Garden Bloggers Fling – The Many Gardens of the Gentling Property

A property with many personalities…

all rolled up into one neat and cohesive package. What you might notice first is the abundant flower beds, spilling with colorful perennials. You would think Spring is their season, but look a little closer for color and bloom to come. Lilies are ready to command the scene very shortly. The garden, I am sure, will beautifully pace its changes in color and texture. These beds are well planned for the changing seasons.

You will see in the post about retaining walls, that winter is a season this garden would delight also. All the structure of stone in this garden would be beautiful covered with a dusting of snow. It is something I design into all my gardens, even my own.

This is a flower lovers paradise for the variety and spacial planning. The blooms are companioned by color and height with the discerning and highly cultivated eye of an artist or two.

The couple have such an understanding of light and how it changes color to the way a viewer sees it. Poppies steal the show above in a Monet-like Impressionistic perfection… a little further into the gardens you run across tranquil scenes inspired from Japanese design. To further make the Monet connection, the Lily Pond is a humble gesture to the reflection of the blue sky and white clouds, a nod to paintings of the same name.

What a non-artist might not recognize here is how adept this couple is by getting the right weight of the color balanced to the weight of the stone. This is a concept that needs explaining to understand, but these people fully understood it in their design. It is a reason why when you look at the gardens, you ‘feel’ it is right.

Room for roses… always.

Allium adds another layer of texture and form.

I would like to note some things this garden does that many can learn from in this series of posts.

  • Create a place of retreat.
  • Mobilize the massing.
  • Don’t compromise and play it safe.
  • Harness the power of light.

The Magenta Rose Campion, an aggressive grower, but a pretty plant none-the less. The white variety was also in the gardens. Delphinium or Larkspur must be an owner’s favorite. I grow quite a few myself.


The lawns make for nice areas of color relief. They also divide the gardens into outdoor rooms, each equipped with seating for retreat.  It was a fine use of grass, but not a property that was easy to mow. See what I mean in an image below. The steep grade and garden room like compartmentalizing would make mowing a chore. But maintenance was not compromised. To create these retreats, the designers did not play it safe.

The ambitious vegetable gardens…

The woodland gardens go on and on… but they kinda end abruptly at a neighbor’s fence line if I recall correctly. This would be my only observation that might be slightly critical from a design standpoint. Beautiful paths need to end ‘beautifully’. Maybe open up to a borrowed view or end in a secret shaded garden for example. I remember the path terminus differently.

Gardens of many rooms… adds visual and ‘the path well traveled’ appeal. They punctuate the circulation route with many spots to rest, enjoy and take in another view.

The lily pond… adds the soothing sound of water, and as I mentioned earlier, art worthy reflection. And, of course, the curious sound of croaking of amphibians.

The terrace gardens… massing.

I especially would like you to look at this view of the garden from a design standpoint. Why is this path so inviting? You might say it is lush and green. You might like the mix of landscape materials. You might just like the towering protective trees. Well, unless you prefer gardens of meadows (natural meadows do have trees and understory at the perimeter) and prairies, this garden does mixing of shrubs, trees and perennials quite well.

The trees make the scene and make the gardens. Too many folks are too tentative in their use of trees, especially in a small space. I have five deciduous trees and far greater than that in coniferous trees on my property alone.

Note how the trees in these scenes above make a tapestry feel to the space. Color, texture and scale all play their perspective roles. If you imagine above, looking at this as an isolated space, it is not all that large. Above are two views, one a steep incline, the other predominately at grade. There is quite a lot packed into the spaces. The visual drama is all in the scale and massing of the plants. Dinky doesn’t do it anywhere!

So my advice to you is to use trees and understory shrubs, it will make your landscape enviable. Avoid being tentative and think about massing plants in compatible groups to actually make a garden presence.

Now let’s look at trees a bit further with advice that relates to tree selection. Even though I work with a nursery that is a grower of trees and shrubs, I DO NOT recommend varieties online. I know many do this, but you won’t find it here on GWGT. Even if you see it growing and I identify the plants, make sure you check for the varieties suitable to your areas.

For instance, the Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, might be acceptable in your location where you might have conditions (zone 5-8,) and space (100′ high and 25′ wide) but you may need to find an alternate conifer, like an Eastern Hemlock for example if your location is more shady or a couple of zones colder. The Hemlock is a slightly smaller conical tree than the Redwood, but will give presence to the landscape. Both like moist conditions, and prefer well-drained soils.

You will find satisfactory varieties of many species used in Northern climates that have counterparts in warmer locales. You will find them in your particular locale that will meet the requirements of your design needs. Ask your Cooperative Extension, your local grower, independent nursery, or ask a local designer. Make sure your tree has the right conditions and space, and start your own piece of heaven. And give your tree some companions!

The embankment gardens behind the home is mostly trees and shrubs.

The cute artist studio… a place to paint and dream.

This is the studio of Peter and his art on display…

The bamboo trail… a very zen like walk.

Surely as you toured the gardens pictorially, you had to feel you were entering entirely different gardens, but each and every one leads seamlessly into the next. It is a place large in size that was well thought out to incorporate all the parts into a cohesive whole.

See The Garden Bloggers Fling – The Gentling Garden for the first of this five-part series.

Added to this post…I want to let my readers know that I am still ill with pneumonia, yet am making headway in the direction of getting better. I have a heart condition that makes me prone to serious illness like this and have to be careful when I do get bronchial infections.

These Garden Blogger Fling posts were prepared earlier, scheduled and auto loading, so you will not be hearing from me in comments or on blogs for about one more week. Doctor’s orders to keep off the computer and get rest. So I have been pretty good about that except for these updates.

I hope you can understand, and I very much appreciate those of you that left kind comments and thoughts on the last post (saw them on my iPhone). Thank you. And a special thank you to two bloggers. One sent me a really adorable and thoughtful e-card that really brightened my day. The other sent an email followed with a phone call which really helps when you are in bed all day with no one around.

The next post on this garden takes a look at the walls of stone and further expands on points made in the two previous posts. Then we look at details and closeups, the stuff that gives a garden life. We end with a walk in the woods.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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19 Responses to Garden Bloggers Fling – The Many Gardens of the Gentling Property

  1. Alistair says:

    Hello Donna, what a treat on a Sunday morning to view your post, a visual delight. I love the pictures of the woodland area. Trees in our garden are quite plentiful, however at times I have a bit of an issue with them as our cool Summer can do without the shade some of them cast. Sorry to hear you have been unwell, hope you are very soon fit and active again.

  2. Hi Donna – I’m so sorry to hear ytou are not well. I wish you a speedy recovery and am sending you good thoughts! Hugs xxx
    PS: Love the photos of the garden – the pond is gorgeous. Lots of ideas to try and replicate here.

  3. Donna, I hope you are feeling better very soon! Thinking of you and wish you a speedy recovery! This is a really lovely garden. I love the layering of trees. I am working toward this effect in my garden. We have a great canopy which was here already and every year we are adding more understory trees. It gives it such a lush and established look. I wish I could find more native evergreens that I like for my area. Get well soon! xx

  4. HolleyGarden says:

    This must have been a VERY large garden! I can not imagine the maintenance required to keep it looking so beautiful. You bring up a good point about weight – hard to achieve sometimes, but good to think about. I love the effect the trees give. I prefer sun and roses over trees, but I may have to think about putting in a woodland area. Glad to hear you’re beginning to feel a little better. I hope you have a speedy recovery.

  5. nicole says:

    I am so glad that you are making headway! Thank you for updating us….wishing you a full recovery! I enjoyed everything about this post but the art studio took my breath away…it is like a magical little hut! What a dream!

  6. Thanks for the wonderful photos and good advice. I think one mistake I make in my own garden is that my plants are too small. I shall try to be braver!
    PS: Have another cup of tea!

  7. Donna you know I love flowers so this garden is right up my alley and with the demise of most of my mature trees, I will be looking to plant more with understory trees and shrubs…I do need to get better at that and can now.

    Wishing you the best for a speedy recovery…I know how awful it is to be sick and not able to do the things you love…

  8. Andrea says:

    Hello Donna, I am very sorry to learn of your condition. Pneumonia is something not to be serious about, i hope you take your vacation seriously by quieting your mind so not only the physical body will be at rest. I know how difficult that seems to a very busy mind, but moderation is always the best, as they say! Take good care and i will pray for you too!

    This post not only gives us the wonderful photos but also the information and explanation which many of us are not familiar with. I most especially love the explanation on spatial arrangements where the rocks balance the weight of trees, which you said explains why it looks beautiful to our eyes. Oh how wonderful to landscape a space if you know design. Landscaping our property is my lifetime dream!

  9. Brian Comeau says:

    That’s right listen to the Dr’s and get well. Missing your notes too….

  10. A.M.B. says:

    Gorgeous pictures! I hope you feel better soon!

  11. Karen says:

    So sorry to hear you have pneumonia. Hope you have a speedy recovery! Don’t worry about the blog. You’ve given all of us so many gorgeous photos and design tips that we’ll be occupied for weeks.

  12. debsgarden says:

    Donna, I am so sorry to hear about your illness. You have my sincere wishes for a speedy recovery. I hope you are enjoying your time of rest, as much as possible! Thanks for the tour of this lovely garden. I particularly admire all the stone work, the paths, and the sheltering trees. it is an enchanted atmosphere!

  13. Barbie says:

    Looks like its in the air – I am out of sorts as well. Love the photos and the trees are splendid! Love the zen area. Get well soon!

  14. The garden is lovely! I am particular impressed with how they handled the slope. Because I have a slope, I am always looking for some solutions. This certainly is beautiful!

  15. Rose says:

    This was my favorite garden of all those we visited in Asheville. I am not the least bit artistic, though, nor am I good at design, so I could never articulate what made this garden so special. Thanks for putting into words what I felt as I walked through the Gentling gardens, Donna.

    I haven’t had as much time lately to read everyone’s blog posts, so I wasn’t aware you were ill, Donna. Do take care; I wish you a speedy recovery, but at the same time I hope you get lots of rest and take things slowly for awhile.

  16. b-a-g says:

    Donna – I’ve never thought of snow-dusted scenes when planning my garden, not that I do much planning. Your comment about woodlands ending with a neighbour’s fence made me smile, as mine ends at a wall – something to think about.

    I hope you do exactly as the doctor orders. Have a good rest and we’re waiting for you whenever you’re ready to come back.

  17. I am glad you updated us on your illness. Get well soonest! Your wonderful guidance on this garden was spot on. It was really quite a beautiful garden.

  18. I envy your organizational abilities to have all these detailed posts ready and scheduled. Even though I visited this garden with you, I am seeing it in whole new ways.

  19. Oh dear, I usually try to catch all your posts but I must have missed the ones where you mentioned you were sick. Sorry you’ve been under the weather. Pneumonia is nothing to mess around with–especially if you have a heart condition. Take care!

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