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.
Hilarious about the sculptures that we thought were some amazing fungi! Every app on my phone failed to help out with ID and now makes a good deal of sense. So fun exploring this garden with you, Susan!
Will Cole be a future guest on your podcast?
I have invited him! He is a busy guy. 🙂
Could I get an ID on the two Aspidistra?
The plants in the ground, and the nearest pot are A. elatior ‘Variegata’, the farther pot is ‘Akebono’
Plants in the ground are brown due to extreme January cold snap, down to 3 degrees. If you cut old foliage before the new leaves come up, the new leaves will be undersized, hence the brown waiting for fresh growth.
Have followed Cole’s advice for years and have a couple of his books. The Rodale Perennials book is what got me into gardening. His garden is quite special. What a treat to be able to see it in Spring.
Love the square granite (?) pond. Can you tell us more about it?
Carolyn, it is a dye vat from China, imported by a shop in Virginia.
OMGosh, I lust over that! I was trying to figure out if it was real (stone), or a creation of cement….beautiful gardens, Cole, and your STUDIO!
Wonderful garden, wonderful plantsman! And a fine friend and mentor. Thanks for these great photos.
I had the pleasure of visiting his garden long ago, and it is as spectacular as you described. I am happy to see his mix of natives and other plants, as I have that situation, too, and sometimes native plant friends chide me. If the plants aren’t on the invasive list, I can enjoy them.
Come back! Much has changed. I now have 10-foot deer fence and the native plantings along the stream are spectacular.
I love Colston! I love his books as well. I love to quote him “ I don’t really feel I’ve gotten to know a plant unless I’ve killed it.” which he said at a conference many years ago.
Wonderful garden & photos. Thank you for sharing.
Did I see both white redbuds and a dogwood or two? If not, can you identify the white flowering trees? Thanks!
And thanks for the info about not trimming off the brown leaves of aspidistra until the new growth has come in. I didn’t know that.
Hi Sally, yes, there are red and white redbuds as well as dogwoods in the garden. I am patiently waiting for the new leaves on the Aspidistra! It is so tempting to cut away the brown, but….
Colston made quite an impression when he came to speak at a plant lecture for Yew Dell gardens many moons ago. I was so impressed by his plantsmanship and rigorous truth!
Hi JoAnne, Thank you for your kind words. I would love to return to Yew Dell some time.