We just spent a marvelous weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina in an escape from the last snowstorm (I hope) to hit Maryland this year. We had planned this weekend for a visit to the North Carolina nurseries but when a significant snowstorm threatened for last Thursday, we decided to skip town on Wednesday and I’m glad we did. It gave us an extra day to visit nurseries and gardens in the ‘Triangle’ area. Even four days is not sufficient to see all that this area offers to plant lovers. There are three major gardens in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill and we went to each.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University in Durham is what I would characterize as a display garden. It’s well funded and beautiful and has lots of examples of how to make a dramatic landscape.
It had many lovely individual plants including this daphne which illustrated how daphnes want to look in the wintertime as opposed to the burned leaves on ours.
The North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill also appears to have a lot of financial backing and it’s focus seems to be well-coupled to the University’s effort to encourage the use of native plants.
It’s set next to woodland trails and seems to get a lot of visitors for that reason.
But our favorite was the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. This is a plantsman’s paradise. Many examples of exotic and unusual plants from all over the world including this dwarf Dawn Redwood.
It was still a little early in the season for any of these gardens but the Ralston captured our hearts.
One of the ulterior motives for this particular weekend was to attend an An Evening with the Plant Explorers at the JC Ralston. This was a wonderful event with 4 1/2 hours of tales of plant exploring mixed in with socializing and plant auctions. Anyone who thinks Latin is a dead language needs to attend one of these events. The plant auction was particularly interesting because it was often for plants that had been part of the explorers’ talks.
In particular we were taken by a marvelous Einkianthus, the likes of which we had never encountered.
Well, in the end this was our take-home plant from the auction…
The other main component of the weekend was visiting nurseries. First and foremost was Plant Delights (which has a bonus of a very nice garden as well). As usual we found many wonderful plants that jumped into our car.
There were three crates like this one that we brought home including many new hellebores.
And then we went out to Pine Knot Farms where the focus is hellebores.
And we came away with even more hellebores as well as multiple cyclamen from John Lonsdale and a Mahonia confuse ‘Narihira’ (which we had seen at Raulson) and Edgeworthia chrysantha from Superior Plants.
John Lonsdale says that Edgeworthia survives for him in Pennsylvania so I have high hopes for it in Maryland.
Lastly we stopped at Camellia Forest and picked up four new camellias and two exquisite miniature Rhododendrons.
Altogether a wonderful weekend, and by the time we arrived back home the spring was waiting for us…
Let me close with one more shot of that Einkianthus which I hope will be with us for a long time…
I was surprised to see a glint of color in the Alpine bed yesterday. Indeed it was actually a first flower from the exquisite little Primula allionii ‘Wharfdale Ling’. This tiny little primula species is relatively rare in the wild but has been widely propagated and hybridized because of the size and beauty of the flowers for such a small plant. Jim Jermyn has a great write-up on this species and its natural growing conditions. I’ve just finished my seed order for the Scottish Rock Garden Society seed exchange and I’ve included a different Primula allionii selection on my list. This one has the honor of being the first plant to flower in the new alpine bed — months ahead of time.
It’s been generally a great week for gardening. Crisp mornings but sunny afternoons. I spent this afternoon cleaning the moss off of pots in the greenhouse. But not before noting that yet another oxalis species had come into flower.
Notice the little hairy leaves. The oxalis are all so different. The buds on these are yet another distinctive image — I need to get a picture. Back to the moss, it had really built up on some of the small bulb pots. As it turns out when you use a gravel top dressing the moss just lifts out taking the some of the old gravel with it and doesn’t disturb the underlying bulbs. And then you just replace the gravel.
We took off one day on an excursion looking at garden art at Alden Farms and the unusual plants at Susanna Farms. Many of the items at Susanna Farms were landscaping specimens beyond our price range, but we did come back with two very nice additions.
The fall coloring is just great on this prostrate rhodie. It will be interesting to see how it flowers out in the spring. It’s said the flowers appear at nearly the end of the rhododendron season which would make them very late indeed.
We have always liked Cryptomeria. Our biggest one is 30-40 feet high at the back of the yard. This one should stay within the 2-3 ft range.
The garden art visit was equally fun. We met David Therriault, stone designer and walked through his sculptures. He works mostly with salvaged materials and repurposes them into artwork. We saw several pieces that we liked (it’s Beth’s birthday present), but the one which was our favorite seemed to large for the new garden that we’ve built this fall. However, when we came home it seemed like it could fit after all. To check our perceptions I photoshopped a copy of the sculpture into place, and indeed, we think it fits.
This is all part of our growing love for stone of all sorts. We went to the local stone dealer yesterday and came home with some very pretty pieces from their loose rubble. It’s like buying plants except you don’t have to water them…
Every garden has a beginning. In this case the garden can be traced to a storm — Sandy, to be specific. A very large Pine Tree came down on our neighbor’s fence line. Leaving a channel of sunshine and a lot of dead roots in the ground. We had also opened space in this area last year when we took out an old and dying Cherry tree (with a stump still remaining). We took the new site as an opportunity and have been considering all year how best to use it. Watching the sunlight in this area it looks like it’s a mix of sun and shade, in other words, part-sun or part-shade depending on the time of day and time of year. But the ground was very hard and covered with roots from the cherry and pine. And I’m pretty sure that the remaining pine and surrounding maple and holly will be sending exploring roots before long. So we decided to make a raised bed, or berm, to guarantee a fertile and friable garden area.
What started out as a small project got larger each day as we brought pickup truckload after truckload of topsoil and mushroom soil from our special store of said components in the far pasture. Because we were concerned about driving truck or tractor over the walkway in the backyard it all had to be hauled from truck to the new garden by garden cart. In the end we decided to tie this new garden into the Peony bed on the one side and the pathway in back of the big American Holly on the other. We added some rocks hauled in from the leftovers at our local rock dealer to build structure and character into the bed. Actually I just like rocks. No other explanation is needed. I thought hard about how to add a burbling brook in the middle but no matter how I conceived it there is no way that a burbling brook looks natural in our yard (and I would have to decimate too many tree roots to bring water and electricity to that spot. So in the end we now have a pretty large new garden space just waiting for plants. This is so unlike me to have the garden space before the plants.
Well, there are a few plants waiting in the wings. There’s a Hydrangea serrata ‘Blue Billow’ that is already outgrowing it’s pot and is needing a home. There are two camellias, one fall and one spring, that are perfect for this lighting situation. When we could see the outlines of this garden begining to take shape we went to the local nursery to see what might still be around. We came away with some real finds. Most especially a Mahonia without spiny foliage.
It’s called Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ and unlike any other Mahonia I’ve seen. The leaves are more like a bamboo though the flowers immediately look like classic Mahonia flowers. Others were a tiny Rhododendron, R. Yakushimanum ‘Crete’, a Toad lily still in flower, and a bush Salvia.
And I now foresee a lot of opportunities for planting bulbs this fall …
Two months ago I planted two troughs and set out a number of alpine plants that I had been harboring this year. I thought it might be useful just to touch bases with the plants after two months of growing in their new conditions. The troughs are set in sunny locations and have received larger than normal rainfall over this period. I have supplement with the hose only a couple of times.
The current state of the Large Trough is shown here.
This can be compared with the original planting.
What immediately stands out is the Boechera koehleri which took off like a rocket. This is a relatively rare rock cress from Northern California but it has totally exceeded the bounds of the trough and I’ve since shifted it to its own pot. Interestingly when I pulled it out the roots were relatively well behaved. I had planted several other instances of the plant around the yard and none of the others showed more than 10% of the growth of this specimen. The two losses were both Saxifrages, one paniculata and the other unknown in the tufa. My guess is that it was too much sun for the paniculata. Most of the other plants have done pretty well. The Daphne looks very happy and the Delosperma is spreading nicely. The Lewisia tweedyi is one I’m keeping my eye on, hoping that it makes through to next year.
For the small trough that I planted at the same time the comparison is as follows.
The original planting looked like
The position of this trough gets a little more shade than the large trough but it’s still pretty sunny. The Silene caroliana grew so rapidly that I had to take it out. I then put in a small primula that did not succeed. The Saxifraga growing in the Tufa is the only other failure in this trough. Everyone else is prospering. Here is the Silene now ensconced in the front garden.
It’s interesting to note that the tufa plants have not succeeded all. In principal the tufa should work well in the trough but it may be that it’s too sunny for the Saxifragas.
The longer term plan for more environmental opportunities for the alpines is the new alpine bed that I’ve built next to the greenhouse.
This has been a pretty labor intensive effort and I’m not done yet. Just digging a trench and then laying the block was testing my muscle development, but then you have to fill the bed after building the bed. I began by adding topsoil to bring the level up to about a foot short of the top.
Then, to do the remainder of the fill, I bought a cement mixer. To gain some sense of what’s involved, 1 foot deep by 14 feet long by 3 feet wide amounts to 42 cubic feet. That is roughly 4000 pounds of soil mix. Mixing it by hand just didn’t seem to make sense. I used a formula of 1 part small gravel (starter grit), 1 part larger gravel (developer grit), 1 part topsoil, 1 part miracle gro potting soil, and 1/2 part garden sand.
This particular bed is on the shade side of the greenhouse so I think the Saxifragas should be happy when this is done.
One of the special memories that we brought back from our June visit to Scotland was an afternoon spent at Shepherd House Garden in the small village of Inveresk, just outside of Edinburgh. This is a small private garden that sparkles with personality. Every aspect shows the care and attention that Charles and Ann Fraser have invested over the years.
We were fortunate to have Charles walk about in the garden with us as we toured the different garden ‘rooms’ within the 17th century walls. They have about an acre over all but it is intensively gardened so that it seems even larger as I look back on my pictures. Every year they take on another project to enhance their landscape, from the stone-walled potting shed to the artistic stone bench.
If you find yourself anywhere near Shepherd House Garden you need to add it to your itinerary. Bear in mind that it is only open for limited times each week andIt would be best to check with their website directly.
It has been almost 2 weeks since Hurricane Sandy ripped through a good part of the east coast, including our little hillside. Given the difficulties that many have faced with loss of homes and struggles for power and services our own difficulties pale in comparison. Nonetheless there has been an impact. Not the least of which was the loss of internet for 5 days, which slowed my abilities to report on the storm, but it was compounded by viral bronchial infection that hit both of us — hard — for about 10 days. Fortunately the good folks at Comcast came through in the end and a local contractor repaired the roof damage very quickly. Also, thanks to Chris and Kevin, the same young guys that installed our deer fence, we have the deer fence intact again.
We were without power for only about 4 1/2 hours when the storm first hit. And given the way the trees were uprooted along our street it could have been much worse.
We live about 1 mile from the Monocacy River and the state highway bridge across the river was really not far above the water.
In addition to the 50 year-old pine in our neighbor’s yard that came down in the storm without hitting either house, we lost the 35 year-old sugar maple that has regularly been a feature of our comments on fall color.
Numerous white pines in the forest and pasture were felled or broken off halfway up by the storm.
Losing these trees along the windbreak gives one a whole different impression about what the descriptor ‘windbreak’ might really mean. All the white pines were planted back in 1976 from seedling trees from the Maryland Forest Service.
On the good side of the ledger the greenhouse, newly constructed, withstood the storm with flying colors. We are beginning to feel healthy again. The repairs have been made. We have a new semi-shade garden spot where the neighboring pine used to starve other plants for light and water.
And some more firewood…
The fall, despite the storm, remains remarkably mild. I have seen viburnum and azaleas beginning to flower. Even the spring blooming camellias are beginning to put out blossoms.
And the Geranium hybrid ‘Rozanne’ is just a non-stop flowering wonder…
And with that I will close just counting our blessings, including four more years with president who doesn’t believe that 47% of the population can be dismissed just because they weren’t born into wealth…
Saturday afternoon found me at Brookside Gardens in Rockville, Maryland at the seed exchange sponsored by Washington Gardener’s Magazine. I was there not for the seed exchange but for the results of the photo contest which I had entered a few weeks ago. The challenge was to submit your best pictures from 2011 in four categories with the resultant winners to be published in the magazine. As it turned out I won first place in the Garden Vignette category for my photo of an illuminated watering can
And in addition I picked up an honorable mention in the Garden Creatures category for my photo of a blue-winged wasp from last July.
Actually the most rewarding part was reviewing all my gardening pictures for the year and thereby whetting my appetite for all those flowers and associated creatures that will be arriving in 2012. In addition to appearing in the magazine the photos will also be on display in Silver Spring for a couple of months and I’ll share that information when it becomes available.
I took advantage of the trip down Rockville to do a little garden exploring at Brookside. They have a lot of snowdrops in bloom right now (some in an interesting green and white ivy) and a few early daffodils. Unfortunately they still have a lot of trees and bushes wrapped in Christmas lights which detracts from wanting to photograph the winter forms of the bushes and trees. However, I did see a lovely little Japanese Flowering Apricot in bloom.
The flowers are small but very pretty up close. There was also a spectacular hybrid Witchhazel with vivid orange coloring to the petals.
As I walked around this small (about 50 acres) but well cared for garden I was reminded once again how much this is a community garden, one which strives to inspire and be a part of the surrounding neighborhood. There are many walkers and joggers who look like they use the garden on a regular basis. And for those of us who are less often there, the pathways and views provide ample reason to return again…
This winter is cause to take note of this old photo of a very pregnant Beth demonstrating her best one handed tilling technique with what was our most expensive purchase at the time, outside of car and house. In the background is our neighbor’s house and along the fence line he had grapevines against a wire fence with metal posts. And the pine trees in the picture were our neighbor’s as well — there was very little planted on our part of the hill, though you can see the deep trench where I was putting in asparagus.
Moving forward 35 years to last spring and you can see that a substantial crop of weed trees and vines grew up over time in addition to our garden crops.
When our neighbor’s husband passed away, the vines and trees simply flourished and the grapes went wild. I had put in a deer fence with double height T-bar posts and they ended up falling over into my neighbor’s grapes. Some of the weed trees were 15-20 feet tall and were the only thing holding up the fence. With the collapsing fence it no longer stopped the deer and I was getting really discouraged about the deer situation in general. They started eating our 35 year old blueberry bushes for the first time in Nov and Dec and for several years they have frustrated my attempts to start a new orchard. This week I discovered the biggest of the new trees has just about been girdled by deer.
We have finally come to the conclusion that the years of coexistence on the hill are at an end. The only way to garden here is to exclude the deer. And to exclude the deer we had to begin with the mess on the side of the garden. Fortunately a few things conspired to help. We found two willing and able workers who have greatly magnified my effectiveness, the weather has been great, and we’ve finally come up with a concept that will at least give us a start at excluding the deer from a lot of the area where grow valuable plants. When done (hopefully within the next month) we will have about 3/4 of an acre fenced in protecting the blueberries, the lilies, the azaleas, the tulips, etc. while still leaving the orchard protection as a future task. In just the last week and a half we now have a totally cleared boundary for the garden with split rail fencing installed, deer posts in, and weed fabric laid down. It’s been a really satisfying way to start the season.
They even preserved my neighbor’s grape vines
In fact it went so well that we decided to eliminate some additional sources of vines and extend the split rail/deer fence concept up the side yard.
Others might enjoy skiing but I’m finding this a really delightful way to spend the winter.
It’s partly been made possible by sunny weather that is also moving the plants along ahead of schedule. The Winter Aconite are just about ready to pop.
The Anemone Coronaria, which has not flowered since it was planted in 2009, is looking beautiful in bud.
Heck, the bud is so pretty I will make do with that…
And the Lungwort is already showing color.
Hey, life is good…