Color for Every Season

This week in North Philly Notes, we feature a post by Linda Eirhart, author of The Winterthur Garden Guideabout the March Bank, which flowers in the winter. 

The calendar just now says March, but the March Bank at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library near Wilmington, Delaware, has had flowers in bloom since January. Henry Francis du Pont began planting bulbs in the woodland to the north of the family home in 1902. The area is called the March Bank due to its historic flowering time in March.  The display features the minor bulbs, snowdrops, winter aconites, snowflakes, squills and glory-of-the-snow.

March_Bank_by_Lois_Mauro resizeDu Pont planted thousands of these bulbs in large drifts in the style of the “wild garden.” The planting style was promoted by nineteenth-century British gardener and writer William Robinson.  In his words, the term “is applied essentially to the placing of perfectly hardy exotic plants in places and under conditions where they will become established and take care of themselves.”  With a little care over the past hundred years, the bulbs at Winterthur have multiplied to create a spectacular display.

March_Bank_3_by_Lois_Mauro resizeOn the March Bank, giant snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii, is the first to flower, with its lovely white petals with green markings. A close look at this simple flower reveals a variety of thin, wide, long, puckered or possibly even doubled petals. The common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, begins to flower slightly later and extends the white display. It also deserves a closer look for the detailed differences in the flower forms.  The different species and cultivars can provide color from fall through March.WS02 Calanthus nivalis

Color, to du Pont, was a “vast field in itself” and, in the garden, “the thing that really counts more than any other.” By 1962 du Pont had been gardening for sixty years, and the Garden Club of America had recently named him “perhaps the best gardener this country has ever produced.” At Winterthur, he created a garden of surpassing beauty that in its complexity and coherence is a marvel of ingenuity. Plants bloom almost continuously throughout the year, with outstanding areas of color coming into focus in a well-planned sequence. In turn, each area melds seamlessly with its neighbors to form a unified whole. Such sequencing and continuity did not come about without a great deal of work and planning.

WS06The spring snowdrop display is brightened with the yellow of Amur Adonis, Adonis amurensis, and winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, both with round, multi-petal flowers that resemble large buttercups.  Adonis will spread slowly in the garden, but winter aconites are vigorous growers that readily self-sow once established. Avoid planting them by smaller more delicate spring plants that they might smother.

To heighten and extend the yellow display, du Pont chose Japanese cornel dogwood, Cornus officinalis, an understory tree whose yellow flowers begin to shine while the giant snowdrops and winter aconites are still flowering.  As the snowdrops and aconites fade, this dogwood’s flowers will continue to bloom while the March Bank transitions to a brilliant carpet of blue.

Chionodoxa forbesii

Chionodoxa forbesii

Primarily responsible for the blue phase is the glory-of-the-snow, Chionodoxa forbesii, which covers acres on the March Bank and throughout the garden. This small bulb grows well in both the woodlands and in the lawn.  In some areas, Siberian squills, Scilla siberica are planted with it and overlap somewhat in flowering time. Early daffodils, Narcissus, add a soft yellow sprinkling among the waves of blue.

Winterthur GardenAs spring progress, Virginia bluebells, poeticus daffodils, ostrich ferns and hosta will cover the dying foliage of these early bulbs and create wonderful displays for late spring and summer. Though these displays cover acres at Winterthur, you can apply the concepts of the “wild garden,” successional bloom and layering plants to gardens of all sizes. Consider a small drift of snowdrops to brighten the winter entrance to your home or planting glory-of-the-snow in your lawn to create a sea of blue.

Du Pont experimented in the Winterthur garden for more than sixty years. The Winterthur Garden Guide shares the plant combinations and design principles that have stood the test of time.

 

 

Happy Horticulture! Books celebrating the Philadelphia Flower Show

This week in North Philly Notes, we showcase six regional Temple University Press titles about gardens and parks in honor of the Philadelphia Flower Show, coming to town March 2-10.

A Guide to the Great Gardens of the Philadelphia Region, Text by Adam Levine, Photographs by Rob Cardillo

-COVER-FRONTonly.inddFinally, for every resident and visitor to the region, a comprehensive guide to the gardens of eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and northern Delaware. Magnificently illustrated with nearly 200 full color photographs, A Guide to the Great Gardens of the Philadelphia Region provides essential information on how to locate and enjoy the finest gardens the area has to offer.

As the horticultural epicenter of the United States, Philadelphia and the surrounding towns, suburbs, and countryside are blessed with more public gardens in a concentrated area than almost any other region in the world. Stretching from Trenton, New Jersey through Philadelphia and down to Newark, Delaware, this area (often called the Delaware Valley) offers more horticultural riches than a visitor can possibly see even in a couple of weeks of hectic garden hopping.

The Magic of Children’s Gardens: Inspiring Through Creative Design, by Lolly Tai

2437_regChildren’s gardens are magical places where kids can interact with plants, see where food and fibers grow, and experience the role of birds, butterflies, and bees in nature. These gardens do more than just expose youngsters to outdoor environments. They also provide marvelous teaching opportunities for children to care for vegetables and flowers and interact in creative spaces designed to stimulate all five senses.

In The Magic of Children’s Gardens, landscape architect Lolly Tai provides the primary goals, concepts, and key considerations for designing outdoor spaces that are attractive and suitable for children, especially in urban environments. Tai presents inspiring ideas for creating children’s green spaces by examining nineteen outstanding case studies, including the Chicago Botanic Garden, Winterthur, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

The Magic of Children’s Gardens features hundreds of comprehensive drawings and exquisite photographs of successful children’s outdoor environments, detailed explanations of the design process, and the criteria for creating attractive and engaging gardens for children to augment their physical, mental, and emotional development.

Exposing youth to well-planned outdoor environments promotes our next generation of environmental stewards. The Magic of Children’s Gardens offers practitioners a guide to designing these valued spaces.

City in a Park: A History of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park System, by James McClelland and Lynn Miller

2348_regFairmount Park is the municipal park system of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It consists of more than one hundred parks, squares, and green spaces totaling about 11,000 acres, and is one of the largest landscaped urban park systems in the world. In City in a Park, James McClelland and Lynn Miller provide an affectionate and comprehensive history of this 200-year-old network of parks.

Originated in the nineteenth century as a civic effort to provide a clean water supply to Philadelphia, Fairmount Park also furnished public pleasure grounds for boat races and hiking, among other activities. Millions travel to the city to view its eighteenth-century villas, attend boat races on the Schuylkill River, hike the Wissahickon Creek, visit the Philadelphia Zoo, hear concerts in summer, stroll the city’s historic squares and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and enjoy its enormous collection of public art. Green initiatives flower today; Philadelphia lives amidst its parks.

Filled with nearly 150 gorgeous full-color photographs, City in a Park chronicles the continuing efforts to create what founder William Penn desired: a “greene countrie town.”

Community Gardening: A PHS Handbook, by Pete Prown  

Community Gardening smCommunity gardens unite neighbors and friends who plant and tend thriving gardens that provide fresh food and flowers but also fellowship. Community Gardening, by the experts at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, is an indispensible resource for budding and established gardeners who want to work together to transform patches of unused land into bountiful green spaces that nourish and inspire.

Community Gardening is full of practical information on everything from securing land for building a garden to working with local businesses and the wider community to sustaining a garden over many years. The full-color book features examples based on PHS’s highly regarded Philadelphia Green program, as well as brief profiles of community gardens in other cities.

Distributed by Temple University Press for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

The PHS City Parks Handbookby Peter Prown

PHS City Parks sm compIn many cities, park management is no longer the sole province of government, and committed citizens are increasingly becoming involved in park stewardship. At the same time, cities across America are beginning to recognize that investments in parks and other green spaces pay big economic dividends and are viewing them as an essential component of urban revitalization. The PHS City Parks Handbook shows how volunteers, community organizations, and government can work together to create thriving green spaces that not only provide fresh air and beauty but also help build stronger communities and more livable cities.

Drawing on the experiences of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia Green program, the nation’s most comprehensive greening program, this manual provides a wealth of information from creating an organization’s fundraising framework to running a workday and beyond. The accompanying DVD contains inspiring stories, insightful interviews with PHS staff members, city government employees, and park activists, and instructions for planting trees and involving youth in park activities.

Distributed by Temple University Press for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Travels of William Bartram Reconsideredby Mark Dion

Travels of Will Bartram sm compCombining humor and seriousness, this picture-filled book beautifully documents an artistic collaboration across more than two centuries. The 18th-century naturalist/artist William Bartram is renowned for his Travels, a volume recounting his 1770s trip through the American Southeast and for his revelatory drawings. Mark Dion is a contemporary artist famous for working with historical and museum collections, and for site-specific displays that mimic the historical exhibits surrounding them. Commissioned for the landmark John Bartram house at Philadelphia’s Bartram’s Garden, the “Travels Reconsidered” exhibition and Dion’s 21st-century journey that produced it are evoked in Travels of William Bartram – Reconsidered, a book filled with copious photographs, drawings, and texts. Essays by the organizing art curator and an art critic; the first history of Bartram’s Garden published in 50 years, by its Resident Bartram Scholar; and excerpts from Mark Dion’s travel diary and reproductions of letters and texts about the project and its people make this book a treasure trove of exploration that encompasses different times, spaces, and ideas of natural history and art. Distributed by Temple University Press for The John Bartram Association.

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