The Berkshire Botanical Garden
This venerable botanical garden, founded in 1938, radiates a wonderful ‘settled’ feeling. Majestic trees, both deciduous and evergreen, provide the perfect backdrop of beauty and shade for people as well as for plants.
But, although it was established over eighty years ago, as befits a public garden, it has definitely evolved with the times. The overall spatial design is delightfully informal—no straight lines here! And, all around, established beds, some sunny and others shady, are filled with mature perennials and shrubs.
Furthermore the planting design is anything but old-fashioned. In addition to colorful flowers that come and go, skillful designers have created season-long visual interest by massing plants of contrasting textures. The plants are all carefully labeled and the whole place is beautifully maintained—with nary a weed in sight.
The Berkshire Botanical Garden is actually bisected by Route 102, with the Visitors Center plus the more functional ‘demonstration vegetable gardens’ and associated greenhouses in the southern segment. So, after signing in, be sure to cross the road and wander around the ornamental display gardens in the northern segment.
The Display Gardens
The individual display gardens merge with one another to form a seamless whole. And they run the gamut, from an expansive sunny herb garden to a shady bog garden surrounding a tranquil pond, all demonstrating how to match plants with their specific growing conditions.
The New Wave Garden
The New Wave Garden—a long crescent-shaped bed encircling a central sunny lawn—showcases the informal planting style of contemporary designers like Piet Oudolf and offers numerous ideas for gardeners everywhere.
Here shorter plants are combined with medium and taller selections to create an irregular, interwoven planting pattern.
In addition the border is only cut back in spring, allowing the plants to reseed themselves and spread naturally over time, while at the same time providing food and cover for birds and insects during the winter.
The Shade Garden
While The New Wave garden is predominately sunny, the exposure at its far end is relatively shady, and here you can see many familiar shade-loving plants harmoniously growing together, from masses of six-foot high goatsbeard (Aruncus diocus) at the back, all the way down to discrete clumps of diminutive Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) alongside the stone walkways.
The Daylily Walk
Nearby the magnificent daylily walk is filled with hundreds of different cultivars creating a kaleidoscope of summer color from early July onwards.
This picture was taken in mid-july but the show will continue throughout August.
The Herb Garden
The sweeping herb garden is beautifully situated on the broad sunny slope.
Winding stone paths and steps crisscross the slope, bringing visitors in close contact with all the aromatic plantings, while large smooth embedded rocks both stabilize the slope and also add visual appeal.
The Pond Garden
After exploring all the little paths in the herb garden, we meander down the hill, and stop for a while on a pleasant bench in the shade of a large tree to enjoy the expansive view. From here we can catch a glimpse of the next treat in store: the Pond Garden.
The serene pond is located in the natural hollow at the bottom of the hillside and is surrounded boggy soil.
Here you will find masses of vigorous plants that thrive in the wet conditions—including hostas and ferns, grasses and rodgersias and many others.
And furthermore they all appear to be co-existing in easy harmony–a lesson in combining plants that share the same culture requirements:
The Proctor Garden
The final stop on our tour was to visit the Proctor garden which is tucked away behind the old farmhouse. Described as ‘old-fashioned’ it features a mix of many familiar shrubs and perennials in the curved bed surrounding a central lawn.
This is especially worth a visit in springtime to see the purple lilacs surrounded by a carpet of blue phlox–as in this picture that is courtesy of the Berkshire Botanical Garden .
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