John Ray was born on November 29, 1627, in the village of Black Notley located in Essex, England. His father was a blacksmith, and his mother was known as a healer and herbalist; perhaps it was from her that Ray gained his love of nature, and especially of plants. Countryside Garden Club was blessed to visit John. F. Ray in this present day and time at his property perfectly named NearWater in Chestertown, MD. Stop!
Wait just one minute. I know that intro seems a bit suspect but fascinating; I too am wondering could they be related and funny how Essex, England is “near water” too!!! If they are not related what a wonderful coincidence to have John F. Ray amongst our circle of gardening buddies and a special thanks to Mr. Bill who met and befriended him at the prestigious Philadelphia Cactus and Succulent Society where they both are members. So we started out our trip at the Fish Whistle Restaurant off the water’s edge of the quaint town of Chestertown, Md., no sooner did we get settled a beautiful schooner floated by
and to make things interesting I played along that I had planned for that to happen just for our pure delight. Our meals were scrumptious and gave us fuel to keep warm on a somewhat chilly spring day.
We then loaded up again and set off to our honored designation and what a wonderful treat awaited us. We were blessed to share in the private garden sanctuary of Mr. & Mrs. John F. Ray unfortunately Mrs. Ray was unable to meet with us but John graciously led us on a beautiful tour
of what no doubt is a gorgeous Mediterranean style display of succulents and cacti perfectly placed in troughs and hyper tufa volcanic like structures causing even a non gardener to drool with amazement. There were alleys of statues
that reminded us of our infamous dupont Estates and a pond that literally took your breath away, when it was so mysterious presented to us.
Some of us lost all control when they were in the presence of that pond!
The pond was encircled with the most knobby but whimsical Bald Cypress knees
and at the other end of the pond was a majestic Redwood;
which made you second guess if you were actually in a national park. A visit to the greenhouses (John’s favorite spot) that supply all of the award winning Philadelphia Flower Show specimens was shared with grace.
There were hundreds of babies being propagated and several mature plants waiting their entry into the garden or into a flower show.
We also had a special moment to dream about having our very own summer cottage which crossed all of our minds when we became child like visiting this very special little getaway tucked away on the property.
This delightful two hour trip did not seem long at all once our visit came to an end. We couldn’t help put present John with a token of gratitude made by Ms. Patti whose crafted talents will for sure bring him a smile.
The same kind of smile John gave to us in sharing his beautiful and magical garden. Many Thanks John!