The layered garden design lessons for year-round beauty from Brandywine Cottage

David L. Culp

Book - 2012

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 635.09748/Culp Checked In
Portland, Or. : Timber Press 2012.
Main Author
David L. Culp (-)
Other Authors
Adam Levine (-), Rob Cardillo
1st ed
Physical Description
312 p. : ill
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • The layered garden
  • The garden at Brandywine Cottage
  • Signature plants through the seasons.
Review by Booklist Review

A spartan home sits on a modest piece of property tucked into the suburban sprawl of southeastern Pennsylvania. It is surrounded by an effusive explosion of plants of every shape and hue. Vibrant magenta alliums send their pom-poms skyrocketing over drifts of pale blue forget-me-nots. Hillsides overflow with cascading ferns and hostas, while a vegetable garden banked with perennials dominates the sunny foreground. Rainbow pots of herbs and annuals carry the eye on a radiant journey of discovery an ancient stone trough here, a gnarled wooden trellis there. So imaginative is Culp's genius and so resourceful his passion for plants and design that his layered garden offers more sensory delights per square foot than most gardens manage to achieve over acres. In no mere how I did this memoir, Culp, with help from award-winning garden writer Levine, offers solid advice on design technique and plant selection. Famed garden photographer Rob Cardillo's swoon-inducing inages showcase Culp's vision for maximizing a garden's potential. A stunning chronicle of the way Culp and his garden evolved over the years.--Haggas, Carol Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

Readers familiar with Culp through his work in Horticulture magazine or appearances on HGTV will relish this opportunity to learn more about the layering technique he's mastered at his two-acre Brandywine Cottage in Pennsylvania. Culp eloquently explains the design process he used to create his stunning garden, lush with plant combinations that provide a succession of peak garden moments throughout the year in his Zone 6 garden. Spellbinding writing and Carillo's breathtaking photos entice readers through Culp's woodland garden, large perennial border, kitchen garden, shrubbery, and walled garden. Along the way, Culp shares warm childhood memories and modestly relates why a Galanthus bears his name. With the passion of a plant collector and a wordsmith, he ends the book by describing signature plants for all four seasons, recommending some of his favorite gardening books, and sharing his optimistic attitude on beauty. VERDICT In the tradition of classics like Beverly Nichols's Merry Hall, this is a marvelous account of how one gardener created his garden and a sense of place. It's an essential title in the "how I did it" genre of garden writing.-Bonnie Poquette, Whitefish Bay, WI (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Introduction: The Path to Brandywine Cottage Gardening often brings me to my knees. By this I mean more than the planting, weeding, and fussing, the bended-knee, manicure-destroying grunt work that all of us do. The beauty and diversity of plants often stop me in my tracks, and I am never satisfied to simply gaze at these wonders from above. I get down on my knees to get a closer look, touching the plants and the soil they grow in, a communion that connects me to the earth and to life on Earth in an immediate, almost electric way. Many of my favorite flowers are tiny, their differences minute and seemingly inconsequential to the average observer, but I love examining all the facets of their intricate beauty. I especially love when someone kneels beside me, so I can share my fascination with a kindred spirit. Over a lifetime of varied horticultural pursuits, I have learned that the closer I look, the more astounded I become, and the more in love I fall with plants and the gardens in which they reside. I have been a passionate plantsman and collector since I was a child, and Brandywine Cottage, the 2-acre garden I tend with Michael Alderfer in southeastern Pennsylvania, is home to unusual plants from all over the world. The collector in me thinks each individual specimen is beautiful, of course; otherwise I would not bother growing them. But the designer in me wants more than a botanical garden with each genus grown in its separate bed. Plants are the basis of my garden artistry, serving as pieces in a design puzzle, as colors in a palette, as elements of a sculpture. As with artists in any medium, the more we learn about these vehicles for our expression and the more passionate we are about them, the more ways we will find to use them and the more beautiful our gardens will become. Combining plants in a multitude of ways, based on their habits and moods, how they live and even how they die, gives my garden successive layers of interest that extend into every month of the year. I use the term "layers" as shorthand for a design process by which I try to maximize the beauty and interest from each planted space, by combining complementary plants that either grow and bloom together or follow each other in succession. While succession planting is part of this design approach, my idea of layering goes beyond just the plants to encompass the development of each bed and how the beds relate to each other and the garden as a whole. More than just making sure one blooming plant follows another, layering is the art of creating a series of peak garden moments, the anticipation of which gets me out of bed in the morning. Trying to describe something visual in words is like trying to write about the taste of a complex food. How would you describe the taste of a curry? I could list all the spices that go into it, come up with a few adjectives like hot and spicy, but none of this would tell you exactly how it makes you feel when you first taste it. A layered garden like mine is complex, like a curry, with depths that are not all apparent at first glance and which can be savored in many ways, at many levels. My hellebores can be seen as simply beautiful; but my hellebore breeding can be an exercise in mathematical probability that I will explain to anyone who wants to listen. And in my layered garden, my hellebore bed is more than just hellebores: otherwise why would I want to look at it once these flowers were done blooming? Layering allows me to use all the many plants I collect in exciting ways that highlight the individuals while melding the collections into a coherent and cohesive whole. Countless people have provided me with the ideas that, sifted and composted in my mind, ended up in the ground at the Brandywine Cottage garden. Not all gardens are designed in layers, but layering is a feature of many of the gardens I love and is practiced by many of the gardeners I admire. I certainly make no claim that the "layered garden" (or anything else in this book) is my own invention. What I hope to offer, in the text and especially in the photographs and captions, is an intimate look at how one such garden has been conceived and constructed. Just as we can learn much by the peering into individual flowers, the close examination of any good garden, along with insights into the minds and the methods of its gardeners, can teach many lessons.   Excerpted from The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage by David L. Culp, Adam Levine All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.