Franklin, NY, a gathering spot for passionate cold climate gardeners: who knew? Deborah Banks, a frequent commenter on CCG, knew. She is a member of the Franklin Garden Club, and one of the organizers of a series of garden lectures held over the course of this spring. She invited me to see her garden and then attend the last lecture together. Deborah’s garden is outstanding and I want to devote a post to it, so here’s just a sample of what I saw:From Deborah’s house we drove to the village of Franklin. I loved the architecture of the old houses and was happy to see so many of them well-kept with attractive gardens. It’s really a charming village in the western Catskills region.
While Deborah was setting up for the lecture, I strolled over to Botanical Treasures, a seasonal shop selling garden related accessories. Everything there was aesthetically pleasing and appeared to be handmade. You could tell many of the items were unique. I was really drawn to a botanical print of narcissus mounted on a board. Then my attention was caught by a plump hen–very heavy, I think it was concrete–but it looked realistic in shape and proportions, not cutesy or “country,” which, if you live in the country, often comes off as condescending. I regret not taking pictures.
While I was browsing I introduced myself to the owner, Diana Hall, and she introduced me to her other customer, who turned out to be the speaker for the lecture, Steve Whitesell. Here’s his bio in the flyer for the lecture:
A landscape architect who works for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Whitesell has BFA and BLA degrees from the Rhode Island School of Design and a Master of Arts in Garden History and Landscape Studies from Bard College. He is active in several professional and amateur horticultural groups and has traveled widely in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, visiting exceptional private and public gardens.
And he reads my blog! “Oh, yes, you publish some of Brian Bixley‘s writing.” I was glad he enjoyed Brian’s writing. I handed him my card as he left to prepare for the lecture. That’s when Diana asked if she could show me her garden. Yes, please do!
Diana’s garden has strong structural elements that complement the classical lines of her beautifully renovated older home. The clipped ‘Green Mountain’ boxwood balls define some beds and provide a textural contrast in other beds.She seamlessly integrates vegetable and fruit growing into her design, so that you scarcely realize there is food growing all around you. I made my way back to the lecture site and took a seat next to Deborah. In front us were Bob and Rae Consigli. Bob is a hem nut (daylily fanatic). Deborah told them I wrote a blog about cold climate gardening and their faces lit up, so of course I gave them my card.
Sixty Unusual Plants
Steve Whitesell’s topic was Unusual Woody and Herbaceous Plants for Zone 5 Gardens. We were handed a list of sixty plants, all of which grow in Steve’s Schoharie garden. Unfortunately, most of the gardeners in the audience garden in Zone 4. I say unfortunately because Steve encouraged questions as he gave his talk, and the one he was continually peppered with was, “Does it grow in Zone 4?” Sometimes he didn’t know, but someone else in the audience did. The second most common question was, “Do deer eat it?”
And he did have a lot of unusual plants. Some of them I had never heard of before, like Peltoboykinia watanabei. Others I had heard of the genus, but didn’t realize there was a hardy species, such as Abelia mosanensis. (Abelia x grandiflora is often promoted as an alternative to forsythia, but it’s only hardy to zone 6). And then there were plants I’ve grown, but was not familiar with the cultivar he recommended, such as Cornus mas ‘Variegata’. (Wow, there’s a variegated Cornelian cherry?) You could tell by the oohs and aaahs and the continual questions that Mr. Whitesell’s talk was feeding the hunger for new plants that is never satiated in the passionate gardener.
More Passionate Cold Climate Gardeners
After the lecture, refreshments were served downstairs. Not knowing anyone, I sat down with a trio of women. Turns out they were all strangers, too, having traveled 45 minutes from Cooperstown to hear the lecture. They, too, struggled with gardening in Zone 4, and felt the talk was well worth the trip. When they heard I wrote about cold climate gardening, they wanted the url, and so I handed out my card again.
Later, Deborah introduced me to Dan Hauptfleisch. His extensive (40 flower beds and five ponds) garden was going to be on the tour the next day, and he made me sorry I was going to miss it. His poetic descriptions of the waves of bloom, mostly in blues and purples–German, Siberian, and Japanes iris, columbines, lupines, Dame’s Rocket, rhododendrons and azaleas–were so vivid I could almost see them. He knew the general area where I lived, especially the sawmill which he wished were closer, so he could obtain sawdust to mulch his blueberries with.
Here I’ve been traveling more than an hour in the opposite direction to meet with zealous gardeners in Ithaca, and Franklin is a mere 45 minutes away in the opposite direction, and really, closer to my own climate. They seemed eager to learn all they could despite the deer and the cold winters. And, as I said, Franklin itself is charming. You bet I’m going back.
Visiting For The First Time?
If this is your first visit here, I hope you avail yourself of the extensive archives. Also take a look at the Menu in the sidebar and the Top Posts and Pages. You’re sure to find something helpful.