An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

June 13, 2010

A Great Opportunity

On Friday of last week I had the great opportunity to visit the garden of noted plantswoman and author, Pamela Harper. I have wanted to visit her garden ever since I first heard her speak and purchased one of her books, Time-Tested Plants: Thirty Years in a Four-Season Garden. I have met Mrs. Harper before as she occasionally shops at the garden center, but it took another customer, now a friend, to make my visit happen.

Her home and garden sit on a long waterfront lot, not far from where the York River runs into the Chesapeake. A beautiful setting for sure, but not without its perils. Hurricane Isabel and last November's nor'easter took their toll on both her house and garden. As you might expect, the garden is full of great plants and great plant combinations. Many of the things I saw on Friday, I saw for the first time. Not only did I enjoy seeing all that was planted, I also enjoyed Mrs. Harper's vast knowledge of horticulture and the story of her garden.

Unfortunately I did not take my best photos; I was busy trying to pay attention to Mrs. Harper and enjoy the day in front of the lens, not behind it. It was also a spectacularly clear and sunny day, great for being in the garden, not great for photography. After the tour we had a delightful lunch provided by my friend Donna Hackman (a noted garden designer and plantswoman in her own right) who arranged all this. Getting lost in conversation and gardening nearly made me late picking my son up from school.

Variegated Dogwood, Japanese Maple and Hydrangea Combination

Red White and Blue

Impatiens omeiana - Hardy to zone 7, maybe lower

Impatiens omeiana

Clematis texensis

Clematis texensis

Aristolochia fimbriata - White Veined Dutchman's Pipe

Aristolochia fimbriata

Lavender with a cool stool

Stool with Lavender

Cornus kousa var. angustata

Cornus kousa var. angustata (2)

Argemone mexicana - Prickly Poppy

Argemone mexicana

Natchez Crape Myrtle with Hydrangea

Lagerstroemia x 'Natchez' with Hydrangea

Kalimeris pinnatifida - Japanese Aster

Kalimeris pinnatifida

The day was enjoyable, though I hope I will have the opportunity to see this garden and visit Mrs. Harper again, maybe earlier in spring, on a day with a little photography-friendly cloud cover.

(full set here)


  1. I had hoped to visit her garden this spring but my plans were hampered. I hope to get there some day. Her book that you mentioned has been very influential and I've discovered lots of great plants in it.

  2. I would love to see that garden. Pam's book, Designing with Perennials, was one of my first and is quite dog eared. I think those pictures were all quite nice.

  3. I visited Mrs. Harper's garden last November, and it was completely enchanting. Like you, I was having trouble dividing my time between listening to her as she walked us through her garden and photographing our visit. This garden is probably the most perfect example I have ever seen of making a cohesive landscape out of a collectors garden. (even with the not-so-flattering light, your photos are beautiful.


  4. Oh what a special opportunity - years ago Mrs. Harper was featured on HGTV's Gardener's Diary. She and her garden seemed to me to embody the best parts of gardening: enthusiastic knowledge, impeccably executed, generously shared. Like Layanee, I've treasured that book on perennial design. Those not-your-best pix are very nice indeed!

  5. Les, I have to have a lot of time in a garden to see it all or my photos are not the best. Although, I think these are way better then my best!

    What a delightful plant collection she has~ I am totally taken with Aristolochia fimbriata, Clematis texensis and the cornus! Touring a garden with the designer and another hort-head is a treat!


  6. Les, I think your photographs are great. I love that Japanese aster. I wonder . . .?

    I think I need her book. Part of my garden is going on its 20th year, and there is something special about continuity.

    I'm so glad you got to visit.~~Dee

  7. Her book on Color Echoes is one of my all time favorite books. Lucky you!

  8. First time seeing a prickly poppy. Also, are the dogwood's bracts yellow?

  9. Wow. Stunning! That white veined Dutchman's Pipe is gorgeous - and the 'Augustata' is hopeful (I have a tiny one in my garden, it hasn't bloomed for the past two years).

    I hope that you get to go back to!

  10. Phillip,
    If you ever make it up this way to see her garden or for any other reason, let me know.

    To see the garden would be worth any effort.

    Combining a love of plants and design, do not always go hand and hand, but of course she has pulled if off.

    Thanks for stopping by and for the kind comment.

    There were far more treasures than I could mention or photograph.

    You may not need her book, but you should sure have it.

    When I think of color echoes, I think of Mrs. Harper.

    The dogwoods were approaching the end of their bloom cycle and were kind of an ivory color.

    Both of those plants had me wondering what I could pull out to make room for them.