Saturday, September 24, 2011

Digging Dog Nursery


Digging Dog, Nursery:   Albion, CA

Why is Martha Stewart always right?  A friend of mine once told me that he wanted to start a magazine "Martha Stewart: Living Better Than You"  with her walking across a swimming pool serving juleps and cookies.  In the case of Digging Dog, she was right again.  Her people requested Digging Dog's inclusion in the magazine 10 times before husband-and-wife owners Gary Ratway & Deborah Whingham agreed to the spread--they're busy running that nursery and making it beautiful.  Martha was right to be persistent.

I was a little car sick, a little peevish, and expected to be a little underwhelmed--I mean, it is mail-order, so I thought we'd see lots of neat, not-exactly-breathtaking-in-their-present-state plants.  I was auspiciously in err...  Phenomenal plants, superbly (displayed isn't the right word) placed, planted and designed.  Deborah is horticulturalist, and as she graciously guided us in, she warned us: "There isn't exactly a rhyme or reason to the layout in the nursery."   The thing is, it wasn't fully alphabetical and in any permanent placement, but water requirements don't follow the arabic alphabet, nor do hose patterns, nor do maintenance cycles, nor does garden design for that matter.  It was layed out by someone who is vigilant in observing her stock, efficient in keeping her plants on the right maintenance, propagation, and resizing rotation, and organized by light and water requirements.  Many of the same considerations we would take in planting these happy specimen.  A long list arrived in Atlanta looking great at this time of year...much easier said than done, and a testimony to the way they are grown:  Out in the elements, under the eyes, hands, and craft of a skilled plantswoman and her team.

The display gardens are banked by ample beech hedges and carefully control the sightlines on the rural grounds.  It’s not always the case that nurseries have such well-designed display gardens—these were the real deal.  We had an invigorating visit and learned some about the history of their site, the gardens, the weather they experience (the nursery pots freeze in winter--which is great for lots of their mail-order customers).  The mellow light was bending down and laughing with the late summer flowers.  I left inspired and longing…we listened to Ryan Adams' "Easy Plateau" on the way down the hill...
Late summer vibrance: Kniphofia, Persicaria, Sedum, & Stipa

The beds were bold and strong, thanks to their generous proportions; yet, they had an ease of habit in the grasses and tall perennials that honored the location: up on a ridge encircled by redwoods and a warm, undemanding light




The training of Pyrus salicifolia pendula into recurring arches...I might have drooled, but I'm pretty sure only the cat saw... 


They had a boggy pond that was sectioned off at the moment...the garden is always a work in progress and changing...like a real, loved garden

The beech hedges gave form and substance to the borders; they controlled the site-lines, and, again, capitalized on the golden light.  One of my favorite moments, (not really well-captured here) was the beech hedge in opposition to the allee of Cercidiphyllym (we could smell their cotton candy scent!).  Underneath the Katsuras they keep B & B Buxus sempervirens in spheres, a choice which offers smart staging (in the shade and already receiving water) and looks beautiful.  I want to see this spot when the beeches are honey-colored and crispy, the Katsura's are naked, and the boxwoods are echoing spheres along the right side.  Notice the wire sphere in the site-line.
Xanthoceras sorbifolia


Bupleurum fruticosum

Fallopia japonica...so romantic

I'm in love with this little Origanum 'Bristol Cross'




They used this cephalotaxus as a low border along one of the wide beds flanking the nursery path--smart!








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