Munch and Learn Recap: Famous Perennial Boarders with Ann Riorden and Carolyn Brown

The Dixon is turning its focus toward our mixed border from now until the end of October. Garden designer, Ann Riorden, and Master Gardener, Carolyn Brown helped get our Munch and Learn guests more excited about our border garden by introducing us to amazing border gardens in New York, France and England.   

Carolyn took her ideas from a book she highly recommends called, 1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die by Rae Spencer-Jones and Elizabeth Scholtz. She had a section in the middle of the book with lots of little red tags marking the ones she has visited.   Carolyn featured two four season gardens in New York, the High Line and the New York Botanical Garden. The Botanical Garden was designed in 1891 and features a seasonal walk, rose garden, arboretum, conservatory and more.   

The New York High Line is an abandoned, elevated rail line turned green space. A group of citizens formed the Friends of the High Line in 1999 and raised over a million dollars to convert the space.  The trestles are 30 feet above the ground and so the plants had to be hardy and sustainable. The designers incorporated plants that were already growing on the elevated rail beds with other hardy perennials ranging from flowering plants, grasses and trees.   

Carolyn then took us to France for a visit to the Chateau de Miromesnil. This castle was built in 1590 and the park includes tree groves, a picturesque chapel and an impressive kitchen garden. The kitchen garden was restored in 1950 and includes plants to feed and please according to Countess Bertrand de Vogue, the grandmother of the current owners. The garden includes everything from apple trees, hawthorn, pumpkin vines and corn to nasturtiums, tulips and 84 varieties of clematis.   

Our next stop in France was to Le Jardin Agapanthe which opened about 20 years ago and was designed by Alexander Thomas. An extension of the garden was opened across the street in 2010. Thomas believes in designing gardens with slower growing plants that don’t take as much work to maintain and his flower of choice is agapanthus. He especially likes to use the flower in borders whether it is planted in the ground or in pots arranged to create or accentuate a border. 

Carolyn then took us to England to the Hidecote Manor whose garden was designed by Major Lawrence Johnston. Major Johnston was an American who was born in Paris and then became a British citizen. His mother bought Hidecote in 1907 and he began his work on the estate then. He became fully dedicated to designing the gardens after near death in WWI. In 1914 He was shot through the chest and it was thought he did not survive. He was even placed in a coffin for burial. His friend Major Henry Sidney was in charge of the burial party and he wanted to see his friend one more time so he opened Johnston’s coffin and noticed he was still breathing. While Johnston was recuperating he sent for his butler who would bring him books. The books of choice were on horticulture so after his return home he used his knowledge to create the Hidecote gardens which include lawns with sheep, hornbeam allees, and a blue border and a red border.   

Longstock Park, one of the best water gardens in the world, is in Hampshire, England. The water ended up there as an accident in 1870 when a former owner dug out gravel from the banks of the River Test in order to build a road. In 1946 John Spedan Lewis acquired the property and hired botanist Terry Jones to assist in plant selection. The property not only includes water plants and plants that thrive in wet soil but also an arboretum. The borders at Longstock have a great architectural element built in, a gorgeous wall to form a backdrop and frame the garden and a stone walk in front.   

Another English garden is at West Dean College which includes a 300 foot long Edwardian pergola, 16 restored Victorian glasshouses, a walled garden, a kitchen garden, orchards, ornamental gardens, wild and woodland gardens and sunken gardens.   

Next was Pashley Manor which was built in 1550 in the Tudor and Georgian styles. Pashley Manor’s gardens include beautiful borders that, like Longstock, are framed by a backdrop of beautiful brick walls. The colors are warm and the intersections and terminuses are accentuated with sculpture.   

Snowshill Manor was the home of Charles Wade who was inspired to collect everything. He used the large house on the property to house is many collections and lived in a smaller building. Mr. Wade was a fan of pathways and steps creating many opportunities for border gardens. He, like the Dixons, wanted to create private garden rooms and vistas so there is no place where the whole garden can be seen.   

Waterperry Gardens was home to a horticulture college from 1932 to 1971. The gardens have a lot of variety ranging from trees, flowers, long vistas, modern plantings and classical borders. The 60 foot long border is backed by the wall of the kitchen garden and is carefully planted to bloom from spring to frost.   

Memphians will have the opportunity to learn more about Great Dixter from its Head Gardener, Fergus Garret, this October 15 and 16 at the Great Dixter at the Dixon Symposium. Great Dixter was the home of renowned horticulturalist Christopher Lloyd. The home is actually three homes that have been made into one. The oldest section is from the 1400’s, another section was moved from another property and the newest addition was completed by the Lloyds in 1912. The mixed borders and gardens are situated around the house. The borders are truly mixed as they are shrubs, climbers all varieties of perennials, annuals and biennials.  


Carolyn and Ann showed this week’s Munch and Learn guests some truly magnificent gardens that definitely are worth seeing during one’s lifetime. 

- Linley Schmidt, Public Programs Coordinator

Posted by Chantal Drake at 3:17 PM
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