I’m waving a Terrible Towel and eating a Hoagie, can you guess where I am?

I really do pinch myself sometimes, thinking about how lucky I am and how many wonderful people I have met in my life, people who have extended the hand of hospitality…just because.

The bees love Pittsburgh too-Steelers Colours!

One of these people is Pittsburgh local, Garden Communicator extraordinaire and one of the nicest people I have ever met, Denise Schreiber. Those of you who follow this blog will remember Denise, who I met in 2015 in Pasadena. Denise and I drove down to Pittsburgh following our GWA conference in Buffalo, in August and I don’t think either of us drew breath the whole trip.

Pittsburgh by night

We talked and laughed and poor Denise had to answer lots and lots of questions about American-life according to her, from this ever-curious Aussie. We arrived at Denise’ home in Pleasant Hills, Pennsylvania which is a borough of Allegheny County and a suburb of Pittsburgh and after a quick tour of her treasure-filled garden, meeting the family, a quick unpack, we headed in to view the “Dahntown” from the top of Mt Washington-what a site, what a city.

They speak an interesting version of American in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is home to NFL football team, The Steelers and is located at the confluence of three rivers and so there are lots of bridges crisscrossing the city. Pittsburgh is an old city built on steel but has undergone dramatic gentrification in recent years to become a vibrant and exciting modern place where they speak an interesting version of American.

When you travel with a local, you get to experience a different side to a city, one that only someone with local knowledge can provide and so it was a joyous moment, when after our night time trip to view the city, we headed down the hill to Denise’s favourite ice cream shop for a cheeky soft serve and chocolate sauce.

Inside…like Alladins cave

As a Garden Communicator, no trip to Pittsburgh would be complete without a visit to Phipps Conservatory, in Schenley Park. Stunning glass art by Jason Gamrath, displaying botanical wonders on a massive scale accompanied by permanently acquired, huge Chihuly pieces and more delicate Hans Godo Fräbel works in the orchid house. These provided enhancement to beautiful displays of flora under glass in this giant conservatory. The Sustainability gardens provided insight into providing habitat for nature right in the middle of a busy city.

Phipps Conservatory

This blue glass is incredible

Bees on Joe Pye weed at Phipps

The orchids were stunning in the Orchid room at Phipps

Monarchs at Phipps in the Nature play area

Chihuly at Phipps

Check out this Chihuly

Glass art at Phipps Conservatory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature corridors in the CBD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The outdoor gardens offered beautiful views of the city and the Cathedral of Learning, framed by a gorgeous hydrangea display.

Cathedral of Learning

Check out these Hydrangeas

Beautiful views of Pittsburgh above the city

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denise works as Greenhouse Manager for AlleghenyCounty Parks looks after many of the plantings at South Park, so naturally, a behind-the-scenes tour was on the cards and a fun time exploring the place where she works.

 

We visited The Strip which is home to European Delicatessens, restaurants and a fabulous Kitchenware shop and we ate a Hoagie, a delicious bread roll filled to capacity with sliced meats and cheese-a must do!!!

The Strip

Selecting cheese on The Strip

A garden centre, Trax Farms Market was also on the agenda and this was of particular interest for me as I was able to compare prices and stock available, I just loved their garden gift lines and planter boxes out the front. They were gearing up for Halloween.

Container planting at Trax Farms Market

 

You would not expect to see this in a cemetery in Australia

Jefferson Memorial Cemetery might not seem like a fun place to visit but it’s actually a stunning arboretum and it was there, at dusk, where we saw a family of deer grazing quietly amongst the trees, my first “Bambi” moment.  There’s a life-sized bronze statue of George Washington and very interesting art that one would not expect to find in a cemetery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something, I might not have mentioned is that I’m a bit of a sucker for craft stores so my visit was made complete with a trip to Pat Catan’s, a huge craft supply store.

Our home now plays host to a ‘Terrible Towel’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhrqDBEi9oo

and my son has barely taken off his Pittsburgh T-shirt and Steelers PJ’s since my return a little reminder of my travels to make me smile.

Girls Night In/Out an annual tradition was a wonderful night held at Denise’s home on the last night of my stay with great food and conviviality, celebrating with lots of women working in Horticulture as well as some of Denise’s nearest and dearest friends and family-they sure know how to party those girls.

Thanks to The Schreibers for generously sharing your home and your town with this Aussie, it was a week I will never forget.

 

Niagara Parks-so much more than just Niagara Falls

Sarah Palin once famously said “I can see Russia from my house”, well the residents of Buffalo NY can’t see Russia but they sure can see Canada. I spent about 11 hours in Canada with my GWA, garden communicator friends in August and what an adventure we had!

We set off from the Convention Centre in Buffalo around 11 am and headed over The Peace Bridge, which is a bridge between Canada and the United States at the east end of Lake Erie at the source of the Niagara River, about 20 kilometres (12.4 mi) upriver of Niagara Falls.  from the border. Maybe it’s called this because it’s where Americans go to get “peace” and quiet from the continual barrage of news about President No.45, I’m not 100% sure about that. though. While I would not really say that we were “warmly” greeted by the border guards (we were actually told to be silent)! I can understand why-imagine a busload of very excited garden communicators all lined up with passports in hand, in a room the size of a decent sitting room. I was asked if I was carrying a weapon, this was a first for me I must admit. My camera was my only weapon of choice for this day. Anyway, through we went and there were many oohs and ahhs as we arrived and saw the wondrous Niagara Falls for the first time.

The incredible team of young adults from Niagara Parks guided us through our day which included an experience “behind the falls” where we were actually underneath Niagara Falls (nothing can prepare you for the power and magnitude of that water), a trip to The Royal Botanic Gardens, The Butterfly Conservatory, The School of Horticulture and so much more. We were treated like royalty all day.

The public gardens on display were breathtaking, lush and so beautifully maintained.

Downtown area

Imagine studying horticulture here

The Butterfly Conservatory was amazing

What a beautiful place

Canadian hospitality was the highlight of this trip, there were so many passionate young people sharing their part of the world which was heartwarming for the soul. We were captivated by their enthusiasm.

The finale of our long and jam-packed day in Canada was the meal that we shared together at Queen Victoria Place restaurant. This stunning old building with the most stunning views from the expansive wooden deck, was constructed in 1904 and was the former residence of the Commissioners of Niagara Parks, it was here that something very special happened after a delicious meal and wonderful service and a few glasses of very nice Prosecco with my friend Sylvia, Niagara Falls was lit up. The Canadian Falls were in red and white and the American Falls in red, white and blue and in between the two, the full, red harvest moon rose -what a sight, what a night!

Cheers to a brilliant day-it’s Prosecco o’clock

The Canadian falls

The American Falls

The harvest moon rising between the two falls

We all left wishing we could spend more time in this beautiful place, just a hop, skip and a jump from US soil.

Thanks to Team Niagara Parks for sharing your beautiful part of the world with GWA-it was a day that this garden communicator will never forget.

 

Take a walk on the wild side-Colour your world-Paint the House!

As a garden designer, I see the joy of colour everywhere and love seeing how adventurous some garden owners are, not only with their garden plants and trees but also the colours of their homes.

Check out these houses…

Have you ever considered painting your house a bright colour?

Reminds me of that TV show my kids used to watch Bear in the Big Blue House

Here are some great homes from Buffalo New York, the owners have embraced bright colours and I just adore it, you can’t help but smile when you see a home that is bright pink! That takes some guts…and how gorgeous is it?!

It’s pink, what’s not to love?

 

Pretty shades of green

…this garden owner says he’s colour blind-looks pretty awesome to me

Feeling arty? Paint your gate

Tasteful contrast colours for the not so brave…but there is black!

Cute cottages bursting with colour

Check out how the plant selection matches the paint colour

Do you fancy red and green?

I’m sure this house was painted to co-ordinate with the begonias in the window boxes-so pretty

have you got a plain fence that needs some colour? Why not give this a go?

I have always been a green and pink girls and so no surprise that I adored the colours and the contrasting flowers of this weatherboard cottage

Tasteful black and white trim

 

That’s it, I’m inspired…I’m off to the hardware store to pick up some paint-how about you??? How brave are you????

 

Small but Mighty-The (not so) Private Gardens of Buffalo

I’ve been very fortunate to have seen many private gardens in my life especially during my time as WA Chairman and later West Australian Co-ordinator of Australia’s Open Garden Scheme.

I just returned back home from the USA feeling very grateful indeed after 3 whole weeks of garden visiting-let’s call it, my American garden immersion-more on that later.

There is something very special about the people who open their private garden spaces so that others may share first hand the very personal interpretations and manipulation of nature particularly in an urban setting. There are so many reasons to lock ourselves away these days after hours spent behind desks in stressful jobs so many people travel back home after enduring a long commute, drive in the garage, pull down the roller door and flop into the sanctuary of home, locking the outside world out. Gardeners who share their gardens are the complete opposite, they throw open that garage door and say to the world “come on in and see what I have done”

As part of the recent Garden Writers conference, in Buffalo NY, my garden bestie AZ Plantlady and 350 or so other wonderful garden communicators, many of whom I feel so honoured to now call my friends, spent days exploring about 20 gardens which had opened the previous weekend for Buffalo Garden Walk at which more than 400 (!!) gardens were open in the Buffalo area.

The gardens we visited were mostly within walking distance of each other and ranged from tiny cottages in which the driveways had been converted to container garden spaces to larger homes with areas of lawn and garden borders.

Gardening in this part of the world is a short seasonal thing-while we garden all year round in Perth, these guys go hard at it for only about 4 months of the year due to the frosts and heavy layers of snow-white stuff that falls from the sky and covers the ground-you know what I mean, like the movie Frozen, yes that’s the stuff.

Jim Charlier is one of the members of GWA who also opens his Buffalo garden and I asked him about the gardening season in Buffalo and he has provided some insight into gardening in that part of the world, here’s what Jim had to say “We start in earnest about the second week of May. Our average last frost date is mid-May. Though we’re admiring our tulips and flowering shrubs in April. Adventurous gardeners start earlier. Crazy ones start from seed in the winter months. We garden pretty much through September and some of October – with seasonal mums, tulip bulb planting, and last call for planting trees and shrubs. Depends on weather, obviously. We don’t get a significant snowfall until December usually. Seems like that isn’t happening as much anymore and we don’t get significant snow until January. The plants need the snow cover, and it doesn’t seem as though the past few years that that has even been consistent. November through March is spent thinking about April through October.”

Here’s Jim’s garden… which I must confess is one of my all time favourite small gardens, such wonderful attention to detail and a vignette worth photographing at every turn

So, sit back and take a short walk through some of the other beautiful gardens in the cottage district of Buffalo. Do these inspire you to make some changes in your garden?

even the dog has a cute garden house

check out this bottle tree

when in Buffalo…you need a garden buffalo

 

Love this

Don’t you just want to cozy up in here with a cup of tea and a book?

Our neighbour has a new Head Gardener

We have lived in the same place for generations and it’s unusual but we are very grateful that we have had the same wonderful neighbours for what feels like forever really, they are just like us and speak a bit like us. They enjoy the same TV shows as we do, similar tastes in music, they enjoy art, sport and generally have the same core values as us. They believe in a peaceful life. We have loved living harmoniously with them, they collect our mail when we go on holidays, water our plants and generally they keep an eye out for our kids and we do the same for them.

Recently, though our dear neighbours employed a new Head Gardener. He’s quite different from the old Head Gardener that our neighbours had for eight wonderful years but someone in that family must have seen enough value in him to employ him. So, the neighbourly thing to do is to give him a go, right? That’s what we do on our side of the street. Generally, we are pretty easy-going kind of folk.

Here's the neighbours' new Head Gardener

Here’s the neighbours’ new Head Gardener

So far, The new Head Gardener has been doing an awful lot of deconstruction work but in his haste to weed out the “nasty” weeds that he doesn’t want, he has also pulled out many beautiful flowers and shrubs which had been nurtured by the previous Head Gardener. Apparently, most of his experience has been with golf courses and rooftop gardens in high rise buildings.

Getting down and dirty-The previous Head Gardener at work

Getting down and dirty-The previous Head Gardener at work

It’s a funny thing really, we were hoping that he would wait just a little bit, perhaps give things a light prune and have a good look at everything again, after the winter, when the spring revealed the good work done by the previous gardening team.

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Our neighbours garden in the winter

The previous Head Gardener-he was there for 8 years

The previous Head Gardener-he was there for 8 years

There are many things worthwhile keeping in our neighbours garden, that’s for sure, you see our neighbours have always had a beautiful garden and there are treasures currently buried in the snow. We have enjoyed so many BBQs and gatherings there, swam in their pool, prayed with them as they farewelled their family members who have passed away and helped them when they were sick and needed our support or just a helping hand. We are big on mateship in our neighbourhood and that’s what mates do, they are there for one another in good times and in bad.

Our neighbours garden

Our neighbours garden

The other day, however, a very strange thing happened, Our Head Gardener called and reminded the new Head Gardener across the street, that we had an agreement with the previous gardener to take care of the potted plants which we had been looking after, as they had been disposed of when their previous owner from a neighbouring suburb, moved without a trace. They have no home to be returned to. The new Head Gardener said that he thought this was a really “dumb idea” as he said he has enough potted plants and is scared that the ones we have been looking after may have weeds that he doesn’t want. We offered to check thoroughly for weeds and remove them but he’s still not happy. We hope that he will see reason and honour the agreement. So that we can make a plan to house more pot plants from other neighbourhoods. Our Head Gardener, wishes that the new Head Gardener at our neighbours’ place would be a little more polite, after all, our families have been neighbours for a very long time.

Our Head Gardener

Our Head Gardener called the neighbours’ Head Gardener for a chat the other day

The new Head Gardener is advocating to build a large new walled garden so that we may not be able to wave so easily to our other neighbours across the street, who incidentally have the best Taco and Tequila parties.

We love Taco and Tequila night

We love Taco and Tequila night

While we love a beautiful walled garden especially when it is covered in abundant flowering vines and espaliered fruit trees, we are worried that we might not be able to visit so easily with our neighbours as we have always done in the past.

Walled garden-we love these

Walled garden, we love these!

The new Head Gardener does not seem to want to make friends with any of our other neighbours’ friends either and he has been quite nasty to some of the people who can help him get his new job done better. The people who look after the parks, gardens and national monuments might be able to help him if he was a bit nicer to them. I hear he tried to shut down their communication on Twitter, luckily they found another way.

He has employed two under-gardeners, who seem to do most of the talking, one of whom just can’t seem to get our Head Gardeners’ name right.

The new Head Gardeners' assistant, doesn't seem that into gardening

The new Under-Gardener doesn’t seem that into gardening

Another Under-Gardener-nice sunnies

Another Under-Gardener-nice sunnies

We will keep smiling and being polite to the new Head Gardener, he’s new to the job, after all, and it’s our way. We don’t like to make a fuss.

We are hoping that he won’t chop down any trees at our neighbours’ place, we love those giant oaks and magnolias they have growing there. We respect the history these represent in our neighbours garden.

Side view of our neighbours garden

Side view of our neighbours garden

Apparently, the new Head Gardener has a four-year contract, hopefully if we stay friendly with our neighbours (they have a big family) that the Head Gardener will learn to listen to his employer a bit more and not be so hasty with decisions to throw everything out before checking to see the good things that were planted in the garden by the previous Head Gardener and his sweet wife.

The previous Head Gardener had a very sweet wife who loved to help him out

The previous Head Gardener had a very sweet wife who loved to help him out

We hope that we can still spend time with our neighbours and enjoy their beautiful garden, despite their new Head Gardener. If we show him how friendly we are, he may just come around. You never know, there’s a lot at stake we really need to make this work. It’s our neighbourhood and we want it to be harmonious for our children to play and grow up in as we did and our parents before us. We love our neighbours garden almost as much as we love our own.

Front view of our house and gardens

Front view of our house and gardens

A view of our garden

A view of our garden

Mountain Goats not required here…

You don’t have to be called Heidi and own a small herd of goats to successfully garden on a sloping site.  Just ask Rosie Davidson who recently opened her garden to a group of Garden Communicators on tour, as part of the 2016 national conference of GWA in Georgia during September.img_1932

it wouldn't be the South without a bottle tree

It just wouldn’t be the South without a bottle tree

It is always tricky trying to design usable garden spaces on a sloping block. Trying to create interesting areas and accommodate a swimming pool and spots to sit and enjoy the great outdoors without chairs sitting on awkward angles and visitors leaving your place looking slightly more distorted than when they arrived and losing the food you have carefully prepared as it slides off their plates. As a Garden Designer or creative home owner if you’re into DIY, the challenge is to create areas of flat, both big and small within the sloping block. Practically, the garden owner wants to make the most out of every square foot of their land and also avoid completely covering their guests’ clothing in food and wine and losing all of their friends in the process!

Your guests wont lose their lunch to their lap on this flat surface

Your guests won’t lose their lunch to their lap on this flat surface

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Mrs Davidson warmly welcomed us to her property which offers an enchanting garden built into a hillside in a leafy green neighborhood in Atlanta. The gardens have been created over four levels and a combination of rustic steps, brick paving and gravel pathways provide variation of underfoot experiences and easy access by winding into the contours of the garden rather than going straight up (which is enough to exhaust anyone, let alone when you’re carrying plants and bags of fertilizer to tend to your garden).

The garden provides cool tranquility and respite from the heat on a summer afternoon, large canopy trees form a living green baldachin overhead with just a hint of middle-of-the-day sunlight and blue sky penetrating through.img_1948

I could have easily jumped into that deep blue swimming pool clothes and all…if only 50 people weren’t watching, it was very inviting! A large wall of Miscanthus created privacy as well as whimsical movement above the swimming pool area which was also surrounded by a meticulously clipped 7′ high hedge for extra privacy and screening and acts like a living wall additionally providing sheltered habitat for birds. Love that!

The shadowing on the pool created by the trees in the upper story above was almost mirror like on this still afternoon and really quite beautiful.
img_1942img_1943                              Can you see the trees reflecting in the water?

Ahh...the stunning branches of the Lagerstroemia (Crepe Myrtle)

Ahh…the stunning branches of the Lagerstroemia (Crepe Myrtle). I love the shadows that form on the wall behind that’s art right there!

Buzzing in unison

Buzzing in unison, check out these two beauties completely engrossed in their work

Lush verdant green areas offer tranquility, sometimes people forget that green is a color and that we need it to rest our eyes from the intensity provided by flowers. Small areas of green ground covers and raised terraced gardens offering depth and shades of brown through the use of beautifully crafted stone retaining walls were a wonderful feature of this garden. I almost felt like I was climbing up into the forest beyond.

A delicious collection of succulents close to the house offered a splash of color, texture and fun by the use of a variety of terracotta and glazed pots.

Ophiopogon japonicus (Mondo Grass) provided soft edges to a gravel pathway leading down to the main entertaining terrace.

where will this pathway lead me?

where will this pathway lead me?

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Pots filled with healthy flowering plants and a beautiful potted Acer palmatum provided added interest to this lovely garden.

Specimen Pots filled with healthy plants

Pots filled with healthy plants

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You can  always tell a little about a garden owner by the art that they choose to accent certain spaces in their garden and Mrs Davidsons garden is no exception, she’s a cheerful and very bubbly garden owner which is reflected in the pieces she has chosen for her garden, a little bit of vagary and fun throughout the garden never goes astray.

Hello Froggy

Hello Froggy

Delightful Potting Bench

Delightful Potting Bench

This was a most enjoyable way to conclude a full day of garden visiting, a calm oasis before heading back into the busy city streets of downtown Atlanta.img_1939 img_1935

Thank you, Rosie Davidson for sharing your stunning garden with us.

A little bit of Fairy Fun

A little bit of Fairy Fun to make you smile!

 

 

Forget Me KNOT

Success in a small garden requires attention to detail.

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There’s a darling small formal garden in Atlanta that I was lucky enough to visit during September, which is filled to the brim with tiny vignettes of carefully manicured and perfectly planned spaces  and then the very special surprise  just when you think you have seen the whole garden, a most enchanting knot garden.

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A folly of carefully clipped balls

A folly of carefully clipped spheres

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This captivating garden owned and generously shared by Mary Wayne Dixon was just superb.  A commitment to establishing a knot garden is significant, I always admire the patience of the Master Gardener who takes care of these features in botanical gardens but to contemplate and then successfully execute creating and maintaining one in your own home garden is quite an undertaking.

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This is not just any knot garden it actually takes up most of the open space in the rear of the property and it is clipped to perfection and oh so delightful. It’s in 3D and very cleverly done using variegated and non-variegated plants all in great health and clipped flawlessly.img_1918

I loved the tree Vitex agnus-castus in the front garden almost as much as the bees did on this late summer afternoon, it was lush and healthy and just covered in blooms.

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The espalier in the walled courtyard was absolutely stunning-check out how well it has been trained…now that’s disciplined gardening.

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Boy oh Boy, they do things well in the USA and styling is one of them, I absolutely loved the styling of the back porch/garden room, everything was just positioned in the most exquisite way. How alluring is this space? Wouldn’t you just love to sit here on a Hotlanta afternoon with a nice cool glass of something and a few cheese straws to nibble on? I know I sure would!
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This neighborhood was absolutely lovely, even the roundabout (which took our coach a very long time to negotiate) had seating for people to enjoy and come together as a community. I love that idea.

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Late season flowering hydrangeas reminded us that Summer was not quite finished yet.

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Have you ever tried to create a knot garden?

Peeking over, under and through fences in Atlanta

OK Friends, I must confess, I get very excited when I know that I’m going to see other people’s gardens. It’s no wonder really, after all I was the Co-ordinator of the Open Garden Scheme here in WA and Chairman of the Management Committee for years before that, so I guess I think of myself as a bit of an old timer when it comes to checking out other people’s spaces. I have seen the best of the best in this country that’s for sure.

I just love visiting gardens, not in a creepy sort of voyeuristic,  peeping in people’s windows sort of way…. I just love seeing how other people interpret their private outdoor rooms, how they choose to connect with their land.  I love to see which art pieces they buy or create, which plants they choose, which trees they plant. Breathe, Andrea, Breathe…..Hyperventilating…..So can you imagine how hard it was to contain myself at the prospect of seeing nine private gardens in three days during my recent trip to Atlanta to attend #GWA16 The Annual Garden Writers Association conference. I was just like a kid in a lolly shop on the inside (I’m not ashamed to admit) while maintaining my uber cool self on the outside -sure sure-who am I kidding? I could not wipe the smile off my face, my pointer figure had clicking fatigue from all the camera action taking place and my face was sore from smiling and making an “O” shape with my mouth, it’s a wonder one of those giant bumblebees didn’t fly right in….and yet this is my work?!

Garden communicators are a very happy lot-why wouldn’t we be? Let’s be real, getting to wander through stunning gardens surrounded by like-minded plant mad, garden crazy souls. I just loved getting back on the bus after each garden, listening to the chatter, even though on one of the days we were drenched by 2.5 inches of rain, we didn’t care one bit…the post viewing excitement was palpable, “did you see that?”, “how was the art?”, “what about those birdhouses” and “OMG did you see those pots?”

The gardens selected for this years’ conference were, well let’s just say a BIG WOW at every stop.

A hearty congratulations to the Selectors of this years’ private gardens they were really outstanding and this little Aussie did not mind one bit traveling 25 hours in a flying tube to spend precious time with my new found friends and reuniting with some dear older ones from my first conference last year.

Today, I am going to share just one of the incredibly lush beautifully presented gardens we saw…there’s more pics and more stories to follow…Thank you so much Candy Johnson for sharing this garden with us

OK so..now you want to have a look too, don’t you..you know you want too…well here you are…..just a peek mind you…

A stunning front door-Halloween ready

A stunning front door-Halloween ready

My personal favourite vignette

My personal favourite vignette

Stunning display, when sometimes foliage is enough

Stunning display, when sometimes just wonderful foliage is enough

What a wonderful pop of colour

What a dramatic pop of colour

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I want to sit right here

A very impressive entrance

A very impressive entrance

Loch Nessie in Atlanta

Loch Nessie in Atlanta

A Buxus Folly-why not?

A Buxus Folly-with seating, why not?

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