Perhaps you've heard the phrase "desert island discs"? Those being the discs you would take if you were being cast away on a desert island. I always assumed these were entire CD's, but I guess they're instead songs, since the idea got it's start in 1949 (pre CD) on BBC radio. The original program called for each castaway to "choose eight recordings (usually, but not always, music), a book and a luxury item" (source).
The first one I watched was Noel Kingsbury himself, and I must say Noel and I have very different garden taste (a note on the video I linked to above; this is not the same one I watched but an abbreviated version, the original seems to have disappeared).
|The formal Duncan Garden, part of Manito Park, one of my "d.i.g."—Nigel might appreciate this garden
The next castaway I watched was James Sinclair. As I post this his video is still available for watching in it's entirety, I hope it stays that way because he is a very entertaining fellow, find it here. He starts by saying “my favorite garden is always my own” which I found to be a delightful thought. Later he muses that the best thing about visiting a public garden that is vast, and empty, is that it’s yours. I have had that feeling and I must say it is wonderful.
So...do you want to play along? Annie and Noel propose that you get five gardens plus a book and an item. I'm also adding another question, what is the next (new to you) garden you want to visit when you get off that island? Here are my answers, the gardens appear in the order in which I discovered/visited them:
1. Manito Park, Spokane, Washington (website)
Why: I grew up in Spokane and Manito Park was always a very special place to visit. When I bought my home in Spokane in 2001 the fact it was just two blocks from the park was a major selling point. The "park" (it really is so much more than a park) dates back to 1904 and covers "78 acres of native and cultivated landscape and 20 acres of world class botanical gardens." These gardens include a Japanese Garden, the sunken formal Duncan Garden, Rose Hill, Lilac Garden, Ferris Perennial Garden, Mirror Pond, and Gaiser Conservatory.
|Inside the Gaiser Conservatory, Manito Park
When I was a kid the Mirror Pond was surrounded with huge old weeping willows, which were a sight to see. A bad ice storm took out many of them in the late 1990's. The Gaiser Conservatory was another favorite spot. Tropical plants and desert plants under glass... magic! This park is a gem and it was my first experience with just how powerful visiting a public garden can be.
2. Lotusland, Montecito, California (website)
Why: Because Ganna Walska created an over-the-top, yet just right, garden paradise. There are so many parts to Lotusland—Bromeliad Garden, Aloe Garden, Fern Garden, Cactus Garden, and on and on—each individual garden is amazing and they all include a special "oh, did she really do that!?" touch. Put them all together and I have to pinch myself to make sure it's real, it is really that good. It's also worth noting that admission to the garden is restricted and done by reservation so there are no crowds. I've never gone the docent route, instead touring on my own. This garden helped to cement my feeling that creating a garden that makes you happy is the most important thing of all.
|The Fern Garden at Lotusland
3. The Huntington Gardens, San Marino, California (website)
Why: Like Lotusland there are several individual gardens within the whole, and while I enjoy strolling them all, the reason the Huntington is on this list is because of the Desert Garden. It is a first class collection of plants I love, and it's amazing. Huge specimens, expertly grown. Plus with the curving pathways you are certain to find a secluded spot to soak it all up, no matter how busy the garden is. The Huntington is of a size that I can lose myself in the wonder of it all and that's the best feeling.
|The Desert Garden at The Huntington
4. The Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek, California (website)
Why? I want to call the RBG scrappy, but that sounds like an insult, and that's not how it's meant. This garden is the creation of one woman with a vision—just like Lotusland—but unlike Lotusland it's not a performance. Even though the RBG is a public garden now, it still manages to feel like a home garden, and that's part of what makes it so special to me. This garden shows that you just never know what that "thing" you're working on might turn into.
|The Ruth Bancroft Garden
5. The Taft Garden, Ojai, California (website)
Why? The Taft has a website now, and online reservations with a fee. However, when I visited in 2016 none of that existed. You got there by word of mouth and a map that was emailed and not terribly detailed. I've only visited the one time—and it was a spur of the moment thing, Christmas Eve to boot—but the experience was such that it lives very large in my memory. I was the only one there, I had the place to myself, having left Andrew in a bookstore in Ventura, oh and my cell phone wasn't getting any reception. It was a little unnerving, but one of the best moments of my life. The plants, the location, the obscurity—yes please.
|The Taft Garden
This is is hard! I don't want to take a single book, I want to take my iPhone or iPad and the entire internet. However, in the spirit of playing along I'll take The Planthunter: Truth, Beauty, Chaos, and Plants by Georgina Reid with photos by Daniel Shipp. I can lose myself for hours in this book and feel submersed in the magic of other gardeners, their thoughts, and their gardens.
I was tempted to say a good pair of garden snips, so I can take cuttings and make arrangements. But the more I thought about it I realized I'd want a camera, so I can document the plant life around me on the island.
And the garden I want to visit when I'm off the island?
Chanticleer, a 48-acre botanical garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania (website). I have no idea if the reality will measure up to my ideas of the place, but I can't wait to find out.
Answer the questions in the comments, or write your own blog post. Come on... play along!
— — —Weather Diary, Dec 28: Hi 46, Low 30/ Precip 0