We’re having a heat wave in Maryland. With temperatures in the 70s in February, many of us wander around delighted and frightened. For those with gardens, the temptation to get back in the dirt is strong. But will we have another frost before spring? After experiencing Japan’s gardens we’re more inspired than usual to prune this, shape that, plant those. When you look at this tree and you imagine the patience that went into forcing this pine to take that shape you remember that gardening is an exercise in restraint. Step away from the shears and wait a few weeks.
If you find yourself with a garden space that is horizontally challenged, take a tip from the Spaniards and go vertical. In countless courtyards throughout Cordoba, gardeners are not deterred by limited space. Instead they put plants in containers that climb up the walls toward the sunlight. No need to get fancy with the pots, simple terra cotta will do. Add in some blossoming flowers in coordinating colors, mix up the textures of the foliage, and just keep rising higher and higher. One more thing: consider drought-resistant plants because watering all of these regularly would be bothersome.
The first time I saw a lily pad the size of a kiddie pool was at Kew Gardens in London.
At that point we had seen many gardens around Europe, but Kew was on another level. We walked around mesmerized by the size, the artistry and the peacocks.
Earlier this year when a friend posted photos of Longwood Gardens on Instagram, I realized that we had been completely unaware of this European-like garden just a little more than 2 hours from Frederick.
I surprised my husband by taking him to Longwood as his birthday gift. I wanted to keep it a mystery, so he had never even heard of it until we turned into the parking lot and he read the sign.
I assumed Longwood would impress us, but that it would be nowhere near the scale of Kew. I was wrong.
Longwood is actually larger than Kew (although the open-to-the-public spaces are about the same acreage), and both my husband and I were shocked to realize in many ways it’s better than Kew – the meadow, the tree house, the farm house, the beer garden.
Most impressive of all, though, was the conservatory. The size alone is larger than I’ve ever experienced, and its variety of plants and displays made us want to wander for hours.
That’s when we came across the kiddie-pool-sized lily pads again. This time the lily pads were the focal point of the courtyard in the middle of the conservatory. The glass reflected the sunset and the water reflected the glass. It had a dramatic effect.
With that said, if you live in the U.K. or are traveling to London and love gardens, don’t miss Kew Gardens. However, if you live in the U.S. (especially in the mid-Atlantic region), you should make a trip to Longwood for a European experience right in your backyard.
We’ve admired that garden from the sidewalk for years. The gravel path. The iron table and chairs. The crepe myrtles. There’s no gate. Just steps leading down to a tidy garden. It appears to be part of a city administration building and so, for the first time, we entered the garden. We admired a hidden bench. We wondered where we could find similar gargoyle sculptures. Then we see the owner. At the door. Puzzled expression on her face. We apologize. Stumble up the stairs. And cannot figure out why, after 5 years, we had decided it was open to the public.