HORT travels

Exploring the horticultural beauty in every adventure.

The Tyler Formal Gardens

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The Tyler Formal Gardens are the public gardens of Bucks County Community College in Newtown, PA.

Tyler Mansion BCCC

The Tyler Mansion depicted in the logo above.

Like the Henry Schmieder Arboretum, these gardens are open and free to the public to explore year-round. Unlike the gardens at Del Val, these gardens began as the gardens of a residence , that was later turned into Bucks County Community College and public garden space.

Tyler Mansion BCCC

Another view of the Tyler Mansion

This formal garden features multiple levels or formal displays and the art work of Stella Tyler, the owner of the home and an avid gardener herself.

Tyler formal garden BCCC

The tiers of the Tyler Formal Garden

Though I went to school not far from here and worked in the area for a couple of years, I had not been to this garden  before.

Iris along Wall

Irises soften a stone wall at the Tyler Formal Gardens

The formality and the artwork surprised me. You must walk past the front of the mansion and wend your way to the back where you turn a corner in a stone wall and are greeted with the bubbling of fountains and immediately find a number of sculptures framed by formal hedges of boxwood.

Sculptures in the Tyler Formal Garden

Boxwood hedges frame the sculptures in the Tyler Formal Gardens

I instantly fell in love with the art work ands it’s placement throughout the gardens. I always love a place where you can get up close to the art and touch it.

Sculptures

Boxwood hedges frame the sculptures in the Tyler Formal Gardens

The sculptures in this garden inspired me and caused me to pause in the gardens, examining the sculptures and their use and contribution in the space. I think all gardens should include art – to me it is a way of reminder people that horticulture is not just something you do after your visit to a big box store on a Sunday morning. Horticulture is an art in and of itself, the most accessible combination of art and science.

Espalier BCCC

Espalier softens the walls at Tyler Formal Gardens

These sculptures in these spaces remind me of the art in the science and the science in the art. Without the surrounding gardens the sculptures and gardens each would be the same but the effect much different.

Peony BCCC

Peony bloom at the Tyler Formal Gardens in Spring

My favorite part of the gardens was posted with the most ominous of signs:

Caution BCCC

Some rough terrain in this formal garden , if you choose to take the path less traveled.

This property used to be called Indian Council Rock because local Indian tribes would hold counsel on the cliffs above the Neshaminy Creek in this area. You can follow the direction of the Native American chief’s pointing finger and find a trail that snakes around a metal gate underneath the caution sign and down on to the cliff and rocks above the Neshaminy. It is quite a view and a lovely place for a rest. The rugged cliffs, the bubbling creek and the dark woods are a welcome relief to the rigid formality of the rest of the gardens.

Council Rock BCCC

Points the way to Council Rock and encourages one to consider the history of the space before becoming a summer country estate.

Cliffs at BCCC

The cliffs above the Neshaminy Creek

Johns Island, SC

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Live Oak Leaves

Live oak leaves blanket the floor beneath the angel oak

Recently I was at a going away party for a friend who earned her horticultural dream job out in Portland OR. As a horticulturist, in a region just full of them, there were many of us in attendance. Quickly after arriving, I knew this was my kind of party.

We were sitting around and someone mentioned a ‘horticultural bucket list’. Yes! These are my people! Of course I have a horticultural bucket list. When I said this, the person looked at me and asked if I have ever travelled some place just to see a plant.

I mean, who hasn’t?!

This got me reminiscing about my Easter trip this year designed specifically to check off something on my horticultural bucket list.

For the three day Easter weekend, a special someone and I travelled down to Johns Island, SC to see the Angel Oak. Do you know it? Have you been?

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Portillo and Valparaiso Chile

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No tree to be found around the Chilean resort of Portillo – the Cruise Ship of the Andes.

“Portillo crazy – that’s what they call it here”, said a new found friend at a tiny bar in Portillo Chile. A bunch of us, some new friends some old friends but now all friends, were sitting around a table, the center of which has a giant plate of meat and all of us were drinking a local beer. We had been taking runs all day and were currently the only folks in this local hangout, which would soon be filled with resort employees, laughter, good music and lots of dancing.

We are in Chile for an August snowboarding trip. For someone like me, not such a fan of the hot humid summers around here, finding snow in August and being able to ride on it in South America was a dream come true. When our new friend was describing Portillo crazy, he noted with exasperation that when things are getting frustrating around the resort, he works the registration desk there, there isn’t even a tree you can go sit under; there is no green and that certainly contributes to the Portillo crazy.

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“Hortisculpture”

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Frog at Morris Arboretum

“American Bull” by Lorraine Vail at the Morris Arboretum, Philadelphia PA

While I tend to find the fall colors of the native trees and shrubs here in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region something I cannot live without and something that makes me endlessly happy and at peace, others see the changing colors as the sure sign that winter is coming. They can’t enjoy the autumn display because all of those falling leaves depressingly morph into falling snowflakes as they watch them twirl down from the canopy.

As fall proceeds into its second month some lament the end of the growing season, putting away gloves and cleaning tools. Seed catalogs and garden magazines are piled up next to the couch for winter reading. People start to prepare for winter hibernation.

When it is time to sculpt pumpkins, people tend to think less about gardens and gardening as the changing of seasons leads us to think less about watering and weeds and more about turkey stuffing and present wrapping.

Turkey at Gray Towers Milford, PA

Turkey at Grey Towers Milford, PA

But for those of us who enjoy the seasons, who want to explore wherever and whenever, I encourage fall and winter visits to gardens. Perhaps you have a friend or loved one who isn’t so much into gardening but likes to get outside. Drag them to a public garden or museum with outdoor sculptures. You as a gardener, or plant admirer, or nature admirer will find sculptures that will fill the gardening void in the fall and winter months. Some of my favorites from my horticulture travels are here.

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Fiction-ish

The demure Scarlet Pimpernel

The demure Scarlet Pimpernel

Around here it is summer and the Scarlet Pimpernels (Anagallis arvensis) are blooming. To many the Scarlet Pimpernel is a novel set in the time of the French Revolution. To me the Scarlet Pimpernel is a sweet little orange flower that occurs in lawns and some have the nerve to call a weed.

The petite scarlet pimpernel is an European native that made its way here as an ornamental. Dainty orange flowers with red centers dot the square-stemmed plant in summer. Found in disturbed sites and waste areas, this plant thrives in poor soils. First named by English Botanist Richard Salisbury (No relation that I have found…yet – but I mean there MUST be right?) this annual is also known as Poor Man’s Weatherglass because of its tendency to close its flowers at the “approach of foul weather” (Manual of Cultivated Plants, L.H.Bailey 1949). The Reader’s Digest Field Guide to Wildflowers also notes that this botanical barometer closes at dusk, fails to open in gloomy weather and responds to rising humidity by closing its flowers.

Summer is also the time of book lists for beach reading. While I don’t generally go to the beach and read, I will have to add The Scarlet Pimpernel to my “to be read pile” (why is it that that pile never shrinks?) simply because it is named after a plant, not because it has anything to do with plants. There are some books out there I have come across and found even more enjoyable than I expected because of their unanticipated horticultural content.

As you may remember from previous posts, I am a Stephen King fan. When I was much younger my face was always stuck squarely in a Stephen King novel. At some point, as I grew older and picked my head up long enough to realize there are other authors and other genres out there, and as I became more and more interested in learning about the natural world around me, I decided to vary my reading selections. I decided I would read one non-fiction book for each fiction book I read. Naturally, I began my non-fiction reading with Stephen King’s On WritingThis memoir/guide to writing drew me into the non-fiction world and I am hooked. I used to think reading non-fiction was the equivalent of reading a textbook for fun, and really…textbooks for fun?

Scarlet Pimpernel Flower

Scarlet Pimpernel Flower

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Art, Plants and a Historic House: Hamilton NJ

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Seward Johnson's Sculpture "Down to Earth" Grounds for Sculpture

Seward Johnson’s Sculpture “Down to Earth” Grounds for Sculpture – Hamilton, NJ

Grounds for Sculpture and Sayen House and Gardens

One of my most favorite trees (and contrary to popular belief they are not ALL my favorites) is the Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum). Typically I focus on native plants and their role in our ecosystem and place in plant communities. I like to explore faunal associations and examine their potential for ornamental use. This tree, native to Japan, captures all of my attention because of its fragrance. Katsuras don’t emit their perfume when flowering like most trees do. Katsura give off the most wonderfully sweet fragrance just before their leaves start to change into their apricot splendor of autumn. The scent is distinctive enough that you will smell it before you even see a Katsura and just know one is around, somewhere.

Fall is my favorite season. We are so lucky here in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic that we get to experience the changing of the seasons through riotous colors thrown together painting hillsides, roadways and mountaintops. As I look out my window Red Oak (Quercus rubra) leaves are just starting to show the crimson they are known for and the cat-faced shaped leaves of Tulip Trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) are turning golden. The only thing that makes this show better is the addition of fragrance and that’s where Katsura comes in.

I, accidentally, timed my visit to Grounds for Sculpture just perfectly for a stunning sensory experience. The place is loaded with Katsura trees and they were all alerting their presence on the breeze. Sculptures you can get up close to and touch, ornamental gardens and Katsura perfume in the air. I was in heaven. A little early for fall color, but if there was fall color, there wouldn’t have been any perfume on the wind. Some compare the scent to cotton candy, others liken it to brown sugar or a cake baking. In fact, according to Michael Dosmann, curator of living collections at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, “Germans call this tree ‘kuchenbaum,’ which translates to ‘cake tree’.”

 

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Closed Gentian

Flower colors can range from pale purple to deep sapphire depending on age, light, time of day.

Flower colors can range from pale purple to deep sapphire depending on age, light, time of day.

It’s hard enough for me to get my kayak down a whitewater river upright without being distracted by flowers along the way. I am happy to say on my latest voyage, it was not the blooms that tripped me up but my own inexperience. (I’m still learning the basics when it comes to whitewater kayaking and as the two River Zen Masters in my life constantly remind me “Kayaking is what you do between swims”… it is my own mantra now.)

Paddling with other horticulturally-minded people means extra time on the water, paddling back upstream to get a closer look at the flowers along the bank. This trip was no exception. Today’s distraction – Closed Gentians. I don’t know if it is the seeming simplicity of these flowers, the intense color or their apparent rarity that makes me stop (or paddle back upstream) to look at them, closely, and for a while, every time I see them. This day these were blooming along with White Turtleheads (Chelone glabra), and Red Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinals).

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