Shadow-chequer’d lawn

Grosse Pointe, Michigan, garden, 1930, Archives of American gardens, Smithsonian Institution
Unidentified garden in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, 1930, photographer unknown, via Archives of American Gardens, Smithsonian Institution Commons on flickr.

Thence thro’ the garden I was drawn—
A realm of pleasance, many a mound,
And many a shadow-chequer’d lawn. . . .

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson, from “Recollections of the Arabian Nights

Vintage landscape: Pasadena garden

I do think a garden should be seductive. The strength of any garden is its ability to take you away.

— David L. Culp, in “3,000 Plants, and Then Some,” The New York Times.

1930 Pasadena garden, Archives of American Gardens, Smithsonian Institution Unidentified garden in Pasadena, California, 1930, by Diggers Garden Club, via Archives of American Gardens, Garden Club of America, Smithsonian Institution Commons on flickr.

Simple, elegant, and a little mysterious. . .

The Diggers Garden Club was founded in 1924 and still exists today.  It is a member of the Garden Club of America, which is celebrating its centennial this year.

At its 75th anniversary, the GCA donated 3,000 glass lantern slides (of which this is one) and over 30,000 film slides to the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Gardens.  Its members continue to contribute to the collection, which now has over 60,000 images.

Many of the gardens pictured in the Archives’ slides are unidentified.  The Smithsonian is asking the public’s help in finding names and locations.  Click here to view its “Mystery Gardens Initiative.”

A Brassica moment

On the same day that I walked by the White House, I visited the Smithsonian Institution’s Heirloom Garden at the American History Museum and its Butterfly Garden beside the Natural History Museum to see how they look in early spring.

In both, the SI gardeners were putting forward Brassicas — ornamental kale, cabbage, and red mustard.

In the American History Museum entrance planter, yellow predominates, not from forsythia, but from the flowers of ornamental kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala) and red mustard (Brassica juncea). Here’s the link to how it was planted last summer.

Now it’s filled with dusty miller, violas, and two Brassicas. I did not see any labels, but I’m pretty sure that the lacy white one on the sides is B. oleracea ‘Peacock White’  and the other one with light purple/light green leaves in the center is B. juncea ‘Red (or Ruby) Streaks,’ a mustard mizuna.

The museum’s big blue pots are also planted in purple kale (I think it may be B. oleracea ‘Peacock Red’) and violas. (You can click on any photo to enlarge it.)

At the Mall entrance to the Butterfly Garden, below, various Brassicas stood out, along with yellow tulips and violas.

These photos show ruffled dark purple B. oleracea ‘Redbor,’ as well as (I think) ‘Garnet Giant’ red mustard (in the center above) and Johnnie jump-up violas.  The lacy light-purple/light-green plant is B. juncea ‘Red (or Ruby) Streaks.’

I think the tall, dark blue-green kale in the foreground below is dinosaur kale, maybe ‘Lacinato’ or ‘Cavalo Nero.’  Unfortunately, it was not labeled.

Below are ‘White Peacock’ kale.

I didn’t find a label for the very dark purple kale below.  They may be ‘Redbors’ that are just more mature and darker than the other specimens.

The cabbages in the front of the bed below are ‘Red Drumhead,’ with a row of dinosaur kale behind them.

At the entrance are more dinosaur kale.  Here’s the link to what they looked like last summer.

Here and here are some links to growing ornamental kale.

To scroll through larger versions of all the photos above, click on ‘Continue reading’ below and then on the first thumbnail in the gallery.

ADDENDUM: In Paris, in March, I spotted some lovely flower beds on the Champs Elysees planted only with various-colored primroses and regularly interspersed tall flowering ornamental kale (something like B. oleracea ‘Redbor’). Unfortunately, I was on a bus and couldn’t get a picture.

Continue reading “A Brassica moment”

The butterfly garden

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On the same early August day that I visited the Smithsonian’s Heirloom Garden, I also enjoyed a long walk back and forth through the Butterfly Habitat Garden, located on the east side of the National Museum of Natural History.

The garden is made up of plants that have specific relationships to the life cycles of eastern U.S. butterflies. As you walk along, you pass sections that mimic habitats important to the insects: wetlands, meadows, edges of woods, urban gardens.

It’s a long corridor really, bordered by busy 9th Street, N.W., on one side and the museum’s parking lot on the other. Yet, stepping in, you feel enveloped in another world, one that combines a little city polish with naturalism.

I offer these pictures from last summer as more inspiration for those in cold climates who are deep into their nursery catalogs and graph paper, planning for spring.

I haven’t labeled all the plants because the Smithsonian’s interactive map at this link has plant lists for each habitat.  (However, they do not include the grey-green plants in the first and seventh photos  [It’s dinosaur kale, possibly Brassica oleracea var. acephala ‘Lacinato’ or ‘Cavalo Nero’] or the tall plants with the small, purple, fuzzy blooms in the tenth.  [It’s Ironweed, Vernonia.  Thanks James Golden.]  Can anyone identify them?  I feel they are just on the tip of my brain.)

To see much larger versions of the slideshow photos, click on ‘Continue reading’ below and then click on the first thumbnail. You’ll be able to scroll through the images in succession. Continue reading “The butterfly garden”

The heirloom garden

On a hot day in early August, I visited the Heirloom Garden of the National Museum of American History* and took a lot of photos,  but because of our move, I never had time to post them.  Now that it is seed-ordering time in the U.S., I thought they might be inspirational.

(Click on any image above to scroll through larger photos.)

The garden — huge, raised planters, all the way around the museum building — contains a mix of open-pollinated plants cultivated in America prior to 1950 (heirlooms). The plantings are anchored by crape myrtles and a variety of shrubs.

The colorful annuals, perennials, bulbs, and herbs are all so familiar, but  the combinations are often surprising.  It’s a splendid ode to the flower gardens of our grandparents.

The museum pipes in a selection of American music from speakers set in the planters (in fake rocks).  Normally, I would find this annoying, but in the already noisy, wide open site, it actually drew me in to the garden and enhanced the experience.  And their selection is excellent — folk, jazz, blues, musicals.  The planters are raised about 3′, which also helps the plants compete for attention in the immense space.

By late summer, the flowers were being allowed to grow a little leggy and fade naturally, which added to the various forms and tones of the groupings.


*The Smithsonian Institution on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., has eight beautiful gardens (ten if you count the inner courtyards of the Freer Gallery and Museum of American Art).