Much of the winter months are spent trolling the web, looking for new and exciting plants to carry at LittleTree. Greed is definitely a factor – what new and interesting plant can I grow in my own garden? – but there are also a handful of gardening friends who immediately come to mind during these late night excursions!
I recently had the opportunity to visit the gardens of Sheila Gamble, who is one of the first names to come to mind when I think of when I start compiling my ‘Must Have’ lists every winter. I met Sheila the year I started at LittleTree and now four years later we make a formidable duo when it comes to seeking out the new, the rare and the unusual. A wonderful Chionanthus virginicus was laden with its trademark spray of heavily perfumed flowers earlier in the year! What a divine fragrance to greet one as they walk out the front door!
This container planting’s urn is an antique dating back to the 1800’s and weighs enough that ‘three adult men are needed to move it!’ Sheila admonishes that container plantings are an essential element when dealing with a property the size of hers – an acre and a half. She proudly spoke of the year one of her containers won a contest in Fine Gardening magazine, though in recent years she has joined me on the other side of the ocean with Gardens Illustrated. You might also notice an absence of flowers: ‘ I recently read the book, ‘Gardening for a Lifetime’ and am at that stage where its more about trees and shrubs than annuals and flowering perennials, though you will still find examples of all of them scattered throughout the property. I am just preparing myself for the inevitable.
A delightfully shaded pocket border to the left of the drive is home to ferns, Hosta, Dicentra and the first of what ended up being more than I have ever seen in one place – that being Daphne mezereum, also known as ‘winter’ or ‘February’ daphne. I remember being pleasantly surprised this past Spring, when checking on some of the early growth along the Walk of Hidden Treasures, I discovered that a gifting of this same plant from Sheila the Fall before was in full bloom!
My cheeks positively flushed crimson when she complimented me on my plant hunting skills: ‘You are so far ahead of most gardeners. I was recently at the Rosedale Garden Tour and was surprised to see two of my newest treasures growing in one of the gardens!’ Acer palmatum ‘Ukigumo’ and our beloved Acer campestre ‘Carnival'.’ Like myself, she goes for the rare and unusual, considering their cost only as an after-thought: ‘Jock looks over the Visa statement and can always tell when I’ve come to visit you at LittleTree!’ Our combined bills would tell a familiar tale Sheila!
I was thrilled to note that her Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’ remained virtually unscathed from the recent drought and high humidity. This was another of this year’s special new additions! Perfectly positioned with only dappled morning sun, its fabulous fanned foliage glows throughout the day!
One could not help but notice the very large reel attached to the side of the garage that housed what turned out to be three hundred feet of watering hose. Its purpose will become abundantly clear as the tour progresses!
The front of the property is both wide and quite long! I could never imagine traipsing back and forth with a watering can, especially with the weather we have endured this year! Hence the astronomically long hose which is attached to a complex series of pipes that draws water from the river….. which we haven’t come to yet! The plantings in a long border against the right property line are both simplistic and elegant. The repetition of Boxus forms a living edge, and the hedge of Thuja offers a perfect backdrop against which some of the more unusual specimens are allowed to shine. Persephone, weather beaten and somewhat worn from the elements offers a reminder that statuary is an important element to any garden design.
Magnolia ‘Susan’ is preparing to bloom for a second time. Earlier in the season a Clematis made its way through the branches, resulting in a shrub that actually ‘bloomed’ three times in one year! A clever trick of the trade!
Drama is the first element one notices as they pull into the drive. A large oblong shaped bed is a mass of fabulously chartreuse and burgundy – a colour combination that one cannot ignore, no matter how hard they might try. Golden Lysimachia creates the illusion that they ground is strewn with gold nuggets, while Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ and Cotinus coggygria add the dramatic height and structure! It truly has to be witnessed in order to fully appreciate its dramatic effect!