Garden blogs are great: those who love visiting gardens like I do can see gardens all over the world and hear their owners tell the personal stories of their creation, without the need for costly, exhausting travel. What a wonderful forum this is!
But nothing quite compares to actually standing in and physically walking through a garden, particularly one that looks fantastic and has a wide array of beautiful plants, impeccably maintained. This was brought home to me by my visit to Larry and Sarah's gardens at their home at Oak Lawn Cheese Factory, not far from Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Larry is generously hosting Open Garden Days, every Sunday in July from 2:00-5:00 pm, which is a great opportunity to see some of the most beautiful gardens you'll probably ever visit in person. If you live in the Midwest, I urge you to make the trip.
|The beautiful conifers surrounding the cool, breezy gazebo, where Larry and Sarah spent time chatting with us after showing us around their gardens.|
My husband and I made the trip of about four and a half hours on Independence Day weekend. We stayed in Madison on Friday night and visited the gardens Saturday morning. I had never met either Larry or Sarah before, although I have been following his blog since last autumn, but they both made the two of us feel very welcome, and I finally got to see in person the gardens that I'd only seen in Larry's beautiful photographs.
My snapshots are not the artistic photos that Larry takes of his gardens, but I hope they will suffice to communicate something of the beauty and peacefulness of his magical creation:
|The front garden, with rock gardens, conifers and many annual flowers. You know you've found the right place just by what's in the front yard -- but wait 'till you see what's around the corner....|
|Some of Larry's many magnificent New Millennium delphiniums. Some of them are over six feet tall and he spends so much more effort staking them than I do (mine invariably get blown sideways by our hilltop winds, but his stand tall and look amazing).|
|Just a few of the numerous Asiatic lilies that were coming into bloom when we visited. 'Pink Flavour' (left) and 'Purple Heart' (right). Breathtakingly lovely!|
|On the subject of being afraid to be too near a plant, this is apparently a deadly poisonous tropical plant, 'Inca Sun' brugsmansia -- although the fragrance is lovely at night, Larry told me.|
|Larry built the stone wall on the left with his bare hands, and it looks really good. |
The path leads up to the 'Autumn Purple' ash tree, which I also have in the following photo...
|Another spot not far from the last one was also very impressive. I know my camera did not capture the brilliant blue-green of these 'Moorheim' blue spruce that almost glowed in the sunshine, but this was an spectacular sight, believe me.|
|Some concrete pieces molded in the shape of hosta leaves, stacked on a rustic fence that Larry constructed on the stumps of a row of arborvitae trees.|
|Larry's newer clematis structure, which is starting to become covered with these lush blooms. I can imagine how incredible this will look when it is completely covered in another season or two.|
|Another clematis, 'Betty Corning,' with small bell-shaped flowers that were sweetly fragrant. Magical.|
Larry's gardens are probably the most beautiful gardens I've ever visited in person. His hard work, single-minded pursuit of beauty, high standards of maintenance, forty-two years of learning about and encouraging plants and trees to grow and mature, (and no small amount of cash too, I've no doubt) have all resulted in what every gardener aspires to: to replicate man's version of the Garden of Eden, a personal heaven on earth.
I believe that most institutional gardens, as impressive and well-maintained as some of them are, lack this magical quality that only a personal garden can achieve after many years of striving by its maker to improve its beauty. There aren't many gardens in the Midwest that have achieved this quality, and of those that have, the chances to visit them are few and far between.
I can't recommend highly enough that you take advantage of this chance to visit such a garden. The weather when we visited was so perfect and the gardens so breathtaking, that I found myself not wanting to leave this Eden. I hope you get the chance to visit too.
Thanks for reading! -Beth