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.

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Autumn at the Arboretum

According to the calendar it is officially Autumn, though this year’s continuing heat shows Mother Nature is not willing to leave Summer just quite yet. From the Wallis Arboretum’s beginning in the 1850s, trees were selected for their uniqueness and their year-round beauty, so as we progress into true autumn, there will be a continuation of color throughout.

Maples, harbingers of autumn, normally are the first to show their true colors in the fall. The Arboretum maples include Black, Paperbark, Red, and Sugar; and Japanese maple “Bloodgood” and “Burgundy Lace”. The new foliage of the last is a deep red that changes color during the year and returns to deep red-purple in the fall.

Among the unique are gingkos, whose leaf imprints have been found in fossils that are 270 million years old. The lemon-yellow leaves hang on until all have turned and then drop within two to three days, leaving a bare tree surrounded by a yellow skirt on the ground.

Redbud displays a darker yellow, with the exception of “Forest Pansy” and “Oklahoma” whose leaves are deep purple.

Washington Hawthorn turns orange, scarlet, and purple each fall. Along with the  Serviceberry, which has red to orange foliage, these two native trees produces purple-black edible berries and retains through the winter for the birds to eat.

The oaks, whose botanical name “Quercus’ means ‘beautiful tree’, are  among the last to change color. The Pin Oak and the Northern Red Oak change to scarlet and ruby-red.

This is not a complete list of the Arboretum’s fall color collection of trees. Visit the Arboretum often to see the daily change of fall color. Visit on your own or for a group tour of the Arboretum: call 859-987-6158 and leave a message.

In the Arboretum: Champion Acorns

In his poem, “Trees”, Joyce Kilmer said, “Only God can create a tree…” For one of the finest old tree collections in Central Kentucky, visit the Wallis Arboretum. Many are over 100 years, including the recently declared Kentucky Champion Northern Red Oak. It is over 96 feet tall, its circumference 180 feet, measured at 4.5 feet from the ground and one of the old trees that dominate the front yard. It is one of 11 National Register of Big Trees in Kentucky.

Mrs. Wallis was known for wise choices in selection of only the best trees to plant, including the Northern Red Oak. It is the most popular of the oaks for the home landscape for its beautiful shape and spring foliage of greenish-red foliage that turns a dark red in the fall. It is also known for its rapid growth, strong wood, and resistance to fungi and insects as it contains tannic acid. It tolerates urban pollution and drought due to its deep tap root.

Oaks have been a part of our culture for centuries. Linnaeus listed red oak as only one of five of the 600 species. Oaks have been a source of ship and structure lumber, furniture, and barrels for whiskey and other spirits. Even the galls are ground for a type of manuscript ink.

This fall, Oakland Farms and The Garden Club of Kentucky are collecting the Red Oak’s acorns to propagate seedlings of the champion. Unlike many tree seeds, Red Oak’s acorns take two years to mature. It is hoped that seedlings of the champion will be available in the future.

The Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum, 616 Pleasant Street, Paris, is open to the public year-round without charge.

Compost in the Arboretum

The Arboretum hosted the third annual free Kids Day in the Arboretum. What a delight to see so many children searching for clue to the scavenger hunt, helping to make compost, and having the change to wear a beekeeper’s outfit.

The Arboretum has so much to offer as well as a beautiful setting. It continues the tradition of its first owner to plant the latest introductions. As a result, it is considered the ‘finest old-tree collection in Central Kentucky’. It is also a demonstration garden of the newest introductions; providing the public with the best plants to add to their gardens having tested what is more apt to survive than not.

The Arboretum’s demonstrations are not limited to the beauty of the Rain, Butterfly, Hosta, and Monarch Waystation gardens, they play and important part in the environment.  Also, environmentally important, and some would say as beautiful as the above gardens, is the Composting Project near the Carriage House. The large three-bin compost complex was built to break down the plant material from the four-acre Arboretum. Composting leaves, small branches, herbaceous plant material and grass clippings reduces the amount of material that goes into the land-fill and provides Arboretum cost-free material that is used to improve the quality of the soil and nourish herbaceous plants in the above beds.

The Compost Bins passive demonstration project is accessible by the Carriage House entrance at the end of 7th Street or through the Arboretum.

The Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum, 616 Pleasant Street, Paris, is open to the public year-round without charge. For more information go to:gardenclubky.org, Arboretum

Kids Day 2019

The Kids Day at the Arboretum on Monday, July 19, was a huge success according to Joanna Kirby, Chair of the third annual event. Kirby said, ‘Without support of so many, it would not have been the most successful to date. Support came from the Library and Kentucky Bank; Kentucky Department of Forestry; and Paris residents. In addition, the Bourbon County Council of Garden Clubs, Painted Hills Garden Club(Morehead), and many The Garden Club of Kentucky members from all over the state.”

The theme for the day was “The Environment.” It began at the Paris-Bourbon County Library, where Deb Horn coordinated the visit of Smoky Bear and Ranger Phillip Horsely, who showed “A Day in the Forest with Smoky” in celebration of the bear’s 75th birthday. Horn and assistants joined in the activities at the Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum, where they sponsored stenciling leaves on a tree-decorated T-shirts.

At the Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum, Kara Sayles, who is the Bluegrass Greensource, Environmental Educator and Rain Garden Project Coordinator, explained the importance of water through selected planting and collecting rain water for our plants. The children joined in watering plants from the rain barrel.

Dee Larking, Bluegrass Greensource Environmental Educator, delighted the children who held red crawler worms while she told the children how worms helped break down plant waste and improve the soil.

Kentucky State Apiarist-Department of Agriculture, Tammy Horn Potter, brought a demonstration hive with active bees, suits for the children to try on, honey, and other bee-related items.

Hydroponics were demonstrated by Dee Biebighauser as the children identified water critters and were shown how to grow their own plants in water. Biebighauser also chaired the day’s activities and coordinated Painted Hills Garden Club members who were in charge of each of the ten activities.

Once again, this year the Kentucky Bank supplied the much-needed water bottles for all at the Arboretum. The Bourbon Council of Garden Clubs members provided a free lunch for all of the nearly 140 children, also supervisors and activities workers.