Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Travel post: Monticello, Hershey, Coastal Maine, Tower Hill

I've just returned from a trip up and down the Eastern U.S., Virginia to Maine and back, and of course I saw some gardens! My trip started with the Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival, an event I've been to almost every year since 2009, and I've taken so many photos there over the years that I tend to skip it now, but the weather was nicely gloomy in the morning, so here's the obligatory vegetable garden shot, with pea sticks:


But I did take photos of the other gardens, so before I start, here is the inadvertent collection of Large Red Grass shots:

Hershey Gardens
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Perhaps these are photos representative of each garden's style. Or else it's just me liking red.

Anyway. First garden stop was Hershey Gardens in Pennsylvania, across the road from the amusement park and near the big hotel. It's worth a visit if you're there and want a nice walk, but I didn't find it particularly exciting or intriguing. (I should note here that I got in free to all these gardens as a member of the American Horticultural Society - the Reciprocal Admissions Program makes joining this organization very worthwhile if you're planning a lot of garden tourism - so any sense of cost-effectiveness, if that applies to gardens, was not in the forefront of my mind.) Hershey has a number of the right elements for a successful public garden, including (not unexpectedly considering the location) a decent children's garden, lots of roses, well-selected trees and perennials, and plenty of vistas, but to me it was kind of formulaic and pretty rather than instructive or appealing to gardeners (also, the plants were inconsistently labeled, which is always annoying - either label them all or none of them!). The "seasonal display garden" area, where the above shot is from, was the most photographable, so here's the rainbow section:


There was a little cafe which was closed, and a gift shop that didn't tempt me. Verdict: not worth a pilgrimage, but okay as part of the Hershey Experience, especially if you like roses.

A few days later I spent a few hours at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, and loved it. It's in Boothbay Harbor, so there's plenty of other stuff to do around there if you happen to be touring the coast of Maine (also you will drive right past Edgecomb Potters, which is my favorite pottery place ever). This is a garden that uses its setting very well. It actually reminded me a lot of Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, where we went last year: a different coastal vibe, obviously, but the same sense of place.

Here are a few photos:

Part of the hillside microclimates demo area

Lots of Maine woods trails; lots of art objects
Part of the sensory garden, though it was too chilly to walk barefoot on


Also in the sensory (and accessible) garden
The vegetables in the "five senses" garden (representing taste) looked better than the ones in the veggie garden proper, and the raised wheelchair-height beds were splendid. That's Portuguese Beira kale to the left, which I am definitely growing next year.

Other things I liked:

- The children's garden is spectacular; the best one I've seen. Kids could enjoy it for hours and learn things while they're at it. And then they can wander down the slope into the woods and play in the Fairy House Village, which is an area full of stones large and small, and lots of fallen tree branches and pinecones, etc., that can be rearranged into sculptures and Eeyore houses and anything you want. Wonderful use of environment.

- Lots of instructive and usable ideas for different microclimates, if you happen to live in Maine - but beautifully done so nice to look at even if you don't.

- Walking trails! I only did a small portion of these, but it's great to get a hike in while you're there. You can also rent boats in season.

- Plants are labeled; beds are stuffed full in the formal areas and left natural in the woodsy parts.

- Excellent sit-down cafe and intriguing gift shop.

I'll have to go back sometime to visit the rhododendron garden when it's in bloom. Verdict: a must-see, especially with kids, and if you enjoy walking a lot (but you could also stick with the central areas if you can't walk far, and they have shuttle service to the far-flung regions).

My last visit was to Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA, which I also recommend highly if you are in the area. It's smaller in scale, but nicely put together. The highlights are: the systematic garden, arranged by plant families, which was pleasing to this plant geek; the vegetable garden; the heirloom apple orchard (they do tours and tastings, which my visit didn't coincide with, but I wandered around for a bit pleasantly - there are apples in my family tree on both sides, and I love seeing these old varieties grown); meadow and hill hikes. They have an orangerie with warm-climate plants, and a lot of educational programs.

It was a grand day for photos, nice and cloudy:

What I assume was the cutting garden, near the parking lot

I like the simple tomato trellising

Golden larch in the systematic garden

I chose the Ericaceae to photograph, naturally

Great use of color blocks in the veggie garden
Verdict: go if you're in central Massachusetts. Doesn't take too long to see it all, and they have a real commitment to both beauty and education. You can eat and buy gifts here as well.

I also rambled through the Wellesley College greenhouses while I was in town. They have some great stuff in there - it's really just as good as many of the public garden greenhouses I've been to, with the feeling that research is going on in the background. Free and usually open to the public. Didn't bring a camera, sorry.

Where I didn't go: I decided against Yaddo Gardens while I was in Saratoga Springs, because it was raining that morning and because a second look at the website led me to think it would be on the boring side - formality and roses do not really appeal to me. And I was going to take in Chanticleer again on the way home, but neglected to note in my planning that it's closed on Tuesdays. Oh well; I'll have other chances.

Now it is time to tend my own gardens for a while! (Although we are leaving for Italy in less than two weeks. Expect more garden photos after that!)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hot, humid, and floriferous

For July Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, you need to get out early to take the photos - well, today I had to anyway, because I was headed off to the Derwood Demo Garden to work all morning in the sweltering heat (no, the polar vortex or whatever it is hasn't reached us yet). I took photos there for GBBD as well.

Here's what I have blooming in my garden on July 15:


Lots of lovely platycodon or balloon flower - all facing my neighbors' yard, as everything in that bed does, oh well.



Lots of daylilies - I'm particularly fond of pinks and dark reds, but I've lost track of cultivar names if I ever knew them.


A pretty, delicate pink astilbe.


Hostas! This is a particularly dramatic one.


The black cohosh I planted a couple of years ago to rise above the collapsing hedge of bleeding hearts - finally flowering. More than one of them would be nice…


Red zinnia closeup.


My cat Hotspurr, who knows he goes well with coreopsis 'Creme Caramel' and orange cosmos.


Somewhat blurry but bright cosmos closeup.

My photo of 'Bergamo' monarda (storm-battered and on its way out) was too blurry to post, but boy, it's nice to have a bee balm that doesn't get all mildewed in this weather.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bloom update

And yes, a week later there are more blooms, and better photography, so I thought I'd share.


Stokes's aster, happily flowering after its recent transplantation.


Daylilies are blooming now. This is actually one of the orange ditch lilies; not sure what happened to the color. But it all works together in that quadrant, the orange of the daylilies and the coreopsis, the purple-blue of the asters (and sage, though that's done now) and the blueberries. I planted my hardy Opuntia cactus out in that bed too; we'll see how it does.


Astilbe closeup.


I still like the way the purple ninebark blooms age into seed.


Lilies! Yellow daylilies and purple and magenta spiderwort in the background.


Lily, in detail.


And the lettuce in the salad table. Between that and the community garden plot, I have so much lettuce it's not even funny. Need to deal with it all before it bolts, so it's probably time for lettuce soup or something. I'll write that up at GIEI if I make it.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

June blooms

Here's a very quick Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day update. Quick because it's Father's Day and there are other things to do, and because June 15 is kind of a hole in my bloom schedule this year. Periodic accountings (and I try to record blooms more often than once a month) are useful to spot these.

This is some of what's blooming in my garden right now:



Clematis for which I lost the tag long ago. It could be 'Polish Spirit' or it could be something else. It's hanging on, but looks kind of ragged. The spot where I have a perfect trellis for climbing things is not perfect in any other way - too shaded, and one of the planting areas gets very little rain, even in the ridiculous storms we've been having. I've also got a Passiflora incarnata there, which will probably succeed far too well (it tends to eat the porch gutters), though I was almost sure it had died this winter. But it decided to be Junepop instead of Maypop this year, and is now coming back with a vengeance.


Cheerful ground-hugging sedum out by the mailbox.


Brodiaea 'Queen Fabiola' (or whatever it is now that the brodiaeas have been split up) is starting up.


Spiderwort being electric, luckily in a spot where nothing clashes with it.


A white astilbe in the gloom.


And my potatoes are blooming! I have them planted in our old claw-foot tub this year; oh, it's so deliciously trashy.

Lots of things are still behind schedule - haven't even got any daylilies yet. And many other things are done or not in their first flush any longer, so I really need to think June blooms when filling in spaces.

Enjoy your gardens!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The new opposite-the-blueberries bed, and other things

This is what I spent a good part of Sunday on:


The area to the left is where three raised beds of herbs used to be. Except for one large sage that's there in the back, I've moved everything that was still alive to the fruit garden area in the back. The blueberries (to the right) were hard to reach along the narrow stone path, so I got some more stones and widened it. Here's another view:


The orange flowers are coreopsis 'Creme Caramel.' In front are some Stokes's asters that I grew from seed and have now moved three times. It was not the right time to transplant them, but I think they'll survive, especially after last night's soaking rain. There are also some zinnias and a borage plant tucked in there, and golden thyme between the stones. I still have to edge the bed, mulch, and add some more plants, but I think it'll look nice and work much better in context.

Also should move the birdbath, because a) I never remember to fill it tucked away in there, and b) too many cat hiding places in the vicinity.

And the blueberries are ripening!



While I'm out there:


This is what the purple ninebark flowers turn into - little "fruits," I guess, that produce the seeds. Just overall a few attractive plant.

Also, have a very pink leaf on Mr. Kolomikta Kiwi:


And my 'Winterthur' viburnums are growing up and looking fine:


I'll try to document the progress of some other plants this week. Lovely time of year.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Chanticleer (and Bartram's Garden)

I had to pick my son and his friends up at the Philadelphia airport yesterday, so I decided to make a mini-vacation out of it, and stopped at two gardens over two days: Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia, which is the historic site of John Bartram's 18th-century house (still there; I haven't been inside yet over two visits, but they do have tours) and the garden in which he planted many of his finds among the American flora; and Chanticleer.

I'll start with the latter because it's much more spectacular. It was a splendid day to be there, because it rained in the morning, which scared away most of whatever visitors were going to come on a weekday, but then stayed cool and pleasant (and intermittently dark-cloudy). There were some busloads of tourists in the afternoon, but it never felt crowded. I think I covered pretty much all the territory in my several hours there, including exploring lots of side paths; it's all beautifully designed for wandering off and finding things.

It occurred to me that somehow I've usually visited large public gardens in relatively off-season times, like late September or early April, and it's really nice to go to one (especially one of the most beautiful) when many plants are in bloom and everything is lush with the growth of a rainy spring (but they've had time to clean up from winter). There are all kinds of lovely pictures of the place online; I was just taking snaps with my phone, so didn't capture anything special, but here are a few impressions of things I liked best.

The "ruin garden" was delightful, with a lot of the whimsy and self-referential humor I like in garden design, and also just beautiful, with unexpected corners and surprises along with spectacles, like one of the entrances here with the vast climbing hydrangea.


Here's a vista from a bit below there, with the serpentine grass plots in the distance:


And a closeup of the grass. I'm not sure what kind it is - possibly a sort of oats, since it's supposed to be a tribute to the beauty of agriculture or something.


Speaking of which, at some point public gardens are going to put the vegetable gardens front and center, but at least more of them actually have them now. Chanticleer's admits to being only part of the area originally used for growing the estate's produce, but it is nicely arranged, and has an intriguing living gate, through which you can see the cut-flower garden:


They did a lot with living fences and borders, low hoops made of the wood of various plants (I recognized a honeysuckle in one place) that must have been cut and then stuck into the ground immediately so they'd root in place. I also liked some of their takes on paths:


That's just sections of one-inch lumber laid in the ground. I looked at it and thought "I could do this!" and then thought again and realized that the soil between would be all weeds before I turned around, but it's a nice idea. (Chanticleer, of course, has Staff.)

Also, by the way, they have a couple of the more beautiful restrooms I've been in. And wandering through the bamboo on the way to the one in the Asian Woods was great fun. But, interestingly enough, there is no gift shop or cafe, and I was there for four hours with only a small apple and a handful of chocolate-covered coffee beans and water. I'm not sure if that's refreshing or discouraging.

Here's the poppy hill, which was much prettier even than it looks in this photo:


And a closeup of the buds of what I'm pretty sure is Magnolia sieboldii. Such perfect teardrops.


The plants are not labeled, I suppose because it's "a pleasure garden" and having to read things takes away from the pleasure somehow (personally, I enjoy avoidance of the frustration of not knowing names), but in some areas there are plant lists in boxes. I don't know, dear reader, if you find yourself in this position, but for me it's difficult sometimes to stop myself from identifying plants for others when they seem confused. I did manage not to interrupt the conversation I passed early in my visit that I think was misidentifying purple ninebark as elderberry; there is a dark-leafed and very pretty variety of that latter useful thug, but it was not present in that part of the garden. The two plants did in fact show up across from each other in another place, so hopefully the misidentifyers got to compare them later. But then, while attempting to read a murder mystery on a bench near the cut-flower garden, I was surrounded by some of the talkative bus crowd, and found myself jumping in to tell them that the orange flower they were exclaiming over was calendula, and yes it had been also over in the vegetable garden because it's edible. And then they asked me if I worked there. No, I just grow things and know what they are? Though of course I don't know what everything is, so labels would be nice.

They do have labels at Bartram's Garden; they also have weeds (Chanticleer really doesn't, as far as I noticed, and I tend to notice) and in general it's not as gorgeous, but one really wouldn't want it to be, because that would take away from the feeling of it being one family's personal playground for new botanical discoveries. I have a bit of a Thing about William Bartram, which may end up being a novel someday, but anyway the best thing about going there is not the flowerbeds and soil-poor vegetable garden or even the strolling through the woods; it's the thrill of the oldest surviving gingko in North America, and the franklinia that John and William discovered and named and grew from seed while the last ones in the wild perished, and this yellowwood:


which probably dates from the 1790s and is delectably gnarled. It's the connection; the feeling that you sort of know and understand the person who planted the seed, even though he died centuries ago. Which you don't get at a large public garden, even if it used to belong to a rich family (I mean, I feel a connection to the gardeners who work there, and you can even talk to them, but it's rather different), or at Monticello, though they are doing better at giving us a connection to the enslaved people who did most of the actual work, even if Jefferson had some of the visions.

So, both of these places wow me, in different ways. It was a good trip!