Readers may recognize Colston Burrell as the garden designer, writer and speaker, perhaps best known for his knowledge of plants that are native to Bird Hill, his garden on a woodsy hillside near Charlottesville, Va.

I had run into Cole at a conference or two but never seen his famous garden – until this spring when my new friend Leslie Harris, who lives nearby and had snagged an invitation to his spring garden open house, asked me to go with her to the event (which I’m told draws hundreds).

Despite the impending crowds, I had the chance to chat long enough with Cole to realize we’d grown up and attended the same schools in the little historic town of Bon Air, near Richmond.  Admittedly, I was a few (ahem) years ahead of him.

But about the garden! From Cole’s website:

Bird Hill is a ten-acre pleasure grounds, a pastiche of woodland, meadow, and garden inspired by the beauty of the regional landscape. This collector’s paradise is designed to be viewed from the house, as well as to be viewed with the house as the garden’s centerpiece. I emphasize plantings rich in texture, color, and scent to envelop comfortable spaces conceived for reverie. Native and choice plants from around the world blend together within the natural framework.

Circular spaces are repeated throughout, inspired by landscape architect Jens Jensen who used them to “add order to the randomness of nature”. Shaded beds surround the house are filled to overflowing with sedges, ferns, bulbs, hellebores, wildflowers, shrubs and flowering trees. In sunnier areas, temperate and tropical plants blend for a season long feast of foliage and flowers. Potted plants, small water features, antique stone pieces and architectural salvage abound.

I hope these few iPhone photos begin to convey the beauty and serenity of this stunning garden.  If you’d like any of the plants identified, please leave a comment and I’ll nudge Cole for the info.

The path down to the creek.

Leslie and I were puzzled by whatever these are. Cole told us ‘The sculptures are by Robert Fairfax from Snohomish, WA. They are cast resin representing the spadices of Lysichiton Americanism.” See, we didn’t realize they were sculptures. Cole’s studio.

Coming up – 2 grand Charlottesville gardens

Come back next Friday to see two fabulous but very different gardens in Charlottesville, about 20 miles south of Cole.