Lucy Dinsmore's photos and words on working in gardens, learning about plants, and exploring outdoor spaces

Search for content

A Good Friday for a Chanticleer Visit

It’s the height of gardening season, and I took a day off. I needed a break from my work garden and knew I’d find solace and inspiration at my favorite garden, Chanticleer. It was a quiet and overcast day there - perfect for discovering wonderful vignettes throughout the garden and catching up with old coworkers.

After the initial wowing by magnolias, flowering cherries, hellebores, and drifts of spring bulbs upon entering, my favorite places to view spring are the Pond and Gravel Gardens. Species tulips like Tulipa clusiana ‘Lady Jane’ dance on graceful stems with Bellevalia paradoxa, Muscari spp., and the orange hues of Tulipa praestans ‘Shogun’ and T. ‘Princess Irene.’ A single Geum triflorum was a sweet surprise on the walk up the Rock Ledge. And in the Gravel Garden above, pockets of pale blue Muscari ‘Valerie Finnis’ are nestled into tufts of Nassella tenuissima, suggestive of billowy cloudsand the would-be blue sky above.

Another breathtaking spot is the Silver Bed, where a beautiful low rock outcrop is the backdrop to creeping Erigeron pulchellus and intermingling Muscari armeniacum, Narcissus 'Hawera,' Phlox subulata, andspecies tulips.

Every year I’m delighted by the bright green growth atop the many hundred charred heads of Sporobolus heterolepis outside the Ruin Garden. Rows and rows of black and green tufts undulate up the hill to a gathering of candy-like flowering cherries, aptly named ‘Dream Catcher.’

One of my favorite plants, Lonicera fragrantissima, was in full bloom in the Winter Shrub Border. A ragged and twiggy shrub, its intoxicating flowers always send me back to some childhood memory I can’t quite recall, and I always have to pull myself away before overstaying my welcome.

After a few hours, I finally had to leave, and I always get a twinge of heartbreak at that moment. But, I’ll be back to see the next phase, when the garden is a little taller, the trees greener and the days longer.

Fort Tryon Heather Garden

As I was looking through my archive from 2013, I realized I had forgotten to post this one. In an effort to stay warm with temps below freezing outside, I was delighted to re-discover these images that so evoke the height of summer - all the green, all the color, and the dampness from the day’s rain.

I spent one rainy morning in July last year visiting the Heath and Heather Garden at Fort Tryon Park. An earlier trip in June had spurred me to return to New York with the sole intention of visiting this one garden. While the heathers had long finished flowering, other perennials and shrubs were erupting in color. The garden boasts about 500 different varieties/cultivars of woody and herbaceous plants, thoughtfully placed in inspiring combinations. Roses and hydrangeas bloomed with clematis and profuse persicarias. Spires of buddleia, acanthus, and astilbe interrupted mounds of geraniums, ageratum, and lavenders. And throughout the soft palette were flicks of sizzling crocosmia, knautia, and lobelia.

I love looking back at these photos and referring to the online bloom guides for inspiration during these wintry January days. What gardens and plants are you looking at in the dead of winter?

First ice storm of the season, and glassy catkins hang suspended from a glistening Japanese alder.

First ice storm of the season, and glassy catkins hang suspended from a glistening Japanese alder.

Snow days at the Morris Arboretum

Fall Splendor on the National Mall

  • Bald cypress and Boston ivy at the Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Garden
  • Toad lilies, Persian shields, witchhazels, and castor beans at the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden
  • Serviceberries and Solomon’s Seal in fall attire at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Fall at Longwood Gardens


Untermyer Gardens is a gem atop the hills of Yonkers. How do I even begin to describe the magnitude of this once-glorious estate? Well, let’s start with some good reading.

The New York Times ran a piece last July about the garden, which I happened to be reading in Minnesota, and decided after putting the paper down that I needed to plan a visit. Here’s that article.

It’s a story of wealth and grandeur. A New York lawyer made the first million dollar settlement in America, and built a palatial Persian walled garden with an amphitheater, temples, pools, and glorious vistas across the Hudson to the Palisades.

Having now visited a year later, I want to come back and witness the changes that will unfold as momentum builds and resources (hopefully) become available.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden - in July with friends with babies

I always visit gardens in the winter, when I seem to have more time and energy for exploration. Having been to BBG more than three times in Januaries and Februaries past, I made a point of visiting this month. And what a lot of surprises and changes I found since those cold winter months.

The green roof was more alive this time, and it was a delight to see one of my favorites - purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea) - amongst the grasses. The hillside facing the roof has filled in with cascading sedges, softening the amphitheater-like steps and benches. Downhill, the Rose Garden was alive and full of color and texture. Enticing you into the garden were garden phlox of all colors, fragrant beebalm, towering lilies, clary sage, coneflowers, verbena, trailing nasturtiums, and Mexican feather grass (Stipa tennuissima), to name a few….

The new-ish Herb Garden was busting with espaliered fruit trees, drooping grape vines, waves of squashes undulating through kale and sunflowers, accented by spiky artichokes.

Other new things since my last visit: Sandy Remix - an installation using trees felled by Superstorm Sandy and resembling a tornado-like nest. There also seemed to be some renovations to both the Shakespeare and Fragrant Gardens. Though the fragrant honeysuckle had long since bloomed on the archway between the two gardens, my memories of winter remain full of that heady scent. The heat got the better of me this visit, and we all left sweating and thirsty.

Early one morning, I awoke Quinn the greenhouse cat from her slumber in the rose garden.

End of June in Minneapolis

On a recent trip back, some of my favorite sites: Minnehaha Creek, cottonwood trees, alders, and willows. Catalpas and white wild indigo in bloom. Spiderwort the only color in the early prairie and Juneberries ripe and worth gorging over. The water was high, the air was cool, and life was lush.