Sure takes a long time to bring on a new plant ... this new winter-hardy 'Nocturne' blueberry was nearly 20 years in the making. It was developed by scientists at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service in one of their satellite locations in Chatsworth, New Jersey.
The plant is self-pollinating and bears about 12 pounds of fruit per plant and its winter hardiness is similar to northern highbush blueberry cultivars.
Plant geneticist Mark Ehlenfeldt made the original cross between a mixed species hybrid (US 874) and Premier, a commercial rabbiteye blueberry. Ehlenfeldt says the new variety is intended to be "a specialty market plant for homeowner, landscape, and ornamental use." While the fruit is black, unripe berries are red and orange, so the plant has much potential for attractive landscape use. 'Nocturne' is expected to be available to growers within a year or two ... wish it were much sooner.
In a rare victory for preservationists, the Frick Collection in New York City dropped major expansion plans that would have demolished a garden and water lily pond designed by the renowned British landscape architect Russell Page.
A statement posted online by the Frick said the museum's Board of Trustees has decided to approach the future expansion plans in a way that "avoids building on the garden site."
Opponents of the original expansion plan included architects, landscape architects, the Municipal Arts Society, local residents and many others.
Page's formal viewing garden includes a flat pond with water lilies and lotus, and a row of Callery pears. Other plantings include four major trees: a crabapple, a goldenrain tree, a Kentucky yellow-wood, and a Japanese pagoda tree.
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has released its latest survey of landscape design trends -- with sustainability and low-maintenance leading the way for 2015.
According to the survey, landscape architects say they are getting the greatest demand for ecologically sensitive projects that preserve the environment, conserve water and reduce landscape maintenance.
The highest consumer demand is for the following top 10: native plants; drought-tolerant plants; edible gardens; fire pits or fireplaces; low-maintenance landscapes; permeable paving; water-efficient irrigation; rain gardens; lighting; and rainwater/graywater harvesting.
ASLA CEO Nancy Somerville says the survey shows that homeowners increasingly see opportunities to improve the environment in the their own backyards. "Consumers care about designed landscapes that are attractive, easy to take care of and eco-friendly," she said.
The most popular outdoor design elements are firepits, lighting, and grills, and the top outdoor structures are pergolas, decks, and fencing.
Forty percent of the survey respondents said the most popular outdoor recreation amenities include hot tubs, Jacuzzis, whirlpools, indoor/outdoor saunas and swimming pools.
The Huntington's new education and visitor center opens to the public on April 4th, including six and a half acres of new gardens. The landscape, designed by Cheryl Barton, FASLA, of San Francisco, features a U-shaped covered loggia, a Garden Court and a Celebration Garden.
Visitors enter the visitor center complex with a view of the San Gabriel Mountains as a backdrop, and proceed through groves of orange trees and California pepper trees that are typical of early California ranches.
An allee of olive trees forms the axis of the entire complex, and in the central part of the gardens, there are ever-changing palettes of native and adaptive plants, as well as intimate areas for seating one or two people, rooms formed by hedges for small groups, and spacious plazas for larger groups. The allee terminates in the Celebration Garden, where the new gardens evoke the formal historic landscapes of the original estate, with colorful seasonal blooms (marigolds, cosmos, zinnias) surrounding a stone-lined water runnel.
Biokovo has delicately scented light pink flowers in spring, followed by gorgeous scarlet and orange fall color.
It's a naturally occurring hybrid of Geranium dalmaticum and Geranium macrorrhizum that was found by Dr. Hans Simon of Germany in the Biokovo mountains of Croatia.
At six to 10 inches high, it makes a terrific groundcover, as it's semi-evergreen in most climates. Biokovo does well in average well-drained soil in full sun to part shade, and it spreads by rhizomes. However, the plant is not deeply rooted, so it can be easily pulled out if it strays too far. Zones 4-8.
Scientists at the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry (ESF) are growing American chestnut trees that apparently survive the blight that wiped out most of them in the early part of the 20th century. The blight was introduced in the early 1900's, and within a few decades, the trees, once a prominent feature in the American landscape, were gone.
The photo shows two SUNY scientists in a plot with young, healthy chestnut trees. Dr. William Powell, an ESF professor, says he's convinced the new trees will survive. "Our goal was to develop an American chestnut tree that has blight resistance equal to that of a Chinese chestnut, and we are there. We've done it," he said.
If the new trees are approved by the USDA, the EPA, and the FDA, they could be available to the public in approximately five years. In the meantime, the ESF scientists may plant about 10 thousand seedlings so that they'll be ready for planting when the approval comes through. Dr. Powell said the trees they are growing are close to the original trees that were found in Eastern forests, and they have only a couple of additional genes. Recent studies also show that blight-resistant chestnut trees pass on that characteristic to the next generation.
Chestnut trees were valued for their rot-resistant wood and the abundant nuts produced by the trees were a valuable source of food for wildlife. And of course for roasting over those Christmas fires.
It is certainly one of the greatest trees and should be used far more often by designers. It's becoming more popular as a street tree, likely because it's relatively pest free and does well in city conditions as long as it gets enough water.
This tree can also be used as a specimen in residential settings, as long as the yard is big enough. Yellowwood can reach heights of 50 feet or so with a similar spread. Best of all, it has lovely foliage and sweet-scented, pure white pea-like flowers that appear in long panicles in spring -- a spectacular show in any setting. The leaves turn a nice yellow in fall, and the smooth gray bark is similar to that of a beech tree. A cultivar to consider is 'Perkins Pink', with panicles of pink flowers.
The tree is also native to eastern North America, so it's a good choice for those who favor sustainable gardening. According to the SMA, judicious pruning may be necessary when the tree is young to contain what they call "a maddening branching habit," but they say the tree's favorable attributes far outweigh that one idiosyncracy. I surely agree.
Catching up on some news from before the Christmas season ....
Researchers at Wright State University in Ohio believe the emerald ash borer, which has killed millions of our native ash trees, is now attacking our native fringe trees (Chionanthus virginicus). The fringe tree is prized for its airy white flowers that appear in spring, and it won a Gold Medal Award from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society just last year.
Professor Don Cippollini of Wright, who has studied the ash borer for the past 10 years, found larvae of the insect on fringe trees near his home in southwestern Ohio. He said that the ash borer may have a wider host range than originally thought, or else it may be adapting to new hosts. "This biological invasion," he said, "is really something to worry about. It's having drastic ecological and economic consequences, and you can't always predict what's going to happen."
Although efforts are underway to control the insect with pesticides and parasitoid wasps, Cippolini says it is hard to stop because it has now reached such high densities. It's believe the ash borer was introduced into the United States in shipping crates from Asia in 2002.
Fringe trees grow in the wild from New Jersey south to Florida and west to Oklahoma and Texas, and it's also a popular ornamental tree, at just around 12-20 feet tall at maturity and not generally subject to pests or disease. If you notice a borer exit hole -- a "D" shape in the bark of a fringe tree -- please report it immediately.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Garden Design Online
The Peace Rose was bred in France by Meilland International in 1942, and it has long been associated with the end of World War II.
It was named the day that Berlin fell to the Allies, and won honors from All-America Rose Selections on the day that a peace agreement was signed with Japan. That same day, members of the United Nations were presented with its blooms.
'Peace' is a hybrid tea about four to six feet high, three feet wide; pale golden blooms with pink edges, and a strong fragrance. Zone 6 and higher. Requires winter protection if the wind chill factor drops below 20 degrees F. A wonderful rose, well worth growing.
Garden Design Online will return in early January.