High tea in the garden of Mike and Kathy Shadrack


Two buses carrying the garden bloggers of Buffa10 jounced slowly down a long, skinny driveway in the woods near Hamburg, New York, to deliver us to the creekside glen that is Kathy and Mike Shadrack‘s garden. A former London bobby with a sly wit, Mike has authored several books about hostas. Both he and his wife are aficionados of miniature hostas and daylilies.


Their remarkable home is built directly over a creek that tumbles down a steep hillside. I wish I had photos, but the deep, shady ravine straddled by the house was impossible to capture from the safe vantage point of the surrounding decks. Take my word for it: it was dramatic.


Kathy and Mike and several helpers welcomed us in style with a covered table laid out with dozens of pretty teacups—enough for all 75+ of us to partake of English high tea, with homemade scones, jam, and clotted cream.


This was the real deal, and oh my, was it good!


Afterward, a few bloggers took off their shoes and cooled their heels in the creek on the uphill side of the house.


Others enjoyed a bird’s-eye perch on a deck built amid the trees, overlooking the downhill side of the creek in its steep ravine.


There was no lack of space in this rural garden, with plenty of places to sit, stroll, or explore.


I found Carol of May Dreams Gardens reflected in a gazing ball.


Containers added interest and color up against the house. Notice how the area around the house is terraced with gravel, not planted with grass or foundation shrubs. In fact, the entire perimeter of the house was hardscaped with either gravel, decking, or stone, with the surrounding gardens and woods pushed a dozen or more feet outside the perimeter. It gave the house breathing room in the woodsy setting, I thought.


The Shadrack garden is a lovely space made remarkable by the natural beauty of the surrounding forest and creek. Add in the welcoming generosity of the owners, and it was a highlight of the trip.

FOLIAGE FOLLOW-UP Update: Playing catch-up after my trip caused me to forget all about Bloom Day and today’s Foliage Follow-Up. I hope you’ll still participate in the latter by showing off your July foliage in a post on your blog and linking to Digging so that I can find your leafy celebration.

All material © 2006-2010 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

27 Responses

  1. commonweeder says:

    Pam – what a great tour of this amazing garden. Just the topography was breathtaking – the ravine and daylily hill. I haven’t grown hostas because of the deer, but now I am inspired to grow some of those minis in a container, right near the house – where I also have a bit of rare shade.

    Austin isn’t very hospitable to hostas of any sort, so it was a treat to enjoy them in the Shadrack garden. —Pam

  2. Cyndy says:

    Pam, Fantabulous shots, esp the gazing May dreamer and the stream walkers. This was one of the nicest garden visits I’ve ever had, enriched by seeing it with all the wonderful garden bloggers.

    Carol and I worked on that shot—glad you enjoyed it! —Pam

  3. Darla says:

    What a beautiful area. I like the gravel around the house. You caught Carol dreamy eyed!

    Carol requested that self-portrait in the gazing globe, and I sent the image to her. You’ll likely see it on her blog one of these days. —Pam

  4. What a delightful photo essay. You captured the beauty and delights of the day.

    Thanks, Patsy. I’m sorry you couldn’t make it this year, but I’m glad you’re enjoying the virtual tour. —Pam

  5. Such cooling images—I’ll be back later this afternoon when I need a bit of shade and rippling water!
    I suspect that the gravel perimeter around the house (and this is an especially lovely interpretation) is for wildfire mitigation. Similar concepts are recommended for homes in the mountains of Colorado in order to help create a “defensible space.”
    Loving your tour re-cap, hope there’s more to come?!

    Living in a fire-prone climate, as you do, Jocelyn, I wondered if the plant-free perimeter was meant as a fire break. I don’t know if that’s an issue in lush, western New York, but either way, I thought it worked wonderfully as an intentional design feature.

    And yes, I’ll have one more post about the final day of Buffa10. —Pam

  6. It was a lovely time, and they were such gracious hosts. You captured it perfectly. I’ll try to get a FF post done sometime today.~~Dee

    I look forward to seeing your foliage picks for this month, Dee. —Pam

  7. Floridagirl says:

    Pam, this photography is absolutely stunning! Love it! I do think I have a new dream in life: to build a house over a creek. I wonder if they have glass floors inside.

    I don’t know about glass floors, but I did see a huge picture window on the lowest level that looks directly over the uphill side of the creek. I asked Kathy, the owner, what it was like to look out when the water is high, and she said it was like being part of the creek. Very cool. —Pam

  8. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I can’t imagine that many tea cups lined up. What fun. I love the shaded garden and would love to stroll through the creek.

    You’d have loved it, Lisa. The Shadracks were perfect hosts, and their garden was lovely. —Pam

  9. Nice garden, and one that does its natural setting justice!

    Exactly, David. The gardeners didn’t try to upstage the the natural beauty of their site but worked in harmony with it. —Pam

  10. Jenny says:

    Oh Pam. I am feeling really miserable that I didn’t go. Every garden you visited is so incredible. High tea-and all those cups. Earl Grey or Lady Grey? I barely use my tea cups any more. There’s a thought. I absolutely adore those planted troughs in the gravel. That just looks so English. Just a sheer delight. Thank you for the posting.

    Jenny, there were a variety of tea choices available. It was a marvelous treat to have high tea, a first for me. Please try to come to the garden blogger meet-up next year in Seattle. You’d have a great time, and it would be fun to see the sights with you. —Pam

  11. What a gorgeous garden! Your photographs express a rare point of view–we get to see a story, not just an image. It’s one of the things I like most about blog. Some days I tune in just to let my eyes rest in your pictures.

    Thank you, Kathleen! I guess I do try to tell a story with each post, but without getting too bogged down with text. I’m glad you think it works. :-) —Pam

  12. PS Those teacups are awesome. I lived in England when I was growing up. The teacup picture made me nostalgic for a real English tea.

  13. Denise says:

    Oh, to have a creek to cool summer heels. These are fabulous, Pam. I really like houses without foundation shrubs, with or without a forest behind them.

    Me too, Denise. I’m planning to put hardscaping across the front of my home one day when the budget allows some big changes. —Pam

  14. This looks like such a beautiful garden, Pam! No wonder everyone was thrilled with it, although personally I’d rather have coffee ;-]

    There are some articles out there advising that the perimeter of all houses should have decking, gravel or concrete walks so that the exterior can be worked on and maintained without wrecking the landscape… but also have heard it advised so ticks can be controlled more easily. Sure hope that wasn’t the case!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    It seems very French, I think, to have a gravel terrace buffering the space between house and garden. It’s a marvelous idea no matter which practical reason you have for doing it. —Pam

  15. Carol says:

    I really enjoyed the time we spent in the Shadrack’s garden. Such a peaceful garden. Loved the tea and scones, too, and everyone had a chance to relax and talk and point out so many little surprises there. I’ve already purchased two new mini hostas to go with the 9 I already had since I’ve been home. They are addictive little plants!

    Are they? That’s how I feel about agaves, which I know don’t move you, Carol. I’m the same way with mini hostas, I’m afraid. :-) —Pam

  16. eliz says:

    I think those are hypertufa containers, at least some of them. I actually got a lot of ideas from this country garden that may work in my city garden.

    Gee–you know, I replaced larger shrubs with smaller one and I do like it better. Maybe … no shrubs. Interesting.

    Yes, lots of good ideas to be had here. —Pam

  17. Another beautiful place. It looks nice and cool, in the midst of unusual heat up there.

    The hostas are wonderful. But, I don’t think they’d do well here in Central Texas.

    Thanks again….looking forward to more.

    Nope, no hostas for us. No giant alliums. No lilies. But that’s OK. We have our share of fabulous plants. —Pam

  18. Came here looking for foliage, but found…a creek to wade in, and other delights. You Easterners have all the fun!

    Ricki, the foliage post is a day late, but you can find it here. I’m certainly not an eastern gardener, but I was glad to visit a number of them in Buffalo. —Pam

  19. My mouth is still watering from those fabulous scones and clotted cream – what a treat! I already miss the cool, calm environment the Shadracks created around their home – a wonderful place to relax and share stories with new garden blogging friends.

    They had so many pleasant places to sit and relax, didn’t they? —Pam

  20. I loved that garden and being there in the woods was a relaxing time. Two cups of tea and a scone for me! What fun. I love this crowd of bloggers!!!!!!!

    CIMS, it was so great to meet you. I’m sure you got some marvelous images with that fancy camera. I need to pop over and see what you’ve posted about Buffa10. —Pam

  21. meemsnyc says:

    High tea for 75 bloggers! Amazing! What nice hosts and what a beautiful garden!

    It was a real treat, in every sense. —Pam

  22. What an incredible looking garden! I like the idea of the planting perimeter. Also makes it easier to paint and maintain the house without stepping on precious plants. We’re replacing a big window and I’m preparing to protect a small Japanese maple from the workmen. It will make their job more difficult trying to maneuver among the shrubs. FYI, my dad was born in Hamburg and I am very familiar with the town. Maybe next time I’m in the area, I can snag a tour of this garden!

    I hope you can line up a visit, Linda. The Shadracks were very welcoming, and you know they have some books about hostas that may be of interest to you too. Not so useful to those of us in hot climates, alas. —Pam

  23. Gail says:

    Mike and Kathy were charming hosts~I won’t forget their garden, the cream tea and the backwards ride up the hill very easily. gail

    Oh, that bus ride backwards up the hill was a little nerve-wracking, wasn’t it? —Pam

  24. susan harris says:

    Pam, it was great seeing you and wish we’d had time to really catch up.

    As always, your photos inspire, and teach me a thing or two (if I’d ever actually apply it). Hugs, S

    It’s always so nice to see you again, Susan. Think we’ll find time to catch up in Seattle? ;-) —Pam

  25. Wow – what a beautiful garden! And how gracious of Mike and Kathy to host all 75 of you for tea and scones!

    Yes, they were. Such a nice couple, and talented! —Pam

  26. Dear, sweet Pam! It was so good to see you again and get to spend some time with you, though it never is enough. I think I need to come to Austin. :-) Glad we could live to tell about all our adventures in Buffalo, with no thanks to the speeding red-light-runner. Thanks for helping Mom with her plants. LOL.

    Your images are absolutely stunning, but you always do have such wonderful photography skills. I wish I had your talent for it! I enjoyed getting to relive the experience that was Buffalo. It really was wonderful, wasn’t it?

    *hugs*

    It was a pleasure to spend time with you and your mom again, Kylee. Thanks for the kind words, but you’re way too modest about your own award-winning photography. Hope to see you again next year! —Pam

  27. I’m part mountain goat, so I climbed up and down to get a good view of the stream. It was so lovely there, far from noise and crowds, in such an idyllic setting.

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