23 August 2014

Long Day At Longwood

This gardener of over a decade has never been to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, or to the other nearby gardener ports of call. Longwood Gardens was on the list of staycation day trips assigned to any weekend with nothing else planned.

The battle plan was to attack on Saturday in August. The weather was to be glorious. The route was arranged, camera batteries charged, and walking clothes readied. Then it rained Friday evening and the meteorologists changed their tune to Saturday showers. Dark overcast skies ready to burst open greeted Saturday morning so the trip was off.

After plans were cancelled, the sun then came out, and rain on the radar map evaporated. I flew into the car and peeled out at the last minute, calculating an arrival time before lunch.

The woods were the first stop. Towering mature trees filtered light down to open glades with peaceful water.

The property was owned by the Pierce family as a farm, with the owners planting specimen tress on a section of the grounds through the 1800s. It was called Pierce's Park, but the Pierce family wanted to sell the property, and a lumber company had a deal to buy the property partly because of the great trees.

The bench beckons for a rest in the woods. But, there is an entire botanical garden to explore.

Pierre duPont, industrialist head of the duPont Compny, was an amateur gardener as most in his famous family. He was appalled that the lumber company was planning to harvest the trees in Pierce's Park, so he purchased the lumber company, then obtained the property and made it his summer home.

The water tower at the edge of the woods.

Pierre duPont laid out and planted gardens on the property, built a spectacular conservatory greenhouse, collected more specimens, built an outdoor theater, and installed grand fountains. He entertained, sponsored theater performances, and kept the park open to the public.

This is the new meadow, still filling in, reminding me of an Andrew Wyeth painting.

The property was set up in a well-funded Longwood Foundation for the preservation of the gardens and for improvement of horticulture. After his death in 1954, the foundation undertook expansion and education. Today, Longwood Gardens and the estate cover 1,077 acres (4.2 km2) and employ over 1000. The newest addition is the 86 acre (0.3 km2) meadow garden demonstrating ecological design with wetlands and open native habitat.

One of the trial gardens - this one of dahlias and daylily cultivars being tried (in the background.)

The main conservatory greenhouse.

I always admire little design details that are unexpected and delight the senses.

The 'white' garden in one of the 'green'houses.

One inside the orchid house. I was impressed by the shape and color. No name.

I like the color combination of the ground plantings.

Yellow and one of those plantings.

One of many in the water pond garden outside the greenhouses. The fact that this was Egyptian reminded me of a reference in the movie The Ten Commandments.

The white garden with dusty miller, nicotiana, oak leaf hydrangea, lily, cleome, lisianthus.

Yellow garden (and the orange garden peeking behind) with lily, canna, rudbeckia, lisianthus, dahlia, hibiscus.

Very happy oak leaf hydrangea, not only in specimen size, but in flower size.

I was not a big fan of coleus, but am coming around to liking them, and this one helps a lot. No name.

This trip was a shot of ambition in an otherwise dull month where gardening chores are not fun but chores. Other destinations near Longwood Gardens that I must include on the bucket list are Winterthur and Nemours Mansion and Gardens , Alfred duPont's pad.

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: mexican zinnia, zinnia, echinacea, cleome, marigold, mini glad, rudbeckia, hydrangea, nicotiana
  • Harvested: many peppers & tomatoes, 1 zucchini

15 August 2014

August 2014 Bloom Day

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
What's blooming in the garden on the 15th of the month

Rather than the same ol' same ol' let's present some of the newer items rearing their heads this year. I will throw in a few items that have not been here a while, too. I even put the photos on the X-Large setting for this posting. Today it's about the pictures -- not the story.

The Irish Eyes are smiling. This rudbeckia "Irish Eyes" with the green centers was planted from seed twice in the past two years, but this was the first year anything survived and bloomed. They are growing but blooming sparsely. Let's see if they stick around for next year.

Yes, these are the actual colors. Seed for these mini zinnias were almost tossed out. They were free from the winter seed swap and found in my goodie bag, but I am not fond of mixed colors of anything. I threw the seeds down, and these min-zins popped up. Maybe it's time to reevaluate mixed colors -- I kind of like them.

Aren't you glad? These mini glad corms, (note "mini") were picked up at the winter seed swap, too. The bag was labeled 'orange mini-glads.' I never heard of mini glads. Well, the first one bloomed at 6-inches in height (15 cm), but does it look orange? I am waiting on the others.
The blue never stops ... as long as you deadhead. Bachelor buttons were grown once in the past, but they gave out when the summer heat turned on. These were an experiment to see if they could be kept going into summer. The answer is "Yes," but it is increasingly difficult to deadhead because of the number of blooms.

I grew these last year in a less hospitable spot. This year, they are thriving in a new location. This cultivar known as "Pinca," has squared off type petals which forced me to break open the wallet. The petals start out pastel yellow, turn deep pink, and than fade to very light pink.

And for the first time in its 8-year history, the unknown daylily is reblooming here in August. Is this a weird summer (to go with the weird winter) or what?

Go ahead and visit other garden bloggers' bloom days at the blog May Dreams Gardens.

06 August 2014

Thomas Jefferson's Chinese Ixia

Belacamda Lily was Belamcanda chinensis until about a year ago. Then botanists started playing with the names of some plants due to newfound genetic knowledge, and presto. The name changed to Iris domestica. Could its leaves actually resemble the irs family?

The seeds hopped into my goodie bag at the annual Seed Swap in February 2012. Here we go again with another free plant from the seed swap or from a neighbor. During the first year, they were sown indoors and transplanted, producing one flower stalk that summer. The next year, (last summer) the plant came back half-heartedly, but did not bloom.

Seeds were also sent to Thomas Jefferson in 1807. He planted them in a Monticello flower garden, and referred to them as 'Chinese Ixia.' Today they are found naturalized around the grounds at Monticello.

This is not a lily but it is from China, central Asia, and India. It was used in some Chinese medicine, but analysis shows it to be mildly toxic. Recent tests on mice indicate a possible benefit in fighting prostate cancers - at least in mice.

My plant from last summer came around this year after surviving the harsh winter. I also planted a few seeds remaining from the 2012 seed swap batch. One germinated and survived without receiving much attention. The two healthy plants started blooming a week ago, so they bloom in their first year.

I was smart to place them right up front along the walk where they can be seen. Even though tall at 2-feet (60 cm) they can be lost visually if not in your face. The seed pods upon opening reveal seed clusters resembling blackberries, giving it the nickname 'blackberry lily.' My remaining seeds will be planted, along with any new seed from these plants, in hopes of creating a clump for next year.

For The Record:
  • Light clay soil with organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • No disease although suspected iris borer attack

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, mexican zinnia, zinnia, cleome, sunflowers, phlox, rudbeckia, echinacea, hosta
  • Harvested: 12 peppers, 6 tomatoes