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.

Botanical Names

The Arboretum is not just a pretty garden: it is a botanic garden that trials new and old varieties. Some flourish and so do not. They are not failures, but demonstrate that certain plants do not survive here.

Botanical Names

‘A rose is a rose is a rose’ according to author Gertrude Stein. While a rose continues to be a rose, that is not so for the botanical names of many other plants, thanks to research into DNA. Botanically, coleus is no longer Coleus blumei, nor Solenostemon scutellroides, its 2006 name change. As of 2012 it is Plectranthus scutellroides. Not to worry, coleus as we know it still is available at the nursery.

Portrait of Carl Linnaeus
Carl Linnaeus

We owe official plant naming to Carl von Linne´(Linnaeus) who, in the 1700s, developed a binomial nomenclature to reduce the confusion of plant names (sometimes as long as 20 words!) or the same name given to several different plants. His Latin binominal classification was based on flower structure.

Over the centuries, plant names have changed. Since the development of DNA, botanists are busily reclassifying according to chromosomes. Reclassification has created new genera, divided others into smaller genera, and moved some plants into established genera. For example, Aster’s 600 species were divided into 11 different genera; Liliaceae keeps lilies, but lost onion; asparagus got its own genera; and autumn crocus joined colchicum in Colchicaceae.

For gardeners, the botanical name assures us that the plant we wanted is not another that has a similar or the same common or regional name. Catalogs beautifully picture their plants, but with so many looking alike, the only way you know for sure is checking the botanic name that is listed after the common or variety name.

The chrysanthemum is an example of a large genera. Ask for Chrysanthemum indicum for a florist mum, C. leucanthemum for ox-eye daisy and 24 other species, or C. ismelia for tricolor mum, its only species.

For a specific plant, use its botanical name. But if you just want to add beauty to your yard, enjoy it and don’t worry about its botanical name.

In the Arboretum: The Beauty of Bark

The Arboretum is bursting when bloom from spring through fall, but have you ever looked at the color and texture of the Arboretum in the winter? To most, the winter garden is dreary and lacking all color, but a closer look will prove otherwise. Really look at a tree’s bark. It is the tree’s outer protection layer. It also is a thing of beauty in and of itself. Each tree has its own distinctive silhouette and bark.

  • The ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) row by the pergola has the most identifiable bark accented spurs on its branches.
  • The Kentucky Coffee Tree, our Heritage Tree, is another readily recognizable one by its dark gray, fissured scaly surface and narrow ridges. Its botanical name ‘Gymnocladus dioicus’ meaning ‘naked branch’ describes it thick twig-less branches. The winter buds are minute, but not its pods, which measure 6-10 inches with 6-9 dime-sized seed.
  • The Sycamore (Plantanus occidentalis) has white bark cannot be missed even in the summer. Its lower trunk is splotchy shades of gray and tan, but the upper is smooth snowy-white that highly contrasts against the winter sky and its surrounding dark-barked neighbors. As stunning as it is, it is not a tree for small places as it can easily reach 150 feet.
  • And, Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra). The Kentucky big tree champion grows to the left of the Wallis House front drive. This species is found in most of Kentucky’s 120 counties. Its bark is noted its the shallow fissure and smooth ridges that sometimes having a striped appearance. Other oaks have a similar striping, but only the red oak stripes run the length of the trunk.

These are just a few of the wonderful winter trees in the Arboretum. Come visit on your own, or for a group tour of the Arboretum: call 859-987-6158 and leave a message. Wallis House is available to rent for special events and meetings.

In the Arboretum – November

There are so many wonderful trees in the Arboretum, sometimes it is hard to see the trees for the ‘forest’. Among the wonderful trees that you will find in the Arboretum is Diospryros virginiana, aka ‘divine fruit’. It is one that you would not readily accept If your only contact with D. virginiana, (persimmon) was tasting the astringent fruit, or stepping on the messy fruit, it would be the last tree you would want to plant. It is all how you look at it.

In the fall, its foliage of gold, yellow, orange and purple foliage, simply glows. Its winter silhouette exposes alligator bark and picturesque branches, and apricot-colored fruit that will hang on through the winter or until the wildlife eat it.

Michael A. Dirr, “Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs”, says ‘it will not win a landscape beauty contest’, however, once established the long tap root ensures it will survive the worst of conditions and it will have a long life. Severed roots will regenerate, are good soil builders, enabling the tree to adapt to drought, flood, heat, shade, and wind, though it loves rich, organic soil, plenty of moisture and full sun.

Culture is simple. Avoid planting were fruit will drop on hard surface. The dense wood, member of the ebony family, resists and survives persimmon wilt a systematic disease and twig girdling insect. Simply rake fallen branches and leaves and burned the area under the tree.

When to eat the fruit? Most consider the astringent D. virginiana(American native) must go through a freeze to be edible. Guy Sternberg, author of “Native Trees of North America”, states that it is not temperature but the length of time that causes it to sweeten.

It is a wonderful apricot-tasting fruit that is a delight as fruit, the basis of bread, pudding, preserves and brandy. Sternberg considers it as the most diverse and useful tree in the landscape. It is an excellent wildlife wood, attracts two spectacular moths Regal and Swallow-tail Luna. While the dense black core-wood has many uses (shuttles and veneer), don’t build a child’s boat – it will sink due to its density.