Fab Foliage Friday

What time is it? It's Sem, Sem, Sem, Sem, Sem, Sem, Sem, Sem, Semmertime! I am bowled over by the way-cool foliage of Ural false spirea 'Sem' (Sorbaria sorbifolia 'Sem'). Absolutely, positively had to have it the instant I laid eyes on it. The ferny foliage is utterly distinctive, so it promises to combine well with just about anything, and as if that weren't enough, this small shrub's leaves are utterly colorific, with hues of yellow, orange, bronze and red. Wowsa! So what if it suckers like crazy? I can deal with that. Love it with tulips (top), plus, the emerging foliage of early spring is killer (at left) and so are the first sets of unspooled leaves (below). 'Sem' and I are going to have lots of fun together.


Art-full Gardens of LongHouse

I've seen gardens that displayed art, and gardens that were artfully planted, but I've never seen anything quite like the LongHouse Reserve, where outdoor art and horticultural high style meet in a seamless embrace. This East Hampton, NY sanctuary aims to "exemplify living with art"--and it does. Wandering its trails and open spaces is a journey of playful discovery, enriched by unusual landforms, contemporary sculpture, and the singular beauty of artfully imagined gardens. At left stand --no, not fallen meteorites--strange, stonelike orbs: "Untitled (Round Forms)" by Grace Knowlton.
Cobalt rods by glass master Dale Chihuly rise from a swirl of grasses.
The arbor re-invented: "Entrance to a Garden" by Dennis Oppenheim. If you actually pass through this intriguing blue structure, you're rewarded with an almost secret seating spot, a welcoming bench perched near a wisteria. And, of course, it's not every day that you see an elephant doing a trunk stand, but maybe that's a good thing. "Elefandret" by Miguel Barcelo.

Below, "Fly's Eye Dome, designed by Buckminster Fuller, is seen through the open "Sea of the Ear-Ring" by Takashi Soga.

Throughout LongHouse, visitors happen upon clusters of primitive-looking pots positioned with dramatic flair.

I especially like these three studies in shape, perched atop a sand dune near the garden's entry. Their somber hues and enigmatic forms are deeply mysterious, and linger in the mind long after leaving the LongHouse Reserve's artful oasis.

Lady Slippers!

We live in what is primarily hemlock forest, and if you've ever walked through a wood like that you might have been impressed by something--the almost complete lack of any understory growth. But our hemlocks are a bit mixed and enough light reaches the earth to allow the growth of several kinds of terrestrial orchids, even pink lady slippers (Cypripedium acaule). We're lucky to have such rare treasures. The stars must be aligned just right, as these dainty pouchlike plants require very specific growing conditions. But we've been worried of late--the hemlocks are dying off as a result of wooly adelgid, and the changing forest is playing havoc with what little life is on the forest floor. Our biggest swaths of pinks lady slippers have declined amazingly in the last few years. In one spot we went from more than 20 a couple years ago to a lonely trio now. So, it was a fine surprise yesterday, when I happened on a brand new stand of lady slippers growing in the shade of several magnolias I planted at the forest edge. Life goes on.


Fab Foliage Friday

I've been remiss in posting of late. Too many writing deadlines! And at a time of year I rarely undertake much in the way of writing assignments. So between that and the demands of the season, well, I seem stretched pretty thin. But enough excuses. TGIFFF!!!

Can't quite put my finger on what it is that appeals to me quite so much about Chinese Neillia (Neillia sinsensis). Maybe it's the Japanese maplelike foliage...I'm a sucker for anything like that. Could be it's more like a ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diablo')...I like them too. Or perhaps it's the coppery, burgundy-tinged hue of the new leaves...ditto. Or maybe even the way the leaves ride this small shrub's delicately arching branches. Who wouldn't like that? Really, I guess it's all those things, on this neat new plant given me by my friend Lydia Wallis, who's hosting me this weekend while I give a talk at the Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons in NY. Thanks again Lydia!

You know, maybe there's an additional reason this plant is looking so fine right now, and though FFF is not about flowers, since you may not be familiar with Neillia I thought I'd include a pic of its blooms, which have just burst open from tight, bright, coral-colored buds. All in all, Neillia is a refined, delicate looking plant and I'm delighted it now has a home in my garden.


Fab Foliage Friday

In spring, a man's fancy turns to...bananas? Mine does anyway. Soon as the weather warms up, I think about exhuming my bananas from their winter quarters in the cool dark basement and bringing them up into the light, so they can start growing like crazy. It doesn't take much--some heat, light and water, and they're off to the races.

And what's not to like about the burgundy splotched foliage of Musa sumatrana 'Zebrina'? As Birdboylikes to say, "I don't like it, I LOVE it!" Especially with tropical smoke bush (Euphorbia cotinifolia).


Fab Foliage Friday

It's ti time! Ti plants, of the genus Cordyline, are most commonly grown has houseplants. Which is fine, but gee, they look great in the garden too. Once the weather warms up I usually make a trip down to Lowe's or Home Depot, grab a few cheap ti plants and use them to plug any holes in the border. They look even better when you enliven the color combos with some long-flowering tender perennials such as this duranta (Duranta 'Homerus Depotus').


In More Bird News...

Birdboy's flock continues to grow. The latest addition has been pigeons--last fall we got some rollers (which are kinda like homing pigeons but perform occasional aerobatic feats), but I'm still finishing their way cool loft, which is designed to be both ornamental and functional, with trap doors so they can come and go, a big arched window, and, up top, a tower where they can hang out. Just the other day, a pair of the rollers' eggs hatched, and we get to watch the teeny chicks develop--they'll be flying a just a few weeks! Right after that a friend have us a couple pure white homing pigeons--they look fantastic wheeling through the blue skies overhead.


Wordless Wednesday

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)


Seb's Saga

Poor old Sebby. Sebastian, our white Chinese goose, is having tough times. He was raised from a gosling with four ducks, who, now that they are full grown, have turned on their childhood playmate. The ducks are real thugs. They love nothing better than chasing poor Seb out of the pond and away from wherever Seb might be lounging. They hog the food too. Whenever the Artiste, Bird Boy or I catch the ducks doing their terrorist routine, we spread our arms like wings, flap away and charge the ducks--who beat a hasty retreat, just as fast as their stubby, stiff-legged waddle can carry them. Seb runs along right behind us, wings spread, and honking like a taxi in traffic. He loves turning the table on his tormentors.

Because the whole flock of fowl-with also includes a dozen or so chickens-overnights in a coop, we've taken to letting Seb sleep separately, indoors at the house. Birdboy has a room dedicated to his indoor birds, so we've set up a small cage on the floor where Seb can snooze. He loves it. Late in the day he wanders up the stone stairs to the house, ready to come inside. In the morning Seb gets a special treat--he just loves lettuce--then goes out for walk with the Artiste. She takes him down to the pond, where he glides about peacefully for a while, all alone and, for those few precious moments, the proud and graceful master of his domain.


Fab Foliage Friday

I like elephant ears. It's another of those plants where, the more the merrier. I especially like the new gigantic offering that making the rounds as--what else?--Colocasia gigantea. Oh yeah, it's big. Look how it dwarfs that chair--and I took that photo before the end of last season, and let me tell you, that plant got bigger EVERY DAY. Love the way it looks with 'Illustris' too. I tried to over winter the bulb-bare and dormant-and should know soon if it survived. I sure hope it survived --I'm looking for it to get even more gigantea this year.