Garden Diary - June 2019

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Five Vermont Gardens:
Fiona McElwain's Garden
Tuesday, 11 June 2019

It's a full day today. So far I've visited first one garden and then another garden, had a pleasant lunch, and gave a 90 minute talk on Cottage Gardens Then and Now. Days are nice and long, now that we're edging up on the summer solstice. And the morning showers have given way to dappled sunlight. Off we go, Jill and I, to a third garden.

Let me pause a moment here and say that Jill made a superb selection of gardens. Not only are they each charming, they are each completely different from each other.

We arrive at Fiona McElwain's. Primroses, I've been told. She has primroses.

That's an understatement. She has many thousands of primroses.

When they bought the property the area was crowded with trees and had a few vernal pools. They had trees thinned out to open it up for broken light and shade, and views. There was a very small amount of digging to shape the pools. And then they went and bought 100 Primula polyanthus, candelabra primroses. Which have clearly found the site to their liking.

Vernal pools, as the name suggests, are a springtime happening. There was
only one year that Fiona can recall where some water remained into summer.
As you can imagine that was a very wet year. Because more typically they dry
out, fish cannot live here. Which makes vernal pools a preferable and safe site
where certain distinctive amphibians and insects may safely lay their eggs.

The name "candelabra" comes from the several
tiers of flowers, up to five, on the elongating stem.

The color range extends from strong red through several shades of pink to white.


And now what was once a scruffy, scrubby, uninviting area is a woodland
filled with primroses, a path circumnavigating the plants and vernal pools.

There are some iris, darmera more vigorous than I have ever seen, rodgersia.
And several kinds of ferns. So there is contrast and texture, but nothing fussy.

Why, I wondered, were there a couple of primroses in pots?
It's simple. Fiona knew I was coming, didn't have time to stop
at a garden center for annuals. But didn't want empty pots.

The paths are nearly carpeted with seedling candelabra primroses.
No guessing is involved. Clearly, we can tell - they really like it here.

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