Wickham Park

The Cabin at the top of Wickman Park in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The Cabin sits at the highest point of Wickman Park (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Wickham Park, a private foundation whose property extends into both Manchester and East Hartford, Connecticut, was on my garden bucket list for 2014, and you’ll see why it is well worth placement on your list for 2014 as well. Easily accessible from I-84 (right off Exit 60), the 250 acre park is comprised of gardens, open fields, scenic woodlands (with trails), multiple ponds, numerous picnic areas, playgrounds and sports facilities. Originally designed by Olmsted Associates, Inc., (Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.), Wickham Park (opened to the public in 1961) is recognized today for its seven different themed gardens, ranging in size from one half to eight acres.

The Cabin Garden offering distant views in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

A portion of the Cabin Garden offering distant views (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The Cabin Garden surrounds a replica of the original log cabin, which burned to the ground in 1989. Located at the highest point of the park, the gardens offer spectacular views from the many seating areas located throughout. The Cabin Gardens are a mix of formal elements such as brick walkways and pruned boxwoods, softened with rambling roses, massive perennials and flowing grasses. Take advantage of the many welcoming benches and sit for a moment to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

The formal English Garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The formal English Garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Designed with formal English principles, the English Garden extends over almost 2 acres consisting of three garden rooms; the Maze, the Knot Garden and the Great Lawn. With a desire for multi-seasonal interest, there are plantings that start to blossom in early spring followed by others providing color in summer through fall. Considered Wickham Park’s most formal garden, the English Garden contains a 1000 feet of manicured hedges, dozens of shrub and rose varieties and hundreds of perennials.

A Japanese Lantern flanks the pathway in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

A Japanese Lantern flanks a pathway in the Lotus Garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Located in the center of Wickham Park, the Lotus Garden is quite the opposite of the English Garden. Instead of tightly pruned hedges surrounding masses of colorful flowers, the Lotus Garden is a gently sloped lawn with a series of ponds (filled with harmonizing frogs that are basking on lily pads), informal groupings of grasses, shrubs and evergreens. There are specimen Japanese maples strategically placed, a pagoda to sit and view the water and several stunning Japanese lanterns spread across the landscape. Remember to take a closer look at the lily pads!

The stunning arched moon bridge in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The stunning arched moon bridge in the Oriental Garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The Oriental Garden is the largest and oldest of the gardens in Wickham Park, and my personal favorite. Spread across eight acres of established trees, some weeping gently over the pathways, are incredibly beautiful oriental structures, statues and plantings. The most identifiable are the red torri archway, the intimidating fu-dogs, the luminescent arched moon bridge, and the teahouse with its peacock glass windows. Like the Lotus Garden, the Oriental Garden has a few ponds, one with the stunning arched moon bridge and another filled with happy ducks splashing about. Have a seat by the duck pond and see who comes to greet you.

The mystical Scottish Garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The mystical Scottish Garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The Scottish Garden is located on one half acre of land at the north end of the English Garden and contains fourteen archways that define different sections of the garden. The long, columned walkway is flanked with lush plantings and statuary, many with historical or mythological significance to Scotland. At the beginning of the walkway you are greeted by a regal lion, while at the end a rearing unicorn on a pedestal awaits. If you listen closely, a gentle roar or frisky whinny may come to you on the breeze.

A whimsical part of the Sensory Garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

A whimsical part of the Sensory Garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I was thrilled to delve into the Sensory Garden, which is three quarters of an acre divided into six distinct areas, each correlating to one of the five basic senses as well as a “sixth sense” of imagination. The plantings and other features in each garden room are designed to help you experience a specific sense. For example, there are fragrant flowers and herbs to stimulate your sense of smell (some that you can even touch: mint, lavender, scented geranium), flowing water for your sense of sound and even a whimsical garden with fairies and unicorns to reignite your sense of wonder. Wickham Park’s sensory garden is the largest of its kind in New England and one of the largest in the United States.

The Shrine nestled in a wooded area in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The Italian Shrine is nestled in a wooded area (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Originally created by Clarence and Edith Wickham as a place for their workers to worship, The Shrine is a structure with stucco pillars and a flagstone base that is set on a grassy knoll enclosed by beautiful plantings and trimmed hedges. Statues of St. Theresa and St. Francis highlight this location, which is surrounded by dense forest to ensure tranquility and privacy.

Notice the mother bird in the Wetland Garden's bird house in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Notice the mother bird in the Wetland Garden’s bird house (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Open since 2005, the Wetlands Garden offers trails of over six tenths of a mile (mostly boardwalk), benches, interpretive signage, and thousands of native wetlands plantings. While walking along I spotted great swaths of native dogwood and elderberry with their creamy white flower heads swaying in the breeze. Frogs were serenading their mates and birds were fluttering about catching insects for their young. Considered the most natural of all the gardens, this space was designed to encourage park patrons (especially children) to recognize the value and necessity of wetlands and their vital role in all aspects of our natural world.

All this is available for a mere $4.00 parking fee (admission is free). So, what are you waiting for? Pack a picnic lunch, grab your camera and drive on over to Wickham Park today!  (For more info and directions, visit: www.wickhampark.org)

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