For the first of two Open House weekends, we received nearly 1,200 guests over the two days, Saturday and Sunday. Much fun was had by all. In spite of forecasts, Saturday brought gorgeous late spring weather—sunny, breezy and comfortably cool. Sunday was cooler and lightly overcast, but bright enough to see the many delicate blooms, vines, leaves, sprouts, tendrils, shoots, tepals, petals, bracts, stalks . . . you get the idea.
Here is the main house, featuring a handsome verandah with a small two-tiered border garden in front. The tree at left is a huge and attractive American Linden, while the large holly at right, filthy as all get-out, is a condition without remedy. I can’t help but love it.
The Seed House was built in 1890 and used to clean, sort, grade by quality and dry down seeds of nearly 2,000 taxa for the 45 years or so that it functioned, before the first big move to California—Lompoc to be exact—before World War II. Folks always ask about the windows. They helped light penetrate the interior where the senior members of the farm staff (who had earned sit-down jobs) worked at long tables carefully sorting, cleaning and grading. Broken or aborted seeds were selected out first, for example, regardless the species. But it is complex, close-up work and, while older folks are fine at it, they might have vision problems. Also, since dry seeds are covered with flammable husks and chaff (think cotton boles), you don’t dare bring in artificial lights, even the sparky old-fashioned bulbs. So it was a uniquely designed building, constructed deliberately for a 750 acre seed farm. Now we use it for storage—too costly for tours (insurance, etc.)
Two tour groups, one clock-wise and one counterclock-wise, starting from the base of the magnificent old eastern sycamore. Also, filthy McNasty, as we say back in Chicago. My poor gutters attest to this genuinely spectacular tree’s copious and viscous debris. Alas, always the bitter with the sweet!
Yours truly praying for a large turnout. Actually, I am leading a group of about 50 visitors. We put on these events in order to make folks aware of the many possibilities of their plants in their yards by evaluating how we explore those in our dozen or so gardens. We have full shade, partial shade and full sun. Way behind me—in front of the cars—is a new sculpture called “Weeds” by Steve Tobin. New to the property is the Fagus fastigiata or European Beech, a forty year old specimen being steadied by guy-wires in the middle distance. I adore it.
Me again. Here behind me is a very nice American Beech. The “twin pines” are the customary pair of white pines planted by newlyweds. In this case it may well have been one of the founder’s two sons and his bride. Entrance tent is behind the crowd, in front of the “catch all” house. In the distance the entry driveway. Across the street is the picket fence surrounding the grounds of Delaware Valley College, founded by Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf on a suggestion from Count Leo Tolstoy, the first Jewish agriculture school in the world, circa 1896.
I am pointing to the Steve Tobin sculptures near the entrance. Note the lovely viburnum along the creek that flows under the small stone bridge where the guests are walking. Once a wooden bridge, the fire department made me rebuild it in stone to handle their massive trucks. Ashes, Maples, Beech and a Gingko in the middle distance.
I am explaining the new (2 year old) deep shade garden down in the ravine where the two small creeks on the property meet. Verticality is the feeling we lacked, so we created a forest garden—very cathedral-like.
We climb up the Great Lawn toward the main house. Some guests beat me to it. The “Burpee Army” is one plucky bunch of garden enthusiasts, I guarantee you. Note the lovely new upright beech once again, at right and behind the house. In twenty years, it will look extraordinary.
Our research director Grace Romero giving garden advice to members of her tour group. In the sloping background is the second creek, which rises to the surface at the old “ruin” of the roofless springhouse.
Grace Romero again at the Veranda Garden. Behind the creek is the cathedral-like area where I was touring my group. You cannot see it. The entire 60 acre property has over a dozen such “hidden” gardens.
Grace is always very interactive with the visitors, here at the Spring House Garden itself.
Grace walking down past the springhouse and along the creek. This time the several bridges are made of wood. Notice the Viburnum ‘Summer Snowflak’ (shrub in background), Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ (grass), ferns and daylilies and Petasites (big leaves on the left side).
Dave Smicker our head gardener gives a tour of the first “Heronswood” garden here at Fordhook. This was where we first detected a serious need for adaptation beyond the friendly confines of Kingston, Washington, a warm, wet zone 8. Now the research programs are better in four locations than in only one.
Dave Smicker and his tour group again. Note the Seed House in the background. Also, the second pair of “twin pines” on the opposite side of the Seed House. Undoubtedly, it was planted for the second son and his bride.
Product Managers Venelin Dimitrov and Chelsey Fields demonstrating bean and pea towers, as well as tomato cages. (“Cages aux foliage”!) This is in the raised bed area of our heavily fenced deer proof vegetable test garden.
Vegetable (and strawberry!) test gardens facing east.
Facing south, across the street is an old part of the legendary college—rough stone buildings that they do not know what to do with. Note the neat rows and beds. Come back! August 19, 20, 21—harvest time, plus a whole new array of summer flowers.