Hello fellow readers, If I may share a remarkable garden design story for Morristown Airport and lessons gained from how white gardens glow.
Do you recall waiting until the last minute to finish your homework as a kid? As adults, it’s not about waiting but more about not having a minute to spare—rush, rush, rush. You know the drill.
Last on the list is my garden. When I make the time, it brings joy but frustration, too, as I focus on what could be better if I only could keep up. I’ll bet you know that drill as well. It seems most of us are equipped with a not-good enough button.
This week I delivered a presentation to Morristown Airport. What an honor to be invited to help with their beautification program. The site’s industrial characteristics and low maintenance requirements felt overwhelming. How do you make a massive facility of macadam, runways, buildings, chain link fences, heat, and drying winds beautiful with little effort? Then, of course, there’s the dilemma of deer.
To the rescue comes a colleague with a depth of plant knowledge and a gift of combining them beyond the ordinary. (My modest mentor and friend Marty always blushes when I mention her name.) I shared the assignment, and she willingly slogged in the heat to help take measurements while we brainstormed ideas. A few days before the ‘homework’ was due, we met again and pow-wowed over the site’s challenges, which require large-scale consecutive plantings to connect each area with a consistent style. My colleague came up with the most luminous idea. A green & white color theme will be fresh and visually cooling; the white blooms and foliage will glow at dusk and dawn.
She suggested horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) to set the stage with companion plants of kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa chinensis), bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora), and butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii’ White Profusion’) to offer a sequence of blooms through the growing season. Variegated Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’), salvia (Salvia verticillata ‘White Rain’) plus white potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa ‘Abbotswood’) will be the icing on the cake.
At 5 AM, the light barely breaking, I rose to put the finishing touches on the presentation and glanced outside. In my garden, the Shasta daisies glowed in their glory. Next to them, the husky leaves of oak leaf hydrangea and the refined elegance of variegated silver grass. I marveled at the vignette of perfect plant companions; at that moment, my garden spoke to me. “I’m glorious enough. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about learning, growing, and serving others to help light up our world.” Thank you, dear friend, for sharing your glow.
Column updated 2/12/23
There’s more to the story in the Garden Dilemmas Podcast: