Garden Diary - April 2010

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Sunday, 11 April 2010
Garden Party

It was all the way back in February that Steve sent me an e-mail. "Garden Visit / Camellia Festival / Potluck. Date- Sunday April 11th, 2010;Severe weather date-Sunday April 18th, 2010 (Drizzle isn't severe weather.)"

I wasn't able to come to the last few garden parties he and Melody had scheduled. Guess he wanted to be sure I'd keep my calendar clear for this year's event.

The suggested schedule was as follows: "Arrive 10 AM. Walk around garden and socialize. There are about 100 (spring or fall flowering) camellias in the ground and spring flowering camellias should be at their peak in April. There are daffodils naturalized in the woods and these should be peaking as well. Palms, broadleaf evergreens, and conifers are in abundance. There will also be early perennials. No plant swap this time. Potluck 12 noon: Please bring a lunch dish to enjoy and share. Afternoon- field trip to see nearby outdoor plantings of maturing palms and shrubs. This will be an enjoyable full day filled with plants, good plant talk, and delicious food."

Understand, this is a garden in New Jersey, not the Carolinas. And yes, Steve and Melody have a garden filled with all sorts of plants that push at the edges of what grows where. Zone denial in its purest form.

So I dutifully marked my calendar. Potted up a plant or two - yes, he said it wouldn't be a plant swap but that just means don't bring lots of plants. There's no way to visit without bringing plants, and no way to go home without something new. Steve and melody are great gardeners, good growers, skilled propagators - and generous to boot.

I think it's been a while since they had a car in their garage.

Melody's begun one of the spring chores - edging the grass path behind their house.

The few days of absurdly warm weather were a teaser,
coaxing the spring flowering camellias into early bloom.
Some flowers were dropping but there were sufficient still
on the trees to make a good display. Shades of Charleston!

Perfection in form, delicacy of color. The only flaw I find

Camellias have no fragrance.


Steve is a collector. He's especially fond of collecting various forms of a given plant.

Take, for example, Loropetalum chinense 'Rosea'. Granted, most people
in USDA zone 6 New Jersey grow it as a potted plant and keep it indoors
over the winter. Not here. In this garden, it's in the ground. Clearly, it's happy.


Steve is also growing a weeping form of the pink flowered loropetalum
and this attractive green leaved white flowered one. Which, he assures me
is even hardier than 'Rosea', coming unscathed through cold winter weather
that singes the foliage on the pink flowered form. It is the type plant.


Here's an old-fashioned favorite, Rhodotypos scandens, commonly named jet bead
for its shinny black fruits. Shade tolerant, ignored by deer, and with elegantly
pleated leaves and snow white flowers in the merry month of May. I grow it also.

Back into the woods by now. Melody and I are strolling along admiring daffodils, young camellias,
and other plants embellishing the woodland. Here's one of Steve's projects, built with stone
salvaged from property a friend had to leaves. No surprise, plants were the primary rescue.

The storms that battered Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, and the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, New York;
also Rutgers Gardens in New Brunswick, New Jersey and toppled the ash here at BelleWood Gardens
uprooted this mature tree in Steve and Melody's garden. They don't even heat with wood, giving it away
on Freecycle. So many trees uprooted in the area, nobody wants the most recent offer. Wish I were closer.

While Steve's primary interest is in woody plants there are also bulbs and perennials
such as the rose-red Tulipa 'Little Beauty' and it orange counterpart, 'Little Princess'.


Here's a pretty thing, Eomecon chionantha. Commonly known as snow poppy
it is native to woodlands in eastern China. Interestingly, this monotypic genus
is intermediate between Stylophorum and Sanguinaria. It has white flowers
like bloodroot, but only 4 petals. All three - celandine, bloodroot, and snow poppy,
have orange-yellow sap. Snow poppy happily rambles around in shady places.

This is Stylophorum, celandine or wood poppy. Not to be confuse it with the thuggish
lesser celandine, Ranunculus ficaria. Steve has a nice patch, cheerful and sunny in the shade.

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