Monday, 23 November 2015

Seedheads and Skeletons

I admit I haven't always been keen on keeping perennials intact "past their prime".  It was more of an acquired taste for me. One thing I love about gardening, as with any art form, is how your tastes and perceptions change and evolve. Over the last few years I've found myself gladly anticipating the unsung heroes of fall and winter. These beautiful brown and bronze seed heads and skeletons not only provide late season interest, but they also provide food and shelter for animals and eventual organic material for the garden. This final hurrah should not be overlooked or underestimated. 

Having said that, context will often be the ultimate factor. At Chanticleer we cut and mow down much of the fading vegetation, leaving some grasses (which are dealt with in late winter/early spring), and evergreen perennials. This is primarily because we have to get the garden ready for spring before the winter starts to set in and while we have the staff on hand. If we waited until spring, there would be too much to do to get ready for opening. Plus we don't know how cooperative the weather will be at that time. This year there was snow on the ground when we arrived back, which won't work for doing cutbacks! So you have to decide what works for your situation. 

Seed pods of Abelmoschus manihot 

Sunset by the ponds

Hystrix patula aka "Bottlebrush Grass"

Polystichum acrostichoides is left uncut (here under American Beech)

Sporobolus heterolepis is left to be burned in late winter

Monday, 26 October 2015


Another season is on it's way out. "Where does the time go?", I can't help but wonder again and again. It seems like just a couple months ago that we opened our gates after a long winter. Now, with one heavy frost tallied last week, we're beginning the process of putting tender plants back inside and closing up coldframes and fall tidying. It has been a good year and despite a rather dry season, we've arrived at the other side in one piece- a great testiment to the strong teamwork at Chanticleer. Here is a glimpse of some of the current late-season color in the garden:

Clematis tibetana near the Ruin

Pink Muhly grass on the Rock Ledge soaking up sun

Bright fruit set of Viburnum nudum by the ponds 

Deep red leaves of Cornus florida by the Potting Shed

Straw-colored Sporobolus heterolepis 

Oranges and yellows unite on these maples by the Ruin

Variegated Dogwood and unnamed maple by the pool 

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Catching up

I realize I'm most likely one of the worst bloggers out there, as I tend to go way too long in between posts and then one day I'm somewhat inspired to get back on track (that's today). 

Well as you can imagine a lot has happened in the garden between my last entry and now. It's been an odd spring; not only did we have a long winter which persisted until our opening in April, but then we had early warm weather in May, a month which also proved to be quite dry. All these factors seemed to somewhat confuse the plants and we had early flowers mixed with mid to late flowers, making for some intriguing flower times. It still made for a great spring. Here are a few of the moments:

A blanket of Scilla siberica under a Magnolia stellata 

A creamy cloud of Corylopsis spills out of Asian Woods 

Columbine, Forget-me-nots and Phlox dot the Wildflower Slope

Wisteria floribunda 'Shiro Noda' drips from the pond arbor

Tulip party in the Cut Flower Garden

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Spring Snow

It's been a wild week. We went from 60 degreees (F) early in the week to 30 degrees (F) and a wet, heavy 4" of snow Friday (the first day of Spring). Evidently winter wasn't conceding without a fight.

We were really fortunate to get our burn of the Sporobolus heterolepis done earlier in the week when we had a window of dry, calm weather. This is done to mimic natural rejuvenation systems in their native prairie habitats.

Before: creating burn buffer around woody plants 

After: charred remains under blanket of snow

A few scenes from our latest (and hopefully last) snowfall:

Looking up towards the house from below the ponds

Persisting leaves of American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

Snow-capped Hamamelis mollis 'Early Bright'

I will say although I'm ready for Spring, it's always special to experience the garden after a fresh snow. Friday was no exception- it was quite peaceful to walk around in the stillness and serenity after work. 

Thursday, 12 March 2015

More pruning

I've spent most of the week pruning in different parts of the garden. I quite enjoy pruning. Actually I just love being outside this time of year doing whatever, after having been inside a good bit over the winter. Today was another beautiful day in the mid 50's, and I was working with Jonathan. I started off pruning a couple Roses, Physocarpus, and a Hibiscus behind the main house. Then towards the end of the day we worked on pollarding a group of Salix alba 'Britzensis' near the Serpentine. It's hard to finally prune these as they look so wonderful right now. The brilliant orange-red stems from last season's growth glow above an underplanting of Schizachyrium scoparium. 

These are managed by removing the new growth right back to the older, brown wood. By doing this you are able to maintain the desired size of the tree and ensure that each year you will have these beautiful, bright colored stems through winter. 

Another detail that could be missed just walking by is the woven branches.  Most Salix sp. have very pliable new growth, which make them great candidates for bending and weaving and for creative uses in the garden. We saved all the pruned stems and will use them in some display capacity.  

Monday, 9 March 2015

Back in the garden...finally!

Well, after a bit of a hiatus, I was back in the garden today. This year I'm doing an internship at Chanticleer, where I ended my year last year (as the North American Christopher Lloyd Scholar). I'm excited about the prospect of being here for 9 months and the opportunities to learn and experience the garden over this period.

It was a nice first day. After a late-season snow storm that produced about 8 inches of snow last week, we were blessed with a beautiful 50 degree (F) day today.  With this week's temps we should see significant snow melt and the emerging of early bulbs.

Today I worked on pruning the majority of the day. As there is still so much snow cover, we're somewhat limited in what projects we can undertake. Pruning, however, is a perfect job these days. We pruned a series of Hydrangea paniculata and H. arborescens, both of which flower on current
seasons growth, making it safe to prune this late. We also pruned Catalpa bignonioides 'Aurea'. Both the H. paniculata and the Catalpa were pollarded back to their base framwork, which allows us control their size while providing necessary stability for the plant from season to season. 

Remaining framework on pruned H. paniculata