HORT travels

Exploring the horticultural beauty in every adventure.

Road Trip! Grey Towers

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Grey Towers Welcome

Grey Towers Welcome

“Without natural resources life itself is impossible. From birth to death, natural resources, transformed for human use, feed, clothe, shelter, and transport us. Upon them we depend for every material necessity, comfort, convenience, and protection in our lives. Without abundant resources prosperity is out of reach.” ~ Gifford Pinchot

Today I take you to Grey Towers. Have you been? For those of you who aren’t familiar, Grey Towers was the home of Gifford Pinchot. Who was Gifford Pinchot? Twice the governor of Pennsylvania and before that the  first chief of the US Forestry Service. It is said that Gifford Pinchot is the ‘father’ of the conservation movement. Located in Milford, PA, “The Birthplace of the Conservation Movement”, Grey Towers stands upon a hill looking east towards France, a nod to the family’s French Huguenot heritage.  Originally a summer home of his parents, this sprawling estate became the permanent home of the Gifford and wife Cornelia in order to establish Pennsylvania residency so Gifford could eventually run for governor. Conservation, horticulture, historic architecture, politics, a dining room table where you float your food to the guests…who could ask for more from a road trip stop?

 

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Orchids

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Lady Slipper in the morning  mist.

Lady Slipper in the morning mist.

‘Tis the season. I am getting beautiful pictures sent to my email and phone. The orchids are blooming! Friends share their finds with me regularly and each one excites me. These are not the run-of-the-mill tropical orchids you can now find in row after row at the big box stores. Though they are lovely in their own test-tube-propagated way. These are the wild, native, I-can’t-believe-I-just-found-an-orchid, orchids that make even the most grueling, mosquito ridden, tick infested, poison ivy covered hike worth the effort. May through October, I hike with one eye on the trail and one eye in the woods looking for bright spots of color that would indicate an orchid.

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Bladdernut

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Bladdernut Flowers

Bladdernut Flowers

Bladdernut. I am convinced this plant has not made it into the landscape trade and into more backyards because of its name. Who wants to ask the garden center professional for Bladdernut? Who wants to answer when their friend asks “what is that interesting flowering shrub?”, “Oh that? It’s Bladdernut”. Other plants with less than pretty common names have made it into plant catalogs by sporting tags with their {{gasp}} scientific names or a new less offensive common name. Think of Tradescantia. Many catalogs market the Spiderwort as Tradescantia or have even created an entirely new common name with more marketing power: Spider Lily.  Similar stories abound. Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) has become the gardener-friendly sounding Butterfly Flower or Butterfly Milkweed. One of my favorite spring blooms, the Liverwort, is more commonly available as its scientific name Hepatica. (Wort, you may be interested to know, is the old English term for plant. Often plants were names for the problems they would solve – Liverwort = Liver problems, Spiderwort = curing spider bite.) I think it’s time for a name make-over for the Bladdernut. What can we call it to get it into more backyards?

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Violets

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One of the many violet color variations.

Once again I find myself on my local rail-trail. I am trying to get my heart-rate up so this meander will count as some form of exercise, but I keep stopping to look very closely at tiny little wildflowers blooming everywhere. It is truly like I stepped into a jewelry box. Virginia Bluebells coat the hillside in blues and pinks. White saxifrage, rue anemone and Dutchman’s britches dot the trailsides like scattered pearls. Various shades of jade and emerald are starting to appear on gray branches. The creek along the trail, very high after all these rains, slithers through the color like a gold chain. I should just go to a boring track, who can focus on fitness with all this beauty around?  Each time I squat down to investigate, that’s a rep…right? Today I am enamored by the violet. If I am going to take the jewelry box analogy just a little too far…these are the amethysts.

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American Plum

American Plum after last night's heavy rains. The sweet fragrance is still evident on the wet blooms.

American Plum after last night’s heavy rains. The sweet fragrance is still evident on the wet blooms.

As I have mentioned before I don’t really have the space for plants offering only 1 season of interest. As with any rule, there are exceptions. The exceptions to my “must have more than 1 season of interest”  are 1) if it is a spring ephemeral, it may stay and 2) if it is edible I will consider a place for it in my landscape.  The American Plum fits into the second category. This native (Prunus americana) small understory tree flowers the same time as Bradford Pears.  Unlike Bradford Pears, the blooms of American Plum smell sweet and wonderful.  Like the Bradford Pear, this tree can be found along roadsides, medians and in fallow fields. Unlike the Bradford Pear, it is supposed to be there. As I walked around my yard a couple of days ago, the scent of the flowers drew me in and I stood for quite awhile with my nose tucked into the white flowers.  Continue reading