Woodhull Hedge House - Defining Boundaries
by Linda Pastorino
As economical rebounds displaced the 9/11 disaster, I plotted a 380-degree design of which to date a third was enacted upon.
The cottage garden theme loomed large as non-typical and an alternative to more usual foundation plantings. This process started by laying down black plastic the season before to kill off grass. In turn it created less work for the rototiller and my husband who was all too happy to be involved in helping to create his faux “British Empire.”
After renting a back hoe and removing several thousand feet of over-grown forsythia and privet by attaching a chain and ripping out the many root clumps, we began to clear the property so the full breadth of the land, which included pine trees blocking the view from the house down to the neighbor’s property line, could be seen.
The macho man approach, absent during city life, became ever present in the spouse’s lumberjacking. His desire to earn his normal living was thrown in the pile of compost. He became so obsessed with helping me make the land take shape, he required me, by direct order, to design a fence surrounding the property, but without enough conviction to pay for it.
Timing was right for the sale of two rare tribal artifacts which allowed us a fancy, custom lattice-bordered fence which became my deer proofing. It was the best preventative investment.
As my passion took root, and my helping-hands-of-a-husband hit the road three years later, I was left as a single mom with a large house to maintain and a business to run. Looking back it was the garden’s design and creation that gave me a new sense of purpose to develope it further and be able to take on the Dragon that would appear and take aim in more recent times .
As I collected eclectically, and my business was created around my own life style, I wanted to create a collector’s garden based on a traditional design format. I planned the creation of walls from found field stone in much the same manner as 18th-century style foundations including color matching the mortar to look like it had been there for decades. As I later discovered in a 19th-century photo, a stone wall had been along the same place where I recreated it. I added pea gravel paths to hear the sound of one’s foot squeaking upon it, an idea brought back from the British Isle gardens.
As years passed, I learned that without black-out cloth below, it became a weeder’s nightmare. I created enclosed garden rooms dripping with antique roses, lavender, beds filled with rare and special mail order cultivars. I designed chinoiserie follies as gates (which were never erected due to lack of knowledgeable of carpenters in my local small, and as yet undeveloped, rural contacts). Those plans remained intentional until later when building issues on the main residence pirated a mutiny to those designs.
I became an expert in sourcing and begain ordering online, as our local nurseries had rather pedestrian offerings. Some of my first finds were Heronswood Nursery, Plant Delights and Sunny Border Nurseries. Peonies were purchased from Klehms Song Sparrow and Hollingsworth. It was Van Bourgondien for thousands of bulbs. High Country Roses , Pickering and Heirloom roses supplied my early choices. As a dealer I found it easy to go bold with large quantities but selected as a collector. I chose for color and esthetics of what I deemed as beautiful or interesting. I also found items by seeing selections in other gardens and hunting them down. Particularly during Garden Conservancy Open Day tours, which are one of my favorite forms of learning and meeting fellow plant collectors.
My original garden had approximately 250 species of old roses, 50 different climbing clematis, 300 herbacious and 150 tree peonies as well, solidly planted beds of every kind of ornamental allium, hellebores, (thanks to David Culp) and my favorite euphorbias. This practice of hoarding was simple for someone who spent her life collecting antiques and marketing to those who had a similar disease.
A fashion designer, fashioning her own color wheel or creating a dimensional room for a table display in situ, a backdrop to a fashion shoot, a cutting garden for an endless supply of arrangments to go with all those vintage recepticles, led to designing rooms around the storage of containers and plant arranging. I also added a formal vegetable garden with raised beds shaped in my daughters initials which led to my interests in ornamental potagers.
And yes, there were mistakes. As I had allowed for soil cultivation with rototilling and bringing in truck loads of mushroom compost, I over-played my hand by buying plants that required warmer zones. I pushed quite a bit by siting them by fences or foundations. In many cases it worked but wasted about 50 plants of lavender and another 50 of ‘Powis Castle’ artemesia by positioning them in lawn beds that had too rich a soil and exposed position.
When the rose garden beds and fencing were put in in 2005, I put lavender in the gravel for extra drainage and protection with the fencing. I let them bake and they thrived along with chives and other Mediterranian silver-leafed selections.
Shade gardening was expanded through love of leaf shape and variegation, something my ex-husband hated. An acquired awareness of our own local gem, Leonard J. Buck Garden, and clubs such as the Rock Garden Society greatly expanded my interest in natives.
As I had started borders akin to the Four Seasons Garden in Uk’s Midlands, it would come to pass that this next phase would not take place. Mother Nature had other plans in store, and the Dragon would rear its head upon the land.
** All photos by Linda Pastorino
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published August 13, 2016