Snowdropping 2017

Rather than face 9 inches of snow and a 12F (-11C) low lets take a trip back to just four days ago when the springtime warmth brought on an emergency trip to enjoy this year’s first snowdrop trip.  It’s early of course, but we were on a mission this time and with the thermometer peaking at 60F (15C) it was now or never.  The mission was to visit Dr. John Lonsdale at Edgewood Gardens, and take a tour of his overflowing snowdrop and cyclamen greenhouses before the warm weather set all the flowers to seed.  We were not disappointed.

galanthus and cyclamen

Snowdrops and hardy cyclamen filling the greenhouse benches.

John lives and gardens in Exton, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia and from the looks of things you’d never guess he has yet to quit his day job.  These thousands of drops and bulbs (plus about a billion other plants spread out across his yard) are just a passionate hobby and sideline which is Edgewood Gardens.  You may already know this since he is a regular feature at garden events and lectures up and down the East coast, but to see his garden and hear him talk you would think for sure he lives the life of a full time nurseryman.

galanthus homersfield

Galanthus ‘Homersfield’ in the Lonsdale greenhouse.

I have plenty of pictures here and will likely ramble on too long so to keep things focused I’ll just add that John will be putting out his first snowdrop sales list this summer, and if you’re even just slightly interested in seeing what drops might be available send him an email via his Edgewood Gardens website.

forced snowdrops

I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I thought.  Most of my visit was spent poking through the benches admiring all the characteristics and nuances that a plain little green and white winter flowering bulb can give.

John may be growing a few extra bulbs for sale, but it doesn’t take more than a walk up his driveway to recognize he’s plant obsessed with a weakness towards collecting.

potted snowdrops

Hundreds of carefully inventoried and labeled pots fill every square inch.

The full range of snowdrops is represented in the greenhouse, selections from seed grown species right alongside some of the most coveted European varieties, many of which are nearly impossible to find on either side of the Atlantic.  This is even more impressive when you consider the cost and complications which are involved in bringing these plants into the States legally (something you’ll quickly notice when browsing overseas sources).

galanthus green tear

An all green snowdrop, Galanthus ‘Green Tear’, is one of those drops which broke records a few years ago when first offered on eBay.  Someone thought $500 for a single bulb was just right for feeding their obsession.

When they’re all together like this it’s hard to pick out favorites…. or even distinguish one white drop from another, but a few stand out even to a beginner like myself.

galanthus diggory

The puffy pantaloons look of Galanthus ‘Diggory’ (pantaloons as in pants, not the twenty one pilots song)

Travel is supposed to broaden the mind but I’m afraid all this trip did was make my snowdrop obsession worse.  I picked up several new names to add to the want-list…

galanthus duckie

Galanthus ‘Duckie’ on the left and top.  I loved the wide flat petals.

galanthus moortown

I also like how the green mark inside Galanthus ‘Moortown’ bleeds up a bit and stains the inside.  Plus it’s a nice big sturdy drop 🙂

galanthus green mile

Galanthus ‘Green Mile’, another sought after, deeply saturated green snowdrop.

Ok, so that might be plenty of snowdrops, but before we leave the greenhouse the hardy Cyclamen coum deserve some attention as well.  Not to pat myself on the back too strongly, but these are the same plants which John offers for sale through his website, and somehow through a remarkable feat of self control I managed to limit myself to just four carefully selected plants.

cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum at their peak in the greenhouse.  It will be another few weeks before the ones I have here in my own garden begin to flower, and weather permitting they will be just as nice.

There were also plenty of seedlings coming along for future sales.

hardy cyclamen seedlings

Various hardy and not so hardy cyclamen seedlings coming along in the “other” greenhouse.   If you look closely you can even see some of the cool purple centered C hederifolium coming along in the center of the photo.  Even the little babies color up!

… and that’s just in the greenhouses.  Because of the exceptional temperatures things were pushing ahead outside as well.

colchicum kesselringii

The absolutely perfect Colchicum kesselringii, a late winter flowering relative of the more common fall blooming colcicum.

adonis amurensis

The first of the Adonis amurensis were coming up to take advantage of the sun.

And cactus.  I barely mentioned the cactus beds, but there they were looking as if they were growing a few hundred miles West and South of this Philly garden.

purple opuntia

An opuntia (prickly pear) which wrinkles up and takes on an unusual purple color once temperatures fall.  I wonder if it blooms as nicely as the regular version, the spines sure do look just as fierce!

Oh and I’m sure you’re done with snowdrops, but there were more outside as well, both in bloom and just beginning to sprout.

galanthus Mrs Macnamara

I believe this is Galanthus ‘Mrs Macnamara’, a perfect beauty and surprisingly hardy and early.  Word is this bunch has been going strong for a couple weeks already, and still looks this good.

Hellebores were also just beginning.

helleborus niger

A few of many Helleborus niger (Christmas rose) which were coming up around the garden.  Here on the slope they looked absolutely perfect.

Even a few of the trees and shrubs were showing signs of life.  The witch hazels (Hamamelis) were in bloom all over the gardens, but the delicate flowers of the Japanese plum (Prunus mume) really look too delicate for a Pennsylvania February.

prunus mume

Prunus mume.  Dr. Lonsdale told me the cultivar but at that point I’m pretty sure my brain was way too full to retain any lengthy Japanese names.

I could easily spend all day or another day at Edgewood Gardens, but if you’re at all familiar with our Philly snowdrop jaunts you’ll know we always fit in way too much for the still short days.  Before our greenhouse visit we happily dropped an hour and a half at a local park to again admire the sheets of naturalized winter aconite (Eranthis Hyemalis) which grow there.

naturalized eranthis bulbs

The forest floor was buzzing with hundreds of honeybees taking advantage of these first flowers of 2017.

We even managed to find a few snowdrops just coming up.  What a perfect combination, and quite a contrast to the deer chewed pachysandra, weeds and brambles.

naturalized eranthis bulbs

Naturalized eranthis and snowdrop bulbs.  Given a few acres and about 150 years and you might also have a similar show.

We were so lucky with the weather this year.  Snowdropping in February is one thing, doing it in short sleeves is unheard of even in the warmest of years.  Hopefully when March rolls around and it’s time to head north to visit Hitch Lyman and Temple Gardens we will be just as lucky.  History says otherwise though.

playing in the snow

Temperatures dropped to normal within 24 hours of our visit and we finally got a good coating of snow to cover up any signs of spring.  It now looks more normal for February, but that doesn’t explain why the kids can’t just go sledding in their snow pants like everyone else.

As usual a special thanks goes out to Paula for her annual enthusiasm for these trips, and also a big thanks goes out to Dr. Lonsdale for being so generous with his time, his knowledge and also his garden.  Truth be told I may have just kind of invited myself over that day, but you would never have guessed it by how warmly I was received by both John and by his other (more scheduled) visitors.  It was great getting to see everyone and I hope we do this again!

Setting the Table

The holiday season has been off to an early start this year.  Under pressure from the children the decorations went up the afternoon of Thanksgiving and within 48 hours the house went from reasonably autumnal to yuletide overload.  I love it of course and even if it means we’ve finally all fallen victim to the day after Thanksgiving holiday commercialism, at least we’ll go down with a smile.  With that in mind, might as well fire the holiday candle full flame and head down to Longwood Gardens for an early peek at the holiday display.

This wouldn’t be our first visit to the gardens during the holidays, we’ve been down before and to be honest I was a little nervous about the crowds on this trip.  The last two visits managed to hit on some of their busiest days and with admission tickets sold out for Friday’s opening day I was holding my breath to see how Sunday would work out.  I should have relaxed, it worked out great.  We arrived around 3pm and were able to just fit into the main parking lot, showed our tickets at the gate, and then walked right in with plenty of smiles and not a single delay.

Longwood Christmas

The exhibition hall with this year’s focal point, a huge ivy and poinsettia tree highlighted with dozens and dozens of white moth (Phalaenopsis) orchids.

I usually have a plan of what’s to be done and seen, but now that the kids are older they’re far more determined to do and see what they want.  There was a much faster pace as we rushed through the displays and barely noticed much more exciting things such as orchid displays, bonsai trees and carnivorous plants.  There was also this odd fascination with organ recitals and Christmas carols, of which we were required to sit (and sing) through two full showings.  This enthusiasm must not have gone unnoticed since by the end of the second session our organist, Rudy Lucente, invited the girl up to give her a close-up of the organ mechanics.  What a thrill that was for our budding musician.

Longwood Christmas

Rudy Lucente at the organ.

So the visit took on a different tone.  I did get to explore the gardens for a bit before the sun set but the visit was more about enjoying the season than it was about examining every new plant.

Longwood Christmas

I sometimes forget there are ‘other’ parts of the conservatory which are devoted to music and grand entertaining. 

Once we had a bite to eat and the sun went down it was time to re-explore with all the lights on.

Longwood Christmas

A Longwood Christmas inside the conservatory.  I was particularly impressed with the huge hanging chrysanthemum balls.  Someday I hope to get down here for that show as well, I’d love to see the greenhouses decked out in fancy autumn mums.

For all the visits we’ve had this might be the first where we’ve sat through the fountain display.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit that since the water, lights, and music were more impressive than I thought they could be…. did I mention I’m more of a plants person?

Longwood Christmas

I guess the DuPonts were onto something when they spent millions on building fountains and then inviting friends to view them. 

The decorated grounds are the highlight of the night though.  I’d show more pictures but we really just spent our time wandering, sipping a warm drink, and enjoying the fact this was our first above the freezing mark visit.

Longwood Christmas

A Longwood Christmas on the grounds.  Music, snacks, beverages, bonfires, and a beautiful night.

What seemed like pushing the season turned out to be perfect.  The two weeks since have flown by and I know this trip wouldn’t have fit in between other visits and snowy weather.  Better to get it in while you can.

Give >their website< a visit even if you can’t make it yourself.  I’ve left out so much and their photography is exceptional.  You can also easily see if things are crowded and if tickets are selling out.

All the best as we begin to wrap up the year!

The Temple Nursery 2016

I’m not exactly sure how many years it takes before something becomes a tradition but I’m going with two, and since this year marks my fourth springtime visit to the Temple Nursery’s open garden day I guess it is now a tradition, and tradition shouldn’t be tampered with.  I say that because up until the morning of the visit I wasn’t entirely sure I would actually make the drive up to Ithaca NY and beyond since this season’s early warmth had me pretty sure there wouldn’t be much left to look at as far as the garden’s snowdrop (Galanthus) collection goes.  To a certain extent that turned out to be true, but at the end I realized a day visiting a garden in the (almost) spring is never a bad idea, and even if the weather’s not perfect it’s always fun to get out once winter starts retreating.

hitch lyman garden

Side view of Hitch Lyman’s upstate NY garden.  The nursery’s namesake ‘temple’ is visible in the back.

If this visit has become tradition, imperfect weather has also become a tradition, and after weeks of above freezing, almost balmy weather, the bottom dropped out of the weather system two nights before.  Light snow for Saturday and then a low of 17F (-8C) the next morning did in many of the remaining snowdrops and wilted many of the emerging perennials.  We’re used to freezing our kazzoies off on these visits though, so by the time the temperature rose into the 40’s it felt downright balmy.  No wind either and not a single snow squall during the visit… unheard of!

galanthus ex. highdown

The Lyman garden is known for its snowdrop collection, and only a few remained in bloom after all the ups and downs of the weather.  Here is a Galanthus labeled ‘ex. highdown’ which has held up remarkably well to the cold.

The majority of the snowdrops were past, which is somewhat surprising considering The Garden Conservancy had already moved the open date forward two weeks and the date was nearly a full month earlier than last year, but what can you do at such an unsettled time of the year?  I just felt a little bad for others who had traveled much further to see what is normally an exciting collection of hundreds of different snowdrop varieties growing happily in the garden’s small woodland area.

eranthis hyemalis noel ayres

Just a few late blooming winter aconite remained.  This might be Eranthis hyemalis ‘Noel Ayres’ or something similar.  Compared to the bright yellow blooms of the species, this might be an Eranthis only a collector could love. 

I also felt bad for the plants.  The majority of the snowdrops were flat on the ground from the previous night’s cold, and overall the garden did not show well for someone expecting swaths of snowdrops and early flowers.  They’ll recover I’m sure, but frozen plants are never fun.

freeze damage primula

Early primroses wilting as the warm sun hits them.  This would have been a much cheerier sight just a few days ago.

Still I found plenty to keep me entertained, and I enjoyed the company of the garden’s owner, Conservancy volunteers, and several other entertaining guests.  Hanging out… is that too common a term for a Conservancy event?… outdoors with other like minded gardeners on a not-too-cold March afternoon is something I don’t get to enjoy too often in my neck of the woods, so I was quite pleased for making the drive up.

galanthus dr dress

It looked like some kind of sea creature to me, but it’s a Galanthus labeled ‘Dr Dress’ which I believe is the source of this unusually curly leaved snowdrop.

Of course there were blooming snowdrops as well.  I was pleased with some of the later blooming varieties such as the daintily named ‘Dumpy Green’

galanthus dumpy green

Galanthus ‘Dumpy Green’

and the very attractive late 19th century snowdrop, Galanthus ‘Virescens’.

galanthus virescens

The classic green snowdrop, Galanthus ‘Virescens’.

Luckily for me one of my favorites was still in bloom.  It’s been divided since my last visit and is still doing well, Galanthus ‘RD Nutt’ is one that always catches my eye, even though it’s no more white or green or fancy than any other of Mr. Lyman’s many other snowdrops.

galanthus rd nutt

I’ve asked and then forgotten if ‘RD Nutt’ is the name or source of this snowdrop.  It always seems such a neat and heavy bloomer, and appears to be holding up well to the weather.

So I’m glad my schedule cleared up enough to make the trip again this year, and it was a treat to finally see the gardens with a few traces of blue in the background sky.  We will see what next year brings but I’m sure as usual we will make the best of it!

hitch lyman garden

Hitch Lyman’s home, moved to the spot in the 90’s and restored back to it’s original grandeur.

One final note though.  I was a little insulted by how well the hardy cyclamen were doing considering the sad state of my own plantings.  My own Cyclamen coum were killed back to the roots and failed to put on much of a show this spring.  I’m going to blame a lack of mulch and see if I can’t do something about that next year.  We just didn’t have the protection of a snow cover last year, and it looks like these did.

cyclamen coum upstate ny

Some Cyclamen coum looking quite happy in their upstate New York home.  A nice woodland mulch and most likely a protective blanket of snow have them blooming happily with nearly perfect foliage.

Thanks again to the Conservancy and Mr. Lyman for another enjoyable visit, and in case you are interested the Temple Nursery sells snowdrops as well as growing them.   To get on his mailing list (there is no online available) send three or four dollars to the following address: Temple Nursery (H Lyman) Box 591 Trumansburg, NY 14886 and you should receive a listing in January.  Act fast, they sell out in just a few weeks 🙂

Have a great Easter!

Snowdropping 2016

*ok so I’m trying to get back onto the blogging ball.  With a schedule finally cleared up I have a bunch of catching up to do here as well as on other blogs… so flashback to something I began writing about two weeks ago!*

Spring doesn’t normally roll around to this end of Pennsylvania until the end of March,  but this year on the tail end of El Nino it looks as if winter has just thrown in the towel and let spring walk right in a few weeks early.  “Sit down and stay a while” I say, and although I should speak glowingly about my own spring treasures in bloom right now, my first panicked thought was I might miss the snowdrop season down south.  I promptly sent out a few emails, jumped in a car and met up with my friend Paula at a park near her home for our second annual Philly snowdrop adventure.

naturalized snowdrops united states

Snowdrops naturalized on the grounds of a former Philadelphia estate.

Last year our snowdrop adventure was a response to the miserably long winter, this year it was a desperate attempt to catch the season before it flashed by.  We made the trip on March 8th and even though we were nearly a month earlier than last year many of the earlier bloomers were already past.

leucojum vernus yellow

A nice yellow tipped spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum) blooming amidst the rubble.

In spite of the advanced season we did manage to catch plenty of snowdrops still in bloom, and it was fun wandering from patch to patch searching for those little “specials”.  Maybe someday after a hundred years of abandonment and years of gentle woodland protection my own garden will produce something different but for now I’ll have to rely on these hidden treasures.

naturalized snowdrops galanthus nivalis

We saw plenty of patches of four petalled snowdrops, but also a wonderful range of larger and smaller, thinner, longer, taller…. all the tiny variations on white and green which may make some gardeners yawn, but which make me smile.

But there was only so much time we could spend sweating our way through the underbrush.  We had bigger fish to fry this morning and for us it was a visit to John Lonsdale’s Edgewood Gardens.  John grows and sells (but more just grows and grows) about a billion plants in his suburban landscape and the plantings range from high desert cactus to mountain to woodland to everything in between.  I was lost on much of it but I’m going to try my best and show a few favorites even if the names are lacking.  If you are more cat-like and on the verge of death due to some unsatisfied identity curiosity then I would absolutely suggest contacting John directly via his website.  He will surely have an ID for you, as well as cultural conditions, related cultivars, the exact source of his plant…. and to top it all off he probably grew it himself from wild collected seed!

iris and hardy cactus

A beautiful species iris right alongside hardy cacti.  Did I mention the cactus?  There were beds planted full of them as well as agaves and yucca, all surviving the Pennsylvania snow and ice without any additional winter protection.

I need to just move on here.  I love growing bulbs and there were more here than I’ve ever even considered so here are just the highlights of our visit.  Keep in mind the calendar is still saying winter for a few more weeks and the real show is still at least two months off!

eranthis guinea gold

Winter aconite (Eranthis species)  galore in the Lonsdale garden.  We missed the peak for many of the Eranthis hyemalis types but these crosses with Eranthis cilicica (similar to the ‘Guinea Gold’ cross) were just opening…. don’t let the label throw you off, that’s for something else yet to come right in front of this patch of gold.

At nearly 80F (26C) and sunny even a few of the first primula were opening.

pale yellow hardy primula

The winter may have been short, but even here a sudden drop to around 0F (-17C) did its damage to winter foliage and early sprouts.  Still bright and beautiful though, and its location on what looked to be a dry shaded slope has me rethinking how tough primroses can be.

Hellebores were everywhere.

speckled hellebore

Just a plain old hellebore which caught my eye.  a little winter damage but I love the speckling.

John said he was in the process of working through the hellebores, getting rid of many older and self seeded plants, and ‘upgrading’ some of the hybrids… and I wish him luck.  There were hundreds, if not thousands, and it would take a more critical eye than mine to thin the herd.

hellebore anna's red

One of the newer, cross-species hellebore cultivars.  I forgot what it was, but maybe it’s ‘Anna’s Red’?

Plenty of hellebore species as well.  All over the garden were bits and shoots coming up from seed collected throughout the hellebore world.

green hellebore

A cool green species hellebore.  Green may not be the showiest flower color but they sure look great close up.

hellebore tibetanus

Hailing from China is Helleborus thibetanus. This plant was only just brought into cultivation in the 1990’s and if you can believe it John says this plant plant produced only one flower last year. What a difference a single year can make!

Trilliums were also everywhere.  John kept naming species, naming ranges and ecotypes, naming seed sources, describing how many were yet to come…. it was all a little overwhelming.  I think to return in May and see patches and patches of trilliums blooming across the hillside would be quite the sight.

trillium foliage

One of the earliest trilliums already up.  The foliage is just amazing and there were hundreds more sprouting or just waiting to burst out of the ground.

There were tons of early trout lilies (Erythronium) coming up as well.  More cool foliage, exquisite flowers 🙂

trout lilies erythronium

Just a few of the earliest of the trout lilies coming up.  I love the fine markings on these and the fancy purple pollen just as much as the silvery speckling on the leaves.

I’ve never seen blooming Hepatica (liverwort) in person but recognized the little jewels the minute I saw them.  Maybe this will finally be the spring I venture out into the woods and find a few blooms of my own in the wild.  I’ll be excited to find anything, but suspect they won’t hold a candle to some of the selections and hybrids which we saw springing up out of the leafmould.

red hepatica

What color on such a tiny bloom.

violet hepatica

The detail on these flowers is amazing in all its intricate perfection.

It was also well into Adonis season.  Several cultivars were spotted throughout the beds and each one seemed better than the last and we hit them perfectly with their flowers open wide in the warm winter sun.  The saturated colors were almost too bright for an early March afternoon.

double yellow adonis

Double yellow Adonis Amurensis

I’ve heard that this native of NE Asia isn’t all that hard to grow it’s just a little slow to start and a little pricey to get a hold of.  Spring sun and a sheltered woodland location for the summer seem to work well for it, just know that the ferny foliage dies back and the plant disappears once the weather warms for summer.

orange adonis cultivar

An orange Adonis cultivar with a nice bunch of hardy cyclamen leaves.  Cyclamen were nearly everywhere, I began to not notice them unless I had to step over a particularly nice one seeded into the path 🙂

fringed orange adonis

Dark ferny foliage, a fringed pale orange flower…. what’s not to like about this Adonis?

We spent way too much time at John’s but it wasn’t until we checked our watches that we realized how much we had actually imposed on his day!  The poor guy had just finished up about ten days of on the road and had been through more states in a week than I hit in a year and here we were not even giving him enough time to enjoy his first day back.  So we tried to get a move on it, thanked him again for his hospitality and time, and then rushed through the last hordes of snowdrops, cyclamen, and cacti between us and the exit… did I mention the cacti?  I could easily fill a second visit with just the cacti (not that I’m really hinting).

Off to Paula’s!

snowdrops galanthus in garden beds

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis mostly) scattered throughout the garden beds.

Paula has really put in some work into collecting and dividing and spreading snowdrops throughout her garden, and it’s really an inspiration to see the possibilities of what a few years hard work can produce.  It makes me wonder when and if my own garden will ever start to show a similar effect of late winter interest.  There were goodies everywhere and of course it was the snowdrops which I really honed in on.

galanthus elwesii

Nice established clumps of Galanthus elwesii (the ‘giant snowdrop’) with it’s bigger blooms and grayer foliage.

Paula really has a great winter garden going with snowdrops galore and plenty of color from the earliest bloomers.  It’s here where we wound down from our latest snowdrop adventure.

double snowdrops galanthus and hellebores

Double snowdrops (Galanthus ‘flore pleno’) and hellebores fill in a shaded slope.

There were hellebores, winter aconite, snowdrops, snowflakes, witch hazels, crocus, all kinds of flowers coming out to brave the last few weeks of winter.

raspberry veined hellebore

A real nice raspberry veined hellebore.  I really need to do a little ‘upgrading’ of my own!

Of course we got bogged down in examining every tiniest bloom and discussed every growing nuance.  That’s what makes these garden visits so special.

galanthus gloria

Galanthus ‘Gloria’, a perfect flower with such long inners with just the smallest touch of white.  I really like these ‘pocs’ where the inner petals nearly match the long white outers.

By this point my winter knees were starting to complain about all the kneeling and bending which I’d been putting them through all day.  Maybe I should have started getting back into gardening shape a few weeks earlier, but in spite of the little aches and slower pace we carried on for a few more closeups.

galanthus doncasters double charmer

You almost wouldn’t guess this were a snowdrop, but it’s Galanthus ‘doncasters double charmer’ in all its crazy, spiky, greenness.

And a final snowdrop….

galanthus big boy

Galanthus ‘big boy’, just coming up and already big even before it expands to its full size.  The green tips are a nice touch and I think I like it!

And then the day was over.  Time to hop in the car and head back North.

orange witch hazel jelena

An orange witch hazel (Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ ) in full bloom as the day ends.

A special thanks to John Lonsdale for a great visit, and thanks of course to Paula for putting up with me for the whole day.  It wouldn’t have been half as much fun without her, and when we were pulled over and asking a stranger if they’d mind us traipsing around in their side yard looking at the snowdrops I knew I had the right travel buddy.  Until next year!

Indian Summer

A single cold night in mid October ended the summer garden this year.  The thermometer dropped to 23F (-5C) and we abruptly went from balmy sunshine to snow squalls and blackened flowers.  It happens, but since that night we’ve barely had another touch of frost, and the short sleeves have come out again and shorts are back on as play clothes.  What better thing than to go to the beach?

international memorial flight 800

The TWA flight 800 memorial at Smith Point County park in NY.

It was a miserable beach day with showers on the way over and a tropical storm off the coast whipping the surf to a frenzy, but we’re not the sensible types and went through with our plans anyway.  Omi and Opa joined us and we ended up at the edge of the Atlantic on the sands of Smith Point County Park, near the Eastern end of Fire Island in NY.

smith point long island beach

Hardy miscanthus and feather reed grass mixed with yucca and annual purple pennesitum.  The wind kept everything moving and the coastal sun and saltspray keeps things short and tight.

We came for the sand and surf but can never avoid the memorial which stands for the 1996 plane crash which occurred just offshore here.

TWA Flight 800 Memorial

TWA Flight 800 Memorial

The memorial sits down a bit out of the wind and the calm quiet of the memorial is a stark and sad contrast to the panic and fear which must have accompanied the flight’s last seconds.

TWA Flight 800 Memorial

TWA Flight 800 Memorial

I remember the days and weeks after the crash and the weeks of debris washing up and the unease when visiting during that and later summers.  It’s strange to think over 20 years have passed since.

smith point beach in the fall

Even in the fall the Gulf Stream keeps the water warm for weeks beyond the end of summer.  There are miles of empty beach to explore but to some the sand and water are always more fun than walking.

Still it’s a beach trip, and I didn’t intend to make this such a somber post.  We and the kids loved the visit despite the windy sandblasting we received walking to the shoreline, and the clean warm water and sand were just too inviting for the kids to resist…. even if the calendar says fall.

smith point beach in the fall

Mom had enough sense to pass on an October beach trip.  You can tell dad was in charge.

It will be months before there’s any chance of getting back into the water so I was glad for this one last hurrah.  You never know what next year will bring, and the kids grow so quickly.

A hot day in Philly

The calendar is beginning to insist that all things summer will soon come to an end, so when a free day presented itself I made my best to take advantage of the last weeks of warmth.  A quick call to a friend near Phillidelphia and I was on my way to one of my favorite gardens, Chanticleer.  As usual the visit did not disappoint, and despite a mental note to just enjoy the visit I did break down at the end and went a little camera happy.  Hopefully I can show some restraint with the length of this post even if I couldn’t with the camera.

chanticleer red border

Red and purple as you come around the house. Coleus ‘redhead’ and the awesome canna x ehemanii… rounded out with a few random bananas.

I like to stroll around pretending this is my own estate, and if by chance if I do win millions (I’ve given up on earning them through hard work, marriage, or genius) I feel like this is the kind of garden I’d create.

chanticleer container plantings

Many exotic and unusual container plants are scattered around the house and terraces. All appear perfectly grown and cared for.

The tropical plantings around the house are some of my favorite plantings, although even away from the house a random banana or elephant ear may turn up (Chanticleer refers to itself as a ‘pleasure garden’… so I guess anything goes!)

teacup garden chanticleer

This year’s teacup garden plantings. Fiddlehead figs and canna ‘Ermine?’, plus many others.

I’m guessing on almost all the IDs since the gardens are for enjoyment and inspirations and not so much for the down to earth realities of botanical labeling, but there are plant lists available both in the gardens and online.  I apologize for being too distracted to look while there and far too lazy now to look them up online.

papyrus chanticleer

Potted dwarf giant papyrus. I love the pot in pot planting with a ‘groundcover’ of duckweed, and I’d love to imitate, but… no pot and no dwarf giant papyrus.  Maybe the plain old giant papyrus will work,  at least that’s finally become easy to find in the spring.

I can feel the banana itch coming back.  I was given one and bought another this summer….

chanticleer tropicalismo

Canna x ehemanii, various bananas, red and purple dahlias, and a few tall salvia splendens varieties.

…and how can you not like dahlias at this time of year.

chanticleer mixed border

A respectable boxwood border holding back a wave of visitors from the south.

On a hot day the dry, full sun, gravel garden was not the place to linger… but we did, and while sweat beaded we enjoyed the waterwise plantings and the mix of dryland perennials and tropical cactus and succulents.

chanticleer gravel garden

I think the yucca rostrada (hardiest of the trunk forming yuccas) stays here year round, but I’m not sure of the agave.  I do know I wouldn’t want to be the one to lift it come autumn.

All the rain earlier in the year probably helped most things, but some I’m sure didn’t appreciate the reminder they were in Pennsylvania and not Southern California.

artichoke bloom

Artichoke blooms?  Not the best leaf-wise, but the color of the flowers almost glowed in the heat.

Or South Africa…

chanticleer kniphofia

Kniphofia (a species I’m guessing) along the dry slope.  I love this plant family, but never get decent flowers on the ones I’m growing.

The bulk of the grounds around the house are open grass and trees, and this was the beginning of the colchicum season.

chanticleer naturalized colchicums

Some of the colchicums just beginning to bloom in the lawn at Chanticleer.  Form what I’ve heard there are many more to come.

And then there were the pond gardens…

chanticleer koi

Chanticleer koi

With lotus and water lilies.

chanticleer lotus bud

One of many lotus flowers.  My photos never do the blooms justice.

And then there was the cutting garden.  My favorite canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ (Pretoria) was the star, and in my opinion everything looks better when it’s next to this beauty.

chanticleer canna pretoria

The cutting garden.  Summer annuals, dahlias and cannas were at their peak.

It’s just pictures from here on.

chanticleer cosmos

Cosmos and dahlias with canna leaves.

chanticleer cutting garden

The beds threaten to swamp you in a tsunami of plants.  Still to come were all the hardy sunflowers and other native prairie plants which filled the inner portions of the bed.

dahlias chanticleer

Dahlia with gomphrena ‘fireworks’ (I think)

dahlias chanticleer

Dahlias again (it’s the season!) plus more awesome canna leaves. I think the ferny foliage belongs to the SE native dog fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium).

dahlias chanticleer

Nice right?

chanticleer summer flowers

Summer zinnas and cosmos. Who says fall is near?

I didn’t realize it’s been two years since I last visited (click here to see that very pintrest-popular post), and I’m glad to have had the chance to do it again.  The gardens are on a scale that really seems approachable, yet aren’t filled with how-to beds or dull bedding.  It’s really a place where you can enjoy the art of gardening,  and if you get the chance I would absolutely recommend a visit, but for those further afield there’s also hope.  September 23rd marks the release date for a new Timber Press book on the gardens and I for one am looking forward to it.  It has an excellent pedigree across publisher, author, and photographer and what I’m most looking forward to are the interviews with each area gardener.  I saw them at work during our visit but was a little too shy to bother them with an endless gushing of praise or question after question.  Hopefully the new book will pacify me. 🙂

Thanks for meeting me there Paula, and I wish everyone a great week!

Roadtrip to Long Island

Summer always seems to hit like a whirlwind around here, and during the season where the garden is changing and showing off more than ever the blog which is supposed to tell the story always enters a slump.  The gardener is busy outside of course, and posting about it falls to the wayside.   That’s bad though since going back through the pictures of seasons past is a favorite activity for the desolate dark days of winter and I need that sunny cheerful reminder to keep me going when icy cold locks up everything.  So let me apologize for the slowdown and also for the lack of visits to other blogs.  I still stop by of course and look, but more in a wallflower way taking it all in but not commenting… oh, and I’ll also apologize in advance if there are too many posts over the next few days.  I’m going to try and catch up and I hope I don’t seem like that other party person, the one who just goes on and on 🙂

avalon prairie stony brook

A prairie planting in Stony Brook NY

I grew up on Long Island and still return as much as I can to visit my parents and my brother’s family.  This last time while the kids were playing and others were visiting doctors and shopping, I snuck off alone for a visit to the Avalon Park and Preserve in Stony Brook, NY for a summertime peek at their fields of prairie plantings.  I was not disappointed.

field of heliopsis avalon stony brook

In mid July Heliopsis helianthoides  (false sunflower) dominates the former farm fields of Avalon.  Keep in mind this photo was taken from above since most topped out at around five feet!

This is North shore Long Island, gold coast, old money territory, and with a location approximately 40 miles out of Manhattan it’s retained much of its city escape feel.  Think Great Gatsby, and although most of the old mansions have either fallen to ruins or been leveled there are still plenty of old estates and gentleman’s farms.  Fences and gates usually separate the common people from these retreats but in this case several tracts were purchased and the gates were opened.

milkweed prairie avalon

Common milkweed dotted the prairie but I didn’t see a single nibbled leaf or monarch caterpillar.

Avalon is made up of three sections, Avalon Park is a manicured area with woodland plantings, walking trails, and art features, Avalon Preserve consists of hiking trails through woodland, old field hedgerows, and the prairie plantings, and East Farm Preserve is a Nature Conservancy property accessible through the Avalon sections.  The three parts combine to form a nice cross section of Long Island’s former wilder self.

paul simmons avalon stony brook

Paul Simmons memorial at Avalon Park and Preserve.

Although today the park is a peaceful oasis filled with children playing and friends strolling, the origins of the park are rooted in grief.  In 1996, 34 year old Paul Simmons was killed by automobile collision while cycling nearby.  To celebrate his life and love of the outdoors the park was created.  At the site of a former pre-park residential building a memorial for Paul has been built, with an adjacent meditation labyrinth.  On this visit art installations of colorful knit ‘tree sleeves’ and hanging patterns dotted the area.

avalon labyrinth stony brook

Meditation circle  

The park plantings, buildings, and care reflect a healthy park endowment and it’s not surprising considering that the father of Paul Simmons is one of the world’s wealthiest men.  James Simons is a math man who has translated his mathematical talents into the financial markets and stands somewhere in the 70-80 range of wealthiest people worldwide (around 30th for wealthiest Americans).  His story is a fascinating one, but his estimated 14 billion net worth surely hasn’t hindered park funding, and is always the subject of whispered stories in the three villages area of who works for his remarkably successful Renaissance Technologies and what their annual take home pay might be.

avalon park stony brook new york

A second residence on purchased park property has been transformed from a 1940’s ranch to a coastal New England style park office, ready for park foundation functions and always immaculately manicured. 

Coming down out of park brings you down to the Stony Brook mill pond.  This is the duck pond I loved visiting back in the day and is the power source for the Stony Brook grist mill (c.1751).  As recently as 1940 the mill was still carrying on the work of grinding local grains into flour and even today the wheels are put into motion on summer weekends for the sake of tourists. It’s an area rich in history from the sea captains who settled around the harbor, to the colonial farms which cover the rolling hills, to the Manhattan escapees who missed the train to the Hamptons and ended up here.

cormorant rookery stony brook

Cormorants nesting on a mill pond island.  These are relatively recent arrivals to the area,  only now recovering from their fish-robbing persecution from days gone by.

I love this area for its quiet waterfront peacefulness and many hidden treasures, but on this visit it was the flower filled fields which really made me smile.  On a still summer morning the low hum of thousands of native bumblebees visiting the flowers and the less-than-springtime-frantic chirping of songbirds really worked magic to calm the day.

Avalon prairie planting

Avalon prairie plantings.  Even with the heliopsis blooms dominating early summer, there were plenty of other native grasses and colorful perennials to carry on for the rest of the year. 

Good thing the day started out relaxed.  Summertime beach visits and afternoons spent barbequing can be so stressful 🙂

west meadow beach ny

Cousins exploring the salt marsh near West Meadow beach in Setauket, NY.

Now back to the garden.  We’ve been to Florida and back in the meantime and catching up in the garden has been an uphill battle against Japanese beetles and crabgrass…. but there’s been plenty of pool time too, so I really can’t complain!

Viva la summer 🙂