Garden Diary - September 2010

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Saturday, 11 September 2010
Open Days - the Mountsier Garden

Open Days. It's a program organized by The Garden Conservancy that opens the garden gates of hundreds of private gardens across the United States. Not all on the same day, or even the same month, but scattered across the seasons from early April to October's end. I crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania's Buck County on two days in May 2009. This year I remained in the Garden State, spending a wonderful September afternoon visiting three gardens in the company of two friends.

Having visited the Sternlieb garden off we go to Nutley for two more, conveniently located across the street from one another.

Silas Mountsier loves his garden, no question. First his parents, now his, adjacent neighbors bought out when they wanted to move so it grew from less than an acre to quadruple in size. Eighteen years in the making, its design geometry of turf grass terraces whose square and rectangular shapes contrast with flowing curves, and always a reliance on foliage to create richly textured patterns. Leaves in shades of green and colors other than green create the tapestry and also serve as background to nearly 180 outdoor works of art from small to massive, representational to abstract, stone to metal to natural materials. It is a stroll garden with superb options for entertaining, and one that offers some visual treat as reward for following a path, turning a corner, exploring an 8-foot high tower platform that rises from a skirting grove of clipped hornbeams to provide an overview.

Some gardens are self-conscious, preening themselves on the rarity of their plants.
Not so here. This simple combination of river birches and bold leaved green hosta
dappled in the shadow play of a sunny afternoon creates a restful, pleasing, ambience.

There are numerous tropical plants in this garden, such as these Canna 'Pretoria'
with gold striped leaves, encircled by a quoit of closely clipped boxwood. Simple. Elegant.

Caladiums are also popular, as above with a mass planting of red freckled 'Gingerland'
and below, looks like 'Florida Sweetheart' but it was not labeled so cannot say for certain.


A well grown Furcraea foetida 'Mediopicta'. It seems that this
is becoming more and more popular as I'm seeing them in many gardens.

A wonderfully attractive assemblage of a weathered wooden sphere, appearing shattered, hollowed,
and hatching a water-worn wishing stone, as we always called a rock with a vein of milky white quartz.

This is my summer for chickens. There were real chicken at the
4-H Fair in August, a visit to Chanticleer in May and now this
verdigris quartet of plump fowl keeping their beady eyes on things.

Other pieces of outdoor art in the garden are abstract, such as
these sleek, saillike shapes catching not the wind but instead
holding light and shadow in white marble hollows and swellings,
contrasting with the huge glossy black elephant ear leaves of
Colocasia esculenta 'Diamond Head'.

"Elephant ears" is tacked on as a common name to several genera.
Colocasia, in the previous image, have downward pointing leaves while
this boldly sized Alocasia. portora 'Portodora' has upward thrusting leaves.

A garden filled with earthly delights. Follow down the garden path. A pivotal turn takes the visitor
down the path with a jinking shift, through hedges clipped into green walls, simple in concept.
They screen the view, lest all be revealed, and focus attention to each garden "room's" display.

We've circumnavigated the garden, from streetside to the far back.
Zigzag from side to side, up the viewing platform for an overview.
I know there are things unseen - plants overlooked, sculptures
tucked away, buried treasures as bulbs underground dream away
the year until Spring. But this is only my first visit. Perhaps another
time I'll see again what was admired today, finding new delights. And
as we three depart sunlight illuminates bold foliage, art in the garden.

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