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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Organize a monthly Garden Book Club with your friends, garden club, or library. For book suggestions, see the Books page. Learn, discuss and enjoy!
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!
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence, RI 02905, (401) 785-9450 providenceri.com/botanical-center
An heirloom dwarf lemon with delicious golden-yellow fruit, Meyer Lemon makes a fine potted plant and it’s one of the hardiest lemons for cool temperatures. The fruit is more flavorful than store-bought lemons and is prized by chefs. It bears heavily at a young age, flowering and fruiting year-round.
The gentle ripples of the scallop planter make for a cheerful sun bonnet impression around your plants. A genuine classic shape that has stood the test of time, and that continues to be a favourite in all sizes.
The one gardening tool you can't be without! Use it to: divide plants, plant bulbs, flowers and herbs, dig out weeds, remove rocks, cut through roots, plant in pots, clean out cracks, cut twine and ties, and for so much more!
Protect plants from chilly temperatures and wind, so you can plants out weeks earlier and to harden off transplants. Once the weather warms up, slide out the polycarbonate top panel, leaving the screen to foil most insects, slugs and wildlife.
Your sunny kitchen windowsill is the ideal place for herbs and this set of three pots is perfectly sized to fit. Each pot is faced with a front slot, pre-printed with Basil, Parsley or Thyme and may be customized by slipping in a label of your own.
November and December offer many special holiday events and workshops for gardeners. From wreath decorating to viewing amazing holiday displays, there are plenty of opportunities to get inspired. Below is just a sampling. If your organization has an event that is not listed, please feel free to add it in the Comments.
A festive evening of music, refreshments, holiday gifts and a demonstration of Bert Ford's floral artistry. Refreshments begin at 7:00 pm at St. Mary's Auditorium in Holliston. Tickets are $15 at the door, $12 in advance at Outpost Farm, Debra's Flowers, Coffee Haven, or at 508-488-6422.
Create a grapevine wreath fragrant with the scents of the holidays – dried oranges, apples, lavender, quince, moss and cinnamon sticks. A perfect way to welcome guests at your door. Registration: $45, includes all materials; bows available for an additional $10.
A workshop focused on constructing centerpieces and tablescapes with seasonal flowers and gourds. We will build out of terracotta or glass bowls, getting your holiday table dressing ready to go through the week. The cost of the class provides each student with their own centerpiece creation. More can be made, paying a la cart for additional dressing. Class size is limited, so sign up early to secure your place. Please bring your own clippers and tools. We’ll provide botanical materials and vessels. Cost is $75.
The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House--three National Historic Landmarks and icons of the Gilded Age in America--are filled 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. New for 2017, a gingerbread model of each house, created by amazing local pastry chefs, will be on display in its kitchen.
Ye Olde Bradley Estate Shoppe will be open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for the first two weeks of December! Ornaments, decorative boughs and wreaths made by staff and volunteers will be available for purchase. Free holiday hot drinks to warm you up for the holidays! Music and raffles for fun stocking stuffers!
Visiting Castle Hill at Christmas is a time-honored tradition for many New England families. Don't miss this year's spectacular "The Season of Carols". Each room in our 1920s mansion is festively decorated for a beloved Christmas carol. You'll find live music and dance, fresh baked cookies and cider, a treasure hunt, family activities, and a visit with Santa. Make Friday, date night with evening tour hours, a cash bar, light appetizers, and festive music. Come with friends on Saturday for great decorating ideas, shopping in the Castle Hill gift shop and Harbor Sweets pop up cafe, and more. Bring the children on Sunday to visit with Santa, take photos, and hunt for carol-themed items in our holiday treasure hunt.
Three homes decorated with different holiday themes. They include: “Home for the Holidays” at 34 Century Drive, “A Sporting Christmas Home” at 10 Kings Road and “A Cozy Woodland Christmas” at 5 Bailey Street. For tickets email email@example.com.
A holiday marketplace of one-of-a-kind Christmas decorations and gifts made be a select group of local craftspeople. A Gallery of Wreaths created by volunteer designers, refreshments and goodies from the Garden Shop also included.
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. It is created over a two-day process just for the Museum by Sundial Gardens in Higganum, Connecticut. Quite a day to remember – and all against the backdrop of the Lieutenant River cloaked in its wintery splendor.
Cost of the class is $70.00 Class includes: all materials, wine, cheeses, mulled cider, goodies and a great time! Pre-registration is required, call 792-1340. We suggest that yo u bring a light pair of gloves and your favorite shears.
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 a wonderful addition to the holiday spirit of the Festival of Trees. Bill Meagher of Needham graciously donated the product of his thirteen year "hobby" of building Christmas villages and trains. It is a bit different each year as he continues to tweak the arrangement. Massachusetts Horticultural Society is delighted to share his enchanting displays with model trains winding through villages and vignettes, including Christmas in the City (Boston of course!), 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.
Winter Reimagined 2017
Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston, MA November 24 - January 7
As evening falls at Tower Hill, visitors have the opportunity to marvel at glittering lights displayed throughout acres of formal gardens. The prized collection of trees and shrubs, along with illuminated paths, sculptures, and fountains, come to life in the glow of the lights. Inside, guests will see hand-made and nature-inspired ornaments, a wishing tree forest, an up-cycled igloo, and two towering conservatories brimming with subtropical plants and seasonal music. Stop in the Garden Shop for unique plant-centric gift ideas.
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! Enjoy a winter marketplace, holiday teas and musical performances.
If your organization has an event that is not listed, please feel free to add it in the Comments below.
Bedrock Gardens is a 20-acre garden that Carol Stocker of the Boston Globe aptly described as a “cross between Sissinghurst and the Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden.” In 1980 Bob Munger and Jill Nooney purchased this former dairy farm and began a 30-year transformation of the landscape into a collection of themed garden rooms enlivened by whimsical sculptures.
Nooney is a practicing clinical social worker, as well as an artist and graduate of the Radcliffe Institute Landscape Design program. She uses old farm equipment and repurposed metal to create a variety of abstract sculptures, arches, arbors, water features and “creatures” inspired by nature and her imagination. Munger is a retired doctor and a lifelong tinkerer. Nooney is the garden’s visionary artist and “problem maker.” He is the “problem solver,” the implementer of those visions, including beautifully patterned walkways and patios, and hydraulics for water features.
Nooney and Munger created their garden as a journey with “places to go, places to pause and rest and interesting things to see along the way.” Nearly two-dozen “points of interest,” many with humorous names, are connected by paths that wind through garden rooms, around ponds, and through woodlands.
Closest to the house, a yew hedge encloses a formal parterre planted with white flowers, with a diamond patterned bluestone path and a circular pool and fountain. The Straight and Narrow garden features a cobbled-edged path that runs between beds of native trees, shrubs, and perennials. The Swaleway’s woodland wildflowers welcome spring amidst towers of balanced stones. The Garish Garden’s playful sculptures fit in with flowers in flaming reds and oranges and trees and shrubs with bright gold foliage.
Bedrock Gardens is full of new ideas for gardeners as well as new takes on classic garden forms. The Wiggle Waggle is a wavy 200-foot long water channel, planted with lotus and water lilies. The Spiral Garden is a “twist” on a traditional maze garden, with twirling roof ventilators on spiral stands that emphasize the Fibonacci-inspired paving laid in a moss floor. Grass Acre is a “painting” of Switchgrass, Hakone Grass, and Little Blue Stem, anchored by a metal sculpture that evokes a mountain range. The Dark Woods is a grove of dead trees accented with sculptural ghosts, spiders, and other scary creatures. The Wave is a series of 26 small metal characters on pedestals backed by a tall arborvitae hedge. Several ponds and many more gardens await the visitor.
Walking through the gardens is a delightful journey. There are many places to sit and enjoy a vista or a sculpture along the way. The Japanese garden and Tea House offer quiet repose in the woods, and the two thrones at the Termi at the far end of the large pond offer a stunning view along the 900-foot axis through the garden. Nooney has designed the garden with an artist’s eye and her strategic placement of focal points and vistas takes classical garden design concepts into a contemporary setting.
Nooney and Munger want to preserve the garden for future generations and are working with Friends of Bedrock Gardens and new executive director John Forti to transition the property into a public garden.
Bedrock Gardens will close out the 2017 season with a special fundraising Fairy House and Hobbit House Festival Weekend, October 7-9, 11 am to 3 pm. Tracy Kane, award-winning Fairy Houses author, www.fairyhouses.com, will read from her books. Visitors can stroll along a Fairy and Hobbit House Trail past houses created by gardeners, artists, and children, and take time to make their own house out of natural materials provided. Chili, books, whimsical handmade creations and fairy fare will be for sale. The entire garden will be available for touring.
Green Animals is the oldest and most northern topiary garden in the United States. The 7-acre estate overlooks the Narragansett Bay, and contains a whimsical garden with more than 80 topiaries sculpted from California privet, yew, and English boxwood.
This small country estate in Portsmouth was purchased in 1872 by Thomas E. Brayton, Treasurer of the Union Cotton Manufacturing Company in Fall River, Massachusetts. It included a white clapboard summer residence, farm outbuildings, a pasture and a vegetable garden. Brayton's daughter Alice gave the estate its name because of the profusion of "green animals" created by property superintendent Joseph Carreiro.
Carreiro was hired to design and maintain the ornamental and edible gardens from 1905 to 1945. He experimented with California privet propagated in the estate greenhouse, and developed a system for training these, without the support of frames, into over-sized animal shapes. Many of the animals took almost 20 years to grow into their final size. Since the Brayton home was a summer residence, it was not a concern that privet was deciduous and sheds its leaves in the fall. His son-in-law, George Mendonca, superintendent until 1985, expanded the gardens to include more than 80 topiaries, and sculpted some from yew and boxwood.
Alice Brayton inherited the estate and made it her permanent residence. She became an avid historian and gardener herself, and bequeathed Green Animals to The Preservation Society of Newport County upon her death. Today, Green Animals remains as a rare example of an estate with formal topiaries, beautiful flower, vegetable and herb gardens, orchards and a Victorian house.
The landscape is a series of garden rooms bordered by mature conifers and magnolias. The fanciful topiaries are the stars of the garden. Favorites include teddy bears, a camel, a giraffe, an ostrich, an elephant, a unicorn, a reindeer, a dog, and a horse with his rider. They are set within lovely flower beds planted with colorful perennials and annuals. Near the house and main entrance, the topiary retains a more formal style of figurative and geometric shapes. A walkway of arched topiary leads around the house to the front porch, where you can relax on a rocking chair and enjoy a view of the bay. The topiaries are all trimmed by hand using garden shears and require weekly hand trimming. Some conservation metal supports have been discreetly positioned inside the forms to provide stability in wind and snow.
The rest of the garden is equally magical. Grape arbors, fruit beds, orchards, cutting gardens and an extensive vegetable gardens sport decorations and whimsical scarecrows that delight children.
The Brayton house museum contains a display of vintage toys including a large collection of toy soldiers and vintage dollhouses. Adults will appreciate the original Victorian family furnishings and decoration.
Ribbons for prize-winning dahlias and vegetables, dating from about 1915, line the walls of the well-curated gift shop. Green Animals Topiary Garden is a delight for gardeners of all ages!
Armed with an umbrella, sweater and raincoat, I toured Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden on Sunday. While July temperatures in the mid-50s and scattered downpours do not deter traveling gardeners from visiting botanic gardens, I was amazed to find the garden packed with city residents and tourists enjoying their Sunday outdoors. Mothers pushed babies in prams, dads chased after runaway toddlers, elderly couples strolled arm in arm admiring the delicate alpines, Spanish tourists snacked on sandwiches in the Chinese pavilion, a group of American teenagers chatted about their European adventures, and a Japanese bride and groom kissed for the photographer while the caterer distributed flutes of champagne to their guests. I walked around marveling at the 4' tall hardy geraniums, the swaths of Japanese primroses, the towering monkey puzzle trees, and the many plants from all corners of the world that I had never seen before.
The 500-foot long Herbaceous Border, created in 1902, is backed by a commanding hedge of 158 beech trees. The hedge is pruned annually to retain its 24' height.
Himalayan poppy (Meconopsis grandis) is popular in Scotland and grows to 4' with beautiful sky-blue flowers in June.
Showcasing 128,000 plants from 156 countries, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is a living encyclopedia of horticulture that brings out the "plant geek" in all of us. The garden was founded in 1670 as a "physic garden" by two adventurous Scottish doctors who returned from a 'grand tour' of Europe determined to grow, study and identify plants for treatment of disease. Medical students were schooled in botany by the Head Gardener until the mid 1800s. With the expansion of the British Empire, the plant collections grew rapidly, and the garden was relocated several times to accommodate new acquisitions. It has been at its current site on the outskirts of the city center since 1821.
The Chinese Hillside is the result of plant hunter George Forrest's seven trips to Yunnan between 1904 and 1932. Winding paths, a waterfall, bridge and pavilion are placed among 16,000 plants collected from Yunnan, many rare and endangered.
Young monkey puzzle trees in the Biodiversity Garden which illustrates the evolution of plants.
One of the first things that you notice when visiting the garden are the magnificent and unusual trees set in a stately, park-like setting of 70acres. Some of these trees were moved from the garden's previous location and are more than 200 years old. Others were acquired as seeds from habitats that no longer exist, such as the extremely rare Catacol whitebean. Only one other specimen of this tree exists in the wild - in a ravine on the isle of Aran.
A stand of coastal redwoods planted in the 1920s creates a cathedral-like atmosphere and is a popular site for weddings.
RBGE's glasshouses offer ten distinct climatic zones with thousands of flowering plants, cycads and ferns. The Temperate Palm House, currently under renovation, was built in 1858 and is one of the tallest in the world. The Plants and People House showcases plants that are integral to our daily lives - sugar, cocoa, rice and coffee, as well as giant water platters. Other glasshouses feature plants of the desert, the rainforest and mountain regions. My favorite was the Lowland Tropics House and its collection of gingers that sported the most unusual flowers (see red pinecone below).
Themed gardens illustrate various habitats from around the world. The Alpine Garden exhibits plants from high mountain tops which are a real challenge to grow in Edinburgh's maritime lowlands climate. Alpines are important to RGBE's conservation work, as they can be indicators of global warming. The Alpine House and Tufa House protect these tender plants from the wet Scottish climate. Troughs are used to create individual landscapes representing miniature mountain tops.
The Rock Garden features 5,000 plants from the great mountain ranges of Chile, China, Europe, Japan, South Africa and North America. Dwarf conifers, bulbs and rhododendrons complement true alpines. The neighboring Scottish Heath Garden shows off Scotland's iconic shrub.
The Queen Mother's Memorial Garden was formally opened in 2006, and reflects the Queen Mother's love of gardening. A Celtic-style labyrinth planted with bog myrtle is surrounded by perennial beds and a charming pavilion.
The Memorial Pavilion within the Queen Mother's Garden is decorated with shells collected by schoolchildren from around Scotland. The ceiling is lined with pine cones from RBGE's gardens.
The Demonstration Garden is used by local schools and students in RGBE's Horticulture and Herbology courses to experiment with growing crops and medicinal plants.
Swaths of primroses, trilliums and other shade lovers thrive in the woodland garden, along with rhododendrons and magnolias. Many of these plants look like they are on steroids: Edinburgh's mild, wet climate provides ideal growing conditions.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is open daily except Christmas and New Year's Day, and features a restaurant, cafe, shop stocked with gifts and plants, and seasonal exhibitions and events. Admission is free, with a small fee for the glasshouses. See rgbe.org.uk/edinburgh for more info.
June is the best time for visiting gardens that feature roses, and there's no place better in New England than Elizabeth Park in Hartford, Connecticut - the home of our country's oldest public rose garden.
The property was once called Prospect Hill, the Hartford farming estate of wealthy businessman and politician Charles Murray Pond, and his wife, Elizabeth. When he died in 1894, Charles left his entire estate to the City of Hartford for a public park in his will. The estate consisted of 90 acres and a generous fund to purchase additional land, hire a park designer, and for maintenance. He requested that the park be a botanical park and named after his wife, Elizabeth, who was an avid gardener.
Swiss-born landscape architect Theodore Wirth was hired as the park superintendent, and he worked with the firm of Frederick Law Olmstead to design this new space. Elizabeth Park reflects a combination of both schools of landscape design with European formal gardens and Olmstead's natural setting with serpentine roadways, sweeping vistas and peripheral trees.
The rose garden is the centerpiece of Elizabeth Park, 2.5 acres in size with 475 beds and over 15,000 rose bushes and arches. The arches are in full bloom in late June to early July, and are just spectacular. They only bloom once. Many of the other roses continue to bloom until the fall.
If you visit in June, be sure to see the separated Heritage Rose Garden —one of the few in the country. Also known as Old Garden Roses, Heritage Roses—Albas, Bourbons, Centifolias, Damasks, Chinas, Gallicas, Hybrid Perpetuals, Moss, Noisettes, Portlands and Teas—are extremely fragrant and bloom only in June. These roses are exhibited in raised beds that form a five-petaled rosette symbolizing a centifolia or 100-petaled rose, which is the typical form of a heritage rose.
I grew up just a few miles from Elizabeth Park, and have a personal connection to the rose garden. My neighbor and friend Donna Fuss became a stay-at-home mom when her children were born, and developed a passion for gardening, especially for roses. She and her husband Mike planted a small formal rose garden in a corner of their backyard, and as their passion for roses grew, added more and more rose beds throughout the yard. They started entering rose shows, judging, and co-founded the Connecticut Rose Society. Donna’s hobby evolved into a second career, and she became the consulting rosarian to Elizabeth Park Rose Garden. Knowledgeable, outgoing, generous, and funny, Donna became an ambassador for Elizabeth Park - fondly known as the “Rose Lady.” She shared her garden enthusiasm with everyone she met, and I owe some of my garden passion to Donna.
In addition to its rose gardens, Elizabeth Park has several other notable gardens. The Perennial Garden is formal in design, with a central wooden pavilion adorned with Clematis Jackmanii. Enclosed by a hedge of dwarf Japanese yew, the garden features 1,600 perennials arranged in “cool” and “warm” color beds accented by silver grey foliage.
The Tulip and Annual Garden is planted with 11,000 tulips each fall for a spectacular spring display, and features a American Flag in summer.
The Shade Garden features mixed plantings of herbs, perennials, ornamental grasses, woody shrubs, and small evergreen and deciduous trees. Several horticultural groups design, plant, and maintain gardens in the park. These specialty gardens include the herb garden, dahlia display garden and iris garden.
After touring the gardens, you can have lunch at the Pond House Cafe located withing the park. The cafe features eclectic cuisine made with fresh, local ingredients. The menu changes to reflect the seasons.
Elizabeth Park is open 365 days of the year, dawn to dusk, and is FREE to the public. There are no admission fees.
Elizabeth Park is one of the gardens profiled in The Garden Tourist, a book of 120 destination gardens and nurseries in the Northeast, which will be published in fall 2017.
Historically known as "the crown imperial", but jokingly referred to as "the Dr. Seuss Flower" by members of my garden club, Fritillaria is a sight to behold in the spring garden. All 45 members of my garden club were given a bulb to plant 3 years ago, so that we could try it and compare notes. We were all surprised and delighted by this unusual spring bulb.
There are more than 200 forms of fritillaria in the world, many of them rare alpine plants. They are popular in the UK, home of the Fritillaria Society, and of garden estates that host Frittillary Weekends. Vita Sackville-West described the fritillary as looking like something exceedingly choice and expensive, but added it was “a sinister little flower, in the mournful colours of decay”. She was referring to Fritillaria meleagris, also known as snake’s head lily, leper lily, chess or guinea flower, with pendant bells in white, purple or pink checks hanging from gray grassy stems. Despite their sinister common names, checkered lilies are charming little flowers (12" - 15" tall) native to damp meadows and woodlands in Europe. They require partial shade and abundant moisture, and are an excellent choice for naturalizing. I will never forget my first encounter with them naturalized in a lawn at Chanticleer Garden - it was a magical sight!
Fritillaria meleagris - White Flower Farm
Another charming Fritillary is Fritillaria michailovski, or Michael's Flower, which is native to Turkey. Its nodding bell-shaped deep burgundy blossoms are brightly tipped in glowing yellow on arched branches. Michael's Flower looks great in a pot as well as in the garden.
Fritillaria persica, or Persian Fritillaria, sports narrow 30" stalks of deep purple-black bell-shaped blossoms with gold centers and gray-green foliage. It grows in full sun to part shade, and complements dark maroon tulips.
Fritillaria persica at Avant Gardens
Spring garden with Fritillaria persica at Chanticleer
A Fritillaria persica alba has soft white blossoms.
Tall and aristocratic looking, the crown imperial looks down on the world from its 3 foot height, usually in shades of yellow, orange and scarlet. Its bell-shaped flowers on strong stalks are "crowned" with another burst of green foliage that sits majestically atop the pendulous blooms. It prefers a sunny, well-drained soil, and attracts butterflies.
Scarlet Crown Imperial from Phoenix Perennials
A new variegated fritillary called Aureomarginata emerges in spring with twisted green and yellow foliage, a smoky flower stalk and bright orange flowers crowned with spidery green leaves. It is both surprising and whimsical.
Fritillaria imperialis Aureomarginata from Bluestone Perennials
Fritillaries are members of the lily family, and their name is derived from the Latin term for a dice box (fritillus) which probably refers to the checkered pattern of the flowers. Fritillaries do not like to be disturbed after planting, so they are not ideal for containers. Crown Imperials should no be cut for vases, because that would reduce their stems too much and would weaken the plant. They also have a slight odor, which does not make them welcome indoors, but repels deer, rabbits and voles. As with other spring bulbs, the foliage should be left standing until it yellows, so that the plant can photosynthesize and store carbohydrate reserves for its dormancy.
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