Category Archives: Uncategorized

Beth’s Garden

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One of many scenic viewpoints in Beth’s gravel garden.

Long after Beth Chatto became famous for the “right plant, right place” ethos in her damp garden and woodland garden, and had launched an award-winning nursery and collected 10 consecutive gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show, she demonstrated what it truly means to be an ecological gardener by turning her hands to a compacted and parched parking lot.

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Artistry in the gravel garden.

There, she carefully prepared the soil and then selected plants to match the site’s inhospitable conditions. The number and variety of plants that thrive is remarkable, but it is the gravel garden’s exquisite beauty that makes it such a spectacular success.

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A peek at the damp garden from the elevated position of the Chatto home.

I’ve been lucky to see the Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex twice, visiting first in September 2015 and then again in late May of this year, just days after Beth passed away at the age of 94. This recent visit was especially poignant as Beth’s right-hand man, Garden and Nursery Director David Ward, lead a tour of the garden for the group I hosted on “Gardens of East Anglia.”

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David Ward

During our time with David, he emphasized Beth’s artistry, pointing out the triangles created by plants, a consequence of Beth’s early training in Ikebana, as well as the many plants featuring exceptional foliage and form rather than flowers or fruits. He frequently said, “I don’t know how she did it,” and noted, “she was always working — sitting on a fold-away stool, observing and jotting down plant descriptions.”

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Iris ‘Benton Susan’, a Cedric Morris cultivar.

Best of all he promised, “We won’t go far wrong here, this will always be a garden for plant lovers.”

Learn more about Beth and her many contributions to gardening on the website of The Beth Chatto Gardens.

 

Six (Gardens Galore) on Saturday

Some of my blogging friends have adopted a new meme organized by The Propagator, “Six on Saturday,” and I thought it would be fun to follow suit…especially this week when I’m just home from hosting a fabulous garden tour to East Anglia, England, where I visited some of the most remarkable gardens I’ve ever seen.

So, here are six gardens visited in the first days of the tour. If I’m lucky, I’ll have time to tell you more about each of these special places. Not this week, though, as I’m headed to St. Louis soon for another adventure.

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The Old Palace (1485) at Hatfield House, where Queen Elizabeth I lived as a child, and its recently updated garden. (Not in East Anglia, but near Heathrow Airport where we arrived.)

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Beth Chatto’s remarkable gravel garden. Notice how the bark of the eucalyptus tree gives prominence to the silver and gray foliage plants.

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Helmingham Hall, built and owned by the Tollemache family since 1480.

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A stunning scene at Wyken Hall Gardens and Vineyard. Our group also had a fabulous lunch at the café and the gift shop was top-notch too.

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The sunken pool centering the rose garden at Houghton Hall. Imagine how beautiful this scene will be when the lavender and climbing roses are blooming!

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Sandringham House, the much-loved country retreat of the Queen and the home where Prince Phillip, now retired from public life, spends a good portion of his time.

 

Oh, the places we’ll go!

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Hydrangea radiata

There is a suitcase waiting to be packed and I’m excited beyond reason about the trip ahead, but I’m calling a two-minute time out to tell you I had all good intentions of writing a blog post yesterday when I zipped around the garden photographing its May blooms. And though time has slipped away, I had to share this one image–a photo of a native Hydrangea radiata, which is flourishing in the woodland garden among ferns and fading trilliums. It’s such a pretty image of a flower and its shadow, don’t you think?

Now back to that suitcase and happy thoughts of the friends I’m joining at the airport for a garden tour of East Anglia.

Oh, the places we’ll go!

 

Almost Wordless Wednesday–Aphrodite

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Calycanthus chinensis ‘Aphrodite’

I received this ‘Aphrodite’ sweetshrub as a tiny plant from Proven Winners a few years ago at a Garden Writers (GWA) meeting and this is its first flower! The bloom, very similar to ‘Hartlage Wine’, has a lightly sweet fragrance similar to honeydew melon. Don’t you just love it? I do!

Tuesday View–October 10, 2017

It’s been a long time since I’ve shared any news, but I haven’t had the heart. These photos, taken on Tuesday, September 12, the morning after Hurricane Irma crossed the Upstate, tell the story.

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View looking towards the carport from the front porch.

 

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Towards the house and carport from the top of the drive.
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And down the street, with our house on the left.

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The white oak from our garden that pulled down a telephone pole (seen just beyond the tree) with electric, cable, and telephone wires.

Irma, a tropical storm when it reached South Carolina, brought several inches of rain and wind gusts of 50 to 60 miles per hour, which was a misfortune for us and our neighbor to the north. Together, we lost six towering trees, and many smaller trees, including three eastern hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) that provided a barrier between the two properties and a beautiful Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) beside our carport.

One of the largest trees in our front garden, a white oak (Quercus alba), toppled a telephone pole as it fell. So, we were without electricity for 4 days and had neither cable nor telephone (landline) for 10 days.

When you live through a storm like this, however, you count your blessings. No one here was hurt and nothing was damaged that can’t be fixed.  And soon after the photos above were taken, good neighbors arrived and helped us clear the driveway.

Many others suffered much worse and are still suffering, especially those in the Caribbean. Not only from Irma, but also Harvey, Maria, and Nate. Today, sadly, there is news of a new tropical storm, Ophelia, which is forecast to reach hurricane strength by Thursday.

In the next weeks, we will have 3 additional trees removed, since they’ve been left in precarious position. Then, repairs will be made and a new roof put on the carport and house. All should be in good order again before Thanksgiving.

Even today, when the sun finally broke through the clouds after soaking rains, I could see a bit of the old magic.  After just four weeks, the garden is already recovering its charms.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

 

 

 

Dahlias for Southern Gardens

It’s been nearly three years since I set off on a late-August morning for Cashiers, North Carolina, for a visit to a meeting of the Carolinas Dahlia Society, but I’ll never forget the enthusiasm and comradery of the members that day, nor the buckets of glorious blooms they brought with them.

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Buckets of blooms and good friends at a meeting of the Carolinas Dahlia Society.

Dahlias, a group of tender, tuberous plants, begin to flower just as the growing season starts to wane, extending the garden’s splendor when most daisies, daylilies, and other summer perennials have finished their show. Typically, they provide the vivid colors that make fall gardens so satisfying and are excellent companions for the asters, salvias, and sedums, which also bloom this time of year.

Since their initial introduction in the late 1700s, dahlias have been selectively hybridized into a remarkable group of ornamentals. While most plants have just two sets of chromosomes, dahlias have eight, allowing a much greater variation among hybrids.

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Eight chromosomes allow for a wide variation among hybrids, as exhibited here by ‘Hilltop Sapphire’, ‘AC Angie’, ‘Hilltop Mimi’, and ‘Hilltop Glo’.

Cultivars range in size from just inches to towering heights and flowers comprise a wide array of sizes, shapes, and colors. Plus, once dahlias begin to bloom, they’re the epitome of cut-and-come-again. The more you pick, the more they flower, with blooms opening nonstop until frost.

Not all dahlias are equal, however, especially in the hot and humid growing conditions of Upstate gardens. Careful selection of heat-tolerant dahlias is critical to success in the Carolinas. Native to the high mountain plateaus of Mexico and Guatemala, most dahlias prefer warm days and cool nights.

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Dahlias with single-form flowers, such as this ‘Bishop of York’ in the display area of the Cashiers garden, are easy to mingle with other plants.

Heirloom dahlias that are heat-tolerant include ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, ‘Juanita’, ‘Kidd’s Climax’, ‘Prince Noir’, and ‘Thomas Edison’. Among newer cultivars, look for ‘Ben Houston’, ‘Elsie Houston’, ‘Hilltop Glo’, ‘Island Dynasty’, ‘Kenora Firefighter’, ‘Otto’s Thrill’, and ‘Zorro’. The best single-form flowers, which mingle easily in both borders and containers, include ‘Alpen Cherub’, ‘Honka’, and ‘Marie Schnugg’.

For a comprehensive list of recommended plants, visit the website of the Dahlia Society of Georgia.

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‘Otto’s Thrill’, which can measure 8 to 10-inches wide, produces one of the biggest blooms among dahlias recommended for Carolina gardens.

 

Mothers

It’s been said that a mom’s hug lasts long after she lets go.

It’s true.

What I remember most about my own mother, though, is not her many hugs goodbye, but the hug that always welcomed me home.  And the knowledge that she was happiest when the house was full of family.

My mother-in-law, Arleigh, was like that too.  She spent hours on end preparing for company, making pecan tassies and other family favorites, arranging pretty tablescapes for special meals, and making a welcoming wreath for the front door.

When our boys were little, she knit sweaters for them in winter and planned happy excursions for their summer visits.  Childhood rooms were decorated with hand-stitched samplers celebrating their birth and any notable occasion was always marked with a special card and message from Grandma and Pop.

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At Arleigh’s funeral on Friday, while leafing through publications featuring her award-winning floral designs and fingering her hand-made quilts, a sweet friend noted that whatever Arleigh did, she did it best.

For those she loved, that included hugs, provided in sugary treats and tiny stitches, the thrill of fishing trips and spotting deer along the farm road at dusk, and many, but not enough, unhurried summer days floating down cold mountain rivers.