Garden Diary - September 2009

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Thursday, 3 September 2009
Open Day at North Creek Nurseries

I wanted to play hooky. North Creek Nurseries sent me an invitation to their Open House. Great fun, but Landenberg, Pennsylvania is a far piece from New Jersey. So I e-mailed Gloria, my roommate from last year's annual meeting of the Garden Writers Association. She's in Leesport, and I figured we could make an outing of it. Better and better, it turns out that October 3rd is also the day that PLNA (that's the Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association) would hold their Sustainable / Green Infrastructure Field Day. Fun, fun, fun!

We decided on a schedule: I'd drive the 75 miles or so to Gloria's house, arriving mid-morning. After the necessary greetings and settling in, we'd head off for the 90 minute drive to North Creek Nurseries. Enjoy the lunch offered as part of their Open House, then depart for the 1:00 p.m. first stop of the PLNA Field Day. Sounds like a plan - let's go!

A day with perfect weather, and a happy throng of people at North Creek Nurseries enjoying lunch.
There are landscapers, nurserymen, garden writers, and more, a diverse group of people
united by their interest in plants. There are garden tours, a butterfly release, and more.

We'll eat and run, and then return. North Creek Nurseries is the third and last stop on the PLNA
Field Day. A different caterer will provide the dinner, complete with roast pig and all the trimmings.


A small and charming bouquet of flowers gathered on the nursery's grounds.

This fascinating variation on Rudbeckia subtomentosa has the cultivar name of 'Henry Eilers',
named for the horticulturist and retired nurseryman who found it growing wild along
a railroad prairie remnant in southern Illinois. Sturdy stems make this stately plant
a welcome addition to the late season garden, just as its long-lasting cut flowers
suggest its suitability for the florist trade. Unusual, yet charming, not grotesque.

Gardens, I maintain, consist of plants in combination so they look better together
than they do individually. Pleasantly enough, there are options in these combinations.
Take, for example, this pairing of pink Echinacea purpurea with a phormium.

Or, perhaps you prefer its pairing with a froth of Calamagrostis acutiflora.

The vignette of pink daisies and airy grasses are a small part of a bioswale
that collects and manages storm runoff, successful even in this year's deluges.

Insects also delight in the ornamental, functional plants. These - wasps, I think -
were enthralled with hyssop-leaved thoroughwort,, Eupatorium hyssopifolium.

The butterfly release was at 2:30 p.m. The tagged monarch butterflies found it worthwhile
to hang around and nectar on the flowers in the demonstration gardens. Time enough
to migrate to southern California or Mexico for the winter. But not too long . . . .

Looking much like a golden dahlia, well-named Helianthus 'Sunshine Daydream' has flowers
so doubled and ruffled and filled up with petals that there's no room for pollen bearing stamens
(or any way for an insect to wedge its proboscis in amongst the petals for a taste of nectar). Beauty
in the eye of the beholder will have to be sufficient reward to engage its welcome in the garden.

Dale Hendrick spoke with enthusiasm about this planting of Aster divaricatus. "Just look at it,"
he said. "It's under a weeping willow, on a west-facing bank so drainage is quick. Hot and dry
and just look how it's flowering. I know the planting has been refreshed. But some of those plants are
the originals. They're 15 years old and still going strong. Can't tell them from the others. Now that's
a great plant!" I say no reason to disagree, especially as Dale was holding a bowl of fresh picked
red raspberries which I was politely and busily eating just one at a time, rather than grabbing by the fistful.


The sun was lowering, slanting in to polish the side of this fountain,
already glistening with a coating of water. Ending of a wonderful day.
Playing hooky? No, call it research. I was working.

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