In honor of National Public Garden Month - okay, it was just one day but why not make it longer? - I visited Maryland's Brookside Gardens last week and found lots to drool over - and learn from.

Brookside Gardens

Above, blossoms of Wisteria go with anything but here they're paired gorgeously with the peach-colored blooms of a native deciduous azalea.  The arbor-type structure the Wisteria is growing on is, I should note, very strong, which any structure supporting Wisteria had better be.

Brookside goes all out for Wisteria, as evidenced by this block-long arbor.   There were so many bees swarming all over those blooms, I wish I'd been able to capture the sound somehow.  Of course the bees are no threat us humans, as they're far too busy to bother us (which is the case with bees generally, unless we step on them or disturb their nest) 

I'd never seen a Wisteria with white blooms before! 

I love this bench, especially in its aged state with lots of character.  Looks like it was donated in someone's honor - great idea!  Flower-wise, the Alliums blooming in back of it make a wonderful contrast with the quiet greenness all around them.

The Scenery

The scene above illustrates several garden design ideas in a not-too-showy way.  First, that rustic bench draws us into the scene.  And even under large trees, it's possible to have lots of color - here azalea blooms and the season-long color of Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola’ ).  And a simple gazing ball is a wonderful addition.  Finally, a strip of lawn does a great job of showing off more exciting parts of the garden - the borders.

Above, the bench is shown from the other direction to illustrate a design principle the folks at this public garden use to great effect - massing!  I love blue Hostas anywhere but especially this many of them all together.  In the background is another impressive mass - of Epimedium.  Who says we can't make gorgeous gardens under trees?

Above, could a garden scene be more calming than this?  And inviting too - thanks to that simple bridge.  The river of ferns, Hostas and Primroses planted in pebbles are part of a functional element that manages to be stunning, too - it's a dry streambed.  Thus, the bridge.

Finally, another massing of Hosta, this time a variety we don't usually see.  I remember the sad, bad old days when Brookside was invaded by deer every night and their poor Hostas were chopped off at the base.  Thanks to deer fencing, their shade gardens are fabulous again.

A note about the English ivy climbing up the tree in this photo:  it stops a few feet above this portion of the tree.  Ivy is harmless enough when it's kept low and isn't allowed to climb high enough to envelope the tree or produce berries, which can then be spread far and wide by birds.  The gardeners here know what they're doing!

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