Sunday, July 13, 2008
The Adirondack Chapter (Finally) Goes to the Adirondacks!
From Carol Eichler, chair
It took a little help from members Dick and Mary George to finally live up to our name as the Adirondack Chapter of rock gardeners.
On June 14th a small group of us spent a good part of the day in the Adirondacks near Paul Smiths, preparing the historic rock garden at White Pine Camp for it’s dedication in August. Mostly we placed and planted tray upon tray of saxatile perennials (from the nearby zone 3 nursery and the hopefully hardy contributions brought from our home gardens) to nestle among the 14 or more stone mounds created by landscape designer Frederic Heutte many years before.
Dick and Mary and any friends they could rally over the last two years had literally unearthed the garden from the surrounding forest and forest debris that had reclaimed it. The 12-inch plus diameter stumps among the mounds and pathways were testament to the success of nature’s progress. It was a far cry from the garden’s glory days in the 1920’s when Grace Coolidge (yes, wife of President Calvin Coolidge) took her daily stroll there. The Georges equated digging into two feet of forest litter akin to an archeological excavation – and definitely, to my thinking, an immense labor of love given the extensive size of this garden.
As mentioned before, the rock garden was designed by Frederic Heutte, while serving as estate gardener for then owner of White Pine Camp, H.W. Deforest. President Coolidge honored Heutte with a presidential commendation in 1926 helping to launch his illustrious career. Heutte eventually worked his way south to Norfolk, Virginia where in1936 he founded and was director of the Norfolk Botanical Garden.
Back at White Pine Camp our group got to do the fun part of gardening – planting! With the bones of the garden at last revealed, we, as a group, made short work of setting in plants - something that would surely have taken Dick and Mary the best part of their summer weekends to complete. Of course, we couldn’t resist resetting some of the stonework and chopping out stumps and roots that had invaded the pathways. Lastly, we set in a background planting of shrubbery to transition from the forest backdrop to the intimate garden space that lay nestled within.
With the August dedication of the so-named Frederic Heutte Alpine Rock Garden in conjunction with the White Pine Camp Centennial celebration on August 10th (see the open invitation to Chapter members to attend below), I’ll be most eager to see how our plantings have fared. And no doubt, observe the work that lies ahead to make the garden even better next year.