Archives for October 2016

Dahlia Book Highlights Numerous Plant Varieties

Dahlia book highlights numerous plant varieties.

It’s fall and time to think about how much dahlias add to the garden. They bloom till Thanksgiving here in New England.

Leaning about dahlias has just become easier, thanks to a new book, The Plant Lover’s Guide to Dahlias.

plant-lovers-guide-to-dahlias-coverAuthor Andy Vernon takes the reader on a journey of dahlia history and growing dahlias, and then fills the rest of the book with photographs of dozens of dahlias in all their glorious color. Vernon, a BBC TV garden show producer and horticulturist, has been growing dahlias for fifteen years.

He says, “I love propagating dahlias, growing them, collecting new varieties and giving friends excess plants I’ve grown from seed.”

This book is part of the series from Timber Press called “The Plant Lover’s Guide To”, and in this case, it’s dahlias. It is published in cooperation with Kew, England’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

That origin tells the reader that there will be lots of information here about England’s fascination with the dahlia. The reader is not disappointed.

We read about dahlias at Great Dixter House and Gardens, where the modern craze in dahlias originated in the 1990s with Christopher Llyod’s display of the dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff.’ [below]

Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff' [Courtesy of White Flower Farm]

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ [Courtesy of White Flower Farm]

Then there are nurseries in England as well as Vernon’s own garden to provide various dahlia varieties. Of course the Hampton Court Flower Show and the Chelsea Flower Show also receive credit for their annual exhibits of dahlias.

Many novice dahlia gardeners hesitate to plant dahlias because of the fear of having to dig them up and store them for the winter. Vernon provides clear, simple advice here.

England’s Victorian and Edwardian eras used the dahlia extensively whether in a garden bed or in a container.

In the nineteenth century there were dozens of varieties of dahlias on the market. Mid century England experienced a dahlia mania, which Vernon compares to the tulip mania of the sixteenth century. Gardeners could not get enough of this flower.

Vernon provides a clear description of the various forms of the dahlia flower, which can be confusing sometimes. He lists them simply as anemone, collerette, ball, pompom, and cactus.

As anyone who grows dahlias will admit, there are hundreds of dahlias on the market. They are improving. Vernon says, “Times have changed, and dahlias are being re-invented for more modern gardens and tastes.”

Whether you plant dahlias in beds or containers, you will find much value in this book. Vernon even includes a list of forty-eight perennials and biennials that grow well with dahlias.

At the end of the book he includes a list of nurseries where you can purchase dahlias. The majority in the US are located in Oregon and Washington.

Vernon’s enthusiasm for this flower comes through from the very first page. For anyone seeking to learn about the dahlia and how easy it is to grow, and see dozens that are on the market, this book will provide the roadmap. He says, “It really is an exciting time to discover these plants.”

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dahlia-ketsup-and-mustard

This red and yellow dahlia flower of ‘Ketchup and Mustard’, I saw at September’s Rhode Island Dahlia Society’s annual show in Wickford, R.I. It was only one of dozens of old favorites on display at the show which is also a chance to see the newest in the world of dahlias.

 

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Autumn Moon Brightens Ocean

Autumn moon brightens ocean.

Driving along the ocean road the other night presented a sight to remember.

It was about 8 p.m. on a warm and clear New England fall night. Who could ask for any better weather?

As I drove, I caught sight of the moon shining over the ocean.

I could not believe it, especially the moon’s reflection on the water.

I stopped the car to take this picture. [below]

Moon at Wallis Sands Beach in Rye, NH

Moon shines over a beach along the New Hampshire seacoast.

It was such a joy to see this light in darkness.

Somehow for one moment it seemed like all my sorrows disappeared.

I was so wrapped up in this beautiful sight.

When you think about it, the small gifts in life are not really so small.

 

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New England Drought Affects Hostas

New England drought affects hostas in my garden.

Here in New England I found that the drought we experienced this summer had an impact on some perennials.

At a Master Gardener meeting last week I heard a talk about the drought and its impact on the garden.

During that session I asked the speaker if the drought could cause problems for perennials.

He assured me that it certainly could.

Then I thought of my large hostas that looked anything but large this summer.

I am referring to Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ which is known for its breath-taking size. In the past this variety grew five feet high and six feet across in my garden. This summer it was clearly not itself. The size was about one-quarter what it usually would have been.

Several plants of ‘Sum and Substance’ are located along my driveway and are planted in areas of ledge. I planted them at least twenty years ago.

The second large plant is Hosta ‘Sagae,’ an award-winning variety with its blue-green leaves edged with a bit of cream color. This is truly an outstanding large hosta variety.

This year the leaves were quite small. The plant became almost a dwarf of its former self.

The ‘Sagae’ grows also along my driveway, right near a bit of ledge.  I planted it over twenty-five years ago. There are several of them in that spot. Normally they too would grow to five feet high and the same dimension in width.

Close to the house and near my water spigot, I found this blue Hosta, possibly ‘Love Pat’ which is one of my favorites. [below]

Blue hosta in my garden

This blue hosta, probably ‘Love Pat,’  grew in my garden this summer. It looks terrific.

It did not seem to suffer from the drought at all. It grew to this wonderful shape and size, with its stunning cupped leaves of blue.

I could attribute that its location near the water spicket, that I often used this summer.

How did your garden survive the drought?

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Canna Became Popular Victorian Plant

Canna became popular Victorian plant.

I remember on my trip to Amalfi that cannas grew in flower beds that lined the main road of a small town we visited. You could tell they come up every year.  That climate was probably ideal for them.

Cannas originate in sub-tropical and tropical America and Asia.

Since the canna was a popular Victorian plant, I searched out comments in my garden history archives about it from the Victorian period.

In 1900 Cornell University Professor of Horticulture L. H. Bailey edited his classic garden resource The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture which said “Cannas are commonly used only in formal beds, but most excellent effects may be secured by scattering clumps in the hardy border or amongst shrubbery. “

The color of a canna with dark leaves offers a contrast for other plants in the garden. Even the flowers can offer a certain look. The SCH says, “Against a heavy background of green, the gaudy flowers show to their best, and the ragged effect of the dying flowers is not noticed.”

Some people did not partcilarly find the flowers attractive, but the structure of this large plant met with approval.  The SCH says, “As individual blooms, the flowers are not usually attractive, but they are showy and interesting in a mass and at a distance.”

On my deck this summer I potted the Canna called ‘Sangria’, part of the Cabana Canna Collection from J. Berry Nursery. It looked fine and did well the whole summer. [below]

canna on deck

Canna ‘Sangria’ from the Cabana Canna Collection growing in a container on my deck

Bailey does not mention the use of canna in a container.

Rochester, NY seedsman James Vick (1818-1882)  does however recommend it as the center plant in a large container.  It is showy and people would see it from a distance.

Bailey seems to recommend it for beds. His book says, “Popular tall ornamental plants, prized for their stately habit, strong foliage and showy flowers; much used in bedding.”

Today we still enjoy this showy plant, whether in a container or in beds.

 

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Atlanta History Center Includes Swan House

Atlanta History Center includes Swan House.

The Garden Writers Association’s recent conference in Atlanta included a visit to the Atlanta History Center.

The Center offers many sights for the visitor, including a garden history fan such as yours truly.

The historic home called the Swan House caught my eye immediately.

Though it required a bit of a walk, I made my way to see this historic home and garden first.

It did not disappoint.

The Swan House dates to the early twentieth century, with a garden now covered in heavy shade from the growth of its tall trees over the years. The center fountain as well as the rows of trimmed boxwood still offer a bit of Italian formality to the garden.

Here is the garden which is to the side of the house. [below]

Swan House garden

Swan House formal garden

It was the front of the house with its Great Gatsby car that added that bit of extra to this visit. Loved the car.

Swan House in the Front with the car

This car stands out front at the door to the Swan House.

After touring the Swan House I visited the Swan Coach House Restaurant, not far away.

The restaurant once served as the garage and servants’ quarters for the Swan House.

I wanted a cup of coffee.  The only seat was in the formal dining room where a bit of formality with linen table clothes, silver, and fine china awaited the visitor.

In that setting I certainly enjoyed the coffee, even adding a piece of wonderful mint julep pie just to extend my time there.

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Atlanta Gardens Feature Victorian Caladium

Atlanta gardens feature Victorian caladium.

The recent Garden Writers Association annual meeting in Atlanta featured several garden tours.

Caladium beds appeared in a few of the gardens.

Since I just started growing caladium in my New England garden the last couple of years, I was quite interested in seeing how these shade loving plants grew in Atlanta.

Wherever we saw them, I found them to be healthy and vigorous, showing the best of color with their fabulous leaves of green, white, and red.

Here is one garden with its bed of caladium. [below]

Caladium at Atlanta

Caladium bed in an Atlanta garden

The caladium has appeared in gardens since the Victorian period.  Then they naturally ranked among the choicest plants for the garden because of their large, colorful leaves.

Rochester seedsman James Vick (1818-1882) sold it in his catalog of 1880. The plant however does not appear in his catalog of the early 1870s.

He wrote, “The Caladium is one of the handsomest of the ornamental-leaved plants. Roots obtained in the spring will make good plants in the summer.”

In his magazine Vick’s Illustrated Monthly of 1879 he wrote instructions on winter care for the caladium.  A customer from Newfield, New York wrote that the previous year he had lost the caladium that he had stored in the basement.

Vick responded in the magazine, “They should be kept in a cool, dry place, and in sand.  A good, well-drained cellar usually offers a suitable place, but they should be stored on shelves, and not on the cellar botton.”

This is certainly timely advice, since we are now in the midst of the month of October, time to think about over-wintering such tender tubers.

Vick offers timely advice.

If protected over the winter, next spring the caladium tuber will be ready to plant in the garden.

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Capability Brown Designed Chatsworth’s Landscape

Capability Brown designed Chatsworth’s landscape in the eighteenth century.

This is the 300th jubilee year of the birth of Lancelot Capability Brown (1716-1783) .

He was the most famous landscape gardener in England from 1750-1780. Some have called him “England’s greatest gardener.”

Among the gardens he designed was Chatsworth, Thomas Jefferson’s favorite English garden.

England formed an organization to provide programs and events during this year to understand and appreciate Brown’s role in the history of the English garden.

On the group’s website a representative of Chatsworth provided an article about Brown’s work there.  You can check it out at this link: Chatsworth.

The 4th Duke of Devonshire (1720-1764) brought Brown to Chatsworth to redesign the landscape in what was then called the ‘modern’ style.

Brown’s associate or foreman, Michael Millican, oversaw an extensive program of earth moving, drainage, levelling and tree planting from the late 1750’s until 1765.

Millican was the ‘man on the ground’ supervising the land forming, drainage and turfing while Brown made visits to inspect and advise.

Chatsworth [courtesy of XXX]

Chatsworth, designed by Lancelot Capability Brown   [courtesy image]

How I remember my visit to Chatsworth on a June summer day.  It seemed more a park than a garden, but then that was an idea included in these extensive gardens. They were often called ‘park.’

Arabella Lennox-Boyd and Clay Perry wrote a wonderful book on English garden history called Traditional English Gardens.

They write, “The eighteenth century landscapes were great works of art, their creators achieving with water, trees, earth and masonry what artists were representing with oil paint.”

English gardens like Chatsworth were considered works of art.

This year 2016 is the time to remember Lancelot Brown, the mid-eighteenth century landscape gardener who inspired that ideal landscape in over 250 sites, including Chatsworth.

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English Garden Design Discouraged Mixed Beds

The English garden design discouraged mixed beds at one time.

Today we often talk about the impact of mass planting which is using many plants of one variety.

The annual conference for the Association for Garden Communicators happened to be in Atlanta this year.

Part of the meeting included visiting local gardens.

In a garden tour there I saw the use of a single variety of plant to create a carpet bed look around a fountain. [below] The clusters of color made of one plant provided a pleasing sight.

Carpet bedding in Atlanta

Carpet bedding in an Atlanta garden

For decades English gardeners looked down on planting more than a single plant of one variety for a bed or border. A mixed variety was then the style.

David Stuart says in his book The Garden Triumphant: A Victorian Legacy, “The old method of planting garden flowers was in a mixture, and flowers had been planted that way certainly since the seventeenth century. It was once believed that to have two flowers of the same sort next to one another was a grave error of taste, and it seems likely that such planting ideas had an even more ancient past.”

To include more than one plant of the same variety was not in style.

Stuart continues, “The idea of grouping flowers, so that only one sort was to be seen in each bed, was as much a major departure from the conventions of history as was the passion for informal landscape gardens of the previous century [the eighteenth].”

The head gardener at Chatsworth Joseph Paxton, Stuart writes, in 1838  recommended no mixed beds with perennials but rather carpet bedding with annuals which became the major garden fashion in the Victorian period.

The mixed bed however did survive.  Stuart says, “The mixed mode of bedding survived in rather specialized areas of gardening until the end of the nineteenth century.”

Carpet bedding became the popular style during the second half of the nineteenth century.

Thus, fashion in gardening is most important to heed.

The poor lonely plant doesn’t know the difference, but we do.

Today we plant in a mass or we plant in a mixed border. Both styles have their appeal.

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Garden Company Name Influences Customers

The garden company name influences customers in choosing products.

The public relations journal called Public Relations Tactics arrives on my desk every month.

This journal provides articles on what’s new and current in public relations practice.

A recent article called “Understanding Brands and Influencer Relations” caught my attention.

Since the Public Relations Society of America publishes this journal, I generally feel confident about the quality of its articles.

The word ‘influencer’ in the title made me curious. 

Influencers happen to be individuals who can persuade others, like their readers if the person were a journalist or blogger, to notice and perhaps choose a certain brand of a product.

The author Heather Sliwinski says, “Think of bloggers, and other social influencers, as brand ambassadors.”

My thoughts, of course, went back to the nineteenth century garden industry. Were there influencers back then?

Seed company owners like W. Atlee Burpee, Peter Henderson, John Childs, and James Vick became brand ambassadors for the nineteenth century garden industry.

Their audience was the middle class woman who loved gardening.

If Vick or Henderson said or wrote something, it was common for consumers to take notice.

Henderson placed this ad in Harper’s magazine. [below]

Peter Henderson Seed Company ad in Harper's

Peter Henderson Seed Company ad in Harper’s magazine

You see illustrated the ideal customer: a middle class woman who liked gardening, and was in the search of the newest. Here Henderson wrote in the ad, “Sensational Flower Seed Novelty.”  A new variety of hollyhocks was available for this gardener.

A nineteenth century seedsman, like Vick, sometimes approached a newspaper editor, also an influencer, with press material to promote Vick’s seed company.  If a story ran, Vick would send the editor packets of seeds in gratitude.

Like today, the influencer has a following. That’s how he or she received that name.

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