Owners aim to set the future of Lee’s Bedrock Gardens in stone

Last modified: 10/1/2015 11:41:01 AM
They say that the garden dies with the gardener. As we age and face our own mortality, it is sad to think of the gardens on which we have expended so much energy and love falling into disrepair and becoming wild again. For that reason, Jill Nooney and Bob Munger of Bedrock Gardens in Lee are working to turn their 33-acre property with its 10-plus acres of gardens into a nonprofit public garden. If you have never visited Bedrock Gardens, jump in the car right now. It is open today from noon 4 p.m. If making the trip is not happening today, let me fill you in on some of the garden’s high points:

When Jill and Bob started work at Bedrock Gardens, they wanted to add as much hardscape as possible, so they’ve built stone walls, dug a 1-acre farm pond, and used the excavated soil to build a berm that blocks the sight and sound of busy Route 125. A Japanese teahouse overlooks a smaller pond, appropriately named the Petit Pond, which has a waterfall. The coolest water feature is a 300-foot-long canal called the “wiggle-waggle” for the way it snakes across the field. It is a 3-foot-wide trench lined with rubber covered by paving stones. Water flows from a vintage spring house, through the wiggle-waggle into a koi pond that is 30 feet wide and 4 feet deep, and is then pumped back up to the spring house to repeat its journey. With the exception of operating heavy equipment, Nooney and Munger do virtually all the work themselves. Fueled by their mutual love of gardening, they have accomplished a lifetime of work in about 15 years.

Jill’s garden design knows no boundaries. A graduate of the Radcliffe Seminars Landscape Design Program, she does not adhere strictly to the style of her colonial-era home and has blended Asian, French and formal elements with rustic New England architecture to make a truly unique statement. There is a diamond-pattern, boxwood lined path through the white parterre garden, which has a pool and fountain. A 400-foot-long allee planted in Chinese fringe trees ends at the Japanese torii, a symbolic Shinto gateway arch. From there you can turn right through a perennial garden and past three sinous beds of fountain grass, smoke bush and winterberry, to a path that leads to the Dark Woods. Mysterious sculptural figures populate this slightly creepy pine forest.

At the far side of the large pond there are two thrones where you can rest and look back toward the torii. Take a side trip to the peaceful teahouse garden or head straight back toward the wiggle-waggle. There is pergola-covered seating in the rock garden on the slope overlooking the gardens, or you can stroll past the Belgian fence, which has 11 different kinds of apple trees espaliered and woven together to create a living fence. There is a bog garden for plants that like wet feet; the “garish” garden, which is full of eye-popping oranges, reds, purples and yellows; and a living grass tapestry called the Grass Acre, which Jill planted using 8,000 tiny plugs of different colored grasses.

Paths are extremely important to the garden flow, and one of Jill’s design principles is: “you can’t go there if you can’t get there.” Added to the many garden paths near the house and barn are 2 miles of woodland trails. She feels it is important to have somewhere to go – a destination, and something to do along the way – “events,” Jill calls them.

She has built in pauses throughout the garden – specimen plants to admire, a water feature, a comfy seating area or a piece of sculpture to enjoy.

Sight lines also help to direct visitors, giving them a glimpse of what lies ahead and drawing them along the way. This garden is not just a collection of plants – it is an adventure!

A fan of unique garden art, Jill creates and sells distinctive, one-of-a-kind sculpture and ornaments for the garden. The term she uses to describe her art is “bricolage” – a French word for making do with what you have. She scours junkyards, flea markets, dumps and warehouses full of salvage for interesting pieces of metal, wood and glass. She is especially drawn to the utilitarian beauty of old tools and farm implements and anything that has to do with working the land.

In landscape design, Jill finds that garden art lends a sense of solidity and structure to the garden. It can act as a focal point, mark points of arrival or departure, evoke a feeling of history, or add an element of humor. Many of Jill’s pieces reflect her playful nature.

She encourages us to plant art . . . it lasts forever!

(If you would like to visit Bedrock Gardens but can’t make the trip today, the gardens will be open to the public again on Oct. 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when Dale’s Jazz Lab performs; Oct. 11 from noon to 4 p.m., when the Caterpillar Lab will be on display; and Oct. 12 from noon to 4 p.m. For more information about Bedrock Gardens, visit bedrockgardens.org. For information on the Caterpillar Lab, visit samueljaffe.com. The gardens are located at 45 High Road in Lee, just off Route 125. Admission is $10 per person.)

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