Posts by Denny Schrock
You may not have millions to spend on your landscape as did George Vanderbilt, the first owner of Biltmore estate and mansion in Asheville, NC, but you can follow some of the same principles that noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted used in laying out the grounds of this popular tourist destination. I was able to visit Asheville and Biltmore last week and came away with these impressions about the gorgeous grounds:
Have you made plans to celebrate all of the Big Three May holidays? Those, of course, would be Mother’s Day (May 13), Memorial Day (May 28), and Pick Strawberries Day (May 20). Yes, the third one in the list is an official holiday, and many of us get the day off since it happens to fall on a Sunday this year.
As a former pick-your-own strawberry patch owner from Minnesota, selecting May 20th to celebrate these delectable fruits seems to be jumping the gun. We typically picked our first berries in June. After all, the most common type of strawberries are called Junebearers! But for those of you in more southerly climes, May is indeed strawberry month. This year I would have had some berries by now in my Des Moines garden if I had taken precautions to protect the blossoms from a late April freeze. Instead, the potential early fruits succumbed to cold, so I’ll have to wait until next week to harvest the first fruits of the season. (They’re beginning to show a tinge of color.)
My favorite strawberry for flavor is ‘Earliglo’. It’s deep red, sweet and firm. I also grow ‘Tristar’, a day-neutral type that bears throughout the summer and fall. My Grandpa Schrock had a saying, “God could have made a better berry than strawberries, but He didn’t!” Which variety is your favorite?
Better Homes and Gardens is teaming up with the American Public Gardens Association to offer free admission to dozens of public gardens this Friday, May, 11. Just go to the bhg.com website to get a voucher for free admission to one of dozens of participating public gardens around the country. And if you’re in the Des Moines area on Friday, be sure to stop by the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden from noon until 4 p.m. to see what’s in bloom and to get great landscaping ideas. If you can’t make it this week, regular summer visitation hours are from noon until 2:00 p.m. every Friday.
Here’s a preview of what you’ll be able to see in the Test Garden this week.
I have a request of plant breeders: Please give us a reblooming peony! It would be guaranteed to sell. Just look at what’s happened in the past few years with Bloomerang reblooming lilac and hydrangeas that flower on new wood as well as old. Both of these traditional favorites with a new twist have taken off in popularity.
Reports of occasional late summer or fall blooms on yellow tree peonies such as ‘High Noon’ and ‘Kinto’ exist. But at best the return bloom is sparse and sporadic. I want truly reliable late-season flowers.
In the mean time, I’ll have to be satisfied with the glorious springtime display of colorful blooms that peonies provide. I manage to extend the season a bit by including early-blooming fernleaf peony, mid-season herbaceous peonies, and late-season Itoh hybrids in my yard. Which is your favorite variety of peony?
The last Friday in April is national Arbor Day. Celebrate by planting a tree! While some states designate a different day to mark the occasion locally, this is a good time for everyone to participate in greening the environment by planting a tree. If you have no room in your yard to plant a tree, consider growing one in a container garden or join a community tree planting project.
This year I’ll be planting several trees in my yard, among them black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), and Carolina silverbell (Halesia tetraptera). I like to grow less common plants for several reasons. Not only do I find their unique qualities interesting, but I know that uncommon plants are less likely to be wiped out by epidemics. (Think about Dutch elm disease, chestnut wilt, and emerald ash borer.) So as you decide what kind of tree you’d like to plant, keep in mind which species are widely planted in your neighborhood, and try something different.
Those who know me well know that I like to travel. And whenever I travel, I search out gardens to visit. BedandBreakfast.com has managed to fuel my wanderlust by announcing their Top Ten B&B Outdoor Spaces. Four of the ten winners are international; the other six are stateside (although one of those is in Hawaii.) I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting any of these inns yet, but I’ll certainly put them on my bucket list of places to visit during my upcoming travels. The winning outdoor spaces range from stunning borrowed views (such as mountains or waterfront vistas), to formal gardens and working farms.
I always manage to pick up a few ideas for my own garden when I visit outstanding gardens such as these, and bring back gorgeous photos and memories. Do you have favorite destinations that combine gardens and lodging?
Here is a sneak peak at the domestic winners (All photos courtesy of BedandBreakfast.com):