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Greenline in New York City?

High Line Garden in NYC

High Line Garden in NYC May 2010

I visited the High Line a few years ago, before it was finished, and I hope to visit this summer and walk the entire length of this beautiful elevated garden – even bigger than our own Bridge of Flowers.

End of the High Line in May 2010

End of the High Line in May 2010

The High Line ended abruptly here in May of 2010, and it was completed at the Rail Yards until September 2014.

But now there is a proposal for a Greenline garden that would turn the diagonal 40 blocks of Broadway into a garden. I can’t seem to copy a photo here, but visit my friend Rochelle Greayer at her Pith+Vigor blog for wonderful imaginations of this proposed garden, a turning Broadway into a Greenline Garden. This idea by Perkins Eastman architects would be a beautiful addition to the New York park system and  all that greenery would have positive environmental effects.

Proposed Greenline

Proposed Greenline designed bu Perkins Eastman

Adele Peters has more information which includes the fact that the Greenline is ‘just a concept” but wouldn’t it be wonderful if such a park could be a reality. What do you think?

Proposed Greenline in Manhattan

Proposed Greenline

Made in the Shade Garden

Julie Abranson

Julie Abramson

Julie Abramson now lives with a graceful shade garden, but it was not always so. Like so many of us, Julie never had much interest in her mother’s garden when she was young, but over the years she has tended three very different gardens of her own. Her first garden in Albany was cheerful. “I was inexperienced, but this garden was very floriferous. I knew nothing about trees and shrubs,” she told me as we sat admiring her very green garden filled with trees and shrubs in Northampton.

Her second garden was on a hillside with a cascade of plants including a cottonwood tree that filled the air with cotton-y fluff when it was the tree’s time to carry seeds off to produce more cottonwood trees.

I was especially interested in this, her third garden, because it is a mostly a shade garden. Julie moved to her Northampton house 12 years ago and began her garden a year later by removing 25 trees. Even so, this half acre garden grows beneath the shade of maples and conifers, and smaller sculptural trees like the pagoda dogwood.

As I struggle with creating a garden design, I asked Julie for her advice. She explained that there are certain principles that can guide plant selection and placement. “Repetition, and echoing or contrasting of foliage types are basic rules. I look for relationships between the plants, looking for arrangements that please me,” she said. “Respond to the site. My garden turns out to be a series of large triangles dictated by the landscape.”

As we walked around the house and into the gardens, she pointed out examples of these principles. The sunniest garden on the gentle south slope has shrubbery including Little Devil ninebark, arctic willow and spirea which give weight to the repetition of garlic chives, nepeta and blue caryopteris. A boulder adds to that weight and the natural feel of this garden.

Pieris, Leuchothoe and geranium

Foundation planting: Pieris, Leuchothoe and geranium

Julie edited the foundation planting she inherited to make it less dense and more interesting by layering. One section starts with tall pieris that blooms in the spring, and in front of that is the graceful broadleaf evergreen leucothoe which also blooms in the spring. Hugging the ground is geranium macrorrhizum with its paler foliage. These layers contrast different foliage forms, textures and color.

I loved the long daylily border on the sunny side of the house which was ending its bloom season. Julie told me a secret. This border has an early bloom season when the daffodils planted  in and among the daylilies bloom. After bloom the daffodil foliage gets lost in the early daylily foliage and the gardener never needs to endure browning straggle, or worry about cutting back the foliage too early depriving the bulbs of new energy.

Of course, it was the shade garden that was of particular interest to me.  It is the shade garden that Julie admires from her study, the dining room and the screened porch. This is a more natural woodland garden planted with many natives and other shade-loving plants. Earlier in the season there is more color when shrubs like fragrant clethera and perennials like astilbe, heucherella and others are in bloom.

Right now the garden is mostly green. “I am a collector and have many different plants, but I also like calmness. I try to integrate the two sides of who I am with two sides of the garden.” She pointed out that the entry to the shade garden is a kind of tapestry where one groundcover blends into another. “This is a calm way to taper the garden,” she said.

Julie confesses to a love of mounding plants like the caryopteris and garlic chives in the sunny garden and arctic willow, hostas and heucherellas in the shade garden. There is a repetition of burgundy, and green and white foliage. “The mounds are distinct but they relate to each other. Your eye keeps moving because you can see a repeat of color or form just beyond,” she said.

Shade Garden Path

Shade garden path

She has curving paths edged by mass plantings of ajuga, hostas and bergenia that keep leading the eye along. There is a sense of movement. “The curve makes me very happy,” she said.

She struggles with the dry, root-y soil. Her first year she spread 6 inches of compost and planted in that, which is not recommended practice, but she said it worked well for her.

Julie has a simple routine for maintaining the garden. In the spring she gives her garden a thorough weeding. Then, with some help, she spreads a layer of compost over the whole garden, followed by spreading layer of wood chip mulch, again with some help. After the mulch is applied she considers the main work of the garden done. In the fall she edits the garden, dividing, removing or adding plants. “It is not just the garden itself, but the whole process of gardening that gives me pleasure,” she said.

Our style, our approach, to our gardens carries through from the way we choose and arrange our plants to the way we care for it. Although Julie gives great thought and care to the arrangements of plants the effect is of unstudied grace. Gardeners are very generous and share knowledge and experience, as well as plants, but somehow no two gardens are ever the same.

I came away from Julie Abramson’s garden with new ideas and examples of how to arrange the plants in my new garden, but we can both be confident that my garden will not be a copy of hers.

Between the Rows September 5, 2015

Greenfield Garden Club

 

Greenfield Garden Club members

Greenfield Garden Club members: Lynda Tyler

Who wouldn’t want friends who like to play in the dirt? Who are always learning new things? Who like to get out and about and see new beautiful places? Who everyday notice and appreciate the glorious world around them? Who are always thinking of ways to make their community more beautiful?

A group of people who all wanted friends like that decades ago and formed the Greenfield Garden Club and happily had their regular meetings in the afternoons. But we all know that time inevitably brings change. It was the change in women’s lives that brought about a re-formation of the Club in 1991. More and more women were working and afternoon meetings were no longer feasible. And more men wanted to join too.

So it was that in 1991 Richard Willard, Debran Brocklesby, Judge Alan McGuane, Margareta Athey and Jan (McGuane, as she was then) Adam, were among those who  reorganized the group. The first rule was the installation of evening meetings.

Jan Adam told me that the new Greenfield Garden Club got off to a slow start, but by the end of the first year it had over 100 members. “The mission of the club was to provide education for the gardeners, and to the community, and to work to improve and beautify community spaces.”

I can tell you that a lot of happy and friendly education takes place on field trips to nurseries and flower shows. Lots of comparing of notes and experiences, lots of new creative ideas are born at meetings and on trips.

The new Club has also seen changes over the past 24 years. A newsletter was born and mailed to members, with news of the club’s events, garden reminders, short garden features, and a list of vendors who give discounts to members. Nowadays that newsletter is emailed. There is also a Facebook page, and a website, www.thegreenfieldgardenclub.org, that lists meeting dates with program information, and information about the School and Community Grant program including a list of this year’s awards.

I have served on the grant committee and it is wonderful to see the great projects that teachers are creating to teach their students about botany (at an appropriate level) growing food, the deliciousness of fresh vegetables, and the ways plants affect the environment including pollinators. The goal of these grants is to engage the children in gardening, and eating fresh vegetables, and give them a better awareness of the natural world in the small space of a garden. When I read those grant applications I cannot help harking back to my days at UMass where there was emphasis on teaching skills like math, reading and writing through projects like gardening, cooking, wood working and other kinds of practical projects. It is a joy to see it happening.

Adam explained that while the Club did have its own town beautification program for a time, it involved so much work that now the club partners with other organizations to make and keep the town a beautiful place.

Because gardening is so closely allied to cooking, members volunteer at the August community meal at the First Congregational Church. “The club has so many good cooks, and we always bring bouquets of flowers which people really enjoy,” Adam said.

In order to pay for these programs the club has two fundraising events every year, the Extravaganza Plant Sale will be held Saturday, May 23 from 8 am to 1pm. “There are big changes this year because the sale will be held at St. James Episcopal Church on Federal Street which will make it much easier for people to find parking. In addition to all manner of plants, perennials, annuals, herbs and houseplants, there will be baked goodies, and a tag and book sale. For the first time we will also have vendors selling garden related products,” Adam said.

Fabulous garden on the 2014 Greenfield Garden Club  tour

Fabulous garden on the 2014 Greenfield Garden Club garden tour

The second big fundraiser is the Annual Garden Tour which gives gardeners the opportunity to visit some really stunning, and very different private gardens in the area, not only Greenfield. This year that tour will be on Saturday, June 27 from 9 am – 4 pm. Tickets ($12) to this self-guided tour will be on sale at the Trap Plain garden at the intersection of Silver and Federal Streets. Tickets will be on sale all morning. It is best to leave pets at home.

The gardens on the tour are always a surprise. Some are small and amaze me by their artful use of so many common plants, and so many unusual plants that are as stunning as a piece of art. The tour is a place to learn about plants, but also about how to arrange a landscape. Sometimes, a farm makes it into the tour. There is always something for everyone.

Even though it is the GreenfieldGarden Club, membership is open to anyone who wants to join the fun. I have been a member for years.

Between the Rows   May 16, 2015

School Gardens – Innovation and Discovery School

 

Discovery School Garden

Discovery School Garden

When I arrived last Thursday afternoon the scene at the school gardens of the  Discovery School at Four Corners were enjoying controlled chaos. Several teachers were staying after school to divide and pot up perennials from the butterfly garden.

“Is this Echinacea or a rudbeckia?” one teacher asked and her spade bit into the center of the clump.

“Don’t pot the dill! It an annual,” another shouted.

“Are you sure these are all bee balm?” another asked looking at a huge clump of wilted and frost-blackened stems.

All of the newly potted plants, as well as kale and potatoes from the garden, were to be sold at the Harvest Sampler the following day. Funds raised would go to the school gardens.

I have visited many school gardens, but never have I visited a school where the garden was a driving force in the curriculum. The DiscoverySchool at Four Corners (K-3) was one of the first Innovation Schools created by a program instituted by Governor Deval  Patrick in 2010. Innovation schools have a theme; the teachers and parents who came together to design this new program chose gardening, with a broad environmental focus.

Kathy LaBreck, one of the teachers who was a moving force in getting the Innovation designation said that the nine acre site of the school was a big inspiration. “We thought the kids would be very interested in plants and that would be a great benefit. We see the children are so proud of their very concrete achievements, and their pride is a validation of the program.”

On the day I visited several of the raised garden beds were nearly finished and ready for the final harvest. Others already showed a sturdy growth of winter rye, a cover crop that will be tilled under in the spring to fertilize the soil and add organic matter.

My neighbor, and teacher at Four Corners, Kate Bailey told me the kids love the gardens, and the harvest. She has her own reasons for loving the gardens. “It is very easy to integrate the gardens, and cooking the produce, into the curriculum. When we planted the rye we talked about grains. When we cook, and we’ve made a lot of muffins with our harvest, we need many skills. To cook you need to read, follow directions, and of course handle lots of fractions,” she said.

For the Harvest Sampler Bailey said each grade made dishes with their own vegetable. She had to explain that the kindergarteners had been studying apples in particular so they made apple recipes. The school also has a dehydrator and making dried apple rings has been very popular

The first graders have been studying tomatoes. Lots of salsa has been made.

The second graders have been studying carrots which leads to carrot salads, muffins and cakes.

The third graders have been studying potatoes. Potato chips!

Bailey explained that volunteers from Just Roots, the GreenfieldCommunityGarden who helped set up the garden in the beginning, have been coming in every week to talk about Healthy Snacks.

In fact the desire to teach children the importance of a healthy diet was one of LaBreck’s goals. “Children who work in the garden, and grow their own vegetables are more willing to try new foods,” she said.

Teacher Anne Naughton stopped potting up plants long enough to tell me how excited she is about working with children in the garden. “The kids love the gardens, and they love the butterflies, and all the insects. They are so curious and interested. Their curiosity leads us into our lessons. We follow life cycles of plants and insects, and seasonal cycles. The first scientific skill is careful observation,” she said.

Suzanne Sullivan, the school principal, said the whole nine acres are used for instruction. The vegetable beds are producing, as is the strawberry bed, apple and pear trees have been planted, and pollinator plants help provide the insects needed for study. There is even a nature trail created by an Eagle Scout Patrick Crowningshield in 2011. “The goal is to foster an environmental awareness in the children, even beyond the gardens, she said

“The teachers have been very collaborative,” Sullivan said. “The students have been responsive and are so engaged.  We do focus on very hands-on learning.”

At Friday night’s Harvest Sampler, held in the school yard near the gardens, it was clear that there is great support for the program. A huge turnout of parents arrived bearing their own contributions to the Sampler, more apple, tomato, carrot, and potato dishes. Who imagined learning could be so delicious?

The Massachusetts School Report Card shows students the DiscoverySchool at Four Corners have high levels of proficiency or better English Language Arts and Mathematics. It’s clear the teachers at the DiscoverySchool at Four Corners all get high marls themselves.

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The 2015 UMass Extension Garden Calendar is now available. This excellent, and beautiful, calendar contains excellent information about plants and garden chores throughout the year.  To order send $12 payable to UMass, to Garden Calendar, c/o Five Maples, 78 River Road South, Putney, VT 05346. Add $3.50 for the first calendar and $2.00 for each additional calendar. Think of all the gardeners in your life you could make happy.

UMass Extension Garden Calendar 2015

UMass Extension Garden Calendar 2015

Beetween the Rows   October 25, 2014

Bridge of Flowers in August

Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls

Dahlias on Bridge of Flowers

I was walking across the Bridge of Flowers this morning and it is clear this is high Dahlia season. I don’t know the names of these varieties, but I am going to look through the  Swan Island Dahlia catalog and see if I can get names for some of these.

Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls

Pink Dahlias on Bridge of Flowers

Some dahlias have a more tender hue.

China Doll Dahlia

China Doll Dahlia

China Doll is a dahlia that everyone loves.

Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls

Dahlia on the Bridge of Flowers

Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls

Dahlia on the Bridge of Flowers

Dahlias come in so many forms and sizes.

Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls

Shaggy Dahlia on the Bridge of Flowers

Do you think ‘Shaggy’ is a dahlia class?

Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls

Stone Fountain at Bridge of Flowers

After all the fire of the dahlias it is nice to have a cool place to sit .

Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls

Shade garden on the Shelburne side of the Bridge of Flowers

Leaping Fish sculpture

Leaping Fish sculpture

Before I left the Bridge I had to go and take another look at the new school of fish leaping up river on the Buckland side. Thank you John Sendelbach. 

The Bridge hosts what is essentially a joyful garden party every day of the year from April 1 to October 30. Visitors from all over the country – yea all over the world – come here to enjoy the flowers, tended by a gardener, assistant gardener, many volunteers and overseen by the Bridge of Flowers committee, a part of the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club.

Mary Lyon Church Garden Tour – July 19, 2014

Waterlily Pond and Bog Garden

Waterlily Pond and Bog Garden

Garden tour season continues! The MaryLyonChurch garden tour is scheduled for Saturday, July 19 from 10 am to 4 pm and includes seven gardens in Buckland and two gardens in West Hawley.

Shirley Scott and Joe Giard

Shirley Scott and Joe Giard

I had the good fortune to visit Shirley Scott and Joe Giard’s garden ahead of time. This has one of the most challenging sites I have ever seen for a garden. The main challenge of her site has been the very steep slope to the left of the house. This grassy slope with its interruptions of ledge has become the SlopeGarden with a series of beds of strong growing plants like daylilies, tall New England asters and miscanthus grasses. Stairs have been cut into the hill, but visitors will probably prefer to begin by strolling through the gardens on the shady side of the house.

Scott says the garden has fulfilled her childhood dream of having waterlilies, and her vision of a garden filled with wildlife.

That wildlife needed a very close look when she was giving me a tour of the Welcoming Bed at the entry to the property. This bed is filled with chrysanthemums, tiger lilies, foxglove, yellow loosestrife (not the invasive purple variety) iris, black eyed susans, peonies and sedums. There is also milkweed, blooming at this time of the year and providing nectar for many butterflies that were dancing through the garden.

At one point we stopped because we saw some filmy fibers on one of the tall sedum plants. A very close look showed that this film enclosed hundreds of very tiny baby spiders. A closer look showed us that a large spider was on a nearby leaf. Could it have been the mama?  We’ll never know, but it was a very exciting moment when we could watch a certain kind of wild life being lived in the garden.

Of course, Scott explained they have larger wild life enjoying the garden, all manner of birds, bears, bobcats, coyotes and turtles.

If you walk first through the shade gardens you’ll come to the newest of Scott’s three water gardens, a kind of shallow stepped fountain on a gentle slope. This area is where Scott places her bird feeders. The large trees provide shelter for the birds, and the sound of water attracts them. She explained the water feature is still being refined, and she reminded me that the garden is all a work in progress. This is a concept that she does not need to explain to any experienced gardener.

In back of the house and outbuildings is Giard’s fenced vegetable garden where he has made unique use of a TV antenna and automobile tires. It always pays to look around the house and garage before you go out and buy new garden equipment.

Waterlily pond closeup

Waterlily pond closeup

The water gardens are one of the most inspiring aspects of this garden, each one different. Soon you come to the first one she designed and made by herself. This small pool is surrounded by stones that can accommodate a small metal table and chairs.  Here she can enjoy the sound of the water, and a view of her waterlilies. “When it was first installed I sat there and thought I had died and gone to heaven,” she said.

It is also from this spot at the bottom of the SlopeGarden that you can look into the faces of all those blooming sun lovers.

The second water garden is much larger and more ambitious with beautiful stone work. Giard brought all the Goshen stone down the slope to a sunny flat site. ChapleyGardens in Deerfield installed this garden with a recirculation pump and filtration system. In addition to the musical waterfall, and more waterlilies, there is an adjoining bog garden, and a collection of daylilies which will be in full bloom at the time of the tour.

This large garden is artfully arranged so that different views can be admired from various vantage points. Perhaps the most delightful view is from the small shaded gazebo at the top of the slope which gives a panoramic view of the Welcoming Garden, the Slope Garden beds and the large Water Garden.

I love visiting other gardens because I love seeing the ways a gardener’s dreams take form. Scott is an “Ashfield girl” and she has brought favorite plants from her mother, grandmother and friends into the garden where her childhood dream of a waterlily pond has become a reality. This is a garden of memory and dreams.

Scott’s garden is just one of the beautiful gardens on the tour which include a secret garden, a labyrinth, a farm, and gardens around historic buildings in Buckland. A farm, and a multi-faceted array of perennial gardens are located in West Hawley. The tour begins at 10 am and ends at 4 pm. Tickets are available by calling Cyndie Stetson at 339-4231 or Lisa Turner at 339-4319. Tickets will also be on sale at the MaryLyonChurch on the morning of July 19. Tickets are $10 and there will be a luncheon served at the MaryLyonChurch for an additional $10. Reservations should be made ahead of time for the lunch. All profits benefit the Church.

Between the Rows   July 12, 2014

 

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – July 15, 2014

Daylilies on the Bank

Daylilies on the Bank

On this July Garden Bloggers Bloom Day the Daylily Bank is just starting to come into bloom. By August my garden in the upper elevations of Western Massachusetts  should be filled with gentle, but riotous  color.

Buckland Rose

Buckland Rose

At the same time there is still enough rose bloom to be enjoyed from our dining table. The Buckland rose bush began a little late and so is quite floriferous now. The same is true of the Meideland red, and white, as well as Rachel, Celestial, Ispahan, Queen of Denmark on the Rose Walk. I had given up hopeof ever seeing Rosamunda, a striped rose, but she woke up too.

Passionate Nymph's Thigh

Passionate Nymph’s Thigh

The Passionate Nymph has been just amazing this year. She put out lots of strong new growth and is STILL blooming.

Purington Rambler

Purington Rambler

The vigorous Purington rambler also began to bloom a little later this year, like any number of flowers in my garden.

Hydrangea "Mothlight'

Hydrangea “Mothlight’

“Mothlight” is the oldest and largest of my hydrangeas, but the oakleaf, “Limelight” and “Pinky Winky” are producing some bloom – having survived deer, bitter cold, and the town plow.

Astilbe

Astilbe

I was able to give some of the pink astilbe to the Bridge of Flowers plant sale in May, but it is hardly missed. Another pink astilbe, “Bressingham Beauty” blooms in the South Lawn Bed. In general the year has been so cool that I still have many many pansy and johnny jump up volunteers in full  bloom.

Achillea "Terra Cotta"

Achillea “Terra Cotta”

I just love the shades of  Achillea “Terra Cotta.”  I have given away several clumps of this strong grower.

Achillea "Paprika"

Achillea “Paprika”

This is supposed to be “Paprika” but I have my doubts. I ordered it after I saw a truly paprika orange achilea (yarrow) in a friend’s garden, and this has never matched that spicy hue.  I think I will  have to buy “Paprika” again and see if I have any better luck.

Yellow Loosestrife

Yellow Loosestrife

Yellow Loosesstrife is not an invasive plant, but it is persistent. This plant was growing here when we moved in in November 1979.  Well, not actually during the winter, but in the spring of 1980, and very welcome were those sunny blooms.

Cosmos, snapdragon, echinacea purpurea

Cosmos, snapdragon, echinacea purpurea

Of course I have dependable annuals to make sure there is always some bloom in the garden. Here are cosmos, white snapdragons, and Echinacea purpurea just coming into bloom.

Cuphea llavera

Cuphea llavera

I tried some new annuals to the standard pots of petunias, geraniums, and million bells. This is Cupea llavea or bat-faced cuphea. You have to use your imagination to see the bat face in the purple and with scarlet ears, but I love the intense color. This is described as a shrub so maybe by the end of the summer I’ll have a really substantial plant sharing pot space with this silvery foliage.

Love Lies Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding

I first saw Love Lies Bleeding at Wave Hill many years ago. Growing in the ground it was a large lush plant with lots of those drooping flowers. My reaction?  What IS that?! It is not as eye stopping growing in a pot. I put two seedlings in the ground and they haven’t yet caught up. I am watching to see how they develop. Of course, I have not Wave Hill’s climate, and maybe not its soil either.

Torenia and daisies

Torenia and daisies

I have a number of other annuals, daisy like,-like flowers in white, yellow and blue. These blue torenia are not spreading quite as I hoped but they are beautiful ground huggers. They are also labeled deer resistant and I have to say they are doing better that some of the other plants in the garden.

In spite of all the weather trials this yyear I am quite happy with all the bloom. I thank Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Bloom Day and giving all of us a chance to show off, and to admire gardens all across the country.

A Paradise Garden in Turners Falls

Paradise garden

The paradise garden in Turners Falls

Ed McAvoy (88) and Lynn Hoffman (‘nearly 90’) are peeking into their paradise garden in Turners Falls. When Lynn and Ed built their little suite in the house belonging to Ed’s daughter, they knew they had to have a garden. When I saw it I was reminded that the word paradise originally came from the old Persian word for a walled compound. This small walled garden shows that paradise can exist at any size. There is room for sociability and a meal of sweets.

Honeysuckle and grapvines

Honeysuckle and grape vines

Surely honeysuckle and grapevines must live in any paradise garden. (These photos were taken a week ago, when the garden was still  filling out.)

'Benjamin Britten' rose

‘Benjamin Britten’ rose

Lynn demanded this ‘Benjamin Britten’ rose, a David Austin hybrid for her paradise.

Another rose

Another rose

And another rose added to the paradisical details.  In a small garden the details count  for a lot, Each plant chosen will bring color and form that will give pleasure all season.

'Alabama Crimson' Honeysuckle

‘Alabama Crimson’ Honeysuckle

The Alabama Crimson’ honeysuckle will add fragrance as well as color, form, – and exuberance.

Hibiscus

Hibiscus

And this exotic hibiscus will shine in the garden all season long.

Seeking Spring at the Leonard J. Buck Garden in NJ

 

Leonard J. Buck Garden

Leonard J. Buck Garden

I went to New Jersey, the Garden State, to search for spring and found it at the Leonard J. Buck Garden in Far Hills. My brother Tony and his wife Joan took us to the 29 acre garden which was originally part of Mr. Buck’s estate. In the 1930s Buck began working with Zenon Schreiber, a well-known landscape architect, to create a naturalistic garden that incorporated the various rock outcroppings, the sinuous Moggy Brook and two ponds.

I was searching for spring, but she was elusive, even in the Buck Garden which is, to a large extent, a spring garden. Trees were barely leafing out, it was too early for the groves and allees of azalea and rhododendron that would be spectacular by the end of May, and even the large patches of primroses were not blooming. What we did find were certain rocky areas in bloom that seemed to encourage us and remind us that spring was finally on her way.

The stone outcroppings vary in size and height, creating different microclimates. My sister-in-law- Joan and I spent a lot of time that day talking about and marveling at the power of microclimates. For example the primroses in the large boggy sections of the garden were almost entirely without bloom because this garden has also been having a very cool spring. And yet, nestled against the Big Rock stone cliff primroses were blooming happily in the sun.

Growing among the soil pockets were a number of colorful spring bloomers from the delicate red and yellow native columbine, brilliant basket-of-gold, petite iris reticulata, epimediums, barren strawberry, trillium, bluets, familiar creeping phlox, bleeding hearts and small narcissus like ‘Jack Snipe.’

It does not take long for most of us to identify the microclimates in our own gardens, and learn to take advantage of those spots where a plant will be protected from the wind, or where stone might act as a heat collector as well as a wind barrier. In those protected spots we can grow plants that are marginally hardy in our zone, or get earlier bloom.

Hellebores at the Leonard J. Buck garden

Hellebores at the Leonard J. Buck garden

There were various plantings of pink or white Helleborus orientalis or Lenten rose. I first became familiar with these lush early bloomers on the Bridge of Flowers. Last year when I attended the opening of the newly redesigned Monks Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Michael Van Valkenburg promised that this spring the garden would be ‘crazy with hellebores’ which had been planted, along with ferns and shiny European ginger, under the new young trees.

One of the pleasures of visiting the Buck garden is the ability to see closeup woodland plants that you don’t often find in cultivated gardens. There were trilliums, red and white, just coming into bloom, guinea hen fritillarias, and sunny marsh marigolds that shone in a boggy spot.

Another sunny plant that stopped us was a clump of yellow flowers with sharply recurved petals, and mottled leaves. I couldn’t remember their scientific name (Erythronium americanum) but thought they were trout lilies. I pointed out the mottled leaves to Tony and Joan, explaining that they could be said to resemble the markings on brown trout. I thought they were also known as dogtooth violets even though they are not violets and do not resemble dog’s teeth in any way. Of course, later we had to do some research, and I was correct as far as I went. We learned the dog’s tooth refers to the little corm from which it grows.

Trout Lilies at Leonard J. Buck Garden

Trout Lilies at Leonard J. Buck Garden

Later in the day, at another garden, we saw a similar clump of flowers I thought were trout lilies again, but the petals were not curved back. We looked all over for a label, but only found one that said Bletilla striata. More research. These were trout lilies, but we learned it takes strong sun to make the petals curve back. Bletilla striata is a small purple ground orchid. No purple flowers of any kind were in sight. Which just goes to show you have to be careful when looking at plant labels. The plant they refer to may not yet be blooming, or the label may have been moved, but not with any accuracy.

While doing this trout lily research I also learned that every part of the plant is edible. One warning. I can’t anyone would actually manage to eat a large number, but in large amounts trout lilies act as an emetic. However a few blossoms to brighten up a salad will not hurt.

Most of us will never have enough trout lilies to take up roasting and eating the little corms. They are very slow growing. It takes seven years for a plant to mature, bloom and begin to reproduce. Mostly they increase by runners, not by seed. If you find a colony in a damp humusy woodland it is likely to be quite old. I prefer to just admire them because they are so lovely.

New Jersey has quite a number of public gardens that are a part of the park system. After we left the Buck Garden, and refreshed ourselves with a hearty lunch, we went on to Willowwood Arboretum, New Jersey’s largest (130 acres) and longest continually operating arboretum. You will hear more about the gardens there, as well as the trees, in the future.

Between the Rows  May 3, 2014

Primrose or Primula- Spring Delight

Primroses at Leonard J. Buck Garden, New Jersey

Primroses at Leonard J. Buck Garden, New Jersey

Primroses are a wonderful early spring flower. Last weekend I toured the Leonard J. Buck Garden with my brother and his wife. Spring has been slow there, as well as here, but a few of the primroses were in bloom.

Primula denticulata

Primula denticulata

 

There are many types of primroses, but all of them are hardy and  like a damp site and humusy soil. I have even seen them growing in the water at the edge of  a temporary spring stream. They bloom in the spring before most trees have leafed out and enjoy the sun, but they will need some shade as summer arrives. They are easy to transplant. You can divide them and transplant them after they bloom. Be sure to keep them well watered after transplanting. They will spread if they are in a happy spot.

Primroses come in a variety of forms and colors, but none of them are difficult to grow. I got my first primrose at a local supermarket. I planted it at the edge of a woodland and it has bloomed for many years but it has not spread very much. I think that spot is not as wet as would be ideal.

I once planted some primroses between some rhododendrons, but that was not a good idea. The rhodies grew and their low branches hid the primroses. I moved them to join my supermarket primrose and they are all quite happy.

 

Candelabra primrose

Candelabra primrose

These candelabra primroses grow on the Bridge and Flowers and I expect some of them will be for sale at the Annual Plant Sale on Saturday, May 17 in Shelburne.

Yellow primroses

Yellow primroses

I love the buttery yellow primroses. They make me think spring will soon be here.