Sunday, February 08, 2009

A garden for a mansion


The strange little statues that surround the place will be removed.

This is the second year I will be participating (representing the magazine) in a decorator’s Show House, and this time we’re doing a garden, which is kind of exciting. Many of you may have these projects where you live. A large residence is decorated by a huge team of designers and the public views it (in April-May), the admission price benefiting a charity. Usually the house is between owners. In Buffalo, the Show House is run by the Junior League, a women’s group, and I imagine that this, too, is common.

The project: we (me, landscape architect Joy Keubler, and Urban Roots garden center) are attempting to create a sustainable demonstration garden, where people would learn about such strategies as composting, using rain barrels, using native plants, and designing with edibles. But it would also be attractive. Not such a tall order as one might suppose. Sustainable gardening is not as widespread in Buffalo as it should be, and the Show House is visited by thousands, most of whom have gardens. Normally, the SH gardens are simple little patio affairs, focusing more on paving and furniture than gardening.

This year’s house is gorgeous, an E.B. Green-built estate barely outside the city proper. It’s a 1929 French Provincial structure (click on the link to see interior images), with lots of distinctive details: plaster work, fireplaces, chandeliers, etc. I am not totally sure how many rooms there are, but for it to work for a Show House it needs at least 30, which it likely has. There are also large grounds (including a tennis court) and a little carriage house/garage. Our garden will be to the right of the drive leading to the carriage house, near some pine trees.


This (in the foreground) is more or less where we'll be installing; the chain link by the garage in the background will be removed.

I won’t be doing most of the heavy lifting on this, mainly just an advisory role, to make sure it has all the elements we need it to have. I’m thinking a repurposed wine cask as a rain barrel would be fun, as well as a solar fountain, and some native shrubs … More on this as it develops—the ground is still covered in white now, so it will be a while before we can work on it. All we can really do now is plan it and work with suppliers.

Comparatively speaking, it's a lot of work for a garden that will likely only exist for 4 weeks!

17 comments:

TC said...

Sounds like a wonderful project Ms. Elizabeth. I'm wondering about the dry conditions you'll find in the surrounding soil under those pines, and the acidity levels. But I'm sure you'll have all that checked and taken care of before planting. I say this because I have three blue spruce trees that I planted hostas and other shade lovers under before realizing the trees take every drop of moisture and no matter how much watering I did, it made no difference. This was before I really delved into sustainable gardening. I'll look forward to seeing how your "garden for a mansion" turns out.

Carol said...

We have a similar project every year in Indianapolis. Sometimes the grounds are included, sometimes not.

Working with a landscape architect, and a garden center, plus with your oversight, I feel confident that the environment around the garden will be considered before the first plant is chosen and put into the ground.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Yes, these projects are done in our area too. Usually the grounds are not a big issue. Mostly it is all about "interior" design.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Maybe whoever buys the house will fall in love with the garden & keep it going. In any event, it sounds like a fun, worthwhile project.

EAL said...

Yes, Lisa, it's really about the inside. The outside is really just icing, if that. So there will not be intense scrutiny and criticism--one of the reasons I'm not worried.

Thanks for your interest, all!

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

This is really cool, Elizabeth! I don't think we have such projects as this around in Nova Scotia, but it'll be fun to watch how this will develop. And hopefully someone will fall in love with the house and grounds and want to keep it forever.

JCharlier said...

We talked about this briefly at the Urban Roots marketing meeting - won't your greatest challenge be the time of year? April's a tough one here in Buffalo. I have no doubt you and Joy are up to it.

Lori said...

That sounds like an excellent theme for a show garden. I can't wait to see what the end result looks like & how it goes over with visitors!

Chandramouli S said...

Design a GARDEN! :O Wonderful! Not everyone gets that! Wow Elizabeth, that's so exciting. Keep us updated and I'll definitely be waiting for them.

Cindy, My Corner of Katy said...

I wish I'd seen those repurposed wine barrels before I bought my big green plastic rain barrel. Given the architecture of the house, you could do a whole French chateau theme in that garden and the rain barrel would fit right in!

MA said...

I've had the good fortune to do a couple show gardens, INDOORS! You will actually have weather to deal with, but I know you will do a terrific job. I am excited to see your creation.

EAL said...

Well it opens 4/25 and everything will be in pots for the most part, so it's not totally dire.

Susan aka Miss. R said...

I'm excited that some else is discussing show house gardens! In the past few years around here, the gardens for several showhouses have become as big an attraction as the houses themselves.

I find these to be very rewarding because the result benefits charity instead of a management company like so many flower show events.

I look forward to reading about your showhouse adventures!

Gail said...

Hi...we have this here in Nashville...Junior League fundraiser, too. Only in the last years have the exteriors gotten attention. Maybe it depends upon the chair and whether or not she is a gardener! But I do think you will have a great time and I look forward to seeing your garden.

gail

lisa said...

Sounds like a fun project! I like that you're focusing on edibles along with sustainability, it can give even the experienced gardeners some "food for thought" :)

Jon said...

Nice project and for a worthy cause to boot! I'll bet you will have fun working with that team.

So sorry to hear about the terrible plane crash near Buffalo which I am sure has devastated so many families in your community.

Best regards,
Jon at Mississippi Garden

EAL said...

Thanks, Jon, and thanks all for your encouraging words.