Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pleasure From the Substantial and the Tiny

I have realized particular gratification this spring from two very different sorts of plantings. One is large and defines space; the other is one tiny plant in a crevice, but I get a real kick out of both of them.

The first is a planting of willow that I started about ten years ago. A creek that is a boundary of my property seemed a perfect place to block the view of the neighbors and to create a beautiful grove of trees. The willows were about as cheap a planting as could be had. At Kingwood Center where I work we annually cut back Salix alba 'Britzensis' to the ground to allow those beautiful coral colored shoots to grow back up shrub sized. I gathered up the harvest and stuck them in the wet ground hoping they would root. Over several years of mixed successes I eventually established a substantial grove of trees, the full extent of which I did not capture in the above image.

The other planting that brought me special pleasure this spring caught my attention with its lone flower on a lone plant of Ramonda myconi. I bought it three years ago at a local North American Rock Garden Society meeting from Wrightman Alpine Nursery. Of seven different species I bought that day it is one of only two that are still with me. I shouldn't expect to grow "alpines" in my hot Ohio garden, but I do expect to grow rock garden plants. Drainage seems to be the key and the crevice that my ramonda was lucky enough to be planted into seemed to do the trick. The fact that it took three years to put out its first flower, that I was able to find suitable exposure and soil for it, and that it is the only hardy gesneriad that I have ever come across all added up to considerable satisfaction on my part.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Garden Centers

Yesterday I led my eleventh annual bus trip from Kingwood. We load up 46 people and spend the day plant shopping. It's lots of fun although anything that goes wrong falls on me, so I worry. We have probably visited over thirty different places that sell plants over the years. and it has been an interesting study in what appeals to the group and to me. It isn't feasible for me to visit each site before the trip, so I rely heavily on word of mouth, Internet, and now my experience. Unfortunately some stinkers can sneak in. One year a gardener who I respect highly recommended a water garden nursery. Always ready to find a diamond in the rough I directed the poor bus driver down a winding dirt road to the almost abandoned site. Everyone was polite and the owner valiantly offered up a paltry assortment of pathetic looking plants. On this year's trip our last stop was a place that touted their fine wines and designer purses. Unfortunately their garden center business seemed to be a relic. Fortunately the other four garden centers we visited were good.

Even more difficult is finding a garden center that offers a distinctive line of plants. Often times the biggest and most successful garden centers are almost indistinguishable from one another. The same plants in over sized and over priced containers can be found in all of them. I like the garden centers that cater to the plantsman more than the instant gratification seeker.

Some of my favorites over the years have been:
Bluestone Nursery the mail order nursery north east of Cleveland that allows you on site access to their full catalog of plants
Baker's Acres east of Columbus loaded with a wonderful range of plants
Dave Dannaher's Nursery near Columbus, a grafting enthusiast who has more grafted woody curiosities than he knows what to do with (by appointment)
Mulberry Creek Herb Farm near Sandusky, a tiny family run nursery specializing in miniature plants and herbs
Meadow View Growers a large upscale garden center near Dayton that also caters to people looking for the different and the unusual.

Other garden centers that were good but not necessarily favorites were Lowes (no, not that Lowes) Greenhouse and Florist Shop in Chagrin Falls, Cahoon's in Westlake, and Corso's Flower and Garden Center near Sandusky.

Then there are the places that are just fun to visit even if their offerings are a bit hit and miss. I guess Daisy Hill Greenhouse in Hunting Valley near Cleveland is the most fun. I just wish they labeled their plants or at least knew what their more unusual plants were.

Finally the best treat is when wholesale nurseries let us in to shop. I won't mention any names. They probably would prefer no one knew they ever did that.