I love seeing gardens in general. My favorite leisure time activity is not actually gardening…it’s seeing other gardens; large and small and anywhere I run across them. I enjoy every garden I see and appreciate the dedication, time, energy, expertise and expense that gardens require. A few gardens that I’ve seen in the past have evoked a “OH MY GOODNESS” response. Some examples would be Great Dixter (UK), Sissinhurst (UK), RHS Wisley (UK), Chanticleer (PA), Longwood (PA), New York Botanical Garden, Missouri Botanical Garden, The High Line (NY) and The Huntington (CA) to name just a few. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the hundreds of other gardens (private and public) that I’ve seen…these are just gardens that generate a visceral response due to immersion in these engaging spaces. I’ve seen my share of awesome private gardens too and the garden of Dan Krebill, The Uncommon Garden, in Chapel Hill, NC blew me away this past summer. I visited Dan’s garden as part of an excursion at the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) conference which met in Raleigh, NC this past summer (join PPA! – conference in Chicago, IL this summer!). I had never even been in North Carolina before and saw some “bucket list” gardens like the J.C. Raulston Arboretum (NC State), Duke Gardens and the display garden at Plant Delights Nursery (wow!). However, I can’t get Dan’s garden out of my head and have been sorting photos from the summer and wanted to share this magical space.
Dan, a retired Army colonel and West Point graduate, has created a 1/2 acre garden that is truly amazing. As we approached the entrance to the back garden after observing the nice, but not overly adorned front yard at his beautiful brick colonial home (Chapel Hill, NC), I wasn’t sure what to expect. A lady from a previous tour that day came out of the back garden wide-eyed and mumbled to me that I should be prepared to have my “mind blown away”. Well, three steps in to the garden, I immediately knew that was no exaggeration. Developed starting in 2000, this garden has been described as a “surrealistic zen garden” and included such a profusion of lush plantings, gorgeous hardscaping and so much more. A quote that I believe is attributed to Dan (or one of his visitors) best describes the garden by saying, “get ready to leave the land of Martha Stewart and enter the realm of Conan the Barbarian.” I believe I took over 1,000 photos in that garden in just 90 minutes which was a frustratingly brief time to immerse myself in such a magical experience. This garden was absolutely amazing and the art work (rock, metal, sculpture, water features) was so well positioned and developed throughout the garden space that sensory overload is all but assured. The finest of details revealed themselves after my third trip through this realm of fantasy. I understand that many artists and craftspeople were involved in the evolution of this garden as well based on Dan’s vision. I’ll let these photos speak for themselves. In researching more about Mr. Krebill, whom I met briefly at his garden, I found out some of the extent of his support for many charitable causes and his generosity in sharing his garden for special events, fundraisers and other benevolent endeavors. Seeing his garden was a treat. Another quote attributable to Dan is very telling. “We ought to spin our own myths. We can make whatever we dream up!”
I’m doing a presentation at Rotary Botanical Gardens for our volunteers on February 19th to share my North Carolina adventures and this awesome garden will be well represented!
note how this railing works it’s way through the landscape!
who wouldn’t want a dragon in their garden!? It does breathe fire (really!) but I miss that!
“sunflower lighting” above (totally cool)
the rock work and masonry throughout the garden was some of the most creative I’ve ever seen