Way back in ’06 I wrote about Rich People’s Gardens and defended “checkbook gardeners” who pay other people to make their landscapes look gorgeous. Better to spend their megabucks on gardens than on fast cars! I urged the wealthy to go ahead and hire the best, as long as they opened their gardens to us real gardeners occasionally. I even promised I wouldn’t ask if it was all paid for with “drug money or Enron-style accounting tricks”.
Well, I recently toured some grand gardens in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside. D.C., and must confess that uppermost in my mind all day was: Just where did these people get all this money?? I managed to refrain from actually asking them, but just barely.
Take, for example, the home shown above and in the first three photos below. In the middle of prime real estate, this property covered several acres and included not just one sprawling residence but the out-building below, which I assumed was a guest house but soon discovered is a second garage to hold the owner’s collection of race cars. Goes to show that people with enough money don’t have to choose between great gardens and fast cars at all! Silly me, thinking like the 99 percenter that I am.
But there’s more to consider in these extraordinary gardens than the vast wealth of their owners – they also have great taste! Or the good sense to choose designers with great taste. Whichever it is, their gardens, so unlike my own in scale and budget, managed to teach me some lessons in design and plant choice that I can use on my own tiny lot. Like the oakleaf hydrangeas so effectively massed in the top photo. Or the sophisticated choice of plants lining the waterfall below.
Or, in the front garden below, the no-holds-barred massings of easy perennials and the simple path of stepping stones bisecting the generously sized border. Even the porch furniture is catching my eye, as my own porch is close to completion and I’ll be shopping for furniture soon.
Next, one of my favorite scenes is this shady side yard with Mazus-lined field stones surrounded by hydrangeas and shade-loving perennials. I’ll be emulating this in my new backyard garden with its dappled sunlight.
Below you see another generous pond (also seemingly de rigeur in gardens of a certain size) but notice the line of tall grasses? They’re used to surround a large swimming pool to great effect. Nice beachy feel, and plenty of privacy, with no annoying leaf-dropping to contend with.
Another feature I admired is the stream shown below, which runs between the curbside garden and front yard of another large property that had been plagued with water problems for decades, thanks to an underground spring. Some smart designer came up with this solution to managing water that manages to be stunning too. No concrete culvert here!
More evidence that good designers are worth every dime they make? This grove of river birches and Nandinas in a bed of hostas lining the shady side of the house.
Finally, the last scene is from the garden of two expert gardeners who, though successful, probably aren’t in the 1 percent. They’re Holly Shimizu, director of the U.S. Botanic Garden and her husband, landscape designer Osamu Shimizu. Their small garden includes a moss meditation garden, a sizable bronze fountain and a fabulous assortment of interesting plants, but the highlight for me was the HUGE pond and waterfall that are seen below a large, inviting porch. No mere water feature; more like total commitment to water in this woodland setting. Who needs to fight traffic getting to the beach?
Thanks to Brookside Gardens for the fabulous tour!