As a child, my favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder book was “Little House in the Big Woods“. When we began to look for a larger property to garden fifteen years ago, it was no surprise that I fell in love with a house tucked into the middle of an acre of woods. I wanted to be surrounded by trees in a home that was an integral part of the landscape and I got my wish. Every level of the house has a door to the outside, sometimes three or four, and two levels of decks make walking out into the landscape an every day joy. ~Lynn Emberg Purse, A Garden in the Woods (Pittsburgh Botanic Garden tour book)
On the last Sunday in June, I opened my garden for the annual Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Town and Country Tour – an all day event where visitors explore selected local gardens. A few days later, I was told that 500 tickets were sold; I think everyone of those people came through my garden! I had worked for months to prepare the garden for close scrutiny, still prepping until ten minutes before the garden gates opened. I was especially pleased that many visitors made a point of telling me that they chose to come here first because of the description I wrote of the garden, beginning with the paragraph above.
My generous husband serenaded everyone by playing guitar on the deck for many hours of the tour. I loved greeting visitors, answering their questions, and discussing approaches to gardening. One of the comments that I heard over and over again was “this is a sanctuary!” and I would agree with a smile. Here is what those on tour saw as they explored the garden, with the text taken from the garden tour description. You can listen to Bill’s guitar wizardry on Woman In the Meadow (composed by Mark Lucas, recorded on the Tribute CD by Bill Purse) while you enjoy the photos (all images ©2016 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved).
Visitors arrive outside of the fence where many plants have been tested for deer resistance. Native plants rub shoulders with polite foreigners, each adding to the beauty of the garden while supporting a variety of wildlife. Flowers, grasses, herbs, shrubs and groundcovers thrive in relaxed casual planting beds that connect to the surrounding woodland.
Inside the fence, the open areas embraced by a tall backdrop of woods contain a formal structure of circular gravel paths and beds filled with striking color.
Hundreds of roses, lilies, daylilies, clematis, Hydrangea, perennials, and hosta make up the romantic plantings that thrive protected from deer and rabbits.
Rugged stone steps lead from the gardens up to the deck where visitors can get a “bird’s eye” view of the planting beds.
Although this is a “one woman” garden, I want to extend a special thanks to my niece Carly, my friend Doug, and my husband Bill who helped me prepare the garden and grounds, and my sister-in-law Susie and all of the volunteers from the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden who helped the tour day run so smoothly.
Home is the nicest word there is. ― Laura Ingalls Wilder
This post is linked back to Jude’s monthly theme of August: Open Gardens. You can explore some fabulous gardens there!
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It’s my dream to one day visit your garden. We too have a garden surrounded by trees- beech trees in our case. It is our wildlife sanctuary. I love the daylily Evelyn and rose Amber Carpet. Such a wonderful combination. Thank you for sharing your wonderful garden. I wonder if you know @Pollieslilies Pollie Maasz. She’s growing daylily hybrids in the uk. All the best- Karen .
Karen, what a lovely compliment! It sounds as if you have your own beautiful piece of paradise. I visited many gardens in England years ago and they influenced my style. I don’t know Pollie but will investigate. I do know Diana Grenfell, a British daylily expert; I even have a few photos in her book The Gardener’s Guide to Growing Daylilies. Thank you again for stopping by and commenting, Karen; always wonderful to make new garden friends!
I will look out for that book. If you ever come this way again- we live near some really glorious national trust houses and gardens. I would love to show you around. Funny how you just seem to know when someone is like-minded. Gardens and plants do bring people together.
Karen, I would love nothing more than to return to England to visit gardens. Not sure if that will happen but it would be ideal. Thank you for your kind words and yes, I agree about like-minded people, especially gardeners 🙂
I am amazed about your garden. So lovely and so full of life in different ways. I guess by this time is more quiet and subtle?
Thanks Otto, it was a glorious summer. It is winding down now but the trees are starting to change their leaf color and a whole new look is on its way! Hope to post this weekend with an update.
What a wonderful experience this was! Thank you for sharing your very special space with us. My son is a guitarist and my husband a garden designer so we are not exactly poles apart. 🙂 🙂
Jo, thank you for stopping by and commenting! You are right, we have a lot in common 🙂 Your blog is beautiful! I especially loved the tour of the Scampston Walled Garden – wonderful photos of a beautiful place.
Thanks a lot 🙂
Thank you for the virtual tour, I shall return tomorrow and have a closer look at your daylilies. Do they prefer shade to sun? I just wondered with you being in a woodland whether it is a shady garden. I am quite jealous of your house too, what I can see of it. I’d love a couple of decks to walk out on to. Bit late to listen to the music, but I will be back.
Thanks for stopping by, Jude; I’ve been enjoying your site for a while now. Daylilies love sun; most of the flower gardens are in clearings in the wooded areas and get 6-8 hours or more a day. The decks are a wonderful way to connect to the garden, like viewing platforms 🙂
My daylily is in full-sun (planted in the garden, it used to be in a pot), but hasn’t flowered this year. I wondered if I’d put it in the wrong spot. You have some beauties!
Jude, if you transplanted your daylily last year, it may have interrupted bud formation (usually made the year previous to bloom). Feed it and give it some time to settle in; it will probably bloom next year and increase every year thereafter – they LOVE sun. Daylily aficionados who put their gardens on tour generally don’t move or divide their daylilies for at least 3 years before the tour so that the plant can settle in and produce maximum blooming scapes.
I bit late for the tour, but cheers to you not only for your gardening efforts, but for willingly opening the door to visitors on this day. Congratulations and well done!
Thanks, Frank! It is always great to have you stop by.
Magnificent, magnificent, magnificent! I wish I could have been one of the visitors. You’ve done an outstanding job. Our new retirement house backs into the woods and a bird sanctuary, and like yours there are multiple doors that lead to the outside and a wall of glass overlooking the entire scene. I am in heaven and pinch myself everyday. But it is nothing like the perfection you have created. You are indeed the flower whisperer. Hope all is well.
Thank you, my dear friend. I am so glad to hear that your new place has the same connection to the outside – that has been so wonderful here. Just remember, the garden is 15 years old, so it takes time to build the scenes. Think of it like a music production; each soloist and group gets their time on stage and the whole event takes place over a timeline – although the garden’s timeline is over months and years rather than minutes and hours 🙂 It is the process that is so wonderful.
You deserved that great weather and turnout – what a gift you and your husband gave the community. The photos are luscious! The sweetly named grape and lemonade bed is outstanding, and I love those white campanulas nodding appreciatively over the day lily. Thank you!
Thank you, Lynn. It was a really special day; the ticket sales support the Pgh Botanic Garden, which is a great thing, and the enjoyment that people get from visiting a different set of gardens each year is inspirational. Ah, the Grape and Lemonade bed was inspired by the Etched Eyes daylily, hybridized by my friend Matthew Kaskel – I have several of his hybrids in my garden and each one is special but that one is my favorite. As always, your comments here are so kind and so appreciated.
Spectacular. For those of us too far to travel, we kindly insist on a video walking tour (please!).
OK, Audrey, I will definitely consider creating a video 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the virtual tour.
SO beautiful. I can’t imagine the number of hours, the amount of work that goes into something like this.
Lizzy, thank you for visiting! The garden is truly a labor of love, where I never really count the hours, just the joy.
That is a BIG tour, Lynn! And the garden looks wonderful!
It was big, Tracy – originally, they expected 300+ but the weather and last minute sales drove the numbers up quite a bit. It was fun, though!
beautiful gardens! and OMG the sound is this HIS cd? and how do i get one? 🙂
Elise, yes, that is one of the cuts from hubby Bill’s CD Tribute – he was very happy to hear of your reaction. I’ll e-mail you the info if you are interested in the CD.
If I lived within 100 miles–no, 200 miles–of Pittsburgh I’d have greedily purchased a ticket myself, especially if cameras–and tripods 🙂 were allowed.
Next time you’re in this area, Kerry, let me know and you can come and photograph all you want 🙂
Oh, Lynn, what I love about your blog (the most, for there is much to love) is that it so beautifully affirms that you are an artist to the core, but also that the core is your heart, which leads you to so generously share all your creativity and arts: gardening, music, photography, and writing with the rest of us. (These are the evident arts; I suspect there are more. You seem one of the gifted whose entire orientation to life is artistic.) I am always amazed, always enlightened, and always grateful, Lynn. Thank you.
Kitty, I blush. Your praise is a gift, but in reality, being able to share is a true gift as well. Writing the blog keeps me on track and continually thinking about what I am doing, in many ways a call to authenticity. I am so glad that it means something to others as well, and especially to you as you and the words you write inspire me as well. Here’s to beauty, my friend 🙂
I wish that I could have been one of your visitors.
Me too, tootle pedal! I can’t share the smells and the ambient sounds, but I can share the images and some of the music, so enjoy the virtual tour 🙂
Surely some tech boffin somewhere is working on digitising smells so it won’t be long.
OMG, Lynn, super gorgeous! Loved the guitar music, too. What a treat for those on the tour!
Thank you, Eliza! It was a special day, with nature cooperating in the event. Only garden with live music, too 🙂
They are going to be clamoring for an encore, I’m sure! 😉
Thank you for the music and the photos! That is truly to build a home. I love Laura’s books too, each one of them.
Nice to know that someone has read her books and loved them, Bernadette! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
How wonderful! Wish I lived closer and could have come!
Thank you, Mary – if you ever come to the Pittsburgh area, drop me a line 🙂
Tks! Will definitely do!