Thursday, July 31, 2014

Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens

The summer is advancing, but I yearn to go back to spring--and in this posting I shall! If you are a regular at "Prairiebreak" you're used to my droning commentary on picture after picture. After loading a slug of pix from this amazing garden, I realized my words are really unnecessary: this gem of a garden is perched at the far West end of Nova Scotia in a picturesque town of a few hundred people. Many things are noteworthy about the place: Annapolis Royale antedates St. Petersburg and Plymouth as a permanent settlement of Europeans in Northern America. And surely it's the smallest community in North America to host a really grand  botanical garden. The garden is picture perfect: the trees, shrubs and perennials are all planted in just the right way--a fantastic range from Rose and formal gardens (the latter only just being planted--you shan't see those), woodlands, bogs and a fabulous Rhododendron dell--and that's just scratching the surface. I think it's one of the handful of great gardens in all of North America. Ironically, the collateral damage of "9=11" has been to reduce their visitorship by almost half: an example of the grim downside of globalization.

Their extensive rose garden was just starting to come into active growth: beautifully laid out and meticulously maintained.

Acer pseudoplatanus--quite showy in bloom

Eleagnus umbellata: surprisingly hardy here.

Eleagnus umbellata may be invasive in milder climates, but it's not reliably hardy in Colorado

The obligatory paperbark maple--and this is a fabulous specimen

An Akadian cottage: delightful

Aesculus pavia hybrid

The herb garden had yet to be planted for summer--but good bones.

Bob Howard, my host and garden guru--now on the board of this Garden

I love Maidenhair fern!

A fine perennial border

Euphorbia griffithii--not seen much in the U.S.

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Trish Fry, who manages this garden, has a long history of involvement in this garden from her youth.

Karen Achenbach (Horticulturist) expressing a bit of shock, perhaps, at the planting task behind (or perhaps ahead of) her?

 The Laburnum walk just about to burst into bloom...

Hydrangea aspera ssp. sargentiana
A spectacular specimen of this rarely encountered hydrangea--growing far north of where it is supposed to be hardy. The Historical Gardens are truly blessed with a gentle microclimate.

One of the massive trees on the site--not many gardens exist in North America that have been occupied for so many centuries. I'd put this on your "must see" list: Nova Scotia ROCKS.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Barking up the right tree

Arbutus menziesii
 I have recently sung the praises of Madrone, specifically the majestic Ericaceous tree of the Pacific coast, which I have admired from the time I was a child on my yearly (or often twice or thrice yearly) trips out to the coast to visit family or give talks. I fantasized that there had to be a place somewhere along the Pacific where this had been isolated inland and might prove hardy in our harsh, steppe climate...

Arbutus xalapensis
 There may indeed be such a place, but part of the impetus to seek it out has been obviated by the existence of a truly hardy Madrone: I shall get around to providing evidence of that, but here you can see a young, but already impressive specimen I saw last Friday at the Rio Grande Botanic Garden in Albuquerque. There were many wonderful shrubs and trees I would have liked to transport home, but none more precious than their handful of specimens of Texas madrone--which is of course found in Mexico as well, but also in New Mexico (and possibly Arizona, if A. arizonica proves conspecific).

Arbutus xalapensis trunk
 Judging by this specimen, the bark on this inland tree may be even more spectacular than the coastal one...

Arbutus xalapensis fruit
 Of course, the plant is worth growing for the lustrous, evergreen foliage alone, and both the flowers and fruit are decorative. You would think that any tree like this that is proving hardy would attract a great deal of notice...

Arbutus xalapensis at Denver Botanic Gardens

Here is one of the half dozen or so specimens of Texas Madrone growing quietly on Dryland Mesa: I doubt that one in a thousand visitors to Denver Botanic Gardens has a clue what this is at this point in its life cycle. By the time it reaches the size of the specimen above, I have a hunch it could attract a good deal more interest. Dan Johnson, Associate Director of Horticulture at DBG is responsible for having located and obtained all the plants we have at the Gardens (as well as lovingly maintaining them in great health). This is just one of hundreds of Dan's remarkable plant "coups".

Greenhouses at Albuquerque
It's been several years since I visited RGBG, and I was rather startled this time to see that they'd somewhat anticipated our new Science Pyramid in their dark blue, pyramidal greenhouse structures--obviously a shape of the times!

Vitex filled courtyard
 One of the architectural features that most impressed me was the lovely courtyard designed to be in the shade of sizeable Chaste trees (Vitex agnus-castus). I planted Vitex decades at in the Rock Alpine Garden where it persists, but in Colorado it dies down to the ground. the closely related V. heterophylla is reputed to be hardier: it would be fun to replicate this luxurient courtyard in our region with the tougher species.

Vitex agnus-castus
  I missed the showy violet flowers, but the stems are lovely even in this stage.

Vitex agnus-castus
 Here you can see the Chaste tree courtyard a bit more clearly: a wonderful way to show off the trunks (and keep the nearby greenhouse from being obscured by too large of trees).

Lagerstroemia indica 'Dynamite'
 If there's one tree that gives madrone a run for its money (so to speak) in the ornamental bark category, it's crepe myrtle. As with madrones, I've fantasized for years that there MUST be some more cold hardy members of this highly ornamental genus--after all, they do come from the Himalayas! These seem to have come through the last few winters in good form: they've been unusually cold for Albuquerque with lows way below zero Farenheit. Didn't seem to see any damage on these. When I posted these pix on Facebook, experts like Dan Heims and Barry Yinger averred that this had to be 'Dynamite': The cultivar name is certainly appropriate!

Closeup of 'Dynamite'
 These were not quite big enough to show off the fabulous mottled and peely bark. But the blossoms are none too shabby!

Overview of entrance to Moorish Garden
Here is a picture showing the three wonderful crepe myrtles you encounter right after entering. You can bet your bottom dollar that there will be some of these tested out in Denver next spring! Even if they become herbaceous perennials (like the few I know of around town), it's worth having them around for the showy flowers, don't you think?

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