For those of you in the general vicinity of Rhode Island--or for those of you looking for a terrific excuse for a field trip--the garden belonging to Mikel Folcarelli and John Gwynne will be open to visitors for three days this summer: June 2nd and 3rd, and then again on June 9th. And for those of you who cannot possibly be there, I've gone on a field trip.

That's John, above, weeding next to a gaudy Dicentra "Gold Hearts" in the "yellow room", which has a gently curvaceous beauty in spite of being hot, hot, hot. And Mikel has done the impossible: sheared a hedge 8 feet tall but only 1 foot thick. He's been working on this one for 25 years.

Sakonnet Garden on West Main, in Little Compton, Rhode Island, is one of my favorite places. It has an eccentric charm--made up of equal parts classical beauty and innovative plantings. I love gardens that are a deeply personal expression of vision. (About that soft yellow rhody, John says "George Woodard's new yellow hybrid is getting lots of raves.")

This is a new feature: the Gothic woodpile made of recycled pine logs (they spark too much to burn well in the fireplace.) Love the crimson camellia.

I visited the garden in mid-May, which by chance was the most glorious spring display the gardeners had ever seen. Then again, they'd been working full tilt all of April in preparation for their "Open Days", and that long, mild winter was gentle on tender plants. John:"Our 'orange garden' is a corner of the garden with soft tan, peach and salmony rhododendrons in May and orange Alstroemerias in July. We'd never seen one of the fancy 'new Heucheras' used as ground cover, but Heuchera 'Caramel' seems to work--now we need to find some more." They tend to corner the market on certain plants...

Mikel is the family editor. John: "Mikel loves to prune and regularly attacks our Heptacodium tree to create a piece of sculpture, rather than a medium-sized tree. A mid-20th century discovery native to China, this tree has wonderful pale bark. Here we see the tree's inner bark healing over a pruning cut, hopefully starting to create an interesting sculptural scar."

Trees play an important role in this garden, and guarantee year round beauty. These are the flowers of a Dovetree, named after a famed French explorer in China, Father David. John: "The little balls are clusters of its flowers while the white "handkerchiefs" or "doves" are really bracts, modified leaves. Although they take years to bloom, Dovetrees are a too-rarely-seen garden classic." Those bracts, by the way, get larger and larger before they flutter to the ground, until they really do look like large handkerchiefs. There is a stunning Dovetree at the Pepsico garden.

John: "We are proud of this rhody that we raised from seed. One of its parents is a big-leafed Asian plant called R. macabeanum."

I've been watching this part of the garden take hold for several years now.
The weeping "blackish beeches", according to John, (because, after all, this is the black border, so those copper beeches will simply have to trend black) are finally covering all the way round the metal hoops.  Of course plants are never black unless they are dead. Those you can see in my garden. The challenge is to find the darkest shades, and to plant them in ways that bring out their depth of color.

Gardeners will always tell you that you should have seen the garden last week, or you should see it next week. (What wonderful texture on that clump of Rodgersia--that will still be there, but the blossoms won't be raining into the water.) I can promise you that any day in this garden is a treat, no matter what is going on. And something is always going on.

For an additional treat, Page Dickey will be at the garden on June 2 to sign her book, Embroidered Ground: Revisiting the Garden. It is one of my favorite garden books, about Duck Hill, her place in Westchester. And it is also about making room for new love, and honoring aging backs--though if I had had half Page's energy at half her age, I would consider myself lucky indeed. 


Elizabeth said...

My husband and I have recently had to remove several 80 ft pine trees from our back yard due to the beetles. Could you please tell me where you found that wonderful gate for the garden log wall? That is such a fabulous idea. Thank you- Elizabeth

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