The gardener's eye
The Gardener's Eye
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Wave Hill has its own Adirondack chair so why shouldn't Peterborough? About ten years ago, I designed a signature Adirondack chair for the parks of Peterborough. They are custom made to our specifications by Scott Masi of York, Maine http://www.chairmanoftheboardfurniture.com/. I wanted a large chair with an arm rest wide enough to hold your lunch. They are very comfortable, well built and feel like they belong in New England.
Bob Wilder, who works for the town, takes the chairs out of storage each spring and today was the day! I asked if I could take a picture of the first person I noticed using the chairs. The woman, named Nancy, happily obliged and I got a quick shot in Putnam Park. She told me she is new in town and would love to volunteer in the parks! Hopefully I will see her next Wednesday morning for our next volunteer gardening session.
4.7.10 Narcissus 'Sweetness' in the Window Boxes at my House
4.7.10 Daffodils and Grape Hyacinths Freshly Planted at Peter's Gate
4.17.10 N. 'Sweetness' doing their thing
4.17.10 My office planters: N. "Sweetness' and Hyacinthus orientalis 'Miss Saigon'
4.21.10 Narcissus 'Fortissimo' blooming from 2008 Planters in the Ruin Garden
For about 10 years, I have been planting spring bulbs in pots and planters and giving them a second life in the garden. The secret is to trick the bulbs into thinking they are in the ground the first year. If bulbs are planted in a window box or planter in the fall, they can not tolerate the change in temperature and will fail but if they are planted in your compost pile and then transferred to a window box they will flourish.
Daffodils , grape hyacinths and hyacinths are good candidates. Tulips do not work well because they are vulnerable to rodents. I like to choose daffodils that are fragrant and are good perennializers. N. 'Falconet', 'Geranium' and 'Sweetness' are good examples. N. 'Kendron', 'Thalia' and 'Stint' are long lasting in the garden but don't have as effective a fragrance. Larger daffodils that have forced successfully are N. 'Serola', 'Ceylon' and 'Fortissimo'.
A favorite grape hyacinth is Muscari latifolium. I like it because it is two-toned: having light blue florets on the top and dark violet below on each stem. Hyacinths add another color and texture with the added bonus of a heavy sweet fragrance. H. 'Peter Stuyvesant' is a lovely dark blue and H. 'Miss Saigon' is a very nice pink violet color. We tried H. 'Chestnut Flower' two years ago and we all agreed it was a putrid pink color that not a single volunteer wanted to take home to plant in their own garden!
Bulbs in planters and window boxes may seem like an extravagance but when selected and planted properly, they can also be long-lived perennials in your garden. Another advantage to this scenario is that when the bulbs are placed in the garden in early June, the holes in your planting are obvious (rather than trying to remember where they are in late October) and one can come up with the best combinations possible.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Two of the Peterborough Parks are undergoing projects this year. Both projects involve rain gardens. Rain gardens are a new concept to collect storm water and channel it into a garden that will decrease the amount of storm water that is lost to the public drainage system. Rain gardens combine environmental benefits with aesthetically pleasing plantings.
Teixeira Park is having a new pathway installed made of a permeable hard pavement that will allow water to flow through it. The pathway will loop from the sidewalk in West Peterborough. At each end of the path there will be a rain garden that will collect storm water from the street. It will be planted with plants, many of them natives, that can tolerate extremely wet conditions with periods of intermittent dry conditions. The path will connect to the Ruin Garden and a granite picnic table I like to call the "Flintstone's" table. Stone artist, Ron Higgins designed the picnic table and two benches out of huge pieces of granite. Teixeira Park was designed to have a wild theme. It has rustic granite benches throughout the park and is planted the trees, shrubs and perennials that are attractive to wildlife, particularly birds and butterflies.
The renovation of Teixeira Park is part of a larger project to revitalize West Peterorbough. New sidewalks and streetlights have been added to make that part of town much more pedestrian friendly. The project is funded by the West Peterborough TIF. A TIF is a Tax Increment Financing Plan where any additional taxes produced by new development will be put in a fund to be used to revitalize a certain section of a town. The West Peterborough TIF will be used to improve the physical infrastructure and the visual appearance of West Peterborough. They held a series of meetings with the West Peterborough TIF and members of the community and developed a plan with input from all the concerned parties.
Putnam Park will also have a new rain garden to capture run off from an abutting parking lot that has been eroding the path in the park during heavy rain storms. Our Public Works Director, Rodney Bartlett, suggested a rain garden as a solution and obtained a grant to fund the project. The park also had some tree work done to repair damage to a beautiful Pine Oak , Quercus palustris, caused by the devastating ice storm of December, 2008. Several large white and red pine trees were also removed because they were dangerous and had lost large limbs during the ice storm. We will be planting a new garden near the entrance of Putnam Park where the large pines once stood to buffer the park from the parking lot.
I will be following the progress both of these projects on my blog. If you interested in more information about rain gardens, Nigel Dunnett and Andy Clayden have written an excellent resource called, oddly enough, Rain Gardens.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
The Newly Formalized Vegetable Garden
In a normal year, late-April is the beginning of the magnolia season in Bill and Eileen Elliott's garden. This year is different (every year is different for a gardener) and the season has begun about two weeks earlier than usual. So this morning, I drove with my friend Susan to the Elliott's garden in the rural village of Hancock. You see, the magnolia I helped Susan plant in her garden several years ago isn't doing so great and she may need a replacement. I thought the Elliott's garden would be the ideal place for Susan to see how well various varieties of magnolias fared in New Hampshire.
I met the Elliotts in 1997 in Joanna Reed's garden in Malvern, PA. They, like me, had traveled from New Hampshire to visit Joanna's garden. Joanna was a superb plantswoman and had a garden chalk full of unique and interesting plants from all over the world. Joanna, a former president of the Herb Society of America, also studied at the Barnes Foundation Arboretum and was well know as an expert in woody shrubs and trees. Joanna, in her late 70's at the time, was leading several visitors around her garden and I struck a conversation with an interesting couple who were also fascinated by Joanna and her garden. As it turned out, they were from nearby Hancock, New Hampshire and were keen gardeners with a special interest in woody plants. One of trees that I saw in flower for the first time is a favorite magnolia of Eileen's, Magnolia sieboldii. In New Hampshire, Magnolia sieboldii blooms in late May. It has white cupped flowers with a delightful citrusy fragrance and 2 inch long carmine fruit which are a garden feature in August and September.
When we arrived at the Elliotts' garden, you could see the Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel' from the street. It is a cross cross of M. kobus and M. stellata. It has fuscia-pink flowers and is hardy to Zone 4. The Elliotts also have the cross 'Merrill', an Arnold Arboretum introduction with magnificent white flowers. They have several of 'The little Girl Hybrids' in bud, ready to flower in the next week ot two. The hybrids are a cross of M. lilliflora 'Nigra' and M. stellata 'Rosea' and are all shrubby growers with reddish purple flowers. The have girl's names, 'Ann', 'Betty', 'Jane', 'Judy', Ricki' and 'Susan'. They were selected for a slightly later blooming time in an effort to avoid the frost damage of M. stellata. Later in the season, the yellow flowering magnolias will be followed by M. sieboldii. Bill mentioned they also planted a bigleaf magnolia, M. macrophylla, I believe, which is not fully hardy in Zone 5 and has never flowered for them.
The Elliotts live off the grid, without electricity. They were early followers of Helen and Scott Nearing and share their philosophy of living off the land. The grow their own food in a large vegetable garden. Eileen had just planted some of the seeds and showed me her new labeling system: old knives they reclaimed from the recycling center. In the last several years, they have been adding formal elements to the vegetable garden and new paths paved with granite cobblestones.
Somehow they have also found the time to have a large ornamental garden with all kinds of unusual and hard to find trees, shrubs and perennials. Any plant that has any unique and garden-worthy characteristics that are hardy in Zone 5 are sure to be somewhere in their garden. While I was there, I spied an especially beautiful hepatica with red foliage and light purple flowers blooming in their woodland garden.
In the next several weeks, I hope tho visit the Elliotts' garden to follow the progression of magnolias. I will also have the opportunity to find plants with simultaneous blooming times that I can use as companions to magnolias or to place as a much needed contributor to the early spring gardening picture in my own garden or the public gardens in the Peterborough Parks.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Cornus officinalis and Chionodoxa sardensis are the perfect companions in the April garden. Cornus officinalis is a close relative to Cornus mas which has showier exfoliating bark and flowers about a week earlier. I have planted it in front of a yew hedge and Pinus koraiensis 'Morris Blue' to accentuate both the bark and spring flowering. Chionodxa sardensis forms a bright bluish carpet which faultlessly compliments this extraordinary dogwood.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
The borders at the Pavilion Garden at Depot Park (you can get a look at the garden during the growing season on the slide show on the sidebar) are enclosed by a low yew hedge and edged with a iron hoop fence. Depot Park was designed by Vermont garden designer and writer, Gordon Hayward www.haywardgardens.com/, in the late 1990's. At that time, there was no pavilion, just two rows of yew hedges forming an entrance to the park. Hayward also placed yew hedges at the other end of the park at the confluence of the Contoocook and Nubanusit Rivers.
When the yew hedges were young, a friend commented that they looked like soldiers marching in a long line. At first, I objected to the idea , but after some thought, I understood the criticism. I spent some time trying to think of a way to make the hedges more interesting and appealing and I came up with a solution while reading Paige Dickey's book Breaking Ground. Dickey had a chapter on Piet Oudolf's garden, Hummelo, in the Netherlands. In one now famous section, there is a series of rows of yew hedges that are clipped like waves. Each trough of a wave is aligned with crest of a wave behind it creating movement for the eye to follow. So we began shaping the waves in the hedges at Depot Park and after several years the effect was accomplished.
One of the main problems we encountered in the Pavilion Garden was that people and their dogs often walked into the plantings along the pathway. We needed to train them to keep on the path in an attractive but gently assertive way. In public plantings throughout Manhattan, there is low (about 12-18 inches tall) iron hoop fencing that protect the gardens. I wrote a grant and procured the funding for custom-made iron hoop fences at the entrance garden at the pavilion. They were a large expense, but should last many, many years with little care.
Another idea that I stole for Depot Park was planting Chionodoxa in mass under the shrubbery. The woodland garden at Wave Hill has masses and masses of Chionodoxa sardensis that have naturalized to create a bright bluish purple carpet in the woodland garden. So we did the same thing with Chionodoxa luciliae and have created an similarly spectacular effect for the spring garden.
Gardening, like all the arts, is built on a foundation of the past. If you have an understanding of gardening history, you can make informed decisions in your own garden. It is rare moment when there is a truly original shift in gardening design and I know that I will never come up with anything new in my gardens. What I can try to do is to learn from other gardens and use, but not copy verbatim, what I have learned. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I try to flatter the very best.