Stretch your design wings with a visit to another garden

Do you sometimes feel you could use some inspiration in your garden design? Years of haphazard placement of plants you “just must have” can make for an untamed jungle.

Some day trips to gardens in our area might be the answer. There are retail nurseries which make a point of displaying offerings to an advantage as well as featuring even more “gotta haves.”

Then there are some organizations which feature niche gardens or research collections. We’re fortunate to be near a university with a fantastic horticultural program. With that comes display gardens of studied plants. The University of Vermont Horticultural Farm (Green Mountain Drive in South Burlington) is a place to see a variety of species of lilacs, apples, rhododendrons and azaleas being researched. They also offer lectures and workdays for the public. The farm is generally open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. You can become a Friend of the Hort Farm to receive notifications of special events. They even have a CSA.

On the retail side, Horsford, a long-established Charlotte nursery, has upped its design game lately, offering visions to give you ideas. A self-guided tour will show you gardens laid out to enjoy the designs as well as individual plants. In summer, artists are invited to give classes in botanical painting.

Another nursery with a huge variety of exceptional offerings is Rockydale Nursery in Bristol. Many unusual shrubs, perennials and trees are laid out so you can wander and enjoy. Rock cliffs form a backdrop for the lovely gardens. Occasional seating is offered also.

In Morrisville are the legendary Cady Falls Gardens. After last year’s disastrous floods, Don and Lela Avery have decided to stop commerce. However, for this very last season they are offering visits to view their layouts and rare plants. Open every day 10 a.m.-5 p.m. There is still time to visit before the nursery is closed finally. It’s open by donation. Worth the drive.

Not far from Cady Falls is Perennial Pleasures, a retail nursery in East Hardwick which also offers a delightful English cream tea for $26. The grounds are planted with old-fashioned perennials surrounding a traditional home. Reservations can be made at 802-472-5104. Books and gifts are sold as well.

Closer to home are the magnificent Shelburne Farms Gardens, recreating the garden beds of an earlier, elegant age. The gardens may be visited from May-October from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. It’s free but donations are encouraged. Come early for dinner or brunch in the inn and walk among the display gardens.

Shelburne Museum plants fresh display gardens each year but also features its fabulous lilac and peony collections. One can see all this when visiting the museum with a paid ticket or take advantage of Free First Fridays 5-7 p.m.

If you care to venture farther afield, the Montreal Botanical Gardens are amazing. They’re open every day from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets are $17. The gardens have 22,000 varieties of plants, themed gardens and 10 greenhouses.

Consider joining the Vermont Hardy Plant Club at $10 a year. Members are invited to tour other members’ private gardens, many not seen by the general public. In the winter, interesting speaking programs are offered by knowledgeable plant people. To join email Robin Worn.

Both Middlebury and Burlington have active garden clubs and welcome new members from the area. This is another opportunity to visit private gardens and hear interesting speakers to inspire you.

Off-season when I am aching to smell warm soil and see green, I often head over to Gardener’s Supply in Williston. In the depths of winter, you can grab a bite to eat at the intimate lunch spot, sit near the fountain and stroll among the tropical plants and orchids.

Gardeners are life learners and the above will supply the knowledge and pleasure we yearn for.

Sometimes we need to spread our design wings and see what others are doing.