Kykuit: The Rockefeller Estate

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October is a lovely time to visit gardens that have strong architectural features and autumn leaf color. Kykuit in Westchester County, New York, offers beautiful architecture, stunning views, and world-class artwork.

photo from hudsonvalley.org

photo from hudsonvalley.org

The Kykuit estate was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family and features a grand mansion, beautiful gardens, extraordinary art, and spectacular scenery. It has been meticulously maintained for more than 100 years, and is a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Kykuit is accessible by formal tours only. There are four to choose from, ranging from 1-½  to 3 hours in length, depending on how much you would like to see of the mansion;, the Coach Barn, with its collections of classic automobiles and horse-drawn carriages; and the gardens. Only the Landmark Tour and Grand Tour offer access to all of the gardens.

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Kykuit, Dutch for “lookout” and pronounced “kie-kit”, is situated on the highest point in the hamlet of Pocantico Hills, overlooking the Hudson River at Tappan Zee. It has a view of the New York City skyline, 25 miles to the south. The imposing mansion, built of local stone and topped with the Rockefeller emblem, is located centrally in a 250-acre gated inner compound within the larger Rockefeller family estate. 

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The 40-room mansion was built in 1908 by John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, and the richest man in America in his day. The initial plans for the property were developed by the company of Frederick Law Olmsted. Rockefeller was unhappy with their work, however, and assumed control of the design himself. He created several scenic winding roads and lookouts and transplanted mature trees to realize his vision. 

John D. Rockefeller with his family. John D. junior is standing in the back.

John D. Rockefeller with his family. John D. junior is standing in the back.

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In 1906, the oversight of the house and grounds was given to son John, who hired landscape architect William Welles Bosworth. Kykuit is considered Bosworth’s best work in the United States. The design is loosely based on traditional Italian gardens, with strong axes, terraces, fountains, pavilions, and classical ornamentation. The terraced gardens include a Morning Garden, Grand Staircase, Japanese Garden, Italian Garden, Japanese-style brook, Japanese Teahouse, loggia, large Oceanus fountain, Temple of Aphrodite, and a semicircular rose garden. With stairways leading you from one level to the next, the garden invites movement and views.

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John Rockefeller planned to use the house only in spring and fall, so trees were selected for their spring bloom, such as cherries and dogwoods, or for their autumn leaf color, such as the Japanese maples. Wisteria is one of the prevailing plants that ties the garden together—you first see it on the front façade of the house, and then it reappears on walls and pergolas throughout the garden. Fountains are another signature element, from the replica of a Boboli Gardens fountain with a 30-foot statue of Oceanus that greets you in the forecourt, to 39 other fountains that punctuate the garden rooms. The inner garden has a Moorish theme, with a canal and a small fountain featuring a sculpted fountainhead and bronze swans. The gardens, which took over seven years to install, were completed in 1915, and exceeded their budget of $30,000 by one million dollars. 

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Governor Nelson Rockefeller, the last private owner of Kykuit, transformed its basement passages into a major private art gallery containing paintings by Picasso, Chagall, and Warhol, as well as extraordinary Picasso tapestries. Between 1935 and the late 1970s Governor Rockefeller added more than 120 works of abstract and modern sculpture to the gardens, including works by Picasso, Brancusi, Appel, Arp, Calder, Moore, and Giacometti. He precisely and skillfully sited the art to complement the classical formality of the garden and create stunning views. Their inclusion in the garden elevated it from a beautiful classic garden to an extraordinary experience of architecture, horticulture, and art.

Photo from nymetroparents.com

Photo from nymetroparents.com

photo from vitsitwestchesterny.com

photo from vitsitwestchesterny.com

Kykuit, 381 N. Broadway, Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591 , (914) 366-6900, hudsonvalley.org/historic-sites/kykuit

Hours: Oct: daily except Tues. Nov. 1–13: Thurs.–Sun., some holidays. Admission: Tours $25 and up

A Walk on the Wild Side

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By Joan Butler

My husband and I are avid hikers and campers. We love hiking on trails and woodland paths, and along streams and lakes. Another love is gardening. But gardening is a bit of a curated affair, whereas hiking offers us the chance to connect to the wild world, and take in the beauty and complexity of life around us. 

The New England landscape is uniquely beautiful in every season:  from the frosted silences of winter, to the exuberance of spring, to the lushness of summer. Autumn and late summer have their own special charm, with a gentler, but no less beautiful, aspect. 

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Meadows and fields of goldenrod and other wildflowers staged beneath a clear blue sky, with the angle of the sun low, are breathtaking. Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) is stunning, and is a workhorse throughout the growing season, typical of many of our native plants. Its foliage feeds a variety of butterfly and moth larvae and its bright flowers (a textural delight!) are an important food source for migrating Monarchs and dozens of pollinators.

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Late summer is the season for the beautiful blooms of asters. Most asters are sun-lovers, but the white woods aster (Eurybia divaricata) is unusual, growing in shade in dry open woods. It is very tough and very showy, with dark stems and white flowers. It readily reseeds, creating stands of misty white in the woods.

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Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) may look like a fungus, but it’s not. It is a small white herbaceous perennial with an interesting survival strategy. Lacking green pigment, it is unable to photosynthesize (produce food). It survives by sapping nutrients and carbohydrates from tree roots using an intermediary: myccorhizal fungi. Also called Ghost Pipe, it can be found rising through leaf litter on the forest floor.

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The bright flowers of Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa) are noticeable from a distance, and their form certainly references their common name. Its pink spires are a late-season source of food for butterflies and other insects. This suckering native shrub can be found basking in the sun in moist soil near lakes and streams.

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Nearby, you may also find the unusual flowers of white turtlehead (Chelone glabra). Easy to see how it got its common name! Its primary pollinators are bumblebees strong enough to pry open the two-lipped corolla in order to reach the pollen and nectar inside. And they really have to work at it: a bumblebee I recently watched made numerous attempts and false starts before it got the hang of it. And I have to mention that exiting seemed a challenge, too! Turtlehead has a particularly important eco-function as a primary larval host plant of the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly.

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Another lover of moist conditions is cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). Ahh…that brilliant red! It draws us in like a magnet. The long tubular flower form is difficult for most insects to navigate, but the flowers are very attractive to hummingbirds, hummingbird moths and butterflies. 

These are just a tiny sampling of the fascinating, beautiful plants to be found in our woodlands, meadows and lowlands. Initially attracted by their beauty or color or location, I eventually come to marvel at the overall picture: the inter-relatedness of life around us. Just by taking a walk on the wild side.

Mytoi: A Serene Island Garden

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There are few Japanese gardens in New England, so it is unusual to find one gracing the tiny island of Chappaquiddick for almost 70 years. In 1954 Mary Wakeman purchased land in Chappaquiddick for a summer home, and hired Edgartown architect Hugh Jones to design her a Japanese-style house. As payment, she sold him a 3-acre parcel across the road from her house for $1.

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Jones had developed a love of Japanese gardens during his military service. He began his own Japanese-style garden by scooping out a pond in the midst of the pitch pine forest, and building a little red bridge. He planted rhododendrons, azaleas and junipers. He did all of the landscaping and planting himself, and spent so much time on his garden that he referred to it as his "toy." He named the garden "my toy," which he spelled “M-Y-T-O-I” as we see it today.

When Jones died in 1965, his heirs sold the property back to Wakeman, who managed the garden and provided free access to the public. She donated the garden along with an endowment and an additional 11 acres of land to the Trustees in 1976.

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When Hurricane Bob descended on Chappaquiddick in 1991, it decimated more than 70% of the plantings. Only a few of the original pitch pines, azaleas and rhododendrons survived the onslaught. The Trustees hired the team of Don Sibley and Julie Moir Messervy to develop and implement a reconstruction plan. Sibley is an artist with a strong interest in Japanese culture and gardening practices. Messervy is a renowned landscape designer who studied in Japan and was the first Western woman to be apprenticed to a Japanese master gardener.

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Stewartia blossom in July

Stewartia blossom in July

The new Mytoi garden is divided into Japanese-inspired garden rooms, with Asian plants and traditional Japanese garden elements. The entry gate is modeled after one you would find at a Japanese temple, but crafted from local black locust trees. As you stroll through the garden, you find azaleas and rhododendrons from the original garden, complemented by new birch alles, Stewartias, threadleaf maples, mountain laurels, camellias, and paths lined with Japanese primroses.

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The pond is still there, but with a new zigzag-shaped bridge bordered by winterberry and beach plum. On a hill opposite the pond, a path leads to the azumaya, or traditional shelter where one would wait before entering a teahouse. A second hill topped with a bench provides a serene view of the water. The pond is stocked with koi, but due to local otters and osprey, the fish supply has to be supplemented with fresh donations every year. Mytoi invites you to slow down, to appreciate the nuances of Japanese design, and to contemplate the beauty of nature.

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Hours: Daily dawn to dusk, admission $3

Mytoi, 41 Dike Rd., Edgartown, MA 02539, (508) 627-7689

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Osborne Homestead Museum: The Home and Garden of an Extraordinary Woman

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By today’s standards, Frances Osborne Kellogg was an extraordinary woman. By the standards of the late 1800s, she was a force of nature—a successful industrialist, cattle breeder, philanthropist, and conservationist. When her father died in 1907 and the probate judge suggested that his companies be sold so that the family could live off the profits and Frances could go to college, the 31-year old young heiress replied, “Sell them? No. I intend to run them.”

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A gifted violinist from an early age, Frances was expected to study music in college. She loved attending opera, theater and musical concerts in New York City. But an accident with a sewing needle damaged her eyesight, and Frances’ life took a different direction. Her father had taught her how to run the family business, and Frances took on the unusual challenge as a woman CEO of four different companies. All of them prospered under her leadership.

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When she married New York architect Waldo Stewart Kellogg in 1919, the couple’s focus became the family dairy. The Kelloggs developed a reputation for their selective cattle-breeding program. As the family fortune grew, Frances invested in her community, supporting local organizations and building the Derby Neck Library.

Derby Neck Library

Derby Neck Library

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Waldo enlarged and remodeled the house in the Colonial Revival style in the 1920s, and Frances added the ornamental gardens. She had a deep love of flowers from childhood, and enjoyed attending annual flower shows in New York City. In 1910 she hired Yale architect Henry Killam Murphy to design her formal flower garden, and employed Robert Barton from Kew Gardens as her head gardener. 

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French doors lead from the house and conservatory to this lovely garden, which is also visible from the street. The garden is bisected by a white trellis fence accented with red roses, purple clematis, and yellow honeysuckle. A central arbor provides benches where you can sit and enjoy the beauty and scents of the flowers. One half of the garden is dedicated to Frances’s favorite flower, the rose. Four rectangular rose beds are enclosed by long borders of old-fashioned favorites such as foxgloves, irises, goats beard, and salvias. The other half of the garden is a formal perennial garden of bearded iris, peonies, daylilies and sedums. Four beds of standard roses, weigela and boxwood surround a circular bed accentuated with a sundial.

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The garden is bordered on one side by a long stone wall, with steps that lead to beds of lilacs and other ornamental shrubs and trees. On the slope above the formal gardens, a rock garden has been created with conifers, ferns and perennials. Peak time to see the garden is mid May to mid June.

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Frances’ love of gardening and nature continued throughout her lifetime. She was an active member of local garden societies, and became a sponsor of the Connecticut College Arboretum. As her interest in conservation grew, she became the first female vice chair of the Conn. Forest and Park Association. Frances lived in the family home until her death in 1956. Before she died, she deeded her entire estate to the State of Connecticut, including 350 acres for Osborndale State Park.

Photo courtesy of Connecticut Weekender

Photo courtesy of Connecticut Weekender

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In addition to the garden, you can tour the restored historic home with its collection of original furnishings, antiques, ceramics, artwork and personal mementos. Frances’ doll still rests on her childhood bed and the opera cape that she wore to performances at the Met is draped over a settee.

Osborne Homestead Museum, 500 Hawthorne Ave., Derby, CT 06418, (203) 734-2513
Hours: May 5–Oct. 28: Thurs.–Fri. 10–3, Sat. 10–4, Sun. 12–4

Presby Memorial Iris Garden: A Rainbow on the Hill

Van Gogh’s Irises

Van Gogh’s Irises

Cultivated in New England since early colonial times, irises have a long and revered history. The Greek goddess Iris was the messenger of the gods and the personification of the rainbow. The fleur-de-lis is derived from the shape of the iris and is the symbol of the royal family of France. In Japan, the rhizome was ground to create the white face makeup for the geisha. Iris flowers were a favorite subject of Impressionist painters. And in New Jersey, irises are the stars of this memorial garden.

Claude Monet, Iris Garden

Claude Monet, Iris Garden

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Frank H. Presby (1857–1924) was a leading citizen of Montclair and an iris hybridizer, collector, and founder of the American Iris Society. It was his expressed wish to give a collection of his favorite flower to Montclair’s newly acquired Mountainside Park, however he passed away in 1924 before he could carry out his plan. The Presby Gardens were established thanks to local resident Barbara Walther, who led the effort and watched over the garden for 50 years. 

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Located at the base of the 7.5-acre Mountainside Park, the gardens were designed in 1927 by John C. Wister, a Harvard University landscape architect. He designed the garden in a bow shape, and Presby Gardens is now referred to as the “rainbow on the hill.” The iris garden contains more than 10,000 irises of approximately 1,500 varieties, which produce more than 100,000 blooms over the course of the season.

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Peak bloom time is mid-May through the first week of June. Many of these irises were donated from Presby’s and Wister’s gardens, as well as from private Montclair gardens, the American Iris Society, and hybridizers all over the world.

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Every iris in the garden has a marker indicating the name of the iris, the hybridizer, and the year the iris was registered with the American Iris Society. Twenty-six beds contain bearded irises, each dedicated to a particular decade. Be sure to look for the Heirloom Iris bed (bed 5a & b) with plants dating from the 16th to 20thcentury. Also look for the dwarf irises, growing only to 8 inches in height. They are the earliest of the bearded iris to bloom, and are ideal for rock gardens and fronts of borders.

Beds running along the creek bed contain a collection of non-bearded Spuria, Siberian, Japanese, and Louisiana irises, which prefer a wetter setting. Purple weeping beeches, fringe trees, katsuras, stewartias, redbuds, and ginkgos provide an interesting border for the iris gardens. A bee sanctuary with seven hives was added in 2000.

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Growing Bearded Irises

Irises can be planted in the spring, in early fall, or in July and August when they are dormant. Plant your irises at least four to six weeks before your first hard freeze so that their roots are well established before the end of the growing season. Plant rhizomes 12 to 24” apart to avoid overcrowding.

Irises require at least a half-day (6-8 hours) of direct sunlight. Provide your irises with good drainage: a raised bed or a slope are ideal. Keep beds free of weeds and leaves.

It is a common mistake to plant Irises too deeply. Plant your rhizomes at or just barely below the surface of the ground. The tops of the rhizomes should be visible and the roots should be spread out facing downwards in the soil. Tamp the soil firmly to anchor the rhizomes until new roots begin to grow, and water well. 

Divide and replant iris that have become overcrowded (usually after three to five years) in July or August when the plants are dormant.

For more information or to join a local Iris Society branch, visit the American Iris Society.

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Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, 474 Upper Mountain Ave., Montclair, NJ, (973) 783-5974, presbyirisgardens.org. Hours: Daily dawn–dusk.

Best Spring Bulb Displays in the Northeast

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Ready to welcome spring after a long Northeast winter? Nothing lifts the spirit like a stroll among masses of daffodils, tulips and other spring bulbs. Here’s my list of wonderful spring bulb displays to enjoy this year.

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Mid-April to late May, Boylston, MA

Enjoy a changing bulb display at Tower Hill Botanic garden, beginning with Reticulated Iris and Hyacinths in mid-April, fields of 25,000 daffodils in late April to early May, and gorgeous tulip displays in mid to late May. Daffodils Day May 4-5. towerhillbg.org

Tower hill Botanic Garden

Tower hill Botanic Garden

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Nantucket Daffodil Festival

Nantucket Daffodil Festival

Nantucket Daffodil Festival

April 26-28, Nantucket, MA

Nantucket’s annual daffodil celebration includes the Nantucket Daffodil Flower Show, a window decorating contest, antique car parade, tours, and art shows. Come in costume to the Daffy Hat Contest and children’s parade. daffodilfestival.com

Nantucket Daffodil Festival

Nantucket Daffodil Festival

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Late April–late May, Boothbay, ME

Coastal Maine’s display gardens feature thousands of tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs from late April to late May in one of New England’s premier public gardens. mainegardens.org

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Blithewold Daffodil Days

Blithewold Daffodil Days

Blithewold Daffodil Days

April through Mid-May, Bristol, RI

The Bosquet, a cultivated woodland, features more than 50,000 daffodils at Blithewold Mansion Gardens and Arboretum. You will also see many woodland wildflowers in bloom.  blithewold.org

Heritage Museums & Gardens

Heritage Museums & Gardens

Heritage Museums & Gardens

Mid April–mid May, Sandwich, MA

A spectacular Bulb River of 35,000 grape hyacinths highlighted with 1,500 white daffodils flows on the grounds of Heritage Museums & Gardens in spring. The grape hyacinths begin to open in mid April and reach their peak around Mother’s Day. heritagemuseumsandgardens.org

Wicked Tulips (photo by Beth Reis)

Wicked Tulips (photo by Beth Reis)

Wicked Tulips Flower Farm

Late April–mid May, Johnston, RI

Wicked Tulips has the largest u-pick tulip field in New England, with 600,000 early, mid, and late blooming tulips. Enjoy the fields of color, and bring home a fresh hand-picked bouquet. The early tulips begin blooming in late April, followed by waves of later blooming tulips until Mother’s Day. The website Bloom Report provides important updates and allows you to see what is in bloom. Advance tickets are required and must be purchased online. wickedtulips.com

Newport Daffodil Days

Newport Daffodil Days

Newport Daffodil Days Festival

April 13–21, Newport, RI

Now in its 6th year, the Newport Daffodil Festival has beautified the city with more than 1 million daffodils. The week-long celebration includes a garden party, classic car parade, concerts, tours, dog parade and much more. Don’t miss the display of 11,000 daffodils of 29 varieties and the Green Animals Topiary Garden. newportdaffydays.com

Elizabeth Park

Elizabeth Park

Elizabeth Park

Mid-April–mid May, Hartford, CT

Daffodils in mid-April give way to a beautiful display of 11,000 tulips that peak on Mother’s Day. elizabethparkct.org

Colorblends

Colorblends

ColorBlends House and Spring Garden

April 1–May 12, Bridgeport, CT

 Stroll through an evolving display of color as snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs come into bloom at the ColorBlends House and Spring Garden. Located in Bridgeport’s  Stratfield Historic Distric, the 1903 Colonial Revival  mansion is surrounded by an intimate garden designed by distinguished Dutch  garden designer Jacqueline van der Kloet for Colorblends Wholesale Flowerbulbs..colorblendsspringgarden.com

Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens

Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens

Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens

Late April–mid May

Enjoy planting of early bulbs, daffodils and tulips blooming in 93-acres of formal gardens and natural habitats. bartlettarboretum.org

Meriden Daffodil Days

Meriden Daffodil Days

Meriden Daffodil Festival

April 27 & 28, Meriden, CT

One of Connecticut’s favorite celebrations, the Meriden Daffodil Festival features a juried craft fair, rides and food vendors, and an amazing fireworks show, all set against a spectacular display of 600,000 daffodils. daffodilfest.com

New York Botanic Garden

New York Botanic Garden

New York Botanic Garden

April–May, Bronx, NY

Explore the Rock Garden for tiny species daffodils, and Daffodil Valley, where the Murray Liasson Narcissus Collection is located. See the latest hybrids on the Daylily/Daffodil Walk, and antique cultivars planted in a seal of yellow and white on Daffodil Hill. nybg.org/garden

Reeves-Reed Arboretum

Reeves-Reed Arboretum

Reeves-Reed Arboretum

Mid April, Summit, NJ

Celebrate spring with a "host of golden daffodils," as poet William Wordsworth wrote, at Reeves-Reed Arboretum and enjoy one of the largest daffodil collections in New Jersey. The collection, planted in the Arboretum's glacially carved 'kettle' or bowl, was started in the early 1900s by the original owners of the property. Today the collection boasts more than 50,000 bulbs and the annual Daffodil Day brings visitors from all over the tri-state area. Daffodil Day is April 14, 2019. reeves-reedarboretum.org

Reeves-Reed Arboretum

Reeves-Reed Arboretum

Deep Cut Gardens

Deep Cut Gardens

Deep Cut Gardens

Mid-April–mid May, Middletown, NJ

Beautiful tulip and daffodil blooms are on display in this 54 acre formal garden. monmouthcountyparks.com

Deep Cut Gardens

Deep Cut Gardens

Frelinghuysen Arboretum

Frelinghuysen Arboretum

Frelinhuysen Arboretum

Mid April-mid May, Morris Township, NJ

The formal gardens at Frelinghuysen Arboretum feature gorgeous bedding displays of tulips. arboretumfriends.org

Frelinghuysen Arboretum

Frelinghuysen Arboretum

Chanticleer

Chanticleer

Chanticleer

Early April to mid-May

Chanticleer is ablaze with spring bulbs from species tulips, miniature daffodils and grape hyacinths on the hillside, to formal bedding of tulips and daffodils around the mansion. A sloping lawn, punctuated by flowering shade trees, features 80,000 white or pale yellow narcissus running in two rivers to the bottom. Virginia bluebells, trilliums, grape hyacinths and camassias create gorgeous displays in the woodlands. chanticleergarden.org

Chanticleer

Chanticleer

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens

Early April to early May, Kennett Square, PA

Early spring bulbs like glory-of-the-snow, winter-aconite, and crocus first herald the season’s arrival, with gorgeous tulips, wisteria, and flowering trees creating a lush spring tapestry of color, fragrance, and warmth. longwoodgardens.org

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens

Bamboo Brook—a Beaux Arts Beauty

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Women landscape designers were a rarity in the early 1900s when Martha Brookes Hutcheson began her practice. I was fortunate to visit the Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center in Far Hills, New Jersey, which had once been known as Merchiston Farm—the home of Hutcheson and her husband from 1911 to 1959. Built in the late 18th century, the house was enlarged and remodeled by the Huchesons in 1927.

Hutcheson was one of America’s first female landscape architects and attended the School of Architecture and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, along with Marion Coffin and Beatrix Farrand. She created landscape plans for dozens of estates in Massachusetts and Long Island. Hutcheson’s design for Merchiston Farm was completed shortly after the publication of her book The Spirit of the Garden, in 1923. 

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Native white dogwood underplanted with green hostas and white daffodils in early May

Native white dogwood underplanted with green hostas and white daffodils in early May

Hutcheson’s European travels inspired her to design her own garden in the Beaux-Arts style popular in the early 20thcentury. Drawing on European Renaissance and Baroque gardens as well as those of Islamic-era Spain, Beaux-Art gardens used formal geometry, allées and hedges, long vistas, reflecting pools and fountains, and native plants and materials. You see these design principles immediately at Bamboo Brook when you come upon the circular drive at the front of the house, punctuated with white dogwoods underplanted with green hostas. Hutcheson used a restrained color palette of greens, blues and whites, and repeated the circle motif throughout her landscape. 

Sunken circular patio in front of the house

Sunken circular patio in front of the house

Circular motif repeated in the architecture, with deutzia and centaurea montana

Circular motif repeated in the architecture, with deutzia and centaurea montana

The path from the driveway leads to the Upper Water—a pond designed to appear as a naturalized body of water. The pond has a practical use as well as an aesthetic one. It collects rain water runoff from the upper part of the property. It was placed to take advantage of both the topography and the architecture of the house, and, importantly, it reflects the plants, the house, and the sky. A winding stream leads from the Upper Water to the rest of the garden. Hutcheson was fascinated with water features and constructed an intricate system of cisterns, pipes, swales, and catch basins to supply her house, pools, and gardens with collected rainwater. 

Upper Water: a pond created to collect rainwater runoff and reflect the sky and plantings

Upper Water: a pond created to collect rainwater runoff and reflect the sky and plantings

Brook connecting the Upper Water to the circular pond

Brook connecting the Upper Water to the circular pond

When Hutcheson bought the house, she remodeled it and changed the front entrance to what was originally the back of the house. In the new back yard, the East Lawn and Coffee Terrace were designed with formal axial geometry. Informal plantings circle the oval East Lawn, which connects to the Circular Pool—a slightly sunken reflecting pool with six paths radiating from it and plantings of iris, phlox, ferns, dogwoods, and vinca. The Circular Pool was originally a farm pond in a natural hollow, which provided water for livestock. 

Coffee Terrace with lilacs and centaurea Montana

Coffee Terrace with lilacs and centaurea Montana

Garden in back of the house with amsonia, lilacs, boxwood

Garden in back of the house with amsonia, lilacs, boxwood

Amsonia and boxwood create quiet beauty

Amsonia and boxwood create quiet beauty

the Circular reflecting pool was used by the family as a swimming pool. it is 5’ deep and lined with native stone.

the Circular reflecting pool was used by the family as a swimming pool. it is 5’ deep and lined with native stone.

Beyond the lawn lies an axial garden with a white cedar allée and parterres adjacent to a tennis court and the children’s playhouse. Hutcheson placed rustic wood benches and chairs at spots where views could be enjoyed. She was a big proponent of native plants, and adapted species such as dogwood, lilac, sweet pepperbush, and elderberry to an Italian Renaissance-inspired design, and used native stone to create walls, patios, and steps throughout the garden. 

this garden connects the circular pool to the east lawn and coffee terrace.

this garden connects the circular pool to the east lawn and coffee terrace.

A semi-circular stone bench is built into the stone wall and repeats the circle motif.

A semi-circular stone bench is built into the stone wall and repeats the circle motif.

The Little House was Hutcheson’s quiet getaway. It was built over a small stream, which Hutcheson embellished with spillways and a lily pool, providing a home for water lovers such as sweetfern and iris. 

Little House built over a small stream

Little House built over a small stream

Geranium, phlox and ferns

Geranium, phlox and ferns

A straight road lined with elms and oaks extends from the house to a farm complex including a barn, garage, farmhouse, and various work yards set in an informal landscape of fields and woods. 

Buckeye in back garden

Buckeye in back garden

In 1972 Hutcheson’s heirs gave the property to the Morris County Parks Commission, and it has been restored to its 1945 appearance. In addition to the formal areas, there are numerous trails that wind through the fields and along Bamboo Brook, and connect to the Elizabeth D. Kay Environmental Center and Willowwood Arboretum. A self-guided cell phone tour provides valuable information. Bamboo Brook is located at 11 Longview Rd., Far Hills, NJ. It is open daily from 8 am to sunset.

For more gardens in New Jersey, see The Garden Tourist: 120 Destination Gardens & Nurseries in the Northeast.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

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I first saw this image of the mysterious Mud Maiden circulating on Facebook, and was very excited to learn that I would see it in person at The Lost Gardens of Heligan during my tour of Cornwall gardens.

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Tim Smit, a successful composer and musical entrepeneur, and two acquaintances were looking for a suitable piece of land in Cornwall to start a rare breeds farm when they stumbled upon this derelict garden in 1990. The ancient shelter belts had come crashing down in the storms of 1987 and 1990, crushing everything in their path. Overgrown with vines, bamboos, and self-sown trees, the property was basically inaccessible.

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 As Smit wrote: “It was the silence, the unearthly silence, that struck you first…you could hear no birdsong, no rustlings, not even the far-off murmur of life elsewhere. This dank, dark place had its own strange beauty. We had cut our way through what had once been a formal laurel hedge, which had grown massive, and was now thirty yards wide. Having crawled on hands and knees, climbed, cut, pulled and pushed our way through the hedge, we found brambles snaking everywhere…”

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photo by Herbie Knott

photo by Herbie Knott

Smit and his companions stumbled upon the decaying remains of walls, buildings and greenhouses, with their roofs caved in, glass smashed, and walls obscured by brambles and vines

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On the wall of what was once the Thunderbox, or privy, they found the barely legible signatures of the men that had worked in this garden, and the date August 1914. This historic estate, belonging for hundreds of years to the Tremayne family, lost the great bulk of its staff to the First World War, and it never recovered.

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As the gardens were excavated, it looked as though the gardeners had left in the midst of their work one day, and never returned. Those same names found on the Thunderbox wall were later discovered on World War I memorials in neighboring burial grounds.

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Smit and his partners, along with crews of volunteers, spent several years cutting, clearing, burning and replanting. Much of the property was steep valley, inaccessible to large machinery, so the work had to be done by hand. When you visit Heligan today, you find a stunning garden and an archealogical resurrection of an old way of life in an affluent country house.

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The core of the estate was this magnificent kitchen garden, which was painfully restored to its original design.

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Brick and stone walls were carefully rebuilt, wooden panes and frames were milled to the original profiles, and glass mullions were replaced. The gardeners replanted cold frames, mellon houses and the antique pineapple pit with heirloom plants. After many attempts, they successfully grew pineapples using the traditional method of heating the pit with freshly rotting horse manure. 

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Heligan’s gardeners employ the gardening methods that were used in the 1800s, when the garden was in its prime. Our tour guide even demonstrated the correct way to use a Cornish shovel.

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The southfacing walls of the kitchen garden were planted with espaliered stone fruit trees. The walls absorbed the warmth of the sun and created a mild microclimate for the delicate trees. One of the walls was filled with alcoves for bee skeps that ensured pollination of the gardens.

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Heligan’s goal is to champion and conserve heritage varieties, so the vegetable gardens are planted with crops that would have been there in 1910. The vegetables are used for meal preparation in the café and sold to the public.

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Sumptuous flowers are grown in the kitchen garden as they would have been historically for decorating the manor.

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The Tremaynes were keen botanists and plant collectors. Many of the rhododendrons encircling Floras Green were grown from seed collected by plant explorer John Hooker in India and the Himalayas in the 1850s.

The Jungle garden was created in the late 1800s in a steep valley. Jack Tremayne wanted a wild place that contained as many exotic plants as he could find. He dug three ponds, and planted swaths of different bamboos, huge gunneras, exotic palms, and conifers from all over the world.

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Heligan has the largest collection of tree ferns in Britain. These arrived stowed as ballast on boats from Australia. When they arrived in Cornwall, the large dry rooty stumps were thrown into the river to be rehydrated before distribution among the Cornish gardens.

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Smit wrote: “When we first entered the Jungle, we felt like explorers coming on a lost world. Hundreds of self-seeded sycamores and ash trees obscured the landscape. Ferns, mosses and lichens covered everything in this dank place. The trees were so dense, it was easy to get lost.”

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Some of us faced our fears and crossed the Jungle valley on this rope bridge.

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These are some of the beautiful gingers growing in the Jungle garden.

This is just a quick preview of The Lost Gardens of Heligan. The vast estate has other formal garden as well as pastures, woodlands, a farmyard of heritage livestock breeds, poultry, and horses, and a cafe. It takes a full day to tour the entire property. For more information, see heligan.com. Tim Smit’s book, The Lost Gardens of Heligan, provides a fascinating account of the resurrection of this garden.
















10 Outstanding Mail-Order Nurseries to Try in 2019

Once the holidays are over, I begin thinking about new plants for the garden. Here are some of my favorite mail-order nurseries for perennials, trees and shrubs that you will want to peruse in 2019. Do you have other favorites? Please share them with others in the comments section!

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Peony’s Envy

Peony’s Envy is home to more than 700 varieties of tree, herbaceous, and intersectional peonies that enjoy cult status among aficionados. In addition to ordering online, you can visit Peony’s Envy from May to mid-June to see and smell the luscious blooms in person. The seven-acre production garden is also a beautiful display garden, with formal flower beds, stone walls, and meandering paths through the woodland. peonysenvy.com

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Avant Gardens

Avant Gardens has been known for over 25 years as a specialty nursery that offers rare and surprising perennials, trees, and shrubs. You will find a lilac here, but it will have golden foliage. The daphne will be only 12” high—perfect for a rock garden. The mimosa tree will have rich maroon foliage, and the bleeding heart will sport white flowers atop bright yellow leaves. Located in southern Massachusetts, Avant Gardens has some of the best unusual plants for New England gardens. avantgardensne.com

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Van Engelen

Located in Connecticut, Van Engelen offers a wide range of spring and summer-blooming bulbs at wholesale prices. What that means is that quantities begin at 25 of one bulb, and range up to 1000. The selection is excellent, with 28 varieties of alliums, Orienpet, Asiatic, Chinese Trumpet and naturalizing lilies, 15 varieties of fritillary, and much more. vanengelen.com

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RareFind Nursery

RareFind prides itself on selling plants that you cannot find in your local garden center. Special collections include witch hazels, azaleas, magnolias (including unusual yellow-flowered varieties), hydrangeas, and carnivorous and bog plants. rarefindnursery.com

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Logees

Logees specializes in tropical plants, citrus trees and unusual edibles, begonias, orchids and houseplants. If you are looking for Passion flowers, clivia, jasmine, or almost any other tender plant, you will enjoy browsing through Logees’ extensive website. logees.com

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Cricket Hill Garden

Cricket Hill Garden was one of the first nurseries to collect and propagate tree peonies imported from China. Their vast collection has grown to include herbaceous and Intersectional peonies, as well as unusual fruit trees and berries such as PawPaw, mulberry, medlar, elderberry, persimmon and more. treepeony.com

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Broken Arrow Nursery

Broken Arrow Nursery is widely acknowledged in gardening circles as a source for rare plants, particularly trees and shrubs. Owner Dick Jaynes is a world expert on Mountain Laurels, and you can purchase many of his hybrids as well as unusual firs, Japanese Maples, magnolias, and variegated and weeping varieties of virtually any tree or shrub. brokenarrownursery.com

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Forest Farm

Forest Farm has been collecting and propagating unusual plants for more than 40 years. They feature and astounding 146 varieties of maples, 23 varieties of oaks, 66 varieties of pines, 14 gingkoes, as well as bamboos, ferns, grasses and shrubs. Their website is highly informative with excellent search capabilities to help you find just the perfect plant for your space. forestfarm.com

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Plant Delights

Owner Tony Avent collects rare and unusual plants from all over the world during his frequent plant hunting expeditions and from other prominent collectors. He also conducts his own plant breeding programs with special focus on hostas, trilliums, cyclamen and other perennials. These plants are trialed for several years in the nursery’s field beds before they are introduced to the public. There are more than 1700 varieties available on the website. plantdelights.com

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Garden Vision

Garden Vision has specialized in epimediums since 1997, and offer more than 200 hybrids for sale. Like other plant species, epimediums have developed collector status, and Garden Vision is fondly referred to as the “Epi-Center of the Universe.” Most of the epimediums were collected or hybridized by plant hunter Darrell Probst. epimediums.com

Holiday Events for Gardeners

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November and December offer amazing holiday displays and fun events for gardeners in the Northeast. From Candlelight Walks to Christmas teas and majestic trees made of dried flowers, you will find a wealth of inspiration for your own holiday celebrations. Below is just a sampling. If your organization has an event that is not listed, please feel free to add it in the Comments.

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Christmas at the Newport Mansions

Newport Mansions, Newport, MA
November 17 - January 1

The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House are once again decorated with thousands of poinsettias, fresh flowers, evergreens, and wreaths. Thirty decorated Christmas trees reflecting individual room decor anchor many of the magnificent spaces. Dining tables set with period silver and china complete the elegant setting. Windows of each mansion are lit with individual white candles, in keeping with the colonial tradition. 

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A gingerbread model of each house, created by amazing local pastry chefs, will be on display in its kitchen. 


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Christmas at Blithewold

Blithewold, Bristol, RI
November 23 - January 1

Every year, Blithewold transforms into a dazzling display celebrating the magic of Christmas. Each room of the Mansion is filled with elaborate holiday decorations, and the gardens become a glimmering winter wonderland! This year’s theme is “A Family Gathering”, recreating the Christmas weekend at Blithewold in 1910 based on the family’s diary entries. Enjoy a winter marketplace, holiday teas and musical performances.


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Candlelight Stroll and Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth

Strawberry Banke, Portsmouth, NH
December 1–22

Museum grounds glow with hundreds of lighted candle lanterns, the houses are adorned with thousands of hand-made decorations crafted from live greens and dried flowers and herbs collected from the Museum gardens, and the air is filled with the sound of holiday music and scent of woodsmoke from the bonfire. Visitors stroll from house to historic house, greeted by costumed role players and performers who recreate the traditions of times past.


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Festival of Trees and Snow Village

Massachusetts Horticultural Society, Elm Bank, Wellesley, MA
November 23-December 9

The Festival of Trees, displayed in the Hunnewell Building, offers beautifully decorated holiday trees that are donated and decorated by local businesses, garden clubs, and individuals. Visitors “vote” with their raffle tickets, in hopes of being the tree winner at the end of the festival. Visitors can also enjoy the decorated buildings and grounds at The Gardens at Elm Bank with a stroll or a horse-drawn wagon ride. For the young at heart, there are Santa Visits and other activities.

Snow Village at Elm Bank is an enchanting display of model trains winding through villages and vignettes, including Christmas in the Boston, Fenway Park, and hundreds of decorated houses and lights. This amazing scenery in miniature is sure to get kids of all ages excited about the holiday season.


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Christmastime Teas

Florence Griswold Museum, Lyme, CT
December 11–29

As music of the season quietly plays, nibble delectable scones with clotted cream, assorted savory tea sandwiches, and seasonal sweets as lovely as they are tasty. Let the warmth of holiday cheer spread with each sip of Miss Florence’s Tea. Served in a delightfully eclectic assortment of china, the unique and elegant beverage is a blend of superior Ceylon and China black teas enhanced with a touch of vanilla and other delicate spices. The special blend is created over a two-day process by Sundial Gardens in Higganum, Connecticut.


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Gardens Aglow

Heritage Museums & Gardens, Sandwich, MA
November 23 - December 30

Heritage’s expansive gardens will be aglow with beautiful light displays, extensive indoor holiday décor and numerous activities around the grounds and galleries. This year visitors can expect expanded lighting displays and outdoor interactives, along with all of your favorites from previous years!


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Night Lights: Winter Reimagined

Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston, MA
November 23 - December 30

Outside, visitors have the opportunity to marvel at glittering lights displayed throughout 15 acres of formal gardens, including the Fairy Light Walk through the forest that ends at the Wild Rumpus. Inside, you can see trees decorated with hand-made, nature-inspired ornaments, a model train village, and two conservatories brimming with subtropical plants and seasonal music.


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Wayside Inn Holidays

Wayside Inn, Sudbury, MA
November 28 - January 7

Each room of the historic Wayside Inn is decorated by a different garden club with hand-made creations for the holidays. The inn features a holiday menu, and advance reservations are recommended.

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Holiday Marketplace

Berkshire Botanical Garden, Stockbridge, MA
December 1–2

A holiday marketplace of one-of-a-kind Christmas decorations and gifts made by local craftspeople, and a Gallery of Wreaths created by volunteer designers. Refreshments and goodies from the Garden Shop are also included.


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Holiday Open House

Peckham's Greenhouses, Little Compton, RI
December 1 & 2, 9am-5 pm

A special sale of handmade gifts and holiday plants set in Peckham’s many greenhouses.


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Winter Lights

Naumkeag, Stockbridge, MA
Thursdays-Sundays beginning Nov. 23, 5-8 pm

Enjoy the spectacular garden of Naumkeag lit with thousands of shimmering holiday lights. Each weekend features performances and activities for the whole family, from the young to the young at heart.  See something new throughout the season.


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Vanderbilt Mansion Christmas Open House

Vanderbilt Mansion, Hyde Park, NY
December 2, 10am-7 pm

The Mansion will be lavishly decorated for the holidays and refreshments will be provided by the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt Historical Association.


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Holiday Train Show

New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY
November 17–January 21

Marvel at G-scale locomotives humming past 175 New York landmarks on nearly a half-mile of track. This year’s exhibition showcases Lower Manhattan—the birthplace of New York City—featuring the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and iconic skyscrapers sharing the spotlight among old and new favorites. Making their debut this year are One World Trade Center and the historic Battery Maritime Building along with two vintage ferry boats.


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A Longwood Christmas

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA
November 22–January 6

This holiday season pays homage to the Christmas tree with an imaginative display featuring traditional favorites and inspiring new twists, from festive firs suspended from above to towering tannenbaums created from books, stained glass, and other unexpected materials.

Outdoors, gloriously illuminated trees lead you on an enchanting holiday journey through our Gardens. Sip cocoa and warm up by our welcoming firepits, listen to carolers sharing the melodic sounds of the season, and relish in the beauty and wonder of A Longwood Christmas.


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Yuletide at Winterthur

Winterthur, Winterthur, DE
November 17–January 6

Each delightful room on this year’s Yuletide Tour tells a story reflecting the ways in which Americans have celebrated the winter holiday season from the 1800s to the present.  Other decorations and displays recall H. F. du Pont’s family traditions during Christmas and New Year’s at Winterthur—including the family Christmas tree, glittering with glass ornaments and fringed by baskets brimming with gifts, one for each family member. Of special note is the majestic dried flower tree, on view in the Conservatory and featuring some 60 varieties of flowers.

English Exotica: Tresco Abbey Garden

photo courtesy of tresco.co.uk

photo courtesy of tresco.co.uk

On a recent garden tour of Cornwall, England, I was delighted to visit the glorious Tresco Abbey Garden on Tresco Island, one of the Isles of Scilly. The Isles of Scilly are an archipelago of five inhabited islands and many rock outcroppings located off the southwestern tip of Cornwall. Reaching Abbey Garden was no small task—a meticulously orchestrated journey by rented van, small airplane, airport transport bus, ferry boat and tractor-pulled trolley. The journey was well worth the visit to this amazing tropical garden filled with exotic horticulture.

The gardens at Tresco were founded by Augustus Smith, who built a house on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Abbey ruins in 1838. He was a man of independent means and spirit, and the isolation of the island suited his temperment. The remains of the Benedictine priory, built a thousand years earlier, captured his imagination, and he became determined to create a magnificent garden.

photo courtesy of cornwalls.co.uk

photo courtesy of cornwalls.co.uk

Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Tresco has a very mild climate, virtually free of frost. It is however extremely windy and subject to Atlantic gales, so a shelter-belt of quick-growing and salt-tolerant trees was imperative. Smith found the best trees for this were from California - Monterey Pines and Cypresses. He also built a granite wall around his garden to protect it from the elements.  He began by planting collections of pelargoniums and mesembryanthemums – fifty of each – and later acquired plants from all over the world through his connections with other plant collectors. At his death in 1872, the garden was essentially in the form that you see it in today.

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The garden has remained in the same family for five generations, and each generation has made its contribution. Augustus’ nephew Thomas Algernon (Dorrien) Smith continued with the garden, as did his son Arthur who collected plants from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Americas. Those contributions include the grevillas, leucanthemums and the many varieties of proteas that we saw in bloom during our visit, as well as huge American agaves, African aloes, and aeoniums native to the Canary Islands.

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The garden is protected on the north and west sides by Abbey Hill. It is laid out on 17 acres and bisected by the formal Long Walk surrounded by tree ferns and palms which grow lush in the deep soil of that area. Above the Long Walk are two terraces that span the width of the garden. The Top Terrace has the hot dry conditions and free-draining poor soil of South Africa and Australia. It is perfect for many varieties of Protea, Aloe, Cistus, and succulents, and offers beautiful views of the garden and the sea beyond.

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The Middle Terrace is the heart of the Garden, with fishponds, a summerhouse and the stone Gaia sculpture, all nestled in a botanical paradise. Thousands of colorful plants from all over the world provide a lush backdrop, and even at the winter solstice, there are more than 300 species of plants in bloom. 

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The lowest level is the Mediterranean Garden, with its Agave Fountain and the Shell House decorated with seashell mosaics created by the current owner. Here you will also find the Valhalla Museum started by Augustus Smith which contains a collection of 30 ship figureheads, name-boards and other decorative carvings. Most of the figureheads date from the late 19th century, and come from merchant sailing vessels or early steamships that were wrecked on the Isles of Scilly.

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I may never see the gardens of Australia, New Zealand and South America, but thanks to a wonderful visit to Tresco Abbey Garden, I feel like I have traveled to many corners of the world and seen the richness of the plant species that they hold.

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Hakone Grass - A Four Season Stunner

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It can be tough to find perennials that dazzle in all four seasons,  but Hakonechloa macra, commonly called Hakone grass, is a plant that fits the bill. Hakone grass is a beautiful perennial grass with gracefully arching leaves that sway in the breeze. It grows slowly to form a cascading mound of eye-catching foliage and has a strong presence in the garden year round.

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Although most grasses prefer full sun, Hakone grass is a shade-loving grass native to moist mountain and woodland areas in central Japan. Mt. Hakone, gives it both its genus name and common name, and it is also commonly referred to as Japanese Forest Grass. Its native habitat also gives a clue to its water requirements. Although this grass can grow in full sun and deep shade, it needs consistent moisture – not wet feet, but regular watering. 

Garden of Wayne Mezzitt.

Garden of Wayne Mezzitt.

Hakone grass is a tough, long-lived perennial that is easy to grow and has no serious insect or disease problems. It performs best in part shade and humus-rich, well-drained soil. Leaves may scorch in hot summers, particularly when consistent moisture is not maintained. A winter mulch is recommended, but I have found no need for this. Clumps spread slowly by rhizomes, but are not invasive. The plant ultimately grows to about 24” wide by 18” tall, and produces delicate sprays of green flowers in summer. The leaves have a papery texture that resembles bamboo. Hakone grass is best divided in spring, but because it is a slow grower, division will not be necessary for many years.

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The foliage turns a soft copper color in late fall, and can be left on the plant to provide winter interest. It should be trimmed to the ground in early spring before new shoots emerge.

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There are two popular varieties of Hakone grass. Just as its name implies, ‘All Gold’ gleams in the garden and holds its brilliant color from spring through fall. It will be chartreuse in shade, and yellow gold in full sun.

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‘Aureola’ is a golden-striped form that grows to 15” tall and features gracefully arching green leaves variegated with gold longitudinal striping. It is slower growing and less winter hardy than the straight species or ‘All Gold'. Leaf variegation color is affected by the amount of sun exposure and the growing climate. 

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Hakone grass has many uses in the garden. It can be grown as a specimen in a container.

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It can be massed as a ground cover in the landscape.

"Grass Painting" at Bedrock Gardens.

"Grass Painting" at Bedrock Gardens.

Shady entrance area at Tower Hill Botanical Garden.

Shady entrance area at Tower Hill Botanical Garden.

Hakone Grass makes a perfect focal point in the shade garden.

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At the Elizabeth Park perennial garden.

At the Elizabeth Park perennial garden.

Hakone Grass is brilliant in all four seasons. It adds bright color in early spring, and is a brilliant companion to spring bulbs.

Early spring with ajuga at Elm Bank.

Early spring with ajuga at Elm Bank.

Mid-spring with tulips at Tower Hill Botanic Garden.

Mid-spring with tulips at Tower Hill Botanic Garden.

It adds softness to paved areas and stone elements, and drapes beautiful on slopes and over garden edges.

Garden of Joyce Hannaford

Garden of Joyce Hannaford

Garden of Joyce Hannaford

Garden of Joyce Hannaford

Its fine texture makes a lovely contrast with hostas and shade perennials, including heucheras, epimediums, ferns and hellebores.

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Once you start growing hakone grass, you will continue to find new ways and new places to use it!

Garden Cocktails

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As my husband and I drove for five hours to visit the beautiful gardens of Mount Desert Island, Maine, we listened to an Audible rendition of Amy Stewart's The Drunken Botanist to pass the time. Like many gardeners, I have become more interested in cultivated and foraged edible plants in the past few years. How could I put my sage, lavender, lemon balm, mints, lemon verbena, basil, rosemary, blueberries and peaches to better use?

A collection of new botanical cocktail books caught my eye, from The Drunken Botanist, to Adriana Picker's The Cocktail Garden, Amy Zavatto's Forager's Cocktails and C.L. Fornari's The Cocktail Hour Garden. After years of drinking nothing but wine, I was intrigued by the promise of "drinks for long hot summer afternoons spent among flowers in the garden; wine spritzers for breezy evenings on the back porch; champagne cocktails for celebrations under the apple tree; and fruity party punches for that garden party gathering with style."

The Drunken Botanist delivered a fascinating mix of botany, chemistry, history, etymology, mixology, gardening know-how and drink recipes during our journey north. When we arrived at the Asticou Inn, we were delighted to find a long porch where you could spend an afternoon with a Blueberry Mojito or a Porch Sipper and watch the boats sail in and out of Northeast Harbor. The recipe for a Porch Sipper and other delicious garden cocktails follow.

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English Garden

Ingredients:

2 lime wedges
5 mint leaves
1 1/2 Tb Belvoir Elderflower Cordial
2 oz white rum
2 oz apple juice

Mix in a highball glass with cubed ice, garnishing with a mint sprig.

belvoirfruitfarms.co.uk

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Strawberry Gin Smash

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1 lime wedge
3 fresh strawberries, 2 hulled and sliced, 1 for garnish
3 oz gin
Club soda
Fresh mint

In a tall glass, combine the sugar and a squeeze of juice from the lime wedge. Muddle with the back of a spoon to dissolve the sugar. Add the sliced strawberries and lightly muddle. Fill the glass with ice and add the gin. Top with a splash of club soda and garnish with the last strawberry and a sprig of mint.

thekitchn.com

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Lavender Gin & Tonic

Ingredients:

3 oz gin
4 oz tonic water
1 Tb fresh lime juice
Lavender simple syrup to taste (see recipe below)
Sprig of lavender for garnish
 

Mix in a highball glass with cubed ice, garnishing with a lavender sprig.

garden therapy.com

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Kiwi Margarita

Ingredients:

2 oz Grand Marnier
1 1/2 oz Tequila
2 oz lime juice
2 1/2 oz kiwi simple syrup

lime + fresh kiwi slices for garnish
coarse salt for the rim

Trace the rim of your glass with a lime wedge and dip in a mix of coarse salt. Fill the glass with ice. In a cocktail shaker, combine the tequila, grand marnier, kiwi simple syrup and lime juice with ice, and shake for about 30 seconds. Pour over ice and squeeze in lime slices and garnish with kiwi slices

Kiwi Simple Syrup

4 kiwi fruit
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool. Puree the kiwi fruit in a food processor or blender. Add the cooled sugar syrup and blend. 

hotsweeteats.com

 

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Cucumber Spritz

Ingredients:

1 oz vodka
1 oz dry vermouth
2 cucumber ribbons (created with potato peeler)
2 oz sparkling water
2 oz tonic water

Combine all the ingredients in a long glass filled with ice and stir.

houseandgarden.co.uk

Herb-infused Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar
5 cups water
2 Tbs. fresh herb

Add all of the ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn down the heat to low and let simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the syrup to cool. Once cool, strain the herbs, then pour through a coffee-filter-lined strainer to remove any particles. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

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Asticou Inn Porch Sipper

Ingredients:

1 oz lemon juice
3 oz grapefruit juice
2 oz vodka
2 Tb rosemary syrup (see recipe above)
rosemary and grapefruit slice for garnish

Mix in a tall glass with cubed ice, garnishing with a grapefruit slice and rosemary sprig.

Sit back and enjoy the view!

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Chesterwood: A Sculptor's Garden

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A visit to the Berkshires is not complete without a tour of Chesterwood,  the home, garden and studio of Daniel Chester French. 

“I hope you will come to ‘Chesterwood’ and rest. It is as beautiful as fairy-land here now, the hemlocks are decorating themselves with their light-green tassels and the laurel is beginning to blossom and the peonies are a glory in the garden. I go about in an ecstasy of delight over the loveliness of things.”

—Daniel Chester French, 1911

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One of the most successful sculptors of the twentieth century, French was best known for his statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. French purchased the 150-acre property in the Berkshires in 1896 for a summer estate and studio. He had already achieved national prominence for his bronze Minute Man statue, which resides at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. At Chesterwood he collaborated with his friend Henry Bacon on the construction of a residence and what would become his primary studio space for the rest of his career. The Colonial Revival house with its long veranda was sited to take advantage of the views of Monument Mountain and Mount Everett.

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For thirty-five years, the French family spent their winters in New York and their summers at Chesterwood. Family and friends visited the Berkshire retreat all season long, participating in dinner parties, dances, and tennis games. Mary French kept a detailed recipe book to organize her entertaining. 

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The main garden area is adjacent to the studio. French would often end a day of sculpting with a couple of hours tending the perennial and vegetable gardens, and taking long walks in the woods. A semicircular graveled courtyard is furnished with decorative planters and a pair of curved marble benches called exedras. Bacon designed the central marble-cement fountain for which French created putti relief.

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From the courtyard, marble steps lead to an elevated lawn with a central walk of peonies and Hydrangea paniculata standards. The main axis of the garden features a long perennial border planted with pastel-colored flowers. At its end, a pair of white-glazed terracotta columns mark the beginning of a woodland walk. The garden is enclosed by a lilac hedge and hemlocks, and accessorized with a pergola, marble benches, statuary, and a small square pool of water hyacinths and water lilies.

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Chesterwood opened to the public in 1955, and in 1962 French’s nephew, landscape architect Prentiss French, designed a new circulation pattern to better accommodate visitors. Today, Chesterwood is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and French's house, garden and studio are open for touring.

The grounds are also used as exhibition space for contemporary sculpture as well as works by French. The studio, barn, and other gallery spaces include sculptural studies for a number of his works, including The Minute ManThe Continents, and Abraham Lincoln

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Chesterwood is open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, daily 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $18. The grounds are 15 acres in size. There are picnic tables, trails for woodland walks, an annual outdoor contemporary sculpture exhibition, and a permanent exhibition of Daniel Chester French's work.

4 Williamsville Rd., Stockbridge, MA 02162, (413) 298-3579, chesterwood.org

Peony Partners

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From early childhood, peonies had a special place in my heart. Perhaps it was that their bloom time coincided with my June birthday. Or my mother's often recounted memory of the lavish peony bouquet that Dad had gave her in the early days of their courtship. I loved the soft colors, full blooms and heavenly scent of peony blossoms. Like other June brides, I included peonies in my wedding bouquet, and they were the first perennials that I planted in my garden.

Although gorgeous on their own, peonies can be paired with other perennials and shrubs that will serve as complements or offer contrasts in shape, form or texture. Below are examples of peony partners from my own garden and others that I have toured.

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Pale pink peonies in my garden are paired with purple heuchera, geranium 'Biokovo' and the colorful foliage of weigela 'My Monet', which is only 2' tall at maturity.

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The spiky form and soft blue color of catmint complements all types of peonies, as seen at The Mount.

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Digitalis offers a strong architectural form that contrasts well with peony flowers.

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On the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, peonies are paired with pale pink poppies and alliums.

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I enjoy underplanting peonies with purple heucheras and  Geranium 'Johnson's Blue'.

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Siberian and bearded irises provide a strong complement to peonies with their large flowers and statuesque form.

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Baptisia, with its spires of blue, white, purple or yellow flowers, creates a great backdrop for peonies.

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The large flower heads of alliums balance the prominent flowers of double peonies at Ambler Arboretum in Pennsylvania.

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This lovely combination of coral peonies and purple alliums was a prominent planting feature at Longwood Gardens this spring.

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Light pink peonies cascade over the fading blooms of hellebores and perennial geraniums. Hellebores thrive in sunny spots as long as they are watered regularly.

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A boxwood hedge creates a stately and serene background for peonies in a Delaware garden.

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Shrubs that flower at the same time as peonies, such as mountain laurels (above) and rhododendrons, provide pleasing counterparts. At Winterthur, the peony garden is framed by several old fashioned 'beauty bush' (kolwitzia) shrubs, which can be trained into a tree form or left as a weeping shrub.

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A gold smoke tree, Cotinus 'Golden Spirit', provides a stunning backdrop for coral peonies at Longwood Gardens. In my garden, weigela 'Wine and Roses' sets off the dark blooms of peony 'Karl Rosenfeld'.

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The maroon foliage of a 'Crimson Queen' Japanese maple provides a stunning backdrop to peonies in bud and bloom.

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In my cutting garden, the peonies are backed by an ivy-covered stone wall that has both aesthetic and functional benefits. It shields the peonies from wind and radiates warmth on cool spring days.

2018 Plant Sales by Public Gardens and Specialty Nurseries in the Northeast

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May is the month of plant sales across the Northeast, as public gardens and specialty nurseries welcome gardeners to shop for unusual plants, natives, and divisions from their gardens. Whether you are home or traveling, you can find a plant sale near you!

Massachusetts

Massachusetts Horticultural Society. The Massachusetts Horticultural Society is hosting its annual Gardeners’ Fair on Saturday, May 12 from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm at Elm Bank in Wellesley. The “Society Row Sale” features plants sold by local plant society chapters including the Daylily, Hosta, Conifer, Rose, Herb, and Cactus societies. Dozens of heirloom and hybrid tomato varieties will also be available for purchase from Allendale Farm. www.masshort.org.

Tower Hill Plant Sale. Outstanding plants of all kinds are offered by Tower Hill, premier vendors and plant societies at the Tower Hill Plant Sale. Saturday, June 2, open to members 9:00 -11:00 am, opens to the public at 11:00 am–2:00 pm. 11 French Drive, Boylston, MA. www.towerhillbg.org

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Garden Vision Epimediums. Gardeners looking to expand their epimedium collection can visit Garden Vision Epimediums in Phillipston on select days in May: May 4–13 (10 days), and May 18–20, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, rain or shine. Garden Vision is primarily a mail order nursery, normally closed to the public except for the May sale dates. www.epimediums.com

Garden in the Woods. Native plants can be found at New England Wildflower Society’s Garden in the Woods in Framingham, which offers the largest selection of native trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, ferns, and perennials in New England. Garden in the Woods is open daily, and plants are available for sale throughout the season. www.newfs.org

Berkshire Botanical Garden's Plants and Answers Be-a-Better-Gardener Plant Sale. Thousands of woody and herbaceous plants are displayed by habitat including plants for sunny areas, beds and borders, dry areas, plants for the woodland edge, and woodland plants, as well as annuals (most grown at BBG), tropicals, vines, divisions of perennials dug from BBG display gardens, organic vegetable and herb plants, and hanging baskets. Many plants are donated by 60 nurseries from throughout the tri-state area. May 11-12, 9 am–5 pm. www.berkshirebotanical.org

Long Hill Plant Sale. You'll find a great selection of unusual plants and old favorites, including Tree Peonies, Japanese Maple, Dogwood, Tulip Tree, Stewartia, Forget-me-nots, and more! Arrive by 11am to join us for the silent auction of rare plants, parennials from A to Z, natives, show stopping annuals, propagated Sedgwick Garden specialties, herbs, succulents, Hypertufa containers, and gardening books. Vegetable seedlings will be available from the Food Project and horticultural experts including the Mass. Master Gardeners of Massachusetts will be on hand to answer any questions. The Master Gardeners will also be doing free soil testing. May 12, 10 am–1 pm. www.thetrustees.org

Allan Haskell Plant Sale. Find your favorite annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs, and purchase some of Allen’s signature selections. Colors galore, and horticulturists on hand to help you with your decisions and answer any questions you may have. May 26, 10 am–1 pm www.thetrustees.org

Rhode Island

Blithewold Plant Sale. Come out and support Bristol Garden Club. They will be selling fresh annuals, perennials, herbs, veggies, and handmade flower arrangements in vases. The garden club will be set up in the side yard of our Carriage House. Pick up the perfect Mother’s Day gift or something for your spring gardens. May 12, 8:30–1:30. www.blithewold.org

Wicked Tulip Flower Farm UPick Tulip Sale. Pick your own tulips on 5 acres of fields sporting 600,000 tulip bulbs. Tickets required, available online. April 25–mid May, see website for admission hours. wickedtulips.com

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Connecticut

OBrien Nursery in Granby, Conn. will feature a different plant family on each May weekend: 
May 4-6 – Diverse, Dynamic and Deliciously Fragrant Daphne
May 11-13 – Enticing Epimediums – Explore our Expanded Choices
May 18-20 – Cypripediums! Yes, we have Lady-Slippers!
May 25-28 – Don’t miss our Itoh Peony Selections in Flower
Open on those dates only, 10 am–5 pm. www.obrienhosta.com

Florence Griswold Museum. Join the Museum’s Garden Gang for a sale of beautiful plants and garden specimens, featuring heirloom perennials, roses, herbs, and succulents. May 18 & 19, 9 am–3 pm florencegriswoldmuseum.org

Hill Stead Museum. May Market is Hill-Stead’s annual home, garden and gourmet benefit event featuring premium exhibitors, rare and unusual plants, entertainment, children’s activities, food, and a museum open house. May 5 & 6, 10 am–4 pm www.hillstead.org

New Hampshire

Fuller Gardens Plant Sale: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,  May 11–13, 10am to 3pm all three days.  Featured for sale will be hundreds of field grown hardy perennials, potted hardy rose bushes of all varieties and herbs. Gift shop will be open.  Come browse our selection and get a plant that will last for Mom.  The Gardens will also OPEN FOR THE SEASON on May 13th. www.fullergardens.org

New Jersey

New Jersey Botanical Garden Plant Sale. Perennials, annuals, vegetables, herbs, trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers, hanging baskets, and potted plants. Knowledgeable Master Gardeners will be on hand to offer advice, and the plants are lush and healthy. May 5-6 & 13, 10 am–4 pm. www.njbg.org

Van Vleck House & Gardens Annual Plant Sale. May 4–5, 9 am–4 pm; May 6, 10 am–4 pm; May 7-9, 10 am–2 pm. vanvleck.org

Frelinghuysen Arboretum Plant Sale: May 5-6, 9 am–5 pm. www.arboretumfriends.org

Cross Estate Gardens Plant Sale: Saturday, May 5, 9 am–1 pm. Wide selection of plants: native and non-native; sun-loving and shade-loving; evergreen, semi-evergreen, woody, and herbacious.www.crossestategardens.org

Reeves Reed Arboretum: This year's plant sale features an outstanding collection of plants selected for native lovers and shade gardeners, in addition to our usual eclectic mix of hard-to-find perennials and annuals. Friday, May 18, between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm, for RRA members only. On Saturday, May 19, the plant sale opens to the general public from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. www.reeves-reedarboretum.org

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Spring Inspiration at the Leonard J. Buck Garden

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If you are looking for a gorgeous garden to visit this spring, plan a trip to The Leonard J. Buck Garden in Far Hills, New Jersey.

The Leonard J. Buck Garden is one of the finest and largest rock gardens in the eastern United States. It consists of a series of alpine and woodland gardens situated in a 33-acre wooded stream valley. While most rock gardens are man-made and small in scale like the alpine plants they showcase, this rock garden is a series of huge natural rock outcroppings in a 500-foot-wide, 90-foot-deep gorge. The gorge was formed at the end of the Ice Age, about 12,000 years ago, when the water from melting glaciers carved out the valley of Moggy Hollow.

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The rocky garden backbone was perfect for Leonard Buck, a geologist who made his fortune in mining. As he traveled the world on business, he collected rare plants. In the 1930s Buck was a trustee of the New York Botanical Garden, where he met and hired Swiss-born landscape architect Zenon Schreiber. Their goal was to develop a naturalistic woodland garden composed of many smaller gardens, each with its own character and microhabitat.

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Buck and Schreiber worked by eye and proportion, without a formal plan on paper. Buck worked the rock—chiseling, picking, and shoveling to expose the rugged face. Schreiber worked the plants, tucking in rare and exotic specimens and planting azaleas and rhododendrons at the base of the valley walls to create a dazzling display in spring. He also established a backbone of dogwoods, crabapples, shadbush, fothergilla, viburnums, and other native trees and shrubs throughout the property.

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The garden’s trails wind past two ponds and a rock-edged stream, through the woods, and up into the gorge. At its spring peak, the garden is a showcase for lady slippers, trilliums, woodland phlox, bergenia, iris cristata, tiarella, epimediums, and columbines, as well as Siberian squill, Spanish bluebells, winter aconite, grape hyacinths, and other miniature bulbs. Japanese primroses line the streambed and masses of azaleas dazzle in the valley. To help plan your visit, the website provides a weekly list of plants in bloom. There is something to see in every season. (For more information about these spring bloomers see the blog articles in the links above.) 

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When Interstate 287 was being laid out, the original plans called for Interstate 287 to run directly through Buck’s property. However he invited the officials in charge to visit his garden and succeeded in having the highway rerouted. After his death in 1976, the family donated the garden to the Somerset County Park Commission and set up a trust to fund maintenance and renovations. 

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10 New Perennials for Your Garden

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March is a great time to peruse plant catalogs, websites and flower shows in search of the new and garden-worthy. Here are 10 intriguing new plants for this year's perennial gardens.

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Astrantia major 'White Giant'

This long-flowering favorite of butterflies and floral designers produces tidy mounds of greenish white flowers, each framed by a burst of white bracts tipped and veined in green. The flowers are held high on slender stems, making them great for cutting, and they’re contrasted to perfection by dark green, serrated leaves. An excellent cut flower if stems are harvested when the uppermost blooms are fully open. Astrantias prefer full sun or partial shade and average soil that doesn’t go dry. White Flower Farm

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Geranium 'Azure Rush'

A compact sport of G. Rozanne, the light lavender-blue 2 ½” flowers feature the same vigorous, long-blooming, heat-tolerant qualities on a more compact, rounded shape. 18" tall, full sun to half-day sun. Geranium Azure Rush is a Blooms of Bressingham variety selected for outstanding qualities, reliable growing performance and stunning beauty. Bluestone Perennials

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Clematis 'Chevalier'

Though technically a vine, this clematis grows to a small size and can be left to mingle horizontally in the perennial bed. Very free-flowering, Chevalier produces starry, rich purple flowers over a long bloom season.  It can be grown in containers. Height: 4-6 feet, blooms all summer. Brushwood Nursery

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Hosta 'Sapphire Pillows'

Another great blue hosta from Don Dean and a must-have for the hosta collector! Leaves are intensely sapphire blue with heavy corrugation, slight cupping at the mid-rib, and fold at the tip. The blue will hold very late into the season when kept from direct sunlight. Lavender flowers in summer. 23" tall x 45" wide. New Hampshire Hostas

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Hakonechloa 'SunFlare'

This Japanese Forest Grass sports bright yellow cascading leaves tipped with rich burgundy.  Cool weather brings green and orange highlights. Great color addtion to a shade garden! Santa Rosa Gardens

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Corydalis 'Blackberry Wine'

An amazing new corydalis from China that is taking the trade by storm.  Will take full sun or light shade in superbly drained soil and grow to a stunning 24" wide clump topped with fragrant, wine-purple flowers from mid-April through November. Lazy S'S Farm

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Peony 'Julia Rose'

An Itoh peony with glorious tonal variations of vibrant pink, soft cream, and peach on a compact plant with beautiful foliage. Itoh peonies are crosses of a tree and an herbaceous peony. Peony's Envy

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Dicentra Spectabilis 'White Gold'

This select form of Bleeding Hearts brightens the mid-spring garden with brilliant golden foliage and pure white blossoms on arching stems. Plants grow to 2' tall x 3' wide, and in bloom might reach 30". Avant Gardens

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Baptisia  'Purple Smoke'

This 3-4’ tall plant produces numerous dusky-purple flowers atop gray-green leaves that are carried on charcoal-colored stems. An outstanding cultivar introduced by the NC Botanical Garden. Broken Arrow

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Hemerocallis 'Ruby Clare Mims'

Ruby Clare checks all the boxes for the perfect summer border—a high bud count, pleasing fragrance and reliable reblooming nature. Large, 6" blooms are held at a moderate 29" height and feature rosy red petals with a pale highlight at the eye. Contrasting white, toothy edging and a striking yellow-green throat add to its appeal. Breck's

10 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

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Tired of winter already? It's only the beginning of February, and we still have two months of snow and frigid temperatures here in Massachusetts. Here are ten ideas for coping with the winter blues for gardeners.

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buxton begonia society

1. Get involved!

Local garden clubs and plant societies offer a wealth of programming for their members. Joining a plant society is an excellent way to deepen your knowledge of a particular plant family, meet experts in that field, and make new friends! There are New England branches of the Hosta Society, Rhododendron Society, Dahlia Society, Hydrangea Society, Daffodil Society, Herb Society and many more!

snug harbor farm valentine bouquet workshop

snug harbor farm valentine bouquet workshop

2. Learn and create

Even if you are not a member, you have access to excellent gardening lectures, classes, and workshops offered by local nurseries and organization such as Mass Hort, Tower Hill, Trustees for Reservations, Arnold Arboretum, Berkshire Botanic Garden, and New England Wildflower Society to name just a few. See the events listings offered on their websites.

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boston flower and garden show

3. Attend a flower show

With exuberant landscape displays, floral design competitions, lectures, and gardening vendors, flower shows offer a rich preview of spring. Here are the 2018 dates:
Connecticut Flower Show: Feb 22-26
Boston Flower and Garden Show: March 14-18
Maine Flower Show: March 22-25

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4. Become a bookworm

Organize a monthly Garden Book Club with your friends,  garden club, or library. For book suggestions, see the Books page. Learn, discuss and enjoy!

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better homes & gardens

better homes & gardens

5. Create an indoor garden

Get your creative juices flowing by planting a miniature indoor garden. Whether it's a bowl garden of succulents or a basket of miniature houseplants, the possibilities are endless. Transform an old aquarium into a terrarium, add miniature accessories for a fanciful fairy garden, or create a hanging kokedama planting!

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6. Swap and share

Have your houseplants outgrown their space or are you just tired of them? Organize a houseplant swap with your garden club, friend or neighbors and enjoy growing a new plant for free!

my variegated African violet cuttings 

my variegated African violet cuttings 

7. Propagate the plants you love

Many houseplants including African violets, begonias, and pepperonias are easy to propagate from leaf cuttings. Cut the leaf stem, dip in a rooting hormone, plant into a container of potting soil, water and cover. New leaves usually appear in 4-6 weeks. Restaurant take-out containers with clear lids are great for this purpose. 

cymbidium florals, portsmouth, NH

cymbidium florals, portsmouth, NH

8. Surround yourself with flowers

One of the things that I miss the most in winter is the sweet scent of flowers and blooming shrubs. Visit your local florist for a quick olfactory pick-me-up, purchase some flowers, and create an arrangement that will fill your home with beauty and fragrance.

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fine gardening

9. Force flowering branches

February is a great time to force branches of spring-blooming trees and shrubs. Cut the branches, split the ends with a knife for maximum water uptake, place in a bucket of water in a cool room out of direct sunlight, and mist frequently. Buds open in 2-4 weeks depending on the variety. Great plants for forcing include forsythias, bodant viburnums, cherries, crabapples and magnolias.

mike's backyard nursery

mike's backyard nursery

10. Try winter propagation in the garden

Many deciduous shrubs can be propagated in winter from hardwood cuttings. I tried this last winter and had good success! Shrubs best suited for this technique include abelias, hydrangeas, red-twig dogwood, pussywillows, forsythia, spires, deutzias and more. Ask your friends if you can take cuttings from their shrubs and try this easy technique! For more information, see this blogpost at Mike's Backyard Nursery.

Any other ideas for beating the winter blues? Please leave them in the Comments section.

Come in From the Cold at the Roger Williams Botanical Center

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If you are looking to come in from the cold in January, New England features several lovely indoor gardens (see related article). One of the newest is in Providence, in a park that has provided leisure, entertainment and education for residents and visitors for almost 150 years.

Roger Williams Park was created in 1870 after Betsey Williams bequeathed 102 acres of farmland and woodland to the city of Providence to be used for public purpose. A portion of the gift included land that was originally purchased from the Narragansetts by her great, great, great, grandfather, Rhode Island’s founder Roger Williams.

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Horace Cleveland, a leader in the Urban Parks Movement, created the design for the park. It was intended to serve as an escape for residents of highly industrialized Providence in the late 19th century. Today, the Roger Williams Park contains a zoo, a museum of natural history, a planetarium, the Botanical Center,  Japanese Gardens, Victorian Rose Gardens, the Providence Police Department’s Mounted Command center, the boathouse and boat rentals, historical tours, a carousel, playground, the Temple to Music, the Roger Williams Park Casino, and many miles of walking paths.

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The Botanical Center opened in 2007, and at 12,000 square feet is the largest public indoor display garden in New England. It includes two main greenhouses: The Conservatory and the Mediterranean Room. The Conservatory has the feeling of a large courtyard surrounded by elegant tall palms. Unlike most greenhouses, this one is airy and open, with a central area for ceremonies or social events. A fountain bubbles and colorful tropical plants bloom beneath stately trees. Immense birds of paradise hide among the palms, like storks in the jungle.

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The Mediterranean Room is built around a long stucco wall with a circular gate. A densely planted pond with giant koi dominates the room. The Orchid Society displays delicate orchids growing in a moss-draped tree in one corner, and the Carnivorous Plant Society exhibits pitcher plants and delicate wild flowers in a raised bog garden. A small waterfall and a Mediterranean fountain provide soothing background music. All in all, there are over 150 different species and cultivars of plants including 17 types of palms. Upcoming projects include a Flavor Lab designed for chefs and farmers to compare the taste of vegetable varieties, and a Journey Through America exhibit featuring plants native to South, Central, and North America.

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The Botanical Center’s outdoor display gardens are equally attractive and well worth a visit in the warmer months. The Winter Garden has gorgeous specimens of umbrella pines, a Lacebark Pine, Metasequoia, and other unusual conifers; Sargent cherries and trees with distinctive bark such river birches; hellebores, evergreen ferns, and bamboo. Other displays include a beautiful Perennial Garden, with large plantings of bee balm, balloon flower, phlox, daylilies, coneflowers, and blackeye susans. A Pine and Hosta Dell, Wooded Hillside Garden, Overlook Terrace, and Rain Garden offer interesting plantings to view. Downhill from the greenhouses, gorgeous roses and clematis cover the arches of the Rose Maze.

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1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence, RI 02905, (401) 785-9450
providenceri.com/botanical-center

HOURS: Tues. –Sun. 11–4
ADMISSION: $5