Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Longwood Christmas 2017

I believe we've started a new holiday tradition. For the second year running H.H. and I went to Longwood Gardens to experience their ultimate winter wonderland. I wrote about last year's visit HERE. This year's excursion was even more special because we met my son and his family there. How wonderful for this avid gardener: beautiful gardens plus children and grandchildren that I don't see very often because they live in Arizona. While waiting for the rest of the family to arrive, H.H. and I toured the museum with my son. It is housed in the du Pont house. My son was particularly interested to learn that Pierre S. du Pont bought the Longwood property because he was alarmed that some trees were to be cut down. He designed the 600-foot-long Flower Garden Walk first and began doing the work himself. Yes, he was a gardener (with a degree in engineering from MIT!) His original garden designs are exhibited in the house. Fascinating stuff. I had toured before, but missed a model of a dining room on display in a corner cabinet.

The doll's house size room decorated for Christmas
The du Pont house that contains the museum

When the rest of the family arrived and had examined the model railway set up in the grounds, we headed for the Conservatory. It was rather crowded, as we expected, being the day after Thanksgiving and only the second day of the event. It was difficult to take pictures without people in them. Also, I forgot my camera in the excitement of starting the two-hour drive to see my kinfolk, so had to rely on my phone. Fortunately, Jonathan was with us and he took better pictures with his. (Jon is my grandson who lives closer to us -- I write about him often as he is my big helper in the garden.)  The photos in this posting are a mixture of mine and Jon's. For really stunning captures, with NO people, you must visit Frank's blog at Sorta Like Suburbia.  Frank visited Longwood on a quiet Sunday afternoon with a real camera; his posting puts mine to shame.

Entrance to the Conservatory

The theme in the Conservatory this year is Classic French Design. There are elegant arrangements at every turn. I was disappointed not to go into the Music Room (too crowded) that replicates Versailles' Hall of Mirrors. I missed the courtyard scene that Frank shows on his blog post. There are many other highlights however.

This year's theme is French inspired.

 The most impressive is the floor of the Exhibition Hall. It shows a parterre garden depicted with cranberries and apples. I read that the Longwood carpenters spent nearly five hundred hours perfecting the fruit containment system. They used fruit from local farms. For more information go to Parterre Garden construction.

The Parterre Garden -- C'est Magnifique

The cranberry and apple theme is repeated in one of the living wreaths shown at the beginning of this posting. Jonathon has a new favorite flower -- he loved all the orchids. There is an orchid tree, the regular orchid display and even hanging baskets filled with orchids. Jon was very disappointed when I told him I have no luck growing orchids -- my house doesn't have the required conditions and I don't have the required skill.

Some of Longwood's orchids

Every year they display a Christmas tree made of succulents. This time they have a small succulent tree as well as the large one. I adored both.

Small succulent tree on left. Close-up of large one on right.

I have forgotten the 2016 theme, but poinsettias were very prominent everywhere. The poinsettia is one of the few traditional Christmas plants that is native to the Americas. This year features fewer of them, probably because they don't fit the French theme.  My favorite was a pretty peach colored one.

Unusual peachy colored poinsettia

The boys (young and old) were hungry after the long Conservatory tour, so we spent time in the café, eating and catching up on family news. By the time we went back outside it was dark. We strolled around the grounds enjoying the lights. At the Italian Garden, the lighted trees seemed to float on the water.

Top right: Floating trees in the Italian Garden's lake.

We said our goodbyes. To say it was a beautiful day is an understatement. Jon came back to our house to spend the weekend getting the tree, decorating it and the rest of the house, and baking the plum pudding. (I told you he's my big helper.)  We don't put lights outside of the house, I just put candle lights in my windows. I seem to do everything the same each year. I had examined the mantles in the du Pont house for ideas, yet decorated mine exactly as I always do.  There's lots of meaning and remembering in all my ornaments, however.  For example, the wooden cardinal bird on the mantle was carved and painted by H.H's cousin's daughter and fiancĂ© and given as a 'favor' at their wedding. Every year I put it out and think of that lovely celebration on Cape Cod. My friend Janet's children were visiting her for Thanksgiving and asked if they could decorate her house for Christmas. She gave them free range and they placed all her Christmas stuff in totally different spots than normal. Janet loves it. Maybe, that's what I should do one year.

Top: note the egg ornament made by my daughter when she was little. Bottom: mantle arrangement with cardinal.

What are your holiday traditions dear friends?

Have a blessed Christmas!
Pamela x

My 'Gardening Angel' ornament is a new gift from H.H.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

I Am Thankful for my Award-Winning Cottage Garden

July 2017 Cottage Garden

I am already missing beautiful blooms in my gardens although the growing season has barely ended -- having lasted longer than usual. On this cold, rainy Saturday, I spent a pleasurable hour sorting photographs I took this year. It was a difficult task picking favorites for each month to publish here. I chose several from July when my cottage garden peaked, and when the judges from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) came. I was thrilled that they awarded my gardens their blue ribbon for the second time. The first time was for the 2015 Gardening and Greening Contest; click HERE to read about it. This year my garden was selected from over 350 entries. Again, PHS hosted a reception in Philadelphia to honor the award winners. H.H. and I were delighted to attend.

They gave me a certificate and a sign for my garden.

In addition to the sign for my garden honoring my accomplishments, next March they will give me two tickets for the 2018 Philadelphia Flower Show. The theme is 'Wonders of Water.' Can't wait! At the reception, large TV monitors displayed a continuous slide show of the award-winning gardens. Gardeners anxiously waited for theirs to appear.

A photograph of my garden displayed on a screen at the reception.

The slide show gave me some good ideas. Take a look at this unique fishpond:

Fishpond in an award-winning garden

It is always a pleasure spending time with fellow gardeners and it's fun meeting up with old and new friends. H.H. and I were so happy that Jenny Rose Carey was there. Jenny Rose is the director of PHS Meadowbrook Farm, author of Glorious Shade, and fellow Brit. I've mentioned Jenny Rose on several occasions in this blog. It was great that we had the opportunity to 'catch up' on happenings since we last met. I was able to thank my dear friend again for all the help she gives me with my book.

My husband, myself, and Jenny Rose.

Good food, drink, and camaraderie with  fellow gardeners.

Now for the pictures I chose of my 2017 gardens. I know you've seen them all before, but please bear with me. I believe this was my gardens' best year yet, as most of the plants loved the long spell of cooler, wet weather that we experienced this summer. Here are pictures from April through October 2017:

The entry garden in April
May Blooms
June Cottage Garden

The following photographs, all taken in July this year, show how the gardens looked when the PHS judges visited.

Cottage Garden Hollyhocks

Abundance Garden
Serenity Garden

Front Porch

The Pollinator Garden

Froggy Pond

The Kitchen Garden

Dude and Billy captured the judges' hearts

Here are August, September, and October to complete the year's round-up of my favorite 2017 pictures:

Serenity in August
September Zinnias
Early October Kitchen Garden, Abundance Garden, and one of our cornfields.

Yes, it was an excellent year in my gardens.

With Thanksgiving upon us, I reflect upon all that makes me thankful, especially my family and friends. High on my long list, however, is how very thankful I am for my garden. Among its many blessings, it gives me peace and tranquillity in this troubled world.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Pam x

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Harvesting Corn and Cutting Down Perennials

With a clematis still in glorious bloom by the kitchen garden gate and with trees holding on to their leaves, it doesn't seem like November. But when our farmer harvested the corn, I realized that the growing season should be over.  I love the cornfields around my garden; the tall plants give a sense of enclosure, of protection. I'm sad when the fields are bare again. Look through the arbor (above), dear gardening friends, and at the following pictures to see the fields before and after the harvester did its work.

The Harvester Arrives
The corn is gone  marking the end of the growing season.

Looking at blog postings from previous years, I see how unusual this fall continues to be. Often, here in the mountains by early November we have experienced a snowfall, the trees have shed their leaves, and I have completed most of the tasks toward putting the garden to bed. This year: no snow, fewer falling leaves, loads of tasks for this gardener to finish.

The walnut trees are bare, however, except for an abundance of walnuts. On the other hand, we have maple trees in full leaf even now.

Lots of walnuts on the trees this year.
Maple tree with golden foliage today.

The miniature weeping redbud is beginning to drop its leaves, lower ones first.

Dwarf weeping redbud 'Lavender Twist'

The foliage on the viburnum is a lovely deep red.

Interesting happenings (for this time of year) in the cottage garden include blooming 'Knockout' roses and healthy, green water plants. Frost has not touched the water hyacinths so I am loath to remove them and close the pond. The fish are still active -- usually before November they disappear to the bottom where they hide under rocks.

The pond and cottage garden

Perennial geranium 'Roxanne' with its pretty purple/blue flowers - not giving up.

I have cut down those perennials that have finished blooming, especially the ones that are prone to powdery mildew, such as beebalm and phlox. I usually leave purple cone flowers standing for the goldfinches to enjoy the seeds, but this year some of them were infected with aster yellows, so I removed most, being heedful not to compost any diseased plants. I cut down the shasta daisies, obedience plants, yarrow, and gooseneck loosestrife when they began to look ugly. I love how the shasta daisies and yarrow grow basal foliage after they are cut back, and I'm careful to cut off the stalks and dead plant material without disturbing this new growth. The peonies and daylilies are gone, as they don't add anything to the winter garden. I need to cut back all my hostas and remove their leaves as soon as I can, because they harbor slug eggs that will hatch out and ruin next year's growth.

I must clean up the hostas in the Serenity Garden.

I've emptied less than half of the containers of annuals and still have many to tip out. The Boston ferns, however, are surprisingly beautiful even now.

The Boston ferns under the pergola are far from over.

I feel the need to restore order and tidiness to my kitchen garden. I will remove the remaining Swiss chard which is past its prime, weed beds, rake, and add compost. I must clean out the coldframe and prepare it for the early spring planting. So much to do this late in the year ...

Fortunately, there are numerous plants I can leave until spring to add winter interest, such as the seeds of sedum 'Autumn Joy' and all my grasses. My friend Katharine suggests I allow my new Joe Pye Weed to display its large, round, lacy globes all winter long. She told me how beautiful it will look with snow on it. I don't cut back my anise hyssop because it is more likely to survive the cold temperatures if you leave the tops to collect leaves and snow for insulation.

I try not to be in a hurry to rush out and cut plants back, as it's better to wait until after a few harsh frosts have killed back the tops. This year, it's a long wait.

Whatever the weather where you live, enjoy the rest of this season, dear fellow gardeners.


Pamela x

 Mums on the front porch
H.H. found these mushrooms

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