Fall Study Day – Saturday, October 24th, 2015

Fall Study Day – Saturday, October 24th, 2015

Time: 9:30 am -3:00 pm

H.R. MacMillan Space Centre 1100 Chestnut St Vancouver

Members pre-registered $40; non-members pre-registered $45 ALL tickets at the door on day of event $45

To register for the Fall Study Day, please forward your cheque for $40 (members pre-paid), $45 (non-members and all tickets at the door), made payable to the Vancouver Hardy Plant Group, to Gillian Collins, 2154 West 37th Avenue, Vancouver BC V6M 1N8. If you are purchasing for others, please indicate their names and whether they are members or non-members. Cheques must be received by Monday, October 19th which will allow time for your name(s) to be copied onto a name tag that you will collect and wear after signing in at the pre-paid table, thus helping the committee in providing orderly access to the event. You can, if you wish, drop a cheque off at Gillian’s address above.


 Gary Smith


W. Gary Smith
W. Gary Smith

W. Gary Smith lectures frequently at horticultural societies, public gardens, and professional conferences. As part of his efforts in encouraging landscape architects to focus more on plants and horticulture, he serves on the ASLA Education Advisory Committee, and developed the Planting Design Professional Practice Network for the ASLA. Formerly an Associate Professor of Landscape Design and Construction at the University of Delaware, Smith has also served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas. During the spring term of 2012, Smith was the Nadine Carter Russell Chair in the School of Landscape Architecture at Louisiana State University.

In addition to receiving numerous project awards over recent years from the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, W. Gary Smith received the prestigious Landscape Design Award from the American Horticultural Society. His book, From Art to Landscape: Unleashing Creativity in Garden Design, received an AHS Garden Book Award. Smith was named a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2013.


Rosie Atkins

Rosie Atkins was elected to the Royal Horticultural Society Council in 2010; she is to retire at the 2015 AGM. Rosie is Chairman of the Awards Committee and a member of the Horticulture Board, the Gardens Committee, the Lindley Library and Arts Committee, and the Woody Plant Committee. She is also the Garden Advisor for RHS Garden Rosemoor and an RHS Judge.

For eight years, Rosie was Curator of Chelsea Physic Garden, London’s oldest botanic garden. She is Chairman of London Gardens Network, a member of Great Dixter Charitable Trust and Gardening for the Disabled Trust, and Patron of The Professional Gardeners’ Guild Trust Appeal, as well as The Fairbridge Society.

Rosie launched Gardens Illustrated magazine in 1992 and was awarded Editors’ Editor by the British Society of Magazine Editors in 1996. She has gardened in allotments, on roof gardens and the backyard of a London terrace.


The banner photo on this page of the Chelsea Physic Garden is courtesy of Andrew Locking of Andrew’s Walks

Evening Presentation: Andy Sturgeon, Andy Sturgeon Landscape and Garden Design – Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Evening Presentation:  Andy Sturgeon, Andy Sturgeon Landscape and Garden Design – Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Time: 7:30-9:00 pm

H.R. MacMillan Space Centre 1100 Chestnut St Vancouver




To register for this lecture please forward your cheque for $25 (members pre-paid), $30 (non-members pre-paid), (all tickets at the door – $30) made out to the Vancouver Hardy Plant Group, to Gillian Collins, 2154 West 37th Ave Vancouver BC V6M 1N8. If you are purchasing for others, please indicate their names and whether they are members or non-members.


Andy is one of the world’s leading landscape and garden designers whose contemporary gardens are widely admired for their timeless architectural qualities, innovative planting and sculptural characteristics. A multi award-winning designer, he has won six gold medals and the coveted ‘Best in Show’ at the world-renowned RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London and international accolades in Singapore, Japan and South Korea.

His commissions span the UK, Russia, Europe and the Middle East and he recently
launched Garden Design Asia based in Singapore, a landscape design service tailored to meet the needs of high-end private clients in Asia. He is a published author, journalist and broadcaster and an active commentator on the international landscape and garden design scene.

Andy was recently commissioned to design three unique roof gardens on top of London’s iconic Battersea Power Station in the biggest urban landscape in Britain. The roof gardens, which are part of the redevelopment of the 39-acre architectural landmark, will combine to create a two and half acre ‘Garden of the Elements’ referencing Fire, Water and Air, to embody the original use of the Power Station.

Here is a link to Andy’s website including his portfolio and news with details of his latest Battersea Power Station project.



The banner photo on this page is of Andy Sturgeon’s gold medal winning garden
sponsored by M&G Investments at the 2012 RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Spring Study Day 2015 – Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Spring Study Day 2015 – Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Time: 9:30am – 3pm

H.R. MacMillan Space Centre,

1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver



James Hitchmough


Professor of Horticultural Ecology
Head of Department of Landscape Architecture
University of Sheffield

Professor Hitchmough will give us two talks –


South African meadow presentation.pdf

Garden meadows presentation.pdf

(Please note these documents take a few minutes to load)

“Rethinking the use of South African Plants at 53° North”

James designs complex naturalistic herbaceous vegetation, sometimes using biogeographic ideas, i.e. north american prairie, sometimes all just mixed up, from the perspective of really knowing the plants in their wild habitats.

“One of the most interesting things I have done is to explore and rethink the flora of the coldest parts of South Africa for use in design vegetation in the UK, partly in response to climate change. I and my Phd students have been doing this now for about 12 years, all based on seed collected in the wild. We have trialled hundreds and hundreds of species for winter wetness and cold etc. and we can pretty much do this in the UK now.”

“Translating the meadow into the garden”

This talk is about James’ more general approach to using plants from around the world, and how to design and build plantings that are robust and long lived but also very diverse and visually exciting.  He will show how plants from all over the world can be used to create plant communities in gardens using photographs from his projects, including his own garden.

Details of Professor Hitchmough’s research can be found on the University of Sheffield website.

Peter Korn


Peter Korn has a large two-hectare garden located in Eskilsby, Sweden, where he is building a private botanic garden, using mostly sand and gravel. The area was covered with dense forest before he began to clear it for his garden.

“Learning from the Wild — how and why plants have adapted to specific conditions in nature”

By allowing plants in the garden to have similar growing conditions as in the wild, it can be easy to maintain functional plantings. This talk is about how and why plants have adapted to specific conditions in nature. Illustrated by a mix of photographs from nature and from Peter’s own garden; deserts, steppes, forests, alpines and a lot more.

“Sowing – a talk about seeds, from collection to propagation”

A talk about propagation from seed, mainly perennials; seed collection, cleaning and storing the seeds, seeding, seedlings, etc. Includes also finding sources for seeds and recommended seed lists.”

Peter’s book  Peter Korn’s Garden: Giving Plants What they Want was published in English in 2013.


The banner photo on this page shows a section of Professor Hitchmough’s
landscape design for the London 2012 Olympics.

Sunshine Coast Encore Tour – May 15th, 2014

Sunshine Coast Encore Tour – May 15th, 2014

Thursday May 15, 2014

This year on returning to the Sunshine Coast we want to feature the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden Society and their recently donated collection of very special rhododendrons from Alleyne and Barbara Cook’s North Vancouver garden.


Meconopsis baileyi -- my garden
Meconopsis baileyi in Bill Terry’s garden


The volunteers at the Botanical Garden will conduct garden tours for our group then after lunch we will have the opportunity to visit the private coastal gardens of three extraordinary gardeners: Bill Terry, Liz MacPhail, and Ali Thompson. Some of the Meconopsis in Bill Terry’s garden should be in bloom, including Meconopsis punicea, a rarity.


Meconopsis punicea -- my garden
Meconopsis punicea – Bill Terry’s garden










The ‘Plan for the Day’ is to catch the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale at 9:25am, drive directly to the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden (directions to be provided), tour the garden, then enjoy your picnic lunch (bring your own lunch) on the garden terrace (tea and coffee may be available for purchase) before heading out for the afternoon, visiting these three outstanding private gardens on the drive back to the ferry.

Sunshine Coast ferry schedule for May 15, 2014

By May 1 we will send out a special open garden notice on the May 15 Encore Tour with specific and descriptive information on all the gardens, i.e., transportation, directions to the botanical garden and three open gardens.



Photos on this page are courtesy of Bill Terry

Open Garden, Saturday May 10th, 2014

Open Garden, Saturday May 10th, 2014

Glen Patterson’s Rooftop Garden

Saturday May 10th, 2014 from 12:00 noon to 2:00 pm

“Glen has one of the most beautiful roof top gardens I have ever seen and we are very privileged to have the opportunity to view it. Glen had an extensive garden at his home in West Vancouver filled with many unusual and rare trees and shrubs and when he moved to his condo on Coal Harbour he brought some of them with him. He used them as the focal features for his garden and by using Tufa rock for the bones of the garden he has created a plant lovers’ dream garden. There are hundreds of cultivars and species plants throughout his 2,500 square foot garden and everywhere you look are more plant treasures to admire.” (quote from Bob, The Natural Gardener).

Photos to follow shortly





Banner photo on this page is courtesy of Bill Terry


Spring Study Day 2014

Spring Study Day 2014

SPRING STUDY DAY – Saturday February 15, 2014

Cleve West – “The Road to Chelsea”

Cleve West is a garden designer who trained with John Brooks in 1990. He took away from that experience that garden design should be an extension of the home – the transition between the garden and the house should be seamless.

But Cleve’s interest started well before the course with John Brooks. He was born in Somerset amid the most wonderful natural landscapes in Britain and feels that gardening was in his soul and just needed to be nurtured. One of his first experiences gardening was purchasing seed-potatoes for dinner from the market and when his mother pointed out the mistake he planted them and they grew. He also met a future inspiration in the garden – a tortoise . . . but more on that later.

One of his first employers was a publisher and as a result of that job he became acquainted with contemporary artists and their works. This influence will show up later in his garden designs. Cleve would have lunch with his aunt as she lived close by and he became very familiar with her garden where he felt that his interest in gardens was awakened. His aunt, when she passed away, left Cleve with an inheritance that enabled him to enroll in a design course with John Brooks.

Cleve has taken his past experiences – garden design and the use of contemporary art – and married the two together, giving his designs a fresh approach with contemporary art in classical settings of the garden.

Best in Show 2012

Turning to the Chelsea Show, we find out that Cleve has won six Gold Medals and back-to-back Best in Show 2011/2012. We also find out that the cost of a display garden can be upwards of a quarter-million pounds. The show gives designers a chance for recognition and hopefully commissions for future projects. The gardens are theatre: there is nothing realistic about the displays but the ideas created can be duplicated by the home-gardener in their own gardens.

Cleve took us through a series of digital images showing plant-selection, storing of the plants prior to the show, the space-allocation, the machinery used to manipulate the site, the mud and mayhem that is churned up and the final design. . . a perfect retreat for Cleve to get away from the Chelsea crowds for a moment of quiet time.

We are getting a clearer picture of how Cleve designs. He loves to see art in the garden. He is looking for an organic feel with stones, timber, water, etc. We were shown an image of stone-pavers that gave the illusion of them floating in water, tadpoles were added and it became a tadpole maze. We are finding out that Cleve collects ideas and these ideas are revisited again and again but always approached in a refreshing new design. He has come to the conclusion that it is all about harmony. Using materials wisely – colours, textures, e.g. yuccas with grasses. Think of the space, there is a fine balance between hard materials such as sculpture to plant materials. We were treated to a series of photos of gardens. A traditional home in Normandy where he placed a collection of very large pyramids . . . it magically worked and the client was very pleased. Cleve returns again and again to using art pieces in the garden: wonderful set of doors by Johnny Woodford and a water-feature that matched the client’s chickens, to name a couple of examples.

In one garden he was faced with the client’s leopard sculpture and how to nestle it into the design. He planted Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’. First year, it looked sparse. Second year, it looked terrific and in proportion. Third year, the grasses obliterated the sculpture. Even designers can have their “What was I thinking?” moments.

We were shown more images mixing the contemporary with the formal and it was pleasing to the eye. He experimented with open-weave balls in a field – beautiful – but then paths were mown and it became – fantastic. Taking large-scale inanimate objects into smaller garden spaces creates drama. Small gardens can handle large objects, especially if they are very tactile and textural.

Back at Chelsea, the judging of the display-gardens was becoming very stodgy and not evolving with the times, so Cleve became a RHS judge in order to sow the ideas of change. Taking the criteria from no-soil-showing to allowing hints-of-soil or even gravel to show between plants. Instead of every flower in full bloom, have flowers in bud to create anticipation of flowers to come.

Still, Chelsea is a very artificial environment with extreme waste of plant material and manpower as every project is dismantled at the end of the show. Cleve has been lucky with a few of his displays as they have been rebuilt in new locations.

In 2008 his Bupa Garden was moved to a Health Care Facility treating Parkinson’s and Alzheimer patients. A huge concrete ball was integral in this installation. During the move the strapping on the ball broke and he had visions of the ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ flash before his eyes.

We were given insight into the designer’s mind as we worked our way through the process of developing The Telegraph Garden 2011 from paper to finished garden. A quick peek at Eel Pie Island and a private garden before he told us about the Horatio Chapple project: a garden designed for the Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre with very special criteria. Patients had to be able to access the garden even if they were bedridden. The garden has been very successful and gives the patients the opportunity to come outside and enjoy the fresh air, the plantings and the views.

Next, we were treated to the development of the Brewin Dolphin Garden at Chelsea where he used formal clipped topiary and a well-head stone. He faced many challenges with this garden as he wanted the stone to be upright but a garden at Chelsea has one important criteria . . . nothing must fall on the Queen!

This was a wonderful presentation and I could go on for many more pages.

In his closing slides Cleve treated us to a preview of his display-garden for 2014. The theme is a contemporary version of the ancient Persian Paradise Gardens. Some of the hardscape pieces may be sporting a stylized tortoise . . . .

~ Colleen Martin

See some of Cleve’s work.

Richie Steffen -“Designing with Ferns for the Northwest Garden”

Richie Steffen gave a delightful and informative presentation on “Designing with Ferns for the Northwest Garden”. Richie is the Curator of the Elizabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden near Puget Sound and he runs the Great Plant Picks program which is funded and administered through the Miller Garden. He also sits as a Director on the Board of the Rhododendron Species Foundation and the Hardy Fern Foundation.

Richie began by reiterating a question that he is asked over and over. What is it about ferns that you find so fascinating? For Richie, “it is the endless variation and diversity of fern fronds from spore formation in our natural woodland setting. The woodland setting in the Pacific Northwest is such a natural habitat, where the spore hits the ground a fern is established and thrives, and it’s the hidden details on the underside of each fern which makes them so fascinating!”

Richie recommends the rule of thumb in garden design, alternating by thirds the colour, texture, and size of plants to create interest. According to him, ferns are the masters of the colour green in any garden- or woodland-setting. Here are some of his examples of fern colour, texture, and size used to enhance the garden setting:

• The Eared Lady fern (Athyrium otophorum) adds a cool mint-green colour to an otherwise dark space in a garden.

• The Plumose Soft Shield fern (Polystichum setiferum ‘Plumosomultilobum’) blends beautifully with the foliage of hellebores.

• Southern Lady fern (Athyrium asplenioides) contrasts beautifully with the small round leaves of wild ginger (Asarum canadense) and cyclamens.

• Autumn fern or Dryopteris erythrosora looks stunning juxtaposed with the narrow-leaved grass Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’.

• Dryopteris x complexa is the largest and hardiest fern we can grow in the Pacific Northwest. Hardy to -20 F. this beautiful hybrid grows up to five feet in height and looks stunning in pots

Richie’s knowledge and enthusiasm spilled over into the theatre as he enticed us with photos of licorice ferns (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) tumbling out of hanging baskets, miniature vignettes of the natural woodland in small concrete troughs and fern tables, grottos built into the hillside layered with Woodsia polystichoides (miniature sword fern) and the native Asplenium trichomanes (maiden hair spleenwort). Ideas abound for ways to grow and celebrate the fern: hardy ferneries, stumparies, fern tables, and even “the mink log trough in the Miller Garden.”

Richie is a superb photographer and is building an archival image collection at the Miller Garden. His photos can be seen on the Miller Garden website and for a more complete list of ferns and growing cultures go to the Great Plant Picks website.

~ Ronda Tuyp

John Greenlee – “The Meadow Revolution: The Role of Grasses in North American Gardens”

Can you hear it? The breeze dances through the grass. Bending in the wind, the seed-heads rustle and as the sun sets the grass is alive with light and movement. Grasses can bring us pleasure, and are a delight to the senses when we thoughtfully place them in our gardens.

John Greenlee has inspired me with his use of grasses in the landscape. I was lucky enough to have visited a grass ecology he designed for Westridge Farm in Langley; unfortunately, the garden is no longer there and as John said, “Herbaceous gardens are moments in time.” The garden was created, it was enjoyed and now it is gone. Since the day I visited the garden I have carried John’s book The Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses as inspiration and on this visit he graciously signed it for me.

John Greenlee has been creating grass gardens of all sizes throughout the world since 1984. He showed a slide of a grass ecology emerging from the mist in the Napa Valley and gave a nod to Thomas Hobbs (who was in the audience) that it was “Shocking Beauty.”Throughout his presentation John sprinkled in recommendations such as Carex pansa can be used as a lawn substitute – it only needs to be mown four times a year. John is realistic about grasses and knows we have to find varieties that stay green with the least amount of water as they tend to go brown and dormant during the summer.

We were then taken on a trip to England and Europe to discover how grasses are being used in some of the gardens. At Great Dixter he found a remnant grass ecology site directly across from Christopher Lloyd’s famous perennial border. Meadows appear to be simple landscapes but on closer inspection have at least 30 varieties of plants. Amusingly in the grass was a sign “Keep off the Long Grass.” John felt that the flowering perennials were trying to escape to play in the grass across the path. He recommended Christopher Lloyd’s book Meadows.

Taking this idea of combination plantings, John is now working on grass ecologies with treats sprinkled throughout but having it look as natural as possible. He feels that a balance of native species with plants such as iris, orchids, etc., can create very appealing effects. A real benefit to using native plants is the encouragement of native insects, thus working toward a balanced ecology.

At Kew Gardens, John was not impressed until he visited a display of edible grains, which triggered the thought that he would love to find a client who would commission a “Bread Garden.”

On to Wisley Gardens where he was inspired by grasses incorporated into borders by Piet Oudolf and an annual cornflower-meadow giving a one-season display. Seeds are sown in fall, winter or spring with the resulting waves of colour appearing over time. These types of gardens are not easy as working with seed is a science itself.

Next, Knoll Gardens, Ferndown Common, and then across the channel to Piet Oudolf’s Dutch village and home where grasses are highlighted in the garden designs. The key to a fabulous design is to keep the grass combinations to one or two as the seed heads may compete and muddle the effect. John is a true fan of Piet and it is here that he saw meadows morphing into more ornamental gardens with the introduction, for example, of helenium, daisies and yarrows with Festuca mairei. John encourages us to look beyond pampas grass, experiment with new varieties, try Molina grass with ferns, a fantastic combination when they intermingle; plant bulbs among the grasses for added interest. Succulents and grasses – another ideal combination.

Just before we viewed photos of John’s operation in California illustrating the plugs used for planting meadow ecologies he shared a tip: grasses 2-3 feet are welcoming for people; however, at 4 feet they become scary and anything taller is only for lions and tigers to frolic in.

We were then treated to a succession of images of important framework grasses such as Carex remota; Bromus benekenii for dry shade; Sesleria ‘Greenlee’s Hybrid’ used on The High Line in NYC by Piet Oudolf and – creating a buzz from the audience – Muhlenbergia ‘White Cloud’. To successfully grow natural-looking grasses along the edge of a border or pathway, place plants well into the bed so that they are not sheared to clear the path, which would result in destroying the integrity of the natural shape of the plant.

John had many more inspiring slides on grasses, meadows and their respective ecologies. Concluding the presentation he feels that we cannot just decorate the planet, we need to be saving it: we need to be mindful of how we move forward with garden designs.

Magic, light and movement . . . words to describe grasses.

~ Colleen Martin

View some of John’s designs.


Cleve West – “Our Plot”

Cleve West gave a second talk in the afternoon entitled “Our Plot” about his allotment near Bushy Park in South West London. The Bushy Park site, according to Cleve, is unusually rural. It is well protected from the outside world by a fine old brick wall that runs along the main road to Hampton, and by huge trees that mark the boundary of Bushy Park behind. It has the “tied together with string quality” he says with eclectic sheds, strange plant supports, sagging raised-beds, plenty of recycled plastic, and a sense of refuge and freedom.

The renowned landscape designer contrasts the design work he does at the RHS Chelsea Garden Show as “staged and artificial” compared to the salt-of-the-earth gardening he does at the allotment he shares with his partner Christine. The plot, Cleve says, is “life thrown together in a big melting-pot, where the power of food and family take precedence over the formality of Chelsea.”

Cleve’s new book “Our Plot” follows the progress over 12-years of the allotment where he gardens organically, producing fresh vegetables and delicious food. The first addition to his allotment was the proverbial shed, which has evolved over the years and with its beautiful sedum roof, has become the focal point of life. A sand-and-clay pizza oven has recently been installed in the old shed and “has become the best invention of all” Cleve says. The fresh garden pizzas they bake are mouthwateringly delicious, drawing friends, family, and neighbours from all over. The pizza oven has become the hub of the allotment community!

The Plot has also become a retreat where Cleve finds solace, a place where he can take the time to sit and talk to people, to enjoy the “slice of life” which is a stark contrast to the high pressure, staged, professional side of life creating gold medal garden designs for the rich and famous.

In his book, a strong sense of community emerges as the dominant theme with plenty of information on how to grow the usual allotment crops. Most engaging though, is the way the book celebrates the allotment spirit: tolerance, humour, and a willingness to help out when fellow plot-holders are hard-pushed.

“Our Plot” by Cleve West, is published by Frances Lincoln. To view some of Cleve’s professional work visit his website.

~ Ronda Tuyp

Evening Presentation: Rick Darke, January 17, 2014

Evening Presentation: Rick Darke, January 17, 2014

Part I: The High Line
Part II: Reclaimed Garden Scapes of the World

The headliner this evening was the High Line in New York City, a linear public park, a 1½ mile elevated section of what was an abandoned freight-line through the meatpacking district on Manhattan’s West Side. Other sites and structures in the United States and Europe that have had their value recognized, in their disuse or dereliction, were introduced as well.

Rick Darke, resident of the Philadelphia area, is a botanist, landscape architect, ecologist, prolific author and photographer; he wears/has worn, a number of other hats, two having been Taxonomist Assistant, beginning in 1977, then Curator of Plants from 1986-1997, at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

This is a short recount of the High Line’s history, its resurrection and the many factors involved with this endeavour. The philosophy of biodiversity and sustainable landscapes coursed through the lecture.

A key word we were asked to keep in mind from the outset was palimpsest – to remind us of “the layering of cultural icons, people and plants.” To review, here is a Funk and Wagnall’s definition: “A parchment, manuscript, etc., written upon two or three times, the earlier writing having been wholly or partially erased to make room for the next.”

The High Line, built in 1934, is that section of the former New York Central Railroad, reset 35-40 feet in the air. This adjustment was a matter of safety: trains, horse-drawn carts and buggies, people on horseback, pedestrians and automobiles all used the same thoroughfare. It was a dangerous mix, hence its pre-1934 nickname, Death Avenue.

Rail traffic stopped in 1981 (a carload of frozen turkeys riding the rails that led directly into a building was the last delivery) and the structure was left to be ignored or maligned until serious talk of its demolition began in 1999. Under this threat, those who cared, rallied, met with the railway people, studied the site, considered its potential as a park, the financials, etc., and went to work.

A team of advocates attracted benefactors and volunteers: they sought ideas worldwide (not designs initially). Children participated too. A proposal from James Corner Field Operations and the architectural firm Diller, Scofido-Renfro, one of many submissions, was eventually selected; in Rick’s words, “a brilliant choice.”

We were reminded that this project and the Internet evolved together – a most propitious occurrence. Good photos were a key influence in attracting supporters to raise the 185 million US dollars required. Rick’s photos covered every angle, including shots from the Empire State Building.

To start, the greatest expense was the remediation of the lead-painted railings; there followed responses to other by-laws and the tagging, removal, storage and, in time, placing of the rails in their original positions. The plants cost $800 per lineal foot; tens of thousands of plants would be hoisted by crane onto the High Line to clad its first mile.

In the meantime, for one short period, a very active public plaza with outdoor pub, etc., sprang to life close to the Line’s undercarriage with its heavy, beautiful design work – work that also exists at intersections along the Line’s tracks.

The City of New York owns the High Line. It is the Friends of the High Line, a non-profit conservancy that supports approximately 90% of the operating budget. The first section opened in June 2009, the second, in June 2011. The third section, the last half mile, is expected to open this year and will be left natural.

Well in advance of some of the preceding steps, the ‘volunteers’ along the abandoned line were botanized: these plants, a 50/50 count of natives and exotics, were completely unattended over the years and had naturally organized themselves along the tracks. This was a marvel and encouragement as to the possibilities in reshaping a sustainable garden in this unique setting.

There were no plant lists accompanying the lecture as they could be a distraction to the unfolding experience. “It’s better not to anticipate.” “You are impressionable when you are vulnerable.”

Briefly a few participants: dwarf bearded-iris, chives, Linaria vulgaris, native cherries, and a rare mint. The plan was to continue a balance to some degree, of natives and exotics, more exotics this round, adding only those with appeal and the same traits of durability and longevity as the originals. It was to be an all-seasons-garden as beautiful and interesting in decline and dormancy as in flourish. A partial list: Achillea, Aster oblongifolius, Celastrus, Gillenia trifoliata, goldenrod, Liatrus aspera, sedums, and yellow alliums. Some trees are to be included, bearing in mind a rooting depth usually no greater than 18-inches.

Many talented people were involved but it is Piet Oudolf who was the principal. Rick called him “a good man, a modest man” and one well qualified to create “a meticulously designed yet natural garden” – a matrix of interwoven textures, with signature grasses; thereafter, stewardship, observing what’s doing best and, “the introduction of order by reduction.” Piet returns occasionally to edit and adjust. Some irrigation is being installed in the second section, but not to everyone’s approval. Hundreds of volunteers turn out for the big March cutbacks.

Listed as one of the top ten sites to see in North America, there are six-million visitors per year, drawn by this park so improbably situated with its Big Apple corridor views, towering profiles of surrounding [modern] buildings with some old-timers to keep them company. There is also a spur in the track that affords a glance back over ground traveled: the overall impact is highly dramatic.

It is considered a welcoming place and remarkably safe and polite. The welcome includes good pathways (pavers can be picked up and rearranged), movable seating (peel-up benches), a 250’ stretch of lawn upon which to walk, sit, sprawl – a freedom which does trash the area in a week. No matter, it is given a chance to revive, and then re-opened. There is a water surface to walk on in summer, a billboard close-by, always introducing new artists; a screen is available, lectures are hosted and food venues are being steadily introduced. Among the visitors are the resident foragers: birds, butterflies, bees and other insects . . . spectacles and objects of study themselves.

Rick also sees this elevated place as theatre, a stage, and has noticed that some people like to dress up, respond in the spirit of the promenade, the runway; it elicits some “Ta Da! – look at me” moments.

The High Line has been a magnet in its great success as hotels and residences predominantly have ‘snugged’ in to this special garden. Here are a few of the new or refurbished structures designed by famous homegrown and international architects: IAC, the American Internet Company, nine-stories of sculptured concrete with an etched white glass façade. Frank Gehry.

The Standard Hotel, on stilts, straddling the High Line. “A wild and wooly place.” R.D. Eighteen stories, concrete with extensive use of glass, x-rated occasionally, as with the other buildings has excellent views, working exceedingly well both ways apparently. Privacy unaddressed.

The New Whitney Museum of American Art. Renzo Piano.

Hudson Yards, an office building integrated with the last phase of the High Line.

The High Line Hotel, formerly the General Theological Seminary, a mid-1800s brick building featured like an old friend a few times throughout its life in Rick’s slides. The hotel’s web advertising says it all:

“The High Line Hotel, much like its groundbreaking, elevated namesake 50-yards to the west, is not a simple homage to the past but rather builds on this epic, distinctly American history, guiding it directly into the heart of the contemporary city.”

In this category to some extent, more as a relic, the most literal palimpsest and, on a very sombre note, a piece of signage faint, still legible – CUNARD. It was to this pier that the survivors of the Titanic were brought by the liner, RMS Carpathia.

Rick said that we have all kinds of niches in the modern environment and referred to “preservation by neglect.” The final chapter in the presentation was devoted to other sites and structures. The following are a sample of those we visited: Shelburn Falls, Massachusetts, the earliest high line garden, a Bridge of Flowers, a 400-foot arched trolley bridge, built in 1908, bankrupted in 1927 and with the relative good fortune to be too expensive to destroy despite most residents finding it an offense to the landscape; in its favour also was the fact that it carried a water-main from one community to another. Planted in 1928, as a result of one woman’s vision supported by the local Women’s Club, it continues to be a much-visited destination.

Gantry Park at Long Island City, “a lush greenway hugging the waterfront,” a former industrial space (Pepsi bottling, an oil refinery).

Reading Viaduct Rail Park, Philadelphia – one mile of elevated track in the downtown area, currently home to wild grasses. The hope is, given the resources, that it will become another High Line.

The Carrie Furnaces site, Pittsburg, a steel mill built in 1884, closed in 1982. Rick showed us his photos, taken from a helicopter, of this mammoth structure in “a severely depressed area,” surrounded by 30-acres, a meadow, growing in concrete rubble. It has become visitor-friendly – think pleasant walks, picnics and a tourable edifice.

Similarly in Europe: Germany’s Duisberg Landscape Park, an old iron/steel making site. Nothing has been planted; all is regenerative, “left to chance and possibility.” It features wall- climbing, is intensely sculptural, lighted at night, a family place.

The Schoneberger Sudgelande Nature Park in the SW corner of Berlin, a former rail yard. From its web site – “A species-rich natural oasis developed in the heart of a major city.” High quality graffiti is a feature.

In Paris, an elevated part of the old Cherbourg line. Rick praised the preservation of this handsome, intact structure and the creation of its garden walkway – in this case, with a very formal, high-maintenance planting. No salute to the poppy or other wildflower. In terms of the evening’s sustainability motif, it did not receive full commendation but credit was given where due: A section of rail-line is being preserved, used, and enjoyed and, as a result the surrounding area has been cleaned up and become vibrant and prosperous.

Rick has a philosophical kinship with a number of individuals who are not his generational peers. He referred to the thoughts and writings of Sydney Smith (1771-1845), English wit, writer and Anglican cleric; Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882); and especially William Robinson (1838-1935), the progenitor of natural gardens, sustainable landscapes and the steward of his own 1,000 acres at Gravetye Manor, Sussex.

Note: “The Wild Garden”, William Robinson, first published 1870.

“The Wild Garden”, Expanded Edition, William Robinson with new chapters and photography by Rick Darke, 2009.

It was an exceptionally interesting evening. With all the information and images, including the charming vision of William Robinson casting seeds out of the window of the Bluebell Railway train that carried him from his home in Sussex to his office in London, one was left reeling out of the theatre.

Palimpsests and legacies!

~ Trudy Dixon

Rick has an extensive website which documents his many achievements and projects and is definitely worth a look.


Fall Study Day, October 25, 2014

Fall Study Day, October 25, 2014

Saturday October 25, 2014:   9:30am* – 3pm
H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, 1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver

*Remember to allow time to sort out the parking meters
Members pre-registered $40; non-members pre-registered $45
To register for the Fall Study Day, please forward your cheque for $40 (members pre-paid), $45 (non-members pre-paid) and $45 (all tickets at the door), made out to the Vancouver Hardy Plant Group, to Gillian Collins 2154 West 37th Avenue Vancouver BC V6M 1N8. (Info: 604.266.7667). If you are purchasing for others, please indicate their names and whether they are members or non-members. Cheques should be received by Friday October 17 which will allow time for your name(s) to be copied onto a name tag that you will collect and wear after signing in at the pre-paid table, thus helping the committee in providing orderly access to the event. Cheques received after that date will be kept in the order they have been received and may or may not gain you entry.



Bleddyn and Sue Wynn Jones, Crûg Farm Plants, UK




Crûg Farm Plants, run by Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones, is an unique nursery based on the edge of Snowdonia near Caernarfon in North Wales. Covering almost 20 acres, it has an outstanding and unrivalled selection of plants, many of which have not been cultivated in the West before. For many years (since the early 1990’s) Bleddyn and Sue have travelled the world in the Far East, Middle East, and Asia collecting seed for propagation and introduction into cultivation, often accompanied by fellow-plant collector and friend Dan Hinkley.


To quote a note on the nursery website –

“Originally we ran it as a beef farm, but ever since its transition to a nursery in 1991, Crûg has become a Mecca for extraordinary plants. Initially originating from our own breeding programme, the emphasis has shifted to introducing new and wondrous plants from our annual sorties to remote corners of the globe.”

The nursery specialises in unusual herbaceous perennials, climbers and shrubs, and hundreds of the plants on offer are propagated from over 16,000 seed and plant collections gathered on over 60 expeditions by the Wynn-Joneses.

Sue and Bleddyn spend up to three months every year on plant hunting expeditions to remote corners of the Asia, The Americas and of late Europe. Their collections are much sought after around the world and the nursery has become a Mecca for keen gardeners. They have provided plants for many prestigious clients including several award-winning Flower Show gardens especially RHS Chelsea, also supplying National Trust collections and not least Her Majesty The Queen’s own gardens. As well as their own award winning Chelsea exhibits, scooping the prestigious Presidents Award on their first display there, a feat that has never been achieved before. This with numerous RHS Gold Medals for their outstanding displays places them at the top of their tree.

Their exploits have been the subject of many lectures delivered by Bleddyn over the years, limited to the more prestigious venues due to their limited time resulting from his hands on approach to their work. To date the venues have been in Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Taiwan, UK and USA (including The Royal Oaks Society), as well as the annual lecture at The Linnean Society in London, for the IDS.

Their work in the field has been approached from a professional perspective, recording their finds/discoveries meticulously. These have included many projects in conjunction with authoritative organisations within the host countries, resulting in many discoveries of new species to science as well as the discovery of a new genus. For this work Bleddyn has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship at The University of Wales at Bangor.

 There will be two talks:

 “Plant Hunting in Vietnam”

For the first talk Bleddyn and Sue will talk about their plant hunting expeditions. In the afternoon Bleddyn will give a second talk:

“Polygonatum, Disporum and like minded plants”


will cover their collecting, growing and cultivating of this group of plants, with a strong emphasis on the conditions in which they are found growing in the wild. Mainly collected from Asia, but Bleddyn and Sue have also collected Maianthemum in Central America.

To read about Bleddyn and Sue’s seed collecting trips and the plants they have available at the nursery visit the Crûg Farm Plants website.

Claudia West, North Creek Nurseries, PA, USA

 “Perennial Plant Strategies: The Art and Science of Creating Stable and Aesthetic Plant Combinations”

Claudia WestClaudia West grew up in a family-owned landscape nursery business specializing in garden design and perennial, woody, and cut flower production. She has a Master of Landscape Architecture and Landscape Planning from the Technical University of Munich, Germany. She uses her extensive background in horticulture, ecological landscaping, and environmental restoration as a consultant in her current role at North Creek Nurseries.



  Dan Long, Brushwood Nursery, GA, USA

“Grow Up! Using Vines and Climbers in the Landscape”

WDan Longhether you’re planning an expansive suburban landscape or looking for that special patio plant, there’s a place for vines in the landscape. Dan will discuss the use of vines in formal and natural garden settings with an emphasis on clematis. Learn about an amazing array of vines both classic and new suited to a wide variety of growing conditions in all colors of the rainbow. Many new clematis hybrids will be featured.

Dan Long has been teaching and lecturing for years at organizations like Longwood Gardens and The New York Botanical Garden. He is the owner of Brushwood Nursery a mail order nursery specializing in vines and climbers.  Brushwood Nursery website can be visited at gardenvines.com.