Dark-fantasy woodland, Asian teahouse and more at Bedrock Gardens, part 2

In my last post I introduced you to Bedrock Gardens, created by Jill Nooney and Bob Munger in Lee, New Hampshire, on a former dairy farm. It’s a place of thoughtful design, beautiful views, eye-catching plant combinations, and fanciful found-object sculpture created by Jill.

Continuing our tour, let’s pause to admire one of Jill’s sculptures, a sinuous, plant-like, blue base cradling a glass globe.

Hex Rock (at left) terminates a long axis view, and when you arrive you see, tucked under the trees, a large stone spiral set in moss. Behind it, a curving line of spinning roof ventilators atop culvert pipes seems to rise from the ground.

I use culvert pipes as vertical planters in my own garden, so I delighted to see them turned into art in Jill’s.

The Spiral Garden looks out on an allee of newly planted Chinese fringetree (Chionanthus retusus). The fringetrees have replaced a mature allee of Korean mountain ash, which Jill cut down when she learned it was invasive. A torii gate in the center draws the eye and invites you in.

Looking left, back toward the espaliered apple fence and arborvitae hedge, you see GrassAcre coming into late-summer glory. Little bluestem, switchgrass, and hakone grass create a soft, abstract picture, with the sculpture SyncoPeaks as focal point.

Looking right, another axis view opens up, leading the eye to the Baxis, a tall pergola in the shape of a double triangle. Stumpy remnants of the destroyed Korean mountain ash trees seem to scuttle like Thing toward this new destination.

Looking back toward the torii gate as the setting sun bathes the garden in golden light

Nearing the Baxis, with tall grasses and pines framing the view

This is a monumental arbor. A few benches offer a place to rest and enjoy the view.

But you might want to watch your back because from here things begin to get a little spooky. This gazebo-like sculpture with bones hanging in the middle sets the tone as you enter a shadowy wood.

Mosquitoes began to harry us as the sun dipped to the horizon, and we saw monster-sized representations as well.

Hurry, before they get us!

Tree men appear. Is that what I think it is?

Jill confirmed that it was. They seem to be having a Bacchanalian orgy with other trees.

Then again, maybe it’s just an arboreal nudist camp.

Stump creatures watch with sinister intent. I was starting to feel like I’d stepped into another world, a Pan’s Labyrinth.

As I emerged from the woods, I wanted to warn this charming metal family — Papa in a beret, Mama in earmuffs — not to go in there. But then again I’d just walked through with my own kids, and we thought it was a hoot.

Sun-like sculptures echo the setting sun behind the pines.

After the eerie Dark Woods, a clearing appears. A mirror-like pond reflects the surrounding trees and is bridged on one end with an elevated walkway reminiscent of a Japanese moon bridge. A red bench in the center overlooks the pond.

Framing the bridge and bench are tall stumps of trees that have been cut off at about 12 feet. I don’t recall what Jill told me about these trees, but I like how she uses everything that happens in her garden, even the tragic things (like the removal of the invasive mountain-ash allee), to create art.

Another peaceful pond-viewing spot

I felt a sense of urgency at this point, as the sun was rapidly sinking, to see everything, so I hurried along the path toward a large metal arch — a sculpture of 3 acrobats leaping across the path.

The acrobats usher you into an Asian-style garden containing a small pond and a teahouse just large enough for a bed. Jill says she and Bob sometimes enjoy sleeping in the garden.

A birch arrow on the ground gleams in the fading light, pointing the way to…what?

I followed.

Steps lead past waterfall-like ledge stone carpeted in pine needles.

As I reached the top I looked up and gasped: a “halo” floats high above a columnar stone sculpted on all sides with serenely smiling faces.

This sculpture is from Cambodia, Jill told me. She and Bob enjoy traveling around the world to visit gardens, and perhaps they bought this home from one of their trips.

The sculpture sits in center of a knoll behind the teahouse, and the halo above creates a tension, a feeling of energy, here.

But Jill’s sense of humor is evident here as well.

The teahouse has a marvelous swoopy, arched roof.

Heading back toward the main gardens, I passed this tall stone table set in a gravel circle: a mushroom in a fairy circle?

A tall, metal arch marks entry into Conetown, a pinetum of about 50 dwarf and standard conifers.

The gateway arch is charming in its own right.

Conifers of all shapes and colors surround a central lawn…

…with variegated grasses, silvery shrubs, and other plants adding different textures to the scene.

Now we’re approaching the back of CopTop, the covered patio that overlooks the Wiggle Waggle, an undulating rill we explored in part 1 of this tour.

Seats made of old farm equipment swivel to take in views in all directions.

The views are excellent indeed: meadowy GrassAcre, the Wiggle Waggle, Conetown, and more.


A closer look

To the left of CopTop and Conetown, an undulating hedge has echoes of Piet Oudolf.

Ahead, the Wiggle Waggle

Here’s the pergola we spotted in part 1, which I promised I’d show you later. Jill calls it the Landing, and it sits amid a rock garden planted on the slope that leads back up to the barn and house.

Horse-head sculptures created by Jill riff on the neighboring horse pasture.

The pergola has a fine view of the Wiggle Waggle, CopTop, and GrassAcre, with more farm-detritus swivel seating.

In the last light of evening I popped up to the garden around the house and barn, which sit close to the road in the style of most hundred-year-old homes.

On a ledge outcropping lurks…

…a hungry praying mantis made by Jill.

A tiny dancer twirls nearby, her pointed toe an old syrup tap for maple trees.

Birdhouses made of old sap buckets (I think)

A gazebo or arbor made of culvert-pipe columns and glass-globe finials adds permanent color to the garden, which I’m sure is welcome during New Hampshire’s long winters.

This piece looks sort of tribal to me, but its parts are all about farm life.

Jill’s stash of materials and a few works in progress are tucked off to the side of the driveway. I wonder what this is — a Willy Wonka candy-making contraption?

I admired a rainbow assortment of her tuteurs.

Jill and Bob, who at ages 65 and 71 still do all their own maintenance, have begun thinking how they might ensure the garden’s preservation when they’re no longer physically able to take care of it. They founded Friends of Bedrock Gardens as a tax-exempt charity and hope to raise funds that will allow them eventually to convert Bedrock into a public garden, cultural center, and horticultural sanctuary amid the rapid suburbanization of southern New Hampshire. The couple are generous with their garden, opening it monthly for public tours and hosting numerous events and classes. Click here for more information about visiting the garden.

Huge thanks to Jill and Bob for sharing their incredibly creative garden with me and my family. What a treat to be wowed for two solid hours of strolling and exploring. It was a highlight of our New Hampshire vacation.

If you missed part 1 of my tour of Bedrock Gardens, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

My article about garden art is in Garden Design magazine

Placing art in the garden is, well, an art in itself, as I learned when visiting Bedrock Gardens in New Hampshire this summer. I wrote about the garden and its art for an online piece in Garden Design, called “Placing Art in the Garden”. Whether you’re a confirmed lover of garden art or unsure about it, I hope you’ll check it out. Click here for my article.

Update: If you’d like to see more of this garden, click here for part 1 of my tour of Bedrock Gardens.

By the way, if you don’t already know, Garden Design is back, after going out of business in 2013, with a revamped website and a quarterly “bookazine”-style magazine that’s completely ad-free and subscriber based. A higher subscription price frees the magazine from chasing diminishing advertising dollars and covers four 132-page issues per year. The second issue is coming out soon. I’ve been checking my mailbox every day. If you’re interested you can subscribe here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Slow evolution of a side garden

Here’s why, years ago, I started taking pictures of my yard, despite the likelihood of looking cuckoo to the neighbors while snapping away at stretches of lawn or barely there, newly planted beds: it’s fun to go back later and see how things have changed. Changes need not include high-dollar hardscaping or significant replanting in order to be appreciated either. Just seeing how much your trees have grown can be eye-opening. Through regular photo-taking you can study a moment frozen in time, and then skip ahead to the next year — so different from the day-to-day experience of a garden’s infinitesimal growth or even the slow creep of seasonal change.

I dug up old pictures of my front side yard this morning, the last area of my garden that’s been converted from lawn. Here’s how it started: a big swath of St. Augustine grass from the back yard all the way up to the street. At this point I’d already added the curbside garden along the street; this is a winter view after its first season, I think. Not too much going on.

In January 2012 I hired a landscaper to lay a decomposed-granite path that runs from the back gate (our vantage point) uphill toward the street, where it makes a Y. To the right it runs to the street between my yard and my neighbor’s; to the left it follows the curve of the curbside garden and leads to the driveway. This stretch is 4 feet wide. I’d have preferred 5 feet of width, but I was trying to minimize any damage to live oak roots in this narrow space between my yard and my neighbor’s. (The path widens to a generous 5 feet behind the curbside bed.)

I used economical steel landscape edging to keep the gravel in place and grass out. Stone would been preferable, but my budget ruled that out. Two shallow limestone steps help tame the slope and slow water runoff during our Texas thunderstorms. I’ve never had any wash-out of gravel on this path.

A year later, in March 2013, I was ready to dig out the remaining grass and plant. In the skinny strip along the right side of the path, I initially hoped to establish a spaced out hedge of ‘Will Fleming’ yaupons to screen the neighbor’s driveway and provide a sense of enclosure. To save money, I filled the remaining space with divisions from existing plants, mostly dappled-shade-tolerant grasses for low maintenance and good deer resistance: inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), variegated miscanthus (that straw-colored lump to the right of the live oak in the foreground), and bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa).

And here it is as of this morning. The grasses are filling in vigorously, and I’ve recently added Aztec grass to brighten the narrow strip at right. But the biggest change is, obviously, the lattice fence, which I had constructed in May. The ‘Will Fleming’ yaupons, much as I love them, just weren’t going to provide the enclosure and screening I wanted for a few years, and I continually worried that the deer would antler them to pieces in autumn.

So I sprung for the fence and am so glad I did. It instantly created an intimate garden space in an otherwise throwaway part of the yard, and yet it’s friendly, not standoffish, with breeze- and light-admitting, 5-inch-square lattice openings. Live oaks arch over this space — as they do all of my garden — and create a leafy ceiling. At the Y in the path ahead, a possumhaw holly (Ilex decidua) is slowly growing and will one day be a graceful, red-berried focal point as you walk up the path.

Turning around, here’s the Heart Gate to the back garden, offering a peek-a-boo view of a Yucca rostrata, with a higher view of ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress visible through the arbor. I think I may paint the water-stained fence boards on this side of the gate. What color, do you think? Could I get away with not painting the lattice above, half of which is buried under a butterfly vine? I think I also need to elevate the silver pot of Nolina lindheimeri with a couple of concrete squares, and maybe add another pot.

All in good time. This side garden has been evolving at a Darwinian pace for 5 years. Still, one day I’m sure I’ll look back at these pictures and think, Now why didn’t I get around to [pick a project] sooner?

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.