Archive for October 2010

Wordless in Guanajuato

October 30, 2010

No words, no time, to describe the first stop on my photo workshop in Mexico. Just some photos. Enjoy.

Bougainvillea in a small square, Guanajuato, Mexico


Green Stairs with Window

Guanajuato, marigolds, Day of the Dead

Marigolds, common in Mexican markets this time of year, are used in celebrating the Day of the Dead in early November

Guanajuato, doors

Blue Door with Mermaid Knocker


Pink House with White Ironwork and Palms

Staying Power in the Fall Garden

October 23, 2010

As fall sets in, grasses and built elements, like this armillary, continue to provide strong interest in the garden

Next week, I leave for eight days in Mexico, and I should be upstairs reviewing my packing list(s). What lenses to take, which to leave behind? Backup external hard drive or my Epson P2000 storage device? What if my tripod goes astray because I have to check it (along with most of my clothes)?

In Mexico, it will be in the 80’s, although cool in the mornings and evenings. But here, it’s truly fall. Most of the gardens I work in (including my own), are starting to pack it in for the season. Ornamental grasses and built elements look as good as ever, but many perennials are fading. Nonetheless, there are two shrubs I’ve seen recently that are either still going strong or just coming into their own. The first is Callicarpa dichotoma, or beautyberry. It looks rather nondescript during most of the growing season, with average-green leaves on arching stems. But just about now, it develops fabulous purple berries all along the branches. They’re spectacular. This is a “cut-back” shrub that will work in either sun or shade, but which produces more fruit the more sun it gets.

Callicarpa 'Issai', beautyberry

Callicarpa's purple fruits are most profuse in sunny sites.

The second late-blooming shrub I can recommend for the fall garden is Lespedeza thunbergii, or bush clover. Like beautyberry, its stems arch over as it starts to bloom in the fall. Here’s ‘Gibraltar,’ planted in a client’s garden simply to soften the edge of an unattractive wooden retaining wall. Give this plant plenty of room! It can grow up to 10′ high in a good site. This one, unlike the beautyberry, won’t work in a shady site. There is a white version (‘Alba’) and a few other cultivars, like ‘Spilt Milk’ (variegated leaves). But at this point in the year, give me color!

Lespedeza 'Gibraltar' in bloom, in late October.

Lespedeza thunbergii

Seen up close, the blooms of Lespedeza reveal this shrub's relationship to the sweet pea family.

Delectable Dahlias

October 16, 2010

dahliaHurrah! … it is a frost!–the dahlias are dead.
~~R.S. Surtees, Handley Cross, 1843
(Note: Not my sentiments on this topic)

It isn’t too late to write about dahlias yet, although I fear I’m pushing it.

This is a plant, I confess, that I did not learn to love until I became a photographer. The dinner-plate size specimens still leave me a bit unmoved. Most other varieties will stop me in my tracks, however, even when the light is harsh and unforgiving, for their sheer exuberance and late summer/fall color.

One of the most exotic flowers we grow here – although not necessarily hardy through the winter without special treatment, dahlias are native to Mexico (where they are the national flower), Central America  and Colombia. (Later this month, when I travel to “Colonial Mexico’s Heartland” on a photo workshop, I’ll see if I can find any still in bloom!) Dahlias are  tuberous, bushy perennial plants that have been hybridized and prized for their varied colors and shapes (water lily, pompom, semi-cactus, and collerette types are only a few of the many classes that have been established). More recently, dwarf varieties have been developed that don’t require staking. Some (like Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’) have exotic black stems.

Dahlias begin blooming in mid to late summer and continue into the fall. Several years ago, on a hot August morning, I made my way out to a “dahlia trial garden” in semi-rural Montgomery County at an agricultural farm. Eventually, I came across rows of carefully-staked dahlias, wet with dew. None of them were labeled, but I didn’t care – it was love at first sight.

pink dahlia

This unamed variety of lavender dahlia, along with the flower above, were my favorites at the dahlia trial garden.

Since then I’ve photographed them at Chanticleer, in the Cutting Garden and the Tennis Court Garden, on their own or complementing other fall plantings, with or without the occasional bee,

Orange single dahlia

A trio of dahlias in the Tennis Court Garden at Chanticleer last fall

Chanticleer, Tennis Court Garden, dahlias

Orange dahlias (of a different type) with grasses and solidago at Chanticleer, in fall

and in other gardens, most recently at Hollister House in Connecticut, where ‘Bishop of Llandalf’ brightened several borders.

Hollister House, Bishop of Llandalf dahlias

Near the Silver Border, red Bishop of Llandaff dahlias add color to fall plantings at Hollister House in central Connecticut.

Dahlias grow best in sandy well drained soil in full sun (planting them in wet soils may cause the tubers to rot). Hardy from zones 7-11, they will probably not overwinter here in most cases. But if you have a cool, dry spot in your basement or elsewhere in the house, you can cut the plants back and dig the tubers up after the first killing frost. Clean the tubers, dry them, and then store them in a dark, dry, cool place until the next spring, when you can plant them out after the ground temperature warms up to 58 – 60 degrees.

Do you have a favorite type? Are you dedicated enough to overwinter your tubers? (if so, my hat is off to you.) Let me know. In the meantime, I’m off in search of the last dahlia of the season . . .

Longwood’s October Glories

October 9, 2010

Last weekend I was at the Chanticleer Master Garden Photography Workshop in Wayne, PA.  On my way there, I spent a little time at Longwood Gardens. In early October, it’s a bit soon for mums to be in peak form in the Conservatories, but I explored the Children’s Garden and found a couple of other shots worth sharing.

Longwood’s renowned Chrysanthemum Festival doesn’t start until November 1st (check out this amazing YouTube video about how a “Thousand Bloom” plant is produced. Yoko Awakara, the artist at Longwood in charge of this undertaking, was in my photography class at Chanticleer this year. She could be heard muttering, “I should be at Longwood . . .”) Nonetheless, there were chrysanthemums in the Conservatories,

Longwood Gardens

Orange mums and grasses

Longwood Gardens, Conservatories

Solidago in a Conservatory container, with a haze of chrysanthemums and grasses behind.


as well as outdoors.


Longwood Gardens, Flower Garden Walk

Pink mums will soon bloom, setting off other annuals in the Flower Garden Walk.

I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the spaces looked, even in the in-between season of not-quite-true-fall that early October represents. Longwood is always full of well-composed scenes for the visitor and photographer, like those above, and these sights in the central Conservatory area.

Longwood Garden, Conservatory

A group of chairs await visitors in the Conservatory.

Longwood Gardens, Conservatory

More solidago, this time in a container with a tiered design.

To be honest, while I love photographing scenes like these, it was in the Children’s Garden in the Conservatory that I had the most fun. I’ll leave you with two images of innovative ways water features have been worked into what is a very compact space, to delight visitors young and old.

Longwood Garden, Children's Garden

Near the entrance to the Children's Garden, jets of water dart across a mural at intervals.

Longwood Gardens, Children's Garden

A pair of sculptured birds "blow bubbles" in this fountain every thirty or forty seconds.

Note: This weekend, Longwood is opening its new East Conservatory Plaza and the world’s “largest green wall.” For more information, check out Jane Berger’s post on Garden Design Online. Yet another reason to plan a visit there!

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