Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Year in Review / The Ones That Got Left Out

As it is the last day of the year, I thought it appropriate to post a review of sorts. I considered focusing on highlights from my own garden but then I remembered the various wonderful gardens I visited over the course of the year that had never actually made it onto the blog, primarily because I did not get around to writing about them at the time. So here they are, in chronological order, primarily in pictures without much of a write-up, but hopefully still pretty and inspiring.

Serre de la Madone, Menton, France (March 2015)

Located in the warmest, most Mediterranean corner of France in the exceedingly lovely Côte d'Azur town of Menton, Serre de la Madone was the winter home of Lawrence Johnston (1871-1958), the American-British plantsman who created the famous Hidcote Manor Garden in the United Kingdom. Unlike the latter, which has been in the care of the National Trust since 1947, Serre de la Madone had a number of owners and experienced varying levels of garden maintenance after between Johnston's death and the 1999 acquisition of the property by the Conservatoire du Littoral. Restoration work has been done from 2008 onward, but the place retains an overgrown, enchanted feel.

Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC, USA (June 2015)

Dumbarton Oaks, the historic estate of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington DC, is now owned by Harvard University and is home to a museum, a library and research center focusing on Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and garden and landscape studies, and extensive, immaculately maintained gardens. The latter were designed by Beatrix Farrand (1872-1959), one of the most famous and prolific of early American landscape architects. A number of terraces and garden rooms oscillating in style between Italianate and English Arts and Crafts spill down the hillside below the manor house in a complex layout that takes much longer to explore than one would initially think. Not that one would want to leave quickly; I visited on a sweltering afternoon and yet found many a perfect spot to sit and dream under the shady pergolas and in the many secluded corners.

The Gardens at Elm Bank, Wellesley, Massachusetts, USA (September 2015)

The Gardens at Elm Bank in the tony Boston suburb of Wellesley - home to the prestigious women's college of the same name - belong to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and consist of a serious of formal gardens as well as sprawling meadows and woodlands along the Charles River. They are popular for weddings, and this is actually what brought me there as the best of significant others - promoted this summer to best of fiancés - and I were scouting for wedding venues. We eventually settled on a different location for our nuptials, but not because the gardens are lacking in loveliness. Only the Manor House at one end of the Italianate Garden is in dire need of renovation, which I hope the Massachusetts Horticultural Society will be able to undertake soon. Other than that, this is a very nice local public garden and horticultural resource, and in retrospect I am surprised it took me so long to discover it.

If nothing else, I am ending 2015 with a lot of pretty pictures. Here is to hoping that the next year will be the best one yet. Happy New Year Everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - December 2015

It being December, around here in New England most of the flowers are currently to be found indoors. Normally I would have bought some poinsettias and maybe forced some bulbs for the holidays, but since we will be traveling a lot in the coming weeks I decided to hold off on those. Even so, there are a few things blooming around the house:

Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac 'Maid of Orleans')

A pinkish white Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera truncata cv.)

A 'Bliss' perpetual carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus 'Bliss')...

... and one of the 'Cheshire Cat' variety

The trusty, reliable, ever-blooming crown-of-thorns (Euphorbia milii)

A delicate yellow mystery daisy - anyone know what this might be?

However, since much of fall and winter so far have been unseasonably mild, there are even still a few blooms outside in the garden:

A 'Resina' pot marigold (Calendula officinalis 'Resina'), freshly washed by the rain

Too see what is blooming at other people's places around the country and the globe, visit May Dreams Gardens.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


This summer when the best of significant others and I went to Seattle for a long weekend I came back with a number of plants - what else did you expect? - gingerly carried in my carry-on luggage all the way back to the other side of the country. Among them were two little camellia cuttings to replace a previous set that had croaked on me rather spectacularly - think sudden, total self-annihilation - late last winter. The previous camellias, which had grown beautifully for just over a year prior to their mysterious decline, were of the Camellia japonica varieties 'Victory White' and 'RL Wheeler' and I had bought them at the Lyman Estate in nearby Waltham. This summer's new acquisitions are a tea shrub (Camellia sinensis) and the old Japanese hybrid Camellia 'Showa-no-Sakae', which is supposedly a cross of Camellia hiemalis and Camellia oleifera, though the former is probably itself of hybrid origin. Unfortunately, it has not been easy sailing with these species either, since the edges of many of their leaves soon started turning brown and crispy for as yet undetermined reasons and the squirrels for some reason developed a particular liking for digging in their pots. Nonetheless, they set some flower buds, and now 'Showa-no-Sakae' has just begun to bloom, about two weeks after being moved to the sun room for the winter.

Camellia 'Showa-no-Sakae', photographed awkwardly from below

I am going to tentatively consider this a success. Maybe I will eventually figure out how to keep camellias happy in containers after all. I did see a small specimen of what looked like another Camellia hiemalis or Camellia sasanqua cultivar growing in the open ground and covered in fat buds in a front yard in Boston's South End the other day, but I assume that one just enjoys a particularly sheltered spot and the heat island effect of the city; not far from it there is also a fairly nice southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) growing out in the open...