David Culp, Guest Speaker at Ladew Topiary Garden Festival
David Culp, grower, gardener, and soon to be author spoke at Ladew Topiary Garden in Monkon, Maryland during the Garden Festival this May. His historical overview of garden styles showed the formality of Versailles to the English picturesque style of nature. Williamsburg, Mr. Culp noted, had a great influence on American gardening. “Now the clipped hedges are back in fashion.” The use of the vernacular translated by Mr. Culp was to use what you have – a stone wall, a picket fence, or if you are so lucky a long hedgerow to open up to a wide pastoral scene there at Ladew.
The crowd of gardeners packed into Ladew’s Barn Gallery were given a most informative hand-out as the Brandywine Valley gardener explained the composition of a perennial bed: spikes like Kniphofa ‘Vanilla”, Cups and Daisies like Helenium autumnale, Plumes as in Persicaria polymorhpa, umbels such as eupatorium ‘Gateway’, globes – Allium ‘Mt. Everest’, Weavers like nepeta, Grasses as in Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ and lastly colored foliage like Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate.”
Mr. Culp emphasized that a gardener should look at texture first before color. As to color, “look around you, see what you like,” he said. “There should be repetition of color and shape.” He finished with his favorite gardens to visit – Bartram’s Garden, Sissinghurst, Wave Hill, and of course local gardens for their vegetables.
David Culp, grower of hellebores, bought a 1790’s farmhouse and adjoining two acres in 1990. The farmhouse is located between the forks of the Brandywines and nestled into the hillside. Affectionately referred to as Brandywine Cottage, its many gardens are planted in a naturalistic style. Similar to a Pennsylvania county garden, it includes many collections (such as) galanthus, roses, hepaticas, cyclamen, euphorbias, arums, peonies, iris, and of course, the specialty of the house, hellebores. The garden contains a series of plant habitats dedicated to 4 seasons of interest. The gardens closest to the house were developed first. This includes a raised bed that has became home to a number of small rarities that might have been lost in a larger setting, and the walled ruin, or rock garden, which first had to be cleared of tires, automobile fenders, and other accumulated junk left from years of neglect. The transformation of the overgrown hillside began about seven years ago. The under story on the hill was a six-foot-high tangle of invasive vines and shrubs which had to be cut down twice by hand before any planting could begin. Like all gardens his is a work in progress.