Tag Archives: Federal Twist garden

Another trip to “The Garden at Federal Twist”

I hate my garden.

I need more height in my garden.

My garden needs to be more fun and loose.

My garden needs more chaos.

I need to take advantage of self-seeding plants.

I need more mature trees.

I need more seating in my garden.

I need more meandering paths.

I need more plants with lingering seedheads.

All of these thoughts raced through my head after I left The Garden at Federal Twist this past Saturday. This was my third visit to this local garden (literally 5 miles away from my own home) in the past year and I’ve enjoyed chatting with its owner, James Golden, a number of times as well.

To read the history of the garden, click here.

This is my ideal garden and the greatest by far, that I’ve ever seen in person. I’m already anxious to make a return visit in the fall. Massing of giant perennials, ornamental grasses, water features, paths leading to private seating areas, sculptures = heaven on earth. If I don’t walk away with ideas and inspiration, I’m a bleeping idiot.

Here are the pics. Where I can, I’ve identified the plants based on James’ feedback and from scouring his website:

Filipendula rubra in the background
Iris ensata
Ligularia japonica
Button Bush
Rattlesnake master

And possibly my favorite pic with the tree framing the entire garden below:

A true gem and inspiration.

I vow to create my own mini version of this garden somewhere in my garden in the near future as a shout-out.

Thank you James.

Revisiting the Garden at Federal Twist

Back in June, I visited the Garden at Federal Twist and found myself inspired like never before. This friggin garden smacked me upside the head and said “This is what you love dummy. Stop with all the small groupings of plants and endless mulch. Think architectural plants and Piet Oudolf  and grasses (that one I have nailed down).”

The memories of the garden still resonate today but hot damn I had no idea how much more inspired I would be after visiting Federal Twist again this past weekend. The visit was part of the The Garden Conservancy’s “Open Days Program” but before I share the photos with you, you MUST read the following article that just appeared in the New York Times on the garden and its owner, James Golden:


Seriously, don’t move on until you have read this article. It provides such a wonderful backdrop before viewing the garden. And I couldn’t be more fortunate to live ten minutes away from this gem.

Now we move on to the photos … without interruption of my words … because my words will do it no justice:



The Garden at Federal Twist

On Saturday, as part of The Garden Conservancy’s “Open Days Program”, I visited a local garden (so local that it is technically the next town over), “The Garden at Federal Twist”. I knew a little bit about this garden from reading the owner’s blog – View from Federal Twist – but was super psyched to finally see it in person. 
And it blew me away. 
Because we are in proximity to each other, I know what kind of conditions FT need to contend with and the challenge of getting anything to grow in these conditions (clay soil with real poor drainage). To say I was inspired is an understatement and I have been planning changes to my own garden ever since I left. 

The description of the Garden at Federal Twist on the Garden Conservancy’s website nails it to a tee:

“When we moved into a mid-century house overlooking the woods, I immediately knew only a naturalistic, informal garden would be appropriate to this place. The garden is hidden. You enter through the house, where you first glimpse the landscape, a sunny glade in the woods, through a wall of large windows. Featuring many big perennials and grasses that evoke an “Alice in Wonderland” feeling (many plants are taller than you), the garden is in the tradition of such “new perennial” designers as Piet Oudolf. Visitors have described it as a highly emotional garden. Plantings emphasize structure, shape, and form as much as flower. Begun as an experiment to explore the potential for working in unimproved, heavy clay, the garden is ecologically like a wet prairie, and is maintained by cutting and burning in late winter. Flowers and butterflies peak in mid-July, then a second peak occurs in October when low sunlight strikes fire in the blousy russets and golds of the grasses. A small pond attracts hundreds of frogs, insects and wildlife.”

And of course, I took over a hundred photos during my “stay” at the garden and here they are:
These are shots taken of the garden from various view points:         

You feeling it? It is the closest to a Piet Oudolf style garden that I’ve ever seen in person. Lots of ornamental grasses and tall perennials, many with fantastic seedheads.
Oh those phenomenal seedheads: 

And winding paths that just dare you to see what lurks beyond:

Nothing gives me a gardening “a ha” moment more than a well placed focal point and to this day, I haven’t pulled off even one successfully.

It looks so easy when done right:

My initial reaction when I got home on Saturday was “I can’t garden to save my life.”
Mine felt so simple, stale, small and uninteresting, But I slowly realized that it takes time and numerous failures and frustrations along the way to get to that point. 
The fun is in the trying.