A quote from director, Ethan Kauffman, that summarizes my experience perfectly at Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden. Stoneleigh hosted the Women in Horticulture group on April 14th for our first ever Volunteer Work Day. Over 20 women in horticulture arrived to the event. We represented many different aspects of the green industry for-profit, non-profit, education and outreach, students, garden clubs, and nurseries. Sole proprietor businesses, and individuals from large organizations. What brought us together was our love of horticulture, our willingness to donate our time, and of course the excitement of seeing and working in Stoneleigh before it opens to the public!
Stoneleigh staff Ethan, Laura, and Summer were gracious hosts. They showed great respect for the skills of our volunteers, and allowed us to work independently. The pot sizes ranged from 3-5 gallons, and the digging tough, but together we planted almost 200 plants!
After working in the morning, we enjoyed lunch under a newly constructed pavilion. The pavilion showed the care and technical skills that are showcased throughout the structures on the property. Blending the "old" with the new seamlessly. We engaged in lively discussions about plants, plant people, and ideas for new Women in Hort projects!
Ethan took the group on a tour of the grounds. Highlighting an odd hemlock that was defying keys, a sycamore with horizontal branching over a path, and a Taxus baccata with innumerable branches allowed to sprawl freely. Stoneleigh, the public garden is brand new, but the backdrop is an established collection of trees adding a sense of timelessness to the place.
After discarding our work boots, we were allowed to tour the main house of Stoneleigh. Again, elegant craftsmanship was visible throughout. The modern elements, including a fire escape stair case, were incorporated into the older elements with masterful cohesion. Works of art from Renoir, and original stained glass with the family crest added to the feeling of luxury and escapism.
We returned to the garden, and got a glimpse of the work areas. We drooled over the acquisitions of Juniperus horizontalis, Euonymus americanus, and a novel cultivar of Nyssa sylvatica with twisted branches. Already, Stoneleigh has over 1,000 taxa in their collection!
The last part of our tour highlighted the entertainment area that was set atop the boundaries of the old pool. Mimicking the original design with the use of turf in two different heights, and circles cut into the paving for small bogs. As a whole the garden aesthetics and sense of place were reminiscent of pieces of other gardens, but still distinctly Stoneleigh.
The day concluded with much appreciation for Stoneleigh hosting the Women in Horticulture group, and the Stoneleigh staff thanking us for our assistance! I look forward to more volunteer work days in the future, and I am sure we all look forward to seeing the gardens grow and develop, especially those 200 plants we helped get started.