Dawn Redwood in the Arboretum

Did you know that the Wallis Arboretum is the site of two pre-historic trees: Ginkgo biloba and Metasequoia glyptostroboides? Both species are from China, the fossil records of ginkgo dating to more than 200 million years ago and metasequoia (also known as the Dawn Redwood) a mere 50 million.

As was–and is–the custom from the time the house was built in 1850, the latest introductions were always planted at 616 Pleasant Street. A row of ginkgos separated the family area from the cutting and vegetable garden.

The metasequoia did not arrive at the arboretum until the 1950s. The species was once prolific in North America, Japan and China, so much so that its fossil remains are Oregon’s State Fossil. The species was considered extinct until 1938 when a Chinese botanist discovered a living tree in China. With the threat of war, it was not until the late 1940s that Arnold Arboretum (Harvard) funded a trip to collect seed, sending them on to various countries and the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT)

Metasequoia is the smallest of the three living species of redwood, the the other two being the Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) in the Pacific Northwest and the Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in the Sierra Nevada mountains. They are cousins and easy to confuse, though Metasequoia foliage is scaley and deciduous, while redwood’s foliage is needle-like.

Metasequoia is a beautiful tree that with a trunk that buttresses with age. It has reddish bark that exfoliates in narrow strips. In the fall, needles turn orange-brown to red-brown.

Today, the ‘living fossil’ (as it is often called) is readily available to the average grower. Unless you have extensive room, do not plant it as it grows 3-5’ a year, reaching over 100’ and 25’ wide. It grows best in a sunny location and even tolerates dry soil and hardy in zones 5-8.

In ‘Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs’ he states that a single specimen is an imposing sight, but groupings and groves are also effective as attested by the grove planted at MOBOT in 1947. 

If your yard is not big enough for metasequoia, visit the Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum any time. It is open to the public with no fee.

For more information about Metasequoia go to: landscapearchitecturemagazine.org, The Metasequoia Mystery

October – Things to do in the Garden

  • Goldenrod has come into full bloom. Our KY state flower is not the cause of allergic reaction as its pollen is heavy and falls to the ground. The pollen of ragweed, its companion, is light-weight and blows in the wind.
  • Allow fall asters to remain over winter and cut back early spring. Monarch butterflies depend on them for their migration south.
  • Cut a few Shasta daisies to enjoy inside. At three years, Shasta will begin to become leggy and needs to be removed. Each year replace the oldest and plant with new to have continuous dense blooming and healthy plants.
  • Roses – Leave rose hips and dead roses on the bush. Hips feed birds while dead roses indicate to the bush cease blooming. Add a tablespoon of bleach and of sugar to half gallon of water to keep cut roses fresh.
  • Lawn – Raking time is here. For less back stress from raking, pull the rake toward you as you walk away from the leaves. Form rows of leaves, mow using a mulching blade and repeat in the opposite direction to break down the leaves enough over winter to add nutrients and improve soil quality.
  • Trees and shrubs – Plant trees and shrubs. Viburnums create a great screen to block a bad view and are not picky about soil or environment. Pick up walnut and buckeye seeds daily. Bending over or squatting to pick up is good exercise and prevents tripping on the pellicle (heavy seed coating) and reduces lawnmower thrown projectiles.
  • Recycle vines that were removed from trees, lawn and beds to make wreaths and baskets.
  • Order live or cut Christmas tree from a reputable nursery.
  • Pick species or wild persimmon fruit once it has colored up but still hard and ripen inside. It will ripen after picking. Pick hybridized varieties when they have ripened on the tree.
  • Recycle spent vegetables by removing and adding to compost. Never compost disease and insect infested plants. 

When to Prune Hydrangeas

Some hydrangeas are pruned in the fall, some in early spring and some not at all. How am I to know which variety my hydrangea is and when it is supposed to be pruned or not?   Proven-Winners has the simple answer. 

Of the 49 species of hydrangeas, four are native to America, and only six types generally grown in our gardens. Those that produce flower buds on old wood are

  • bigleaf (mophead and lacecap)
  • oakleaf
  • climbing
  • mountain

    New-wood bloomers include

  • panicle(PG or peegee) and
  • smooth (Annabelle series). 

By not pruning old wood that produces buds formed earlier this year, the hydrangeas are more apt to be protected over winter. Late freezes do not harm new-wood bloomer,  as their buds are set after all chance of a spring freeze. If buds are frozen, more will be produced.

New Proven-Winners(P-W) this year include old wood bigleaf (aka florist, mophead or lacecap) “Let’s Dance Can Do” and “Let’s Dance Do It”. Both stunning. 

New-wood introductions include Firelight Tidbit, a dwarf bush with large flower heads, and Quick Fire Fab (true to its Fab name). Both are panicle or peegee, so named for the panicles(cluster of flowers) of large or grandiflora flower heads. 

There is an hydrangea for every situation, from 1-2’ to 4-6’, colors from white to magenta and almost every color in between, easy to grow, bloom seemingly forever and some repeat. They do best in moist, well-drained soil and more sun than generally given. Peegees are known for their sun tolerance. They are shallow rooted and will dry quickly. Mulch helps retain water. 

DID YOU KNOW…

You know that hydrangeas likes water, but did you know that ‘hydra’ refers to the seed capsules that resemble ancient Greek water-carrier vessels?

Happy 50th Anniversary, Arboretum!

“In the Arboretum”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Nannine Clay Wallis’s bequeathal of her 616 Pleasant Street home to The Garden Club of Kentucky, to be used as its headquarters and to promote gardening. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the garden is a certified arboretum. GCKY is the only state member of National Garden Clubs to have its own headquarters and an arboretum. What a magnificent gift Mrs Wallis gave the Garden Club, Paris, and all who are interested in gardening and learning more about gardening.

Mrs. Wallis had three loves: gardening, her husband Frederick, and children. She was always generous with her 3.6 acre garden, and she hosted many school, church and other groups to visit and even picnic.

The Garden Club of Kentucky has continued to make the Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum available for groups. On Monday, July 12, more than 100 children will participate in the annual Kids Day at the Arboretum.

Another custom that GCKY has continued is the planting of the latest introductions of plants with each marked as to name, date and if planted in honor or memory of a person or group. Some are collections of a plant, such as the Hosta, Crabapple, and Daylily. Others are grouped in specific gardens including Rain, Butterfly, Monarch, and Herb gardens. The Arboretum plants have outdone themselves this year, as if they know they are a part of the 50th-year celebration.

Among the spectacular trees is the Tricolor Europian Beech (Fagus sylvatica), whose striking purple foliage with creamy pink and rose margins make it a stand-out. It greets visitors (no admission fee) just left of the 7th Street side of the entrance. Equally stunning is The Rising Sun redbud (Cercis canadensis) located to the right of the rectangular pond. Its new foliage is apricot that turns yellow and yellow-green as it matures. Among the trees from the 1900s is a row of ginkgo that separates the Gazebo from the original cutting and vegetable gardens. They are now the site of the Crabapple, President’s (former GCKY presidents’ favorite plants) and Daylily gardens that includes varieties hybridized by Martha Porter, a former GCKY president.

Come visit our wonderful gift from Mrs. Wallis. It is open to all during daylight hours and is available for special events – GCKY club meetings, family picnics, weddings, etc. Contact: 859-987-6158 and leave a message.

Parlor Palms

Mrs. Wallis was known for her horticulture and gardens. There is a wonderful picture of her standing most elegantly at the entrance to her formal garden, in front of a long row of tall white lilies. While there is no picture of her standing in front of a cluster of Parlor Palms, there is no doubt that she would have had at least one or two as they were very popular and still are.

Chamaedorea elegans, more commonly known as Parlor Palm, happens to be the most popular house plant world-wide. It requires minimal care, almost to the point of neglect. In addition to adding interest and even elegance to any room and is not toxic to pets or children. What more could you ask for.

A favorite since Victorian days, the Mexican native is a slow-grower it is happy with the average home environment and temperature of 65-75 and even up to 85 degrees. Any light is acceptable except direct. Let the soil dry out before watering every 1-2 weeks and mist a couple of times a week to keep fronds dust-free and mite free. Frond tips will brown if it gets too dry or humidity is low. It will yellow when over-watered.

Primarily a houseplant, the palm is content to spend the summer under a tree and return before the first fall frost. And it has air-purifying attributes.

Always the Latest: Frostfree Hellebore

The owners of Wallis House always planted the latest, whether cultivar or type of plant. When Mrs. Wallis’ father bought the property from his uncle’s estate, he said that he was doing so to give Nannine a place to garden. And she did. Always the latest and that has been carried forth by The Garden Club of Kentucky.

Helleborus is one of the under-appreciated and planted of all of our perennials. The evergreen quietly fills garden gaps until this time of year when it blooms forth from before Christmas (H. niger) through late spring. The three types are H. niger, Christmas hellebore that ‘blooms’ in December, followed by Lenten Rose (H. orientalis) and H. x hybrid including the relatively new charming container-grown FrostKiss, which will survive extreme cold. It is a mid-late season Lenten Rose. 

Two weeks ago, buds magically appeared half-hidden among the new foliage. Each day more are appearing – pink rimmed white, deep purple, pink, green, and some speckled. The pure colors are actually bracts (modified leaves) that provide the color for the new flowers well into April. The flower is actually the yellow center.

New to these colorful winter bracts is the relatively new Frostfree hybrid. The charmingly small container-grown plant  will spread to 2’x2’ and blooms into April. Unlike other hellebores, it will bloom within the first year of planting, starting as days shorten and temperatures drop to 40-50 degrees.

In addition to year-round interest, Frostfree is minimal maintenance. Here are some tips:

  • Do not cut leaves as they are the source of new flowers.
  • Apply a slow-release fertilizer; a small amount more if flowering ceases.
  •  In the summer, water as needed but not during the heat of the day.
  • Plant in 30 percent shade, well-drained coarse, pH 5.5 soil.
  • It may be planted in spring or fall when it is actively growing but not in the summer.
  • Astilbe, brunneria, fern, hosta and lungwort are wonderful companion plants.

Frostfree hellebore source: White Flower Farm (whiteflowerfarm.com, 800-503-9624); Burpee(burpee.com, 800-888-1447).

 

February – Things to do in the Garden

THINGS TO DO

Groundhog Day – Punxsutawney Phil claims his Spring predictions are 100%, any error is due to his interpreter’s miscommunication. My prediction is based on phrenology and when Easter is. It is early this year(April 4) therefore spring will be earlier than normal.

Birds –Keep bird baths clean and filled as we are averaging less than half our normal rain for this time of year.  Clean birdhouses. Install bluebird boxes on fence posts and martin boxes on tall poles where both birds have plenty of flying room. Face the boxes openings away from the prevailing winds.

Trees – Order trees for planting in March. Survey trees and shrubs for maintenance they leaf out. Remove crossed branches, hanging branch can cause injury. Crape myrtles grow well here providing us late summer non-stop blooms. The Indian-named myrtles developed at the National Arboretum are cold hardy to Zone 6. Good source: The Crape Myrtle Company (crapemyrtle.com)

Vegetables – Sow herbs, bunching and bulb onion, and pepper indoors. Finish cleaning the garden. Repair supports and trellises.

Tools – Clean out your tool shed or wherever you store tools and supplies. Organize a hand tool carrier. Paint handles a construction pink or yellow. It IDs your tools and makes it easier to find in  grass and leaves.

Long handles that are broken or too short can be replaced at most local hardware stores. Rake handles should come to the top of your shoulder. If there is height difference in the family, buy multiple rakes and paint handles difference colors. Save old paint and chemicals in a container marked for disposal at your county’s free-disposal day in the spring.

 

Pumpkin Carving and Preserving

The Jack-o-lanterns of today would not be recognized by those who introduced them to this country. According to Irish legend, Stingy Jack bargained with the Devil and won. The Devil took his revenge by forcing him to wander with only a turnip lantern to guide him.

The Jack-o-lantern today has evolved from only slightly scary to whimsical and even sculptural masterpieces. There are no rules as to what a Jack-o-lantern should be other than “Do you like it?” However, there are guidelines as to which pumpkin is best for which style, and tips on how to carve and lengthen the usable life of the pumpkin.

The best Jack-o-lantern pumpkins are mid-size, smooth thin-skinned, but firm for ease of carving and easier to clean out. Pie pumpkins and Carving pumpkins are interchangeable both for carving and eating; the only difference is pie-type is smaller. Mid-sized range from 8-12 pounds and larger 15-35 pounds. The big ones are harder to carve but dramatic.

Half of the fun of carving your own is selecting it at a pumpkin farm. Ask the staff for the best carving varieties.

Before purchasing, decide on the design and size needed. Inspect the pumpkin for intact stem and no bruises, soft spots or other damage. If hollow sounding when thumped, it is ripe.

Sanitation is important as the pumpkin has a maximum lifespan of 7 days. Before carving, clean tools and hands. Wipe the skin with bleach and cut a hole in the bottom to clean it out. Never carry by its stem, as a broken stem opens the pumpkin up to bacteria. Keep out of direct sun and in a cool location. Wipe out the inside and cut areas with bleach. Use battery-operated candles or flashlights inside instead of live flame. If it starts to shrivel or show mold, soak the pumpkin in bleach water (2 tablespoons per gallon) for a couple of hours

Enjoy your custom Jack-o-lantern and take pictures.

~ by Carolyn Roof

A Garden of White

To get the greatest value from your landscape plants, they should contribute to the beauty of the yard at least three seasons of the year. To increase the yard’s usage beyond daylight hours, you can add a ‘third’ season that extends use into the evening.

Of all of the attribute of plants, it is color that gets and holds our attention. In the early to middle 1900s, English gardener Vita Sackville-West promoted planting what she called ‘grey, white and green plants’. She included in her list whites that open pink or turned a light pink as they matured and plants with variegated foliage.

White or light blooms and light or variegated foliage reflect ambient light in the nighttime garden, extending the beauty and use of the garden without adding more plants.

A full moon on white, silvery or light blooms will shine as though spotlighted. The Cornus kousa (Korean dogwood) is in full bloom backed by dark green foliage. Even with moderate light it needs no spots to show off at night. Dwarf Spirea ‘Limelight’ foliage is light green, but it is enhanced by vivid purple iris, and its deep green foliage is a perfect foil for the spirea.

Sackville’s “White Garden” balanced white with a wide variety of green, from soft mossy grey to pure green. She believed in clumps of foliage to allow the eye to focus on the whites. Among her favorites were candytuft, moon flower, calla, Thalia daffodil, and fragrant snowdrop, all of which are easily obtainable and grow well here. Also, Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’, Clematis ‘Duchess of Edinburgh’(Springhill Nursery), Thymus ‘Silver Posie’, To achieve the same effect as  her large border plants,  add hydrangea and peonies.

A white garden does not add more work or plants, but rewards you with a spectacular evening garden, especially on a moonlit night.

In the Arboretum – Spring Comes Early

Last fall, Mrs. Wallis’s Rose Arbor was repaired and painted by garden club members as they tried to avoid the decidedly thorny canes. They didn’t always succeed but agreed that the ‘New Dawn’ rose variety, originally planted in the 1940s by Mrs. Wallis, will show off its pale pink blooms against the pure white of the arbor. New Dawn is one of the easiest and most vigorous climbing varieties. Termed rambunctious by some, it also is one of the easiest for a beginner to grow.

Spring has come early this year.

While it is early for roses, the Autumnalis cherry trees (Prunus pendula) are in full bloom announcing that spring is here. Early blooming Tulip Magnolia (Magnolia soulangeana), Star (M. stellata), and the yellow hybrids Elizabeth and Butterfly (M. acuminata and M. denudate respectively) are at their best. Butterfly announces spring with its usually late winter to early spring blooms followed by Elizabeth’s normally early to mid-spring. It is unusual for both to bloom at the same time, giving visitors a lovely show. The wildflowers are peeping up, including bloodroot and Virginia bluebells. Daffodils and tulips are in bloom scattered throughout the back gardens.

Due to the Coronavirus-19 group events many have been cancelled or postponed, but not the splendor of this spring. Take advantage of the plants in bloom and visit the Arboretum, 616 Pleasant Street in Paris KY, or take a walk around the neighborhood or Bourbon County Park, admiring what is in bloom. Enjoy nature’s beauty.