On Saturday, May 27, some friends and I made a garden field trip to Sakonnet Garden, in Little Compton, RI. This private garden holds open days a few times each year. Most dates vary, depending on winter weather and expectations of peak bloom time. They have an annual event on Memorial Day weekend that includes a plant sale. Entrance fees for the open days support the gardens, their new meadow project and the Garden Conservancy Open Days program.
You’ll need to wait until next year for the Open Days & Sales events, but it is worth visiting this garden for any of their Open Days. The property has about an acre of garden rooms, divided by walls and hedges to create rooms with a variety of microclimates and growing conditions. There are dry gardens, wet gardens, sunny and shady gardens. The owners enjoy trying new plants and methods to stretch the limits of the local growing season.
Walking around the wall pictured (above left) leads to the entrance into the first of these rooms – a light-dappled moss garden. The branches of deciduous shrubs create a sculptural contrast to the carpet of moss. From there one travels through rooms that are an interesting contrast to our Garden Club visit to the Garden in the Woods a few weeks ago, where the New England Wildflower Society focusses on plants that are native to New England or nearby states.
The owners of Sakonnet can best be described as plant collectors. They do have a variety of natives, including large swathes of trilliums that they have carefully planted and propagated to create an impressive display. The garden’s website includes a brief explanation of how they achieved their goal to create dense patches of one of their favorite plants.
They also have many imported plants, creating some unusual combinations and effects. One surprising plant was the blue poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia, also known as M. baileyi.) I’d never seen this flower outside of a catalog before, and was surprised by the size of the bloom, and that it is a true blue – a rare color among flowers. It is planted on the edge of a bog garden, and best viewed from the narrow plank bridge – meant for two-way traffic, but only wide enough for one person. While trying to get a better photo of this plant, I instead had to reverse directions to let some other garden visitors cross the bridge. That was a happy change, as I had noticed the poppies, and taken no notice of other interesti.ng garden features.
The acquisition and construction of this ‘Mughal Pavilion’ is described on the garden’s website, under Garden Images. It is elevated above a large patch of petasites and other bog plants. Our group had many ideas for using this space – reading on a hot day, enjoying a glass of wine or a cocktail, an al fresco lunch, or even having a cup of coffee while planning the day ahead. This was one of many unexpected finds in this garden – some of the surprises were plant material, others were structures. This was my first visit to this garden – I hope to return on one of their other Open Days, to see how this garden changes throughout the growing season – I expect to find more surprises with each visit.