A garden tour for couch potatoes

By Steve Boehme - Contributing Columnist

Have you ever experienced the magic of a beautiful estate garden? These are places where gardeners with vast imaginations and great wealth have created wonderful private parks of breathtaking beauty.

We grew up near Philadelphia, so we’ve seen the spectacular estates Winterthur, Hagley and Longwood Gardens, all located in the Brandywine Valley near Wilmington, Delaware. These estate gardens, created by members of the duPont family, are each open to the public and well worth spending a day to explore. In a younger day I worked at one such place; the J. Seward Johnson estate “Jasna Polana” in Princeton, New Jersey. No expense was spared to create perfect settings for plants, and imaginative effects to entertain visitors.

Now you can tour one of the world’s most unique and beautiful estate gardens from your living room couch; “Les Quatre Vents” in Quebec, Canada. A wonderful new film called “The Gardener” captures the stunning beauty and fascinating history of this country estate, the creation of prize-winning horticulturist Frank Cabot.

An 82-minute documentary on Blu-ray Disc, “The Gardener” immerses you in stunning color images of flowers and landscaping. Frank Cabot’s gardening philosophy is captured in interviews recorded before his death at the age of 86. Comments by Cabot, his family and a range of garden experts tell the story of the 20-acre garden, including details about its design and construction.

Les Quatre Vents is full of surprises, including handcrafted structures like a Japanese tea house, a pigeon house with a cozy “love nest” overlooking the gardens, reflecting pools, stone arch bridges, waterfalls and streams, and several long rope bridges. The way these diverse structures fit into the landscape is masterful.

Cabot likens his mass plantings of perennial flowers, bulbs and grasses that change with the seasons, to an orchestral composition, designed to inspire and delight visitors at any time of year. He talks about his desire to stimulate a range of strong emotions; his gardens provoke both laughter and tears. His strongest talent is the ability to visualize how things will look in the future, and then patiently wait for the plants to fulfill his vision.

Most of us will never have the kind of wealth and freedom Cabot or the duPont brothers had to pursue their dreams of gardening perfection. Although our landscapes are more modest, each of us can take inspiration and ideas from these artists, for whom cost is no object. Large or small, we can improve our gardens by soaking up ideas from the world’s best estates and adapting them to our own yards, and our own budgets.

If you love beauty and plants, find yourself a copy of “The Gardener” and enjoy a feast for all your senses. You may not want to travel as far as Quebec or Philadelphia to tour an estate garden personally, but most likely you’ll immerse yourself in this film more than once.

Steve Boehme is a landscape designer/installer specializing in landscape “makeovers”. “Let’s Grow” is published weekly; column archives are on the “Garden Advice” page at www.goodseedfarm.com. For more information is available at www.goodseedfarm.com or call GoodSeed Farm Landscapes at (937) 587-7021.


By Steve Boehme

Contributing Columnist