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Posts Tagged ‘Bedrock Gardens’

Bedrock Gardens in Lee, New Hampshire, is open to the public.

Many of the activities people used to seek out for entertainment are closed these days, so more of us are walking in woods and shady cemeteries or looking for nearby public gardens. One of our favorite gardens was started by friends in Lee, New Hampshire, but we haven’t visited there for a while. Silly reason, I suppose: since Covid-19, I’m afraid to use a public bathroom on the highway.

Arnoldia, the voice of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, recently touched base with staff of public gardens around the country to learn what their days have been like in the shadow of coronavirus.

“Public gardens,” the magazine reports, “like other cultural institutions, were confronted with the same stay-at-home mandates that shuttered their communities. According to the American Public Gardens Association, more than 25 percent of gardens closed on a single day (Monday, March 16), and by the end of March, only 4 percent remained fully open to the public. The plants, of course, did not wait to begin growing until gardens reopened. The sunshine-colored blossoms of forsythia and daffodils put on their radiant shows no matter what.

“The unrelenting arrival of spring was, in many ways, incongruous with the national mood. It also meant that horticulturists at public gardens continued working despite closures and event cancellations at their institutions. Schedules changed. Procedures changed. But there were plants to be tended. [Thirteen] horticulturists from gardens around the country describe the on-the-ground realities of caring for their collections during the first months of the pandemic — the months in which an old normal faded and a new normal was created.”

Among the updates is one from the Bellevue Botanical Garden near Seattle, the New York Botanical Garden, the San Francisco region’s Filoli (“birdsongs provide a sense of vibrancy during the day, and large animals [like cougars, coyotes, foxes, and raccoons] leave evidence of nighttime visits”), Utah’s Ashton Gardens, the Boston region’s Wakefield Arboretum, Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory, Pennsylvania’s famed Longwood Gardens, Denver Botanic Gardens, the Morton Arboretum in Illinois, and Florida’s Naples Botanical Garden.

Conor Guidarelli, Arnold Arboretum’s horticulturist, had a rather sad entry about the Covid-19 version of the annual Lilac Day, and event that Suzanne and I loved to attend when she was small.

He says he “spray-painted white arrows on the sidewalk to request one-way traffic to limit potential exposure of those in the garden. I spent the afternoon posting normal signage (‘Please don’t pick the lilacs,’ ‘No picnicking at the Arboretum’), along with another, ‘Don’t smell the lilacs.’ ”

Golly. There’s almost no point in going if you can’t smell the lilacs. We once spent a whole day sniffing as we tried to find a particularly fragrant variety we thought was called Persian Lilac.

The Arnoldia article concludes, “By the end of the spring, gardens and arboreta began to reopen. Bellevue Botanical Garden and the Arnold Arboretum were among the few whose grounds remained fully open throughout the early months of the pandemic. Ashton Gardens reopened on May 1, allowing visitors to catch the late-blooming tulips, and Filoli reopened on May 11. Attendees at both gardens were required to purchase timed-entry tickets. Filoli initially offered eight hundred tickets each day and later raised the number to fourteen hundred.

“Prepurchased tickets became the modus operandi for gardens — a way of preventing attendance surges and of reducing interactions between visitors and staff at entrance bottlenecks. Denver Botanic Gardens reopened with a ticketed entry on May 22. The Morton Arboretum reopened to members on June 1 and to the general public on June 15. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens reopened on June 13, allowing a one-way path through the indoor conservatories. Longwood Gardens reopened on June 18, about three weeks before a massive corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) came into bloom.

“Due to state-mandated limits on guest capacity, the garden significantly expanded their evening hours so that more visitors could obtain tickets to experience the rare and short-lived bloom. Some visitors were relieved to find that the notoriously foul smell of the flowers was muffled by their masks.

“Naples Botanical Garden fully reopened on July 6. New York Botanical Garden partially reopened on July 21. By the end of July, the Wakefield Arboretum had opened for limited reservation-only tours and special programs.” Read more at Arnoldia, here.

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Photos: Bedrock Gardens

I’m excited that the now-public garden of our friends Jill Nooney and Bob Munger in Lee, New Hampshire, is opening up again after a long hiatus. If you live anywhere near southeast New Hampshire, you are in for a treat when you enter the magical world of Bedrock Gardens.

Although they originally created the wonderland for their family and friends and to display Nooney’s monumental sculptures, Bedrock Gardens is now a nonprofit entity open to all.

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Here is what Robin Sweetser at New Hampshire Home magazine had to say about it recently.

“This year, Bedrock Gardens in Lee is opening for its first full season as a public garden. Owners Jill Nooney and Bob Munger decided in 2007 that, for their garden not to fall into disrepair when they could no longer care for it, they would have to take action to preserve it.

‘The pleasure others derived from the garden — paired with the fact we can’t take it with us — propelled us to try and turn the garden into one open to the public,’ Nooney says.

“Bedrock was already a popular garden destination. ‘Way back in 1998, we started opening the garden two weekends a year as a stage to showcase my outdoor sculptures,’ Nooney says. …

“ ‘For several years, we were open one weekend a month, and when we went to two weekends a month, we had more than five thousand visitors!’ Munger says.

“The most impressive water feature on the property is a two-hundred-foot-long channel dubbed ‘the Wiggle-Waggle’ for the way it curves across the property. …

“The garden has been created on land that was originally a farm dating from 1740. When Nooney and Munger bought the property in 1980, the land had been neglected for about forty years. The couple spent their first years there clearing overgrown fields of poison ivy, saplings and brush.

“Actual landscaping began in 1987; then Nooney and Munger added a ¾-acre pond in 1991. The soil excavated from the pond was used to build a berm alongside busy Route 125 to buffer the road noise and block the sight of traffic. Selective cutting of trees opened up the property even more, and two miles of trails made the wooded areas accessible. …

“Nooney believes that a garden needs to have destinations. At Bedrock, there are twenty-three garden areas linked with paths to form a journey with comfortable spots along the way to sit and enjoy the sights. There are many axis views that draw visitors through the garden. One is nine-hundred-feet long, …

“Becoming a public garden has been a long process; attaining nonprofit status for the Friends of Bedrock Gardens was one of the first hurdles to overcome, taking ten years. ‘The mission of the Friends group is to take over and run the garden,’ Nooney says. The Friends group also established a governing board and brought in John Forti as founding executive director. …

“Forti recently returned to New Hampshire after three years as horticulture director at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Area folks know him from his years as curator of historic landscapes at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth and co-founder of the Seacoast Slow Food chapter. ‘His knowledge of plants, the region and its people, in addition to his magnetic personality, make him the perfect person for the job,’ Nooney says….

“ ‘We are just starting to explore how we can add plantings like a fernery, and a children’s garden space that will offer fun and meaningful lessons for families with our own unique twist,’ Forti says. … ‘Above all, I look forward to helping us grow as a land-based cultural oasis and gathering place for the community to find calm and inspiration in a harried and fractious world.’ ”

More here.

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