The first week in March is when the dwarf daffodils bloom in my garden, golden trumpets heralding the return of the spring garden season. This is a good week to plant peas and sweet peas, add bare-root roses and fruit trees and clean up the winter debris from your lawn and garden beds.
This is also the week to celebrate the classic American Garden Style and to honor the rich history of grand estate gardens. I’ll be leading a tour to Santa Barbara, Calif., this July to bring garden lovers to see the over-the-top gardens of the Hearst Castle, the quirky garden style of Lotus Land and the classic Spanish Revival Garden style of Casa del Herrara near Santa Barbara.
Closer to home the best-preserved American Estate Garden is Lakewold Gardens near Tacoma. Like the California gardens we’ll be visiting, Lakewold sits on a gorgeous site and the classic gardens pay homage to the architecture of the mansion that was built by millionaires of long ago. For more information on visiting Lakewold go to www.lakewoldgardens.org.
If you would like to join us on a visit of Hearst Castle and other Estate Gardens in California go to www.binetti- garden.com for the details on this summer garden adventure tour. But if you just want to give your own landscape the look of a classic estate, here are the top tips for adding a classic look to your own estate.
ESTABLISHING THE ESTATE GARDEN - CLASSIC GARDEN STYLE
1. Divide the property into different garden rooms.
You don’t need acreage or even a large property to use this landscaper’s trick. Simply separate areas of your yard into different zones for different plant themes. At Lakewold in Tacoma you’ll find a rock garden, rose and cutting garden and fern collection. In Santa Barbara, we’ll visit Lotus Land with outdoor rooms used for evening concerts on the grass, a spectacular swimming pool turned into a floating water feature, cacti and lotus rooms and many more areas that feature different plant collections.
2. Choose a signature plant for your garden inspiration.
The cool sea breezes and sunny days of Central California makes an ideal climate for growing the lotus plant – a beautiful succulent that provides structure and formal symmetry all over the grounds at the aptly names Lotus Land gardens. In Tacoma, Lakewold Gardens uses majestic rhododendrons as its signature shrub, but also the startling Blue Himalayan Poppy (Meconopsis) that flowers under the branches of a giant Douglas Fir.
Before you choose your own signature plant, keep frustration to a minimum by learning to love what grows best in your soil. You can’t have a collection of lotus in Western Washington no matter how spectacular you find the gardens at Lotus Land. But we do have the perfect growing conditions for rhododendrons – although when it comes to the blue poppies, I admit I’ve tried and failed numerous times to cultivate this rare plant. I’ve decided to grow hostas in the shade of my Douglas Fir instead.
3. Add classic garden art.
When we previewed the gardens of Casa del Herrara (it translates to House of the Blacksmith – there is a lot of iron work) we knew it had to be included on this tour because of the artwork. When this estate was built in the Roaring ’20s, the owners took a trip to Europe to buy outdoor art from centuries-old monasteries, churches and convent gardens. Only Hearst Castle can rival this garden for classic European art treasures in the Mediterranean style.
When furnishing your own garden invest in well-constructed benches, classic bird baths, sundials and statuary that will weather our wet climate. Light-colored stone and concrete will stand out and add some color contrast to the deep green plants and dark gray skies of Western Washington.
Marianne Binetti is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and eight other gardening books. She has a degree in horticulture from WSU and will answer questions from her Web site at www.binettigarden.com.