Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A day of garden planning!

The weather on Long Island had been predictably rotten; first snow then rain and then back to snow flurries. What's a gardener to do? Plan for next year's garden, of course. I have one area in my garden that gets a good amount of sun - a premium for me among my oak woodland. It's also very wet. Last year I planted Mme. Theresa Hydrangeas in front of some cast off hydrangeas from a client's garden in hopes of absorbing some of the water. I had a corner spot in that space that was potentially experimental. I had just finished a thesis on a Victorian garden writer Jane Loudon and was caught up in elephant ears, cannas and hibiscus; so naturally I planted a few. Come November, the cannas and elephant ears needed lifting and storing. (I think the cannas were of the Humbolt strain and the elephant ears of straight species Colocasia esculenta. The elephant ears easily out grew their stated 36"/3 foot expected limit. Hey, they were happy!) Today I checked on their status in my unheated basement. They looked fine. I've posted some pictures of first, the lifted corms - how beautiful and colorful (cannas in the background). The final pic is of the colocasia today in my basement, packed in moss. Now I know that my three crates of tubers and corms are viable, I can plan an even more over the top tropical garden for this year.
I am still having trouble inserting pics within the blog - any help out there?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Here's the disappointment:

I wrote earlier that February is the month to get a taste of spring and then be disappointed because it never lasts. February has been proven true to form....again. In my last post I wrote of my lovely visit to Planting Fields Arboretum last Thursday. Here is a picture of Friday morning! What a difference a day makes.

Actually I needed this winter blast. I gave into the grey cold, changed my plans, and pulled my chair up to the window for a full day fantasia of snow. Quietly and inward and peaceful....and very thankful for heat.

In my own Backyard: Planting Fields Arboretum, Oyster Bay, New York

Last week David Perry at "A Photographer's Garden" (see sidebar) posted pictures from a guest photographer, Willow, of the Camellia House at Planting Fields Arboretum. Planting Fields is an old haunt of mine. During my horticulture student days it was a one-stop laboratory of cultivated and native plants. At that time I was more interested in the care and culture of the individual plants and not the overall design of the plantings and park. So I was more than happy to spend an afternoon at Planting Fields revisiting the house and garden with my new eyes as an historian and designer rather than as just a grower of plants. I'll share with you a few interesting nuggets from my recent visit. First - the teaser shot... the main greenhouse, first built in 1914 and expanded after 1918 by James Frederick Dawson of the Olmsted Brothers firm. More on that later.

Historical synopsis: William Coe bought an extant house, designed by Grosvenor Atterbury with 460 acres of land in 1914. Guy Lowell designed the greenhouses and Andrew Robeson Sargent (son of Charles Springer Sargent) laid out the initial landscape for the Coes. The House burned down in 1918, the same year that Sargent died. William Coe hired Walker and Gillette to design a new Tudor Style country house and the Olmsted Brothers, James Fredrick Dawson, lead designer, to ammend the grounds, transforming it into an unmistakable Olmsted work.

Here's one facet of the property that I expored during my visit that, in my opinion, reflects the brilliance of the Olmsted view. Follow the progressive changes in the landscape from the distance view of the Beech Copse to a more intimate experience of beech trees. (sorry folks, Blogger is not cooperating with the photo progression). Dawson draws the line from the specimen weeping tree, a linden I believe, to the beech copse in the distance. I was compelled to follow the line to the copse and finally stand surrounded by beeches. From the copse I walked around the perimeter of the lawn through dwarf conifer gardens and a holly walk. Just lovely. I did finally walk back to the camellia house for my annual visit. The camellias were only about a quarter in bloom so I may have to go back next week - rough!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Jasmine and Snow Drops

February on Long Island is a confusing month. Sixty degrees (F) one day and snow the next. It sets up a whole cycle of hope and then, disappointment. It's not spring but then again, the plant world is stirring and swelling. The first of the snow drops emerged and my winter jasmine is beginning to bloom. Wonderful!!!
For a better picture of snow drops, I direct you to David Perry's garden blog (see link on sidebar). David has a sublime photo blog that is a treat to browse. Thanks Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening for introducing us to David a few months ago.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Can Spring be far behind?

I missed February bloom day - again. Here is what I would have included had I been on time. I planted this Witch Hazel about ten years ago at my church, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington (NY). I'll admit that I planted it for myself and hoped that someone would notice its annual February display. Most do not. No matter. Witch hazels along with winter jasmine are my spring markers. Subtle. You have to go looking for them snow or rain.
Next come the hellebores. More pictures soon.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A Quiet Winter.....

Sorry folks, the blog still remains at the bottom of the "to do" list.

None the less, it has been a quiet winter punctuated by several trips and visits with old friends. I was jolted out of the usual winter slumber yesterday by a seminar held annually by Atlantic Nurseries, a specialty wholesale nursery on Long Island NY. I have been attending these seminars each winter for almost two decades. They are a chance to see your old friends in the professional horticultural world and learn a thing or two in the process. Also, they were always my wake-up call to start planning the spring season for my design/build business. I am mostly retired now with only a few projects on the horizon but I still felt the juice in the room - spring is nearly here.
The topic of this year's seminar was "Creating Great Gardens" with noted writer/designers Suzy Bales and Tracy DiSabato-Aust as speakers. I want to single out Tracy's newly re-released book "The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting & Pruning Techiques" for special mention. I have been pruning perennials professionally (nice alliteration, ha!) for twenty years and I truly did not expect to learn much. How wrong. Tracy introduce a technique called premptive pruning - pruning to delay or extend bloom time (so that bank of asters would bloom after your client returned from their annual vacation instead of during...every year!) I would have liked to have had that tip articulated so well years ago. Get the book!
Suzy also has a new book out: The Garden in Winter: Plant for Beauty and interest in the quiet season. I have not read it yet but the pictures, as always, are beautiful. Her talk at the seminar was pulled from her 2004 book: Down-to-earth Gardener: Let Nature Guide you to Success in your Garden. I have not read that one yet but Suzy used photos from the book for her talk - beautiful and exhuberent!

It's grey and rainy today but after the seminar yesterday it's o.k. I'm juiced too! Spring is coming.