Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hearing the Soul of a Gardener: A Morning Walk Through Our Little Acre

Two years ago, soon after I began this adventure here at From the Soil, I'd often lurk on Twitter, learning the who's who in the garden blogging world. It became clear to me that one of the major voices in the community belonged to a blogger whose Twitter handle was @OurLittleAcre. I soon learned that the woman behind the moniker was Kylee Baumle, a fellow midwesterner who gardened in Northwest Ohio.

Since the day I met Kylee through Twitter, I've been humbled by how she welcomed me into the garden blogging community as if I were already a member of the family. Instantaneously, we connected through our love for growing and a belief that the experiences of our gardens are meant to be shared.

Earlier this June, my wife Mindy and I visited Kylee and her husband Romie at their home in Ohio. It was a trip we'd been planning ever since Kylee and I motivated each other to plant more than 1,000 spring bulbs in each of our gardens last fall. When our schedules didn't permit a visit while the bulbs were in bloom, we decided to time our visit with the long-standing Van Wert Peony Festival.

The first day of our visit was spent touring gardens in Van Wert and enjoying the festival parade along with Fred and Loiuse Hartwig, Kylee's parents. By the time we got back to the Baumle's one acre homestead, the sun had already begun to set and storm clouds were rolling in from the west. We got a dusky peek at Kylee's gardens, but I went to bed that night determined to have the full garden experience at first light in the morning.

I woke early the next morning, quietly got dressed and headed downstairs with my camera in hand. Romie was already up, reading in the family room. After exchanging good mornings, I found my shoes and walked outside into Our Little Acre. I've always felt that you can hear the soul of a gardener if you walk through his or her garden in the quiet of daybreak, so I wanted at least a few minutes to myself in Kylee's garden.

Rosa 'Hot Cocoa'
I was greeted on the patio by Sunny, Lily, Jack and Ohno, a few of the cats that call Our Little Acre home. Romie had already put out their morning kibble, and all but Ohno stayed on the patio as I walked to the narrow border beneath the family room window. With a furry black shadow, I knelt to focus my lens on the roses that had begun to open.

Rosa 'Chihuly'
My favorite rose in this border was 'Chihuly', a cultivar named after the famous glass scluptor. This rose appears almost hand painted, something you'd find gracing the top of a designer cake. Each of the blooms on 'Chihuly' is unique in its pattern, creating a masterpiece of nature on each plant.

Aquilegia (Columbine) at the base an oak tree
As I walked through the southern yard, I noticed the morning light illuminating the columbine flowers growing at the base of a large oak. One trunk of this old tree had been lost to a storm, but Kylee has beautifully planted the base in a way that looks naturally accidental.

Lily by Viburnum dentatum 'Blue Muffin'
Both Lily and Ohno tailed me as I made my way along the split-rail fence. I recalled all of the amazing photos Kylee has shared of her cats, as Lily jumped to the top rail and posed perfectly behind a 'Blue Muffin' Viburnum.

Rosa 'Joseph's Coat'
Several roses are planted along the fencerow, including 'Joseph's Coat', a truly breathtaking bloom. A few of these buds caught my eye the previous evening on our quick tour, but I was completely taken by the open blooms illuminated by the early morning light. Of all the plants I saw at Our Little Acre, this rose is the one I must have for my own garden.

Cotinus coggygria (Smokebush)
As I came to the edge of Max's Garden (named after one of the feline members of the Baumle family), the sunlight filtered through the flowerbuds of a purple-leaved smokebush (Cotinus coggygria). You can certainly understand the common name of this plant when you view the way warm sunlight creates an ethereal, smoky glow among the flowers held high over the foliage.

Iris 'Cajun Rhythm'
Several iris remained in bloom in Kylee's garden, including 'Cajun Rhythm', perhaps the most orange iris I've ever seen in person. The iris reminded me that although we both garden in Zone 5b, our spring in Illinois comes much earlier than northwest Ohio. The iris in my own garden had peaked three weeks earlier.

Max's Garden
Max's Garden was wonderfully peaceful in the morning light. The humidity from the previous night's rain still hung in the air, diffusing the sunlight through the flowers and foliage. Kylee described this as a collector's garden, not one from a landscape design textbook. But she and I are on the same page when it comes to plants; there are very few we've met that we didn't want to add to our own gardens. So Max's Garden was my kind of garden: unpredictable, spontaneous and surprising while still conveying coherence and serenity. I simply loved the time I spent there.

Iris hollandica 'Rosario'
I did get to witness some of the bulbs Kylee planted, as the Dutch iris were still blooming. From one view, the lavender and yellow of 'Rosario' paid perfect complement to a bright pink peony in the background.

Trollius chinensis (Chinese Globeflower)
Near the back corner of Max's Garden the sunlight glowed from the petals of a Chinese Globeflower (Trollius chinensis). I'd never seen this particular species before, and was enamored with the brilliant orange-yellow of its flower.

Acer pseudoplat. 'Eskimo Sunset'
In her travels, Kylee always takes advantage of the opportunity to visit many nurseries and growers, and so many of her plants carry the story of the places she visits. She acquired the variegated maple (Acer pseudoplatanus 'Eskimo Sunset') planted along the back border of Max's garden from Gee Farms in Stockbridge, MI. Her specimen is currently waist high, but I can imagine what a gorgeous tree it will be at its mature height of 12 feet.

Armoracia rusticana (Horseradish)
Kylee had just recently planted her vegetable garden, after non-stop spring rains and cold weather almost washed out the planting of food crops completely. Her food garden feels integrated into the rest of the landscape, and is as ornamental as it is practical. I particularly liked the visual combination of strawberries and horseradish.

Galium odoratum (Sweet Woodruff) and Heuchera sp.
The landscape at Our Little Acre seems to effortlessly flow from one section of the garden to the next, and color and texture combinations are subtle and effective. In one section of the garden, a deep brown Heuchera floats above Sweet Woodruff with Hakonechloa grass in the background.

Rosa 'Gourmet Popcorn'
Kylee and Romie joined me out in Max's Garden after a short while. Each had their own unique stories about the development of the gardens, each as comfortable in and enthusiastic about the gardens as the other. Kylee pointed out plant after plant as we walked through the gardens, relating the stories of where she aquired them or how they had performed. For someone who took up gardening later in her life, Kylee has an encyclopedic knowledge of her plants. If you're wise, when Kylee talks you listen intently and hope to come away with a fraction of the knowledge she's shared.

Sempervivum sp. (Hens and Chicks) & Hosta sp.
The landscaping surrounding the Baumle's pool creates a comfortable private space off their back patio. One of my favorite focal points in this garden room was a large dish of Sempervivum (hens and chicks) atop a concrete bench next to a large hosta and arborvitae hedge.

Quercus sp. (Oak)
The conclusion to our garden tour brought us to the front yard, where Romie spoke fondly of the majestic bicentennial oak that anchors their lot on its southwestern edge. As Romie told me about the squirrels that have made a home in one of the oak's dead branches, I imagined how much history --human and otherwise -- the tree had witnessed and withstood.

Supertunia® 'Bordeaux', Osteospermum 'Soprano White', Lobularia 'Snow Princess', Tradescantia pallida 'Purple Heart'
Kylee doesn't garden much with containers, but those that she planted were beautiful combinations of plants. The window boxes that hung from the front porch rail were the perfect mix of annuals that would complement the 'Lauren's Grape' poppies that would soon bloom in the flower bed below.

Paeonia 'Charles Burgess' (Peony)
The last photo I took was of a 'Charles Burgess' peony planted along the driveway. It was a fitting end to a wonderful two hours in Kylee's garden. As we drove away from Our Little Acre later that afternoon for our five-hour trip home, Mindy and I both felt fortunate to have been recipients of Kylee and Romie's hospitality as they warmly welcomed us into their home and garden.

3 comments:

  1. Oh Chris, you have really touched my heart with this post. This is just further confirmation that we are kindred spirits when it comes to gardening. You get me. Romie and I enjoyed having you and Mindy here at our home so much, although the time was way too short. Thank you once again, for making the trip here and for this beautiful post about home and garden that Romie and I have created. You and Mindy and your son are always welcome here. Romie and I will have to go westward one of these days!

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  2. Meeting fellow bloggers is always such a highlight! I've been so blessed when meeting bloggers in person. I'm sure you will both treasure this friendship. Kylee,on your way to see Chris, you'll most likely pass through my town...hint hint!

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  3. What beautiful pictures and it must be so great to connect with other gardeners through your blogging. I really enjoyed this post! I live in Cincinnati and would love to check out the Peony Festival.

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