Garden Diary - May 2012


Tuesday, 8 May 2012
A Visit to John Bartram's Garden


Last year I received an invitation from Bartram's Garden. My garden club was offered a gratis tour of either the house or the garden. Of course I passed this on to the president of the Tohickon Garden Club. It was decided that since the garden club had fairly recently made a visit there in addition to our regularly scheduled meeting we'd take a "side trip" early in May 2012, in addition to our regularly scheduled meeting. Excellent choice, as early May is a splendid time to visit a garden. But then, I don't know any time that is not.

About a dozen of us car-pooled for the drive. We'd have our tour, then lunch.

But before the tour even started we were fascinated by the plants. A white wisteria in the tree?
No, it is yellowwood, Cladrastis lutea (formerly C. kenteukea), in peak bloom. Thought
to have been grown from seed collected in Tennessee or Kentucky by André Micheaux and sent
to John Jr. and William Bartram in the 1790s. I've never seen one this large. And, since they often
flower in alternate years it is clear that we're here at just the right time on just the right year.

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There are other trees beautifully in bloom, like this fringe tree, Chionanthis virginiana.
Dioeceous, only female trees will bear the olive-like blue fruits. No matter as the fragrant
flowers delicately embellish both with a cloud of blossoms. Wish mine flowered so well.

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Zack, our guide, takes us around, describing the plants, their history,
and the Bartram family's involvement, referring to "John" with a
comfortable air of familiarity. And patient with all my questions too.

As, for example, this beautiful little Iris pallida plicata, which has
some controversy trailing behind it. Some name it as above, others
call it I. plicata while some think it might be I. variegata or maybe
a cross between I. pallida and I. variegata. Taxonomists having fun.

This strange tulip, though, had neither a name or a label to help me out.
After we were home I e-mailed Bartram's Garden but did not get a reply.


Image courtesy Hein Meeuwissen

I e-mailed a picture to my friend Hein Meeuwissen in Holland and asked for help.
He thought it might be Tulipa 'Eye Catcher' which he grew in his bulb fields in 2009
and sent me the above image but I didn't agree. No green leaf tissue in the petals.


Image courtesy Hein Meeuwissen

More recently Hein sent this picture, and now the strange tulip in John Bartram's garden
has a name. It is 'Red Hue', a tulip in the viridiflora group from 1700, possibly earlier.

Down to the pond, now modernized with a liner. Waterlilies, of course, and also this native
emergent, gold club or neverwet, Orontium aquaticum, a relative of Jack-in-the-pulpit.

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This bothered me. One should not fold, braid, staple, pin, or otherwise crumple up
daffodil leaves. So why make an elaborate French braid. Silly waste of time.

I bought one in the garden's plant shop. Packera aurea, formerly a senecio. It grows
in damp shady places. And I am well supplied with such sites. Joan and I looked for
self-sown seedlings, didn't see any. It certainly looks like that's a possibility though.

Simple combinations, artful in execution. Cinnamon fern, Osmunda cinnamomea
with a carpet of foam flower, Tiarella cordifolia living up to its name.

A view across the meadow-to-be, to the Philadelphia skyline. Here-and-now
in contrast to the peaceful travel back in time to Mr. Bartram and his garden.


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