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David Culp spends an early Thursday afternoon touring friends around his home 2 acres, the layered garden he has hand-planted in the forest. He says, the house is the best ornament of the garden. It’s a 1790 home on a hillside. In October’s change of season the locus drops its yellow color, filling the wind with flat worn darts. Broken antique tulips from the 1800’s are buried below the surface, in the spring the gravel drive fills with red poppies. Outdoor rooms surround and open the house below the 100-year-old Virginia Spruce. He has a black and white garden, bonsai trees growing in hollowed logs, a winter garden, and a full summer one waiting to go to sleep. He borders the wilderness, and as the land falls away from him, he offers it to the natural garden, mother earth.

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At Winterthur there are a pallet of materials that you will find in the garden. Jeff is in charge of the garden objects. We too are among the big forest trees, small in their tall cathedral. Gardens may be for education, for health, none of us tire at being outside among the blooms for four days. We walk near the 8 acres of azalea woods, then into the stone circles surrounding meadow trees. Color moved through the outdoors, and in the children’s garden the stone bench sunk into the mortar, the roof thatched by the in-house Thatcher.

At Chanticleer every gardener had the winter project of making. Cherry wood soft to the touch led us through the pathways and sunk into the ground to welcome the boundaries making places. Out door rooms just 25′ by 24′ have arbors, stairs to the guest room, and floating flowers in the still water urn. On Fridays, guests are welcome for picnics.  Water fountains drain to trickle troughs and the reflective surface of the ruin dining room table is one large coffin. A roof has collapsed, this is Emma’s garden where acorns have embed themselves in granite books, floating faces gasp at the surface of the black basin.

Water is managed everywhere, at the Morris Arboretum it is held in cisterns below recycled metal green roofs, circuited beneath the porous walkways and directed from the large asphalt lots. The old estate now has showers, horticulturists, classrooms, designers, equipment sheds, mulchers, one place to locate everything you may need.

Mt. Cuba shared the native piedmont plants and the sound of us walking around on the gravel to end our trip. This garden was most similar to what the West Virginia Botanic garden is, the managed meadow with a few grasses, and small seedlings at the edge. The Walden pond, dyed black to improve the reflectivity of tourists, fall balls of the bursting heart, and coupled benches. It is an all of a sudden reflectivity, complete at the edge with pitcher plants.  ‘What did nature put here? What did people put here?’ – Hough

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