17 July 2010

Horticultural Society

Last month, in the attempt to keep up the momentum of my local weekend stay-cations, I ventured down the road to the American Horticultural Society for the first time. It's one of those places in my backyard that I have never visited, although living here for 25 years. Located along the Potomac River, a few steps north of Mount Vernon, the AHS headquarters is housed in an old estate house on River Farm, one of George Washington's land holdings. The grounds are free for visitors to wander about through the gardens and meadow.

Several large centuries-old trees with wrinkled skin screen out the sun for the shade garden. They create a refuge from the southern heat and along with the house, lend a sense of quiet permanence to the property. Tourists were sparse on the day I visited.

Located among the hostas was a small structure, maybe a well cover, with a 'green' roof overflowing with plants. The same roof was found on a garden shed near the annuals garden. These appear to be nothing more than a 6-inch (20 cm) deep pan on top of a standard asphalt shingle roof - a container on the roof. I was intrigued by what type of maintenance these require, specifically the water needs. It is a shallow root zone on a hot roof after all. The photos seem to indicate the full-sun roof is not as lush as the shade roof. Maybe these roofs were tests, or maybe they were demonstrations.

More sustainable demonstrations were on display. Bamboo was used to support the top-heavy blooming oriental lilies. Notice the push mower in the shed? And the natural meadow, planted in 2008, has become the new "sustainable alternative to the traditional American lawn ... and a popular attraction for visitors." The next post will include plants in the spring gardens and meadow that I found interesting.

Interesting? Two months before, the meadow did not exist - it was purposely burned to the ground to maintain it. "Without some type of management–either mowing or burning–any meadow eventually reverts to woodland. Burning aids in controlling woody and herbaceous invasive species and can also invigorate older meadows by helping to recycle nutrients and reduce matted vegetation to allow better air circulation." If a meadow were to replace my front lawn, do I need to burn it every other year? :-)

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink cosmos, mexican zinnia, petunia, red cosmos, nicotiana,
    calendula, phlox, cleome, coneflower, salvia
  • Harvested: 2 cucumbers, dill


LC said...
I have read and seen videos about this lovely place... thanks for sharing! Larry
Cherry Lane said...
I, too, paid my first visit to River Farm this year. Was there for the spring plant sale, and had not much time to really look around. I'll be sure to go back to see all that you saw!
Swimray said...
You are most welcome. River Farm has some great lilies, although you do, too.

I need to visit AHS's spring plant sale some day. Let's hope River Farm does not burn things before you visit there again.
how to garden better said...
I like the idea of growing plants on the roof. Very nice!