Thursday, June 24, 2010

Progress in Roses

Here is an interesting article from The New York Times about the development of new disease-resistant roses and an initiative to reduce pesticide use in the rose collections of the New York Botanical Garden by planting more such varieties:

In the Garden: Disease-Resistant Roses That Don't Need Pesticides

The article also includes plenty of pretty pictures from the Botanical Garden's Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Interesting Pictures: Rooftop Gardens in New York City

Here is an interesting picture gallery from the website of the German newspaper Die Zeit depicting various rooftop gardens in Manhattan:

Eine Oase im 24. Stock

The text is unfortunately in German only but there is fairly little of it anyway.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer Travels 2010 - Part 4: The Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon

After I have mentioned it in several previous posts, here, finally, is the post about the famous Portland Japanese Garden. Located in Washington Park just above the International Rose Test Garden, the Portland Japanese Garden was designed by Takuma Tono and opened in 1967. It covers 5.5 acres (ca. 2.2 ha) and consists of five distinct garden areas. These are the Flat Garden, the Strolling Pond Garden, the Tea Garden, the Natural Garden, and the Sand and Stone Garden and each of them represents a different traditional Japanese garden style.

 One of the gates to the tea garden

The waterfall in the strolling pond garden

One of the ponds in the Strolling Pond Garden

The Zig Zag Bridge through  beds of Iris in the Strolling Pond Garden

An azalea (Rhododendron sp.) in the Natural Garden

My favorite parts of the garden were the Strolling Pond Garden and Tea Garden, mainly because they are rather intimate and full of detail as well as rich in interesting plants. I absolutely love the low Zig Zag Bridge winding its way through beds of irises; if one day I am lucky enough to have a large pond I would love to add a similar one. Not only is it quietly elegant but it provides a perfect viewing platform for aquatic plants. 

A miniature stone pagoda in the Strolling Pond Garden

A stone lantern and a white azalea

A small stone fountain in the Flat Garden

A pink azalea which thought was particularly pretty

The rather austere Sand and Stone Garden

The gardens are quite beautiful and immaculately maintained - even while we were there gardeners were clipping and plucking away in the shrubbery. However, since the Portland Japanese Garden is such a well-known attraction, it can also get quite crowded and so it is probably a good idea to visit early in the day. The garden opens at 10:00 am everyday except on Mondays, when it opens at noon. Since we went on a Monday, my mom and I, like many others, used the hours before the garden opened to explore the International Rose Test Garden just down the slope.

A view from the Strolling Pond Garden towards the Tea Garden

A nook in the Tea Garden

Rhododendron 'Rosebud'

Another view from the Strolling Pond Garden

A view across the center of the Flat Garden

If you want to read more about the Portland Japanese Garden, you can do so on its excellent website. In the meantime, I will be traveling a lot in the coming weeks and I am not sure how often I will be able to post but hopefully I will be able to visit some interesting gardens along the way that will eventually make their way onto this blog.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Summer Travels 2010 - Part 3: The International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon

Established in 1917, the International Rose Test Garden is located in Washington Park, a large expanse of meadows, woodlands, and gardens on the slopes above Downtown Portland. The same park is also home to Portland's famous Japanese Garden, as well as a whole host of other attractions including Hoyt Arboretum and the Washington Park Zoo. My mom and I went to see both the International Rose Test Garden and the Japanese Garden on a Monday and since on Mondays the Japanese Garden does not open until noon we used the morning to explore the rose garden.

 One of the main paths with arbors covered in red climbing roses

Even some of the slopes in between different levels of the garden are planted with rows upon rows of roses

A hybrid tea rose (Rosa sp.) with plum-colored blossoms

The garden is a "test garden" because it does not merely consist of a collection of various rose varieties but serves as a testing ground for new varieties that are just being introduced. Apparently there are twenty-four such gardens in the United States, all of them contributing to the evaluation of rose varieties for the All-American Rose Selection.  The Portland garden, however, was the first one and already received roses from faraway places during World War I when European breeders sent samples of their creations to Portland to keep them safe from the destruction wrought on much of Europe by the conflict.

A view across part of the upper portion of the garden

A two-tone hybrid tea rose

Red roses, complete with dew

The garden really is quite impressive, not just for the sheer number of rose bushes or the diversity of different varieties but also because the mild, wet climate of the Pacific Northwest and the expert care of the gardeners result in particularly lush growth and exuberant blooming. Many of the hybrid tea roses in the garden actually had flowers bigger than any I ever remember seeing on a rose.

A border of pink and white varieties

An orange hybrid with a flower shape reminiscent of antique roses

Mixed borders and shaped conifers used as structural accents

If you want to find out more about the Portland International Rose Test Garden, you can visit its website here. There are also other interesting rose gardens scattered around various other parts of Portland and beautiful roses everywhere from private yards to parking lots so for rose lovers the City of Roses does indeed have much to offer.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Plant Care Profile: Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa)

After featuring tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) as part of my post on the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon, I thought it might be a good idea to do a care profile on these beauties. I think there are a few flowers - and even fewer that will tolerate a Zone 4 winter - which can compete with tree peonies for sheer showiness or flower size. The plants can be quite pricy and nurseries and garden centers still often carry them as somewhat of a rarity but they are almost care-free once established and grow quite vigorously if they are happy.

Yellow-flowered tree peonies in pots flanking the entrance to the Hall of Brocade Clouds at the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon, Zone 8b

Origin: Paeonia suffruticosa has been in cultivation in China for millenia and it appears to have been derived from one or several of various similar species found there.
USDA Hardiness Zone: Paeonia suffruticosa is hardy to Zone 4a according to most sources, though some even claim hardiness to Zone 3b.

A close-up of a bloom of the yellow tree peonies at the Lan Su Chinese Garden

Size: Depending on the variety, tree peonies can vary between 2' (ca. 60cm) and 8' (ca. 2.4m) in height and shrubs can be up to 6' (ca. 1.8m) across.
Flowering Time: Tree peonies will flower in mid- to late spring depending on local climate, usually a few weeks earlier than herbaceous peonies.

My own semi-double Paeonia suffruticosa specimen in my family's previous southeast Michigan garden in Zone 6a the first year it flowered

Light Requirements: Tree peonies prefer full sun, though they will put up with a little bit of shade. While it does not kill the plant, even partial shade is likely to lead to reduced flowering.
Soil Requirements: Ordinary, well-drained garden soil suffices, though Paeonia suffruticosa also appears to benefit from added organic matter, such as top dressings of compost and leaf mulch.

A close-up  of the tree peony in my family's former Michigan garden

Siting in the Garden: Tree peonies should be planted in a sunny, somewhat sheltered spot with enough space for their often ample growth.

A very old specimen of Paeonia suffruticosa with enormous pale pink flowers in a frontyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Zone 6a

Care: Tree peonies should be planted in spring or early summer so they have plenty of time to get established and, as with most shrubs and perennials, it is a good idea to mulch around them after planting to conserve moisture and keep soil temperatures even. Plants are usually sold potted and but sometimes bare-root plants can also be found. While these might be considerably cheaper, they should only be bought if they have several strong shoots with healthy, plump buds on them and even then it might take one or two years of growth until they will flower for the first time. Once established the plants need very little care; they should be watered in times of extended drought and benefit from continued mulching as well occasional top dressings of compost or fertilizing with some bone and blood meal worked lightly into the soil around the plant. Due to the heavy flowers the plants also might need staking while they bloom and unless seeds are wanted they should be dead-headed after flowering. Pruning is possible if plants get too large but otherwise not necessary except to remove dead shoots on the sparsely branched shrubs.

A close-up of a flower of the pink tree peony in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Propagation: Paeonia suffruticosa can be propagated from seed but the seeds need to be very fresh and either have to be sown outdoors in the fall in an area that experiences winter cold or require stratification. Varieties also do not come true from seed, so grafting, air layering, and cuttings are more common methods of propagation, though these, too, are challenging and might not be practical in the home garden.

A white variety of Paeonia suffruticosa in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Uses in the Garden: Paeonia suffruticosa is stunning while in flower and makes a nice backdrop to other flowers even after its own flowers are spent due to its beautiful, finely divided foliage.  It is well suited to the middle or the back of perennial and shrub borders but also looks good in a bed of its own, especially if different varieties are planted together.

A semi-double variety of Paeonia suffruticosa with flowers streaked in white and red, photographed in Newport, Rhode Island, Zone 7a

The Garden Plants of China by Peter Valder, Timber Press, 1999.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer Travels 2010 - Part 2: The Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon

The Lan Su Chinese Garden is significantly younger than Portland's famous Japanese Garden but it is at least as beautiful. Located in historic Chinatown in the center of the city, the garden was completed in 2000 and celebrates Portland's relationship with its Chinese sister city Suzhou, which is famous for its historic gardens. The garden's name, "Lan Su", apparently translates to something along the lines of "Awakening Orchids" but it also plays on the names of the two sister cities, with "lan" representing Portland and "su" standing in for Suzhou. Stylistically, the garden imitates the urban gardens of wealthy scholars in that city, and perhaps one of its most amazing aspects is the sheer variety, detail, and sense of seclusion found within it despite its small size.

 The entrance gate to the garden

A second gate which leads from the first courtyard into the garden proper

A variegated cultivar of Bletilla striata flowering in the entrance courtyard

The garden is arranged in a serious of "rooms" and passageways around a large central pond, interspersed with pavilions, bridges, a fully operational teahouse, and a number of rock features including a rocky hill with a small waterfall. As a result one always feels both inside and outside at the same time, and the scale of any view in the garden is quite intimate. Apart from the strategically placed decorative Lake Tai rocks with their twisting shapes, there are also many other playful decorative details, such as small windows in walls separating different garden parts which frame a specific plant or arrangement of plants and rocks like a painting, inscriptions of Chinese calligraphy on wood and stone, and intricate wood carvings in the various pavilions.

Knowing the Fish Pavilion

 A covered passage culminating in a window framing an elegant scene of Musa basjoo, a decorative rock, and a potted specimen of Trachelospermum jasminoides

 A view across the first garden "room" one encounters after entering the garden

An intimate walk

One of the Lake Tai rocks

An unusual opening in a wall framing a specimen of Fatsia japonica

 A view across the central part of the garden with the Moon-Locking Pavilion and the Tower of Cosmic Reflections Teahouse in the background

Another view across the central portion of the garden, towards the Flowers Bathing in Spring Rain Pavilion

A gate of yet another shape connecting two smaller sections of the garden

Beyond the intriguing design, the garden also offers plenty of interest to plant lovers, with a vast assortment of plants species and cultivars traditionally grown in Chinese gardens. These include camellias, rhododendrons, tree peonies, magnolias, orchids, creeping saxifrage (Saxifraga stolonifera), Chusan palms (Trachycarpus fortunei), bamboos, and many other plants both well known and unusual. There are even several clumps of the Japanese fiber banana (Musa basjoo), one of my favorite garden plants.

A tree peony cultivar (Paeonia suffruticosa) with pale yellow flowers with dark red centers

 A variety of hydrangea vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides 'Moonlight')

 A white azalea (Rhododendron sp.)

 A pink flowers I was unable to identify - Does anyone know what this is?
Update:  According to John at John Grimshaw's Garden Diary this is Chinese Foxglove (Rehmannia elata)

 The Japanese fiber banana (Musa basjoo

In addition  to the beautiful plants in the garden itself, there was also an exhibit of herbaceous peony varieties in the pavilions of the garden at the time of our visit, and many of the blossoms on display were truly stunning.

 One of the herbaceous peony displays in the Hall of Brocade Clouds

 An unusual single white variety with greenish stamens

A salmon variety which I thought was particularly pretty

A stunning pink semi-double bloom

A single two-tone flower

After wandering through the gardens for a while, my mom and I stopped at the beautiful teahouse and had tea and coconut custard tarts. Portland being the City of Roses I thought it appropriate to opt for a Chinese black tea flavored with rose petals, which was incredibly fragrant and utterly delicious. Better yet, the staff kept refilling our teapots unobtrusively and free of charge and so we happily relaxed at the teahouse for quite a while. On the whole, the garden and the teahouse were  probably our favorite spots in the entire city, and in their serenity and oasis-like atmosphere they reminded me a bit of the gardens of the Grand Mosque of Paris which I was lucky enough to visit last summer.

 Nature and architecture gracefully blend together throughout the garden

 Each passage offers new views and invites the visitor to explore

 The design is very intricate and quite noticeably artificial yet it is nevertheless calm and elegant

If you want to find out more about the Lan Su Chinese Garden - including opening times and admission prices - you can also visit its beautiful website, which also contains an interactive map of the garden, detailed information about its history, design, and plants, links to other Chinese gardens in North America as well as Chinese garden projects still in the making, a bibliography or relevant literature - it includes one of my favorite plant books, Peter Valder's The Garden Plants of China - and various other interesting features.