the most beautiful public gardens in the United States, large and small, were designed and constructed by volunteers, using funds raised through grants, gifts and private donations. My favorite large-scale public gardens in the U.S. include the Arnold Arboretum in Massachusetts; Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York; Mt. Cuba Center, DelawareThe Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Arizona; and Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania. What are some of your favorite national public gardens? And, what is your favorite local, community garden. How often do you visit these special places and how do you support them?

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All Photographs this post © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All Rights Reserved.

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Finding Inspiration in Public Gardens … The Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts…

June 25th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

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Above, The Bridge of Flowers viewed from the bank of the Deerfield River.  Below, a gravel path leads through The Bridge of Flowers in June…

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Visiting public gardens has become something of a luxury for me over the past few years. I am a professional gardener and designer, and the busiest season in my line of work tends to be in the spring and early summer. Like most gardeners, any spare hours I have at this time of year tend to be spent in my own backyard. Sometime over the course of this past winter, as I was pouring over gardening books and magazines, I realized how much I miss visiting public gardens. How did I forget what a pleasure it is to take in a garden for which I am not responsible?  This year, I resolved that visits to both public and private gardens would become part of my weekly schedule. By stepping away from my own garden, and the gardens under my care, I am able to return to the places I create with fresh eyes. Whether you are just starting your first garden, or editing one you have tended for years, visiting other gardens is a great way to stir up your creativity and continue your horticultural education.

My first garden visit this spring was to  The Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. This one-of-a-kind design was conceived by Antoinette and Walter Burnham in 1929 when they envisioned a public garden crossing an abandoned, 400-foot trolley bridge built in 1908. The Shelburne Falls Woman’s Club took on the bridge of flowers project, and remains the steward of this beautiful garden to this day.  The Bridge of Flowers spans the Deerfield river and connects the towns of Buckland and Shelburne. Over 500 different varieties of annuals, perennials, shrubs, vines and trees are included in this unusual and beloved public landmark.

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This was not my first visit to this special place. I have been enjoying The Bridge of Flowers on and off since I was a little girl, and I have watched as both this garden and the village of Shelburne Falls have evolved over time. Through the years the garden has grown more beautiful and sophisticated, and yet it has never lost its calm, relaxing simplicity. The Bridge of Flowers is home to some spectacular plants; including trees, shrubs and vines. Among the stand-out woody specimens on the bridge is a cascading hemlock (tsuga canadensis, pendula), (spectacular when viewed from the Buckland side riverbank), a lovely Japanese snowbell, (styrax japonica), a pair of gnarly-trunked wisteria floribunda, a very fragrant butterfly bush, (buddleia alternifolia), an enviable climbing hydrangea,(hydrangea petiolaris), and a number of glorious rambling and climbing roses ranging in hue from red to purest white.

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buddleia-alternifolia

The mixed borders on either side of the walkway crossing The Bridge of Flowers are in continual bloom from early spring through fall. The gardens are beautifully designed and meticulously tended by a professional head gardener, assistant gardeners and volunteers. Modern additions, such as ornamental grass and exotic Asian introductions are creatively combined with old-time cottage garden favorites and ecologically minded native-plants. Shrub roses are interspersed throughout the design, adding a bit of  classic beauty and fragrance to the early summer display. On my recent visit, the beautiful David Austin rose, ‘Ambridge’, was all aglow in a luminous peachy-wash of color; it’s alluring, near-intoxicating fragrance filling the damp air and leading me down the path.

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The color harmonies and textural combinations seem particularly beautiful this year on the bridge. I admire the creativity of these gardeners, working with a limited budget raised by donations and gifts. They have created such simple, dynamic vignettes; playing with focal points of saturated color and repeating the rhythm with subtle echos running through neighboring selections. Stunning, yet un-forced combinations abound along the walkway. Golden hued petals of baptisia playing off yellow edged ornamental grass, and deep rose-traced peonies enhanced by a blooming backdrop of spirea ‘Anthony Waterer’, are some examples of their thoughtful garden design.

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As my stroll though the garden concluded on the Shelburne side of the bridge, I was pleased to discover the development of the shade garden. A wide variety of plants now thrive in the dappled light at this tree lined end of walkway. Gorgeous perennials, including many with dramatic foliage color and varied texture, create a quiet conclusion to the garden along the water’s edge. Delicate ferns, bold hosta, feathery goat’s beard, (aruncus), and shimmering, smooth leaved ginger, (asarum), are among the inspired plantings.

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The Bridge of Flowers is wonderful inspiration for gardeners of all ages. According to the website, the bridge receives over 20,000 visitors each year from all over the world. This beautiful garden will always have a special place in my heart, and clearly I am not alone in my infatuation. Although the garden is at it’s peak now, it is worth keeping in mind that come autumn, the vibrant fall foliage reflected in this river setting is truly spectacular. The village of Shelburne Falls has much to offer visitors, including natural sites, such as the glacial potholes, artisan shops and galleries, (from glass blowing and pottery to candle making), fine restaurants, bookstores, coffee shops and more. A visit to The Bridge of Flowers and the village of Shelburne Falls is a great day trip from Boston, MA, Keene NH, or Hartford, CT.  What a great place to start my summer garden tours this year!  A great, big thank you goes out  to the gardeners at the bridge and to all of the kind donors and visitors supporting The Bridge of Flowers with generous financial contributions.

For further information about The Bridge of Flowers, please visit the website HERE, and for infomation about other attractions in the village of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, visit their website HERE.

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View up the river…

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View down the path on the bridge…

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A last look at the beautiful bridge of flowers setting…

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Know of a special garden you would like to see featured on The Gardener’s Eden?

Please email your suggestion to michaela @ the gardeners eden dot com

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Article and photos copyright 2009 Michaela H.

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