Thanks to a lead from a garden design ONLINE listing, I recently visited the Berkshire Botanical Garden to see their special event titled “Garden Ornament: Completing the Picture” which is running there through August 31, 2007. Located in Stockbridge, Mass this 15-acre property features 25, residential-scale gardens. Many include buildings in their design, which, as you can imagine, I find appealing. Oh, and yes, there are antique garden ornaments discreetly incorporated into the mix and available for sale. Most are so well placed that I fear once they’re removed/sold at the end of the show, the gardens will be somewhat bereft. They’ll need to title the next event the “Incomplete Picture”.
Meanwhile as a first-time visitor, I began my tour with the display gardens and found several to be compelling. The Herb Garden is tucked in behind an outbuilding and cascades down a small hill toward a shaded arbor with facing benches. Stepping stones weave in and around the intimate space that was originally created 70 years ago.
From there I diverted into the formal perennial gardens which feature an impressive 6-foot by 18-foot rusted, wrought iron aviary from 1920 as part of the ornament show. In the distance I caught sight of the vibrant Daylily Border
and headed that way on the path that eventually leads to a variety of gardens that seemed a bit marooned within the property. They were little islands of rock gardens, hosta plantings, and primroses. The Pond
Garden is better situated off in a corner. Its dense, water-thirsty plantings seemed to attract the biggest crowd, though a good view of the water, thick with water lilies, is hard to attain with such dense perimeter growth.
It wasn’t until I had traveled full circle that I realized I’d nearly missed one of the better gardens, the Proctor Garden, near the entrance along the side of one of the houses on the property. A large circular, antique, cast iron planter
(part of the show) brims with sedum in the center of this mixed border garden that’s nestled between the edge of the property and the colonial dwelling. The planting area along the house is sculpted by a rambling, dry-laid stone wall, while the opposite garden border has a softer, planted edge, as if the garden is intentionally more loosely defined as it moves away from the building. Another garden, the Herb Production Garden, wraps behind the house, where herbs are grown for items sold in the gift shop. Don’t miss these when you go.
The best, of course, came last. The Children’s Garden
and related structures are right off the parking lot, which I had mistakenly decided upon arrival probably meant that they weren’t the highlight. They are. In fact, if you’re pressed for time, start there. You needn’t be a child or with children to enjoy this little treasure garden and the delightful buildings that surround it.
It’s designed as a learning garden with small marvels packed into a tight space. Right at the entry there’s a clever “green roof” miniature display on a mailbox. Inside the space you’ll find a water garden in a bathtub, a petite wire-domed arbor structure that I heard one little girl refer to as an igloo, and other small-scale diversions to tempt the curious. Then a real treat lies ahead, the School House.
It’s an inspired structure that blurs inside and outside as only the best outbuildings can. It’s furnished with picnic tables and covered with a glass-like roof on an open-framed structure. The walls are a combination of twig lattice, vertical planking, and open air between posts. It’s heavenly. The rear wood plank wall is stacked
high with pots and plants, making a living enclosure. If this is really a school space, sign me up. A green house, another attached outbuilding, and a vegetable garden round-out the learning area.
If you explore the Berkshire Botanical Garden during the ornament show, you’ll find much to admire, but if you can’t get there in time, never fear. Even if an “Incomplete Picture”, I’m sure it will still enchant.
by Katie Hutchison for the House Enthusiast
To visit go to the Berkshire Botanical Garden website.