Garden Diary - May 2012

Wednesday, 23 May 2012
A Visit to Hortulus Garden

April and May are the months when the Tohickon Garden Club goes out and about on garden visits. I missed the April trip, seeing as I was off in Holland at tulip time. Now that I'm back home I can again join my friends as we go off today to visit Hortulus Farm in Wrightstown, Pennsylvania.

A few massive stone steps lead us down to an inviting cool and shady path.

Twenty-eight of us follow behind Jack Staub for our tour. Of course
I, photographing as we go, soon end up at the rear of the pack.

Simple plants, effectively used in sweeps and drifts. The birch allee
has a charming combination of river birch and masses of soft green ferns.

At the end of the woodland path we come to a pond with waterfowl -
swans both white and black, assorted geese, a flotilla of ducks, and
a gazebo whose pristine white form has an Impressionist reflection.

Jack sets a reasonably brisk pace, chivvying us along - "Focus on me!"
when we dawdle or stop to chat. I continue to quietly drift along at the rear
photographing as I go, such as this archer lifting an arrow from his quiver
as he emerges from the ferns. Statuary is very much a part of this garden.

The massive bones of this garden are trees, some new and others planted 30 years ago. There are copper beech, including weeping and fastigiate forms. Uncommon evergreens such as Cunninghamia lanceolata and Sciadopitys verticillata. Shrubs have been chosen for foliage as well as flowers.

All the familiar elements of any home garden are here, flowers, vegetables, and herbs,
but always with artful embellishment. Paired perennial borders in the English manner,
and here, roses in bloom on the building's back wall, and a sundial in the herb garden.

The tomatoes include a range of heirloom varieties. Young little plants as yet, as they grow
they'll have a sturdy support from the bamboo scaffolding held together with zip ties.

Our hike continues, and we come to an opening, spacious and sunlit by a break in the clouds.
We're nowhere near a building, a road, and here is a pool with low plantings at the edges
and a bubbling fountain sheeting water over the cupids who are its support. Sweet.


Up a little hill to the container garden, sweep around to the right and arrive
at the Mediterranean garden. Since olive trees are not hardy in Pennsylvania
Jack and Renny have cleverly used Pyrus salicifolia pruned to look like olive trees.

The house reveals its history. Though all sections are 18th century in age the progression
from oldest at the far right, through middle section, to more recent (that's a relative term)
may clearly be seen. The house sits, well established, in the 100 acres of garden, farm, and nursery.

We're nearing the end of our 90 minute tour. Flowers, colorful foliage, and clever use of green
which is a color too, you know. Alberta spruce, trimmed up so their trunks are revealed.
Appealing now, and how much more so when dusted with a snowfall in the winter months.

When questioned Jack said the gardens were special last month, when the "lake" of wood hyacinths, Scilla hispanica were in bloom. June is special too. And we were here at a very good time also. In fact, about the only thing we could not see were the peonies, and they're not even part of the tour. You see, Hortulus Farms sells the cut flowers to the New York City wholesale flower market, about 12,000 stems.

The garden and its 20 "rooms" are open from May to October. Tours for groups of 8 or more can be arranged for the modest price of $12 per person. Wednesdays and Saturdays are open days, for on-your-own visits, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Wear sturdy shoes and be prepared for vigorous walking which includes some uphill portions. Benches are artfully located here and there if you need to relax along the way.

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