Gardening in a Cold Climate

The man is a genius!!!!  Yes, I have said it. Brian Bixley is a genius.

When I was is Barbados in February, I happened to read  Kathy Purdys review of Brian Bixleys book ‘Gardening in a Cold Climate’. A series of e-mails followed between Brian and myself regarding the mailing of the book.  When it became apparent that the cost of mailing the book would be quite high, (and Brian attached the open garden schedule), I decided to rent a car and drive to Shelburne and visit his garden in person. And I am glad I did!

Over thirty years ago, Brian and his wife, Maureen purchased a Victorian brick house and proceeded to design an amazing garden. Here is a man who gardens after my own heart, strong, formal lines, (a maze, how I want one), and yet has a multitude of plants. It shows me that it is possible to have it all.

There is a strong center line from the driveway,

towards the barns. All the ‘garden rooms’  flow off this spine.

As I walked up the driveway, I turned right,walking through a shrubbery, underplanted with thousands of Chionodoxa,

I spied a gap in the hedge. Imagine my surprise,when I looked through, up a mown path,

and spied this obelisk on the top of the ridge. It certainly enticed me to follow the path, the views at the top were amazing. Across, a maze,mown in the long grass, I spied another piece of garden sculpture.

This one had to be my favourite. I love how it swings in the wind,

the mirrors picking up a different view every time.

Walking back towards the main gardens, I walked through a Malus allee, back towards the driveway. When I reached it and turned to the right, I was treated to the sight of three paths, this is the ‘Goose Foot’.

 One path leading to a blue bench was lined with Betula and is underplanted with peonies.

Another led to a pine, while a third led me into the ‘Oak Grove’. Here not only was I treated to the sight of an amazing yellow snowdrop,

 Galanthus ‘Lady Elphinstone’,

 but there was another amazing sculpture,a blue Snake.

Retracing my steps, I turned to the east,

and walked through double hedges.

At the end was a small figure peering out of the hedging, but I turned to the left and turned into the ‘Anniversary Garden’, an enclosed garden with raised beds.

 It was warm and fragrant in here, protected from any wind, and the plants obviously appreciated it.

Leaving here, I then walked to the west side of the garden, past the drive,

and along the ‘Maple Bed’. At the end, another figure was hidden in the hedge, and beside it was the ‘Trough’.

This was the old cattle trough that was here when they bought the place, and it has been put to very good use.

Just past the trough, was the ‘Nursery Garden’, where Brian grows many of his trees from seeds, patience is his middle name.

 Looking out the other end, you can see the blue Snake in the Oak Grove.

closer to the house, there is another of his amazing pieces of garden sculpture.

It is worthwhile investing in this kind of art, it has a huge impact in the garden.

An amazing, amazing garden, that led you around, had strong bones, but had profusion of planting. I would love to see it at other times of the year, and it is open ….., but until I return from living in Barbados, I cannot, sigh.

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24 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    This was a nice tour with so many interesting art objects to see. Many creatives uses of them also.

  2. 3

    Donna said,

    What a fun garden to explore…

  3. 5

    Thank you so much for this! I am quite the fan of his writing, but have yet to see his garden myself. I really appreciated the tour. I have a picture of the Malus allee here. The Blue Bench (peony) walk and the maze can be seen here. And if anyone else is interested in buying his book, I have provided a way to contact him here.

  4. 7

    […] a result of reading my book review, Deborah of Garden Theatre wound up visiting Brian Bixley and touring his garden. Since her visit was in early spring, her photographs clearly illustrate the underlying design of […]

  5. 9

    I LOVE the strong lines in the garden!! Amazing that a mown path can have such a strong impact. How I would enjoy a walk through the double hedge.

  6. 11

    Teresa said,

    Just beautiful. you can see the work and the passion in this garden for sure. thanks for sharing it Kathy!

  7. 13

    Noreen said,

    Just loved this garden, especially the mown path and the trough. Reminded me of my grandparents place in Northern Michigan. We used to race toy boats in the trough, yes it was filled with water then and a very intriguing place to play. Thanks for sharing this!

  8. 15

    Jean said,

    Deborah, What a great garden. I love all that sculpture — especially the girl in the hedge opening, but also that last one. So I guess one of the things on your to-do list your first year back from Barbados will be to visit this garden in high summer!

  9. 17

    We live in the high desert of Colorado. Although the humidity is quite different (!!!), I’m always interested in finding gardeners who deal with a cold climate. Thank you for the recommendation.

  10. 19

    debsgarden said,

    Thanks for a great tour; I was saying wow all the way through. I love a garden filled with paths. The one coming from the gap in the hedge was a real surprise. I really like the sculpture with the mirrors!

  11. 21

    Jane Cooper said,

    I am fortunate to live only a 5 minute drive from Brian’s garden. And right now his garden is spectacular! Perhaps those of us who can visit every couple of weeks tend to take it all for granted. But what a gem, situated as it is on one of the highest altitudes in Ontario.

  12. 23

    […] has her own gardening blog, Green Theatre, where you can see, if you should so wish, some of the photos she took at that early moment in the gardening season. (It is quite astonishing for us to look at them and remember how excited we were at such a minimal […]

  13. 24

    […] mid to late May, but Brian opens Lilactree Farm a couple of times earlier then that, and when I visited last year on April 24th, I picked up lots of valuable ideas. This year, I visited on May 6th, and […]


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