Sunday, March 19, 2017

Spring Blooms at the Philadelphia Flower Show

"Holland: Flowering the World," the theme of this year's Philadelphia Flower Show presented by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), celebrates the beauty, color, and ingenuity of Dutch culture. H.H. and I took the train into the city -- later in the week than intended due to winter storm, Stella, dumping two feet of snow at our house -- and it was wonderful to escape from snow, ice and bitter cold into a world of spring flowers. As we entered the show, we were welcomed by a display of 30,000 blooms surrounding bridges, canals and water gardens. The bridges were overflowing with flower boxes and hanging baskets. The sight filled me with awe.

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's exhibit greets you as you enter the show

We were met by our dear friend, and fellow Brit, Jenny Rose Carey, who is the senior director at PHS Meadowbrook Farm. She is justifiably proud of the fabulous Entry Garden and the part she played in its production.  I looked forward to taking a tour of the show with Jenny Rose as guide.

Bicycles and blooms on the bridge in the Entry Garden
The bridge has a green ceiling with Delft tiles

Passing under the bridge we found 6,000 more blooms forming a giant floral canopy. The blooms were freeze dried then suspended on 16 miles of parachute string. (As Jenny Rose said, it's a good thing the lines of string didn't become tangled while being installed.) With the addition of Euro pop music and a light-show, the effect is stunning.

Hanging field of tulips

The surrounding gardens demonstrate the natural and sustainable approach of the Dutch New Wave Movement. I love the drifts of mass plantings: astilbe, echinacea, fritallaria, lamb's ears, and other perennials; this is the style I try to achieve in my cottage garden. Wild grasses, cherry trees and sycamores enhance the scene. I believe this method is the very best way to garden, with the added benefits of no mulching nor weeding.

Dutch new wave planting

Beyond the PHS's entry garden, the Ecodome is all about green living. It showcases up-to-date sustainable production of vegetables and green technologies, proving the Dutch have more than just tulips in their horticultural arsenal. This is the first stop of the Ecodome's inaugural journey around the world.

Ecodome behind the windmills

I always enjoy the landscape design gardens at each show and this year promises to be special with guest designers from Holland as well as our own top competitors in the field. A local PA landscaper, Mark Cook, was awarded Best of Show with his 'Inner Waters' design. He shows a beautiful reflecting pool with raised berms. I love his stylized windmill sculpture seen through an espaliered cherry tree arch. I also like the way he pruned boxwood into waves. 

Mark Cook's 'Inner Waters' took Best of Show

Jenny Rose's favorite is Nico Wising's design. I'm sorry to say I did not do this justice with my camera. Wising uses natural materials: woven willow and naturalistic plantings (such as fothergilla, that I don't grow, but is now on my 'must get' list). He stresses the importance of using products with a small ecological footprint.

Dutch designer Nico Wising's 'Reconnection'
Fothergilla Fothrgilla major

I have an aversion to chain-link fencing and wont have it in my garden -- until I saw how Carrie Preston, also from Holland, incorporated lacework into her fence. Her show garden is an interpretation of the 'stinze' gardens of the Netherlands' stately homes.

A small part of Carrie Preston's interpretation of the 'stinze' gardens

At the opening ceremony, the Dutch Ambassador presented a new tulip from Holland that took 15 years to develop. It was named 'Philly Belle' in honor of the show.

Tulip Tulipa 'Philly Belle'

Cognizant of the common colors of the US flag and the Dutch flag, white tulips were dyed blue to add to red ones and white ones.

Blue tulips?????????

There are several examples of sustainable roof gardens at the show. The most impressive is Bart Hoes' garden. Jenny Rose showed us how green roofs are made.

Jenny Rose explains how to make a green roof

The bicycle culture of Holland is represented in many displays. In 1967, a Dutch group introduced legislation for their White Bike Plan, creating a bike-share movement that spread throughout the world. The orange and white of this display is very striking. Incidentally, there is a lot of orange in the show: Jenny reminded me of the Dutch Prince William of Orange who became King William III of England in the sixteen hundreds. (Something we had to learn in school.)

Pedals: The White Bike Plan

Here are a few other favorite of mine:

Japan Flowers and Plants Export Assoc. displayed bleached dried flowers in bamboo frames
Traditional Cropped Willow Tree
Gardening in a very small space: a rock garden
Orchids Hoop House

There is much to interest children including interactive and educational exhibits such as 'Butterflies Alive' with more than 1,000 butterflies, a 'Make and Take' crafts area, a railway garden, and a Junior Flower Show. The latter engages children throughout the region from preschool to high school during the school year. Because I conduct workshops (and write) about gardening with children, I was especially interested in some of the show gardens designed by students. As gardeners, we know how important it is to start them young!

Children's Alphabet Garden
Children's garden with fairies. Love the hat.

And finally a 'new favorite' plant I spotted in a rock garden that was designed by a Dutch grower based in England. Sorry I didn't get the name of the cultivar.

Adorable miniature iris

There is so much at the Philadelphia Flower Show, a great deal more than in this posting. I am so glad I am able to attend each year; I think 2017 is my favorite so far. It was extra special because I was able to spend time with a good friend. I can't close without congratulating her on her new book, Glorious Shade, that will be released in April. Jenny Rose showed us the author copy and it looks amazing. The book is available on Amazon for pre-order.  When I get my copy, I'll review it in a blog post.

Jenny Rose's new book

I look forward to next year's event: it has the theme "Wonders of Water" so I'll be able to pursue my interest in water gardens. The Philadelphia Flower Show always puts me in the mood for spring and this one was no exception!

Pamela x

Sunday, March 12, 2017

LV Flower and Garden Show

Daffodil, crocus, hellebore with white birch and moss.

This year's theme at the Lehigh Valley Flower and Garden Show was  'Gardens of the World.'  My favorite was 'Lithuania' compiled by Parkland Nurseries. I was immediately drawn to the profusion of white birch in their display. White birch is common to Lithuania and other parts of Europe including my homeland. I felt nostalgic for England and for the tree we recently lost in a Pennsylvanian ice storm. (Click here and scroll to the bottom for pictures.) I loved the plant markers made from rings of white birch, such as the one below naming the glorious fragrant shrub, Korean spice vibernum.

Korean spice vibernum Vibernum carlessii with birch marker

I spoke with landscape architect, Stacey Nash, who told me her mother and other family members came here from Lithuania after the Second World War. Stacey and her team displayed information about the country on posters and on a table. Next to a beautiful doll in national dress, was a pot of rue, the herb of grace, a species native to Lithuania.

Information about Lithuania

Rue Ruta graveolens

After our trip to Lithuania, we walked through gardens of the United  States, Brazil, Switzerland, Canada, United Kingdom, Norway and Holland. Unfortunately, although the company names were very evident, I couldn't always tell which country a display depicted. The United Kingdom was evident by a replica of Stonehenge, and the United States by Mount Rushmore. The UK showed an abundance of red, white and blue flowers, but most striking was an arrangement of pink roses on the patio table.

United Kingdom: Stonehenge and pink roses

A variety of evergreen shrubs and trees made a striking background for the gardens of USA.

United States: Mount Rushmore

The most common flowers in every garden were daffodils, tulips, and crocuses.
Daffodils and lovely yellow tulips in an arrangement for Holland
I'm not sure which country is depicted here, but the pond has beautiful plantings around it
A great place to sit and enjoy a cup of tea

We saw several corkscrew hazel, sometimes called contorted filbert or Harry Lauder's walking stick. I must put this interesting plant on my wish list. The one pictured below was in the Holland display.

Corkscrew Hazel Coylus avellana 'Contorta'

Our day at the flower show was the coldest of this winter with sub-freezing temperatures outside. But the spring blossoms and flowers inside Agricultural Hall were heart warming. This is why I love flower shows so much. Just the smell of earth and mulch lifted my spirits.

Cherry (unknown var.); Pieris 'Pink Flamingo'; Grape Hyacinth Muscari Aucheri 'Sky Blue'
Snow fountain Weeping Cherry Prunus 'Snofozam'

Grandson, Jon, wasn't with us this year because he had a rehearsal for a school musical. I took a picture of the trains for him. We missed you, Jon.

The always popular modal railroad

We enjoyed looking around the market area and made several purchases, including some pussy willow branches. When this current cold snap and the upcoming snow storm are passed, I plan to force into bloom some flowering branches of forsythia and mock orange. The pussy willow will keep me happy in the interim.

Our last stop was to say hello to some fellow master gardeners from Northhampton County. I belong to Monroe County so I didn't know any of them, but just love talking 'shop' with like-minded plants people. They had an impressive display with suggestions for children's gardening activities, rain barrel information, soil information, and an array of handouts on every gardening topic. I admired the amount of space they were given and the clever way they used it. They were kept very busy answering questions from community gardeners. Some master gardeners and some professionals gave presentations on one of the two stages.

I should paint a design on our rain barrels
Master gardeners have a wealth of helpful tips.

Now I've had a taste of springtime, I can't wait to go to the Philadelphia Flower Show in a few days. That show started yesterday and I'm seeing enticing photographs on Facebook. It is much, much bigger than this one, and we will spend a couple of days there. Hopefully, the Big Storm will be over and the roads cleared before our planned trip. The LV Flower Show is small, but very special because it features local landscapers and vendors. We spent a lovely few hours there.

If you live in the Northeast, stay warm and safe in the storm arriving Tuesday! Think spring!
Pamela x

Pansies, violets, dianthus and birch logs

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Backyard Birds, First Blooms and Blog's Birthday

Last weekend's Great Backyard Bird Count was less successful than previous years because the pesky squirrels kept many birds away from my backyard. H.H. filled the bird feeders; he cleaned out and topped up the heated water dish. I charged the battery in my camera and washed the French windows so I'd have a clear view.  Our so-called squirrel-proof feeder proved worthless and I spent much of the weekend screaming at the bad actors. One squirrel even managed to remove the roof ...

Pesky squirrel scared away the birds

Here are pictures of some of the birds brave enough to come near in spite of the squirrels:

Male house finches

Sparrows are our most prolific visitors. We have several types including the white throated sparrow and song sparrow.  The house sparrow, pictured here, is not really a sparrow but a member of the weaver finch family. There are so many sparrows again this year. I know that when spring arrives, I must protect the seeds I sow in the kitchen garden.

House sparrow left; female house finch above

During the bird count I saw only two of my adorable bluebirds at the heated water dish. I think bluebirds are my best loved  ...


                                 ... or maybe my favorite is the cheeky, titmouse.  It's so difficult to choose.

Male cardinal
Female cardinal

H.H. hangs a block of suet in a cage that is really squirrel proof so we are blessed to see several downy woodpeckers and red-bellied woodpeckers. The nutchatch and wren like the suet also. Sorry, I didn't take pictures of all of them.

Downy woodpecker waiting for his turn at the suet block

The American goldfinch loves sunflower seeds. I believe the male goldfinches are getting their summer yellow feathers very early this year. Maybe it's the unusually warm and sunny weather. Looking back over my previous GBBC postings, this year's event is unusual because there is no snow. Yesterday, the temperature hit 72 degrees  -- unheard of for February! A plunge in temperature and a storm, however, are on their way.

American goldfinch

On the last day of the count, a flock of red-winged blackbirds flew down into the lower field. One obligingly came near enough for a photograph.

Red-winged blackbird

My most unusual sighting this year: A hawk perching in the pear tree watching the little birds at the feeder. Usually, hawks don't come so close to the house. We see many red-tailed hawks flying overhead, but this one was different. His cinnamon colored breast and the bold white spots on his wings when he flew away makes me think this may be a red-shouldered hawk.


How was the 2017 GBBD for you? Did you spot anything unusual?

The warm weather has me checking for early blooms. I see so many hellebores on other garden blogs and on Instagram, but no luck here. There are some nice fat buds waiting to burst open though.

Hellebore buds

Daffodil and crocus shoots abound in every flower bed -- early for February. I'm joining the National Garden Bureau's Daffodil Watch. They have declared 2017 'The Year of the Daffodil." Click on the link to join in the fun.

Bottom left crocus shoots, bottom right and top are daffodil shoots

Now for my first flowers of the year: Snowdrop Galanthus 'Atkinsii'. I purchased it from Carolyn's Shade Garden several years ago. It didn't bloom last year, so I'm very happy today!

Snowdrop Galanthus 'Atkinsii'.

This week marks my blog's 9th birthday. My first posting, February 21, 2008, was on the Mac platform. I switched to Blogger two years later because the links were more reliable. I have written more than 220 postings -- not as prolific as some, but a steady two or three each month. I find them invaluable to mark the progress of my gardens. Click on last year's birthday link here, or check out the featured post in the sidebar, to see the changes over the years. The best reason to keep blogging, however, is the wonderful like-minded friends I have made all over the world. Because you keep reading and commenting, I keep blogging.

Thank you dear friends!

Pamela x

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