Sunday, July 15, 2012

Garden Walks: Ripon Twilight Garden Walk and Waushara Master Gardeners Walk

One well-grown specimen can make a garden. The bark on this clump birch certainly adds that over the top feeling to a garden. This bark was on a birch. I hesitate to identify it as 'Whitespire' simply because their were too many wonderful cinnamon shades to its peeling bark which reminded me of a black river birch, yet it was too white. There are a lot of birch hybrids out there. One of the predominant birch hybridizers is located in Door County Wisconsin. I know they have been crossing European, white, and river birch for over 30 years in an effort to come up with a beautiful birch which is also resistant to pest and disease, primarily the bronze birch borer. I have a 'Crimson Frost' birch which I hope will develop this type of bark as it matures. Mine has deep burgundy leaves, the color of which it retains even in this summer's heat.

I have to hand out the kudos to anyone with the gumption to put their garden on display on a garden walk. When I lived in Illinois, a garden on display could expect 3,000 to 4,000 visitors. I am sure there have been walks where there have been even more.

Talking to the gardeners afterward, has always given me a healthy spot of respect for any garden displayed for the masses anywhere. They have talked about having to replace sod, re-lay pavers, prized plants destroyed or picked. I have personally seen bored teenagers dragged by their parents through the gardens with flowers from that garden stuck in their hair. Unfortunately, I have even heard of small statuary or garden features being stolen.

So like I said, I respect these gardeners a lot. It takes a special sort of courage to put your garden on display in the middle of a drought which has been accompanied by 95-plus degree days, and I'm not talking about one or two, but a string of a couple weeks of them.

So one of my goals this summer has been to visit as many gardens as possible. Saturday I managed eleven. Five out of five in Waushara County in the walk put on by the Waushara Master Gardeners (my home county) and six of eight on display on the Ripon Twilight Garden Walk.

First, I'll give you a little background on each of these walks. The Ripon Twilight Garden Walk is the only walk I am aware of that takes place in the evening. This walk takes place on what is typically one of the hottest weekends here in Wisconsin. Traditionally, it was from 4:00 to 8:00 PM. Gardens were decked out in their twinkly lights, candles, torchieres, featured wine and cheese, and hey! COOKIES! (Ripon being home to the Rippin' Good Cookies-- think, those windmill cookies!) Ripon is a small very ivy league-like college town with lots of college professors living in historic homes clustered around the campus which is downtown. Harrison Ford, and not a few other Hollywood types went to school here. The Ripon walk has always had an ambiance all its own, and has always been one of my fav garden walks. (Pictures and more on this garden walk in my next post.)

The Waushara County Master Gardeners is a fairly new walk. They only do it every 2-3 years. The owner gardener is typically on hand to answer questions, and these are typically never "hire a landscaper"-type gardens. These are typically gardens of actual accredited Master Gardeners. These are the folks that answer questions on garden hotlines. If they don't know the answer to a garden question, they sure know where to go to get the answer. I have to say, though, one of the gardens which was on a golf course sure looked like the hand of a landscape designer had been at work, sometime in the garden's past.

I am not a Master Gardener. I think they are a great organization. I'm just not sure it is an organization for me, my personality, or gardening style. Because I got into gardening in a big way when I moved back to central Wisconsin from Illinois to the point I started a very small nursery business and started selling plants (which I have not really done at all this year because of teaching summer school); I am known by most of the Master Gardeners in Waushara County, even if I don't "know" them.

So I guess it didn't surprise me too much that these gardeners I didn't really know addressed me by name and asked me my opinion on their gardens. This is the sort of thing that can get someone like me in a lot of trouble. I pretty much call it like I see it, but at this point, in my gardening life; it is only the things outside the bell curve of gardening seen on a garden walk that really interest me.

So here goes! And, before you flame me, if you are reading about your garden, go back and read the first four paragraphs. Remember, I respect you, your nerve, and your garden, a lot. I, on the other hand, have never placed my garden on a formal walk. Some gardens either designed or planted by me have been on walks, but never my own garden. I just don't have the balls.

I have to say due to the drought and heat, there was not a garden that didn't have dead plants, shrubs with drought or heat damage, or even dead or dying tree. This is a first, but I saw the same thing on the Ripon walk. Also, a lot of them had very nice looking vegetable gardens, but again because of the heat, pollination is not happening, so I saw very little in the way of fruit or vegetables on the vine. Also, only one garden out of eleven I saw Saturday that didn't have a fully dormant lawn, and that lawn I thought was going that direction. It made me appreciate my soft green, lush lawn paths when I returned home!

The Master Gardeners must think you have not arrived unless you have a Japanese maple growing in your garden. As pricey and borderline as these are here, they all had at least one.

Other than the garden originally designed by a landscape designer, the gardens could have been improved with the use of nicely cut bed line, or well-delineated path materials, at least a couple feet wide.

Once you get past pathways, framing the shot or creating a view is something on which I think gardeners should focus. These beds were not that terribly composed, once you got past the "borrowed view". The plants tended to be well-chosen for their site, but I was totally distracted by the stuff going on in their neighbors yards, which on this particular weekend included the Blackhawk Folk Music Fest, a wedding, and an anniversary.

This gardener also over-accessorized,and without any sort of scheme or plan. Beyond that, some sort of color planning would have bee great. Part of this gardener really likes that spot of red, but the other bit of him says matchy-matchy pink and limey green because my building are cornflower blue.

The red, white, and green combo while packing a lot of punch says Christmas for me. How about you?

There were garden crafts being sold throughout this walk. I had a hard time deciding whether the ornamentation was actually planned (badly) or was on display to be sold. From birdhouse, to welded iron hangers, to wooden bird perchy and twirly beady things, I just couldn't figure it out.

I also saw some plants that I don't typically see growing in this area; climbing hydrangea, rogersia, and some really BIG hosta. I also saw a buff-colored rose with an unable to be recalled name.

Some of my favorite photos of scenes from this walk:

I would have like this sculpture/fountain if it had been placed with a nicer background.

This ceramic dish displayed as a bird bath or feeder (no water or seed) was gorgeous/. Maybe it was for the birds to only admire as well.

The gardener growing this dark sambuca confided she didn't like its growth habit unless she cut it back each spring, sacrificing its flowers.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for a really well-done review of a garden walk. I thought your assessments were on target and fair. Japanese Maples don't do much for me either. As to the unintentional Christmas color scheme, I am frequently finding after the fact that I have planted in red, white, and blue - I'm as patriotic as the next person, but I really don't want to make political statements with my flowers.

    Yesterday our garden was visited by an unusual garden tour. Instead of travelling individually, people bought tickets and travelled together by bus. This made for an easy experience. About 40 of them arrived, wandered, asked questions, and left after about thirty minutes. An enjoyable experience.