We had the opportunity last year to meet an extraordinary group of conifer specialists and professional arborists: Ridge Goodwin of Ridge Goodwin & Associates and Martin Brooks of Rare Plant Nursery, as well as the team of Fred and Cheryl Vieth of Creative Essentials. Cheryl and Fred collaborated with Ridge and Marty on all aspects of Fordhook’s new conifer collection. Grace Romero helped as our Chief Horticulturist and most seasoned gardener. She has been working on the Heronswood collections for over 10 years. Everything came together well, from selection to design to blending with the sculpture. Although we do not sell most of the following rare trees, we are able to recommend local folks in your area. Please contact us.
Fordhook Farm has an unusual history that I try to express with these conifers, if only subconsciously. They represent the spirits of the great Burpee cultivars that were bred or discovered in the same spot—the meadow and lawn—where the new trees have been planted. The adjoining horizontal spaces seem a bit like a grand piazza, punctuated by the Field Oak.
‘Big Boy’, the world’s most popular tomato, was bred on this ground. ‘Golden Bantam’, the world’s first yellow sweet corn, was discovered here, as was ‘Iceberg’ lettuce, the world’s first Crisphead type. ‘Iceberg’ not only put the “L” in the BLT, but also spawned the modern lettuce industry. All salad bars can trace their origin to its introduction in 1894. The world’s first bush lima bean, ‘Fordhook’, enabled folks for the first time to grow beans without staking them. Today these innovations may sound trivial. In the late 19th & early 20th century, they were astonishing. Dairy and meat products were relatively luxurious, odd as that may sound. People survived mainly on grains and vegetables.
As a tribute to these and many other iconic Burpee varieties discovered on the property, I wanted an extraordinary conifer collection. From the otherworldly strangeness of the Picea, with its variously shaped needles, to the bizarre yet poignant quality of the Tsuga, I got what I wanted. The “Goodwin, Brooks and Veith” team gave me a dazzling array of choices. Here are just a few.
Between the entrance road (the exit on our formal Open Days—next one August 19 and 20) and the fenced-in Kitchen Garden is a wide patch of lawn. Here is the back of Steve Tobin’s “Sunflower” with two new trees, Picea pungens ‘Walnut Glen’, and Picea pungens ‘Glauca Pendula’. Behind the greenhouse is a tall White Pine.
Around the wooden fenced Kitchen Garden are Picea pungens ‘Glauca Pendula’ in front of Coreopsis triperis with a Cedrus atlantica in the background.
Sunflower sculpture in the background now, face forward, with Picea pungens ‘Glauca Pendula’ and Picea pungens ‘Walnut Glen’.
Between the greenhouse and our old “Catch-All” house is the charming Picea abies ‘Pendula’, a remarkably handsome tree. Everyone loves its strong character.
Another angle on the Kitchen Garden reveals the new Cedrus libani ‘Stenocoma’.
A bird’s eye view of my sentimental grove of youthful oaks—willow, white and red. Fifteen in all. They fill the lawn just south of the Carriage House, off the circular driveway. In twenty years they will create a heavily shaded grove, similar to the ones I grew up with. The conifers are Pinus bungeana ‘Rowe Arboretum’, Chamaecyperis obtusa ‘Nana Lutea’, and Chamaecyperis obtusa ‘Meroke Twin’.
Mary Kliwinksi took this and the previous shot from the belfry of the Seed House. Note the new roof that—alas—replaced the wonderful blue slate that was falling apart. The chimney vents an old pot-bellied stove that still works.
Belfry arch with bell bottom and clapper. Southern portion of meadow shows some of the parking lot as well as the new conifers of various shapes and sizes. Most were planted last fall, a few this past March and April depending on the weather. And the majestic Field Oak. In the woods is a tall (70 ft.) hillock that used to be more visible.
Still from the belfry, now Picea engelmannii ‘Hoodie’, Abies nordmaniana, Picea abies ‘Mucronata’, and Cryptomeria japonica ‘Sekkan Sugi’ are visible with Tobin’s “Sprouts” in the center.
A closer, tighter view shows Abies nordmaniana bottom left, Cryptomeria japonica ‘Sekkan Sugi’, bottom right, Picea abies ‘Mucronata’, upper left behind the Field Oak, a few Cedrus deodora along the back are visible, and a Pinus parviflora ‘Glauca Nana’ is at upper right.
A wider view of same. At left you see Pinus densiflora ‘Soft Green’which will expand up and out its lovely spherical shape.
Whew! Back on the ground, specifically off the southeast margin of the new parking lot. At left is Thuja plicata ‘Excelsa’, in distant center are Pinus parviflora ‘Glauca’, Abies nordmanniana, and Pinus strobes ‘Macopin’, while at right is Pseudotsuga menziesii ‘Graceful Grace’.
To the left of the entrance road, across it from the Sunflower, is Tobin’s “Wreath”. It’s about 7 ft. in diameter, made of the stubby iron paddles that stirred small batches of molten steel. All several hundred or so are each welded together, making them appear unusually organic. It is part of Tobin’s “New Nature” period of the early 90’s. Behind is the new deep shade garden that we have had a bit of trouble keeping dry.
Just next to “Wreath” is this handsome new Picea orientalis on the right, planted last fall. Far left distant is another Tobin, one of my favorites from the late 1980s. It resembles a dry seed head that is slowly exploding, something like milkweed does.
Near where we started, a view of the Sunflower from the border of the new deep shade garden. Note the entrance road. Picea pungens ‘Walnut Glen’ again on the left. What makes this shot special to me is the outline of the new Cryptomeria japonica ‘Black Dragon’ on the near right in the deep shade.
Views of the promenade of the deep shade garden, showing the new trees Betula nigra ‘Dura Heat’ and Betula nigra ‘Heritage’.
Another view of the open and nicely spaced main path on the other side of the deep shade garden. Here, again, are Betula nigra ‘Dura Heat’ and Betula nigra ‘Heritage’.
So, this is the upper part of Fordhook Farm: a mix of Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and the Pacific Northwest. Close-ups soon in a “Part Three” blog.
Thank you for taking this tour.