With my apple juice and jams safely packed in the cooler I headed down Highway 128 just a few short miles to the next garden, Wildwood, on my 2016 Garden Conservancy Open Day itinerary. Even though this family home has a Highway 128 address I had to wind quite far back into the woods along a gravel road dotted with small cottages and a barn to reach it. A slight breeze ruffled the branches of the huge trees and the air was alive with bird sounds but there was not even a hint of road noise from the highway.
From the parking area the home was unassuming and almost anonymous in style. As I followed the host’s direction down a short pathway the view opened to the back of home which felt European to me with a smooth stucco exterior and robin’s egg blue shutters. Although it was past its prime bloom, a fabulous climbing rose rambled up to the second story and along the upper floor’s balcony. Taking in the long views from the home I was entranced with a tiny log cabin at the edge of a large pond, referred to by the owners as the Pond House. The main garden area to be visited was a very large walled potager which was almost invisible in its setting of redwoods and other tall evergreens but promised all manner of gardener’s delights.
Of course, there was a garden dog to greet me at the gate which was almost hidden from view by a pair beautiful fresh green yews.
In the French kitchen garden, or potager, gardeners have intermingled vegetables, fruit, flowers and herbs since medieval times. Plants are chosen for both their edible and ornamental natures and are put together in such a way that it looks beautiful while providing food for the household. The traditional potager contains symmetrical geometrical garden beds which surround a center element. Wildwood’s potager was anchored by a large peach tree pruned in a manner the homeowner observed on a trip to Japan and which allows for easy harvest of the fruit. The beds were defined by loosely clipped boxwood hedges and connected by compacted earth paths.
The surrounding 4 quadrant beds were filled with vegetables and flowers. There were at least a dozen fruit trees within the walls of the garden and additional vegetable beds surrounding the 4 quadrants, hugging the walls in areas with the most sun filled exposures. The size of the garden visitors in the picture below will give you an idea of the massive size of this enclosed garden area!
Here are two more vignettes from this all encompassing garden space, including a a shot of an very unusual variety of penstemon I covet for its unusual foliage. The homeowner could not recall the name but did tell me the mail order nursery he ordered it from so it WILL be mine soon!
I was in awe of this massive ‘nurse log’ visible in a shady back corner of the garden. A nurse log is a fallen tree which, as it decays, provides a rich, moist setting for seeds to germinate and grow. This nurse log was about 6 feet tall as it lay on its side and the garden’s back fence had been built to allow it to remain in place where it fell.
My takeaway from Wildwood? You can have it all–flowers, fruit, veggies and herbs. The traditional tenets of designing a potager can be adapted to even a very small garden space providing you with tangible rewards for your efforts.
LAST STOP: FREY GARDENS