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Report From An Opinionated Gardener – December 1

There are many reasons that I love being a member of The Garden Writers Association, but among them is the opportunity to visit other gardens. Every year the GWA has an annual symposium in a different area of the country, and the attendees visit local public and private gardens as part of the conference.

Occasionally I “revisit” these gardens by going through the photographs taken. (Needless to say, this is a lot easier now that my pictures are in digital format and I’m not paging through slides.) It’s helpful, I think, to look at other gardens from the viewpoint of, “What is this landscape saying to me? What does it have to teach me today?”

This evening I went through photographs taken when the GWA meeting was on Long Island. One of the places we visited was Madoo, the garden designed by artist Robert Dash.

Here’s what the photos of this garden say to me:

  1. A combination of formal plantings or maintenance (sheared shrubs) and wild, letting plants do their thing is visually pleasing.
  2. When there’s a great deal of green foliage, color added on buildings, structures and furniture adds much needed spice.
  3. Layering plants is nice: the Clematis growing over the hedge, for example. My gardens at Poison Ivy Acres are fairly new, so I’m still planting the bones and haven’t gotten to layering yet. But Madoo reminds me to put that in the back of my mind and plan for places to do this.
  4. It’s possible to balance playfulness and classic good design. I personally don’t want a yard filled with lots of ornaments or garden junk, although when others do this I usually find their gardens appealing. Right now my gardens are fairly unadorned, but I might want to add some whimsy at some point. Dash’s garden reminds me that this is possible without looking “gooped up”, for lack of a better term.

It’s good to move away from business as usual once in awhile, and take a look at how others do things.

If you're in New York and haven't been to Madoo, go.

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