As we’re hunkering down for this historic snowstorm that’s coming our way, my mind is wandering toward springtime and flowers. Adept as I am at killing any plant that comes my way, I nonetheless have deep affection and appreciation for gardeners who can create whole new worlds outside their back doors.
That’s why I was so excited when my friend Roger Foley, a noted landscape photographer, gave me a new book he photographed for A.C. and Penney Hubbard on their renowned gardens in Ruxton, Maryland, near Baltimore.
This gorgeous coffee-table book tracks the Walnut Hill gardens through four seasons, from the winter of 2013 through the following fall. Interspersed with Roger’s photos are descriptions of how the garden evolved, decade by decade, since the Hubbards purchased their home there in 1969.
“What began as a weekend hobby turned into a lifetime of passion and work,” Penney Hubbard is quoted as saying in Kathy Hudson’s narrative. “There may be no bigger satisfaction,” she says, “than expending every last big of physical and mental energy in the garden, and coming in and being exhausted but happy.”
With rewards such as these, I can see why.
Along with the Hubbards’ passion for gardening, the reason these two acres are so spectacular is the relationship they forged with the late nurseryman and landscape designer Kurt Bluemel, who also enjoyed a longtime collaboration with Wolfgang Oehme and Jim van Sweden—their works are now on display in a beautiful exhibit at the National Building Museum.
“Knowing how centrally involved Kurt Bluemel was to the creation of the garden was another plus for me,” Roger tells me in an e-mail. “This famous Maryland nurseryman helped the landscape architecture firm Oehme van Sweden create their ‘New American Garden’ look of ornamental grasses and meadow plantings by growing the plants for their projects. I knew he had a keen eye for design and an encyclopedic knowledge of plants, which I could see in the garden with its sweeping curved stone walls, naturalistic swimming pool, and layer upon layer of texture and color from foreground to background in the plantings.”
You can Bluemel’s influence everywhere.
Roger’s been shooting gardens and landscapes for years, and I’m lucky to call him a neighbor here in Arlington. (In fact, I blogged about the photos he took after that last major snowstorm, right in his back yard.)
But this project was special, he says, because he photographed it in a series of seven shoots over an entire year, as opposed to most of his commissions, which are a few days at best. Here’s his take:
When a garden is expertly designed, the focus of interest is always changing as the seasons progress. By the end of my second shoot, in mid April, I knew every nook and cranny of the Hubbards’ 2+ acres, but the large trees, small understory trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs were constantly coming in and out of prominence in the composition of the landscape as they bloomed, grew or leafed out. Since I think of garden photography as practicing the art of seeing, it was great fun to go back every time and find new ways to make compelling photographs of the same landscape.
Here’s a sampling of the progression:
And I’ll sign off with this lovely winter scene from the Hubbards’ entry courtyard. I imagine it will look like this—and then some—after the weekend! Stay warm and safe, everyone.