HORT travels

Exploring the horticultural beauty in every adventure.

Road Trip: 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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Road Trip!: 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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Road Trip: Bouquets with Benefits

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Pick-Your-Own Bouquet

Plants around here are just starting their slow, groggy awakening. Tiny green tips of daffodil leaves are poking through the duff. Crocus, winter aconite and snowdrops are blooming. Buds on red maples are swelling and new signs of the next season can be found each day. This has me thinking again of the trip to Holland and Belgium we took last Spring. Small colorful flowers coupled with the recent passing of Valentine’s Day has me remembering a small tulip farm having an incredible influence on the community.

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Annemiekes Pluktuin is a small tulip farm located in Hillegom, Netherlands (a town that once hosted the Beatles as they recorded a television show and features a Henry Ford Museum). Hillegom is in the western Netherlands and is part of the “Dune and Bulb Region (Duin- en Bollenstreek)” of the country. This area boasts coastal dunes and is where many of the flower bulbs the Netherlands are so famous for are cultivated.  So it makes sense that Annemieke has her bulb farm here.

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Each season the bulbs in the Pick-Your-Own fields are changed. 

She and her husband guided us through her facility and tulip fields. They began the garden in 2009 after noting a lack of picking gardens in the area once so famous for its tulip cultivation (many of the tulip fields have given way to development in the region). Pluktuins are “Picking Gardens”, places where a visitor can go and pick their own bouquets of flowers. There are many around the country, catering to the tourism industry as well as residents looking for cut flowers for their homes. While the idea of a picking garden in Holland is not unique, certainly you can find them dotting the country, Annemieke’s is special.

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Road Trip: Belfleurken

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Photo (c) K V Salisbury

Colorful Azaleas are the primary product at Belfleurken

Depending on where you are maybe not so much a road trip as a flight or sail. Belfleurken is an azalea grower in Belgium. Their primary market is Europe so we do not see many of their azaleas here in the US. We were there a bit early for the Mother’s Day rush on greenhouse grown potted azaleas so while there were many plants in production, not too many flowers were to be found.

Photo (c) K V Salisbury & HORTravels

Just some of the 5 acres of azaleas under glass.

This family business is known for the one-million azaleas grown each year in state-of-the-art greenhouses and their self-watering flower pots. In some way it was nice not to be distracted by 5 acres of Azalea flowers under glass giving a chance to notice the other features of this greenhouse facility. Because the greenhouses were not full, we could see the inner-workings of the facility and for a greenhouse nut like me – this was heaven.

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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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Road Trip: Sunken Gardens, St. Petersburg Florida

All things vintage strike my fancy and this garden had me at its sign:

The Retro Sign of Sunken Gardens  - St. Petersburg, Florida

The Retro Sign of Sunken Gardens – St. Petersburg, Florida

I am thinking of this small gem today as I keep the wood stove burning and the thermometer doesn’t get out of the single digits. Sunken Gardens has been around since 1935 when George Turner Sr. opened his 6 acre property to the public to show off his walled gardens for $0.25 a person. Starting out as a place with a sink hole and a shallow lake, Mr. Turner turned this land into a rich area to grow fruits and vegetable by installing a tile drainage system. He was a plumber by vocation and horticulturist by avocation, Turner’s gardening transitioned from the fruits and vegetables he sold at his road-side stand to exotic flowers and tropical plants.  Turner maintained the gardens, eventually leaving them open year round and amassing a flock of flamingos numbering in the hundreds. Turner’s sons purchased the property from their father and the garden became world famous. Celebrities visited and beauty contests were held there. The gardens went through many changes, a large gift shop (at one time the largest in the world), walk-through aviary, religious exhibits. Due to the construction of a nearby interstate and the creation of large theme parks, this garden, like many others, experienced a decline in audience and an increase in operational expenses that led a discussion concerning closing the gardens. The City of St. Petersburg now owns the attraction. Since 1999 the Parks Department has been operating and maintaing this oasis with great help from an army of volunteers. Right behind this sign is a strip mall and bustling 4th Street. You must enter, and leave (of course) through the gift shop. Modest, I’m sure, compared to the mega-shop of its past, this shop featured locally made and horticulture themed gifts for all ages and budgets. When you park in the lot, you have no idea what’s in store for you. The garden is walled, and even at my height, I couldn’t sneak a peak to see what was inside.

A Tropical View in the Sunken Gardens, St. Petersburg, FL

A Tropical View in the Sunken Gardens, St. Petersburg, FL

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Road Trip! 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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