Oct 2, 201302:52 PMHomes & Gardens
All things home and garden
Four Great Gardens in Central Pa.
Ames True Temper Community Garden
Large or small, community gardens are public performance spaces using plants as their artistic medium. Many are sited on vacant land and turn out looking like the primitive drawing that kids make in pre-school. Others are different.
The Ames True Temper corporate office is situated on a rather extensive campus in Shiremanstown. Several years ago, its visionary president, Duane Greenly, pushed forward an idea of creating a rather substantial community garden space literally outside the windows of the product developers and engineers who create the extensive line of non-power tools that populate the Ames family of products.
Briefly, yours truly found himself the coordinator of the not-yet-built community asset, but through one of the few instances of good fortune in my adult life, I was able to recruit the Penn Cumberland Garden Club to take on the task.
Soil, water and some seed may be the basic building blocks of a garden, but community is what makes a garden really a place to grow.
Some 130 raised garden beds of various sizes give participants an opportunity to observe the ideas and techniques of a lot of different folks. Ample opportunities exist to start the conversation with fellow gardeners when visiting the tool shed, stocked with Ames tools, at the gazebo, centrally located for some shade time or rubbing shoulders in the field.
The garden is open daily and located on Railroad Avenue between Trindle Road and Main Street in Shiremanstown.
The Remarkable Garden of Anne Bitner
How much gardening goodness can one stuff into an area that’s too small for a decent pass with the football or even some badminton? Well, quite a lot, as Anne Bitner has demonstrated in a backyard garden than can be traversed in 30 seconds but could easily take hours to savor if visited the way the bees do.
Bitner’s garden features specimen trees and shrubs liberally accented with smaller trees, shrubs and succulents. There are (by my count) five independent water features and sitting areas; outside rooms really, from which to retire from the bigger landscape yet have a view of the whole. There’s an aesthetic landscape sensibility that is expressed with neat symmetrical rows, shrubs and trees. The fact that there is actually lawn space in this garden is yet another remarkable fact.
I dare say that almost any reader would be very happy if just one or two elements of this garden were teleported to her property. The five-plus water features here each arrest the viewer and commandeers the brain so that the water, the associated plants and hardscape become a substitute for a whole world. It’s not too different than the effect of viewing a diorama at a museum, except this time, you’re in the picture.
Less is More with Michael Lehman
It’s always hard to know if you really know the mind of your good friends. A sure way to find out is to comment critically about their aesthetic sensibility; that’s an ugly dog, those shorts look too short or your garden looks…well, you know.
Lehman is a longtime friend and the designer genius behind some of the most attractive and distinguished landscapes in our region.
The first safe thing to say about his design is that it’ll never turn into a jungle. Whereas most designers and landscapers plant for the day they hand the client the bill, Lehman takes a long view and sees plants maturing without the need for severe pruning or reduction because they’ve grown too large.
A spareness comes to mind, but not in the sense of “cheaping out.” You don’t go to an art gallery and see masterpieces bunched on top of one another. Similarly, Lehman’s designs allow, even invite the viewer, to dwell on individual plants or groupings because they have interest for their own sake.
Spare is a hard theme to sell sometimes because folks want to know what to do while their plants grow. For the space that just needs something because there’s just too much nothing, Lehman uses sculpture – metal, stone or rock mostly.
In Victorian gardens, the little angels or rabbits provide some accents. In Lehman’s designs, sculpture is bold, strong and conspicuous. The great quality about sculpture is the singular lack of pest and disease problems. It’s also a lot easier to shift around a piece of art than it is to dig out an overgrown plant you still want to save.
Finally, a water feature – in his case, a pond – ties the sitting area to further landscape, a tie and a transition. With fish, frogs, plants and dragonflies, it’s the busiest place in the design.
Less is more; I like it. What’d you think?
The Backyard of Curtis Fleck
If you didn’t see the modern house, you could easily imagine you were in a well-established, if not vintage, garden space when you’re in the Fleck’s backyard.
Well-developed trees and shrubs suggest a lot more years than the landscape’s actual age. Gardens tend to accumulate little bits of whimsy contributed by kids or guests over the years. Deployed purposely, it gives the garden the feel of a comfy chair or favorite soft shoe. It’s a great quality to have but hard to attain without putting in the time. Somehow this garden nails it.
Few homeowners turn their veggie garden into a feature in their backyard landscape. Once the digging and planting are done, most folks have little more on their minds than the first harvest. Incorporating an old-fashioned fence around the garden, for example, can turn a plot into a focal spot and look great even if your harvest isn’t.
I am not a fan of fake-stone facades or hardscaping that utilizes like-natural construction material. Sitting and walking on the natural stone slabs that work as steps down into the backyard garden, I’m reminded of fall afternoons walking the ridge at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Real stone is the real deal, and it is used with excellent effect in creating the sense of time that makes this new garden retreat feel so comfortable.