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Archive for June, 2012

Trial Gardens at UGA 2012

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

On  June 20, 2012 I headed to Athens, Georgia with my garden friends Rosemary and Anne to check out the Trial Gardens at UGA.  If you haven’t been there, it’s worth the trip to see the many different annuals, as well as some perennials that they are growing and evaluating.  On July 14, 2012 they will have an open house for the public.  This is a great way to evaluate what has survived and thrived this summer.    For details visit their site at  .  Hanging baskets, containers, vegetables, landscape roses and vines are also growing in the UGA Garden.

Trial Gardens at UGA, Athens, June 2012

Sanvitalia 'Sunvy Top Gold'

Of the many plants that caught my eye, I was especially taken with the Paradise Vine, Solanum wendlandii.  When I did a bit of research I discovered that it is also listed as Divorce Vine (not a good name as far as I’m concerned) and Giant Potato Vine.  This tropical is from Costa Rica and produces large blue flowers in summer and fall.  Trained on a structure it can grow 10 to 15 ‘ tall and wide.  In warm tropical climates it is evergreen but in cooler climates it is deciduous and hardy from 25 to 30 degrees F. 

Solanum wendlandii

closeup of Solanum wendlandii flower

Annuals that I took note of include Angelonia ‘Archangel Raspberry Improved,’ (Angelonias are a great group and I really like this one for its color)  many different Callibrachoas, especially ‘Mini Famous Generation Orange.’  Both of these plants are tough and reliable for weeks of continuous summer color, thriving despite heat and humidity.  A plant I haven’t grown but would like to try is Sanvitali ‘Suny Top Gold.’  With masses of small yellow flowers and a compact habit, this selection of Creeping Zinnia is ideal for edging, hanging baskets, rock gardens and tucking in the perennial border. 

Angelonia 'Archangel Raspberry Improved'

Gaillardia 'Gayla Corneto Blaze'

Monarda 'Fireball'

As far as perennials, the white flowered selection of Phlox paniculata ‘Peacock White’ is a knockout.  An award winner in 2009, this compact selection is new to me.  According to the literature it blooms for 23 weeks!  I would like to see it in July.  Monarda ‘Fireball’ also has a compact habit  but in this case the flowers are intense red-purple.  Known for attracting bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. 

Phlox paniculata 'Peacock White'

These are just a few of the many garden worthy plants on display at the Trial Gardens.  Take advantage of this opportunity and select your favorites.  If you plan to visit the Trial Gardens in Athens this summer, I also recommend a side trip to Goodness Grows Nursery in Lexington, GA.  On a hot day in June all the plants looked fresh and according to my friends, it looks just as good in July.  That’s impressive.  I brought home some treasures for my own garden.

Nasella tenuissima 'Party Tails'

English Gardens and Chelsea Flower Show 2012

Thursday, June 7th, 2012


Davidia involucrata at Eccleston Square

Time flies.  I returned Sunday, May 29th from an inspiring tour which included the Chelsea Flower Show (my first time), Sissinghurst and Great Dixter (my second visit to both), some wonderful private gardens and other historic properties with amazing plantings and equally interesting owners.  The tour was offered by Earthbound Expeditions under the guidance of owner Matthew Brumley.  This was my first trip with Earthbound and now I know why their tours are  popular.  On the Chelsea tour  there were a number of people who had been on at least two or more previous trips with Earthbound Expeditions www.earthboundexpeditions.  All the things that make a difference, like accommodations, meals and getting around in a foreign country, were easy because of all the planning and organizing Matthew does.  Attention to detail and special touches, like the night he ordered taxis to take the group to a local pub known for its selection of beers, were a bonus.  Matthew worked with two delightful and knowledgeable women, Janine Wookey and Anne de Verteuil who have a company in London called Garden Days Out that specializes in arranging visits to some of the smaller  private gardens. 

Eccleston Square view of garden

I was fortunate to be the horticulturist on the tour and did my best to answer plant questions and commiserate with others over plants we lusted after but can’t or for some reason don’t grow in our own gardens.  Shrubs like Ceanothus (yes, it grows in California) and robust roses everywhere, not to mention masses of wall flowers in every color.  Well, maybe some of the gardeners from the Pacific Northwest grow Cerinthe major with its intense blue flowers,   but it’s not a plant you encounter in Zone 7 where I live or further south in the US. 

Clianthus puniceus (Kaka Beak after a large species of parrot that used to be common in New Zealand

The first garden we visited in London was Eccleston Square and what a great introduction to English gardens.  This garden which opened in about 1832 has weathered many storms, literally and figuratively.  Thanks to the leadership of honorary Garden Manager Roger Phillips (also an author of books on roses and perennials) the site was saved from being turned into a carpark in 1975.  Today it is owned and held in trust for “the use of the residents, as a garden in perpetuity.”  This seems fitting as the Square was originally designed as a community garden for surrounding residents with houses or apartments with no back-gardens.  According to Roger there are over 460 squares in London.  Approximately half of them are privately owned and half are owned by municipalities.  In the case of Eccleston 80 flats (the people living in the flats whether renters or owners) have access to the Square and an additional 100 people from outside the immediate area also use the garden.  The way it works is: people pay a small fee (for example 200 pounds per year) and they have a key to the garden. 

What I noticed was the sense of respect people have, dog owners, families, tennis players, etc.  Lots of activity in the middle of paradise. 

Neville Capil, Head Gardener at Eccleston Square

One thing Eccleston Square has that not every square can compete with is a gardener like Neville Capil.  Originally from New Zealand, Neville obviously loves his job and seeks out weird and wonderful plants like the Kaka Beak, Clianthus puniceus   which clambers up the chain link fence that encloses the tennis courts within the Square.  Echium pininana, dozens of types of Ceanothus and Libertia grandiflora, Clematis, peonies and Iris  are just a few of the other horticultural gems we encountered.  It was great fun too to see the dove tree, Davidia involucrata which we can and do grow in the US.

Cerinthe major 'Purpurescens'

I also lucked out one afternoon on a walk not far from our hotel when I discovered Nevern Square.  One of the key holders was just leaving the garden and informed me that the lock on the gate was not working and I was free to have a look around.  It was great fun, like finding a secret treasure.  Although the plantings were not as exotic as those at Eccleston, the gardens were pristine and lovely.

Greenhouse at Eccleston Square

Libertia grandiflora (New Zealand Iris )

Nevern Square with Iris and Redbud in May

Peony foliage and Ceanothus at Eccleston Square

Rosa 'Abraham Darby' Eccleston Square

Roger Phillips at Eccleston Square