Sunday, February 19, 2012


An Orangery is a glass house or conservatory originally built to over winter tender citrus trees, a practice that became fashionable and prestigious in 17th century Europe. At Smith they have filled a glassed in hallway with many fragrant plants which were all just beginning to bloom. There is nothing like the smell of a citrus blossom- so sharp, floral, lemony, buttery, billowy... It is so distinct and so pleasing. There were numerous fragrant orchids, rhododendrons, and the fragrant-less camellias in full bloom all along the sensory promenade.

This Rhododendron cubitti was in perfect form, with its silky, large, white blossoms, emanating a sweet jasmine-like scent. This specimen is one of 300 species of the Vireya Rhododendrons originating in the cool mountains of New Guinea, Sumatra, Borneo, and the Philippines.

Coelogyne cristata 'Mt Cuba'
I know little about the vast and varied world of orchids, but I do know that this one captured my attention. It was a prolific waterfall of flowers and fragrance.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spring Bulbs at Smith College

I returned on Sunday to the Smith College Botanical Greenhouses, just to take in the scents and the warm humid air. I was not expecting to see too many new things, as I was there only a few weeks ago, but I was pleasantly surprised to get a glimpse at the very beginning of the spring bulb show, which officially opens in March.

Freesia alba
Of the Iridacea family, this is one of the species Feesias that inspired the many cultivated hybrids found in florists shops. This little bulb is intensely fragrant and relatively easy to grow (in a pot for climates colder than zone 9). It grows all winter, blooms in spring, and remains dormant throughout the summer. Some scents are strongly associated with a place and for me, the aroma of Feesia transports me to Florence, Italy where I spent a year during college. There was a flower shop on my walk to school that radiated this fragrance and these brightly colored flowers were arranged in buckets on the doorstep. At Smith, there was only one flower in bloom, but its scent was powerful. I think I stooped ten times or more to stick my nose in the flower, close my eyes, and take in the fragrance.

Ipheion uniflorum (syn. Tristagma uniflorum)
Also known as spring star, this little flowering bulb hails from Argentina and Uraguay and has naturalized in many warmer climates in the southern part of the United States. I love its striped petal undersides.


Lachenalia aloides
This is a new genus to me and at Smith there were three different species all in bloom. It is not winter hardy here, but seems to be rather common in more temperate gardens. While I was looking for information on these bulbs, I came across a great post on unusual Lachenalia species on the blog Growing with Plants.


Lachenalia pallida

Lachenalia carnosa not quite in flower, but just beginning

As I was leaving I spotted some escaped Leucojum plants blooming under the benches!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Wilder Quarterly

I wrote a plant profile article on the princess flower (Tibouchina urvilleana) for a new publication called Wilder Quarterly. You can see the article if you click on the link below.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sheep and the Garden

I live on a small farm with my soon-to-be-husband Noah. His family owns a small herd of sheep and our first lamb was born a week ago. He might be the cutest lamb I have ever seen and looks a lot like his father, with floppy ears and a flat face. Lambs are the best thing about sheep. Sheep, at least our sheep, are twitchy creatures, rather distrustful of their human owners, impossible to herd and every day at feeding time it is like they have never seen you before. A little lamb however has all its trusting innocence, it is curious, lets me pick it up, and it has a sweet little bleat. 

These sheep are the reason that gardens and farmers initially built hedgerows and fences. In William Robinson's book, the Wild Garden, there is a lengthy discussion on the merits of live fences versus iron fences.  "In our country the system of keeping stock in the open air, instead of in sheds, makes a fence a necessity... But we live in mechanical days, when many think that among the blessing and fine discoveries of the age is that of making a gridiron fence! and so we see some of the fairest landscapes disfigured by a network of iron fencing. And when a man throws away beautiful living fences and gives us miles of ugly iron in the foreground of a fair landscape, I think of the Devil setting up as an economist. Artistic, too, no doubt some of these improvers think themselves!" Robinson is vehemently opposed to these iron fences and he goes on in the next chapter titled "Oak and Other Not Ugly Fencing"....! It does make me think about the origins of our hedges, fences, gates, and of course, the ha-has. These beautiful structures in all our gardens once served very practical means. Still in the English countryside, gardens such as Hidcote are surrounded by acres of sheep pastures. The hedges, ha-has, and fences are still a necessity in keeping the sheep out.

Sheep just beyond the borders of Hidcote Manor Gardens

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Here is post I was intending to write last fall. These pictures were taken in early October in Peter and Teddy Berg's garden in Walpole, NH. They have a beautiful autumn garden and on this particular day, the garden was looking its very best. The numerous crab apple trees had a beautiful fall show, their branches heavy with brilliant red fruit.

 The gravel path with its signature plants, aster (Symphytichum novae-angliae), little blue stem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium), Pearly-everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), and Verbena bonariensis. This was always the place to spot the butterflies.

Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate' under planted with a happily self- seeded Verbascum olympicum.

A bee struggles in the swinging flower heads (it was very windy that day!)

The Eupatorium in combination with Cuphea cyanea 'Caribbean Sunset.' The Cuphea is an annual here, but this individual made it through last winter indoors in a pot. In the spring it looked too awful to put in a pot with the young fresh plants from Walker Farm, so I stuck it out in the garden without any real hope of it bouncing back. In October this little gem was a happy surprise, blooming in time with the chocolate joe pye. It was a real stroke of luck!

Self- sowed Nicotiana sylvestris

A shot of the incredible foliage plant Amsonia hubrichtii

Here is the Amsonia again, just beginning to turn to its shocking yellow fall color

The Foundation Garden

 The vibrant fall red of Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum 'Mariesii'

The Viburnum with a backdrop of Perovskia, Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus,' and the pale lime-white of Hydrangea paniculata 'Tardiva.'