Saturday, April 26, 2008

Winterthur in spring

I knew of Winterthur as a house full of furniture, collected over decades by one of the Duponts. What I didn't realize until I visited this week is that Henry Francis Dupont, or H.F., was an avid gardener. He created acres of naturalized woodland gardens that are at their best in spring. A great believer in the succession of bloom, he planted acres (another highlight of his gardens is their scale) of early spring bulbs like Siberian squill, chionodoxa, winter aconite, snowdrops and daffodils (which we missed) followed by anemones (the Italian ones, they seem to grow taller than mine), bluebells, forget-me-nots and trillium (which we did see), all punctuated by flowering trees and the dark greens of the pinetum.

Here's a picture of the saucer magnolias, above a carpet of forget-me-nots.

And then there were the sweeps of anemones

and the hillsides of Virginia bluebells (alas, he had only the common blue, unlike some of us fortunates who have inherited the white, smirk)

to say nothing of the multitude of trilliums, mostly the white ones, but also a few yellow and the dark red of the wake robins.

The flowering trees and shrubs were intoxicating, cherries, magnolias, intensely fragrant Carlesii viburnum,

even the redbuds, whose color is hard to work with, I think. I usually prefer them in someone else's garden.
Well, see where HF put them and how well they do.
The weather was absolutely perfect - blue skies, sun, mid-70s - and all was right with the world, if only for a few days...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My favorite garden

Apart from the famous ones, I mean... My favorite garden is under the oak tree in the back yard. It's very simple: lots of bulbs and shade-loving perennials appear and bloom in spring, then subside into a wave of green leaves in early summer. Not a very original formula, but very satisfying.

It's my only garden without holes (at least, not obvious ones, though I have plans to add plants along one side). It has lots of soft colors, primarily blue, white, yellow and a touch of red. The foliage of the epimedium, Japanese roof iris and hellebore works well with the hostas that take over once the bulbs subside (though I have my eye on some chartreuse hostas to spark up the color a bit). The tulips, in bloom now, add some height (or, as designers would say, spires to complement the mounds).

In fact, I love it so much that I now have my eye on doing something similar under the maple tree in front. Maples have more shallow roots, I think, which should make it a bit more challenging to plant, but I'm sure it can be managed. I'll need to cut back the ivy a bit, too, which is a good thing anyway.

Here's a look at the oak tree garden:

In bloom now: pulmonaria "Spilt Milk," mertensia (white and blue, thanks, Mom), narcissus 'Sun Disc,' English bluebells, bleeding heart, tiarella, sweet woodruff (just coming into bloom), hellebore, and tulips (white Maureen).

The dandelions are just an added bonus, of course.

The English bluebells were inspired by a stunning, unexpected hillside in the Lake District - I came around a curve in the path, and there they were. These are not quite so magnificent, perhaps, but still beautiful.

Bleeding hearts and star of Bethlehem, which self-seeds around the garden

Clearly, this sad little patch - right by the front door, of course! - is in need of a major makeover (apart from the cat, which wanders over from next door and adds a decorative touch). One of the problems is that voles seem to have invaded this space, leaving mounds of earth around the tree. I suspect them of devouring the hostas 'August Moon' that I planted in the front garden last spring.

I've been struggling with how to define the area to turn into a garden, since it's bordered by the sidewalk and driveway, plus a clump of myrtle around the lamppost. As Dad always said, edging a garden makes it look "meant." But I could start small with some bulbs and see what develops.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I love and adore tulips, especially, given my low taste, the ones that are gorgeously over the top.
I love the Rembrandts...

and the fringed tulips...

and the lily-flowered tulips - why were these sold as a collection, when the pink against the orange makes my teeth hurt?

and the purply blacks - this one allegedly a parrot, but I doubt it (would McClure & Zimmerman steer me wrong??)

...and the plain old yellow ones from the cutting garden that swoon and swell in the vase.

But then there are the chaste joys of single tulips of a single color,



and white.

I love to put a few in a glass vase in front of the bathroom mirror, where they quietly multiply.

More survivors

In addition to the two brunnera that did survive after all, I found more good news poking around the garden. I broke off last year's amsonia stems and found teeny new ones emerging. Balloon flowers are coming up. The baptisia is coming up and looking very healthy. The peony 'Sarah Bernhardt' is growing vigorously through the hoop, and the two unnamed ones from Susan Hepler are coming along, too. Astilbes in the front garden are showing leafy fronds... This dry recital is probably interesting only to me, but I'm heartened that most plants seem to have survived last summer's drought and my imperfect care.

Yesterday I went through the garden marking plants, lest I forget. I love the marking pencils and labels I bought on Dianne Benson's recommendation.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Perfumed Garden Lilies from White Flower Farm

Yesterday I planted the Perfumed Garden collection of Oriental lilies that Biffy and family gave me for my birthday, half in the sunny garden and half in the cutting garden. I paid attention to the depth of planting, since one of my worst gardening errors is planting things too shallowly. I get discouraged by the heavy clay soil that I need to amend more conscientiously. I hope I've done well by these lilies, they will be beautiful! Now to spend the White Flower Farm gift certificate Biffy gave me for Christmas...

Around St. Patrick's Day, I planted some sugar snap peas, but they are only barely coming up. Maybe there's an advantage to my usual procrastination? Still have to plant the viburnum, maybe this afternoon after the rain has softened up the ground.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Only the strong survive - updated

The brunnera 'Jack Frost' has barely survived. One of the three is showing the most brilliant blue flowers, which don't come through in this picture

but do in this one. This is what mine should look like, but I guess the drought got the best of it. At least there's one plant alive, and I will nurse it along.

Update: the other two plants have emerged, tiny as premature babies but one has flowers! This picture of one of the tiny flowerets that fell to the ground comes closer to capturing the cheerful blue of these beauties.

The double bloodroot, bought at great expense and with high hopes, is dead as a doornail. Martha promises me some bloodroot from her mother's Georgia garden, which will ease the pain. (Thank you, Martha!)

The hakonochlea in front are showing golden-green fronds on two out of three plants, while the ones along the side of the house appear to be dead. At least they're not too hard to replace.

But most wonderful of all, I can see shoots of the Solomon's seal that was trampled under the feet of the carpenter last summer! Spring is the time of hope.