May Walking Tour – Center Water Feature at Chatfield Farms

May 3, 2024 Abigail McLennan , Horticulturist

What better way to welcome spring than a woodland walk? At Chatfield Farms, guests can delight in a pocket of woodland whimsy by visiting the Center Water Feature Garden as it wakes from winter slumber. Once called the Crossroads Garden, the Center Water Feature Garden is Chatfield Farms’ oldest cultivated garden bed. To get there, head southwest from the Earl J. Sinnamon Center, Water-Smart Avenue and Deer Creek Schoolhouse. Cross the first bridge over Deer Creek and head toward the small pond directly ahead. Voilà! You have arrived at the Center Water Feature Garden!

This woodland-style garden mimics a natural wooded ecosystem. One way this garden achieves such an effect is by emulating a babbling springtime brook. Neighboring Deer Creek typically has water in the spring but dries up by summer, so this garden stays cohesive and true to the larger landscape. White daffodils (Narcissus), snowdrops (Galanthus sp.) and fan favorite spring anemone (Anemone sylvestris) artistically represent a spring flush of rushing water. Serviceberry (Amelanchier × grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’) and American plum (Prunus americana) also adorn striking white blooms that further dramatize the look.

The Center Water Feature Garden sports other spring colors, like yellow daffodils and blue bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla). Primrose (Primula beesiana and veris), Himalayan mayapple (Podophyllum hexandrum) and bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) present in smaller, but no less magical, batches. With this garden being so heavily shaded, some plants grow here and nowhere else in the gardens at Chatfield Farms. Some examples are Trillium erectum, shooting star (Primula meadia) and a wide variety of ferns. You may only see tufts of lilies, hostas and ferns peeking out in a preview of what is to come.

One can admire the structure of the signature tree—a towering cottonwood (Populus deltoides)—and the sisterly boxelders (Acer negundo) that grow beside it. There are understory woodies like a zesty elderberry of the tradename Lemony Lace® (Sambucus racemose ‘SMNSRD4’) and romantic redbuds (Cercis canadensis). Around this time of year, the woodies seem to leaf out slowly, subtly and then boom! Suddenly you look, and they are fully coated in their summer green. 

Any day now, one can see how the Center Water Feature Garden lives up to its name. Spring is so packed with happenings that the gorgeous blooms seem to come and go in a flash. If you have the chance, do visit the gardens while spring has the stage. 

Gallery photos by Scott Dressel-Martin and Abigail McLennan


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