Garden Diary - July 2011

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Friday, 22 July 2011
Garden Writers Meet at Willowwood Arboretum

Our group of garden writers should be classified as hardy plants. The weather over the last several days has been brutally hot and humid, and today is no exception. Regardless, about 40 members of Garden Writers Association Region I (that's as far afield as Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) and Region II (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) energetically - O.K. moving slowly and seeking shade - came for a day's outing to Willowwood, Bamboo Brook, and the Frelinghuysen Arboretum. What am I doing here? I'm in and out of these three Morris County parks on a regular basis, here at Willowwood just last month for the Watnong soiree. Well, it's always interesting to gain a perspective with someone else's take on something familiar, especially one of the Garden State's great gardens. Then too, there's always more to learn on a guided tour. Plus, since members are coming from near and far, I'd network with friends I see only infrequently at events such as this.

Of course once I sampled some cool, juicy watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon and a slice or two of pineapple, said hello to other early arrivals, I headed outdoors to see what changes the last three weeks had brought to the cottage garden. Lilies! lots of lilies in bloom.

. . . .

A charming lemon yellow turk's cap lily, alas sans label. A mass of Lilium lancifolium visited by a tiger swallowtail butterfly.

Behind one of the buildings are some deliciously fragrant stargazer lilies.


We gathered at the stone barn at 9:00 a.m. for refreshments, have a brief business meeting followed by a presentation about the history of Willowwood, and then divide into two groups for a 90 minute guided tour.

Passing through the cottage garden a glimpse to the right offers a look at the intense sunlight on the lawn.

The group I'm in is with my buddy Jay, seen here near the stone lantern at the path into the streamside path.
The pool of water, overhung by the original Acer palmatum 'Waterfall', is a muddy bottomed declivity.
Cypress knees stand forth, no hint of their usual knobby protrusions from the now absent shallow water.
It's been two weeks with no rain, none since July 7. With high temperatures, it will do this to the landscape.

Shadow dappled, a large urn nestles amidst leaves and a few flowers.

Hummingbirds delight, a large Campsis radicans festoons the porch of a Willowwood stone cottage.

Deep in the shade, a stone-coped pool of reflective dark water anchors the meditation garden.

Just up from the pool we gather around Jay for more of his interesting tidbits and details about the property.

For example, that this elephant plinth (one of a pair that anchor the steps across from Pan's garden)
replaced a dark green glazed pair that had to be brought indoors each winter, which was an arduous job.
Today they reside in the dining room beneath a long table under three windows, and look quite elegant.

These concrete versions are winter-proof.

Some few years back under the supervision of Richard Hartledge
these hydrangeas were moved from elsewhere on the property to
under the windows. Their apple green flowers softly accent both
the green clapboards and forest green shutters. It is just this level
of garden detail that rewards me for attending this event, which even
my friend Marta McDowell's little book, "The Story of Willowwood."


We are especially welcomed with a tour of the Tubbs house, which is closed to the public except for special events. The two brothers,Robert and Henry, bought the property in the first decade of the 20th century. Their parents and sister came to visit from Pennsylvania and liked the place so well that they moved in. The house was sensitively enlarged. Their friends in Pennsylvania sent a railroad freight car filled with trees and shrubs from their nursery and greenhouse to nearby Lackawana Station. Willowwood's gardens were under way.

The gardens around the house are laid out with carefully sited vistas,
as this view from the veranda behind the house looking over Pan's garden.

Please note: there will be a fall open house on Sunday, 25 September 2011 from noon until 4:00 p.m., free and open to the public.

We move on to the newest planting, only a couple of years old. Tender plants in large tubs are sited
among the permanent plantings. A large artichoke is in thistle-y, purple, flowering glory. Every detail

seems carefully thought out - the fuchsia splash
on a coleus leaf that plays with the phlox behind it.

A worn door to the old barn. Another structure on site waiting for funding from the park commissioners to begin its restoration.


Now, gather up our bits and bobbs, into our cars (this is a drive-yourself event) and head over to
adjacent Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center for the second part of our day's outing.

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