Oct 2016 Glenstone in Potomac, MD
Dawn Szelc, Clear Blue Landscapes - LDG Secretary
LDG met at the Glenstone property on a blustery day in October. Our guide was the lead horticulturist, Zach Pittenger, who met us outside the property’s art museum on the site, a post WWII museum of art. There was a large patio or open space area with a large sculpture there, Sylvester, 2001, by Richard Serra. According to Zach this was the only perfectly flat space on the grounds. The Glenstone property, owned by Mitch and Emily Rales, used to be a hunting estate. They intend to open it to the public in 2018. Near this area Zach pointed out the pool house backed by a grove of River Birch.
After the introduction we then walked towards the road through a grove of Chinese elm under-planted by Carex pensylanica. Zach also pointed out the Itea virginica “Little Henry” as we walked. He was interested in help from LDG members with ideas to get the carex to fill in better or a recommendation on some replacement which would be a better ground cover to grow under the shade of the trees. The Landscape Architect for the property has been Peter Walker and Partners since 2003. They have had to move many trees on the property to create the planned landscape. Walker’s protégé Adam Greenspan visits there weekly. The other consultants involved are MGAC Consulting, Hitt Construction and Valley Crest Landscapes Contractors. Zach stated that there are 500-800 contractors onsite every day. He pointed to the Liriope spicata along the wood line which is going to be removed because it is not a native plant. It is also problematic in that spot, due to weeds from the woods. Chinese stilt grass (Microstegium vimineum) is a constant weed that needs to be controlled and all weeding is done by hand. For this weed they have found the best method is to remove the seed heads with a weed whacker. The goal for the property is to be 100% organic, sustainable and planted with natives. Part of that plan is to break up the monocultures which another reason to remove the liriope. They plan to plant New York fern and Haystack fern instead.
Opposite Contour 290 is another large sculpture called Smug by artist Tony Smith. Smith died unexpectedly in 1980. This sculpture was constructed in 2007 as it was originally intended of aluminum painted black. They are trying out new paint on various sections of it - a small section can be seen in the photo. After selecting one, the entire sculpture will be repainted. We were invited to walk into and under the sculpture but to avoid touching it.
Zach lead the group out towards a very large sculpture in the far meadow. It is called Split Rocker created by artist Jeff Koons. It is fabricated with steel boxes containing many pounds of soil each. There are 33,000 annual plugs planted in a mosaic culture. The sculpture looks like a toy and was fashioned from a toy that was broken during a fight that Koons had with his wife. One half resembles a dinosaur and the other a pony.
We were then taken to a far end of the property where there were three stone houses, with mostly dry stack walls, and inside each is a different sculpture, titled Boulder, Room, and Holes respectively. The first has an enormous globe that fills the whole room. The second house has interior walls that are cracked. And the third has the circular piece on the back wall. These are all designed by Andy Goldsworthy.
After the tour those who were able to stay longer had an opportunity to visit the museum and talk further with Zach. All in all it was a very informative and interesting day! We will be looking forward to the continued development of this property and the public opening in 2018.
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