Tuesday, September 11, 2012
This photograph of clematis was actually taken at well-known rosarian's home. For years, Anna Davis had a front-yard rose garden which she would so generously put on tour. I especially remember a long wooden fence covered with the pink double rose 'Eden.' At her mailbox was a charming, low-growing yellow rose, which I particularly loved (I have the name written down somewhere). Elsewhere around the yard were rose covered arches and all manner of shrub roses and more climbers. It was spectacular.
And then I heard the news. Anna was moving. She was downsizing. We all thought we'd die. I could not do any more drive-bys (when her garden was not on tour, you could stop in her neighborhood, park your car and walk to her corner. Most of the roses were in the front of her house).
For several years, I lost track of Anna. Finally, it was announced that she was going to be on the Atlanta Botanical Garden's Gardens for Connoisseurs tour, which is always held on Mother's Day weekend. I was ecstatic, but I couldn't feature what a downsized garden could look like. After all, the other garden was not really huge.
But I needn't have feared. Anna had moved into a cluster home (I'm not sure this the right term; the houses are very close with just a narrow strip separating each one. The tiny lawns in front all looked alike) and had turned it into a showplace. Although the garden was tiny, you didn't get that sense. She had clematis and roses climbing the walls of her house. As you went down the alley to the sunny, postage stamp sized back yard, you felt as if you were walking through a fragrant tunnel to enter The Secret Garden. At the end was a rose-covered arch with clematis woven in. Just after this sat Anna in a rose bedecked swing, gazing out at a colorful display of dazzling flowers, all in the best of health. Mixed in with the roses were several varieties of clematis.
To find out the name of this large-flowering type, I called Lyndy Broder, who is an active member of the International Clematis Society and who travels all over the world visiting gardens and nurseries. Here is what Lyndy wrote back:
"The clematis should be 'Hagley Hybrid' which was sold in the states as 'Pink
Chiffon'. Google clematis on the web. It is a wonderful search site for
identifying clems. They say it is group 3 which is hard prune. Anna Davis
has the most beautiful clematis. I asked her how she did it and she said
she listened to me! So I guess I should follow my own advice. Her soil, of
course, is impeccable and the size of the garden is manageable. Her
combinations are fabulous."
The lessons from Anna's garden are many, but the striking one is that she uses the vertical surfaces of her home to showcase climbers - both clematis and roses. The treatment of this brick column is just one example of how an otherwise plain space can be transformed into a thing of beauty.