Sunday, December 14, 2014

'Yuletide' is a gift in the garden

A couple of years ago, I had grieved when Margaret Moseley cut down a perfectly healthy 'Yuletide' sasanqua.  She had it paired with a sourwood she planted about the same time, knowing that the leaves of the tree would echo the color of the blooms.  She cut them both down because they were threatening the view of another favorite camellia, which is in her iron bird bath garden (one of many, many groupings she's changed over the years).

Last week, I understood about the 'Yuletide.'  She had told me she had another one, and I couldn't believe how it had grown.  I took a photograph of the entire plant (surely, there must be two planted together), as the red blooms with yellow stamens seemed to extend to some twenty feet wide.  The sasanqua had grown to about 15 feet tall.  There is definitely something in Margaret's soil that makes things grow bigger and better than elsewhere.

A friend of mine has these espaliered against a wall.  I need to ask him if they are in bloom.  Margaret's have been going for at least a month, and on December 4th, it looked as if a giant had dropped another crop of sasanqua blooms all over her garden.

Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'

Saturday, December 13, 2014

On timing and the garden

It began yesterday, or was it the day before?  I found the first of the long, velvety pods of the evil wisteria that has haunted me for years.

When I moved here in August 1973, I was so naive.  I planted things that could not possibly grow in the deep shade surrounding our little 1926 cottage.  It was if I lived in a place similar to Red Riding Hood's grandmother's house - smack in the middle of the woods, without a house in sight.  All around me were giant trees - mostly hardwoods - that shaded everything.

My first spring here was magical, though.  It was if I lived in a purple mansion, with flowers cascading down off every tree, and vines connecting above my head to form a fragrant roof.

It truthfully wasn't for years that I realized that evil lurked around me, that the wisteria vines that were impossible to pull up and difficult to cut had ruined the forest floor and threatened to take down some of these mighty trees.  More years passed before I realized that the long, tan pods that formed after flowering contained smooth, flat seeds that were dispersed everywhere when said pods burst open with an explosion.

Year before last, the wisteria seed pods appeared on my driveway in February.  This year, it's December.  So far, I've only found the open pods.  The seeds are already everywhere in the woods and will hide out until they germinate in the spring.

But, what I actually want to talk about here is the timing of the garden, especially this year in the case of 98-year-old Margaret Moseley.

I went out to her garden in late October, and the sasanquas were blooming like mad.  In fact, many of the petals had already fallen, making a pastel carpet on the ground and in her driveway.  This is a shrub she began collecting almost 50 years ago.  Her plantings have paid off, making for a gorgeous and long autumn season.  The pink, white and rose-colored blooms are stunning against the yellowing hostas and Solomon's seal and the multi-colored leaves of the oakleaf hydrangeas - altogether a strange, but beautiful contrast.

Here's what I found amazing.  I went back on December 4th to get Margaret to sign 90 copies of A Garden to Remember.  Before I went into the house, I walked around the garden.  I had expected to see camellias starting to pop, thinking the sasanquas - all except for 'Yuletide' - to be over.

It almost seemed miraculous that all these sasanquas that had put on a show in October were again in full bloom.  The 25-foot-tall shrubs and all of the lower ones as well, were smothered in flowers.  How had there been that many buds in the first place?  We'd had freezes in low 20's in the interim which would have done away with all the flowers.

But here, on this December day, the garden was in full bloom - not the camellias but the very same sasanquas I'd seen over a month prior.  I'd figured the flowers would be long gone by this time.

I guess I should not be surprised about this.  Margaret's shrubs for the most part are decades old and well-established.  I don't recall this ever happening before, though.  True, when you see her shrubs in September, you can't believe how many buds there are.  The same is true of her camellias.  'Lady Clare', a popular Camellia japonica was already in bloom, along with 'Daikagura'.  But, it was as if the sasanquas had just reached their first peak.

Gardeners are always saying, "This is not a typical year."  I don't know that we've ever had a typical year, at least not for a long time.  But, I think this fall was a phenomenon, at least as far as the sasanquas were concerned. The timing of a garden depends on a lot of factors, I'm sure.  Why this year turned out like it did is a mystery.  I'll have to ask Margaret if she remembers another year like this.  She's worked hard to make sure there's something in bloom every day of the year, and I think she's succeeded very well.

Above:  Camellia sasanqua 'Cotton Candy' (I think!): Photo taken December 4, 2014

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A garden to remember - in early December

It is gloomy outside this afternoon, and I'm pretty much looking out at some magnolias, a hemlock and ivy topiaries from the vantage point here at my desk.  I'm feeling very good today, though, because yesterday, Shawn (or is it Sean?) at the Apple store found the 28,000 photographs I had managed to delete from my IPhoto system.  Somehow, when I went to save a page I had put together about Margaret Moseley's book, all my photographs dating back to 2006 and beyond, disappeared.

I have been grieving ever since, thinking they were gone forever from this particular computer.  I did have them on my newer one (which is hard to use for the blog), and most of them were on the back-up system.  Still, I like to compose at this computer. So, my new promise to put more pictures and less talk on the blog sort of went by the wayside.

The above photo, though, would have still been on this computer, because I could put anything new into IPhoto.  This was taken on December 4th, just last week when I went out to visit Margaret Moseley.  Little did I know that the day before, she had spent six hours at Piedmont Hospital waiting around for an MRI to look at a blood clot in her shoulder.

Finally, she and her daughter arrived home around suppertime.  Then, Margaret fell, badly skinning her left arm and had to be taken to the emergency room where she stayed until 2 a.m.  Amazingly, that next afternoon, Margaret was in a cheerful mood and sat there on the side of her bed and signed 90 books, laughing all the time.

Before I had gone into the house, I roamed around the garden.  We'd had temperatures in the low 20's a couple of weeks ago, so I didn't expect anything to be in bloom.  The sasanquas were at their glorious peak in late October, and I assumed were a thing of the past.  Not so.

I can't imagine how there could have been that many buds on those shrubs - several of them at least 25 feet tall.  The plants were absolutely loaded with flowers.  There was color everywhere.  And, while at my house, brown leaves covered everything, Margaret still had some beautiful foliage hanging on in several places.

In the photograph above, you can get an idea of how Margaret made her garden.  The beds that you see along the grassy path originally were started by planting around existing trees.  As Margaret found more plants she wanted, she expanded the beds until they took on irregular shapes.  To my mind, this was a daring thing to do.  If I had a pretty much clean slate, I don't think I would have had the boldness to begin obliterating a lawn to the point of completely hiding the back of the property.

What resulted, though, was an interesting garden with secret places.  You never knew what you would find around the next corner.  Above is an area near the carport.  While you can't see the sasanquas here, you can see viburnums and spireas that hold their leaves even after the hard freezes.  Altogether, Margaret's method turned out to be a design scheme that made for a beautiful garden, no matter what the season.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The garden in December

This garden was once a sloping lawn down to a cul-de-sac turn around.  The owner, who for decades has been a mover and shaker in the garden community and hosted Rosemary Verey on her visits to Atlanta, turned this once blank area into a welcoming front courtyard.  The pavers lead to her front door.  The stone and gravel and the spare use of foundation plantings create a look you'd see in the south of France.  A mix of evergreens - camellias, cryptomeria and magnolia (to the right of the camellia) serves as a backdrop for deciduous shrubs and trees.  In spring, a yellow Lady Banks rose cascades over a tree near the front door.

Photo taken on December 15th.