Sakonnet garden, Newport

The power of the personal

A guest post today from Ross Garden Tour leader Michael McCoy. Michael is a Melbourne-based garden designer and writer who blogs at The Gardenist. His two books, Michael McCoy’s Garden and The Gardenist are much treasured by gardeners who love his enthusiastic and exuberant prose style, his brilliant insights into why and how great gardens make us feel as they do, his encyclopedic plant knowledge, and his wonderful photography. So our treat today is an extract from a post of his that looked at a couple of very personal gardens, seen on the recent Ross Garden Tour of gardens of east cost USA. Over to Michael:

“I know I go on about this, but this latest trip to the States has cemented again that there’s nothing like a loving, hands-on garden owner to take a garden to a whole new level…. Which leads me to two stand-out gardens in New England, which stand-out largely due to this one, hard-to-pin-down characteristic of being deeply loved and nurtured by their owners.

Hollister House

The first was Hollister House in Connecticut. From the minute we walked in we could sense the difference between this and other gardens we’d seen. It’s always hard to tell what you’re reading when you get such a feeling in a garden, partly, possibly, because it’s a combination of subtleties.

Hollister House, Connecticut

There’s the spontaneous, self-sown thing going on, with Brunnera, ferns and forget-me-not in amongst the paving stones – something institutional gardens almost never allow. There’s the imperfect laying of the paving stones, which can only exist where there’s small visitor numbers and minimal danger of litigation. There’s the idiosyncratic and purely fun plant choices and combinations – the sort of stuff that committees or teams don’t achieve because they can’t justify before trying.

Hollister House, Connecticut

Committees and trusts, for all the wonderful work they do, are better at nurturing gravity than levity. Even the level changes are playful at Hollister House – the walls buckle and fold like origami around the tricky, curving contours.

Hollister House, Connecticut

The fact that we were shown around by the creator, George Schoellkopf, also made a huge difference to our connection with the garden. Having said that, I’m convinced that he’d be everywhere present and evident, even if physically absent.”

To have a look at the other garden that Michael found so strikingly personal, head over to his blog, The Gardenist. Michael will lead a tour to the Gardens of East Coast USA for Ross Garden Tours again in 2014. Stay tuned for details.

Photos: Michael McCoy


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