Archive for August 2010

An Arboretum Rose Garden

August 28, 2010
Morris Arboretum, Rosa 'Wild Blue Yonder'

Grandiflora Rosa 'Wild Blue Yonder' at the Morris Arboretum

In between visiting Out on a Limb and the Summer Palace at the Morris Arboretum two weekends ago, I spent some time in the Rose Garden. Given the lateness of the summer and the horribly high temperatures the Eastern Seaboard experienced this year, I didn’t expect it to look like much. Fortunately, I was wrong.

OK, I have to admit that the roses weren’t prolifically blooming, but they had been carefully deadheaded and here and there beautiful flowers caught my eye. I’m usually not one for multi-colored roses, but the grandiflora rose ‘Wild Blue Yonder’ shown above was quite eye-catching, with hints of blue in some of the older blossoms. I have a soft spot for grandifloras since they bloom for such a long period, even if their individual blossoms aren’t huge.

What I enjoyed the most, however, was drinking in the overall slightly blowsy, high-summer feel of the garden and seeing what companion plants had been placed in it, to complement the roses. There was the obligatory central-splashing-fountain, attracting children and adults alike,

Morris Arboretum, Rose Garden

but my eyes kept returning to fennel plants in flower, rising up around Cotinus  branches whose dark color provided the perfect foil to the golden and gold-brown tones of the fennel.

Morris Arboretum, Rose Garden, fennel

Fennel flower heads in bloom

In addition to the fennel, there was a great blue salvia in bloom.

Morris Arboretum, Rose Garden

A strong blue salvia complementing some of the late-season roses in bloom at the Morris Arboretum Rose Garden

In the nooks and crannies of the stone walls at the entrance to the garden were sedums and other rock-garden types of plants, softening the stone and giving visitors more details to notice.

Morris Arboretum, Rose Garden

Trailing sedums in the Rose Garden

The overall views were pretty impressive.

Morris Arboretum, Rose Garden

The entry steps to the Rose Garden, flanked by stone retaining walls, with Perovskia and red roses in the foreground.

Morris Arboretum, Rose Garden

The "wide" view, with grasses, perennials and roses still going strong.

At the rear of the garden, tucked away in a corner, there was a small gazebo, through which you could admire the stone pots planted with simple white annuals, which helped define the boundaries of the garden.

Morris Arboretum, Rose Garden, Gazebo

Note the beautifully-carved wooden ceiling of the gazebo. Another unexpected treasure for the observant visitor!

After the Rose Garden, I headed on to Chanticleer, where I spent a number of hours that evening and the next morning taking in its own special summer beauties. Soon, a post on that – but this weekend I’m in Connecticut to see some Open Days gardens in Litchfield County, so I’m not sure which I’ll write about next!

Child’s Play at the Morris Arboretum

August 21, 2010

Last weekend, I took a whirlwind trip up to the Philadelphia area, camera in hand. Although my primary destination was Chanticleer Garden, I decided to stop in at The Morris Arboretum, the University of Pennsylvania’s 92-acre playground. Unfortunately for me, Friday afternoon traffic being what it was, I arrived at the Arboretum with less than 90 minutes to spare before closing time (4 pm during the week, for those of you who might be thinking of going for a visit). Plopping down my $14 admission fee (yikes!), I decided to limit myself to the Rose Garden, hoping for photo ops despite the heat and lateness of the season.

On either side of the Rose Garden,  however, I stumbled across two delightful locations/installations that were attracting children even this late in the day. (OK, adults too, just not those hell-bent on photographic pursuits). The first was called “Out on a Limb.” The exhibit consists of a 450-foot long walkway suspended 50 feet above the Arboretum floor.  This permanent installation is part of the Arboretum’s Tree Adventure exhibit and was recently voted “Best Stroll Through A Forest” in Philadelphia Magazine’s 2010 contest. For a more detailed description of the exhibit and its design, click here.

Morris Arboretum, Out on a Limb

The entry to the "Out on a Limb" installation at the Morris Arboretum

I was tempted to explore, but mindful of the ticking clock, I pressed on (this is a permanent exhibit, thankfully). The Rose Garden awaited. And it was beautiful – but I will save those photos for another post, lest I squander all my images here. Beyond the Rose Garden, one enters the Wisteria Walk, where a memorial bench is inscribed with the words “Honoring John J. Gatti, a man who was beauty and perfection as is this garden.” What an epitaph (note to sons: remember this)!

As I left the Wisteria Walk, my eyes were greeted by this sight:

Summer Palace, Morris Arboretum, Patrick Dougherty

A glimpse of the Summer Palace from the end of the Wisteria Walk

Holy brownies, I thought (not to profane one of my most sacred words, but I was astonished). What the frak is THAT?? (Yes, I am a closet Battlestar Galactica fan.) A closer view followed:

Morris Arboretum, Patrick Dougherty, Summer Palace

The "Summer Palace" by Patrick Dougherty

It was the “Summer Palace,” a structure of branches and twigs created by Patrick Dougherty. At least some of the branches must be willow, because as I rounded the corner to look at the palace from the rear, I saw a wonderful set of leaves sprouting from the top.

summer palace, Morris Arboretum, Patrick Dougherty

A willow branch, leafed out, rises above a small visitor to the Summer Palace.

A group of children was darting in and out of the place, hiding from each other and their mothers in its maze-like interior. One of the moms, responding to my questions, said that the Summer Palace is a permanent part of the Arboretum; Dougherty keeps tabs on it and repairs bits of it as needed. It must look awesome in snow.

So if you have children and are within driving distance of Philadelphia, or are visiting the area, don’t miss the Morris Arboretum. I’m sure there are many more areas to explore for the younger set – this visit was a revelation to me and I encourage you to put it on your list!

For more information on the Morris Arboretum, including its hours, visitor programs and volunteer opportunities, visit its website. Next week: a peek at the Rose Garden.

In the Pink at Summer’s Peak

August 14, 2010

This time of year, many gardens in my region can look a little tired. Still, if you look hard enough, there are bright spots of color to be found. And, interestingly enough, at least three that come to mind are various shades of pink. Last week I wrote about one of them, the lotus flower. This week’s examples are slightly less ethereal but no less useful (and perhaps more commonly found) in residential gardens: Hibiscus and Joe Pye weed.

I first became entranced with the intense color of pink hibiscus right after acquiring my Nikon macro lens (AF-S Micro Nikkor 105 mm/f 2.8) several years ago. On one of my first outings with it, on a hot early August crack-of-dawn trip to Brookside Gardens, I captured this photo.

Hibiscus flower, Brookside Gardens

Hibiscus 'Copper King'? Whatever the name of this hibiscus cultivar, it's gorgeous.

Meet Hibiscus moscheutos, or swamp mallow. The intensity of the flower’s hot pink eye, combined with the pink and white petals and the dark green leaves, was a revelation to me. The blooms, which are quite large, last only for a day, but the shrub (which is what it is, not a perennial), can grow to sizable proportions in the right site. Since then, I have used Hibiscus ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘Copper King’ in clients’ gardens where late-summer color is called for. (‘Caroline’ is all pink; check out red ‘Lord Baltimore,’ as well). ‘Copper King,’ which I’ve planted on streambanks of a Bethesda client’s garden, may be the same as the variety pictured above. These plants like moist sunny sites and some of its varieties are hardy as far north as Ontario. Cut them down to about a foot high when you’re putting your garden to bed for the winter and they will come back strong again the following year.

Another late-summer favorite is Eupatorium purpureum, or Joe Pye weed. For years, this American native was neglected in our landscapes, although Europeans discovered it and prized it highly. It will grow in either sun or filtered shade (and flower in both), although it prefers sun (and also, like the hibiscus, moist sites). In August its broad flower heads open up, their scent attracting bees and butterflies.

Eupatorium 'Gateway'

Joe Pye weed in bloom in August

Combine it with a bright stand of Rudbeckia for a nice effect in your late-summer perennial border.

Eupatorum, rudbeckia, Green Springs Garden

Eupatorium and Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm', a tried-and-true combination, at Green Springs Garden in Virginia.

I’ve also seen it grown in a median strip with purple coneflowers, doing remarkably well with no supplemental water.

Eupatorium and coneflowers sandwiched between a sidewalk and the curb in Washington DC

There are many, many more terrific late summer plants, including other pink choices: reblooming roses, Rose of Sharon varieties, dahlias, the coneflowers shown just above, phlox, and even late-summer poppies. I’ll leave it to my readers to suggest others, but for now I will stop with these imposing additions to the garden. Hope you are all “in the pink” as summer peaks this month!

The Luminous Lotus

August 7, 2010

Lotus plants (Nelumbo nucifera) fascinate me both as a landscape designer and a photographer. They start blooming in mid-summer just when you would give your right arm for something new to unfold in the garden. And they arise out of muck and mud, looking pristine and otherworldly at the same time. The Confucian scholar Zhou Duryi once said, “I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained.”

Did you know that a lotus’s flowers, seeds, young leaves and rhizomes are all edible? (Thank you, Wikipedia.) You may have seen the dried cups, below, used in flower arrangements.

lotus, Nelumbo nucifera

Fruit of Nelumbo nucifera

The tightly-furled buds of the flowers are magnificent,

Lotus flower bud, Nelumbo nucifera

Lotus bud and leaf at Kenilworth Gardens

as are the backlit leaves when the photographer gets lucky.

Lotus leaf

A backlit closeup of a lotus leaf at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Lotus flowers can range from 4 to 12 inches when open.

Nelumbo nucifera

Lotus flowers open and in bud

Once fully open, their seed heads are bright yellow with tiny hairs that attract bees and other insects almost constantly. To get a shot without insects crawling all over them takes patience (often in blazing sun).

Nelumbo nucifera, seed head

These exotic, luscious flowers need a “bed” such as a pond or other water body and three months of temperatures averaging 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit to bloom. All of the photos above were taken at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington DC during two field trips with my camera club in different summers. The other place I have seen them en masse is at Chanticleer, in the Pond Garden. But a couple of weeks ago, shooting a garden that will be on September’s Open Days tour here in Washington, I encountered a beautifully designed back yard setting where the lotus’ color and its leaf size and shape had been used perfectly.

Lotus flower, Posner Garden, Garden Conservancy

The Corinna Posner Garden in Washington DC

Here, the huge leaves of the lotus provide a wonderful foil for the delicate foliage of the dissected maple behind it and the airy, spiky shapes of the other plants in the left of the composition. The garden’s owner is a landscape designer who is a partner in European Garden Design, and her garden is a marvel. Watch this space in early September for a further sneak peak at it, and in the meantime I hope you’ve enjoyed these views of the luminous lotus.


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