The Dirt Diva

Tailoring your garden to your needs!

Armchair gardening: Mermer Blakeslee’s Beaverkill Valley garden


Mermer Blakeslee’s gardens take my breath away every time I see them. I was last there in late October 2014 when there was still a lot to see. Keeping up with Mermer as she whizzes me through and around the property she has lovingly tended for 30+ years is a breathless excercise, while filing away the Latin and common names of her garden residents to memory as she rattles them off. When you’re new to gardening, a garden of this size and diversity can overwhelm. Its like someone opens a treasure chest full of antiques you’ve only seen in a book, and you’re overcome by their beauty and historical significance simultaneously.

Mermer gardens in the Beaverkill Valley in the Western Catskills and employs several techniques which account for the stunning visuals: planting large drifts of the same plant, designing beds to contain plants with contrasting leaf texture/shape/color, underplanting trees and shrubs with shorter perennials, and constant “editing” as she calls it: referee’ing between plants that tend to spill over their bounds, or removing/ cutting out volunteers that don’t quite belong.

The horses in residence supply Mermer with all the soil enriching manure she needs to garden in less than ideal rocky clayey soil of the Catskills. The soil in the beds is nearly black, an indicator of high organic matter content thanks to years of enriching with horse manure. The plants respond by growing large and lush, flowering profusely and resisting many common insect and disease problems.

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