Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Largest Wildflower Garden in New England - in Spring

One of the best places in the Northeast to see a huge variety of wildflowers is at the Garden in the Woods, located not too far from Boston in Framingham, Massachusetts. This 45-acre woodland botanical garden is also the headquarters of the New England Wild Flower Society, which focuses on the promotion and conservation of native plants of the region.  I first visited the Garden in the Woods last fall, and I was very excited to visit it again a few days ago when many of its spring-blooming plants were in flower.

Bee enjoying Claytonia virginica, aka Virginia spring beauty.
The Garden in the Woods boasts over 1700 types of plants, including over 200 rare and endangered native ones, making it the largest wildflower garden in New England.

A sunny spot filled with wildflowers!
The different plants are spread out in different micro-habitats throughout the woods, including slopes,  pine barrens, sunny meadows, swamps, and wetlands.

Painted turtles enjoying the garden's pond.
Walking paths offer a very enjoyable stroll throughout the wooded grounds.

Informational signs placed along the paths tell about each habitat and the plants found there.  Usually there are guided tours of the woods each day as well, which are very helpful and educational.  Unfortunately when I went this time, the guide had called in sick, but (thankfully!) many of the plants are labeled.

Red-flowering Trillium cuneatum next to yellow Uvularia grandiflora (Larger-flowered Bellwort)
I was delighted to come in time to see the Garden in the Wood's impressive collection of trilliums in bloom!  I had no idea there was such a variety of these lovely spring ephemerals.  Most trilliums are native to North America, and several species are endangered or threatened.

Trillium flexipes - Bent Trillium
Trillium cuneatum - Little Sweet Betsy
Trillium luteum - Yellow Trillium
Trillium simile - Sweet White Trillium
Trillium recurvatum - Prairie Wake Robin
Trillium grandiflorum - White Wake Robin
Did you know there were pink trilliums?

Trillium grandiflorum forma roseum - Rose-colored Wake Robin 
Trillium sulcatum - Barksdale's Trillium
And one with doubled petals?
I've never seen a trillium like this before!

Trillium grandiflorum forma petalosum - Double White Trillium
There were also many other horticultural treasures there, some of which we don't get to see very often anymore.  I think this was the first time I've ever seen a Jack-in-the-Pulpit, a plant that my Mom talks of often finding in the woods as a kid.

Plants clockwise from top left:  Swamp pink (Helonias bullata), Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), Double rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides 'Shoaf's pink'), Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum),  Goldseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), Golden-club (Orontium aquaticum
Committed to educating people on native plants, the New England Wild Flower Society also offers many classes there at Garden in the Woods, as well as at other locations throughout New England.  The kids aren't even left out - a part of Garden in the Woods holds an activity area for children to explore and learn.

A structure at the activity area where kids can make their own little 'habitat' for critters.
And if the gardens and classes aren't reason enough to visit Garden in the Woods, the garden store would be.  Garden in the Woods also contains the largest retail native plant nursery in New England!  While still not as huge as regular nurseries, it has a good number of native plants that are hard to find anywhere else.  They sell everything from tree saplings to specialty plants such as native pitcher plants and lady slippers.  I have yet to go home from a visit there without a treasure of some kind stashed in my car...

A pollinator on Virginia spring beauty
So if you are passing through the greater Boston area, I definitely recommend you check out this great horticultural gem.  Just make sure you leave room in your suitcase or car for a horticultural find of your own!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Hellstrip Garden in Spring

There's something about the challenge of hellstrip gardening that just calls to me.

The hellstrip is that piece of land between the street and the sidewalk that is so named by gardeners due to its difficulty in growing plants in it, thanks to factors such as glaring heat from the asphalt, poor soil, and winter saltings.  Normally they are just weedy strips of grass, which is why I think hellstrip gardening appeals to me so - those poor weedy patches are just screaming out for a makeover!

When we first moved into our house, the strip between the street and the sidewalk was an uneven and unsightly mess of weeds.  To one side of the driveway, the hellstrip was also the place where our mailbox was situated.  I adore mailbox gardens (so homey, don't you think?), so I just had to make it my mission to turn that section into a garden bed, despite Mr. Red House's misgivings about how poor, dry, and gravelly the dirt was there.

I dug up the weeds and grass, added lots of compost, and planted the hardiest plants I could find.  Mr. Red House was unsure about the results even last summer, as my perennials were still small and the weeds often outpaced me, but after this Spring's display, he's finally come around!

hellstrip in bloom
Most of the plants survived through the winter, and all the bulbs appear to have come up.  Between the last two years, I've planted dozens of Daffodils, some little Grape Hyacinth, and - the pièce de résistance - bright red and gold 'Flair' Tulips.

'Flair' Tulip
I bought some 'Flair' Tulip bulbs a couple years ago on one of those impulses we gardeners get, and after they bloomed, I just fell in love with them.  After a long, very white winter, it is so thrilling to see such a blazing color in the garden.  I have to spray them as soon as they come up with a deer deterrent so that they don't get eaten, but they're worth the little extra hassle.

another bloom of the variable 'Flair' Tulip
This year I'd like to start turning the hellstrip on the other side of my driveway, which is an even longer strip than this one, into a matching garden bed.  Mr. Red House is still rather unsure, since we also just extended the front garden beds quite a bit, which means there will be a lot of garden that will need attending to.  But at the moment it seems like such a fun project that I am quite excited about it. We'll see how I feel about it later this summer when I am weeding everything...

But right now I'm just thrilled to be able to enjoy such a beautiful spring show from my previously weedy and ugly hellstrip!

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