The Animals and Garden Amenities of Plantsman David Culp

David Culp with co-author Adam Levine and photographer Rob Cardillo

Not long ago I confessed that I was scheming to see David Culp’s Pennsylvania garden, made glorious in his book The Layered Garden.  And yesterday that blogger pushiness paid off when I attended his book (re)launch in the very same garden, which did not disappoint.

David’s makes his living as a plantsman, especially in the world of perennials, but he also designs gardens for folks.  To me that explains the presence of so many nonplant elements in his garden – he knows that a plants-only garden misses the boat.  And his garden is missing nothing.


As David told his guests, a garden’s primary feature is the house it surrounds.  His was built in 1790.  Here’s the front door, with the well on the left.



Seating made of old (or at least old-looking) wood is everywhere.





David protected this lichen-covered old bench from actual butts sitting on it, telling us it’s the garden’s oldest seating and that if Chanticleer ran rope off a bench, so can he.


Above, the vegetable garden has more seating, and interesting stuff.


Here the amenities are an old stone wall (now covered with plants) and concrete troughs.  This is the “ruin garden” shown off with much better photos in the book.  (Speaking of the photos, I asked Rob how many times he’d come to the garden to photograph it for the book.  He said the original plan was to include four trips but somehow that turned into 32.  Fortunately, he lives just an hour away.)


Fire features, now hyped as the new big thing in gardens, don’t have to cost a fortune.


Just a simple empty pot makes the plants around stand out.  Love that exfoliating bark!


Domesticated animals here include dwarf Bantam chickens, the dwarfness of which is best illustrated below.


David and Mike have two bulldogs, at least one cat (that I noticed) and at least one canary.   The garden would also have regular deer visitors if they didn’t spray the perimeter of the two-acre garden every week during the season and monthly in the winter.


I have just one question about the plants in the garden:  How the hell do you get a Corydalis to grow on the side of a tree?

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Susan Harris

Susan’s a garden writer, teacher and activist in the Washington, D.C. area. Co-founder of GardenRant, she also wrote for national gardening magazines and independent garden centers before retiring in 2014. Now she has time for these projects:

  • Founding and now managing the pro-science educational nonprofit GOOD GARDENING VIDEOS that finds and promotes the best videos on YouTube for teaching people to garden.
  • Creating and managing DC GARDENS, the nonprofit campaign to promote the public gardens of the Washington, D.C. area, and gardening by locals.
  • Creating and editing the community website GREENBELT ONLINE to serve her adopted hometown of Greenbelt, Maryland (a “New Deal Utopia” founded in 1937).

Contact Susan via email or by leaving a comment here.

Photo by Stephen Brown.


  1. I have the book, and have read, and re-read it multiple times already. What a fabulous garden. But I really like the pictures you have here, sometimes the pictures in the book are so well edited that I had problems getting a “bigger” picture idea of the lay of the land. Like the front door, and the side door.

    I wish I could have a tour.

  2. Fabulous, beautiful garden! Thanks for sharing.

    I have 2 questions:

    What is David spraying weekly that effectively keeps deer away?

    What does he do to prepare the garden for winter, specifically with all the potted plants (does he have a greenhouse on site)? I’m thinking a Pennsylvania winter could be pretty cold.

  3. What a perfect garden and I love that you loved the STUFF. Stuff can be a no no to some of the more snobish garden writers out there.
    Do they ever open the garden?

    • Well, for me it depends on what kind of stuff. I love David’s taste, though – in everything, as far as I noticed in his garden and inside his home, too. Good-looking stuff adds so much to a garden. Nothing but plants would look more like a plant museum than a people-enticing garden.

  4. There has to be a green house for all those potted plants. I have 8 and that is too many for this climate without a greenhouse. I’m not overly fond of watering them in season either. That is a whole other level of gardening dedication.

  5. Fun post. Makes me want to get back to see the garden. My, oh my… I love David’s book, too. It’s got loads of stuff. It’s design savvy and plant geeky. Not a bit of fluff.

  6. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an really long
    comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Regardless, just wanted to say great blog!

  7. This, in my mind, is the perfect garden. I had the same question as the earlier commenter but don’t see an answer here. What does he spray the perimeter of his property with that keeps away (or at least reduces) the deer? The deer population in my yard is eating plants and leaving deer ticks at an alarming rate and if there’s a way to combat that that I haven’t tried, I’d love to know about it.

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