Visiting Layanee’s ledge and garden in Rhode Island


Wherever I travel these days, I seem to know a garden blogger who lives there. That’s partly because I’ve been blogging and reading blogs for a decade and partly because I’ve gotten to know lots of bloggers in person through years of attending the annual Garden Bloggers Fling. (I just got home from the Minneapolis Fling and will have posts about it soon.)


So a couple of weeks ago, when my daughter and I flew up to Providence, Rhode Island, to visit Brown University, I was excited to realize we’d be just a 40-minute drive from blogger Layanee DeMerchant’s home. Layanee’s been blogging at Ledge & Gardens for about 10 years, and I was thrilled to finally see her garden in person. Getting to meet her adorable granddaughter, Hailey, was a bonus! The occasion called for a silly photo, although Hailey wisely remained dignified.


And then there’s Gibbs. Gibbs! The biggest loverboy of a chocolate lab you’ve ever seen. He wanted to be in our laps every time we sat down and give us hugs every time we stood up. Who could resist that face? Not me.


Although I’d read about Layanee’s garden many times on her blog, its rural location somehow caught me by surprise. Layanee and her husband — “The Equipment Manager,” as she’s dubbed him — live out in the country on a gravel lane.


Surrounded by woods, with old fieldstone walls marking the property line…


…the garden is a burst of color and texture in a large clearing around their contemporary home. The eggplant-purple of the front door is repeated in a cast-stone leaf on the wall…


…and in containers and even a bowling ball set amid lush perennials.


A fun purple trio


Daisies and variegated Japanese forest grass


Daylilies and clematis


A swimming pool sits in the center of Layanee’s lawn, but you’d never know it was there at first glance. A wire fence surrounding the pool is layered with climbing vines and flowering perennials, making a colorful long border that leads your eye to a big barn and shed.


Daylily and coreopsis


‘Lucifer’ crocosmia


Another cast-stone leaf adorns the shed wall, where pink and red hollyhocks echo the upright lines of the battens.


Tissue-soft, pink-veined petals


At each end of the pool, a half-moon gate invites you to enter with a terracotta face planter wearing a hot-pink flowery crown.


The lady on one gate…


…and the gentleman on the other.


This potted yucca surprised me! Not what I expected to see in a New England garden. It would be at home in Austin.


Delphiniums, on the other hand, are exotic to these Southern eyes.


We can both grow daylilies though.


Verbena bonariensis too, although I expect it’s an annual for Layanee.


The butterflies had found it, of course.


I haven’t yet mentioned the moths. Rhode Island had experienced an unfortunate plague of gypsy moth caterpillars in June, and Layanee’s garden was hard-hit. The caterpillars stripped the trees bare, turning a summer vista into a strange pantomime of winter when you looked up.


Not even conifers were spared. Layanee had lost a few beautiful trees and shrubs.


By the time I visited in early July, the caterpillars had become moths, and the air at ground level danced with their fluttering wings. As we walked through the garden, the moths bumped into our heads and bodies.


We snatched a few out of the air and tossed them to the goldfish in Layanee’s pond, who snapped them up. It was small revenge for all the damage they’d inflicted on her garden. But she was philosophical about the losses, and already the first glimmers of new green leaves were appearing amid the branches.


It’s a testament to the variety and lushness of her garden that, had it not been for the stripped trees, I wouldn’t even have noticed the damage. As the gardener, she could probably see nothing else.


One of the things I love about Layanee is her wry sense of humor, and even a plague of gypsy moths can’t keep her down. We enjoyed a lovely long talk under the umbrella on her patio.


And homemade refreshments too: lemon bars and lemonade. Delicious!


Thank you, Layanee, for the delightful garden visit! I loved meeting your family and Gibbs and seeing the magical place you’ve created. And it was fun to see you again the following week at the Minneapolis Fling!

Up next: The magical WaterFire festival in downtown Providence.

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.
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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.

Drinking up beauty in Chanticleer’s Teacup Garden


Eight years ago, on a family road trip through Pennsylvania, I visited Chanticleer on a lark (I was planning to see Longwood Gardens but changed my mind at the last minute), and my understanding of what a garden could be changed forever. Not merely because the garden was beautiful. Beauty is on the surface. Chanticleer enchants because it reaches out to you through humor, creativity, the slow reveal of secret spaces, and even moments of darkness. Each space seems to tell a story.

Since that 2008 visit I’ve seen a few private gardens that transported me in this way (Bella Madrona and Bedrock Gardens come to mind), but Chanticleer remains the most vivid and wonderful public garden I’ve seen.


Earlier this month, on a Philadelphia-area garden-touring trip, my friend Diana/Sharing Nature’s Garden and I saved Chanticleer for last, following visits to Winterthur and Longwood Gardens. We held off partly because I wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered, but mostly because the garden stays open late on summer Fridays, until 8:00 p.m., and I was eager to take advantage of soft evening light for photos.


But enough of all that. I know you’re here for the virtual tour, so let’s start at the entry. Chanticleer eschews the non-plant attractions of many public gardens, like a visitor’s center, gift shop, and cafe. It’s all about the plant combos and unfolding drama of the garden.


You enter on a small patio, where these tree-form yuccas make a surprising (for this area) backdrop to a bench…


…and you get your first look at the creative, organic designs of stair railings, water fountains, benches, and plant-list boxes throughout the gardens.


We entered the garden proper through the Teacup Garden, a sunny courtyard behind a house that once belonged to the Rosengarten family (the garden’s founders) but is now used for offices and classrooms. The entrance itself is understated, an open doorway in a stucco wall.


Two courtyards unfold before you. The first is quite small, enclosed by white walls and stuffed with containers filled with brick-red and hot-pink flowers.


In the middle of the space, a charcoal pot-turned-water-garden holds a floating bouquet of flowers and leaves.


Pink clematis. Golden euphorbia. I don’t know what the rest is, but so beautifully arranged!


The living clematis twines up a post nearby.


The hot color scheme echoes throughout the Teacup Garden in potted combos, cooled with contrasting silver foliage.


Colorful foliage, like that of a pink bromeliad, picks up the color scheme too.


A tile plaque greets you at the doorway to the second, larger courtyard…


…where the teacup fountain holds a reflective green pool that spills over the sides into a low basin. Surrounding it are plants in a golden, silver, purple, and olive-green color scheme…


…including the surprising punctuation of 4 small olive trees. Watch this excellent short video to hear horticulturist Dan Benarcik explain his design decisions for this space, which he changes every year. Eight years ago when I visited, it was dominated by silver agaves and palms.


Allium-bookended steps lead up…


…to a shaggy lawn where an old washtub (?) displays a brugmansia and bromeliad that continue the hot color scheme.


The meadowy lawn extends to the right, with a mown path down the center. Dark tropical planters draw the eye along the path to a flowering dogwood and a pair of orange Adirondacks.


Turning back to the house, though, let’s tour the rest of the Teacup Garden.


Vines clamber up the home, adding a sense of romance and age as potted plants crowd around doorways.


I love this combo, with orange flowers picking up the orange hues of the sedge and the terracotta.


Unique pot stands elevate a grouping of bronze dyckia.


Notice the tall chairs on the covered porch behind this container grouping?


They’re echoed on the other side of the courtyard. While these were made by Landcraft Environments, LTD, much of the garden’s furniture, bridges, railings, and other decorative yet practical objects are made by Chanticleer staff on winter break from the gardens.


From the sunny patio with the teacup fountain, you step down into a verdant shade garden, where the colors change to green and chartreuse, accented with bronze pots.


More beautiful metalwork — a stair rail resembling living plants.


A quiet bench offers shady seclusion.


Sago palm trunks were just sprouting new leaves after hibernating in the greenhouses all winter. Golden sedge and ferns brighten the ground layer.


Even the smallest details offer a fun surprise, like this tiny Japanese maple seedling tucked in a fringe of greenery.


Leaving the Teacup Garden, you pass under an enormous old shade tree, at whose feet a pretty mix of shade-lovers grows.


Let’s take that curving path…


…but first, a last look back at the house and that big old tree — one of many beautiful trees in the garden.

Up Next: The Chanticleer House Garden. For a look back at the Meadow Garden and fantasy treehouses at Longwood 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.
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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.

Read This: Hand-Built Outdoor Furniture


When the Death Star really starts blazing during the summer, we gardeners in the South and Southwest put down our shovels and trowels, do a little weeding or watering in the early morning hours, and mainly try to stay in the shade or a swimming hole until October. With planting madness on hold, you might find yourself with some extra time on your hands, so why not build a chaise longue, porch table, or planter box to enjoy in the garden?

Not handy, you say? You’re probably selling yourself short. I’m no carpenter and never took shop, but even I have built a few pieces of furniture over the years, including a potting table (still in use) and a coop-style toy cubby (now at my sister’s lake house), from simple plans found in magazines.


But forget tear-outs. A new book, Hand-Built Outdoor Furniture: 20 Step-by-Step Projects Anyone Can Build, will inspire you to break out the miter saw, drill, and sander. With an appealing mix of contemporary and traditional-style projects — you’ll find several types of chairs and tables as well as a trellis, obelisk, torchiere, birdhouse, swing, and planters — the book is clearly aimed at a female reader who may not feel at home in a workshop, and perhaps not even in the lumber aisle at Home Depot.


Connecticut-based woodworker and furniture designer Katie Jackson provides clearly worded instructions and step-by-step photos of each project, making them seem very do-able even if you don’t know a Phillips-head from a flat-head screwdriver.


The 20 projects — each one attractively photographed in a garden setting — are ordered from simplest to most complicated, so you can start small and build your confidence as you go or, if you have some experience, pick a project and jump right in. Helpfully, Jackson makes no assumptions that the reader knows how to operate the tools needed for each project, or even how to buy the materials. She devotes Part One to topics like “shopping confidently” for lumber (she confesses that she was once intimidated about going to a lumberyard alone), choosing boards, measuring for screw holes, and operating the tools.


The four projects pictured here, plus the orange chair on the book cover, are my favorites. Being a table and chair junkie, I don’t currently need any of these, but want is another matter. When I’m ready for something new, I may just dust off my saw and try my hand at one of these. Take a look and see if you aren’t inspired to build something too.

All photos by Ellen Blackmar, courtesy of Timber Press.

Disclosure: Timber Press sent me a copy of Hand-Built Outdoor Furniture for review. I reviewed it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my own personal opinion.

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.

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