The Pinkham Garden

I mentioned in a previous post that luck seemed to be on our side for most of our trip. Before we left home, both Pam Harper and Les Parks told me that if we were coming to the Norfolk area, we should see the garden of Bill and Linda Pinkham. I planned our route loosely, giving us plenty of time,  so that we would not over extend ourselves and if anything bogged us down, we would still have extra time to accommodate the schedule. I had not included the Pinkham garden because I was afraid it would cut into our time. However, we arrived at Pam's house early and left Wednesday morning and realized that we had almost 2 full days before getting to Asheville for the Blogger's Fling. The only stop scheduled was the Lewis Ginter garden in Richmond.

I thought about Les, whose blog "A Tidewater Gardener" is one of my favorites (he is an awesome photographer!). I remembered that he worked in a nursery in Norfolk. Pam gave us the name of the nursery and said that it would be on our route to the Norfolk Botanical Garden. Now I hate to drop in on someone unexpected, especially at their work place, but that is exactly what we did. Well, it turns out Les was a super nice guy (aren't all garden bloggers nice?!) and he asked me if we were seeing the Pinkham garden. I told him that I had not contacted them and that we would probably have to miss it. Les said that the Pinkhams only lived 5 miles away and that he would call and see if we could visit (the Pinkhams used to own the nursery where Les works). Mr. Pinkham was at home and he told us to come right over. Les even accompanied us and led us there. Again, luck was with us, or perhaps it was destined that we see this garden?

It was still a bit hot but rain was threatening. Upon arriving in this garden, it is evident that there are plant collectors here and also you can see that the work of an artist is at hand. The photo above shows the first area that we explored. This was next to a greenhouse. Stepping inside the doorway, you enter a small garden room of evergreens.

Unfortunately, I have misplaced my list of the plants I wrote down so I'm sorry I cannot identify many of them. One day I'm going to learn to take photos of the plant tags and use that as a guide. I remembered this almost at the end of our tour.

The garden on the other side of the greenhouse features a beautiful Japanese maple and bromeliads.
Working our way away from the greenhouse, we come to a shady Asian inspired garden.

The pathway leads downhill and after you round this bend you can see that you are on an enormous hillside. The steep hill is plastered with beautifully arranged plants. A valley and a large lake can be seen in the distance.


I think I was dumbstruck by this garden and the plant variation. They had large collections of conifers, hydrangeas, hostas, camellias and trees but all kinds of other plants accompanied them. 

You can see the water in the distance on this shot.
I have the name of this hydrangea written down somewhere!
We made our way along the steep hillside garden which circled around to the garden directly behind the Pinkham's house. There were trial gardens here where many unique plants were being tested. I remember seeing a contorted camellia. It was amazing.

Back around to the front of the house where a circular lawn is surrounded by borders and conifer gardens.

Isn't this column fantastic?

A beautiful healthy clematis (I don't recall the name)

Believe it or not, I actually photographed the plant tag for this spectacular Japanese maple.
It is "Beni Otaki".

It turns out there is an artist at work in this garden. Bill Pinkham is a ceramic artist and he showed us some of his beautiful work which included bowls, vases, plates and faces. It was quite incredible.

The Pinkham garden was certainly a sensory overload and I'm so glad we got the chance to see it. Thanks again to Les who made the visit possible!

Our Trip Itinerary

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Gorgeous, stunning! Aren't you glad you went?

    Makes me want to switch from perennials to shrubs, trees and grasses! I'm loving those vignettes the most.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow amazing combinations
    thanks for sharing

  3. This Garden Blogger is soooooo envious! The inspiration in this garden is boundless. Thanks for allowing us to visit this beautiful spot on earth through your eyes. Can't wait for the next installment~


  4. What a beautiful garden! Lucky you that you got to visit...but, really? You met Les? I'm very jealous!

  5. Can see why you were advised to go!

  6. wow, and to think you almost missed out on this garden. Thanks for sharing the pictures, just spectacular!

  7. You bet that column is fantastic. The entire garden is fantastic. Mercy, it makes one want to start ripping and tearing and replanting. What a collection of plants. A real treat.

  8. WOW is about all I can say! He should be charging for tours! Hard to believe that is someone's backyard! Thanks for the tour-Carol

  9. Amazing! Thanks for sharing.

  10. I sure do enjoy the variety of garden tours you share Philip... this one is spectacular!!! Larry

  11. I am really glad that we were able to work this out for the two of you to see. Bill and Linda love to share their garden, which is fortunate, it is one of my favorites. The two of them are probably the biggest influence I had in developing my gardening style, and they have influenced countless others in this area as well. Perhaps their biggest contribution to local horticulture was to show local gardeners just how many different things will grow here, beyond boxwood, azaleas and holly.

  12. Wow, I just don't understand how people can find the time to keep their garden absolutely perfect!

  13. Wow! I just love the landscape of the the garden. It was really stunning! I really appreciate the details and the choice of plants. Lovely!

  14. Love it!! This is one garden I hadn't been able to visit. When the VA Master Gardeners went I couldn't go for some reason. So very glad you met up with Les and that you all got to see this garden....and then share it with us!! Love the mixed conifers.

  15. Amazing photos and breathtaking landscapes. Thanks for sharing.


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