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The Secret Garden: Ford Ranch

A Peek Into a Private Wonderland in the American West for this Week's Great Gardens

Nestled in a mountain canyon where Hemingway spent his summers, Queen Elizabeth II popped by to visit friends, and rodeo is still a main event, lies the cultivated oasis of Ford Ranch. Acquired by Joan F. Wallick and Robert L. Wallick Sr. in 1968, the sprawling Wyoming residence is captured by director Albert Moya for NOWNESS’s weekly Great Gardens series. “I was inspired by meeting the kind of dreamer who has, and still is, working on making her stories real,” says the filmmaker of Ms Wallick, an accomplished pilot whose obsessive passion for collecting spans insects, Christmas ornaments (32,656), and over 400 varieties of plants in 35 acres. It’s a marvel to discover radiant blue delphinium spires, hundreds of hostas and the apothecary rose Rosa gallica officinalis blooming alongside the grave of Wallick’s late wolf, Eeyore (winters dip to -30 and summers experience 100 degree heat punctuated by huge thunderstorms). “Part of the joy of gardening lies in the challenge of this environment,” explains Wallick, who has built fences to keep the mountain lions, bears and deer at bay, enabling her manicured paradise to flourish. “I’ve got the urge to plant one of everything and see what it looks like,” she adds. “But that’s for next year.”

The next Great Gardens film premieres Tuesday August 5.

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    Southern Belles

    From Gone with the Wind to Debutante Balls, a Cross-Generational Look at Beauty in the Deep South

    A little under 75 years ago, David O. Selznick’s adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind delivered Scarlett O’Hara in all her Technicolor glory, imprinting forever the notion of the Southern belle: the feisty beauty with a honey-laden accent, done-up in yards of antebellum dress, on the hunt for a husband. By exploring Scarlett’s proverbial stomping grounds in and around Atlanta, Georgia, Tim Richmond and James Nutt’s documentary short Southern Belles discovers that, while the plantation no longer remains, the front porches, hospitality, grace, and etiquette persevere.

    Often beneath the genteel exterior lies a strong, refined woman to be reckoned with—but presentation is still paramount. Stepping out in loungewear sans makeup or anything deemed less than respectable is a definite no-no. Equally important is their renowned, friendly hospitality. Southern ladies are exceptionally welcoming and adore entertaining. This is where the warm climate plays its part. Pleasant spring times and forgiving falls. When people are comfortable going in-and-out of doors, serving sweet tea, hosting evening garden or pool parties and the like. But on the flipside, regardless of age, many Southern women agree that one should be weary of artificiality, particularly when the mannerisms are overdone.

    Today’s belles are inevitably more independent, liberated and better-educated than their predecessors. The life goal of solely seeking out an MRS degree is, slowly but surely, fading. “Long ago we were taught that we could either teach school if we wanted a career, or be a nurse or perhaps a secretary for some big shot,” notes Louly, one of the narrators from today’s short. “Things have certainly changed but the core values of the Southern belle, such as strength and graciousness, still exist.” —Lee C. Wallick

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    The Gardener’s Garden: Great Dixter

    A Private Tour of the Quintessentially English Estate in the First of Our Weekly Series

    High on the list of garden pilgrimages is Great Dixter, the passion project of the late “imperial wizard” of English horticulture, Christopher Lloyd. The audacious gardener and celebrated writer’s Edwyn Lutyens-designed manor house, open to the public for nearly six decades, launches the first episode of NOWNESS’s weekly Great Gardens series, here captured by photographer and filmmaker Howard Sooley. “Christo was like Paddington Bear with teeth,” reflects Sooley, who first visited Great Dixter in 1989 through friend, co-gardener and filmmaker Derek Jarman. Located in England’s East Sussex countryside, the semi-formal grounds, now under the stewardship of head gardener Fergus Garrett, are an exercise in planned imperfection, with imaginatively topiaried yew hedges and Yorkstone paving providing the framework for the seasonally changing tapestry of vibrant colors, bold form and spirited texture. The garden is in constant flux and “the planting schemes are different every year”, says Garrett, who is at pains to emphasize that Great Dixter has a purpose even beyond the noble aim of giving pleasure to its countless visitors. “We could quite easily run the place on just three gardeners,” he explains. “But then we wouldn’t be able to teach. We are here to pass on knowledge, and people sometimes forget that.”–Lee C. Wallick

    Look out for the next episode of #GreatGardens on July 22.
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