I really love creating outdoor spaces- and the crew at Phillips Garden is a great collective of talent putting out a tremendous effort in design and installation.  This project in Minneapolis is still less than a year old.  We planted the perennials yesterday.  Most of the hardscaping and bed work was done last fall.  We took a very tiny backyard and gave it a clean and modern look.  In doing so, we created an intimate set of outdoor rooms that became a natural, private extension of the house.  We used lumacite panels in the fence to keep as much natural light as possible and to create an interesting play with shadows.  We built a deck out of ipe wood to establish a smooth transition form garage to house- the place with the most traffic- this is the center of the axis- what I like to call “the rotary”- you can split off into five directions from there.

The brick walls held three terraces of garden that had been neglected- and it’s easy to see why.  The steps leading up through the tiers were narrow and steep and once you were up there- it was hot and dry- not a place you’d like to hang out.  We decided to close the steps and clad the two lower walls in steel.  This would lessen the shadow and texture created by the deep-set brick, (which there was plenty of on the house and garage), and add a smoothness and calmness to that area.  We extended the lumacite fence in front of the third wall to give the impression that the third terrace wasn’t there.  This visually kept the rise of land lower- which took away the feeling that the neighboring property was looming overhead.  Below the terraces, we removed a large round concrete patio and made a lawn.

Between the deck and the tiered garden with lawn, we created a bosque of four Merrill Magnolias with an offset gravel path leading through them.  This creates a great transitional space that is shady and cool and underplanted with Epimedium, Pulmonaria, Polemonium, dwarf Aruncus and Hosta ‘June’.

The tiered gardens became a gallery for a dwarf Gingko, a Schoodic Pine, and an array of Sedums, Armerias and many more low rock garden plants that will remain low and moundy.  There are a few grasses and the owners’ Egyptian Onions which actually look really cool against the rusting steel.

The clients have this incredible grill and smoker that we loved (and they love and use all the time).  We made a special space for it and I think it goes well with the landscape.  Enjoy the photos- we had a great time bringing this project to fruition.  I hope you get some ideas!

in the nursery…

May 29, 2009

Here are some images of plants in the nursery that are lesser known and looking brilliant.

Cypripedium 'Gisela'Ulmus x hollandica 'Wredei'Picea abies 'Acrocona'Acer pseudoplatanus 'Brilliantissimum'Acer pseudoplantanus 'Nizetti'Fagus sylvatica 'Asplenifoia'Gingko biloba 'Mariken'Abies koreana 'Aurea' cones forming
Espaliered Pear
Fagus sylvatica 'Purple Fountain'

what’s blooming…

May 29, 2009

The blooms keep coming and it’s a game to catch all that’s blooming in the camera lens.  There are some things that are so familiar that I might just pass up the self-seeded columbines, the Viburnum opulus, or the lingering flowers of Korean Lilac in the presence of their more unusual counterparts.  I don’t mean to downplay their beauty and their role in the garden.

And among the new blooms that come every day, we still have tulips and narcissus just opening!  The poeticus narcissus bloom later, as do several variety of tulips, especially Tulip clusiana.  I’ll post some photos of them, but I may not be able to give you all the varieties at this time.

Rock garden plants- alpines- are in full bloom with flowering Saxifrage, Armeria, Iberis, Phlox subulata, Iris pumila, and Dianthus among others.  Primulas are still blooming well as are Epimediums, Dicentras and Phlox stolonifera and divaricata.  We have beautiful Tollius blooming amid the forget-me-nots, and Alliums, Poppies, and Iris are all opening up.  In woody plants, the deciduous azaleas are blooming and they fill the air with a spicy fragrance.  Viburnum plicatum, and Viburnum opulus are blooming as are the large-leaved Rhododendrons.  Our Weigela ‘Korean Sunset’ is full of soft pink blossoms and the Calycanthus floridus and Calycanthus floridus ‘Athens’ are flowering as well.  Of course lilacs and flowering crabs are reaching the end, except for the later blooming varieties of lilacs which are just opening up.  Conifers are blooming too, and their showy cones will be appearing shortly.

This week, I’m coming to you from Minneapolis, where I am tending to work on some of our projects out here.  I’ll take some photos and blog about those projects later, so you can see what we’ve been up to in this part of the country.  Where we’ve had rain in Vermont, it’s been very dry here.  It may be the driest May on record if it doesn’t rain soon.  It’s odd to see lawns browned out this time of year.  Let’s hope for rain here soon.

Following are some images of things that were blooming before I left Vermont on Wednesday.  Enjoy!

Allium aflatuense 'Purple Sensation'Allium aflatuense 'Purple Sensation'Rhododendron ??Malus sargentii 'Tina' and Forget-Me-NotsChaenomeles speciosa 'Cameo'Fothergilla gardenii Viburnum opulusTulip 'Gavota'Iris pumila 'Yankee Skipper'Trollius 'Alabaster'Trollis 'Orange Princess'Rhododendron 'Aglo'Rhododendron 'Purple Gem' and Blue Oat GrassTulip clusiana 'Cynthia'Narcissus still bloomingTulip ??Tulip Parrot 'Estella Rijnveld'

Tree Peonies

May 28, 2009

Amy is our nursery manager, and the way she likes to tell it, one of the former owners of Rocky Dale, Bill Pollard went through phases with plants.  One of his phases was tree peonies.  We have several in the garden and they are BEAUTIFUL!  I don’t know much about tree peonies.  Gardening most of my life in Minneapolis, where it’s zone 4, but often zone 3, tree peonies weren’t at the top of my list for trial. (though I have a healthy case of zone denial).

We have an inventory of what was planted in the gardens at Rocky Dale.  That inventory list though, doesn’t record what came out, just what went in, and not everything that went in was recorded.  Therefore, we have a list of what the possible varieties of tree peonies we have might be.  Here is that list:  Demoto Hybrid, Chinese Dragon, Gold Sovereign, Right Royal, and “Snowy Flower from Ice Mountain”.  We have a good idea that the last one is the white tree peony, and that it’s a rockii hybrid.  If you know something about tree peonies, please fill us in.

Below, I present to you some photos of some of the tree peonies now in bloom.  I have to say that in my 6 seasons here at Rocky Dale, I haven’t seen them bloom this beautifully and abundantly before.  I have a new found appreciation for them and hope to revitalize many of the struggling plants now growing in too dense shade.

Paeonia suffruticosa

Paeonia suffruticosa
Paeonia suffruticosa

paeonia suffruticosa

Paeonia suffruticosa

Paeonia suffruticosa

Paeonia suffruticosa

Tree Sale

May 22, 2009

We’re having a tree sale this weekend.  We’ve been growing some of our trees in pots for over 5 years!  Now it’s time to get them in the ground.  We shift them up each year and give them feed, and guess what?  They grow. Click here to get a coupon!

My earliest recollection of Rocky Dale Gardens was when I was visiting my family here in Bristol when I was living in Minnesota. 
I had heard of this great nursery from friends before I had left Vermont, but I had never visited.
When I arrived and walked into the nursery, I was absolutely stunned with the selection of trees.
I happened upon Cornus alternifolia ‘Argentea’- a beautiful  specimen of variegated Pagoda Dogwood, about 3 feet tall with a little burlaped root ball.  This was a plant I had read about that was extremely hard to find.  I seriously contemplated how I would get it on the plane, but alas it wasn’t going to be mine.

This is what we strive for- that you will have the same experience as I had when I first entered Rocky Dale Gardens.
Our plants are amazing and unique. We have some of the most unusual and hard-to-come-by plants that you can find in the region.

We have some beautiful trees at Rocky Dale.  Many are just budding out with fresh spring growth.  This year we have a nice selection of fruiting trees as well as shade and flowering trees.  Some of the tree culitvars that are less known include:

Acer tartaricum 'Hot Wings'

Acer tartaricum ‘Hot Wings’.  This small maple has bright red winged fruits that make the tree look like it’s flowering.  It’s hardy to zone 3 and we have several that are already 12 feet tall.

Fagus sylvatica 'Tricolor'

Beeches.  We have many varieties of beeches.  These are not commonly planted in our area but we find them to be quite hardy.  We have fastgiate, contorted and weeping varieties in red or green leaf.


Espaliered Pear  'Comice'


Espaliered apple and pear trees.  This French form of pruning creates a flat branching habit that is ideal for growing fruit in small spaces.  Ideal for an east facing wall or as a fence.


Ulmus hollandica 'Wredei'

Elms. Ulmus procera ‘Aurea’.  A rounded, muti-stemmed golden-leafed elm.  Spectacular golden spring color fading slightly in summer. Ulmus hollandica ‘Wredei’.  A narrow- golden leaf variety, with leaves held closely to the branch, becoming pyramidal with time.






Cercidiphyllum japonicum.  The Katsura Tree has heart-shaped leaves that turn beautiful orange and gold in the fall.  A fast growing tree that slows down once it reaches about 30 feet.



Gingko.  We have many culitvars of dwarf gingkos including Jade Butterflies, Mariken, and Chi Chi.

what’s blooming…

May 14, 2009

what’s blooming…

May 9, 2009

Wow, it’s getting hard to keep up!  The yellow Magnolias are stealing the show right now- they’re gorgeous- just in time for Mother’s Day.  

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