Garden Diary - May 2011

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Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Another Visit to the Azalea Garden at the New York Botanical Garden

Having been invited to the press preview for the Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra at the New York Botanical Garden it seemed like a prefect opportunity for a two-fer: another visit to the new Azalea Garden at the New York Botanical Garden. I asked Joan, who was joining me for the event, if she'd mind. Not hardly! She told me she nearly stipulated that she'd only join me if we did make a visit the azalea garden.

Informative and attractive visit to the conservatory where the last plants were going in and the final touches polished up, a tasty lunch in the restaurant, and off we went in the overcast and heavy mist. We're gardeners. We don't melt. Besides, there's something so evocative about a garden in the rain. It did keep other visitors closer to cover, and we had the garden to ourselves.

Keep in mind that I'd last been here 12 days ago on Cinco de Mayo, Thursday May 5th. The azaleas
that were flowering then are now pretty much finished blooming. As was thoughtfully planned out, others
such as this rich pink 'Kermesinum Rose' are lavishly in flower. (And no, its not named Kermesina.)

One splendid detail of this garden is its layering. There's not just a flat, row-like bunch of rhododendrons.
Like a natural landscape you look into and through and beyond, with a richness, depth, and careful detail.

Viridian green, tender green, of trees brought into extravagant growth with all this rain, weeks of it.

Companion plants are also hitting their stride. A golden river of shade tolerant Japanese forest grass,
Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold', mimicking a cascade, dancing among the rocks, mingling with hosta.

One "found" feature of this landscape are the outcrops, smooth and polished, erupting from the earth. Enhanced by the rain, can you see the numerous parallel grooves inscribed in the surface? These glacial striations resulted from the movement of the Wisconsin ice sheet, a glacier 300 feet thick that stretched from Massachusetts to Montana. Coarse gravel and boulders carried under the glacier scraped and wore away down to the bedrock. The glacier provided the abrasive power to cut the grooves, and finer sediments also in the base of the moving glacier further scoured and polished the bedrock. (There were four glacial advances during the Pleistocene Epoch, of which the Wisconsin ice sheet was the most recent - 50,000 years ago - and the one which had the greatest impact on the land beneath New York City.)

The Japanese name for hakonechloa means "wind combed grass', for its arching habit, tousled by
the wind. As seen above, its linear form makes a fine contrast to the bulkier shape of the hosta, which
in the image below, is also an excellent partner with the delicate lacy shape of Japanese painted fern,
Athyrium nipponicum 'Pictum'. As I wrote in Consider the Leaf, think first of using leaves for their shapes,
then overlay another layer of complexity, using leaves with colors other than green as here, gold or silver.


Raindrops coalesce on hosta leaves.

A looming boulder, whale-like, breeches from the ground in contrast to the
foam of flowers on another azalea, sea wrack of trees' green leaves.

A path curves away into the distance, coaxing us on to see what
additional delights and pleasures might be revealed, beyond the bend.


The New York Botanical Garden is open year-round Tuesday through Sunday and Monday federal holidays, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Grounds-only pass is $6 for adults, all-garden pass is $20 and also includes exhibitions, attractions, and seasonal gardens including Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Rock Garden, Everett Children's Adventure Garden, and tram tour. There's a world-class library with reading room open to the public, and a gallery with two exhibitions each year. As well there is a Shop-in-the-Garden, a restaurant, and a cafe. To get here either drive (parking is $12), take Metro-North railroad, or use the subway .

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