National Sporting Library Enlivened by New Landscaping

by KRISTEN ARMSTRONG, Staff Writer

(Saturday, November 11, 2006 3:03 PM EST)

Before July of this year, the area behind the National Sporting Library in Middleburg was nothing but an empty field. Now, thanks to landscaper George Bridge, a beautiful garden that looks decades old fills the void.

Bridge donated $130,000 worth of the plants and labor to the library this summer. He usually works in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but when he was called to landscape for Phil Thomas of Thomas and Talbot Realtors, he realized that Middleburg would be a great place to display his work.

Bridge has been in landscaping for almost 25 years and his approach has always been unconventional.

Unlike others in his field who use young plant life in their work, he collects rare, old trees, bushes and plants to use in his projects.

I can make a new house look like it's 200 years old, he said in a recent interview.

The library's garden is home to 60- to 75-year-old boxwoods which come from Bridge's farm in Lynchburg. They frame the garden's perimeter, and rose and hydrangea bushes fill part of the inner space. Visitors can sit on a bench in the middle of the garden to admire their surroundings, daydream, sleep, read or whatever strikes their fancy.

The concept was to create a contemplative kind of room, Bridge said. But not without practical value, as the space can be used for outdoor entertaining and tented events, he said.

Moving the plants from his farms in Lynchburg and Maryland requires a lot of care and attention. The plant material is dug by hand and the roots are soaked in a bioplex solution which prevents shock in freshly transported plants.

Even though Bridge completed the garden in August, he still comes by to check on it, especially when he's in town already with his new Middleburg clients.

I don't want just anybody maintaining this thing, he said. As far as pruning the hedges go, that's something I want to be involved in.

The library's garden is Bridge's first public project. All his other work has been for private homes. He is very happy with the results and hopes to design more public gardens in the future.

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