My Trip to Mount Cuba Center

Mount Cuba Center, in Hockessin, Delaware (near Wilmington), has long been on my garden visit bucket list.  It is a paradise of native Piedmont plants, and an inspiration for all of us living in “suburban woodlands” here in the mid-Atlantic.

What I learned: the key to a great Woodland Garden is open shade.  They had almost all of their big shade trees limbed way up, plus there were a lot of tulip poplars, which don’t have low limbs anyway.  There was plenty of bright filtered light for the wildflowers to bloom in abundance.

Enjoy the photos!

azalea

You wish the woods in your neighborhood looked like this, instead of being smothered in invasive vines.

 

dogwoodpath5

Redbud, Fothergilla, Tulip Tree

 

dogwoodpath-(2)

Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

 

clematis

a native herbaceous clematis with adorable little nodding white flowers

 

amethystshootingstar

Amethyst Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon amethystinum) with Quaker Ladies (Houstonia caerulea)

 

alleghenypachysandra

Allegheny Pachysandra (Pachysandra procumbens)

 

dwarfiris2

Dwarf Iris

 

dwarfiris

A patch of dwarf Iris in blue — so cute

 

flameazalea

Flame Azalea bloom about to open.

fern

Unfurling fern

ferns

Ferns emerging from Purple Phacelia (Phacelia bipinnatifida) plus some Wood Poppies and Bottlebrush Buckeye in the back.

frog1

They also had fauna.

 

goldenalexanderphlox

Great combo! Golden Alexanders and Woodland Phlox (I think Phlox divaricata)

interruptedfern

I overheard a very intelligent looking lady say this was Interrupted Fern

 

lilackaren

They have a lilac allee there, left over from the orginial duPont garden plan. Here is my sister taking a whiff. Mmmmm.

 

primrose

I love these raspberry colored primroses by the stream.

 

quakerladies

A view toward the meadow with Quaker Ladies in the foreground. I want to come back in the late summer to see the meadow in its glory.

 

samarasculpture

Sculpture of a maple samara that actually moves in the wind — neat!

 

southerntrillium2

I believe this is a Southern Red Trillium (Trillium sulcatum) floating over a sea of Rue Anenome (Thalictrum thalictroides?)

 

trilliumdoubleloop

Trillium grandiflorum Double Loop form

 

trilliumwhite

Trillium grandiflorum

 

trilliumunderwoods

Underwood’s Trillium (Trillium underwoodii)

 

trilliumtwisted

Twisted Trillium (Trillium stamineum)

 

trilliumpink

Trillium grandiflorum – pink form

 

trilliumpatch

A patch of trillium, I can’t remember which kind.

tulipdelphinium2

The circular formal garden (another remnant from the original duPont house) was planted out with electric blue delphiniums and the most fabulous array of peach, pink, and yellow tulips of different heights. Awesome!

 

Looking down at the tulips

Looking down at the tulips

yellowmandarin

Yellow Mandarin (Disporum lanuginosum). A unique perennial with delicate little yellowish flowers that hang down….hard to see with the green background.

DSC_1127

Phlox stolonifera with Yellow Lady’s Slipper orchids

 

woodspath2

Woodland path with Purple Pharecia

 

Woodpath

Ferns, woodland phlox, trillium

 

violet

Viola walteri ‘Silver Gem’ — a Mt. Cuba introduction

 

bluebellsferns

Virginia Bluebells, Wood Poppies, unfurling ferns

 

dogwoodpath6

Dogwood path

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Transitions

One of Beatrix Ferrand’s most famous projects is the garden at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC, which is known for its lavish garden rooms and magnificent attention to detail.   As you can see in the map below, each garden “room” has its own name — Rose Garden, Urn Terrace, Pebble Garden, etc. — and each room is masterfully designed and delightful to experience. Continue reading

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Mistakes

“A man’s mistakes are his portals of discovery.”

–James Joyce

13retain1_lgThen again, Joyce was a man of ideas.  I’m sure no contractor ever said to a client: “Oh, that retaining wall I put in last fall is collapsing now?  But of course!  How could something so bourgeois hold back the anarchy of our modern age??  Don’t you see??  It was futile from its inception!!!”

Anyway, it only took me a few minutes to compile a long list of mistakes that I have made over the course of my study of landscape design.  Here are just a few:

1. Giving landscape design advice to people who didn’t ask for it.  You might think that this would be obvious, but when you’re a new landscape design student all super-excited about what you’re learning, like I was, sometimes you can go a bit overboard.

Continue reading

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Bouquets to Art

On February 13th, I went grocery shopping on my way home from work.  Right away I noticed things seemed different in the store.

 Men.  There were lots of men.

Oh yeah, tomorrow’s Valentine’s, I realized.  So there were the men– old & young, fat & thin, hirsute & hairless, all kinds — buying flower bouquets for their sweethearts.  They all looked slightly bewildered, and they were all purchasing either Valentine’s Day Default Gift #1 — Red Roses with Baby’s Breath in a Plastic Sleeve for the Big Spenders — or Valentine’s Day Default Gift #2 — Pink Carnations in a Plastic Sleeve for the more frugal/slightly less-committed set.

I thought, awwww, how cute.  Until I realized how much they were clogging up the checkout lanes, and then I was like, get a move-on, you unimaginative bunch of lemmings! 

man_giving_flowers_as_a_surprise-293x370

“Surprise! I put zero thought into your gift!”

Continue reading

National Mall Renovation Lookin’ Snazzy

I went downtown today to hit the US Botanical Garden and a couple of museums, and I got a peek at the renovations to the National Mall.

Here is my exclusive, professional-quality footage:

Turf renovation on the National Mall

Turf renovation on the National Mall

Continue reading

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Memory and Plants

I’ll I’ll be honest.  I had a hard time figuring out how to approach this topic.  As I have mentioned before, I am New Dirt and not Old Dirt, meaning I do not come from a long line of gardeners, but rather picked up this obsession at age 36 with no influence from parents or grandparents.  Like Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, my conversion to a life of gardening was sudden and complete.  (Whether or not Constantine was pruning Euonymus at the time of his revelation, as I was, is not clear.)

Continue reading

The Art of Abandonment

A few miles south of where I live there’s an old DC prison complex which used to be known as Lorton Reformatory.  Several years ago, they shut the place down and transformed a few of the larger buildings into a new “Arts Center” where painters, sculptors, and other creative folks can rent studio space and teach classes.

Continue reading