Arts & Leisure Gardening

Nardozzi to share the science and art of gardens at Rocky Dale

GARDENING SAGE CHARLIE Nardozzi will share his decades of planting and cultivating knowledge with guests at an Art On Main fundraiser to be held at Rocky Dale Gardens in Bristol on July 14.

Get excited about a garden walk with Charlie Nardozzi presented this month as Art on Main’s summer fundraiser! The “See You in the Garden” event will take place on Sunday, July 14, from 4-6 p.m. at Rocky Dale Gardens, a display garden and nursery located in the ledges protruding from the base of South Mountain just north of Bristol village. 

Participants can enjoy exuberant guidance from their favorite gardener as well as a tour the exceptional landscapes of Rocky Dale with its unique conifers, trees, shrubs and perennials. 

Art on Main is also running a special exhibit now in the gallery in conjunction with the garden event, collaborating with local watercolorist Annelein Beukenkamp, who will be painting at Rocky Dale during Nardozzi’s tour. 

As part of the organization’s year-round fundraising effort, the money will go to supporting and displaying creative works, offering special exhibits, featuring artist shows and hosting craft classes. 

Annie Perkins, an Art on Main Board member who was also gallery manager for several years, is delighted about this event, and thinks Nardozzi will be a big draw. 

“We are (also) trying to attract some people from farther away, maybe people from Charlotte or Burlington,” she said. 

If all goes as planned this time, the organization will try to build on the excitement. 

“We have a bigger garden tour in the works for next summer,” Perkins said. “We’ve been wanting to feature gardeners, so we thought this is a fun way to start.”

Bringing a bigshot gardener to a beloved local display garden is more than a satisfactory combination. 

“Charlie is a local and world-renowned garden artist,” Perkins said. “So we decided it would be fun to work with Rocky Dale, who is very supportive of Bristol, and bring the two together.”

A North Ferrisburgh resident, Nardozzi explained he usually doesn’t do talks and travels during weekends in summer, but this opportunity was hard to pass up. 

“It’s nice to support any of the arts and local businesses that are doing nice things to bring people out,” he said.

The event will include a slow walk around the demonstration garden, tailored to whatever the audience has to ask about their own gardens. 

“As I walk around and talk about the garden, I’ll ask for gardening questions related to whatever people are interested in,” Nardozzi said. “I always want to make gardening fun and accessible to everyone, giving them information so they can be better gardeners. If they’re better gardeners, it’s more likely that they continue gardening.”

Anne Majusiak, an Art on Main Board member and an avid gardener, has heard Charlie Nardozzi’s garden tips on Vermont Public Radio for years and is excited to have a chance to meet him in person. 

“The gardens and surrounding landscape at Rocky Dale are so unusual that it will be fascinating to hear what Charlie has to say about them,” Majusiak said. “It’s one of my favorite gardens to visit and I have found many special shrubs and trees there for my own garden.”

A walking tour in April with Ed Burke, current owner of Rocky Dale, solidified Majusiak’s plan for this collaboration. In an email she wrote to the fellow organizers of the event, Majusiak pointed out Burke’s passion for the distinctive specimen trees at Rocky Dale, to which many will soon be privy. She wrote that Burke believes a “Tour of Trees” talk would be different from the usual “using perennials in your garden” type of talks.

The Rocky Dale owner is excited to provide the venue for the Nardozzi event. 

THE UNUSUAL MICROCLIMATES created by the ledges at the foot of South Mountain make it possible for Rocky Dale Gardens in Bristol to feature an unusually broad array of plants, which Charlie Nardozzi will discuss on a July 14 garden walk. INDEPENDENT PHOTO/JOHN S. MCCRIGHT

“I’ve supported Art on Main ever since I’ve owned Rocky Dale, and I believe in their mission,” Burke said. “If they want to use Rocky Dale as a fundraiser, I’d be more than happy to oblige.”

The north-facing ledges along the base of South Mountain have created a special microclimate that allows the nursery to cultivate a diverse and unusual collection of trees. 

“We have taken advantage of that microclimate to grow plants that are more fragile in our environment,” Burke said. 

Majusiak remembered the various precious tree specimens, such as different kinds of beeches, many types of Japanese maples and ginkos, and the dazzling evergreens, while recalling Burke’s description of them as “adding a type of living structure and architecture to a garden.”

People naturally appreciate the genuine work put into designing and maintaining the garden. 

“Rocky Dale is a fantastic local nursery,” Perkins said. “It’s not just a place where you go buy flowers. It’s cultivated and designed with interesting trees and rock formations. It’s just spectacular. It’s kind of a destination; local gardeners love Rocky Dale. They’re very generous in supporting the community.”

All considered, to have an expert like Nardozzi talk about this high-quality location would be unprecedented. 

“Hopefully they’ll walk away with a few plants,” Nardozzi joked. “And mostly I want them to walk away with some information to be better gardeners.”

Connecting the dots of visual art and the art of gardening seemed so natural for Art on Main Board members, as they themselves are devout artists and gardeners.

“Every garden is so different and unique and often reflects the person doing the planting,” Perkins said. “One person might have a homesteading type garden, one person has a lot of cool garden art, another person just has amazing plantings. Gardens are very artful.”

Perkins believes the manual aspect of gardening also makes it an engaging and interactive form of art. 

“I think people are just visually drawn, and hands-on drawn,” Perkins said. “The overlap (between art and gardening) is really the beauty, the design, and the hands-on quality of it. People love to see what other people do.”

Nardozzi holds the same view. He encourages fellow gardeners to perceive the practice as a self-expression.

“Gardening is two things for sure,” he said. “It’s science. You need to know about how things grow. It’s also an expression of who you are. It’s an expression of your values and how you see the world. That’s the art part of it.

“I believe that gardening is not only good for the planet, for the wildlife, for insects and pollinators, but also good for people,” Nardozzi added. “People feel better when they garden. They get exercise, they get more relaxed because they’re around plants and because they’re doing something rewarding. So the more people that can garden, I think the world will be a better place.”


Tickets for See You in the Garden are $30 and can be purchased in advance at Art on Main in Bristol, online at or by calling 802-453-4032.

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