Posted tagged ‘view’

Cylburn Arboretum and the Vollmer Center

November 6, 2015

Several weeks ago, my friend Sarah and I drove up to the Baltimore area to visit the Vollmer Center at the Cylburn Arboretum and walk the grounds. (We were also there to take in an exhibit of photos by my colleague Roger Foley, from a recently published book called On Walnut Hill, about a private garden in Baltimore.)

Cylburn Arboretum, over 300 acres in size, is open to the public year-round, with an historic mansion (available to rent for events) and miles of woodland walking trails. There are some cultivated garden areas up near the mansion, including one small garden space with a gazebo that was serving as the setting for a wedding when we saw it. Cylburn Arboretum

There were also a number of beautiful old dissected Japanese maples on the grounds.

A shot from the inside of an area where four Japanese maples had grown up in a circular planting area, making them look like a single, enormous tree.

A shot from the inside of an area where four Japanese maples had grown up in a circular planting area, making them look like a single, enormous tree.

It was the area nearest the Vollmer Center (and the Center itself), however, that I found most appealing the day we visited. The Center, designed by GWWO Architects, is nestled down in the landscape below the Cylburn Mansion, built into a slope and boasting views into the surrounding trees that were nothing short of spectacular the day we visited. It is modest in both size and aspect but extremely well designed, and has a number of  “green” features, including geothermal heating and cooling and composting toilets. Hope you enjoy these photos of it and its surroundings, and do plan a visit if you’re in the area.

Destruction in the Garden

January 11, 2013
tree damage

August 2012 in my side yard.

Just when you think your garden has suffered as much as it can, you find out you’re wrong.

Last year, as many readers know, I lost two beloved trees in my front yard, which turned a north-facing sloped shade garden into the horticultural equivalent of the Sahara Desert. I’m still coping with those changes.

Then, in early August, my next-door neighbor’s massive, leaning oak tree fell on their house, crushing the attic and top floors (fortunately no one was home). The canopy was wide enough to rip bricks from their chimney and hurl them into my side garden, and to crush a section of fencing, my wobbly arbor and destroy a number of shrubs. (Again, fortunately, no damage to my house, just the garden).

A closer look at the arbor area.

A closer look at the arbor area.

Arbor debris surrounded by bricks after the tree canopy was removed from the house next door.

Arbor debris surrounded by bricks after the tree canopy was removed from the house next door. The hanging line was my cable connection.

To the right of the photo above, you can see the large stand of azaleas shown in the  2011 photo below. I had just had them carefully pruned but they still suffered some damage.

The old arbor and stand of azaleas in happier days.

The old arbor and stand of azaleas in happier days.

What did Henry Mitchell say? “Wherever humans garden, there are magnificent heartbreaks. It is not nice to garden anywhere. Everywhere there are violent winds, startling once-per-five-centuries floods, unprecedented droughts, record-setting freezes, abusive and blasting heats never known before.” (From The Essential Earthman).

But gardeners are made of stern stuff. My first act after removing some shrubs damaged beyond repair (a pair of variegated Pieris japonica which would have not liked the new, additional sun anyway) and pruning broken branches off my star magnolia, was to commit to a new arbor.

A new white arbor has found a home where the old one was. Now all that remains is to decide what to plant to adorn it.

A new white arbor has found a home where the old one was. Now all that remains is to decide what to plant to adorn it.

I like looking through it from my kitchen window. And even if the new one won’t be such a line of demarcation in terms of sun and shade, it will remind me that gardens change constantly, and we have to be prepared to do so as well. So this winter I’ll curl up with my favorite gardening books and dream about how to re-design the space I see from so many windows. Opportunities beckon.

When North Becomes South

December 1, 2012

Time for a little break from my California posts – just for this week. As some of my readers know, in May 2011 I was forced to take down a 90-foot beech tree that had been the centerpiece of my front yard for as long as I’ve lived in my house.

My front yard when the beech tree ruled.

Its loss turned my north-facing front yard to the equivalent of southern exposure, and this summer I watched in horror as my lovingly-chosen shade-tolerant plants struggled to cope with direct sun for much of the day.

Hosta 'Halcyon,' sun scorch

Example 1: The ‘Halcyon’ hostas have fried in the heat. I expect to have to move them next year, and invest in more deer spray (at present their location protects them from the ravages of local Bambis).

I suspect the reason the front yard took such a direct hit has a lot to do with the fact that the house sits at the top of a steep slope. And now, any shade provided by my gorgeous, mature crabapple tree on the northeast side of the front yard is also history – the crabapple was removed shortly before last Thanksgiving because of disease problems (fireblight and other issues) and the proximity of its sagging large branches to my dining room window.

What am I most worried about? First, my awesome stand of skimmia, which over the years had spread like crazy on the slope on the left side of the front steps. I had never seen skimmia this happy in any other place I’ve tried it. But this is definitely a shade plant and last summer after the beech came down leaves began yellowing on the skimmia. In desperation, I moved many of them to the back yard, and have replaced them with Indian hawthorn, which I hope the deer will ignore.

Skimmia japonica

Two transplanted skimmia. The one on the left came from the front hill and you can see how yellowed by the sun its leaves are. I plan to prune it hard eventually to see if I can encourage new growth, but my experience is that these plants resent being moved.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers,' Hydrangea macrophylla 'Nigra,' daphne

Surprisingly, the Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ has done remarkably well despite strong sun and blistering heat since the two trees were taken down. The ‘Nigra’ hydrangea is soldiering on; I try to give it extra water. I can’t transplant everything.

In the bed of the new ‘Riversii’ beech I’ve planted to replace the old beech, I’ve put Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight,’ Ajuga ‘Black Scallop,’ and variegated Hakone grass; late in the fall I added some Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster.’ (Feather reed grass – not shown in these photos.)  Fingers crossed. I think of it as an experiment, and will keep you posted.

Fagus sylvatica 'Riversii', Cephalotaxus harringtonia

Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’, Cephalotaxus harringtonia, and groundcovers just after planting last November.

Fagus sylvatica 'Riversii,' iPhone photos, sunny exposure

Taken in early August, this photo shows how the ajuga have struggled. So has the Hakone grass, although the iPhone’s “happy face” effect tends to disguise that fact.

The Vale of the White Horse

December 31, 2011

In August I encountered one of the most mysterious landscapes I have ever seen – the Vale of the White Horse in Uffington, in Oxfordshire, England.  Although the Vale itself is fairly typical looking, with hedges delineating individual farms and holdings,

Vale of the White Horse, Uffington

The Vale of the White Horse, as seen from an outlook near the White Horse.

it is the White Horse itself that makes this destination so special.

White Horse, Uffington, Vale of the White Horse

The White Horse, viewed from below. It's much easier to photograph from an aerial perspective, but I had failed to book a helicopter.

The White Horse is described in Wikipedia as a “highly stylized prehistoric hill figure”, created of chalk (it is estimated) during the Bronze Age some 3000 years ago. (For a better aerial view of it, click here.) The figure is about 375 feet long and is cleaned periodically to keep it visible. The surrounding landscape contains some unusual ridged hills called The Giant’s Stair, and above the White Horse stands a knoll known as the Iron Age Uffington Castle.

The day we visited, the landscape was windy and clouds scuttered across the sky. A child was running with a kite.

Uffington, Vale of the White Horse

Flying a kite below the White Horse

The surrounding meadows were appropriately bleak, with an occasional outcropping of thistles.

Uffington, thistles

Purple thistles dotting the meadow grass near the Vale of the White Horse.

I won’t forget the Vale of the White Horse. See it if you can.


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