Garden Path

This is where you can read all about my garden. It is updated on an irregular basis but is always guaranteed to be of interest.

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Welcome to BelleWood Gardens

I gave my garden this name because it is tres belle. I'm the belle of the garden, which is woodland. I have several bells here and there, and my husband occasionally calls me a ding-a-ling because of my horticultural obsessions. A shady garden, I'd place the woodland - a mixture of tulip poplars, Northern red oaks, red maples, and dying field cedars - at about 60 or 70 years old. The site is steep enough that I doubt it was cropped or used for pasturing cows, but sheep might have been a possibility. Farmers along the road having taken up the more desirable south-facing sites, our property faces mostly north with some west in it. There is a plateau that was chopped out of the hillside to provide a place to put the house but that is the only truly level site. And when I say, "It slopes." I mean it. In snowy winter weather we park at the bottom of a long driveway and hike up to the house carrying groceries and library books, wearing cleated straps over our shoes.

My husband and I looked at more than a hundred properties over the course of 18 months before we chose this place to be our home and my garden. I first saw it in winter, with snow deep enough that a car couldn't get up the driveway. The intermittent drainage creek that runs near the northeastern property line was iced over. Something about the land spoke to me and said, "You could make a garden here." Nestled among the rolling hills and farms of western New Jersey, close to the Delaware River, almost 9 sloping, wooded acres with an intermittent stream serves as my canvas for gardening. Truthfully, it's playing in the dirt, but whatever you call it, however you look at it, I love it. BelleWood offers endless opportunities for the exercise of honest horticultural lust. I'd rather be gardening and now I always have room to add something more. The problem comes afterwards, in maintenance.

The soil is Hunterdon County clay, deer think the salad bar is great, and multiflora roses, garlic mustard, and Japanese stilt grass are constant problem weeds. My husband and I moved here in September 1995. We'd lived in the previous house for 20 years, and I had deep, well-established roots in that garden. After a summer spent moving plants and compost from Connecticut, the first 5 wardrobe cartons off the moving van held shrubs I just could not leave behind. That autumn I began planting bulbs, lots of bulbs, several thousand bulbs, in anticipation of my first spring at BelleWood. Lots of poeticus daffodils, wood hyacinths, scillas, glory of the snow - bulbs that have proven to be deer-proof, self-sufficient, and good multipliers. By autumn 2000 I believe the total is around 35,000 bulbs or more. Clearly, I'm fond of these obliging buried treasures, whose plain brown wrapper conceals such a rainbow of colors.

I prefer to work with sturdy, self-sufficient plants that, after a good start, can care for themselves. Pulmonarias, hardy geraniums, brunnera and ferns are just a few examples of the sort of herbaceous plants I like. They make good partners for the spring-flowering bulbs I keep adding year after year. By now, the blank canvas I began with resembles the garden of my dreams more and more each year as established plants self-sow and begin to provide a sense of maturity.

When I began gardening (more years ago than I'll admit to in public) more experienced gardeners were generous with their knowledge and advice. In turn, I try to give back in the form of classes I teach, books and articles I write as a way to share information. My website will have links to sites I've found both useful and interesting. There will be reviews of books for the gardener's library. And I'll mention classes and lectures I'll be doing in case you want to join me in a more personalized stroll down the garden path.

You can also make a virtual visit at my Diary to see what plant and garden events are happening at BelleWood Gardens, where I've been making garden visits, and even culinary happenings such as visits to farmers markets, local orchards, foraging for mushrooms and other wild foods. There you will also find links to BelleWood in Bloom, to see what's been flowering in my garden.

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