Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events Just One More Adventure: Gardener’s Day Off

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just One More Adventure: Gardener’s Day Off

 

Day Off

There are occasions when not being in my garden can be one of the best garden days ever.

Liz, my garden friend, arrived to give me a hand working in the garden. Plans had been made almost a month previously for this work day, but weather said otherwise. It rained the night before, fall had finally arrived temperature-wise and the winds simply refused to die down. It was one of those fit for neither man nor beast mornings to be crawling around in the garden. Liz was willing but I begged off being out there; I am not into being miserable to have fun.

So, I suggested an alternative plan. I put forth we spend the day garden center hopping and have lunch while out. I did not get the feeling that her agreeing with me was in the least reluctant. We wasted no time in getting on the road. After all, that sharp cold wind would be far less uncomfortable in garden centers.

 

Roadside Stand

At a four way stop in a small rural community we could not miss the traditional fall colors that called to us. There was an open shed surrounded table upon table filled to overflowing with color. There were plants on the ground as well as tables, and wagon loads of bright fall harvest colors. There were gourds of all shapes and colors, pumpkins of all sizes on display in white to bright waxy red and orange, and of course mums. All sizes of mums, special sales on multiple purchases and each was trimmed to perfection. Varieties of the blooms colors was a show stopper and pulled me into the sales office with four mums to go into trunk of my car. Once inside there apples, jams and jellies, the entire wallet trap. I left with Damson Plum preserves, apples for a cobbler I was going to make to celebrate fall, and the mums.

First stop was certainly a celebration of local fall color and tradition. All would have made a great American folk painting such as depicted by Grandma Moses on 1970’s psychedelics.

 

Stop Two

Hemiboea henryi, the glossy groundcover

Just outside of the town of Ramsey, IN, about one to two miles from the produce stand was Adamson We-Gro Nursery & Garden Center, a nursery and garden center that I had not visited in years.  Over that time they had almost doubled in size to about two acres. Also the inventory was as good as any much larger garden center. Now I wish I had been there in spring when their display areas were filled to overflowing with evergreens, trees and shrubs with perennials thrown in alongside new containers and all other garden needs. It truly was two acres of temptation.

The garden center manager turned out to be someone I knew from the past when I was in the nursery business and it was like old home week. We talked plants, we talked nursery business, and we did a touch of gossip along with their recent history. All the while walking the aisles and pausing to stare at another plant that had residence on my lust-list. I made an agreement to return with my lust-list and share with her and she would keep them in mind when ordering inventory next spring.

I suppose the minor gods were looking after me and saw that I was driving a compact car as opposed to a pickup truck. Liz became fascinated by a Hydrangea Twist and Shout in full bloom and foliage so big she could not get her arms around it. I have to admit it was a beauty and a strong temptation, but I had dwarf shrubs on the mind. She also picked up one of the largest and healthiest Tassel ferns I have seen in a container. Both at very reasonable prices and a discount at the register.

I had not purchased a conifer of size in years and there stood a half dozen in perfection. You know the rest of the story from there. Yes, I did purchase a Cryptomeria Black Dragon that stood about six feet in height and very full with its fall cones on display. No way to get it into the car with Liz’s purchases so I have to go back to pick it up, and already I am remembering a couple more conifers I saw while there. I did place one of those amazingly large and full Polystichum polyblepharum fern……….. in the trunk.

Liz got to pick where we were to have lunch. We made a quick stop for at Lunch Chick-Fill-A, took a window seat in the sun and relived out morning conquer of garden centers and told each other of our justifications for making purchases.

 

Strategic Pause

Lunch and conversations was great, but sitting in the sun, warming up with a full tummies was not our smartest move. It was a bit like having lunch and then going to the grocery store. We went to another large garden center but our hearts were not really into it. We were full for the day and it was an hour’s drive back to my place and she had another hour’s drive to get home. There was one more nursery on the list, but it would have to wait for another time as the day was over.

 

Photo Proven Winners

Day Plus One

I “just happened” to be on an errand the next day and passed the small garden center Liz and I passed over the day before. Well, I could hardly drive by without stopping and, as it turns out, the stop was arranged by higher powers. As soon as I walked into the display area there was the dwarf butterfly bush I was seeking. Only one left, the named cultivar, Low and Behold Blue Chip to become a companion to the other two in the series already in my garden. It was in bloom, at a reasonable price, and then in my trunk.

 

And, there you have it. Not one, but two days in a row, of gardening without going near my garden.

Time to book Gene for next year’s garden event. Some exciting new offers in the works, so act now.

 

Just Another Adventure: Fall Makeover: Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just Another Adventure: Fall Makeover:

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Lilium superbum

 

Fall Makeover

 

Doing What Comes Naturally

Well, what comes naturally to gardeners. Fall has arrived, so the palms of my hands were itching to hold a spade and go dig in some garden soil. Find something to move, something to discard, something to give away, do another remake and end with a shout “Ha! Take that weeds!” I may, or may not, get all that accomplished, but I did do a complete makeover of a bed that was originally completed something like twenty years ago.

Needless to say, after all this time my original design had unraveled over the years due to using only perennials. The bed ended up with a grand total of two thugs battling it out for world (well, their world) domination.

 

Act One

The first act was to remove the two remaining players and that took digging and turning over soil twice. Each working of the soil took more time than anticipated for somehow my age has taken command of all projects. The soil was in good condition so I did not have to work in any compost. My best guess is next spring I will find a few little green noses taunting me.

 

Good Shape

I still enjoy the original overall shape of the bed so that remains as is. The back side of the bed is defined by cedar posts sunk side by side to form a rustic wall. The overall outline is of a dog bone with a bow in the middle: a narrow arched strip with a bulb on each end. The front of the bed is defined by limestone rocks picked up as the garden was originally dug. There is a bench shaded by a conifer facing the bed from across a small circular room. Size of the bed is eighteen feet long by about six feet wide.

 

One bulb-shaped end of the bed has a Japanese maple with foliage that opens orange, red and yellow in spring and gradually fades over to green for summer, shifting back to red and yellow in the fall. At the opposite end the other bulb now has a weeping redbud with purple foliage. Cercis canadensis “Ruby Falls” has somewhat small semi-glossy leaves that shift from purple in the spring to yellow in the fall. Blooms are lavender-pink, but I am only after the color of the foliage.

 

Seasons

My preferred style of gardening is to have blooms in sequence as opposed to an all-out hit-you- between-the- eyes planting. I enjoy foliage textures and colors almost as much as I enjoy the more visually striking flowers. Also, why transplant one layer when you can have several layers that come and go with the seasons?  I like to think the additional expense and travel to the local gardens centers (I know, it is a sacrifice and one I am willing to perform for the garden) is rewarded with a longer showing.

 

Late Winter Early Spring

I began transplanting at the end of the bed where the Japanese maple was located. Among the roots of the maple I transplanted mature Christmas Rose seedlings that had sprung up in other parts of the garden. I thought the late winter blooms of Helleborus niger in white aging to red-pink with fresh felt green foliage would be a most excellent beginning. If you have hellebores in the garden then it is mandatory to add snowdrops. I began with clumps of Galanthus with their snow-white bells near the Hellebores to add bright green and clean white along with the hellebore blooms beneath bare limbs of the maple. Just as leaves begin to emerge on the maple the hellebore blooms fade to red-pink and the Galanthus are only green grassy clumps which will quickly fade into dormancy. The foliage on the hellebores gets to remain all twelve months of the year.

I dug clumps of snowdrops from other locations in the garden and placed five more clumps in a weaving pattern down the bed. About midway another Hellebore; a Tibetan hellebore was transplanted with its unusual soft pink petals with purple-red veins. Another hellebore sits beneath the weeping redbud.

While the hellebores and snowdrops are at their best they are joined by three Adonis amurensis. If you are not familiar with Adonis they form clumps of very fine feathery foliage in deepest green with bright, waxy, yellow blooms. They sure catch your attention, especially with all the other plants in bloom.

 

Summer

Both the snowdrops and the Adonis go dormant just after blooming and setting seed. The new foliage of the trees at either end of the bed are linked by the evergreen hellebores. As the snowdrops and Adonis fade, I now have species lilies weaving throughout the bed.

I have always had a fondness for lilies, but it is the species lilies that hold my attention best. I do have some of the large hybrid trumpet lilies in other parts of the garden, but for this area I began by moving two clumps of Lilium tsingtauense with blooms of what I would refer to as Halloween orange with freckles. The six narrow petals are widely spaced and on a flat plane with a space that makes me think it was going to add a seventh but gave up at the last minute. Next up I continued with Martagon lilies. Specifically, Lilium martagon ‘Claude Shride’ with its recurved petals of heavy waxy substance in deepest red with freckled yellow center. The red and yellow clumps of Claude Shride now form a small drift beneath the Japanese maple with its red foliage.

Extending down the bed in a weave are Lilium amabile in both orange and a yellow cultivars. By now I had reached the purple leaf redbud so I finished up the lilies with another Lilium amabile in clear lemon yellow and another martagon in melon.  I found a seedling of a coffee-brown foliage hardy geranium and thought that would make a good companion so in that  went. The area was completed with an Autumn fern in copper and gold on a right green background.

 

Late Summer, Fall

As the lilies complete their blooms, they will be deadheaded and I will watch for the next round of plants to emerge from the spikes of lilium. I transplanted three Arisaema fargessi with their stout stature and very large leaves. Eventually the three will form tight clumps that will almost touch each other in the bed. Bloom is like a seersucker suit in mahogany brown with white stripes. After the blooms there will be fire engine red seed clusters.

While all of the above is going on ferns emerge and freshen and will last from late spring well into winter. I began with three Athyrium filix-femina Dre’s Dagger with its narrow fronds that are crisscrossed and ending in small crests. One sits beneath the maple, the other two about mid-way along the bed with cedar posts as a background. The Autumn fern finishes up the ferns for the bed.

 

Now comes the wait until next spring when all my expectations become reality.

Time to book Gene for next year’s garden event. Some exciting new offers in the works, so act now.

 

Just Another Adventure: Keeping a Promise to Me Part 3: Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just Another Adventure: Keeping a Promise to Me Part 3:

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Waterfall in Anderson Japanese Gardens

Day Three

 

Anderson Japanese Garden

On our final day of exploring gardens I was looking forward to disappointment; being let down. How could anything equal or top what we had experienced over the past two days? I was in the process of resigning myself to a rather long day of ho-hum. Then I quickly found out just how wrong one person can be. Another life lesson for Gene. Don’t make decisions before you know the facts.

 

Facts

First up, the facts. Anderson Japanese Gardens is located in Rockford, IL. The short story is a businessman named John Anderson loved all things Japanese. Over a period of years he constructed a Japanese style garden in his swampy back yard. Mr. Anderson visited the Portland Japanese garden and formed a relationship with the director, Mr. Kurisu. Hoichi Kurisu became the designer of Anderson Japanese Gardens and now every tree, every stone, every path flawlessly speaks the language of Japanese gardens. If you know you will never make the trip to Japan, Anderson is the American Mecca of this style garden.

 

My Guess

My guess is everyone who walks the paths at Anderson sees a different garden on several levels. Physically I would say the paths chosen to walk the garden lead to different rooms of design, subtle shifts in plants and hardscaping. Then there is the spiritual aspect. It is almost impossible to find words for this sense, but if you allow it, you will leave refreshed, renewed and calmer behind your bellybutton. We spent the entire day walking the paths, crossing streams and bridges to visit each room. By the end of that day I was both exhausted and renewed.

 

Paths

I do not remember the existence of anything resembling a straight path. All paths wandered and meandered, each reaching out to control your speed as you walked. All textures were there to experience with each step. Some paths were wide enough to accommodate crowds of strollers, some of whom were in strollers and wheelchairs, others dictated you walk in single file. There was always a reward around each bend, another temptation see what was in the next room, the next opening with an expansive view.

If, for some reason, I could only walk one section of path it would be around the pond strolling garden.

 

Trees and Shrubs

With the last name of Bush, how could I not be fascinated by trees and shrubs? While I may be exaggerating just a tab, it seemed as though every limb, every twig, every leaf and needle was exactly where it should be in the overall scheme of things. The attention given to each shrub, each Japanese maple, every evergreen was as though every individual had its own personal trainer. I can only imagine the attention to detail, the stepping back and observing, walking forth and nipping, walking back once more multiplied over time and time again to achieve this end.

 

Stones

When driving in IL and WI I am always amazed by the smoothly polished granite stones everyone has in their gardens. I am told each stone was carried to the region by glaciers, then left as the ice retreated. The stones were rolled over and over in the ice as in a gem tumbler. Given millions of years the stones lost their edges and became smooth as a baby’s behind.

In Anderson they were literally raised to new heights. I saw stones as big as VW beetles stacked like children’s toys along the creek. It boggles the mind to try and imagine how each stone found its place one on top of the others. There were times when I entered a room featuring these large boulders and would stand in silence, lost in my imagination and the feeling that I should somehow make a connection.

 

Water

From the moment I walked out the door into the garden there was water. Water flowing over falls that spoke to you as you walked by. There were falls of every size from the monster West Waterfall to the small streams gracefully stepping down to flow under an arched bridge. It seemed as though every path had its individual stream, waterfall and bridge. Usually there was a bench nearby each fall with a view.

I remember two large lakes, each filled with koi large enough to ride and flashing color as they skimmed the surface with their mouths open following each human as they came near an edge.

 

Manmade

I remember the many Japanese lanterns in granite, the large bridges over the Spring creek, and a Tea house. There was a viewing house out over the pond and to its right a long rambling spirit bridge. I know I am forgetting so many features, but the best way to overcome my memory is to spend the day at Anderson yourself.

 

Future Visit

When my body becomes compost, Anderson is where I want to be sent for my next life. Perhaps become the spirit of a Cryptomeria overlooking the koi, or a solid presence in one of those huge polished granite boulders.

Time to book Gene for next year’s garden event. Some exciting new offers in the works, so act now.

Just Another Adventure: Keeping a Promise to Me Part 2: Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just Another Adventure: Keeping a Promise to Me Part 2:

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

One of many water features at Rotary Botanical Gardens

Rotary Botanical Gardens

 

Annual Arrangement at Olbrich Gardens

Day Two

Day number two of our Wisconsin adventure found us at Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville. We pulled into the parking lot just as the doors were opening. I had been introduced to this garden some years back and longed each year to make a return visit with more time to spend so I could add to my pleasant memories of this garden. Pulling into the parking area was like returning to a reoccurring dream. The front entrance of the welcoming center and areas surrounding the entrance were filled with late summer color. We stopped and wandered with our cameras for some time before entering.

We only made it to the door before stopping in our tracks to admire the displays on either side of the entrance. Aged driftwood with annuals, perennials and ferns were in the arrangement we stopped to photograph and look for id tags (to no avail). We stopped by the office to inquire but no one could be located who knew the names of the ferns.

Once we entered to purchase entrance to the gardens, we asked how long it normally took to visit the gardens and were informed that the average visitor took about one and a half hours. Perhaps we broke a record of some kind when we took until closing time to walk the gardens, and could have used just a bit more time.

 

Gene’s eBook tells the rest of the garden story

Memory Meets Reality

The website says Rotary Botanical Gardens is twenty acres in physical size now, but I would have sworn it was not nearly as big when I first visited. Whatever the physical outline, within there are worlds of gardening styles to visit. We drifted along letting our eyes and bellybuttons guide us through our tour, only occasionally referring to the map. We did not count the number of garden styles represented, but the website says a total of twenty-four. The number of plants in the gardens is said to be four thousand, I would have loved to have been hired to count individual plants, verifying the statistic. When a day of touring is over I suppose we all end up with our favorites. If I had to choose it would have been the sunken garden with the arched entrance and the Japanese garden. Probably Japanese garden listed first.

 

Color filled path in Rotary Garden

What I saw

There is no way I could describe a full day of wandering and wonder, stopping to take photos, and at times simply stopping in awe at the view ahead. First view was of immaculate paths, benches and worlds of annuals both in and out of containers. The vision was framed in color and texture. Each colorful container arrangement led to another drawing me along the paths. There were interesting hardscapes combined with the plants but each one was a tasteful support and partner to the view. Someone truly knew container arranging and this would be evident throughout the entire garden.

If memory serves me correctly I remember a small Japanese garden to the rear of Rotary that was private and I was given a tour. That garden of memory now has three lakes in a series each one stepping down the side of a sloping terrain connected by a small stone lined streams. There was a header flow with a small arched bridge and winding path. I watched each individual stand on the arched bridge and pause to enjoy the view down the hillside and then I joined them.

Bronze children at Rotary Gardens

I enjoyed the sculptures very much, especially the four children in bronze playing ring-around-the-rosy located beneath trees and bordered by gaily flowering plants. Not only were the bronzes captivating, so was the location for creating a story. To further capture you to this area was the nearby butterfly garden for children of all ages.

Unique to this garden was the aged wooden benches located throughout the garden, each with a garden related quote from such well knowns from John Muir to Thomas Jefferson and M. Gandhi. One of my favorites is by Muir, “Come to the woods for here is rest”. Perhaps more wonderful than opening a dark chocolate Dove candy and reading the secret message inside the foil wrapper. In another world I would have sat on each bench and while taking in the view, thought of the words carved into each bench. It would be worth another visit just to sit on the benches.

The memory of my previous visit stood out in colors as vivid as the original sighting and here it was once more, in even more vibrant colors. Six Adirondack chairs in a row, two of lime green, two of red, two of blue, each facing the quiet waters of a lake. The scene draws like a magnet and it is futile to resist setting in one of the chairs, watching the waters ripple against the shore at the feet of those Adirondacks. Once there it is hard to get back up and move on. Partly due to how the chair is built, somewhat due to enjoying the quiet and the view, and quite a bit of arthritis in my old bones.

 

One More Time

I am already looking forward to another return trip to Rotary, this time during a different season. Meanwhile I am thinking of my garden, of what I have just experienced, what I have learned, and trying to visualize how I could combine the two.

Time to book Gene for next year’s garden event. Some exciting new offers in the works, so act now.

 

Just Another Adventure: Keeping a Promise to Me: Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

 

Just Another Adventure: Keeping a Promise to Me:

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

 

Promise Made

One of the promises I made to myself in the near past was to go visit botanical gardens both old and new. Some I have visited in the past while giving talks, others have been on my bucket list of must-see gardens. The list is a long but do-able one, and I made my first choices along with a couple of just-in-cases thrown in for good measure. I picked two gardens I had fond memories of and added one located in the same area I had not visited, but was highly recommended on several occasions.

 

Parting

The day before I was to begin my adventure the weather forecast was for more rain in the region of our destination with flooding. While traveling the skies were heavily overcast, and we drove through several periods of sprinkles or rain: not a good thing. However, just as we began to approach Madison, WI there was an opening of clear blue with afternoon sunshine directly over the highway. It was as though Mosses came out of retirement and parted the waters for us.From that moment on it was as though we wrote down every detail of how we wanted the trip to be and that list was rubber stamped, then passed on up the line. All aspects of our adventure simply flowed, becoming as close to perfection as I have ever experienced.

Companion

I still cannot drive long distances, so I made arrangements for a companion to accompany me on the trip for driving. Rob Chambon was an old friend going back to my nursery days when he would come visit several times a year and spend most of the day talking plants. We have stayed in touch for other short trips and both of us looked forward to adding some days to trip lengths. This adventure we would be leaving for five days; two for travel to and from and three dedicated to garden visits. I would say the companionship and conversations during the eight hours there and back would have been reward enough.

Before leaving for the adventure we made the agreement that each garden would be given full attention and it would tell us how much time to spend. Each garden spoke to us and the decision turned out to be a full day at each of the three gardens. We arrived at opening hour and left at closing each of the three days, skipping lunch and keeping on the move to the next view, the next photograph.

 

Arrangement of annuals at Olbrich

Olbrich Botanical Garden

I have had the privilege of speaking at Olbrich Gardens three times over the years and it has been on my must-list ever since the last talk. When speaking you are guided through the garden, but there never seems to be time enough to do more than highlights. At this garden I have always known I was missing something and needed to return and satisfy my need to see it all.  I was not disappointed.

There is so much to see and do I can do no more than give a highlight or two. I would suggest a visit to their website and then a follow-up to the gardens in person.

My first impression was neat, clean, and well-cared for down to minute details. Almost every style of garden was represented and paths led you from one design to the next. Since I visited in late summer the feature demanding the most attention was all the annual eye candy. Whoever designs and maintains all the annual plantings, including the multitude of strategically placed containers, must have one amazingly powerful magic wand. I have always been a perennial gardener, but I was mesmerized by the annual magic I enjoyed all day at Olbrich.

 

Other Side of the World

Thai Pavilion Olbrigh

The most international of all exhibits at Olbrich was the Thai Pavilion and Gardens. Toward the end of my touring all the gardens there was one last bridge to cross; literally an arched bridge over a tree-lined stream. There was so much detail to observe it was slow walking with lots of stops in wonderment. At each end of the bridge stumps in the stream held containers filled with tropical plants. As you left the bridge and entered the path of overhanging trees with statues and containers, baskets of plants hung from the branches. Turning a corner I stepped into the open and there was the Thai pavilion in all its bright and shiny splendor.

I have never been to Thailand, but this is how I would imagine this common structure, which is not religious, but rather a shelter from the sun and rain, usually far less ornamental. It was constructed in Thailand, disassembled and put back together at Olbrich. Sitting on one of the benches I could not help but admire and be amazed by the detailed carvings, the intricate craftsmanship, all of which was covered in gold leaf.

There is a reflecting pool with fountain, numerous containers and planting surrounding an open grassy space with the pavilion in the center. As I sat on the bench for a bit of people watching, it was interesting to see all the conversations some to an end or pause as they came from the woodland path and saw the structure. That sense of quiet seemed to stay with each visitor as they walked the paths. Going back over my experiences I can still feel the sense of stillness as I sat in its shadow.

Next Week: another garden

Time to book Gene for next year’s garden event. Some exciting new offers in the works, so act now.