The Park in Bloom

I had the best intentions to collect a lot of stunning photos for you but the heat as well as being at the park in the afternoon was conspiring against me.

As you know, high noon, when the sun is hot and bright is not an ideal time to take pictures.

I love the way the folds of this plant look especially with the sun illuminating the veins.

My Newest Addition- The Medieval Garden

I solved the age-old gardening question for my newest garden at the park- What shall I plant in this new garden? It seems like such a harmless question, until you start reading garden catalogs, looking through magazines, such as Horticulture and visiting garden centers. Then you realize that without a plan of attack, your garden may look like a discombobulated mess. 

I decided to focus on Medieval and Marian plants for this new garden space. I was inspired by a trip to the Cloisters in New York and my long time interest in history. It is pretty exciting, to me at least, to read about the origins of plants, how they got their names and how the plants were used in the past.

A very young garden. I added six bags of manure early in the spring, pulled weeds and edged a bit. I am leaving the ornamental grass. So far I added Apothecary's Rose, Rosemary, Lavender, St. John's Wart and Forget-Me-Not.
Cloisters in New York

I soon found out that adding Medieval plants will be a challenge. I did not want to rely on catalogs for acquiring my plant (I have nothing against catalogs, I just like to visit my local garden centers, it is a part of the gardening process I thoroughly enjoy) and most garden centers carry the latest and greatest varieties of plants. Therefore, my quest to acquire Pulmonaria officinalis, one of the plants on my design list,  came up short. So I had to pause and ask myself, do I want to create a true Medieval garden with varieties they would have been used in the day, or do I take my design inspiration from the period and use more recent varieties of plants?
Cloisters, New York
I decided to use what I could find. The garden is at a park so I cannot check on it before and after work each day like I would if it was in my backyard. I began to think a few manmade improvements in the plants my help them survive in less than ideal conditions.  There  is one very exciting exception to the rule- Apothecary' Rose. A very generous Face Book friend has this growing in her garden and sent me some roots. They are flourishing! I have a  feeling this will be my only true Medieval plant, making it the highlight of the garden.


Gillenia trifoliata fits in well with a Few of My Favorite Things

I have been moving, removing and adding, adding and adding to my garden, A Few of My Favorite Things.  It amazing me, and makes me quite happy to see just how many plants I can work into my small plots at Ault Park. During my lunch break I try to visit a local plant store and of course I buy more than what was on my list.

At first I was concerned when I remembered that I was no longer on a half acre, but working with a few small park plots. But it always works out. The reason why, I have a bit of gardening experience under my belt!

For the record, it is not my fault that I buy a lot. You see, the garden center has these huge carts and it would look rather daft to pull one around with one or two plants. Inevitably I end up filling it up!

Gillenia trifoliata

A Few of My Favorite Things contains a lot of pink and purple. Gaura lindheimeri balances the color and adds a bit of 'pop' when the garden turns shady.

On a recent trip I came across this pretty little thing, Gillenia trifoliata. Part shade, part sun, zone 4 and 2-3' tall. It just called out to me, "I would play well in your garden with your other plants!" And it does. I love the soft, airy feel of the plant. It moves easily in the breeze and the small white flowers catch your eye and making you pause and take a closer look at the garden.


Third Year's the Charm for the Shade Garden

I simply love working in this garden. I believe it was the second garden I adopted at the park. I was told the garden had been forgotten for a year before I adopted it, and during that time deer and the weather had taken their toll on the plot. What was once a lush hosta garden was more mulch than plants. I weeded, added a few plants, watered and of course I treated for deer and just like that (snapping fingers!) hostas were emerging in full force.

This year, all the spring rain has made the hostas particularly happy. As beautiful and lush as it is, it is apparent that it is time to divide the plants. And this is a good thing. I want to add more varieties of hostas and ferns to the garden. Even though it is a smaller plot, I have the opportunity to showcase a large variety of plants. To keep the garden from looking discombobulated, I will focus on hostas and ferns for unity.

As I shared earlier, the Autumn Fern is a favorite of park visitors.
One of Darryl's favorites on the trail, I just added this Spider wart. I was pleased to see the very pale color of the flower. I needed a bit of white to lighten this garden.


Autumn Fern Draws a Crowd

I could never say which is my favorite shade plant- that would simply be impossible. On my list of plants I would always use is Autumn Fern. Its tall, upright fronds anchor the garden and add a unique, bronze glow to the shade garden.  Almost without fail I am asked about this beauty by park visitors as they pass by my garden.


People were not always kind to our park.

The Pavilion is by far the gem of Ault Park. Around this architectural jewel all things revolve. I would almost go as far to say it is the heart and soul of the park, but that distinction goes to those who made the pavilion a reality and those who, many years later, saved the pavilion and the park for that matter, from becoming a city tragedy.

The Pavilion, dedicated in 1930, is a grand place. From its upper balcony visitors can take in a 360 degree view of the city, tree covered hillsides as well as the Observatory. Over time, Ault Park and her lovely pavilion took a dramatic turn for the worse.

During the 1960s, the Pavilion fell into disrepair and by the 1970s the condition of the Pavilion was dismal. Unsafe for use, the area was blocked off with fencing. The cascade area of the fountain was deteriorating. What is now a beautiful sight was just a dry, crumbling eye-soar.
As the park began to slide into disrepair, unwanted elements moved in. Biker gangs, teenagers with little to do but smoke, drink and hang out and those who held little respect for the park and its surrounding neighborhood made the park their hang out.

Loud music, trash, racing cars and down right dangerous characters made the park the last place a family would want to come and spend the day.

Fortunately, this activity ticked off the wrong people who banded together with friends and neighborhood councils to work with the city and parks department to turn the tide and retake the park for those who saw its value; for those who understood that a park is to be cared for and respected and made safe, inviting and peaceful for all- not a place to fear.


Cucumber Magnolia

One of the great features of Ault Park is the collection of trees that are ideal for the gardens in our area. There are a few places that you can walk around in the city and take in dozens of mature trees, any of which would be quite at home in our own yards. Ault Park is one such place.

The Cucumber Magnolia is one such tree. This generally underused tree has fallen off the radar, I think in part, to its more subdued blooms. The Star Magnolia with its early spring flowers is always a show stopper in town. Magnolia Grandiflora lives up to its reputation as a grand dame of majestic beauty- it is a classic.

I ask you to take a second look at the Cucumber Magnolia's blossoms and you will see why I believe this is a tree worthy our consideration. The bloom reminds me of a garden lantern- its candle gently burning inside, viewable through the opening of the delicate yellow petals.

If Magnolia Grandiflora (one of my favorite trees) is the grand dame of Magnolias, then the Cucumber Magnolia is its quiet, softer sister.

A Few Facts:
Magnolia acuminata (L.) L.
AKA cucumber-tree

+ 40 feet, Sun to Partial Shade, Blooms mid- late spring, Zone 4-8.

"The Cucumber Magnolia Tree is found in forests from New York to Georgia and west to Illinois. The first scientific observations were made in 1736 by John Clayton, one of Virginia's pioneer botanists. In the early 1800s these trees were widely exported to Europe, where they were found in the very finest gardens and landscapes. The pioneers were reputed to have used the bitters extracted from the green fruit with whisky as a fever medicine. The wood was also widely used for furniture and interior paneling." Arbor Day Foundation.


Little Girl's Dream

I grew up just down the street from Ault Park. It was a great place to live. Our street was teaming with kids my age. We played all the classic games such as kick-the-can, ghosts in the graveyard, swinging statues and we had bike races. It was a pretty great way to spend one's childhood. 

Because we were so close to the park it was not uncommon for us to see stray dogs that had been dumped at the park. Once, we befriended a large, stray dog who simply dropped down across our laps. We spent a fair part of an afternoon picking out pesky burrs from his matted fur. I was certain this would be the dog we would be able to keep. Unfortunately, the dog, as kind and gentle as it was to us, did not like men at all.  Logic would say a man had abused this lovely hound. My dad, who has a heart of gold, would have let us keep the stray if we turned on the little girl charm, but having a dog living in your home that snarls and growls at you is not an ideal situation. 

Bordering the park was my favorite house, a yellow two-story with views of he weeping cherry trees. Yellow still draws me in.

Flash forward more years than I need to reveal in this blog and the yellow house is still a favorite of mine. The house has a beautiful garden as does the neighbors- allowing the garden vista to continue on naturally, not end abruptly like many gardens tend to do.  It is my understanding that the garden adjacent to the house is an unofficial adopt-a-plot garden. One day that charming woodland inspired garden will be up for adoption. 

This grown lady dreams to live in the happy yellow house, with its own park garden and plenty of room for a few stray park dogs.