Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I remember building these steps and I remember transplanting that mondo grass

Both highly visible and memorable, the Red Pagoda sits astride a ridge that divides China Valley from the Central Valley of the Japanese Woodland. The Central Valley used to be called Chadwick Valley to honor a major donor who funded large portions of this garden. At some point Dorothy Kidder nee Chadwick, requested that the family name no longer be used and so now we have the Central Valley.

My position now in China Valley is funded by an endowment from Ms. Kidder. She was a fascinating woman, tremendously intelligent with a lifelong dedication to gardens and gardening. She maintained a wonderful garden in France, a pleasant waterfront property outside of Easton Maryland, and a rooftop garden outside her primary residence at the Watergate just across F Street from the Kennedy Center.

After leaving the Arboretum, I had the pleasure of working for Ms. Kidder as a gardener at the Watergate and at her residence in Easton. Her interest in plants never flagged; piles of gardening books and magazines overflowed work tables at both residences (regretably, I never accepted any of her offers to visit the garden in France). She made a point of meeting with me just about every time I worked at the Watergate and the few times, I drove her to the Eastern Shore in a grubby old 3/4 ton Pickup; she never complained. We talked about plants and gardens the whole way and the long drives passed quickly.

The topography in China Valley is extreme and the drainage a complicated problem. It took several incarnations of pathway before success was achieved. My introduction to the Asian Collections was intimidating; I was tasked with sorting, by myself, about 12 pallets of stone. I graded them by size for various uses. most of the smaller and medium pieces, by far the bulk of the stone, we used as vertical edging along the path. (they were set in concrete but the concept failed and they were subsequently removed. The remaining larger stones became steppers and make up both this stairway and the similar one across from it in China Valley. While the pathway was eventually replaced, the stairs remain!

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