Sunday Clippings

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The mornings have started to become more crisp, the foliage is beginning to change and we are enjoying the beauty that autumn has to offer.  It is a chance to slow down, pull out your favorite sweaters and catch up on some favorite reading.  We reach far and deep with this weeks edition of Sunday Clippings, sharing some really interesting stories this week from around the globe.  Click on the links below to enjoy. Have a wonderful Sunday..- James


Sunday Clippings

  A terraced hillside orchard of mature Olives, Extremadura, Spain

The heat of the sun is on the rise here, signalling the onslaught of the Spanish summer. The days have consisted of continuing to plant the terrace up and then enjoying it out there on the warm nights.   The weekends are for day trips out of Madrid to experience new friends gardens and the surrounding countryside.  In between I have managed to squeeze in some good reads and I hope you find the following links as enjoyable as I have. Have a fantastic Sunday…. – James

Sunday Clippings

Narcissus Mix
Narcissus jonquilla, N. ‘Fortuna’ and N. ‘Hollywood’

Taunted and teased with spring blooms we are being lured to spend more and more time out of doors these days.  Here are  a mix of good articles and some of our favorite sites, which can always be found under the header Et Al. on the main page. Here’s to a glorious day and wonderful week, enjoy your Sunday Clippings. – James

DeWiersse

DeWiersse, West Lawn
West Lawn vista

 

Eric,

Since speaking last, I have traded “¡Olé!” for allées and taken some time away from Spain to visit friends in the Netherlands, in a garden that has had so much influence on me. A few years ago, I spent some time here as a student and found the garden to have a large impact on my way of thinking about, experiencing, and approaching garden design. (This is where I read Sylvia Crowe’s book on garden design, which I was able to experience her ideas while walking around here.) DeWiersse has been in the same family and managed since 1678, so over the course of time, the gardens have been tweaked to a point of exquisite beauty while still remaining very much alive and loved.   DeWiersse is in the eastern most part of Holland and is both a garden of 38 acres with a landscape park of 74 acres and has a moated manor house that lies at it’s heart. The garden is made up of many different areas including meadows, wild gardens, topiary, a formal rose garden, a large kitchen garden, allées and a sunken garden.

Typical of a Dutch style, parts of the more formal garden close to the house are enclosed within hedges of clipped Yew and while heading further away from the house, the style becomes more loose and fluid as it turns to wild garden and woodland, eventually blurring the lines between private garden and the existing farmland that lies beyond its boundaries. No detail is overlooked, which is what helps make DeWiersse a treasured experience but I will explain more as time goes on, giving attention to what makes these details so special.

I will leave you now with images, in the order of a stroll through the garden , of what is happening now, a visual teaser of sorts, a horticultural hors d’oeuvre to appease the appetite.  The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the cutting garden is calling my name….. Wishing you well….. -James


 

DeWiersse

DeWiersse meadow
clipped yew set among the meadow
DeWiersse
Rhododendrons help make the bones of the garden
DeWiersse
vista across the outer moat towards the formal Rose garden

DeWiersse

DeWiersse

DeWiersse
transitioning into the wild garden which was inspired by William Robinson

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DeWiersse

DeWiersse
a clipped serpentine Beech tunnel and the Beech allee vista towards the discus thrower

Fagus sylvatica, and all 95 meters of its serpentine tunnel. A smile is always necessary while walking through here, amazed at the incredible horticultural skills displayed, not only inviting you to look, but to engage in the marvel that it is. It is a feast not just for the eyes, but an exercise for all the senses.

DeWiersse
Sunk garden

DeWiersse

DeWiersse
each day finishes with a spectacular ending, West Lawn at DeWiersse

next stop, Atocha

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In the modern age of travel, where speed and efficiency is a necessity, it is far and few between that a large public transportation hub beckons you with its beauty to stay and linger for a while. Sure, there are some beauties such as Grand Central Station that offer up visual delights in its main hall, but this place, Atocha Station, breaks all the normal rules of a train station. Rather than rushing through, governed by the need to reach your final destination, this station offers the chance to slow down and disconnect from the surrounding hustle and bustle, amidst a true urban jungle.

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Atocha station is the largest operator of trains in Madrid, and due to the capital city’s central location , it is responsible for connecting some of the major cities throughout Spain. By way of high-speed trains, it is credited with getting commuters to and from places throughout the country, such as Seville, Zaragazova, and Barcelona and Valencia, the second and third largest cities respectively.

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The original station was declared open during the winter of 1851 but forty years later it was destroyed by fire, rebuilt again by a man named Alberto de Palacio Elissagne.  Fast forward to 1992, and the Atocha terminal saw itself undergoing a new renovation project, the installation of an indoor tropical garden that sits within the main concourse, of an expansive size of 4,0000 square meters (13, 123 sq.ft).

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Living amidst the hustle are plants like the Sabal palmetto
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some plants offer the passing public a sheltered refuge, on the right is Ravenala madagascariensis (also known as the Traveler’s Palm, ironic?)

IMG_5949 Overhead, glass skylights provide enough sufficient light to help over 7,000 plants tropical plants (and a fully stocked turtle pond) grow and live within this mesmerizing lush urban space.  -James

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Forced Happiness

Nov. 11

When living in London, I found this small ceramic pot at a stall in Portobello Road. With 18 small holes covering the tiny pot, I was clueless as to its purpose until the woman selling explained that it was used to force crocus bulbs. Always finding a way to justify another addiction (ceramic containers this time), I purchased it, swearing to use it. During the end of autumn of last year, I purchased five dormant bulbs at the Colombia Road Flower Market for just a few pounds, choosing Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’, a large flowering early spring bulb, for my project.

The whole process from beginning to end took around 3 months, though I am sure this could be done a bit quicker when done again.  All the materials I used was a container, the 5 dormant Crocus ‘Pickwick’, a small amount of moss, some free draining potting media, and a bit of gravel for the top.

Since I only had 5 bulbs (corms to be exact) and there are 18 openings, I started by lining the extra openings in the pot with a small amount of moss to prevent the potting media from spilling out.  Adding soil as I went, I spaced 4 bulbs around the outside and one on top, always making sure the growing point was facing outwards or upwards. Then a small amount of gravel was placed on top to prevent soil from splashing when watered, help retain heat, and for aesthetic purposes.  After completion, the pot was given a small drink of water, sat in the cold potting shed overnight and then placed outside. Thus begins the necessary first step of the process, the cold treatment.

December 15

In a few weeks’ time, green tips began emerging from the gravel topped pot and I knew that it wasn’t long before they could be moved to inside the glasshouse.  The glasshouse at Gravetye, usually warmer than outside, was heated only during periods of extreme cold and had one heat lamp  that was used only in the evenings.  If it was a regularly heated glasshouse, the process would have been much quicker (If moving the pot from the outside cold treatment, it is best to not put it in too hot of a glasshouse immediately, or the plant will grow too quickly and leggy, resulting in a poor flower display).  A few times throughout the process I gave a small amount of water to the pot, always making sure that the media was dry first to prevent overwatering, which could rot the bulbs.

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Jan 26

When they were placed inside, the green strappy foliage with its white midribs emerged completely before the blooms. At eleven weeks into the process, the blooms themselves had fully emerged, almost dwarfing the container.  When I started, I wondered if 5 bulbs was too many for this small pot, but am now eager to try again with more bulbs planted, though I am not sure as many as 18 would work due to spacing issues.

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The warmer the temperature was, the more open the blooms would get, which is a reason 18 might be too many in this container, considering how multiple blooms emerge from a single bulb. With no doubt, anyone who saw them in this open state would comment on their beauty, clearly thirsty for color.

Feb 2

Taking the forced bulbs to my house to enjoy their color and markings only caused them to go over quicker since the radiators were on winter blast inside. Though they didn’t last too much longer, the process had the same excitement that I had as growing plants as a child.  I am not even sure if it was Crocus ‘Pickwick’ either since there was more purple than striations on the petals and throat. Has anyone else forced Crocus bulbs? Any tip or story to share to make a more precise attempt next time? While winter has its fair share of beauty with the ice, snow, silhouettes, textures, seed heads and berries, the one department it can lack is color, and forcing the bulbs was one way to bring a splash of delight inside. The outside looks so pale in comparison….  – James

5-10-5: Philippe Lévesque of Balmoral Gardens

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Perhaps one of the youngest, if not the most well-traveled nurserymen in North America, French-Canadian Philippe  Lévesque operates a small-scale specialist nursery, Balmoral Gardens, northeast of Montreal, Quebec.  Philippe carefully built up his nursery stock by importing and propagating plants from his North American and European forays. The stock includes herbaceous perennial and ornamental grass cultivars not yet widely distributed and uncommon in U.S., as well as untested for their full ornamental worthiness in warmer regions. Although the growing season is unmercifully short, herbaceous perennials perform beautifully in the warm days and cool nights, and combinations not achievable in warmer, milder climates can be created. In addition to his nursery, Philippe maintains a photographic library, Macrophylla Photography and his photographs are featured here.

Hello and can you introduce yourself?

Philippe Lévesque, Canadian gardener and owner of Balmoral Gardens, in New Brunswick, Canada

The arts or horticulture?

Aren’t the two intertwined?  If I must choose, horticulture because I don’t have a very artistic hand and I could live without man-made things but not nature.

Village of Balmoral, near the nursery
Village of Balmoral, near the nursery

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background…

I grew up here in Northern New Brunswick in a very ordinary place, went to Guelph University to study botany, which I hated. So I went to garden in England for two years, came back, set up my nursery which was called Macrophylla, closed it down 5 years later to go back to England, lived there for another 6 years, then moved to Australia for a year before coming back here.  I have a certificate in horticulture from the RHS, but got that only recently.  I am mainly self-taught in gardening as it’s a great passion that has always animated me.

Do you remember your first gardening memory?

Father rototilling the veg garden in May and then us planting peas and beans when I was 6.

Brassicas and squash vines fill the raised beds in the vegetable garden.
Brassicas and squash vines fill the raised beds in the vegetable garden.

What does a typical day consist of?

A day at the nursery (when I am not at clients’ homes landscaping) is spent differently every single day, depending on the season etc.  but it always starts off with a walk around the gardens to see how the plants are doing and to see what’s come up in bloom, often with my camera in hand (if the light is kind enough). I usually weed as I go along too, so that can easily take an hour. Then I usually have something to plant in the ground or in pots, or plants needing dividing. I seem to spend an awful lot of time wheelbarrowing manure!  Mulching and watering is mostly mum (my business partner)’s job. If it’s a hot day, we work at the potting shed in the shade pricking out seedlings or potting plants. A typical day is not without many hot drinks, chocolate and cake!

Nursery stock beds at Balmoral Gardens
Nursery stock beds at Balmoral Gardens

You have gardened in England and Australia (Queensland). How have your overseas experience altered your perspectives on gardening?

Different climates bring different challenges to the gardener, and it made me realize that no matter where one is, it’s not acquired without lots of work. Gardening in the tropics did make me appreciate the intensity of the temperate seasons and gardening in Britain made me appreciate the advantage of a deep blanket of snow. I don’t see the climate as much a limitation anymore (although I wouldn’t mind living in a place where I could grow quince trees!).

Aconitum uncinatum
Aconitum uncinatum

Your plants look incredibly healthy! What is your secret behind propagating and producing healthy beautiful plants for your clients?

We grow our plants in the ground and only pot them up as needed. It’s much easier to grow a vigorous plant in the garden than in the artifical medium of a plastic pot. Our soil here is varied and we try to put the right plant in the right soil. No point planting primulas in our sandy hilltop garden, when they relish the riverside beds and vice versa, Perovskia (Russian sage) doesn’t like our cool summer combined with cold winters, and we can only grow them well in our rocky sunny border. Basic recipe in all cases is lots of horse manure before planting and lots of water immediately afterwards. Otherwise a seaweed and woodchip mulch, nothing else. We water only when the plants are beginning to show signs of stress, but then we drench them.

Aconitum x cammarum 'Bicolor', Liatris spicata 'Kobold', and Helichtoctrichon sempervirens at the nursery
Aconitum x cammarum ‘Bicolor’, Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’, and Helichtoctrichon sempervirens at the nursery

What are some of the specific cold-climate challenges you face up north? I remember how devastated you were one year when the majority of your nursery stock died during the lack of snow insulation.

The worst challenge is not growing the plants at all (although that fateful winter of 2004 taught us to protect well the more tender plants like Kniphofia, Persicaria, and Euphorbia without fail with dead leaves and conifer branches, and not hope too much from woody plants as we don’t grow that many at all other than a few rare hardy roses and willows). The problem is from hasty gardeners in spring! Garden centres and people at plant fairs want their plants ready grown by May – our garden is usually under snow until at least April 20th, we can’t even access the plants till then! We only have one greenhouse where we can force only a limited number of plants into growth in the spring, so I guess we sometimes miss sales because of our lateness. Our short summers also means that we have to be very organized when we take cuttings or divide.

Autumn Bouquet containing Aster 'Photograph', 'Lutetia', and 'Blue Eyes', Helianthus 'Orgyalis', Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum', Solidago rigida, Leucanthemella serotina, Persicaria 'Pink Elephant', Sanguisorba 'Stand Up Comedian' and Sanguisorba 'Blackthorn'
Autumn Bouquet containing Aster ‘Photograph’, ‘Lutetia’, and ‘Blue Eyes’, Helianthus ‘Orgyalis’, Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’, Solidago rigida, Leucanthemella serotina, Persicaria ‘Pink Elephant’, Sanguisorba ‘Stand Up Comedian’ and Sanguisorba ‘Blackthorn’

Can you name some of your favorite late season perennials and grasses?

Perennials

Aconitum carmichaellii  ‘Spätlese’ because it’s a nice pale colour in contrast to ‘Barker’s Variety’ that has the largest darkest flowers of all.  I like them both because they are not so stiff like other A. carmichaelii and have healthy glossy foliage.

Aster ‘Little Carlow’  –   the best aster because it is very floriferous, has nice glossy foliage that never gets ill, and is the nicest colour.
Aster ‘Coombe Fishacre’ – when it flowers, it’s a lavender-pink mound and not ill either.

Helianthus ‘Dorian Roxburgh’ (hybrid between H. ‘Lemon Queen’ and H. giganteus ‘Sheila’s Sunshine’)  – it’s a nice tall and elegant plant in a delicate shade of yellow.
Helianthus ‘Orgyalis’ –  Tall and strong and full of large flowers on burgundy stems over lovely narrow foliage, what more could I want from a sunflower?!

Helianthus 'Orygalis'
Helianthus ‘Orygalis’

Kniphofia ‘Mermaiden’ – just the most amazing green colour and size!
Kniphofia ‘Percy’s Pride’ – a gift from British plantsman John Grimshaw and it’s a good flowerer, even here where other Kniphofias can be shy
Kniphofia  ‘Lord Roberts’ – a large variety in a shade that is VERY effective, dark, a strong accent.
Kniphofia ‘Rich Echoes’ – wonderful as well and flowers a little earlier.

Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Jo and Guido’s Form’ because it’s a delicious shade of pink (although I do find it a bit
weak)
Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Taurus’ – the most vibrant red ever and it flowers on and on.
Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Orangefield’ because it’s different from the others, and a colour that beckons the eye.  Neither pink, nor orange, a special look I find endearing. I guess I should also put ‘Rosea’ even if it’s more common because it is just the best of the lot. Has been in bloom for three months now.
Persicaria polystachya –  it’s carefree, and just the most generous white flower in autumn.  I love the combination of orange bamboo-like stems and pure white lace.  Delicate but strong at the same time.

Sanguisorba tenuifolia 'Stand up Comedian'
Sanguisorba tenuifolia ‘Stand up Comedian’

Sanguisorba tenuifolia  ‘Stand Up Comedian’  – it’s the strongest white, never flops like other tall white forms and I like the quirky name,
Sanguisorba ‘Blackthorn’ too because it’s strong but also because it has large conspicuous bottlebrushes, more showy than most late Sanguisorbas.

Sanguisorba 'Blackthorn'
Sanguisorba ‘Blackthorn’

Vernonia gigantea ‘Purple Pillar’, just the biggest show stopper for its size and colour.  ‘Mammuth’ is more manageable and just as good actually.
Vernonia lettermanii – the foliage, wow!

Grasses

Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Waldenbuch’  – more elegant and not so stiff as ‘Karl Foerster’ Also a warmer golden yellow.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Berlin’ – golden flowers that shine, unique
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Huron Sunrise’ – the most floriferous
Miscanthus sinensis ‘November Sunset’ for the vibrant red/purple foliage

Miscanthus sinensis 'November Sunset'
Miscanthus sinensis ‘November Sunset’

Molinia caerulea ssp. arundinacea ‘Cordoba’ – the most elegant of tall sorts and ‘Variegata’ – the most beautifully symmetrical plant one could wish for.

Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Fred’s Red’ – a selection made by my friend, does not flop like ‘The Blues’ or the other American selections and is the most striking red colour in the autumn.

Sorghastrum nutans ‘Sioux Blue’ for the blue foliage/golden flower combination.  I just love Sorghastrum anyway!

Fields near the nursery
Fields near the nursery

How would you describe the Philippe aesthetic?

Organic! Hewn but, I hope, genuine. Simple, clean lines are good but nothing minimalist (how so dull!). Bold accents, stone, wood, water, bright light, vibrant colours in the right place.

What specific sources of creative inspiration do you often turn to?

Nature is my first inspiration, then British and Japanese gardens, abstract paintings for colour combinations, magazines, the web.  I don’t often look for inspiration, it’s always all around me, and in these days of media’s frenzy, it’s easy to be overwhelmed!

Lilium regale, thyme, and roses line the stone pathway at Reford Gardens, a local favourite of Philippe.
Lilium regale, thyme, and roses line the stone pathway at Reford Gardens, a local favourite of Philippe.

What garden, private or public, inspires you?

Just one? Impossible!  So many interesting ones!  Reford Gardens near here is special, beautiful and a well-kept secret.

What would be your desert island plant and piece of art be?

The plant would have to be amaranth, because it’s beautiful, edible, useful and resilient.  A piece of art would be the indigo batik I bought in Indonesia to wear or to shade myself.

And what grain of wisdom can you proffer to readers interested in gardening and the natural world?

Go organic!

What are you looking forward to?

Next spring of course! Being independent from petrol, having my own farm, my next visit to other nurseries, my piano being delivered, and my cake coming out of the oven!

Thank you, Philippe, for the interview!

~Eric