Garden Diary - November 2020

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Garden Portraits, Experiences of Natural Beauty

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

i'll say it again. Any day spent in a garden is better than a day spent elsewhere. There used to be so many opportunities. My own garden, of course. Friends and their gadens. Public gardens. Private gardens open to the public for a day courtesy of the Garden Conservancy's Open Days programs. As so much else in our lives, garden visits have been upended by covid-19. Public gardens are re-opening on restricted basis. The Garden Conservancy Open Days - not yet. Besides we are past spring and summer, deep into fall, and private gardens are busy with autumn cleanup and putting their gardens to bed, not welcoming enthusiastic day trippers.

Which makes "Garden Portraits, Experiences of Natural Beauty" photographed by Larry Lederman, text by Thomas Christopher, and foreword by Gregory Long, all the more welcome. It can rain, soon enough it will snow, daylight hours ever fewer. The splendid illustrations and informative text transports me to sixteen gardens in the lower Hudson Valley and southern Connecticut, with one out on Long Island in the Hamptons.

Photograph copyright Larry Lederman

Visit a garden other than your own offers a moment in time. A camera captures that instant and freezes it. What was it like another day, week, month, year? That is where Garden Portraits is special. Larry Lederman, photographer at The New York Botanical Garden, visited these sixteen gardens again and again, in different seasons and different years. His eye for patterns of nature sculpted by the garden designer who situates walkways and steps to guide the visitor among the trees and shrubs, tousled looking plantings of flowers, mirror surfaces of still water and moving water (but alas its music cannot be included in the book.)

Photograph copyright Larry Lederman
To entice you into these landscapes the book opens with four double page spreads, no text.

Look at the sinuous path at the entrance to the Merrin Garden in Courtland Manor, New York.
The masses of electric blue grape hyacinths announce that it must be spring, Pale tree trunks
rise through layers of vernal green shrubs and small trees. Three ancient mossy staddle stones
once held graneries above the ground for protection from vermin. Now, like green mushrooms,
add an artistic elemant to the living landscape. Think of the change when snow arrive in winter.

Some of the garden owners are renown for their persona - Dave Brubeck in Wilton, Connecticut, for example. Others are the perview of people with a love of gardening, space to enjoy what time and money may create. Garden designers, named, are involved. What was the starting point - a nineteenth century saltbox on a steep ridge above field and woodland in Greenwich, Connecticut for example - are described. Concept and changes are explored. There are fourteen private gardens and two public gardens.

I have had the good fortune to visit Innisfree, one of the latter, multiple times.

Though I lived in Wilton I never had the pleasure of visiting the Brubeck garden.
Which this book allows me to do, to make a virtual visit with the turn of a page.

And all the other gardens of which I had no knowledge. For example

The Beckoning Path in Armonk, New York, which deftly weaves together a twelve acre landscape of soil and stone, water and plants, to create a landscape with something of interest through the seasons. Often it is the transient flowers that receive our attention,

Photograph copyright Larry Lederman.

Here, the diverse Japanese maples ablaze autumn's fiery colors

Photograph copyright Larry Lederman
are given their due. Not just one image, but several. And text by Thomas Christopher

Photograph copyright Larry Lederman
that offers the reader of Garden Portraits an insight into the concepts and ideas that
form the foundation for a splendid garden. When we learn that Ted Nierenberg and
his wife Martha were founders of Dansk International Designs. And Jens Quistgaard,
chief designer of Dansk designed the house. The aesthetic that influences what we
might call the slow sculpture of this garden which incorporates the dimension of time.

Photograph copyright Larry Lederman
And then a moment in time when the still water of the lake mirrors clouds overhead,
a flat quicksilver surface, a burning scrim of maple leaves in autumn. How many visits
might one make and never see this magical instant. Thanks to Larry Lederman, page 52.

Here are glimpses, a picture or two of a few of the gardens to whet your interest."

Arne Glimcher is founder of Pace Gallery in New York City. His garden on Long Island

Photograph copyright Larry Lederman
offers a splendid natural setting for near monumental works of art in a setting
where art and nature compliment each other, out of a gallery's sterile confines.

Iroki, in Mount Kisco, New York, has a renown collection of Japanese maples.

Photograph copyright Larry Lederman
As well, there is an orchard of 300 fruit trees with heirloom apples, peaches, pears
and more. A diversity of berries from tiny fraises des bois to blueberries and more.
A lake filled with lotus (I wonder if the Steinhardts know lotus have culinary options.)

A woodland garden in New York's Hudson Valley has a - call it mid-life change - from formal
landscape with evergreen trees to focus on native plants grown in naturalistic communities.

Photograph copyright Larry Lederman
Native waterlilies sprawl in the shallow edges of a pond fringed with emergent plants.

Photograph copyright Larry Lederman
A woodland carpeted in spring with celandine poppies, Stylophorum diphyllum
(and no! it is not the rapacious Ranunculus ficaria.) Wonderful use of rocks,
massive ones. Water, still and moving and splashing in waterfalls. But plants,
most especially the plants, provided with the communities in which to thrive.

Each of these sixteen gardens is unique and different one from another.
Garden Portraits is a book which offers something to appeal to its readers
at every perusal, and especially to artists with the lovely and loving pictures.

Garden Portraits, Experiences of Natural Beauty
Photographed by Larry Lederman
foreword by Gregory Long
text by Thomas Christopher
published by The Monacelli Press,
an imprint of Phaidon Press, New York, New York
Hardback, $50

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

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