Archive for March 2011

A Special Cherry Tree

March 26, 2011

Today’s post is about the Okame cherry, which is one of the first cherry trees to bloom in my area. Its official Latin name is Prunus x incamp, but I always call it by its more easily-remembered common name, the Okame cherry. A cross between  Prunus incisa and Prunus campanulata, this tree is one of the few cherry trees I am happy to recommend planting in a residential garden.

Prunus x incamp, Okame cherry

A young Okame cherry in a front yard garden in northwest Washington, DC

Unlike many other cherries, the Okame is relatively pest- and disease-resistant, giving the designer confidence that it can be planted without worrying about it being short-lived. Its blossoms  – a rich but not screaming rose-pink – appear before the leaves in early spring. (Only the Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ cherry, a cousin of the famous weeping cherry, blooms earlier.)
Because the blooms’ calyxes – which bud out before the blossoms appear – are also pink, the tree gives the appearance of being in bloom longer than is actually the case.

Prunus Okame, Prunus x incamp, calyx

A close-up look at the dark red calyxes that precede the opening blossoms on an Okame cherry

Prunus x incamp, Okame cherry, blossoms

The blossoms of the Okame cherry

Like other cherries, Okames have distinctive horizontally-lenticiled bark.

Prunus x incamp, Okame cherry bark

Note the horizontal banding on the Okame's bark.

In the right site, Okames are fast growers. Don’t plant them too close together. At maturity, they can easily reach a width of 20-30′ (and a height of 15-20′, although I have seen them taller).

Prunus x incamp, Okame cherry

In this garden, designed early on in my career, I made the mistake of planting two Okames less than 10' on center. Lesson learned, although the homeowner loves having them both.

So do give them lots of sun and room to grow. Fall color? Not so much here, although apparently farther north the leaves will turn attractive hues of red and gold, if you’re lucky. Good for Southern gardens, too, I’ve read, since they have a low chilling requirement. So if you’re looking for a tree that will give your garden an early start to spring, take a close look at the Okame. You won’t be sorry.

Churchill’s Garden at Chartwell

March 19, 2011

While I wait for spring to arrive, I’ve been spending some time looking at my photos from my trip to English gardens in 2002 (or thereabouts, my mind is like Swiss cheese these days). One of the gardens/historic sites we visited was Churchill’s home in Chartwell (in Kent). I remember thinking at the time this destination was announced that it couldn’t be a serious garden – unless his wife had been a devoted gardener. While I have only a few images from that day, they do bring back memories of stunning vistas from the terraces behind the house and delightful surprises, both anecdotal and visual.

Chartwell Garden, Winston Churchill

Valerian and red clematis on a stone arch on one of Chartwell's upper terraces.

According to what seems to be the official Churchill website, Winston Churchill bought Chartwell in 1924 for its impressive views. Over the next 15 years, he spent considerable amounts of money on both the house and garden. There is a walled garden, generously planted in the cottage style, whose brick walls he apparently helped build himself.

Chartwell Garden, Winston Churchill

Exuberant cottage-style plantings in a section of Chartwell's gardens.

One of the most famous parts of the garden is the Golden Rose Walk, a gift from Churchill’s children to him and his wife Clementine on the occasion of their golden wedding anniversary in 1958.

Chartwell Garden, Golden Rose Walk, Winston Churchill

A view from above of the Golden Rose Walk in June.

According to the website, there are over 1000 rose bushes at Chartwell. Lady Churchill loved having cut flowers in the house, and we saw plenty of roses, as well as other flowers, in the arrangements inside the house – as well as out in the gardens.

In 1945, the expense of maintaining Chartwell was troubling Churchill. A group of wealthy friends arranged to purchase the property and donate it to the National Trust (which maintains it today), with the stipulation that he be allowed to live in it at a nominal rent until his death. In 1966, one year after his death, Chartwell opened to the public and remains open to visitors today. Visit it if you can.

Bewitching Witchhazels

March 12, 2011

Yes, I know, spring is just around the corner – but those of us in the mid-Atlantic region of the eastern U.S. aren’t quite there yet. Still, there is some excitement to be had in the garden these days, especially if you are fortunate enough to have somewhere in your landscape a witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia). These shrubs usually grow about 12-15′ high and have a wide spread at maturity. Their strap-like, twisted petals are a sight for sore eyes in winter.

Hamamelis x intermedia, Dumbarton Oaks, winter shrubs

A witchhazel in flower at Dumbarton Oaks in early March. I'm not sure, but I think its a Jelena.

As I wrote when I first began this blog, it was the sight of a ‘Jelena’ witchhazel in bloom at the National Arboretum, many years ago, which helped spark my interest in garden photography. But when it comes to planting them, it’s hard to choose a favorite. All of them provide welcome color at the end of winter, when a gardener’s soul – and eyes – are eager for spring to arrive. The petals, which appear on bare stems, are lightly fragrant. And there’s even a bonus, in the fall, of beautifully colored foliage.

Do you like yellows? I saw two specimens at Dumbarton, close by each other (not far from the Orangerie), that were equally lovely. Thanks to a little sleuthing by my work colleague, Abby Yager, I’m able to identify them for you.
The first one is Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise,’ with a rich golden yellow color. This is a favorite for landscape designers since it’s quite vigorous and reliable; it was developed at the Arnold Arboretum.  This particular specimen, according to Dumbarton Oaks, was grafted onto  H. virginiana rootstock.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise,' Dumbarton Oaks

Hamamelis x intermedia Arnold Promise, at Dumbarton Oaks (grated onto H. virginiana rootstock)

Prefer something a bit paler? Here’s Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Angelly.’ Its pale yellow flowers really stand out against a dark evergreen background.

Hamamelis x 'Angelly', Dumbarton Oaks

Angelly witchhazel at Dumbarton Oaks in March

According to what I’ve been able to learn, ‘Angelly’ is a more upright-shaped witchhazel that blooms relatively late in the season. Around here, you see most witchhazels in bloom in  late February into early March. There is another species, H. mollis, which blooms in late fall.

New cultivars are developed regularly. But sometimes if you dig a little into history, you learn something fascinating and sweet about the old tried-and-true cultivars. According to Wikipedia, Jelena and Robert de Belder of Arboretum Kalmthout, selecting for red cultivars, found three: the first, with bronze flowers, was named ‘Jelena’; the next, with red flowers, was named ‘Diane’ (the name of their daughter); the last, with deep red flowers, was called ‘Livia’ (the name of their granddaughter). Nothing like keeping it in the family. Now I just need to find space for one in my own garden.

Celebrating Chanticleer

March 5, 2011

And now for something different. Last year I put together a photo essay for my camera club’s spring program, featuring images taken over the years at Chanticleer Garden. Here’s the chance for you to see it too. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did making it and sharing it with other friends. Thank you, YouTube.


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