OF GARDENS

Gardens and Garden History


7 Comments

SNOW: The Great Garden Ephemeral

IMG_2442

New England is well into the snowiest month on record. Talk has moved on from complaining about the amount of snow (over 100 inches!) to measuring the human misery caused by the snow.

My garden is blanketed in snow, like the rest of the region. The snow cover has erased almost all definition. The garden aspects of winter interest I so carefully designed are invisible, irrelevant and some are vulnerable because of the snow.

This winter, none of that matters to me. The snow itself is a wizard of interest. Because of the snow, my garden changes without any input or effort on my part. I don’t touch it but everyday there are changes. Some would look out over my garden and see only white. I like to look and see what only the snow can show. Depending on the time of day and the light conditions  I can – or cannot – see shadows. Ephemerals themselves they change moment by moment. If there is wind there will be wind patterns on the snow. Changes in temperature will stiffen or soften the snow, causing it to change shape. Animals will continue their migratory habits creating footprints, which allows me to play the guessing game: which animal was it? Where is she going? What is she eating in my garden? Fresh snow collects on tree branches and fence posts maintaining a miraculous balancing act. Icicles may hang from deciduous branches, or encase evergreen leaves. Sound is impacted by snow – open the door to your garden during a snowfall – there is a unique stillness only ever heard during a snowfall. The elements of wind temperature light  – create subtle but constant changes every moment of the day and night. We as gardeners strive to maintain some control over the appearance of our garden, but once again nature, this winter it is the snow, which eliminates all illusions that we can control our garden environment. More so than wind, or rain or drought – each of which we can attempt to influence with wind guards, or drainage or irrigation, there is nothing we can do to challenge the snow. We must let it fall and, mostly, let it lay where it falls. With time it will disappear, causing as much havoc in its departure as it did with its arrival. But, while it is here it is a marvel to behold. Snow is the greatest garden ephemeral. We cannot buy it, plant it, or schedule it. We cannot foresee it; we cannot influence its behavior. Many winters it does not visit. We can only marvel at it. With the passage of time and the seasons, the snow will go and our planned, purchased, manipulated and groomed gardens will reemerge. Come spring I will be reanimated by the re – growth of my garden, and all the hard work it represents. I will feel rewarded. And I will appreciate the miracle of rebirth more this spring because of this historic snowfall. I will try to miss the snow when it’s gone, but I won’t. I will appreciate it while it’s here, and enjoy its myriad personalities. And remember that like everything in a garden, it will have its time, and then be gone.


10 Comments

Winter Bouquet

Emma's Bouquet

I haven’t posted in many months so I thought it appropriate to begin again with a wedding. My daughter was married in London on January 31, 2015. Above is her winter wedding bouquet, consisting of only flowers that were in season in England:  anemones, brunia, waxflower and eustoma.

Bridal Wreath

Her Bridal wreath echoed her bouquet, but added ivy and a touch of gypsophila.

Choosing from among what flowers were available rather than special ordering exotics created a bouquet and wreath that fit in with the day, the weather and the city. Proving once again, to me at least, that working with nature creates the most beautiful bounty.


7 Comments

Chester Flower Show and Tea

IMG_0067

One of my favorite events of the year is the Annual Chester Flower Show and Tea in Chester, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Every year  I have been coming to Chester I have gone to the Flower Show and each year I enjoy it as much as the previous years. It is an old fashioned Flower Show, held in the local Royal Canadian Legion for one afternoon only.

IMG_0057

The entries are sophisticated to low key with the majority of material provided from the participants’ own garden, with an occasional tchotchke highlight.  The diversity  of participants  range from winners of blue ribbons at the Philadelphia Flower Show to young children. Chester is a town in the Canadian Maritimes so a nautical theme will often find it’s way into a flower display.

IMG_0072

High tea is served, with tea sandwiches and desserts and the tea itself is poured from a silver tea service!!

IMG_0075

Among my favorite exhibits each year are the miniatures. Although they are the smallest with the least amount of material, their diminutive size requires the most amount of scrutiny.

IMG_0050IMG_0053

This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the Chester Garden Club, and there was a cake to celebrate:

IMG_0074

Part of the fun of the Flower Show is being able to vote for your favorite arrangement and hope that it wins the People’s Choice award. Every year I vote, but my choice has never won. Each year I can’t understand why not.

IMG_0059

This arrangement got my vote. Don’t you think its a winner?

 


3 Comments

The anonymous men who built Central Park

Of Gardens:

This post once again highlights the anonymous who physically create the gardens.

Originally posted on Ephemeral New York:

When Central Park opened in stages in 1859 through the 1860s, designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux scored much of the credit for the park’s beauty and brilliance.

Centralparkbuilding1859nypl

But what about all the anonymous men who did the physical work—the laborers tasked with taking 843 rocky, swampy acres and reshaping it a man-made oasis of nature?

[Below, finishing the staircase at Bethesda Terrace]

Centralparkbethesdastairs1862nyplHere’s a little of what we know about them. “By the spring of 1858, more than three thousand men were busy dredging, clearing, grading, and planting—laboriously remodeling every feature of the rugged landscape,” wrote Ric Burns and James Sanders in New York: an Illustrated History.

“There were German gardeners, Italian stonecutters, and an army of masons, carpenters, blacksmiths, and road-building teams.”

Most of the low-level laborers were Irish and German, “often paid only a dollar a day and drawn, Olmsted said, from the ‘poorest…

View original 264 more words


12 Comments

The Gardens of Alcatraz

IMG_0023

Alcatraz Island sits out in San Francisco Bay beckoning. And although I have been to San Francisco many times, for a myriad of reasons I had never been to Alcatraz, until last week.

The reasons why it was last week among all the others that was the day I went to Alcatraz is as varied as the reasons why I had never been. But I do know why I was very motivated to go this time – the gardens of Alcatraz.

Alcatraz Island has a long history, starting in the 1840s as the location of the first lighthouse on the West Coast, then a US military base and ending its tenure as a maximum-security prison. It is famous partly for housing Al Capone, partly for being ‘inescapable’ and partly because it is in San Francisco Bay. Throughout its history there have always been gardens,  and although they have never been as famous as their location the recent restoration project is bringing them their due attention.

Warden's Garden

Warden’s Garden

When Alcatraz was a maximum-security prison from 1934 – 1963 as many as 70 families of guards and staff lived on the island to service the prison. Under the unusual conditions of living on a desolate island along side a maximum-security prison, these families lived normal lives, including gardens. It is the gardens of this period of the island’s history, mainly the 1940s and 1950s, that are being restored. One warden had a garden and a greenhouse built for his wife, the officer’s had gardens along Officer’s Row, there was a Rose Terrace, the West lawn and Terraces and the Cellhouse Slope which faced San Francisco.  This slope was covered in iceplant, called “Persian carpet” by the inmates. The plantings served two purposes. One was erosion prevention and one was to soften the look of the island from the residents across the bay in San Francisco.

Officer's Row

Officer’s Row

Officer's Row

Officer’s Row

Officer's Row

Officer’s Row

 

 

Cellhouse Slope

Cellhouse Slope

Cellhouse Slope

Cellhouse Slope

In addition to working on the gardens of the warden and officers, the prisoners had their own garden at the end of the West Road. This garden was along the route that the prisoners took daily on their way to work in the prison industries. The soil was amended with garbage, a birdbath appeared, staff provided seeds and the prisoners gardened.

IMG_0115

Prisoner's Garden

Prisoner’s Garden

Prisoner's Garden

Prisoner’s Garden

Prisoner's Garden

Prisoner’s Garden

Alcatraz is an inhospitable place, known as “The Rock”. It is barren, windswept and sea splashed, not ideal garden conditions, but the residents – the voluntary and involuntary – created gardens for over a century. In the 1930s the warden’s secretary, Fred Reichel, contacted the California Horticultural Society and other western plant breeders to find out what types of plants would do well on the island’s harsh conditions and planted them.

Rose Terrace

Rose Terrace

Rose Terrace

Rose Terrace

The prison closed in 1963 and the island was abandoned. For 40 years the abandoned gardens were untouched. Beginning in 2003 the Garden Conservancy, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the National Park Service began a joint effort to preserve and restore the gardens. Remarkably, under the random growth of 40 years of neglect, the original gardens and hundreds of the original plantings, including those researched and used by Fred Reichel, were found to alive.

Geraniums planted to beautify the road to the cellhouse

Geraniums planted to beautify the road to the cellhouse

Alcatraz Geraniums

Alcatraz Geraniums

 

Today, 11 years after restoration began, but decades after planting, the gardens are there to be seen. They are still works of restoration, but easily distinguished as gardens, and remain, as all gardens, marvels of determination and survival.


10 Comments

Renovations

Gaura 'So White'

Gaura ‘So White’

This being THE TIME OF YEAR to work in gardens, I’ve been remiss on blogging about gardens. Last year my garden was on tour, and next year my garden will be on tour. Since my garden was on tour last year, I didn’t do much renovating in the garden. Mostly I just maintained it so it would look beautiful for the tour, and the subsequent Garden Party I gave. I anticipate it will be more of the same next year SO this year I am renovating like a demon so make changes I want to see, and changes that need to be done. I’ve been very busy.

 

I have moved trees (or I should say, I had trees moved by two strong men). An Acer griseum / Paperbark Maple which I planted as a small tree 6 years ago and which has been stagnating since. When it was dug up it turns out the soil beneath it is very compacted, hence the reason for the stagnation. I moved it to a place of prominence in the front of the house, replacing a Quercus coccinea / Scarlet Oak which I planted as a sapling two years ago. It did very well its first year, but I guess this past winter was too much for it, because it died. Very sad. The other tree moved is a crabapple, Malus Coralburst. It too was planted by me as a small tree 6 years ago, same time as the Acer griseum. I put it in the wrong place, where as it grew wider the snow and the plow broke many branches each winter, so I moved it to a, hopefully, safer, more nurturing spot.

 

Moving Day

Moving Day

I’ve moved numerous shrubs and perennials: eight Whiteout Roses, three Daphne Carol Mackie, five Japanese Ilex, one Vibrunam plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Mariessi’, two Rosebud Azalea, two hydrangea arborescens “Annabelle’, a Chinese Tree Peony and multiple perennials. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to myself and I let the guy hired to move the roses move them when he wanted to, not when I thought it best. They quickly succumbed to heat, lack of water and bad handling, as did the daphnes. No real surprise there as daphnes are known to be difficult to transplant, but again I should have listened to myself and not the hired hand.

Dead Roses

Dead Roses

Good news is everything I moved myself is doing well. The tree peony I dug up and put in a pot because, once again, I had planted it in the wrong place and it was languishing. I think I will experiment and keep it in a pot for a year or two and see if it thrives in a pot. I know the Chinese often grow peonies in pots and I like the idea of moving the pot in and out of sight. Wish me luck on this. In the perennial department I transplanted six Thalictrum Lavender Towers, one Coreopsis ‘Star Cluster’ which the rabbits are continually snacking on, a handful of Aconitum carmichaelii / Monkshood, some daylilies, a Geranium pratense ‘Laura’, seemingly endless Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’, and the odd numbers of Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’ which last fall I remember tossing into any convenient spot before the frost arrived.

 

Lupine Seedlings

Lupine Seedlings

 

I didn’t put down any mulch this year because I LOVE LOVE LOVE self seedlings – it’s like Christmas in spring time. Since there is no mulch I have been a slave to weeding but I have been rewarded this year with many self seeders: including Bleeding heart, hellebore, salvia, foxglove, geraniums, lupines, columbine, ladyss mantle (I am drowning in lady’s mantle, help!), and even two major plants, a Viburnam x burkwoodii ‘Maresii’ and an Aesculus parviflora/ Bottlebrush Buckeye seedling, both of which have gone to good homes in the gardens of fellow gardens. In addition to giving away these two plants, I dug up and gave away Stachys Helen von Stein, Monarda Alba, geranium nodosum, Pulmonaria /lungwort Raspberry Splash, two Annabelle hydrangeas, Penstemon digitalis Husker’s Red, an unidentified yellow iris which was sent to me by mistake from a mail order nursery instead of the Caesar’s brother I had asked for, and Hemerocallis/ Daylillies ‘Sunday Glove’ and ‘Joan Senior’. I dug those up because I finally found the daylily I have been looking for for several years, H. ‘Gentle Shepard’. It is the purest white of the daylilies, so I am told, and I have replaced the off-white ‘Sunday Glove’ and ‘Joan Senior’. I am trying hard to get my all white border to be all white, not off white, not pink tinged white, not white with yellow centers, but all white. It’s been an effort to find pure white perennials. I am slowly getting there.

 

Acer griseum's New location

Acer griseum’s New location

Which brings me to what I have planted new this year. In addition to the H. ‘Gentle Shepard’, there are some new Astible, several new salvia x sylvestris ‘Schneehugel/Snow Hill’ to fill out a mass planting of them, a Veronicastrum Alba, Dianthus Greystone, 15 Papaver Orientalis Royal Wedding, a Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’, a Cimicifuga, three Rodgersia, a bergenia which I would not have chosen myself but it came as a freebee from Avant Gardens as a thank you for my order and I think I like it, a blue hosta from a friend who is redoing her garden, some type of Japanese holly which I should know the name of since I only brought it a month ago, 12 Gaura So White, several Geranium ‘St Ola’, 7 or 9 new Astantia Roma (which the rabbits are not eating this year, because I am spraying to keep the rabbits from eating it so is the first year I have Astrantia blooms after 5 or more years of trying) unidentified columbine which I brought at the nursery one day when I was in the mood to plant, they turn out to be purple…there are worse things to happen, several more Salvia Eveline, which is a terrific plant, random red poppies because I love poppies and I lost a bunch recently and my spring garden is a little lessened by their absence, some foxgloves which I regret buying and planting and watering and nurturing because they are small and an unappealing color. Give me the tall glorious foxgloves! Some lily of the valley which I know, I know is hardly a connoisseurs perennial but I have an island spot beneath three River Birches which I have planted with Viburnam x burkwoodii Mohawk, Fothergilla ‘Mt Airy’, and Clethra ‘Sixteen Candles’ so it is a woodland scented walk area and I thought why not lily of the valley? They will keep the weeds down and will scent the walk wonderfully. The lilies of the valley are interplanted with Podophyllum peltatum /Mayapples , Lamprocapnos spectablilis / Bleeding hearts, Alchemilla mollis / Lady’s mantle and Lathyrus vernus / Spring Vetch so time will reveal which of these plants will dominate, or if they will all get along together and share the space nicely.

 

New bed of Gillenia

New bed of Gillenia

The area in front of my shed had azalea purple gem planted, but all six died this year so out they came and in went 6 Gillenia trifoliate or Porteranthus trifoliate, what it is called depends on who you talk to, both names work. I have planted it before and lost it all, so I am trying again with large, quart sized plants and spraying so the bunnies won’t eat them. We’ll see. They are a beautiful plant, with spring flowers and fall color with the added bonus of being a native, because I like to plant native when possible. Next to the Gillenia are two Epimedium Cherry Tart. Next year I will add more Epimedium Cherry Tart to the bed. Epimediums are delightful plants and I know some people love them so much they collect them. I am still an Epimedium novice and as such am staggered by the great number of cultivars! Four years or so ago now when I went out to Darrell Probst’s nursery for the first (and so far only time) on one of the rare occasions it was opened I was overwhelmed with the decision of what to get, so, lucky for me, Darrell was there and I asked him. He told me one of his favorites was Cherry Tart so I brought five of them…one survived (my fault, again) but I fell in love with this Epimedium and try to use it when I can find it. It has a beautiful flower, lovely leaves, nice fall color and it spreads, although slowly. Everything one could ask for in a perennial

 

Malus 'Coralburst' transplanted

Malus ‘Coralburst’ transplanted

Ok I this just about brings me up to date on what I have be doing in the garden since April – did I mention weeding and pruning? Anyway, it’s good to look back and see just what I’ve done (or at least what I remember I’ve done) this year so far. Next post I will tell you about where I’ve been.  What have you been up to in your garden?
 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 337 other followers