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Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

At Bedrock Gardens, the land is an artist’s canvas, part 2

November 19, 2021

During our early October road trip through New Hampshire, we made time for a return visit to Bedrock Gardens in Lee, New Hampshire. This is part 2 of my exploration of the 20-acre garden of artist-gardener Jill Nooney and her “problem-solver” husband, Bob Munger. Click here to read part 1.

Garish Garden

A serpentine bed of mostly red-flowering perennials and tropical annuals, made “garish” with supposedly clashing foliage and flowers, runs between the Wiggle Waggle rill and the stylized meadow called GrassAcre.

Jill’s found-object sculptures add height and create focal points throughout the garden.

Smaller vignettes are just as good.

Jewel-like, cobalt deck prisms on stakes make colorful accents that can hold their own amid bold foliage and colors.

A red dahlia and delicate jewels of Opar (Talinum paniculatum) make a pretty pair.

Another of Jill’s totem sculptures

And a nearly hidden metal woman with coiled ringlets

A funhouse mirror set among the plants offers a warped reflection as you walk by, adding to the garden’s playful vibe. Notice the warped Wiggle Waggle stream too.

The Garish Garden overlooks a swath of mauve little bluestem grass and a Japanese-inspired arbor called the Torii.

Luscious color glows against the forest-green backdrop of an arborvitae hedge.

Red, coral, and peach dahlia gorgeousness

A towering castor bean flower echoes a spiraling silver post behind it.

Long view of the Garish Garden, looking toward CopTop gazebo

What’s this, a phoenix? With dragon-like wings outstretched, it appears poised to take flight.

Quirkier birds reside here too.

As do more totems anchoring exotic foliage and flowers.

Funnel Gardens

Backtracking to the Funnel Gardens, we started down its long axis, where focal-point sculptures add color and, in this case, sinuous, organic form.

This clever pagoda-like piece caught my eye. It’s a tiered stack of blue ceramic pots and bowls set on a pedestal. The bowls with flared-out rims are key for creating the pagoda effect, I think.

A weeping conifer slumps alongside another of Jill’s works, this one called Sleight of Hand. The “fingers” are leaf springs and the “coins” shifting between them are barbell weights.

The Spiral Garden

X marks the spot, or at least the end of the long Funnel Garden. Past the Hex Rock, a spiraling stone path curls in on itself like a fiddlehead. Roof ventilators atop spiral culvert pipes seem to spin up out of the ground.

It’s a hypnotizing space.

Swivel chairs made from tractor seats and other cast-off farm equipment wait under a tree and a hanging circle of steel, inviting visitors to sit and enjoy views in both directions.

One way is a neighboring horse pasture and gentle hills — a view protected by a conservation easement.

The Torii and fringetree allée

In the other direction you look down an allée of young Chinese fringetrees (Chionanthus retusus) toward the Torii, inspired by gates to Shinto shrines.

In a well-designed garden, always look in both directions! From the allée, as you peek back at the chairs and Spiral Garden, the hanging circle is now a perfectly centered magnet for the eye — a portal to another dimension?

On one side you’re treated to a sweeping view of GrassAcre, the Garish Garden, and the pergola by the barn.

Baxis axis

On the other side, you feel the pull of another long axis ending at an oversized structure — the Baxis.

The triangular-framed and red-accented Baxis pergola stands high on a gentle slope. A bench and chairs invite you in.

All around, head-high maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis) in rosy bloom turns the space into a garden room.

Sunflowers grow tall here too…

…and attract pollinators.

Tined rake-and-hoop totems cluster in one bed, proving that more is more in a big space like this.

I picked my way along a muddy path, not sure if I was still in the garden proper anymore, when I came across a flock of pink metal flamingos stalking through low grasses or sedge. Fun surprises like this make Bedrock a delight to explore.

An intriguing display of rocks appeared too: long granite slabs piled with smaller stones of all shapes and sizes. Building materials for a future project, I wondered, or a “rock garden” in itself?

I headed back through the Baxis and collected David. Ahead, another bench and shrine-like pergola with hanging bones hints at the mysterious Dark Woods ahead.

The Dark Woods

Here be monsters — or at least creepy metal bugs…

…fierce flying birds in the trees…

…and a driftwood creature with a glowing red eye.

It’s like coming upon the Monster Mash!

Anthropomorphic tree trunks lounge and mingle here.

Oh so casual

Grabby bugs stare up at you hungrily.

A robotic family with a pet dog confronts you at the end of the trail. Mom and the kid have iron doors on their chests that open to reveal a surprise.

The kid’s is a red heart that reads “Mom.”

And Mom’s door opens to reveal — hello!

An animal skeleton — the ghost of horses past? — floats spectrally through the trees.

Termi thrones and pond

The long axis that runs through the Torii terminates here, at the Termi. A pair of regal lions guards two wooden thrones embraced by a columned pergola. The back wall is made of — this is a surprise — wool! According to the garden’s Facebook page, the wool wall is recycled from an old flower show display. Behind the woolly wall, a bosque of Seven Sons trees (Heptacodium miconioides) adds a little color thanks to autumnal red bracts.

Sit in a throne and survey your domain, or at least this serene pond, with trees just starting to color up in early October. On the far side, a boardwalk bridge with a bench makes a cross-pond focal point — or a place to enjoy the pond from a new vantage point.

Bedrock Gardens offers so many lessons on art placement and creating a sense of wonder, surprise, and amusement in your own garden. If you’d like to see more, check out my blog posts from a visit in the summer of 2014:

Up next: A visit to Juniper Hill Farm, the garden of Joe Valentine in Francestown, New Hampshire. For a look back at Part 1 of my exploration of art-filled Bedrock Gardens, click here.

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