The property sits on acreage overlooking the Tennessee River and the
foothills of the Appalachian mountains, the apotheosis of a bucolic
landscape. The borrowed landscape is one of indigenous trees,
including deciduous and evergreens.
My client and I are in our third year of collaboration on the
property. We created a loggia garden, a formal space, with a garden
pavilion on axis to the entrance from the motor court. The clipped
boxwood balls and soothing green palette create a restful, almost
ceremonial, atmosphere. Four large trimmed hollies are surrounded by
clipped golden boxwood, and in those beds are the only color which
appears in this garden.
Then we added a pergola where I created the sort of juxtaposition
for which I am known, a rustic pergola full of vines and herbaceous
plants, juxtaposed with the formal lawn.
I had sent my clients to Europe to view the gardens at Hestercombe,
the brilliant work of plantswoman and designer Gertrude Jekyll and
architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. That pergola became the inspiration for
the one at Hilltop Garden, including the clairvoyette, the stacked
stone columns, the rustic beams, and the stone path. The pergola has
spring seasonal color with all shades of purple tulips mixed with
lady's mantle, followed by late spring-blooming herbaceous plants
like foxgloves and hesperis. It's planted with yellow-blooming
roses, Reve d'Or, and native purple wisteria, and clematis in shades
of lavender and purple.
The full effect of all this purple and gold is enhanced with Aster
carolinianus, a climbing aster which tends to want to grow almost as
a ground cover. I trained them up the columns so each column is
completely enclosed with lavender flowers to go along with the fall
color scheme, something I had never seen done.
This is so important, understanding the use of plant material as an
element in design.
Our next garden project was to develop a garden on the outside of
the pergola with the view overlooking the rivers and the Appalachian
foothills. Stone retaining walls and step embrace a late-blooming
garden that pulls one out to the fall color seen across the horizon.
Plantings include Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Ryan's Yellow', mixed
with Salvia leucantha, Solidago 'Fireworks', and Aster oblongifolius
A note about these plants. Goodness Grows here in Georgia lists
Chrysanthemum x morifolium 'Ryan's Yellow' as "another of Ryan
Gainey's valuable discoveries". This is an old single-flowering
chrysanthemum, probably once forced in the days when forced
chrysanthemums didn't mean big helmets of flowers available any day
of the year at your local grocery store. They were hothouse plants
which got planted out into somebody's yard, and which still exist in
a lot of old gardens. All I did was put it back out into full view.
Aster oblongifolius 'Rachel Jackson' is a special selection from the
garden of Rachel Jackson at the Hermitage in Tennessee. I found this
plant when visiting there about 30 years ago. The garden there is
one of the earliest Southern gardens to be preserved, and in
wandering the grounds and keeping my eyes open, I thought, "What is
this?" It was the latest blooming aster I'd ever seen, with
beautiful bluish-purple flowers and a habit of naturally tumbling. I
lingered behind the group I was with. There was a wizened old man
propping himself up on a hoe nearby. When everybody moved out of eye
and ear sight, I said, "Can I have some of that?" He replied, "There
ain't nobody here but us," and that's how I got mine. And again, now
it's back in the trade and available to all.
Expanding the pergola garden allowed us to expand the garden out
into the landscape with an aerial hedge on a stick, modeled after
the one at Dumbarton Oaks even to the use of plant material,
Carpinus caroliniana. The hedge serves as a colonnade, complementing
the shape of the walls. The retaining wall was faced with stucco to
match the walls of the house, and has been planted with climbing
hydrangeas for beautiful fall color, and a combination of Hydrangea
paniculata 'Limelight', Hydrangea quercifolia, and Hydrangea
arborescens 'Ryan Gainey'. When you promenade through this arcade,
taking in the views and the vista, and with all those
white-flowering hydrangeas at your feet, you will have the illusion
that you're walking on the top of clouds as you overlook the
borrowed landscape of the Tennessee river.
In completing this garden we added a focal point. I decided it would
be a great opportunity to combine patterns, and so I installed a
hexagonal carved limestone font, inside a hexagonal clipped hedge,
but with an interior round hedge to echo the round pattern of stone
on which the font sits. Again, rather than have the font sit in an
exposed basin of water, I chose to have the water flow out of the
font onto a pattern of stone and filter through before recirculating.
The interior of the round portion of the clipped hedge is planted in
forget-me-nots and pink flowered lily-flowered tulips, and in the
space between the round and the hexagonal hedges are planted Rosa
'White Pet' and Digatalis purpurea alba.