Posted tagged ‘fragrance’

A Knot Garden at Filoli

September 22, 2012

When I was in the Palo Alto area in June this year, I visited Filoli again (as well as the Elizabeth Gamble Garden). It was blazingly hot, and I wasn’t sure I would get any good images because of the sun and time of day. So today’s post is sort of an ode to my B&W circular polarizing filter, as you’ll see.

I knew Filoli’s gardens were formal, for the most part. But on my prior trip I hadn’t ventured far enough to discover its Knot Garden. Located just beyond its rose garden area, this was no ordinary knot garden. All the knot gardens I had seen before were clipped boxwood shapes. The one at Broughton Castle was clipped and had roses inside the spaces.

Broughton Castle, Ladies Garden, English gardens

The walled knot garden on the south side of the castle, known as the Ladies’ Garden, was established in the 1880s on the site of the sixteenth century kitchen. The fleur de lys beds are planted with Rose ‘Heritage’ and Rose ‘Gruss an Aachen’.

Oh so tidy and veddy British, don’t you think? Closer to home, I’ve seen a knot garden at the National Arboretum, with its edging plants somewhat more loosely clipped.

National Arboretum, Knot Garden

A knot garden in the National Arboretum in Washington, DC

So at Fioli, I was delighted to come across a knot garden composed of barberry, lavender, santolina, and little rosemary balls trimmed like lollipops – all viewed against a hedge of copper beech. Originally planted in 2007 by a local garden club or two, I’m not sure its shape is as tidy as the original plan, but I absolutely loved the sweeps of lavender, just coming into bloom.

Filoli Garden, lavender, knot garden

A rosemary standard is silhouetted against a copper beech hedge and provides a formal contrast to masses of Angustifolia lavandula ‘Hidcote.’

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any elevation when shooting so the shape of the knot garden isn’t that evident from my photos. And the sun glared off the barberry leaves mercilessly.

Filoli, knot garden

Here you can get an idea of the sweeps of barberry, santolina and other plants used in the Knot Garden at Filoli, with the copper beech hedge in the distance. The sun’s glare on the barberry leaves is very evident.

Filoli, knot garden

A more tightly-cropped view of the same scene, with three of the rosemary standards visible from left to right, ending at an opening in the hedge.

Finally, I brought out the polarizer for my 24-120mm lens, and used it to cut the glare on the barberry shrubs. Here’s the result.

Filoli, knot garden, circular polarizer

Now the barberry leaves, while a deeper red due to the polarizer’s effect, have lost their glare. And I like the line of the plantings as they lead your eye back to that little rosemary standard.

For more information on Filoli’s Knot Garden, click here. I have to say I didn’t experience the layout as two separate shapes as shown in this description, but gardens change over time. And I loved seeing the concept updated for a California climate!

My Determined Daphne

January 27, 2012

About ten years ago, when I redesigned my front yard, I planted a winter daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’) in front of the seating area under my now-departed crabapple tree.

Daphe odora 'Aureomarginata', winter daphne

Visible just behind the weeping yew in the front of the photo, my daphne has persevered through all kinds of weather, including snow in April 2007.

I planted it because I had a shady front yard, a high-profile location I wanted to fill with a specimen plant, and most of all because I loved the way this plant smells when it’s in bloom, usually in late March or early April. Heavenly.

What I didn’t know at the time was that very few daphnes grow to maturity looking like the one in the link here. Many, if not all, of the ones I’ve planted or encountered, develop a strange tendency to start growing horizontally. Mine is so “sideways” now that much of its “trunk” lies on the ground, and most of the foliage branches are propped up on the flagstone landing in front of the bed. Recently, a deer (I think) stepped on it in the center, breaking off a big chunk of the shrub.

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata', daphne growing sideways

Ouch. Whatever roundish shape the daphne had before has been severely compromised, to say the least.

I winced and cut off the broken branch, then tried an experiment to see if I could “force” cuttings from the broken piece to bloom inside. No luck, as you can see.

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata'

This is as good as it got. A couple of days later, the leaves started yellowing and falling off, while the buds stayed determinedly shut.

Over the years, as my daphne has gotten older, harsh winters have made me think it’s about to give up the ghost.

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata'

In a real snowstorm, shortly after it was planted. Plucky little thing.

But to my surprise, when bloom time comes, in late winter, it perks up and lets forth with its gorgeous scent, determined to give me another season of bloom.

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata'

My daphne's buds, starting to open.

Now that my front yard is sunnier, I don’t know if the daphne will survive the sun’s onslaught.

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata'

No longer sheltered by the crabapple's branches, the daphne will now get strong sun in the front yard, even though it faces north.

Check with me this time next year. I would hate to have to move it, but if it proves necessary, I’ll try transplanting it, broken branch and all.  After all, it’s surprised me before with its determination to survive. Perhaps it will do so again. Fingers crossed.

“Winter Sun” in the Garden

December 3, 2011

It’s late November as I write this. Opportunities for photographing gardens are almost nil (although I did happen on a fabulous fall garden a couple of weeks ago when a new client contacted me). With the soaking rains here last week, all the leaves are down (except for those blasted oak leaves, which will last until January) so finding something to shoot is a challenge.

Enter an invitation from one of my ongoing garden owner clients to come see his mahonia. Ho hum, I thought. How interesting can that be? Answer: plenty, when the mahonia in question is Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun.’

Mahonia x media 'Winter Sun'

'Winter Sun' mahonia lighting up the landscape in late November in a client's garden.

The client had mentioned that he had “a few” of these mahonia around the upper part of his garden, whose hardscape areas were designed several years ago by Corinna Posner (her own garden backs up to this one). But I was totally unprepared for the impact the bright yellow blooms of  ‘Winter Sun’ had on the surrounding areas.
Mahonia x media 'Winter Sun'

Mahonia x media 'Winter Sun', winter garden

The blooms of two plants of 'Winter Sun' lead your eye up into the far parts of the garden - and don't you just love the contrast with the pumpkins?

Mahonia x media 'Winter Sun', fall

The blooms of Mahonia 'Winter Sun' provide a great foil for the fading rust and red colors of adjoining deciduous shrubs as well as its own dark green foliage

Up close, the blooms are even more striking, and faintly fragrant as well.

Mahonia x media 'Winter Sun'

The spiky blooms on 'Winter Sun' turn from chartreuse-green to a bright yellow.

After seeing this beauty in my client’s garden, I looked it up online. ‘Winter Sun’ mahonia is hardy only from zones 7 to 9, prefers a partially shady site sheltered from wind, and will grow to about 10 feet tall unless pruned to a lower height. It’s more fragrant than most mahonias – and should be deer-resistant although if I’m lucky enough to find one for my own garden I will be putting it to the test. For more details on this stunner, visit Great Plant Picks’ website here. And be prepared for a serious case of plant lust.

Consider the Vitex

July 1, 2011

As summer is ushered in here, I’ve noticed a lot of plants that are blooming earlier than usual, perhaps due to our rainy spring and early onset of hot weather. I see crape myrtles in full bloom in some of the gardens I visit, for pity’s sake – usually they have the grace to wait until July or August, stretching out the summer season a bit.

One of the early bloomers I’m seeing these days is Vitex agnus-castus, or the chaste tree. To be honest, the first example I saw of this shrub when I was studying woody plants at the National Arboretum didn’t impress me a lot. Touted as an alternative to butterfly bushes (which are not my favorite plants because they are so awkward in winter), I wondered why they would be considered superior. Then I came across this specimen in the garden of the William Paca House in Annapolis, and I understood.

Vitex agnus-castus, chaste tree, William Paca House

A Vitex trained as a small tree in the Paca House

The shape, the color, the leaves, all combined to create a gorgeous impression. The blossoms have a spicy fragrance that does indeed attract butterflies as well as hummingbirds, apparently.

The Vitex is hardy to Zone 7 (or possibly 6, in protected sites). Around here, one usually sees it as a shrub. The other day I saw it anchoring the corner of a mixed border bed in a lovely sidewalk garden area in the District of Columbia not far from where I live. Most of the blossoms you see here are on new growth, as the Vitex is a “cut-back” shrub.

Vitex agnus-castus

A Vitex shrub at the corner of a mixed border, providing summer color on a hot day.

But sometimes, when a Vitex is extra happy, it can grow to tree size. One night recently, on my way home, I saw just such an example, and stopped to photograph it.

Vitex agnus-castus, Chaste tree

A tree-sized specimen in northwest Washington DC.

The garden owner was outside watering a new azalea, and was kind enough to talk to me. Having lived in the house only three years, she didn’t know how old the Vitex was, but obviously treasured it. She said the past winter had been hard on it, causing them to lose some of the interior branches, and that in past years the blooms had covered virtually the entire tree, creating a spectacular effect. I can believe it, given how great the tree looked even in its current state.

I’ve planted Vitexes for a number of clients, and will continue to do so. For a little background on its origins and stories behind its name, click here. But more importantly, spread the word to those friends of yours thinking about planting butterfly bushes – suggest that they consider a Vitex, instead.

Rediscovering Viburnum ‘Mohawk’

April 30, 2011

Early in my design career, I worked with a client on a master plan for a house she had moved into recently, in the District of Columbia. The back yard was designed to have two different seating areas (actually, three, if you counted the small porch overlook into the landscape). For the one nearest the house, we installed a small flagstone patio on stonedust adjacent to the deck and to a basement entrance to the house. We wanted to camouflage the entrance, which was a simple concrete opening; I chose skip laurels which over the years have done the trick.

But I also wanted to include something more ornamental that would provide fragrance, so I planted a couple of ‘Mohawk’ viburnums. Because we don’t maintain the garden on a regular basis, when we do spring cleanups in the back yard, I go along with a crew myself. And often – as this year – the visit coincides with the Mohawks in bloom. Sheer bliss.

Viburnum x 'Mohawk', blooms

Viburnum x Mohawk covered in blooms in early April

Not only are the blooms ornamental and prolific in the right site, they have a heady, clove-like fragrance that is simply intoxicating.

Viburnum Mohawk blooms

This Mohawk viburnum is covered in blooms.

And up close, the flower heads remind me strongly of crabapple blooms – another spring beauty in our region, but without the heavenly scent.

Viburnum x 'Mohawk' blooms

Even at the back of the shrub, up against a lattice screen, the blossoms are happy.

This variety of viburnum, developed by the National Arboretum’s Dr. Don Egolf (after whom a variety of the Chinese redbud was named), is resistant to leaf spot and powdery mildew. An added bonus are its orange-red leaves in fall. No wonder the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society gave it a Gold Medal Plant Award in 1993.

It’s listed as being suitable for light shade, so I am considering including it in a plan for a client with a partially shady back yard who loves fragrant plants. What a great way to start the growing year!

Red, White & Blooming at the White House

April 23, 2011

In mid-April, some friends with an extra ticket to the White House Spring Garden Tour asked if I’d like to join them. I was thrilled – I’ve never been on the White House grounds before, Congress had just come to its senses (well, at least partially) and averted a government shut-down, and I was longing for a jolt of spring. I had no idea how much we’d get to see but I chose my Nikon 24-120mm f/4 lens for the D300 and we headed downtown.

White House Spring Garden tour

The ticket and our guide to the gardens!

The White House Grounds (according to our brochure) are “the oldest continually maintained landscape in the United States” and are open to the public twice a year, for Spring and Fall Garden Tours. Over the years, the grounds have been “enhanced” by a series of landscape architects “to seem idealistically natural” (again the brochure).  I can’t say that everything I saw quite fit with that concept (for example, on a large hill in the center of the South Lawn I saw a group of massive Camellia japonicas in bloom – beautiful, but hardly “natural” looking).  Here and there, usually on the periphery of the more formal areas, however, were stands of trees in bloom or leafing out that looked more like a woodland grove if you averted your eyes from the buildings behind them.

White House Gardens

Blooming redbuds and magnolias near the Northern Red Oak planted by President Eisenhower greet visitors as they enter the South Lawn area from East Executive Park.

The tour  sent us through paths along the South Lawn, and up towards the South Portico, where on the porch a military band was serenading the crowds. I was more entranced by the neatly clipped wisteria growing up the side of the Portico and along its beautiful ornate iron railings.

White House, South Portico

Wisteria growing up the side of the South Portico porch. See the bandleader on the left side of the porch? And check out the patriotic color scheme of the red tulips and blue hyacinths against the white building.

White House Gardens, wisteria

Couldn't take my eyes off this wisteria. Look closely - it's about to bloom! If only this tour had been a week later - with lots of sun in the meantime.

Moving away from the South Portico, we caught glimpses of the Rose Garden and the Oval Office as we headed down for a glimpse of the Kitchen Garden and the views around the central fountain that faces E Street N.W.  The Kitchen Garden was neatly planted (and mulched) with lots of lettuces and herbs – cool weather crops very appropriate for the kind of temperatures we’ve been having.

White House Kitchen Garden

The Kitchen Garden, with a cherry tree (?) in bloom in the background.

White House Gardens, White House grounds

The Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial are visible from the hill on the South Lawn. Pity about the bald sky, but you can't have everything.

The magnolias, most of which were still at peak bloom, were probably my favorite trees (along with a number of huge, magnificent dissected Japanese maples just leafing out). Here’s a favorite shot of one next to some more formal plantings near the fountain.

White House Gardens

A saucer magnolia in bloom softens the clipped yew hedge and bedding bulbs surrounding it on the South Lawn.


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