Peg Bier’s woodland garden of discovery: Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling

Near Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, during the recent D.C.-area Garden Bloggers Fling, we toured the garden of Peg Bier, who’s been designing and experimenting with plants here for 40 years.

Peg’s charming yellow house comes into view at the end of a well-screened driveway. Plenty of sun gives her the right conditions for a flowery cottage garden on a small slope leading down to the lawn.

I love her “chemical-free lawn” spangled with clover blossoms.

At the back corner of the house, this surprising sight greets you: a sunken garden with timber-framed retaining walls and terraced planting beds. If I recall correctly, this accesses a walk-out basement, and what a pleasant view it must make from indoors. It was all very nicely done.

A geometric cut-stone path takes you, slowly, past cobalt pots of angel wing begonias and lush ferns…

…toward a deck where a rusty Japanese maple echoes those red begonia blooms.

The deck seats a table for 10 (wow!), with room to spare for a pair of cushioned armchairs.

A cooling, white-and-cream container combo

From cool to hot! Peg amps up the heat and drama with containers of angel wing begonias and big-leaved tropicals, accented with red ceramic spheres, at the entrance to a woodland patio away from the house.

What a show-stopping display.

The red patio, as I think of it, is set for company with a mix of red Adirondacks and robin’s-egg-blue metal bistro chairs and a table. Widely spaced stones in gravel segue…

…into a tightly fitted stone patio.

From the shady seating area you look out on a defined, oval lawn.

I love spheres of all kinds in a garden, and this mossy concrete orb immediately caught my eye.

Even better, here’s a triangular wedge of dwarf mondo grass accented with several spheres, which acts as a subtle divider and focal point where multiple pathways come together.

Peg’s garden has a primordial feeling, with sky-scraping trees and lush undergrowth and old stumps that look like fairy haunts.

It’s an expressive place, and surprisingly colorful despite the deep shade thanks to flowering begonias and color-echoing pots and garden art.

Up next: The Southern Gothic garden of designer Jeff Minnich. For a look back at the gardens along the National Mall, including the Smithsonian Gardens and U.S. Botanic Garden, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Como Park Conservatory and Japanese Garden: Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling

In the South we don’t have many conservatories, probably because our winters aren’t particularly bleak or cold. But I’ve visited a few on my travels to northern states, and on day three of the Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling, I got to see another one at Como Park in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Como Park’s 100-year-old glass house is flanked outside by a long, mirror-like, elevated pond bejeweled with water lilies.

A sunken garden fills one wing of the conservatory, with a rill-like pond running down the center and flowering plants on each side.

Photo by Diane McGann

Our group of approximately 60 garden bloggers posed here for the official group photo. I don’t know if it was planned, but a naked woman streaked into the photo with us and then struck a demure pose. Hah! See her?

After the photo, we had only a few minutes to see the garden before it was time to get back on the bus, and I made a beeline for the Japanese Garden. Along the way, I paused to admire several bonsai, including this large eastern white cedar, displayed on a patio.

Jack pine ‘Uncle Fogey’ bonsai

Ponderosa pine too

In the garden itself, their life-size counterparts add height, soft texture, and a sense of age to boulder-edged islands in a koi-filled pond.

A zig-zag bridge of stone planks crosses the pond.

A roofed gate with lattice-style bamboo fencing leads to (I assume) a teahouse. According to Como Park’s website, the Japanese garden’s design was a gift from the people of Nagasaki to the people of its sister city, St. Paul.

What a lovely gift!

Up next: The elegant Tudor-house garden of Marge Hols. For a look back at a streamside garden inspired by Walden, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Rock Rose garden abloom before the hailstorm

Two weeks ago my friend Jenny Stocker, blogger at Rock Rose and gardener extraordinaire, offered me a division of a water iris for my pond. When I arrived, mid-morning on a sunny, warm day, Jenny gave me a tour and then kindly set me loose to wander around on my own and take photos.

I’ve photographed Jenny’s England-meets-Texas garden on several occasions (links at the end), and I never tire of it. Her talent with design — although she’ll swear that everything just self-seeds, and she’s had little to do with it — means there are focal points and framed views galore, making her garden not only beautiful to explore in person but very photogenic.

When Jenny leads visitors around her garden, she always starts in the front courtyard and works her way around the side of the house, through the rose garden, and into the sunken garden pictured here. Stepping into the riotously blooming garden of native and cottage wildflowers induces oohs and ahhs, especially in springtime.

I’m going to give you the tour in reverse order, partly for a change of pace but also as a tribute. You see, Jenny’s garden was slammed by a hailstorm 5 days after I visited. The hail, which merely pockmarked my agaves in northwest Austin, unleashed its fury on southwest Austin and pounded flat her tender annuals, vegetables, and succulents. It broke glass ornaments and shredded the new, green leaves from the live oaks, strewing them across the ground like confetti. The sunken garden was especially hard hit.

A week later, she’s philosophical about the damage, knowing the shrubs, roses, and trees will rebound quickly, already seeing new growth on perennials, and hopeful that plenty of dormant wildflower seeds remain in the soil to emerge next spring. After all, her plants are Texas tough, and the natives especially are adapted to these destructive weather events.

It was painful to hear of her losses, and I’ve held off on posting these pre-hail pictures, worried they wouldn’t bring her any pleasure. But at a blogger get-together last Saturday, she assured me that she was fine and encouraged me to post. So here they are, with a reminder to enjoy moments of beauty whenever you see them.

The potager, abloom with Verbena bonariensis, poppies, and bluebonnets

The verbena seemed to be poking its flowery head above the wall separating the potager from the sunken garden for a better view.

I love this vignette of agaves clustered in a shallow, square planter atop a sturdy pedestal, with Mexican feathergrass and salvia billowing around.

Along one tan stucco wall, pine cones are strung on a wire for a casual, charming decoration.

Jenny has a flair for potted arrangements. Doesn’t the succulent in the center look like a miniature saguaro?

Austin is famous for its bat colony, and every Austin garden should have a few as well.

The spiniest plants have the most glorious flowers.

The view across the sunken garden. A doorway in a monumental wall frames the view…

…of a rose garden laid out in a circular design.

Round pavers lead around the central, circular bed of roses and bluebonnets.

I spotted an anole hunting amid the foliage, and he boldly posed for a photo.

Moving around the side of the house, you enter a small, walled garden of evergreen shrubs and vines. A pair of green umbrellas provides shade.

A handsome, silver dyckia shines against a backdrop of fig ivy.

Jenny has many unique pieces of garden art, including this circular ceramic hanging on a wooden gate.

On the door into her walled front courtyard, a rat-tail cactus (I think) cascades from a wall planter.

A variegated Agave desmettiana adds a sculptural accent by the door. Jenny moves these beautiful but tender agaves into the garage in winter.

Stepping through the doorway you see a large potted aloe and contemporary wall art.

A substantial arbor shades the garden entrance…

…but the garden itself basks in sunshine. Gravel mulch offers the perfect habitat for a carpet of bluebonnets in springtime.

A Lady Banks rose smothers the wall at left, while on the right, like an island amid a sea of flowers, an umbrella shelters a table for two.

A millstone-style fountain bubbles quietly nearby, offering an invitation to birds and other garden creatures. Lapped by pastel river rock, a lovely ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave lifts its arms toward the sun.

Welcoming visitors at the front door, a yellow star jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) wafts its sweet fragrance into the house.

I smiled to see this bobble-handed Queen Elizabeth waving benignly in the breeze — a nod to Jenny’s English heritage?

My thanks to Jenny for sharing her garden with me again, and for the water iris, which bloomed for me the very next day. As for the hail, I hope she’s already seeing nature’s quick recovery underway in her garden.

For more posts about Jenny’s garden:
Jenny Stocker’s English Texas gravel garden
Feeding the soul in Jenny’s garden
Jenny’s flower-licious walled garden
Meeting Carol & a tour of Jenny Stocker’s garden

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.