Greystone Mansion and Gardens…

My quick overnight jaunt to Los Angeles allowed me time to visit one more venue on my list of lesser known garden sites: Greystone Mansion and Gardens, also called the Doheny Estate, in Beverly Hills. A heads up if this post inspires you to spend an afternoon at this lovely historic home and gardens which are now a city park, complete wth its own on site ranger: when your GPS tells you to turn off Sunset Blvd. onto Doheny Road–make sure you turn on Doheny ROAD not on Doheny DRIVE. I saw many other beautiful estates and gardens during the 30 minutes I spent going in circles on Doheny Drive but not one homeowner invited me in to take photos. Apparently this is common enough that a very explicit caution about just that is printed on the brochure–which of course you do not have until you get there!

Greystone 24

View of the Inner Courtyard

The gardens’ brochure offers a brief Doheny Family history to help you put Greystone in its proper context. In 1892, Edward Doheny Sr. and his business partner discovered the first productive oil well in Los Angeles. With the opening of additional deposits in California and Mexico they became one of the largest producers of oil in the world. In the 1910s Mr. Doheny Sr. purchased a number of land parcels in what is now Beverly Hills, creating the 429 acre Doheny Ranch. The 12 and a half acre parcel which became the site of Greystone was on the western edge of the ranch. In 1926 the senior Mr. Doheny gave the land to his son, Edward “Ned” Doheny Jr. and his wife Lucy.

Southern California architect Gordon B. Kaufmann designed the 46,054 square foot 55 room home in the English Tudor style. It took 18 months to build the mansion, outbuildings and install the landscape at a completion cost in 1928 of $3,166,578. The house is built of steel reinforced concrete faced with Indiana limestone and has a Welsh slate roof. The grounds included a tennis court, kennels, garages and stables, a fire station, swimming pool and greenhouse.

Ned Doheny was tragically shot and killed within a year of the family moving into their new home. Lucy Doheny, her five children, and eventually her second husband remained at Greystone until 1955 when she sold the mansion and 18 acres of land to Chicago industrialist Henry Crown. Mr. Crown never occupied the home instead starting a long tradition of using the property as a movie location–over 69 films have been made there to date. The City of Beverly Hills purchased the property in 1965 and the grounds were dedicated as a city park in 1971. The American Film Institute was based at Greystone from 1969-1972. Greystone was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

The grounds of Greystone are open daily with plentiful free parking (I am pretty sure this is the only place in metro LA that has plentiful free parking) and the mansion is the site of many cultural events and activities.

Greystone 1

Looking down into the Forecourt of the Formal Garden.

Landscape architect Paul Thiene and lead designer Emile Kuehl created a series of terraced gardens and lawns that reflected a mixture of styles, most notable are the Italian Renaissance inspired gardens above the house. Parking is at the highest point on the hill and so you wind downhill through these gardens to approach the mansion.

Greystone 2

You go down stone stairs into the Forecourt and then back up another set to the Formal Garden.

Greystone 3

On a clear day you can probably see the ocean from this classic garden. The plant materials are as you would suppose them to be in a garden of this style: clipped boxwood, ‘Iceberg’ roses, columnar yews and mature single trunked crape myrtles.

Greystone 4

Greystone 5

Classic fountain at the furthest sight line

Greystone 6

From the Forecourt another stairway leads me to another sparkling fountain and the Cypress Walk.

Greystone 7

I love the simplicity of the soaring cypress allee complimented only by the stone walk, lawn and French lavender snuggled in their bases. The massive retaining wall which supports the Formal Garden above is not left without ornamentation–each of these framed alcoves houses a small bubbling pool.

Greystone 10

Two more sets of stone steps down and walk along the back of the Inner Courtyard Wall brings me to the West Courtyard . This curved swathe of Camillia sasanqua is at least 100 feet long and reinforces the philosophy of using great quantities of a restrained variety of plants so that the mass has reasonable proportion to the adjacent structure. These blooms are shaded by mature Southern magnolias.

Greystone 11

Greystone 12

This stone area would have served as the car park for the mansion. Guests could be dropped off right at the archway which shelters the home’s main entry. It was not atypical for home built in this era to have the ‘front door’ in the back–thus preserving the views from the front of the home. The Inner Courtyard (first photo) lies on the other side of the entrance archway.

Greystone 14

This stone path leads me from the West Courtyard entrance to the Reflection Pond. More clipped boxwood and white roses in formally geometric beds.

Greystone 18

Greystone 19

This koi filled pond is visible from Greystone’s Mansion Terrace which spans the entire width of the back of the home.

Greystone 20

The walkways and this terrace are paved with colorful stone (slate?) which is complimentary to the home’s facade and the slate roof.

Greystone 21

It is hard to believe that this property is actually in the city until you catch the stunning view from the balustrade of the Mansion Terrace.

Greystone 22

Copper gutters, brick chimney pots, leaded glass windows and, of course, that great Welsh slate roof.

Greystone 27

A long curving path with multiple sets of steps on the east side of Greystone leads me downhill in front of the mansion in an effort to get the ‘curb appeal’ photo. This planted slope appears to have been updated with broad groups of grasses, shrubs and ground covers which have more drought tolerance than the uphill formal areas.

There are some small areas of succulents–this is one of very few plants I saw that probably would not have been part of the original plans–I am sure that just like everywhere else in water starved California attempts at xeric modifications are being made in areas that will not take away from the overall garden atmosphere.

Greystone 28

At the bottom of the hillside property the original Gatehouse now serves as Greystone’s main office.

Greystone 29

Tucked up against the Gatehouse is the small but formal Rose Garden.

Greystone 31

I am not sure what the cultivar name for this rose is but it is powerfully fragrant even late in the season.

Greystone 32

This modern day brick lined roadway leads to the original Stables, Garages and Greenhouse.

Greystone 30

To give you a sense of the scale I am standing on that paved road looking across the lawns and planted slope uphill to the imposing home.

Greystone 33

A number of paths through the broad lawn allow you to descend the hillside toward the west side of the house. This would be similar to the view seen by guests as the approach Greystone on the driveway that will take them to the West Courtyard. Can you imagine?

Greystone 13

 

Greystone 16

More modern day pathways lead visitors back to the home’s elevation. This pretty little Magnolia stellata was unexpectedly in bloom!

Greystone 17

Greystone 35

Sort of like the back stairs in a home, several sets of stone stairs on the west end will lead me back up to the far end of the Formal Garden. Interestingly, I saw none of these openings when I was IN the Formal Garden.

Greystone 36

View from the first landing looking back at the West Courtyard

Greystone 38

Gorgeous hardscape

Greystone 37

Uphill one more terrace level–there is a bridge at this level connecting the garden to the home via a second story walled courtyard.

Greystone 39

Back stairway landing hidden at the west end of the Cypress Walk

Greystone 40

Arriving the back way to the elevation of the Formal Garden I find the site of the original Pool House and Pool. The bricked over pool is popular for wedding receptions and community events. Without my Greystone brochure map I would have missed this entirely. It is directly adjacent to the fountain end of the Formal Garden but totally obscured from view by the trees and high courtyard wall.

I have come full circle–from top to bottom to top again–and I am sure I have missed lots of landscape detail along the way. Greystone is a fairytale mansion surrounded by formal and informal gardens styled perfectly to complement its era and architecture–a fun afternoon for gardeners and historic home buffs alike.

Greystone 41

Yes–there really is a Beverly Hills Park Ranger–a polite young man with a spiffy uniform and a very nice ride!

 

 

Blue Ribbon Garden…

The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles is a gleaming silver space age structure which opened in October 2003. Designed by celebrated architect Frank Gehry, it is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. The photo below is the facade as viewed from Grand Ave and 2nd Street. The building occupies the entire block and each side features a variety of flat and undulating metal panels. At $4.50 per 15 minutes of parking in the structure across the street you are just not getting views of all sides of the building!

Blue Ribbon 18

A short walk up a wide staircase easily visible from the corner of Grand and 2nd will take you to one of downtown Los Angeles’s secret garden gems–The Blue Ribbon Garden. This rooftop garden wraps the modern architecture of the Hall on three sides. In spite of its almost 1 acre size the garden is intimate in nature, an amazing design feat given that at the core of the garden the building’s facade rises several more stories and that there are also many opportunities from garden’s perimeter for expansive views of the surrounding city.

The Blue Ribbon Garden is a gift from individual members of The Blue Ribbon, an organization of women devoted to the support of the music center and its resident companies. The garden provides a gracious outdoor venue for receptions and other events; I imagine it would be beautiful at night when lit for a gathering of music lovers.

Blue Ribbon 2

This sculptural Erythrina coralloides, native to Mexico and commonly called naked coral tree, is one of several in the garden and greets you at the top of the stairs. This species is the first of many tropical trees and shrubs in the landscape. The naked coral bears showy red flowers in the spring and is deciduous, as you can see by its just turning leaves. This species is said to be the most cold hardy of the coral trees. Just beyond, a labyrinth awaits a busy Angeleno in need of a calm respite from the hustle and bustle of downtown. I fully intended to get a closer look at this but when I circled back at the end of my wanderings an actual line had formed with soon-to-be-newlyweds and their engagement photographers waiting for their turn in the labyrinth’s center!

Blue Ribbon 3

This garden’s plant palette is well-defined and restrained; the selected elements are repeated throughout. No willy-nilly plant collectors at work here. That restraint has produced a very calm but not at all boring viewing experience. As with many open urban gardens, this one seems to be a magnet for readers and lunchers in ones and twos–nothing rambunctious going on here.

Blue Ribbon 6

Also repeated throughout the landscape is the Bauhinia x blakeana, or Hong Kong orchid tree. I had to stand on my tip toes to catch a good look at its blooms.

Blue Ribbon 7

Another tropical, the Hong Kong orchid tree grows to about 20 feet tall and broad and is semi-deciduous and frost tender.

Blue Ribbon 1

The juxtaposition of the leafy green trees, even those just starting to don their fall colors, with the sleek metallic building facade somehow seems to be both startling and expected and the same time.

Blue Ribbon 10

Lovely foliage color combination

Blue Ribbon 9

The bed plantings soften the winding edges of the wide paths. Pavers set into the paths pay tribute to those donors whose gifts built this city garden.

Blue Ribbon 4

Large mounds of Strobilanthus cusia, Chinese rain ball, offer late fall blooms. Also called Assam indigo, this herbaceous perennial is native to tropical climes and not frost hardy. There are over 350 species in this genus and one of the most commonly known to American gardeners is Strobilanthus dyeranus, Persian shield, grown for its green, silver and purple variegated foliage with pale violet flowers. The Chinese rain ball and all its cousins are surely hummingbird havens!

Blue Ribbon 14

Definitely a focal point in the garden, the architect designed this fountain to pay tribute to the late Lillian Disney and her love of roses and Royal Delft porcelain vases.

Blue Ribbon 12

The large rose is covered in a mosaic of thousands of pieces of broken Delft porcelain and tiles.

Blue Ribbon 11

You can just make out some of the donor tribute pavers surrounding the rose. More silvery wall panels rising to the sky provide a backdrop for the fountain. I am not sure if the water action on this fountain is intentionally subtle or if it was just not working today.

Blue Ribbon 15

Wow–from total shade to total sun in just a few feet!

Blue Ribbon 16

Another interesting pair of semi-tropical trees–these are Dombeya wallichii, the pink ball tree from Madagascar. The velvety heart shaped leaves are dinner plate sized as seen below. In autumn and winter this smallish tree will be adorned with large clusters of fragrant pink flowers. The clusters will fade to pale pink, then brownish, and then dry on the tree. So sorry that these were not in bloom yet.

Blue Ribbon 17

Although much of the plant material grown here is not conducive to my garden’s slightly colder winters, the obvious takeaway for me is how effective using limited but bold and repeated plant selections throughout a space can be. The Blue Ribbon Garden earns a place on my list of off the beaten path small gardens to revisit at a different time of year, even if I have only an hour to spare. I would love to see the pink ball tree in bloom!

 

 

 

SLO down for this Central Coast botanical garden…

The coastal morning fog (which followed those several screaming hot days) had not yet lifted when I arrived at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden just as it opened. San Luis Obispo, lovingly nicknamed SLO, is home to Cal Poly. Although now consolidated with other disciplines of study, the former horticulture department has been responsible for many professionals in the ornamental horticulture and plant science world. Although it makes perfect sense that SLO would have a botanical garden I had heard nary a mention of it from any of my plant road tripping, nursery shopping, garden touring compatriots.

SLOBG 1

San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden is located on Highway 1 tucked into El Chorro Regional Park. It was established in 1989 and focuses on plants adapted to the dry summers of California and the world’s other four Mediterranean climate regions.

SLOBG 12

Gold tiles on this beautiful mosaic map near the entrance show the Mediterranean climates which were first studied scientifically around the Mediterranean Sea. These climate regions feature hot summers with no rain which stresses plants. Winters are mild with rain which supports growth and blooming. Adapted plants are able to minimize water loss and store water to survive through the summer. This type of plant material does not make a classically beautiful garden filled year round with showy color but does provide a great resource for gardeners faced with long dry summers and mild wet winters as a place to see successful plants in situ and at mature size. Sort of a bloom where you are planted philosophy–we all can’t have English cottage gardens or Pacific Northwest woodlands.

SLOBG 2

The present garden (far left middle in green) represents only 2 of the 150 acres laid out in the garden’s 1998 master plan. Development of these remaining acres awaits further funding. Check out http://www.slobg.org  for ways you can donate to help this ambitious project!

SLOBG 3

Lucky for me, my visit coincides with the annual Fall Plant Sale. Knowing that the early shopper gets the best selection I am headed there first, hoping to find a few new-to-me goodies to incorporate in my long side yard renovation. As it is a pretty much stand alone area with little view of the front yard proper I think it can take a few ‘one ofs’ without distracting from the visual rhythm of the existing landscape. Up the hill I go!

SLOBG 4

The screened houses are almost ethereal in the low hanging fog. Note the  barely visible shrub with the white blooms cascading down the slope–this is Capparis spinosa, the evergreen shrub whose flower buds are pickled and bottled as capers. I encountered the plant elsewhere in the garden and decided it was a little large and rangy for my needs but I did snap a photo of its gorgeous flower.

SLOBG 6

Unlike my valley, the Central Coast is able to many plant succulents directly into the ground without fear of frost–there were many varieties and container sizes available.

SLOBG 7

Happy shoppers!

SLOBG 5

I was really impressed with the sale’s organization and excellent labels. The forest lily was one of my purchases and I doubt I would have looked twice (only foliage, no flower) had the photo of the plant in bloom not caught my eye. I am going to put this one in a pot for its first year and give it some winter protection while I settle on a spot in the ground with enough summer shade.

SLOBG 13

Knowledgeable volunteers to assist shoppers were abundant and I was given an information sheet like this one for each of my selections. For those with garden questions the SLO County Master Gardeners (not affiliated with the botanical garden) were on hand with lots of reference material to tease out the answers. Although this was a modest sale in terms of the number of plants, the individual plants were in excellent condition, the variety of plants was great and I even got a ride back to my car with the garden’s Education Director, Lindsey Morgan, plant booty tucked safely in the back of her golf cart!

With the precious cargo stowed away in my car I spent some time wandering the meandering hilly paths of the garden. The Self Guided Tour leaflet listed the not-to-miss specimens in each of the site’s numbered climate zones. Most zones had several beds and each bore a reference letter. Note that the above info sheet told me to look in the Mediterranean region (#4) at beds B, H, or O to see Teucrium betonicum–easy to find.

SLOBG 8

Many of the plant labels have attached QR (Quick Response) codes–the little jigsaw looking square scanner codes you see on everything these days–which allow you to access additional information about the plant using your smartphone camera. The red ones like above link you to the garden’s publication, 128 of Our Best!

SLOBG 9

SLOBG 11

This bright green, weeping mayten tree (Maytenus boaria) is the star of the Chilean Region. Its lush and graceful branches make it hard to believe that is a drought tolerant evergreen from canyons in central Chile’s coastal ranges. If this one is at its mature size it would make a lovely addition to a midsize residential garden.

SLOBG 14

Many of the plants in the California Region have small or needle-like leaves with hard coatings to minimize water loss. Manzanitas (Arctostaphylus spp.) and California lilacs (Ceanothus spp.) are good examples of this water saving foliage strategy. In several of my April 2017 posts about the Theodore Payne Native Plant Tour there are photos of many different cultivars of both of these species. Both species are spring/summer bloomers and as such don’t look like much more than green shrubs here!

SLOBG 15

SLOBG 16

The California buckeye (Aesculus californica) is a summer deciduous tree which blooms in the spring and then drops its large leaves to reduce water loss. It is easily identified from a distance by its large, hard, fig shaped fruits. My tour leaflet taught me that the Chumash and Salinan peoples crushed and tossed these toxic fruits into ponds and streams to temporarily stun fish for easy harvest.

SLOBG 17

Can’t resist a great piece of garden art made from recycled/upcycled materials.

SLOBG 22

The Firesafe Demonstration Landscape includes plants with fire resistive properties and good educational materials about maintaining a fire defensible space around homes built near natural spaces. Dry summers = fire danger–we have all seen the recent examples of loss of life and property to wild fires.

SLOBG 20

SLOBG 21

The Life Celebration Garden is a quiet, contemplative space furnished with benches in the shade of oaks. The Allen Root art piece entitled Celebration invites you to imagine as you view it a flowing stream with circles of ripples from pebbles tossed into it.

SLOBG 24

The Children’s Garden features drought tolerant plants, edibles, insect and bird houses and is the site for a variety of family friendly educational activities designed to spark interest in and appreciation of our natural world.

As I wandered the casual garden spaces I observed many of these little house and conjured up a scenario in which the SLO Botanical Garden was providing shelter for some quasi-endangered little creature. Meeting up with garden staffer Lindsey Morgan near the end of my tour I question her about the wildlife the houses were sheltering–turned out to be the native Sprinkerlus manifoldii–proving that I can be be sucked into believing just about anything.

SLOBG 25

OK, so this Historic Fig Tree doesn’t really look different from any other fig tree but here is its story: A cutting of the ‘Mother Fig’ at the San Gabriel Mission was given to Father Jose Cavalier of the San Luis Obispo Mission in the late 1780s. It grew to be a large tree in the Mission’s orchard until its removal in 1974 during construction work. Many cuttings were made at that time and this one was given to the SLO Botanical Garden in 1997. It is Ficus carica (edible fig) and bears fruit annually.

SLOBG 26

So ends today’s brief tour of this nascent botanical garden. I love the fact that it is part of the larger regional park. There are people playing baseball in the field to one side of it and I can see tent campers on a not too distant rise. I expect that locals use the park for many family friendly activities and events and that makes the garden another place you can spend part of a larger day in the park–learning about plants and wildlife under the open skies rather than a classroom. I plan to return in the spring to see many of the garden’s shrubs in the full flush of a coastal spring. I hope you will come too!

SLOBG 28

This caper bud escaped harvest and the pickling brine to offer this gorgeous bloom!

 

Sacramento’s WPA Rock Garden…

Long before I started blogging about gardens, my own and those of others, I visited public gardens in every city I found myself–I used to sit down with the local telephone book; now my iPad miraculously organizes all a city has to offer. A recent trip to Sacramento left me some open time and my tablet provided a few smaller garden suggestions that looked as though they might be a perfect fit for my limited touring time. The WPA Rock Garden’s story turned out to be much more a tale of what wasn’t there rather than what was.

The WPA Rock Garden is a scant one acre tucked between Fairytale Land and the Duck Pond north of the Sacramento Zoo in William Land Park. The Works Progress Administration was a Depression-Era work relief program put into place in 1935 by Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his New Deal. The WPA put unemployed craftspeople to work on projects to improve communities all over the country–their efforts often recognizable by the use of indigenous building materials, commonly the local stone. The WPA Rock Garden was constructed in 1940 as a place of quiet respite within the park.

The first challenge was recognizing the garden–no signage was evident. I had seen  photos of a lovely sign erected in the late 1990s but I clearly missed it. The meandering rock work, the signature of many WPA projects, was my only clue that I was in the right place. Not surprisingly, the garden was in poor condition at the end of a very hot and dry summer.

WPA 1

WPA 2

I found my way in via this path. The hillside gradually slopes up to the back of the zoo (chain link fence).

WPA 9

 

There was virtually no color to be found, even among the scruffy stands of native and non-native drought tolerant plantings. You see all of the color I saw except some white oleander just too high to photograph.

WPA 10

WPA 8

WPA 12

There were a number of bench areas to relax. I enjoyed a respite from the 95 degree heat on the shaded curved bench, closed my eyes and could envision what this garden could have been and still could be with its pleasing layout, meandering paths and multiple vistas.

WPA 11

Sort of by accident I found myself at what I think is intended to be the entrance to the garden.

 

A monument to Charles Swanston, one of the late 1800s pioneering businessman of Sacramento sits on a knoll to the back of this grassy area. I assume at some point water filled the pool at its base and then flowed down this rock raceway. Dry as a bone now, just like the rest of the garden.

WPA 15

This cooling view is directly across the street from the garden and the memorial to Mr. Swanston–known to residents as the Duck Pond.

It was in my research into the Swanston monument that I was drawn into a more recent history of this once remarkable garden space. If you Google WPA Rock Garden and just look at the IMAGES you will see a garden that bears no resemblance to the garden I visited. Exuberant bursts of color pop from mixed evergreen and deciduous backdrops. Stands of herbaceous and woody perennials line the paths. Blooming vines scramble over the pergolas and children pose standing atop large rocks. Where was THIS garden–what happened here? Numerous newspaper articles, magazine articles and blog posts, mostly from the early 2000s to about 2012, extol the pleasures of this unique space. I even find a feature article filled with photos in Pacific Horticulture from April 2005–PH is pretty much the gold standard of horticulture publications for me. It was from these articles that I learned the real secret of the WPA Garden and her name is Daisy Mah.

Like many WPA era projects, the original garden declined once funds were depleted and the area remained neglected for decades. Horticulturalist Daisy Mah started her career with the Sacramento Department of Parks and Recreation in 1980 as the lead for the McKinley Park Rose Garden. After tiring of the monoculture of the rose garden she transferred to the William Land Park in 1988 and took the WPA Garden on as her own. At that time it was little more than an overgrown patch of ivy. Her first vision was that of a rock garden filled with alpine plants. The realities of Sacramento’s hot dry climate set in and she recognized that drought tolerant plants from the Mediterranean climates of the world would have a greater chance of success. This was pretty radical thinking in the late 80s and early 90s when public gardens (and many home gardeners) were all still living in a pretty starry eyed world of roses, hydrangeas and bedding plants—and we thought water was a never ending commodity. Over the ensuing 25 years Daisy Mah created and maintained the garden so beautifully represented in all those articles. In October 2013 Daisy Mah retired, moving on to travel and I am sure other garden pursuits. The last 4 years have not been good for many gardens in hot and dry California and public gardens in my state are under special scrutiny to be good stewards of resources. Daisy’s garden has surely suffered the loss of her passion, vision and daily ministrations.

Check out these two links for great photos of the WPA Rock Garden at its finest.

http://www.gardensforgoldens.com/2012/09/29/inspiration-from-the-wpa-rock-garden

http://www.pacifichorticulture.org/articles/daisy-may-and-the-wpa-garden

Exploring the history of Sacramento’s WPA Rock Garden has affirmed for me the importance of local gardeners taking on the advocacy role for their community garden sites–they are living symbols of our never ending efforts to surround ourselves with nature’s beauty. The WPA stone structures endure and offer a template from which a garden may rise again. We all need a little help sometime!

 

 

 

 

A Year in the Garden…Filoli in September

My monthly treks to Filoli in Woodside draw to a close with this last visit. It has been amazing to walk alongside this historic garden’s journey each month, observing its seasonal rhythm and getting behind the scenes insight into what it takes in time and labor to keep it going. The garden’s class and event schedule is on my radar now and I plan to make many more visits, even if not in such a regular pattern.

I mentioned last month the sharp decrease in garden visitors from the throngs I encountered March through July and today was not much different. Although very few garden lovers were strolling the grounds, the garden was alive with staff and volunteers checking tasks off their to-do lists as they readied the estate for fall.

Preparing for Fall is the focus for our last morning garden walk. It was easy to observe almost every bullet point on the fall checklist instructor Mimi Clarke had included in our notebooks. Things to do around the garden include:

Planting new trees and shrubs. Cool weather and more rain make autumn the ideal time to plant. Roots will have enough time to establish before winter cold sets in and they will have a head start on spring. These tiny Irish yew trees were started from cuttings and grown up in the Filoli greenhouse. The goal here is to eventually have a continuous row to act as a screen for behind the scenes work area.

Sep Filoli 51

Planting perennials and cool season annuals. The bed below was home to pink petunias through the summer and is now replanted with seedlings for ornamental cabbages.

Sep Filoli 52

Autumn is the time for lawn repairs and renovation.

Sep Filoli 18

A small window remains for perennial plants to be trimmed back and neatened up. Too much later in the season and any new flushes of growth will be damaged by cold. The goal is to have any new growth hardened off before winter dormancy sets in.

Sep Filoli 15

Cutting garden beds are neatened up; cutting back appropriately to the specimen; leaving seed pods or berries to feed winter birds or complete removal and composting of spent annuals.

Sep Filoli 2

Some herbaceous perennials, like these peonies below, are left to continue ripening. The flowering shoots have already been cut back to new growth.

Sep Filoli 1

The time is right to plan out any other maintenance tasks or projects, keep close watch on the irrigation system, making changes as weather and moisture requires, and clean up dead and diseased foliage throughout the garden.

Since we last walked the area housing the spent potted daffodils from spring, the bulbs have been knocked out of the pots and cleaned up for winter storage and the pots cleaned and readied for late winter planting.

Sep Filoli 42

Sep Filoli 43

While much of the Filoli Cutting Garden is in its normal seasonal decline, one area burns brightly–the dahlia bed. Last month we observed the foliage making itself known, most plants from 12-24” tall. The first pinching to promote strong branching had just been done. Here is today’s look.

Sep Filoli 14

And a few favorites–

Dahlia 'Gits Attention'
Dahlia ‘Gits Attention’

 

 

In a few short weeks these too will be done and the tender tubers lifted to be stored for the winter. The thought of having this fresh and vibrant late summer color has inspired me to try a few dahlias next season!

Another Cutting Garden inhabitant caught my eye. The bold fuchsia of this Gomphrena ‘Firecracker’ draws attention from afar.

 

Many of the cutting garden flowers used in the house and Visitors Center are grown inside wire “greenhouses” to protect their delicate blossoms from pests and critters. The wire sides of these enclosures offer many opportunities to showcase annual vines. This one caught my eye. It is in the morning glory family and called Ipomoea lobata or Mina lobata. Common names found in reference material include exotic love vine, Spanish flag and firecracker vine. I know my gardening BFF Judi will love this one! I am adding ‘try a few annual vines’ to my gardening bucket list. Seed packets are inexpensive and the commitment much smaller than to a perennial vine.

 

On the subject of vines–this one was not yet blooming when I passed it last month on my way from the Sunken Garden to the Potting Shed. This month I could see it all the way across the Walled Garden and had to make a detour from our walk about to snap a few photos!

Sep Filoli 19

 

Sep Filoli 20

Commonly called silver lace vine, Fallopia baldschuanica or Polygonum aubertii, is an easy going perennial vine with a wild heart. It is fast growing (12-15 feet per year) and will scramble over anything in its path–in this case it cloaks a long brick wall at least 15 feet in height.

Begonias were on display throughout the Walled Garden, both in the ground and in pots.

Sep Filoli 25

 

Sep Filoli 33

As we were heading for the Area 2 Shop and to check out the large scale compost operation which deals with all the spent annuals and pruning bounty, I stuck my head into the Garden House, an ornate brick structure which is the focal point of the Walled Garden–the only time I have seen it without an activity in progress.

Sep Filoli 27A

With french doors on all four sides this conservatory style outdoor room offers vistas of both the Walled Garden and the Sunken Garden.

The ambiance and architecture was very different at Area Shop 2–the hub for all activity in the Sunken Garden, the Terraces to the west of the manor house and the Meadow.

 

The Gentlemen’s Orchard is the last stop on our prepping for fall tour. This 10 acre orchard of mixed fruits lies to the east of the parking lot and was established in 1918 with 1,000 trees to provide the family and their guests with a year-round selection of dessert fruit. Today 150 surviving trees are being preserved along with a newly planted collection of rare period fruit cultivars. We sampled apples and grapes as appetizers to our lunch!

 

Back at our classroom we celebrated our ‘graduation’ with snacks and lunch. Each participant had the opportunity to present a project of their choice, putting new-found knowledge to work in solving real life garden issues. Projects ran the gamut from landscape renderings to a fledgling app which would send alerts to your smartphone based on your garden maintenance schedule. Our farewell task was to pot up our rooted cuttings from the August class session. These eight monthly sessions not only provided a good garden education foundation but an interesting look into other gardeners’ challenges and successes. While we may toil in our personal gardens mostly as individuals (so far not even my best friends have offered to come over and pull weeds with me) we also benefit hugely from our local and regional garden communities. In that way even our most solitary of efforts can become a valuable source of inspiration and fellowship.

So good-bye to and from Filoli for now–we’re best friends now and I get wait until we have a chance to get together again.

Sep Filoli 49

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Year in the Garden…Filoli in August

Filoli was eerily quiet as I arrived for my monthly class in this quintessential country estate of times gone by. The forecast was for a day in the low 70s which for me would be a relief from a summer with weeks on end of temps surpassing the 100 degree mark. Unlike the efforts of many home gardeners who are about ready to call it quits by this time of year, Filoli’s formal beds benefit from the June changeout of plant material from spring to summer (and staff to make it happen…I must have misplaced my own staff) and were bright, bold and thriving!

The play of the morning sun turns the sea of orange zinnias to gold! The bold color scheme of the Sunken Garden almost glows in full sun under blue skies.

Aug Filoli 16

The blue mealy cupped salvia and lavender statice, barely past seedling stage last month, have come into their own. All of the annual flowers seen here are started from seed and grown out in the estate greenhouses.

Aug Filoli 6

This butterscotch colored Amaranthus was interesting. Commonly called amaranth or love lies bleeding, there are many ornamental varieties as well as whole grain varieties used as a food crop. Most of the ornamental ones I have seen are in the red and burgundy tones–slipped my mind to ask our instructor, Mimi Clarke, later in the day for the cultivar name.

Aug Filoli 3

I also enjoyed seeing the pops of white along the northwest wall provided by really nice stands of Cleome. A taller variety, the flowers topped 5 feet. I am going to find a sunny spot in the back of one of my borders to sow a packet or two of these next spring.

The garden and gift shop area was dressed for late summer also. The plants for sale often mirror what is prominent in the garden at any given point–today was a bit of an exception with this nice display of succulents.

Aug Filoli 2

Aug Filoli 1

My usual route through the Walled Garden to my potting shed classroom allows me to check in on those disappointing begonias I noted last month. They have filled enough now to give me a grudging smile.

Aug Filoli 7

The less formal areas southeastern areas of the garden reflect more of the late summer doldrums all gardeners experience: perennials not quite fully cut back in hopes of encouraging an second flush of bloom, cutting garden annuals nearing the end of their prime time and roses looking like they have had a long, hot summer. Every month I find these areas to be a comfort. Even with a hard working staff there are always more maintenance tasks than time and hands to do them–just like my garden!

A highlight this month where the clumps of naked ladies blooming everywhere! The bulbs of Amaryllis belladonna and Lycoris squamigera both produce straplike leaves which die back in late spring, followed by long naked stalks topped with clear pink blooms.

Aug Filoli 10

 

Aug Filoli 8

I believe these to be the Amaryllis rather than the Lycoris due to the symmetry and more pointedness of the petals and the color of the stalks but I wouldn’t put money on it! They are in areas clearly visible from the paths but not close enough to examine on hands and knees without walking into the planted areas. Both plants are great naturalizers and resent being moved. They were very popular with 19th and 20th century gardeners and remain so today–although many folks who have them ‘inherit’ them with their property rather than having sought them out to add to the garden.

Propagation is today’s classroom and garden walk topic. As we had covered seed collecting earlier we would concentrate on asexual propagation today with our hands on focus being propagation by cuttings. The major methods of asexual propagation are cuttings, layering, division and budding/grafting. Propagation by cuttings involves rooting a severed piece of the parent plant; propagation by layering flip flops the process by rooting a part of the parent plant and then severing it. Propagation by division is accomplished by digging up the parent plant and separating it into several parts or separated off plantlets that have set down roots away from the parent plant; budding and grafting allow you to join two plants from different varieties. Excellent written material walking us through each of these propagation methods is included in our class notebooks–I have propagated by division countless times but have little experience with the other three techniques.

Mimi’s go-to advice of knowing your plant and using good references is especially apt as you try your hand at propagation. A plant’s basic genetic and structural properties can point you to the method and time at which it can be most successfully propagated. The fibrous crowns of daylilies are perfect to tease off new plants by division while a plant with a tap root like Queen Anne’s lace cannot be propagated in this fashion. Even the seasoned professional gardening staff at Filoli consult their reference materials to find out the specifics for the plant they seek to reproduce. One of her recommended text is the American Horticultural Society’s tome Plant Propagation which is well organized by plant and written at a practical level for a non-scientist–good step by step photos also.

So today we will take a look at Filoli’s propagation set up, take some cuttings from the estate and prepare them just as the staff gardeners would. The hope is that they will be sufficiently rooted for us to pot them up to take home in September.

Before we head out into the garden we get a quick primer on rooting media and containers. Filoli gardeners construct propagation flats, sized perfectly to sit two deep on the tables in the propagation house (prop house), but any box that will provide suitable drainage can be adapted. The rooting media (soil) should be clean, porous enough for root aeration and drainage but also capable of water and nutrient retention. An easy mix to start with would be 50% peat moss and 50% perlite–dampened, mixed and pressed into your rooting container. Let’s head into the garden!

We stop outside the propagation house to see what is hanging out in the cold frames. Cuttings which have rooted well are potted up (usually to 4″ pots) and moved outside to acclimate. There are a number of cold frames throughout the ‘working’ areas of Filoli and at any given time they contain a mixture of potted up rooted cuttings, divisions and grown out plants waiting to be switched out in the display areas or bound for the retail shop.

Inside the propagation house, pots and flats–check out Filoli’s perfectly sized wooden rooting boxes–are arranged on the concrete tables on either side of the structure. These tables are original to the prop house, which dates very early in the estate’s history. The tables provide bottom heat to the cuttings by means of a piped hot water system tucked up under the table top–also original and still working well. Overhead misters and fans provide the ongoing constant moisture needed for root development. Temperature of the rooting media is monitored by a thermometer in the box or pot and adjustments are made to the climate as needed. Everything is labeled with the plant name, date and often where the particular cuttings were taken in the garden.

Our next stop was one of the large greenhouses adjacent our classroom–this one houses many of the potted tropicals that rotate through the house and a host of succulents plus anything else that just needs a temporary home inside. We are catching this house at a time just past the last large annual changeout (June) and before flats are seeded in the fall with next year’s spring annuals. Mimi tells us that much of what we see today will have to be moved in a month or two out to house hundreds of flats of newly germinated annuals.

Aug Filoli 23

The greenhouse features a wide center walkway going from doors on either side. The perimeter window walls have permanently fitted table space. The double wide center table seems to only allow access from one long side and it initially appears very hard to reach anything more than an arm’s length away. I was fascinated to find that this very wide and long (maybe 30 feet long and 15 feet wide?) table sits on a system of galvanized pipes that allow it to be rolled from side to side with little more than one person’s effort–thus eliminating the need for a walkway on both sides and increasing the overall storage space.

Aug Filoli 24

Additional cold frames are found on both sides of this greenhouse. In the winter months they will be covered to prevent heat loss.

Aug Filoli 27

In the center of the above photo you can see pots of young Taxus baccata ‘Stricta’, the Irish yew, which is one of Filoli’s signature plants. Prominent in the original estate landscape, many of them on the grounds are decades old and there is a constant need for replacements. The original yews were started from cuttings taken from trees at Muckross, the Bourn family estate in Ireland. The cuttings were then planted at Mr. Bourn’s Empire Mine until Filoli was ready for landscaping. Every Irish yew replacement is grown from a cutting of one of the original plants.

Aug Filoli 11

 

We came upon this artful stack of wine boxes in the covered work area behind our classroom–looks like some quick minded gardener had snagged them to use as boxes for rooting cuttings and starting seeds. Some of my classmates opine that they were perfect in size and shape and muse about how they could explain to their spouse that they need to buy all their favorite wines by the case now so they could have these great boxes as a bonus!  On to a lightening fast lunch so we can get back out in the garden to get our cuttings!

 

Mimi had planned for us to take cuttings from Weigela florida and Aloysia triphylla (lemon verbena), both robust deciduous woody shrubs that we had talked about on earlier garden walks. Special request cries arose for Philadelphus (mock orange), Hydrangea anomala petiolaris (climbing hydrangea), and a specific camellia. Clippers and brown paper bags for collecting in hand we’re off!

Everyone takes a turn at snipping, looking for supple disease free whips to harvest. On the left you see the brick wall of climbing hydrangea. Having done our research in the classroom on each of the proposed selections we had learned that this slow to establish but eventually very aggressive deciduous vine is best propagated in the spring when it is just beginning to produce new roots at the nodes to help it cling to its support (wall). Armed with the knowledge that the success rate for our late summer cuttings may not be high, we are still going to give it a try–I read recently a quote “If you are not killing plants you are not stretching yourself as a gardener.” So there. Now if I can only get the man I share a checkbook with to adopt that philosophy…

Back in the potting shed our booty is spread out by variety and we get a quick demo on where individual cuts should be made so that every cutting has a node which will be down in the rooting media and one exposed to the air which will produce new growth.

Aug Filoli 29

We divvy up into teams and to prep our plant’s cuttings and organize our rooting tray, keeping like cuttings together in tight rows. Labels are made and added to the tray at each point where the plant type changes. We are sharing our tray with the Saturday class it is amazing how many cuttings we got into our half. You can see above we originally started to fill the tray from both sides but ended up relocating them to our designated space. ‘Tray management’ may seem to be a facetious concept but it really critical in knowing what and when you’ve planted and keeping your propagation efforts organized.   Just like so many things in life that you think you will remember exactly what and how you did something (on the day you actually did it)–the reality is that a week later it is all going to blur together!

Like a dozen proud parents we walk our tray to its place in the propagation house. Mimi Clarke gives it a gentle spray. If gardeners gazing with pride and love can make plants root these babies ought to be 2 feet high by next month!

The September meeting will be our last meeting of A Year in the Garden. We will close our time together talking about winding down the garden in fall. Our individual projects are due and we’ll have the opportunity to see what everyone else has done–no pressure here–and hopefully have well rooting cuttings to add to our own gardens as reminders of the time we have spent at Filoli.

Aug Filoli 13
Hydrangea macrophylla–possibly ‘Ayesha’–with beautiful cupped sepals.

 

United States Botanic Garden

Located at the foot of the United States Capitol, the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) was established by Congress in 1820. George Washington had a vision for a botanic garden which would demonstrate and promote the importance of plants to our young nation. Today, three garden spaces make up the USBG: the Conservatory, the National Garden and the adjacent Bertholdi Park. Approximately 65,000 plants are maintained for exhibition, study, conservation and exchange with other institutions.

The Terrace Garden entrance to the Conservatory offers a peek-a-boo view of the United States Capitol building.

USBG 13

This gigantic shallow container, housing an interesting mix of tropicals and conifers, is the Terrace Garden’s focal point.  The architectural conifer in the background bed appears to sprout from the super-scaled dish garden!

USBG 12

Although I am not a huge fan of the heavy humid air of indoor conservatories, my analysis of this day’s prevailing weather was that inside the big glass house could not be any worse so…

The Garden Court acts as an anteroom for the plant life of the Tropics. The mirror image shallow reflecting pools are beautiful and the aqua tile and sparking water offer visual relief from the sultry day.

USBG 20

USBG 15

That would the Tropics be without a massive Ficus aurea?

USBG 16

Additional collections from around the globe are housed in several auxiliary glasshouses that surround the two story main conservatory. I walked all over the world on these wide flagstone paths!

The National Garden, established in 2006, was originally conceived in the late 1980s to features roses which had been declared the national floral emblem in 1986. The concept was later broadened to include native Mid-Atlantic plants (dubbed the Regional Garden), pollinator attracting plants and a fountain celebrating the First Ladies.

USBG 7

The Rose Garden

USBG 6

The First Ladies Water Garden

USBG 10

Above and below–small sections of the Butterfly Garden. Many evergreens are incorporated here to maintain garden interest during the dormant season.

USBG 9

Views of the Regional Garden

USBG 1

USBG 2

USBG 4

As with many of the gardens I visited on and around the National Mall, this garden was being used for rest and respite by both adults and children. There were folks eating lunch, reading the daily paper and just absorbing the surrounding nature. Large enough to provide a bit of insulation from the hustle and bustle outside its fences but small enough to pop in on from the street without needing a map to find your way out.

USBG 11