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Showing posts with label Garden Tours. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Garden Tours. Show all posts

May 27, 2009

A Sunday, in the Park, with Piet



I had the pleasure to spend a short weekend in Chicago this past weekend, for a small college reunion and a book signing. Whenever I find myself in this fabulous city, I like to take in the city’s amazing architecture, museums, and shopping. But the best place to take in the first two things, plus some amazing Lurie garden which was touched by the talented garden designer Piet Oudolf, found within Millennium Park. If you have any question that modern landscape design may seem harsh or un-natural, the plantings in Millennium Park will not only change your perception, they may even move you. When viewed in person, these amazing gardens are spectacular, and even the most amateur or well seasoned gardener can become inspired. I left with a long list of ideas to ‘steal’, such and color combinations, and the quantity of certain species which are necessary to achieve a spectacular effect. Chicago is one of those very ‘Global cities’ which has the unique power to move one emotionally with it’s significance. Experience is very human, and my short weekend here has reminded me that as human beings, we might pollute the planet and create junky movies, or start wars and do all sorts of evil things to each other and other species, but also, we as a species are quire remarkable. Chicago, like New York, London, or Tokyo, is one of the great human accomplishments. And the best place to celebrate and experience the ultimate expression of where we, as a culture are at this very moment, just might be in Chicago’s version of Central Park, specifically, Millennium Park, a new park on the lake, that was a collaboration of Pritzker Prize winning Architects, contemporary artists, and landscape designers that is one of the few, if not only place, out doors, that I can think of, that gathers together all of this greatness of the moment, and shares it with the public. Salvia x sylvestris in all of it's available named varieties are planted in huge drift showcasing the many names forms available today. When you see them this way, in these numbers, it is hard to choose which one is more beautiful. And I thought that I was doing well in planting 6 of each form! really, it must be at least 15 or 30 plants. Check out the plant list here, that is quite handy in inspiring us gardeners in making selections for our own gardens.



Millennium Park is an award-winning center for art, music, architecture and landscape design. The result of a unique partnership between the City of Chicago and the philanthropic community, the 24.5-acre park features the work of world-renowned architects, planners, artists and designers.

Tulips bloom in carefully selected colors near the Frank Gehry structure.
Among Millennium Park's prominent features, and there are some very significant ones, are the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion , the most sophisticated outdoor concert venue of its kind in the United States; the interactive Crown Fountain by Jaume Plensa; the contemporary Lurie Garden designed by the team of Kathryn Gustafson, Piet Oudolf and Robert Israel; and Anish Kapoor's hugely popular Cloud Gate sculpture on the AT&T Plaza which most people refer to as ‘the bean’.
Anish Kapoor's Cloudgate sculpture

Since its opening in July 2004, Millennium Park has hosted millions of people, making it one of the most popular destinations in Chicago.
Last year, Joe and I spent a good part of June in Switzerland, and Zurich has a similar experiential park, sans the contemporary architecture and art, but the experience of people from all over the world, sharing leisure time together, was remarkable to see, like George Seurat's painting ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte - 1884 ( which ironically just happens to ‘live’ in the Art Institute of Chicago, which is located right here in Millennium Park now that I think about it! ( I remembered the scene in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off). In the Pritzker Pavilion, on the lawn today, there were all types of people resting, having a picnic, laying in the sun, and taking pictures. There were, babies in strollers, Frisbee-playing college kids, dogs, plants, and an overall feeling of human togetherness. I hope more cities take the steps necessary to support the arts and all of the things, which humans create, and build similar and unique versions of these amazing social spaces. In a world full of Twittering, Facebooking non-personal social networking, it is so nice to see people interacting with real, live people.

But most of all, here in Chicago’s Millennium Park, I love the gardens. Outside of Kew, I have never seen such plantings that are horticulturally interesting, artistically stunning, and sited in such perfect harmony with the architecture. The gardens have a narrative worth reading at the website for Millennium Park. It speaks of the shoulders of the city being expressed through metaphor in the Hornbeam hedges, the blue flowers as the Lake and River. This park is more like a museum, than garden.

I was particularly interested in the planting of perennials, since when last here three years ago, I had been so inspired, that I started the plans for our Blue and Gold Garden, using my memory at that time, which had recalled the sweeps of Salvia species, and other blue flowered plants like Amsonia, which this year I had ordered by the dozen after seeing them used as hedges at the New York Botanical Garden last October, I saw that even here, there are new plantings of Amsonia taebernamontana used as a perennial shrub reinforcing that all of the Amsonia species are quite on trend in mass plantings. Not surprising to me since the native form has been on my list for must-have mass plantings for a year now, and they should be on yours too, if not for their denim blue flowers in the spring, then for their golden feathery autumn foliage color in the autumn.

Other plants used en masse here include Various grasses, Baptisia, which are often clumped together with 15 plants or more, Camassia, which poke up amongst the Amsonia hubrectii and the other Amsonia species.




My hornbeam hedges which are pleached, look pale when compared to these incredible plantings. These are shrubs of various genus, planted within these steel structures, which will eventually be trimmed into sweeping arcs and walls. I remember these when first planted a few years ago, and they are already looking impressive. I can only imagine what they will look like once mature. Especially in the winter. Another thing to note, this garden had interest year round, check out the plant list link again.
Here is a good example of the number of plants used in each 'clump' , Lesson learned, again, if you want to look like a professional designed your garden.....ALWAYS plant as many plants as you can afford, and then double it.

Thoughfully planted bulbs like these Camassia leichtlinii ‘Blue Danube’ shoot up between plantings. Blue, Blue, everywhere.

A newly planted 'hedge' of Amsonia tabernaemontana var. salicifolia – Willowleaf Blue Star, not really a shrub, but a perennial that can reach shrub-like dimensions once established, but still herbaceous enough to die back to the ground each winter. I am beginning to love this plant, more and more, every time I see it, and it's relatives. That's why I ordered a dozen of these plants this spring, to create my own 'hedge', but now I am still deciding where to plant them!

October 21, 2008

New York Botanical Garden - more autumnal inspiration


Here are a few more photos from our trip to the New York Botanical Garden. Above, the giant Queen Victoria waterlillys, with pads large enough to hold a small child. The cool, autumnal weather brings out intense color in many plants. Below, I share a few plants on my wish-list since like many of us - I too forget to order plants which look best in those last few weeks of the year. There are many plants rarely seen by gardeners because they simple look boring and dull in the spring, so garden centers and retail shops rarely carry them. Go now to you local plant store and see what you can find beyond the bushel-basket mums and pumpkins - think bigger! For your fall displays. Tricyrtus, Monkshood, Japanese maples, check these out...


I was very impressed with this shrub which at first I thought was an Wiegelia, but is actually an Abelia x grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope'. It's fall flowers along with old calyx's look like glossy white jasmine blossoms at first glance.


Callicarpa dichotoma 'Issai' a rarely seed hardy zone 5 shrub with amazing technocolor violet berries.


Lotus in the reflecting pool even show great color in the fall.


Japanese Toad Lily - Tricyrtus 'sinonome'
The Japanese Toad Lily looks like an orchid but is actually related to the Lily-of-the-valley. I am in love with them, and there are a few species that are truly spectacular. Mine have been in bloom since late August.





Another maple on my wish list - one of the bamboo-leaf Japanese maples, Acer palmatum 'Koto-no-ito'


Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku' or momiji, the Coral Tower maple which is generally grown for it's coral stems in winter, shows it's other side- impressive autumn color. I ordered one yesterday!


Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku', a unique must-have Japanese Maple that you won't find at your local home center. Try expanding your Japanese maple collection by ordering small ( or large) pots from sources such as FOREST FARM in North America. Every year, I buy about 5-8 new "tubes" of these expensive cultivars in small sizes, since I am 'rather young'. They arrive in a few weeks ( you can plant them in the fall, mine arrive in November), and by next summer most put on enough growth to be interesting, even at a young age. I started collecting Japanese Maples about ten years ago when I purchased my parents house, and now, those trees are nearly 9 feet tall and stunning. I have discoverd two valuable things here....first, one rarely cuts down a Japanese Maple, they just get better with age. (LIKE US...right?). And second, in our crazy financial market, they may be the best investment one can make - with trees selling for hundreds if not thousands of dollars, these trees become more valuable each year of your life. A mans wealth can be measured by how many Acer palmatum they own.

I suggest growing them in containers, on a terrace, deck, or near the front entrance as we do. Large, fiberglass frost/freeze-safe containers are now on sale everywhere ( like Target or you local high-end garden center). We always buy our large outdoor tubs in the fall saving often 60-80% off of the retail price. Japanese maples in containers are often the most commented on plants at our home, even in the winter they look impressive.


View of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory is autumn at the New York Botanical Garden


White Chrysanthemums

October 19, 2008

KIKU - The Art of the Japanese Chrysanthemum at the New York Botanical Gardens

Chrysanthemums, trained to Ogiku style or  'single-stem' forms, are a traditional method of training certain chrysanthemums which require careful pinching, and disbudding throughout the growing season. This is exactly how they are displayed in Japanese exhibitions, in precise rows set under protective roofs.


This glorious autumn weekend we had the luxury of attending the opening of Kiku -The Art of the Japanese Chrysanthemum held at the New York Botanical Gardens' Enid A Haupt Conservatory. As a solid Japanophile myself, having a local exhibition of such a collection is a rare and unique treat, since this is the second year that the NYBG has offered this exhibition. Most impressive is that this exhibit is the result of five years of a cultural exchange between the Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo, where for the past 100 years gardeners have perfected the art of growing and displaying exquisite chrysanthemums for the Emperor's garden. Under the training of Kiku master Yasuhira Iwashita, is is noted in the catalog of this years' exhibit that last year was the first time that the techniques and styles developed and displayed at the Shinjuku Gyoen were presented outside of Japan. This show runs from October 18 until November 16, 2008 at the New York Botanical Garden.

Exhibitions of this quality and authenticity are rare outside of Japan. If you are in the New York or ti-state area,  try not to miss this show -  a show which takes an enormous amount of time and talent over a 18 month period.


There are some very traditional patterns and forms which each takes years of apprenticeship to be able to achieve good results. The New York Botanical Garden display demonstrates most every method of training (perhaps without the human-doll forms), which makes this show very tradional from a Japanese perspective. It seems no detail has been overlooked.


There was a time when chrysanthemum displays were more common in North American, which reached an apex of popularity around 1900, but given that displays were often limited to the wealthy, those with private estates and teams of gardeners or to horticultural societies (often those, which financial support from said supporters who saw value in supporting such displays) today, outside of Asia, chrysanthemum displays are virtually non-existent (except perhaps those which feature crotons, plastic orange pumpkins and hay bales from Home Depot.

A formal conservatory chrysanthemum display itself may be a relic of the Victorian era, a traditional Kiku display featuring only the most traditional of Japanese forms, is something rarely seen anywhere at all outside of Japan. Thanks to the New York Botanical Gardens and it's dedication to horticultural talent and art, we al have been gifted this very generous treat - a portal to the Edo period, right here in the Bronx.

There are four Imperial styles of Kiku which are being displayed at the Enid Haupt Conservatory.  These include the Ozukuri ("thousand bloom") amazing domes and ovals of giant, incurves and recurve (or what we might call 'football mums' trained to a frame and all grown from a single cutting - a study in geometry which has to be seen, to be appreciated, or shall I say,"to be believed'; the ogiku ("single stem"), kengai ("cascade'), and new this year, shino-tsukuri ("driving rain"). These plants are all housed and displayed in decorative Japanese garden pavilions known as uwaya. These intricate structures protect and frame the beauty of the kiku displays: they are constructed from bamboo and cedar and then edged with ceremonial drapery.



Shin-tsukuri ("driving rain") style Chrysanthemums



Contemporary Japanese art from traditional materials adds to this years display. A magnificent outdoor installation of a  massive bamboo sculpture by artist Tetsunori Kawana, a master teacher of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana,the traditional Japanese art of flower arranging. Kawana is known worldwide for his innovative installations using freshly split bamboo.




The New York Botanical Gardens displays are attractive and immersive from every angle. I love the lanterns, music and the bonsai which all added to the effect.



The amazing ozukuri style of training Chrysanthemums - perhaps the most difficult, this "thousand bloom" form takes 11 months of training from cutting, to this,. Yes...this is all from a single plant, and if you kneel down, you can see the single 1/4 inch thick stem of the entire plant!








Cascade -trained chrysanthemums were most compelling and seemed like something that I could try at home. Finding books on the subject, however, has been difficult. But you know me! I will continue trying to find them before I give up!


The cascade style might be more popular to some people in the States, if you visit a fine botanic garden, but this form is still rather unusual, the plants are trained like waterfalls. This cascade style was the first fancy exhibition style that I tryed. Yes, you can try growing these amazing Japanese forms at home ( by ordering cuttings from Kings Mums for delivery in June).




If I cannot find a book to show me how to train these mums, these images on the didactic panels at the Kiku display, are quite helpful.