Nature Challenge Day 2: Lilies and Koi at the Heath’s Gloucester Gardens

May 25, 2016 Brent & Beckys 004


We returned to Gloucester today, with my gardening sister, to visit Brent and Becky Heath’s gardens and pick up our ‘end of season’ order of plants and tubers.  Brilliant sunshine and warm fragrant breezes off the river made for a perfect day to wander around their acres of display gardens.

Every plant the Heath family offers is showcased somewhere in the gardens, grown against a backdrop of ornamental trees, shrubs, perennials and Virginia natives.  We learn so much by observing these thousands of plants grown in optimal conditions by professionals who truly love the many plants they nurture.  I am continually surprised with an unexpected combination of plants, and by familiar plants grown in unusual and beautiful new ways.


May 25, 2016 Brent & Beckys 005


The garden was punctuated today with hundreds of Amaryllis bulbs grown out in the beds with other perennials.  You probably know Amaryllis as one of those bulbs sold in the autumn, and grown in a pot during the winter holidays.  Well, come spring, one can plant those bulbs outside in a flower bed.  Many of them are hardy in our coastal Virginia winters and can be left to naturalize, blooming in early summer.


The Heath's gardens, where Amaryllis grow beside perennials.

The Heath’s gardens, where Amaryllis grow beside other perennials.


Jay Heath, attacking weeds along the main path, encouraged us by pointing out that our wet spring has brought abundant growth of ‘natives,’ or weeds to some, to everyone’s garden.  Even with a dedicated staff, they are still challenged to stay ahead of this spring’s abundant growth.

Side by side, both the nurtured and the ‘self-sown’ sprawled and bloomed, a banquet for their bees and butterflies.   The ground was wet, saturated by recent storms.  And everywhere were signs of the change of season and evolution of their garden.


May 25, 2016 Brent & Beckys 011


I was captivated by the first water lily blooms of the season.  The Koi here were nearly hidden by the many water plants.  Imagine having to weed the water garden, too!  But that is just what is planned for later this week, along with a re-do of the planters surrounding the fountain and pool.


May 25, 2016 Brent & Beckys 014


We were fortunate to find owner Brent Heath consulting on the water garden as we wandered back to the shop.  I am always delighted to find Brent in the garden because he so generously shares his deep knowledge of plants with interested visitors.

My friend and I had questions, and he guided us around some of the beds to demonstrate answers and to give useful advice.  He points out plants like the old friends they are, teaching us all the while.


This is the meadow garden where Brent showed us Mountain Mint and other native perennials we might grow in our own gardens.

This is the meadow garden where Brent Heath showed us Mountain Mint and other native perennials we might grow in our own gardens.  Some, but not all of these plants are listed in the summer catalog.


We each accepted a generous clump of Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum virginianum, pulled from the meadow, with advice to plant it in a bed with deep borders to keep it in check.  This native medicinal herb can be used in numerous ways, both in herbal medicine and in a perennial border.  But Brent introduced us to its strong delicious fragrance, and advised that rubbing it against one’s skin keeps flying insects like gnats and mosquitoes far away.

Mountain mint is very hard to find for sale.  Brent and Becky Heath don’t sell it at their garden.  But I had been looking for a source ever since reading about its use in perennial plantings in Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury’s new book, Planting:  A New Perspective This is one of their ‘go to’ plants for long-lived perennial plantings which carry through all of the seasons of the year with minimal maintenance.  For Brent to spontaneously offer us each a well rooted clump was a tremendous blessing for us both.


May 25, 2016 Brent & Beckys 026


If you still have an empty spot in your garden, and would like to fill it with something gorgeous and unusual, please take a look at the Heath’s online summer catalog of plants.  Their end of season, 50% off sale lasts through Saturday, and their offerings can’t be beat for quality and value. We filled the back of our car and look forward to happy planting days ahead!


May 25, 2016 Brent & Beckys 001~

Blogging friend, Y,  invited me to join the Seven Day Nature Challenge last Saturday.  Thank you for your invitation Y., at In the Zone, and for sharing your fascinating photos taken around our shared state of Virginia.  Y and I know many of the same places and share a love for the quirky and beautiful, the fun and poignant.  I appreciate her invitation and will follow her lead to capture the spirit, if not the exact parameters of the challenge.

Not only is one asked to post a nature photo for seven days running, but to also invite another blogger to join in each day.

For this second day of the challenge, I’ll invite you again to join in.  This challenge has been out there for a while, and many nature photographers have already participated.  If you would like to take up the challenge, please accept in the comments and I’ll link back to you tomorrow.

Although I try to take photos in our garden each day, friends and followers may have noticed that it has been a very long time since I’ve been able to post daily.  Life has gotten quite busy over the past year, and the garden is always calling me out of doors!

But in the spirit of the challenge I’ll set the intention to post a photo or three daily.  If you decide to accept this challenge, too, I’ll look forward to seeing what surprises May has brought to your corner of the world, even as I share the beauty of ours.


All photos in today's post were taken at the Heath family display gardens in Gloucester, VA, which are open to the public during much of the year.

All photos in today’s post were taken at the Heath family display gardens in Gloucester, VA, which are open to the public during much of the year.  Please check their schedule if you are planning a trip to visit the shop and gardens.


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016




About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

7 responses to “Nature Challenge Day 2: Lilies and Koi at the Heath’s Gloucester Gardens

  1. A gorgeous garden! Including some of our abundant ‘weeds’ in planting schemes seems to be catching on, I think. It does make good sense really as the plant can be relied upon to perform well in its natural environment. We have seen swathes of wild flower meadows planted by some city authorities in recent years, rather than the formal flower beds that we used to see.

    • Peggy, it all depends on perspective. If looking at a garden economically, in terms of what resources one must invest to keep it going and what one gets in return, using natives and naturalizing perennials makes sense. They require less water and fertilizer. They often require less ongoing maintenance. The whole scheme requires replanting less frequently, if at all. In seeking out ‘deer resistant’ and ‘deer proof’ plants we have naturally moved to a different palette of plants; more of them natives and long lived perennials. The Gloucester garden remains mostly open to wildlife, including deer, which is one reason it always inspires us. There will always be those who prefer the order and symmetry of traditional flower beds planted out neatly with annuals, and also those who feel more self-confident planning and installing those schemes. Our municipal plantings are largely neat beds refreshed with a new scheme each season. Thanks for visiting ❤ ❤ ❤

      • It sounds like a good plan to work in harmony with nature as far as possible. I am fortunate that in my garden my only grazing animals are snails and slugs … they can be a menace but they’re a bit smaller to deal with!

        • Smaller, but so destructive! Slugs have eaten several annuals I’ve set out in pots this year. How do you combat them? This is the first year we’ve had a real problem with them eating whole plants! A blessing of the rain? 😉

          • Absolutely! I collected a pot-full of the pesky little creatures from around the cabbage plants this morning. I garden organically so I use slug traps baited with sugary water or lemonade. This year I have had some success with copper tape around the legs of my greenhouse staging, but out in the garden there seems to be no stopping them! We needed the rain … but we didn’t really need such voracious molluscs!

            • Sad, but true. I tried topdressing the soil around one of the Petunias with sand and gravel, but that did no good. I’ve heard of traps baited with various liquid. Lemonade is a new one! For every leaf, there is a hungry slug or bug, isn’t there? One of those truths of gardening 😉

  2. farseems

    How beautifully you have captured our wonderful day out, together, at Brent and Becky’s. We always learn. I have planted my clump(de clumped) already. Plan on planting the rest tomorrow.

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