Wrestling with Angels and Singing with Dragons:
The Making of a Garden Across 45 Years
by William H. Frederick, jr.
Gardeners like to talk about “putting themselves” into their home turf. Few, however, create self-portraits as expressive or intimate as landscape designer William H. Frederick’s own garden, Ashland Hollow, a contemporary masterpiece tucked away in the countryside near Wilmington, Delaware. A rare cross between plantsman and artist, Bill Frederick has staked out fresh ground amid the legendary horticultural terrain of the Brandywine River Valley, home to such landmarks as Winterthur, Longwood Gardens, and Mount Cuba.
Wrestling with Angels and Singing with Dragons tells the dramatic tale of this intensely personal achievement, still an absorbing work-in-progress for Bill and his wife, Nancy. Part family saga, part love story, part botanical adventure, Bill Frederick’s engaging narrative reveals every struggle and triumph that has strengthened Ashland Hollow’s robust structure and enriched its multilayered beauty. Along the paths that gently yet firmly unite the 17-acre garden, meditative solitude and bravura spectacle happily coexist, romantic sensuality flirts with learned wit, and sophistication revels in puckish fantasy.
In fact, Ashland Hollow comprises many gardens, from open meadow to hidden stream bank, from elegant courtyard to hands-in-the- dirt vegetable patch, from dappled woodland to dazzling rose bed. Ingenious plotting ensures that its ephemeral “events” offer abundant delights through all four seasons. Permanent residents include bronzes of the Frederick children when they were youngsters growing up here, the wooden effigy of a lusty ancient deity, and a giant concrete frog who serenades visitors.
Ashland Hollow’s distinguished guest list, which stretches back to the early 1960s, numbers such Modernist landscape pioneers as Thomas Church (from California), Geoffrey Jellicoe (from England), and Roberto Burle Marx (from Brazil), all devoted friends of the Fredericks who left indelible imprints on this garden. As American as the surrounding farm country where Bill and Nancy Frederick cherish deep ancestral roots, Ashland Hollow has enthusiastically naturalized diverse aesthetic influences—Fauvist painting, Bauhaus design, the stroll gardens of Asia, the linked English outdoor rooms at Sissinghurst and Hidcote, to name but a few. This spectrum reflects the couple’s wide-ranging travels, as well as their zest for innovation in every branch of contemporary culture and horticulture. Plant breeders and botanical explorers from Holland to China entrust precious discoveries to the Fredericks and their longtime collaborator, Paul Skibinski, knowing that each gem will receive a worthy setting.
This book’s wealth of photographs, interpretive plans, and practical diagrams extends boundless inspiration to readers with gardens—or imaginings— of any size.Whether selecting the palette for a container of annuals or choosing shrubs for winter interest, training a wisteria “tree” or constructing hillside steps, irrigating kitchen crops or transforming a swimming pool from eyesore to ornament, Bill Frederick supplies clear, authoritative guidance. Extensive lists of both herbaceous and woody plants, drawn from the more than 1,000 taxa grown at Ashland Hollow, provide brilliant solutions to a host of challenges—further proof that for an intrepid gardener, dragons and angels simply go with the territory.2015, hard cover, 7.75" X 9.75", heavily illustrated with many color plates, 572 pages
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