Tag Archives: Amicia zygomeris

Gardens Great and Small

19 Sep

Just last weekend I got the opportunity to visit two very well known gardens: Great Dixter and the Chelsea Physic Garden. (Starting with style, if I do say so myself!) Both were very different gardens, but both amazing in their own way. The team leader of the herbaceous department was heading down to Great Dixter and invited the two foreign interns and myself to come along with on Saturday.  Sunday I was heading off to meet some friends that happen to be visiting London and one of the interns from the trip to Great Dixter also was heading into the city to run errands and visit the Chelsea Physic Garden. She asked if I wanted to join her and, of course, I said yes. On this post I’ll cover Great Dixter.

Great Dixter – Saturday, Sept. 14

It was early afternoon, overcast and a bit chilly. (Autumn is definitely on its way.) The sky was threatening to rain, but the weather reports said that at its worst showers would be on and off. Sean pulled into the parking lot and picked the two other interns and myself up and headed south to Northiam, East Sussex. The drive took only a little over an hour and it was fun to watch the woods give way to hedgerows and livestock.

On the road! (Photo taken by Kirsi, one of interns.)

On the road! (Photo taken by Kirsi, one of interns.)

Here we are in the parking lot hot with anticipation. (Photo from Kirsi, taken by Sean.)

Here we are in the parking lot hot with anticipation. (Photo from Kirsi, taken by Sean.)

Great Dixter was home to one of the great English gardeners and garden writers, Christopher Lloyd. He was born and raised at Great Dixter and through both his parents – particularly his mother, Daisy – he developed a great passion for gardening. (His mother would also introduce him to Gertrude Jekyll, another very influential English gardener.)

Here is the path leading to the house, Great Dixter.

Here is the path leading to the house, Great Dixter.

First we headed off to the right and slipped into the Wall Garden. It was so wonderful to see plants overflowing from their beds and dripping into the walkway. Sean told me that Christopher Lloyd was also known for his playful use of color and I have to say the gardeners here are doing an amazing job keeping up with his designs.

I love all the plants in there pots enjoying the sun (if it comes out).

I love all the plants in there pots enjoying the sun (if it comes out).

Here are some close-up’s of the Wall Garden:

I love the chrysanthemum-flowered marigold mingling with the limey-greens and the hot pink of the Pelargonium.

I love the chrysanthemum-flowered marigold mingling with the limey-greens and the hot pink of the Pelargonium.

I love how the lavender flowers of Thalictrum rochebrunianum float above the golden leaves of Rubus cockburnianus 'Goldenvale'.

I love how the lavender flowers of Thalictrum rochebrunianum float above the golden leaves of Rubus cockburnianus ‘Goldenvale’.

The ebb and flow between the magenta flowers of Polygonum orientale, the deep green leaves of the Abelia, and the chartreuse leaves of a Lavatera(?) is so wonderful.

The ebb and flow between the magenta flowers of Polygonum orientale, the deep green leaves of the Abelia, and the chartreuse leaves of a Lavatera(?) is so wonderful.

And through the Wall Garden…

Sean heading into the next garden with Salvia seboana(?) and Cestrum parqui(?) crowding the pathway.

Sean heading into the next garden with Salvia seboana(?) and Cestrum parqui(?) crowding the pathway.

…we end up in the Barn Garden and the Sunk Garden.

I audibly gasped at this point. Also the Sunk Garden is hiding in the middle of all of that.

I audibly gasped at this point. Also the Sunk Garden is hiding in the middle of all of that.

The Sunk Garden is, well, sunken in the Barn Garden, so the two gardens are stacked like a Russian doll. Here are some of the views in the Barn Garden:

The white cosmos are so fresh and fancy-free!

The white cosmos are so fresh and fancy-free!

Did somebody say 'glorious'?

Did somebody say ‘glorious’?

The borders are just immense!

The borders are just immense!

My god, the colors!

My god, the colors!

I wish there was a way to take a 360° photo, because the way the Barn Garden enwrapped the Sunk Garden was just amazing. So may layers upon layers of great textures and colors.

Apparently the Sunk Garden used to be a vegetable garden in World War I.

Apparently the Sunk Garden used to be a vegetable garden in World War I.

Do you see that GIANT magenta flower in the corner?

Do you see that GIANT magenta flower in the corner?

It was a ridiculously ginormous dahlia.

It was a ridiculously ginormous dahlia.

We wandered back into the Wall Garden and went down the steps into the Blue Garden.

Here is the other half of the Wall Garden.

Here is the other half of the Wall Garden.

The Blue Garden wasn’t particularly blue, but it was bubbling over with foliage. I’d say this is the transitional room, since the next garden down the path was the Topiary Lawn.

Calmer than the gardens before, but no less beautiful.

Calmer than the gardens before, but no less beautiful.

Still in the Blue Garden, but on our way to the Topiary Lawn. Oh, and the topiaries behind us are supposed to be teapots.

Still in the Blue Garden, but on our way to the Topiary Lawn. Oh, and the topiaries behind us are supposed to be teapots.

Christopher Lloyd converted the lawn in the Topiary Lawn into a meadow which creates a beautiful contrast to the constricted clipped shrubs. However, they recently sheared the lawn back, so we slipped through into the next garden. We walked under the ‘hovel’, a cow shed, and emptied out into the Exotic Garden.

It was quite a shock to walk from the Topiary Lawn and immediately encountering this!

It was quite a shock to walk from the Topiary Lawn and immediately encountering this!

This garden made the previous gardens look thin.

This garden made the previous gardens look thin.

Remember my little Amicia zygomeris cutting at home? If it survives, hopefully, it will one day look like this.

Amicia zygomeris looking amazing with the giant grasses and gingers.

Amicia zygomeris looking amazing with the giant grasses and gingers.

Apparently this garden used to be a rose garden, but Christopher Lloyd and Fergus (the Head Gardener now at Great Dixter) ripped them all out and planted tropical/subtropical plants instead. This was due to the roses not doing well there and new ones suffering from ‘replant disease’. Either way, this garden is quite thrilling and a tangle of color and life. It’s amazing how many plants they crammed in there.

An absolute jungle!

An absolute jungle!

Lush, lush, lush!

Lush, lush, lush!

It almost felt like I was in Wonderland, the only thing missing were giant mushrooms.

It almost felt like I was in Wonderland, the only thing missing were giant mushrooms.

There's one of the narrow exit paths.

There’s one of the narrow exit paths.

From the Exotic Garden we wandered through the Orchard, up and over to the Long Border. The Long Border was still looking quite fresh and beautiful, even though summer was warm and long this year. From the bottom of the Long Border there is a large mulberry tree that blocks the view, which creates a great unveiling for the Long Border.

The first thing you see is the Japanese anemones starting to bloom.

The first thing you see is the Japanese anemones starting to bloom.

Here is the full beautiful view of the Long Border after you pass the mulberry tree - just stunning!

Here is the full beautiful view of the Long Border after you pass the mulberry tree – just stunning!

Here is Sean looking up at something at the end of the border.

Here is Sean looking up at something at the end of the border.

A close-up of a section.

A close-up of a section.

Gosh, just look at all those colors!

Gosh, just look at all those colors!

Another close-up view of the Long Border.

Another close-up view of the Long Border.

Here is looking back down the Long Border towards the entrance.

Here is looking back down the Long Border towards the entrance.

From the Long Border we went up the steps to the Orchard Garden. This garden was showing the most signs that autumn is fast approaching – bittersweet.

Autumnal and beautiful.

Autumnal and beautiful.

From here I slipped up into the High Garden. Here some of the perennials and annuals were starting to grow tired, but amidst them tropicals were still going strong, carrying the garden into first frost.

This path leads to the Vegetable Garden and the Prairie.

This path leads to the Vegetable Garden and the Prairie.

I love the hot colors of the marigolds and their lemony-medicinal scent.

I love the hot colors of the marigolds and their lemony-medicinal scent.

Looking back at the house - what a view!

Looking back at the house – what a view!

These spicy zinnias really burned bright in the overcast gray.

These spicy zinnias really burned bright in the overcast gray.

This path leads down into the Peacock Garden.

This path leads down into the Peacock Garden.

Down we went into the Peacock Garden where many giant topiary Peacocks tower overhead flanked by large billowing grasses and perennials.

This is looking at the Peacock Garden from the High Garden. See the peacocks?

This is looking at the Peacock Garden from the High Garden. See the peacocks?

Here is the walk way along the edge of the Peacock Garden.

Here is the walk way along the edge of the Peacock Garden.

Polygonum orientale has been making many appearances in the gardens intensifying and deepening the colors of the flowers and leaves around it.

Polygonum orientale has been making many appearances in the gardens intensifying and deepening the colors of the flowers and leaves around it.

Phew! That was a lot, but it isn’t even everything! All in all, I had a wonderful time at Great Dixter and I was completely swept away by the plantings and design. I have to say that the gardeners have been doing an amazing job keeping gardens in tip-top shape. How’s that for my first excursion here? Stay tuned for the Chelsea Physic Garden post next!

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Early Leaf’s a Flower

25 Aug

When you look at a fern, you are looking at an artifact of a time when things were very green. Flowers did not exist and seeds were still a dream. Ferns and many of those early plants produced spores and these spores were held in and on leaves. As time steadily went on these reproductive leaves would change so radically that they became sepals, petals, stamens, and pistils. The earliest flowers were leaves and those leaves have become flowers today. Like in Robert Frost’s poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay, it is not too much of a stretch to regard leaves unfurling in spring as flowers.

Here is Adiantum pedatum subsp. aleuticum stretching out into the April sunshine.

Here is Adiantum pedatum subsp. aleuticum stretching out into the April sunshine.

Compared to all the other parts of a plant, flowers receive the most attention – though plants probably want that anyway – but I can’t help to admire the structure of leaves and stems. For example, here is Berberis calliantha. This barberry is known for its compact size, large flowers, and black fruit, but if you flip a glossy, deep green leaf over (or happen to find yourself under one) you will discover another wonderful attribute. That shockingly, steel white is so mesmerizing! Isn’t the reverse amazing? This isn’t the only barberry to have leaves like this, which is lucky for people that want one, but unlucky for collectors who are running out of garden space.

The undersides give me quite a thrill!

The undersides give me quite a thrill!

If you are looking for another evergreen, high gloss, tough plant, Angelica pachycarpa is for you! It’s unclear if this plant is a true perennial, short-lived perennial, or a biennial, but it will produce enough seeds for a few volunteers every year. This Mediterranean plant can take some drought once established, but watering it will only encourage it to grow bigger and better. After I planted it, albeit late, it just sat there starting to senesce. I wasn’t sure why it was doing this, but I read some where that after producing large, fragrant chartreuse flowers in the summer it will go semi-dormant in the heat. Whether it was the fish emulsion, frequent watering, time, or a combination, it is now finally starting to grow. I hope this plant decides to stick around for more than two years. Plus if Annie’s Annuals says it is reliably perennial – where I bought this plant – it must be true, right?

Finally waking up! I hope it grows big enough before winter arrives.

Finally waking up! I hope it grows big enough before winter arrives.

Another plant that I grow mostly for its foliage is Rosa rubiginosa (syn. Rosa eglanteria). This European rose, is a thorny, suckering plant and produces the typical scented, five-petaled-wild rose. Though the short-lived flowers are nice and the hips are a brilliant red in the autumn, its famous for its leaves: a delicious apple scent is released when brushed or drenched by the rain. This is why it is also known as the ‘sweet briar rose’. The name sounds familiar? It’s because this rose is the stuff of legends, fairy tales, and classical english literature. This is the rose that Shakespeare referenced. This is the rose that wrapped Sleeping Beauty’s castle. This is the rose that was used as a rootstock for hybrid roses.

I bought this as a start from Annie's Annuals as well, after forgetting I already had one in the back garden.

I bought this as a start from Annie’s Annuals as well, after forgetting I already had one in the back garden.

Sometimes at work I have the fun of trying to identify unusual mystery plants. In April, this semi-regular custumer came in with a small clipping of what looked like a shamrock. She said that she bought it at a local nursery unlabeled, and it was the only one there. She treated the plant as an annual and over wintered it inside. The plant grew quite tall produced large yellow pea flowers and had beautiful burgundy stipules. Miraculously by googling a description of the clipping, we discovered that it was Amicia zygomeris: a lanky shrub, native to the mountains of Mexico, and hardy down to USDA zone 7b. She went off excitedly that day and I didn’t think much of it afterward. Then about a month ago, she came in with a cutting of the plant and gave it to me as a thank you gift! This sweet little cutting was slow to grow, but it has begun to grow many side shoots.

I love the little clover leaves.

I love the little clover leaves.

I am a bit of a forgetful gardener (I blame my busy schedule) and bulbs/corms/tubers get the brunt of my forgetfulness. I don’t know if it is because they go dormant and hangout in easily forgotten paper bags, but I am glad that they are able to weather my neglect. The two bulbs (though technically one is a corm) that have grown despite a late potting is Amorphophallus konjac and Galtonia cancans. Amorpophallus is a strange tropical genus that is known for its terrible smelling, wicked flowers. It grows a single leaf a season, and with food and water the corm can grow quite large – like 100+ pounds large in the case of Amorphophallus titanum. In between growing years when the corm is mature enough, they will send up a single flower. Typically they look and smell like a giant calla lily that has risen from the dead.

These were planted two weeks ago after forgetting about them since last autumn.

These were planted two weeks ago after forgetting about them since last autumn.

Amorphophallus konjac is one of those evil looking ones when in bloom. The spathe is an off, meaty, deep purple-pink color on the inside with flecks of black, brown and olive on the outside. The spadix is a rather brownish puce. Here are some photos on plantlust.com.  The flower lasts for several days and luckily, the scent is only horrible for the first day. This amorphophallus is an easy one to grow outside in frost free areas, but also as well as a potted specimen. I when I see signs of the corm starting to sprout in late spring, they get potted in rich potting soil just an inch or two below the surface. At this point they get one good drink to settle them in, but I back off on the water. Once the growing point emerges and the leaves begin to push up out of the sheath, keep it consistently moist and well feed. The more you feed it, the larger corm will be, and the sooner it will produce a flower. At the end of the growing season, the plants may still be green, but placing them in the sunniest window will keep them happy. Once the leaves begin to yellow and wither, I stop all watering and let it dry down into dormancy and next spring start the whole process again.

Even at such a young age, the veining and spotting on the leaf is so tropical.

Even at such a young age, the veining and spotting on the leaf is so tropical.

I’ve done with same with the galtonias for the past two seasons and all but one have decided to bloom! I don’t plant them in the ground, because I have chipmunks, heavy soil, slugs/snails, etc. The list goes on. Plus in pots I can move them around to catch more sun, or place them closer to the entrance to enjoy their sweet scent.

Despite being potted very late, the bulbs are growing and budding as if nothing happened.

Despite being potted very late, the bulbs are growing and budding as if nothing happened.

Galtonia candicans is a bulb from South Africa that has wide, blueish sword-like leaves and tall inflorescences with white, waxy, bell-shaped fragrant flowers. When happy, this bulb will grow into a impressive clump and all it asks for is sun, well drained soil, and some bulb food. Great for the late summer garden by providing freshness, flowers, scent, and height when things are getting tired. Though the flowers are why we grow galtonia, I love the succulent, blue leaves just as much.

Oh I can't wait to smell the flowers!

Oh I can’t wait to smell the flowers!

In the back, the Begonia grandis subsp. evansiana is another plant that grow equally for the flowers and leaves. (I should probably just grow it for its leaves, because the flowers come so late and only if I’ve been watering well.) The young leaves start off a satiny, peachy-cream and then mature into an apple green, but not without brilliant red venation cutting through in regular sections. Even the base of the petiole and the knobby joints of the stem are stained with that same red. This begonia can propagate prolifically and I can see it becoming a weed in more tropical locations, but in Seattle its nice to have some back-ups. Just like any other household begonia you can create new plants from leaf and shoot cuttings easily, however this begonia also produces little bulbils on the joints of its stems. These ready-to-grow mini plants fall off and grow into a new begonia, so with just a few plants you can grow a large clump quickly, or fill in gaps in the shade garden. If the seedling isn’t cute enough, the juvenile leaves are dotted with the most shimmery silver spots!

The begonia mixed with the host creates such a tropical feel.

The begonia mixed with the hosta creates such a tropical feel.

In the front garden I’ve been amazed by how quickly the Chrysanthemum ‘Single Apricot’ Riz gave me last autumn is growing. The daisy flowers on this chrysanthemum are a lovely, warm apricot-pink and large and they really brighten up the garden during a time when the weather is becoming less cheerful. I’ve even seen this garden chrysanthemum bloom well into November even during not so mild years. Though I won’t get to see it bloom this year, at least I know it’s doing well in my heavier soil (and it looks like it will spread out in no time).  Maybe I’ll get lucky next year and when I return home it will be in full bloom.

I like the felty lobed leaves of the chrysanthemum against the smooth corrugated leaves of the bletilla.

I like the felty lobed leaves of the chrysanthemum against the smooth corrugated leaves of the bletilla.

That’s my quick jaunt around the garden this week. Now if you are starving to see a flower, I’ve included a rose below for you. Also, the Garden Club of America has asked me to keep a blog of my travels while I am abroad, so for your viewing and reading pleasure I am bringing my blog with me to the British Isles! Drop by soon!

Rosa 'Claire Austin' perfuming the garden with her resiny, sweet myrrh fragrance.

Rosa ‘Claire Austin’ perfuming the garden with her resiny, sweet myrrh fragrance.

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