Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pam Harper's Garden




One of the most thrilling events on our vacation was visiting Pam Harper's garden in Seaford, Virginia. She is an award winning garden writer, photographer, and plantswoman extraordinaire. After her arrival in the United States from England in 1968, she began gardening on two acres near the tidal creeks of Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay. She has tended that garden for more than 40 years and shared her experiences through her lectures and writings. She has authored five gardening books – The Story of a Garden (1972)Perennials: How to Select, Grow and Enjoy (1982), Designing with Perennials (1991), Color Echoes (1994)Time-Tested Plants: Thirty Years in a Four-Season Garden (2000) – and earned awards from the Garden Writers Association of America and the America Horticultural Society.



In the beginning, most all of my gardening knowledge came from books and Pam Harper's books were particularly wonderful and to this day remain ones that I turn to often. She, in turn, said she learned a great deal from Elizabeth Lawrence, whose classic book A Southern Garden  is one that influenced me as well.

One of my favorite Pam Harper books is her last one, Time-Tested Plants: Thirty Years in a Four-Season Garden (2000) in which she profiles plants that have performed well for her for the past 30 years. I can't tell you how many plants I've grown after reading about them in this book but one day I will do a blog post about that. Although her garden is quite a distance north of us, we are in the same USDA Hardiness zone - 7b. Her garden is on sandy soil that has been well ammended over the years so our soil types are quite different but her plant recommendations have performed excellently in our garden.




In addition to plant recommendations, Pam is well known for her striking combinations of textures and colors. Her photographs (she has a massive slide collection of over 40,000 images and is interesting in selling them) display irresistable palettes of colors combined with the artistry of a decorator.

We arrived late in the day (6-ish) and took an immediate tour of the garden. I took quite a few photos and took more again early the next morning. It was awesome recognizing scenes from her books and seeing them in person. Pam was such a delightful host, sharing stories with us about her gardening adventures, feeding us and sharing plants. I wish I was able to visit her garden in every season. It is very special and so fascinating.

Sorry for the photo-heavy post but I couldn't help myself!

Cercis 'Silver Cloud' (Redbud) and an unknown hydrangea that came from
a cutting at the Norfolk Botanical Garden
Cornus kousa 'Wolf's Eyes' and Rose 'Petite Pink'
Eleutherococcus sieboldianus Variegatus (Aralia) and Dryopteris erythrosora (Autumn Fern)
Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum 'Shaina') with Spirea
Schizophragma hydrangeoides 'Moonlight' (Japanese Hydrangea Vine) and Rose 'Veilchenblau'
A spectacular rose that she did not know the name of (she received it from her hairdresser)
Chrysogonum virginianum 'Green and Gold'
The conifer in the center is Picea orientalis 'Skylands'
Campanula garganica
Cedrus deodara 'Montrose Veil' and Nandina 'Harbor Dwarf'
Cornus controversa 'Variegata'
Rose 'Graham Thomas' and Huechera 'Caramel'
Acer palmatum 'Crimson Queen', Miscanthus 'Morning Light', Deutzia setchuenensis var. corymbiflora (Chinese Snow Flower), Verbena 'Snowflurry'
Michael and I loved this clematis named 'Princess Diana'. Pam said that it was a very
good performer in her garden.
Bletilla striata (Chinese Ground Orchid) - We grow this in our garden but it doesn't look this good!
Pam has many varieites of clematis in her garden and she lets them mingle into other plants. 'Princess Diana' clematis grows next to the rose 'Red Cascade'


Spigelia marilandica (Indian Pink)
Physocarpus 'Coppertina' (Ninebark) - The color was electric.
Another plant to add to my wish list!
The chartreuse plant with the purple blooms is Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate' (Golden Spiderwort) - we bought one of these at Plant Delights.

Out Trip Itinerary

17 comments:

  1. It was fun to see Mrs. Harper's garden through your eyes, and your pictures are very good. On my only visit it was so hot, and the light was very harsh making photography difficult. Pictures or not, the gardener and garden should be declared national treasures.

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  2. WOW. No wonder you were enthralled. I am just seeing the pictures. So much inspiration. Everything looks so healthy. That clematis is a jewel.

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  3. What a gorgeous garden! Textures are wonderful! I notice she uses 'Ogon' spirea a lot(I think that is what it is)-it's such a great texture creator!

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  4. What a gorgeous garden! I'm becoming very jealous of all these hostas I'm seeing.

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  5. Philip, do you know the identity of the red-orange flower/plant to the right of the path in the very first picture?

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  6. ProfessorRoush, that is Spigelia marilandica (Indian Pink). You can see a close-up photo of it toward the bottom of the post.

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  7. So glad that you had so many pictures to post! What a beautiful garden.

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  8. Beautiful! It's always exciting to see a garden in person that you've seen photos of in books. So glad you shared some of your pictures. As always, wonderful.

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  9. Wow... just spectacular... your post is like a magnificent wish list for my gardens! Larry

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  10. For some reason I hadn't had your link in my Google reader, until now. A friend (who doesn't blog) sent me the link to this posting. One of my favorite books is Time Tested Plants. She was kind enough to autograph it for us when the Master Gardeners came through on a visit. Your photos of Pam's garden are amazing! I really love her collection of hydrangeas. I had warned Les about chiggers before his visit, hope you two didn't get any bites. :-)
    You should plan on another visit -- each season is a feast for the eyes!

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  11. Janet, I love that book too. I'd love to be able to see it again and again, during the changing seasons. I didn't get bit!

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  12. Spectacular photos of her magnificent gardens! I wish I could make many of the same plants look as lush in my VA zone 7-A gardens! I would like to know her secrets and 'tricks';-)

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  13. Hello, I know it's been some years but I evidently live only a few counties from Mrs. Harper. I've just read her last book, "Time-Tested Plants" and would love to see her garden this upcoming season. Any idea how to contact her?

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    1. Please send me a note at poliver47 at gmail.com

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  14. She is a wonderful lady, though legally blind. She happens to be my neighbor!

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    1. Please tell her I said hello! You are lucky to have her as a neighbor.

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