Garden Diary - September 2010

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Saturday, 11 September 2010
Open Days - the Sternlieb 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.

Morning was a meeting of the Watnong chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society. Convivial time with lecture and refreshments and chatting with friends. Noon, and Sid, Ilona, and I meet up in the parking lot, pile into his car and set off for the first garden, that of George Sternlieb in Short Hills. There are sunny areas, and shady portions. Plants in pots, in raised beds, in the ground. Climbers swarm up bamboo teepee-trellis, connected at the top - one to another - with horizontal crosspiece. Japanese maples, roses, clematis, dahlias, hostas, annuals, tender bulbs for summer interest, an eclectic collection of a diversity of plants.

At the edge of the driveway, before even reaching the garden proper
we see a tangle of blue Lyme grass, Leymus arenarius. A gleefully
spreading grass with glaucous blue foliage, George confessed to spraying
Roundup at the the perimeter of the clump each spring as growth begins.
Just keeps things under control, and certainly doesn't seem to wipe it out.

A marvellous meadow-like tangle of Joe Pye weed, Eupatorium purpureum, towards the back
and vivid spires of tall, wine-red spikes of Amaranthus towering amidst the luxurious growth.

China asters, Callistephus chinensis

a dahlia, smoldering red like the embers of a blacksmith's forge

romantic pink rose, glowing in the sunlight

There are some sturdy adjuncts to the garden, that belie the pedestrian aspects of concrete. If you are
thinking of sidewalks and boxy office building, take a look at this marvellous birdbath. Sturdy, attractive -
just needs some water to have the feathered contingent splashing about. Empty, it becomes sculptural.

Perhaps you'd prefer this pedestal and urn, perfect for a monnestary garden.

Or this deeply etched urn with a surface that invites shadow play.

The garden is, alas, only open until 2:00 p.m. And we have two more to visit
this afternoon. I cannot depart without admiring this superb pot filled with
Eucomis pole-evansii. I need to ask George what regimen he uses to care
for it - superb scarcely does it justice. Maybe I can come visit another time . . .

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