Topiary Gardens: 6 Great Ideas From The Gardens Of Eyrignac

You would almost believe you’d dropped into a fairy tale. France’s valley of the Dordogne boasts a bucolic green countryside that has long inspired painters, authors and poets. Home to the deep green Dordogne river, tiny rural villages and medieval castles perched high on hilltops, it is also the site of one of the most famous topiary gardens in France, the spectacular Gardens of Eyrignac.

ABOUT THE GARDENS OF EYRIGNAC

Nestled in the heart of the Périgord Noir, the Gardens of Eyrignac cover 24 acres on a hilltop amid miles of protected natural forest. Created in the 1700s, the French-style gardens have been in the hands of the same family for centuries. All in all, 22 generations have tended to their upkeep, helping to shape them into the year-round masterpiece they are today. 

Originally inspired by those of Italian villas, the first gardens were formal and symmetrical in style. In the 19th century, however, they were reworked to reflect an English-park style of landscaping. They retained their English style until the 1960s, when the family returned them to their original condition, painstakingly searching the grounds for traces of the former garden.

At the center of the property is a honey-colored stone manor house. Built on the ruins of a medieval castle, it is the site of the family’s ancient ‘noble seat.’ 

Climbing rose on the manor’s stone exterior.

A TOPIARY GARDEN AT THE TOP OF ITS GAME

Today, the gardens are made up almost entirely of topiary. Meticulously maintained, the green sculptures exhibit the highest forms of trimming and pruning. Dark green yews, bright green box, hornbeams and cypress shaped into walls, windows, arcades and tantalizing alleys divide the main areas of the garden. While within, smaller evergreen specimens shaped into knot-gardens, low hedging for flower beds and unusual animal forms add interest and warmth to the series of cool, green ‘rooms.’

Altogether, the topiary gardens of Erygnac feature over 80 different plant specimens and 300 plant sculptures. Their strict lines are preserved by a staff of six full-time gardeners, using only hand shears, plumb lines and stencils passed down from the 17th century.

Symmetrical, ball-shaped mulberry trees planted in lavender ‘pots.’

So, aside from appreciating its beauty, how can we learn from this spectacular garden? Below are five themes, I observed at Eyrignac that every home gardener can implement, no matter how large or small the scale.   

IDEA #1  USE POTS TO INTRODUCE NEW SPACES

Clipped hedges are key to topiary gardens where they provide a firm backdrop to all those geometric shapes and accessories. Among the many areas defined by hedges at Eyrignac is a round ‘room’ found at the end of the Avenue of Hornbeams (a part of the original French design from the 17th century).

Devoid of any ornament, save a large stone urn in the center, this small space nonetheless tantalizes with its restricted view of the interior. Located slightly forward of the hornbeam ‘walls,’ the pair of pots adds dimension, while indicating the entrance to the tiny garden. 

IDEA #2  USE POTS TO DEFINE SPACE

Large vases are the epitome of French garden style. At Eyrignac, the careful placement of pots and urns helps lead the eye around the gardens while establishing important axes. Below, the succession of identical pots at the Fish Pond visually extends the pool while pointing to the pyramidal trees beyond. 

Large-sized pots also serve as sculptures at Eyrignac. Below, Italian terracotta urns tucked into the alcoves of the Vase Avenue soften the strict succession of geometric shapes while pointing to the open meadow beyond.

Pots tucked into alcoves lead the eye down ‘Vase Avenue.’

On the other hand, using a combination of pots of different shapes, materials and sizes helps draw the eye, calling attention to small spaces in key areas of the garden. Below, a collection of clay pots at my friend’s Paris apartment. 

My friend’s apartment in Paris.

IDEA #3  REPEAT A THEME

At Eyrignac, the star motif appears frequently in stonework, sculptures, pots and even hedges. Repeating themes help knit the garden together. By choosing a motif and repeating it, you can achieve unity, too, while creating interest in the garden. The sky’s the limit. In my work, I’ve even seen motifs repeated on pool towels.

Cobblestones form a star underneath an old millstone.

Star-shaped topiary adds a touch of whimsy to the theme.

IDEA #4  USE RED TO DEFINE BOUNDARIES

Of all the colors on the spectrum, red commands the most attention. And used (sparingly) in a garden, it can have a grand impact. At the Eyrignac topiary gardens, you’ll find it on a painted pagoda at the far end of a long, tree-lined alley or splashed here and there on flowers in the garden.

But its greatest impact is in the White Garden. Here, the Japanese Torii gates, painted a beautiful red-orange, define the four axes of the large space. Not only do they help establish the boundaries, but they also add a touch of color to this monochromatic garden. 

Long view of the White Garden with red gates serving as anchors.

The Japanese Torri gate symbolizes the separation of the natural and spiritual worlds. 

IDEA #5 USE CLIMBING ROSES TO ADD DRAMA AND HEIGHT

True to French design, climbing roses are a common theme at the garden. On the 17th century manor house, the cream roses soften the look of the stone, while adding an important vertical element to the exterior. Climbing roses can be trained to climb up walls, arbors, trellises and even hedges. Try one of these repeat bloomers: New Dawn, Iceberg, Cecile Brunner or Royal Sunset for all-summer enjoyment.

Climbing roses soften the stone exterior of the 17th century manor house.

IDEA #6 MIX STRONG LINES WITH NATURALISTIC PLANTINGS

I’ve written about this previously. Naturalistic plantings look best when tamed by strong lines. And the reverse is also true. Strong shapes are softened, even enhanced with free-form embellishments. Below, the wild fleabane offers an unexpected counterpoint to the formal topiary above. 

For more information on gardens of Eyrignac, click here for the official website.

 

 

Why Carnations Are The Official Mother’s Day Flower

This is one of my favorite all-time stories. And even better, it’s true. It’s the tale of a mother and daughter, 500 white carnations and the founding of Mother’s Day.

IT ALL BEGAN IN WEST VIRGINIA

The story begins in 1905 with Anna Jarvis standing over the grave of her mother. She and her mother had shared a deep bond throughout Anna’s lifetime. Consumed by grief, Anna makes a solemn vow. She pledges to dedicate her life to establishing a national day to honor her mother and all mothers for the positive contributions they make to society.

Anna’s mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, had sacrificed a lot for her children. Having raised her family during the Civil War era, she had suffered great hardship. Of the 11 children she gave birth to, only four survived. The others died from diseases common at the time, including measles, typhoid and diphtheria.

THE MOTHER’S DAY WORK CLUBS

In the late 1850’s, in the hopes of improving conditions to stave off such illnesses, Anna’ mother came up with an idea. She began organizing coalitions of mothers from small towns across West Virginia. The women raised money for medicines, inspected food and milk intended for children and provided helpers to families whose mothers were bedridden by illness. The coalitions became known as the Mother’s Day Work Clubs.

Ann Reeves Jarvis

Drawing no lines where it came to political affiliations, the mothers cared for people at all levels of society. During the Civil War, they insisted on remaining neutral. In their additional role as volunteer nurses, club members also cared for wounded soldiers of both the Confederate and Union armies, providing food and clothing to the men who were stationed in their area.

Mother’s Day Work Club members took care of all soldiers

Following the end of the war, the clubs continued to be a unifying force in a divided nation. In 1868, Jarvis organized Mothers’ Friendship Day, which was centered around picnics and other pacifist activities. The events brought together mothers of former foes and encouraged reconciliation among area families.

ANNA JARVIS AND 500 WHITE CARNATIONS

Shortly after her mother’s death, Anna organized a memorial to honor her. She held it at her mother’s church, St. Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia. During the service, she passed out 500 white carnations (her mother’s favorite) to all the mothers in attendance. Similar events took place all over Philadelphia that afternoon, where Anna lived at the time.

With this unofficial inauguration of the Mothers’ Day movement, Anna began an intense letter writing campaign, reaching out to every national, state or local politician she could think of. By 1909, largely as a result of her efforts, 46 states and many foreign countries, including Canada and Mexico, had begun holding Mother’s Day celebrations. In 1912, Anna formed the Mother’s Day International Association to encourage further international recognition of the day.

Finally in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made things official. He signed Proclamation 1268, which created a national Mother’s Day as A public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country.

Letter signed by President Woodrow Wilson establishing Mother’s Day

The second Sunday in May was set aside as the official day of celebration and the wearing of a white carnation, symbol of love and good luck, became a tradition.

THE CONTROVERSY OVER PRINTED CARDS

Anna Jarvis’ original vision was for Mother’s Day to be a personal celebration between mothers and their families (*this is why Mother’s takes the singular possessive and not the plural). She imagined it as a time when millions would visit their mothers and pen personal, hand written notes expressing their love and affection.

Vintage Mother’s Day card

With the official recognition of the holiday, though, florists, card companies and other merchants began jumping on the bandwagon. Jarvis became more and more incensed as she watched Mother’s Day drift further and further away from her original idea. And, nothing upset her more than the growth in popularity of the printed Mother’s Day card. She wrote,

A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. 

By 1920, Jarvis had become so upset over the commercialization of Mother’s Day that she launched a campaign to abolish the holiday. Declaring Mother’s Day a failure, she organized boycotts and threatened lawsuits to stop what she saw as an attempt by others to profit off of the day.

In 1923, she filed suit against the then Governor of New York, Al Smith, over a Mother’s Day celebration. When the court rejected her plea, she formed a protest and was arrested for disturbing the peace. She devoted the remainder of her life to fighting against the very day she had established.

Jarvis died, childless, in 1948 at the age of 84. She was buried next to her mother in Philadelphia.

THE ROLE OF CARNATIONS

One hundred years later, Jarvis’ legacy lives on in our annual Mother’s Day holiday where carnations have become the official flower.  In Jarvis’ day the carnations were white, but since then pink and red carnations have become equally popular. According to FTD’s Mother’s Day Flower Guide, pink carnations represent love and gratitude while red carnations signify admiration. Nowadays, white carnations are reserved for honoring a mother who is no longer living.

Red carnations signify admiration

Despite Jarvis’ later efforts, every U.S. president since 1914 has issued an official Presidential Mother’s Day Proclamation recognizing and honoring America’s mothers. And today, the custom is celebrated all over the world (albeit on different days.)

On a personal note, I like receiving printed cards and flowers on Mother’s Day, but have to agree with Jarvis that nothing beats a hand-written note from your child. I’m lucky enough to receive such letters each and every year.

Wishing all of you a very happy Mother’s Day!

 

Historic Garden Tour: The Dolley Madison Garden Club Turns 100

It was a perfect, sunny day and the homes were spectacular. This was my first time attending Virginia’s Historic Garden Week, and the Dolley Madison Garden Club’s ‘Centennial Tour’ didn’t disappoint. It was an extra-special event, as it also marked the club’s 100th anniversary. And to commemorate the occasion, two historic residences were open to the public for the very first time.

IT ALL BEGAN IN ORANGE, VIRGINIA

The Dolley Madison Garden Club was founded in 1919 in the town of Orange (population 2600) in the Madison-Barbour Rural Historic District. Located about 20 miles east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the area boasts one of the best-preserved and most scenic rural landscapes in America. Roughly half of the district is covered by forests and the rest by fields and pasture.

The scenery is vast and mesmerizing. Colored a rich green, the rolling terrain laps like waves at the foot of the mountains, broken only by a patchwork of two-lane rural roads, many of which date back to the Colonial period.

A CIVIL WAR HERITAGE

But stunning landscape is not all the Madison-Barbour District has to offer. What also sets it apart are the large number of structures surviving from before the Civil War. Still actively managed as working farms, many of these properties are unusually large – ranging from 100 to over 2000 acres. Moreover, they include some of the finest country houses in Virginia.

In particular, Orange is known for its large estates. Barely glimpsed down winding lanes or nestled in forests high on hilltops, many of them represent the finest examples of Federal and Georgian-style architecture. And a number of them contain gardens that rival some of the best in England.

According to the brochure, this year’s properties were chosen to reflect the guiding principles that inspired the Dolley Madison Garden Club’s founders. That is, to protect the agricultural heritage of the area, stimulate horticultural advancement and undertake improvement projects to enhance the lives of those in the community. I’d say the homes and gardens more than accomplished their mission. Indeed, touring these beautiful properties made for an enlightening and exciting day.

TIVOLI

Located on a secluded hilltop near Somerset, Tivoli is considered the grandest of all the district’s 20th century houses. A perfect example of Colonial Revival style, the 24-room brick mansion is surrounded on three sides by a two-story portico supported by gigantic Corinthian columns. Built around 1903, its barns and outbuildings are today home to one of the finest equestrian training facilities in the world.  

In addition to its opulent architecture, the stand-out for many people is the mansion’s spectacular wrap-around porch. Painted a glossy black, it provides the perfect counterpoint to the velvety green lawns below.

TOURING TIVOLI’S GARDENS

Among the most talked about in the area, Tivoli’s terraced gardens are a stunning representation of English garden style. Designed by landscape architect Charles Stick, the series of ‘outdoor rooms’ form a seamless link between home and garden.

Visitors typically begin their tour at a small parterre tucked in a corner behind the mansion. Centered around a statue of St. Francis, the horseshoe-shaped garden comprises both English and American box. In true English fashion, low, sheared hedges contain a mix of seasonal bulbs and annuals, while just beyond, a flight of steps leads up to the next series of gardens.

Left of the stairway, a tree-lined alley acts as a central walkway. Bordered on both sides by pleached hornbeams, the alley draws a clear distinction between the upper terrace gardens. Held aloft by smooth grey trunks, the shaped leaves form a beautiful canopy, adding an important vertical element to the space. 

To the right of the hornbeam alley is a rectangular garden composed of a pair of matching parterres. Centered between the precise box hedges is a white bench. At the time of our visit, a raised border of bright white azaleas framed this classic garden seat. And just beyond, a dark green hedge provided the perfect backdrop.

This lovely space, found at the far end of the hornbeam alley, provides a sweeping view of the surrounding countryside. The slender, dark brown trunks of the bright green trees beyond line up with the opening. 

On the other side of the house, a grass walk leads the visitor past shrub borders to the family pool. Its formal setting and strict lines are accentuated by the informal mix of shrubs and trees on the slope above.

GASTON HALL

Erected between 1909 and 1910, Gaston Hall sits at the end of a sweeping, tree-lined drive amid rolling pastures. The impressive red-brick home features a main two- and a half-story block with central portico supported on either side by symmetrical one-story wings. The design, which echoes that of Montpelier, is typical of the early 20th century Colonial Revival style. 

In fact, the home was originally built by William and Annie duPont for their son and his wife (a founding member of the Dolley Madison Garden Club.) The duPont family owned Montpelier at the time.

Today, only boxwood, century-old peonies and a small temple remain of the original formal gardens. However, the present owners, with the help of landscape architect Rachel Lilly, have substantially revamped the landscape. In recent years, they created a new plan on three terraces incorporating a large parterre, shrub and perennial borders, a woodland garden, a kitchen garden and a garden folly. Like Tivoli, the gardens follow a traditional English garden scheme. 

A view across the pool to the back of the house reveals the home’s stunning Colonial Revival architecture. 

On a terrace above the pool, there is a large parterre. Sectioned into four quadrants, the sheared hedges contain a lively mix of bulbs and perennials. At the corners, ball-shaped boxwood accentuate the strong geometrics, while in the distance, flowering trees provide a colorful backdrop. 

Located at the far end of the parterre, the kitchen garden echoes the overall scheme of this formal garden. Bordered by hornbeams (which provide protection against the wind), it also serves a practical purpose. Just the same, the neat rows of herbs, vegetables and lettuce still lend this space a distinct ornamental quality. 

WINDHOLME

This circa 1728 two-story manor home has previously never been open to the public. The main house evolved from a traditional timber box frame to the multi-level home it is today. Sold to the Peters family of New York in the mid-twentieth century, it was significantly expanded over the years to make space for an extensive art collection. 

The mother of the owner, Mrs. Harry Peters, planted the original gardens in the mid 1940s, which later grew to include a number of exotic trees. Today, these stunning specimens are a legacy of the horticultural interests of the family. 

In recent years, Windholme’s current owners (who also have an extensive art collection) have revamped the gardens to mirror the original work done by the Peters family. As with Tivoli and Gaston, they extend outward from the back of the house in a series of ‘ outdoor rooms.’ 

Directly behind the main patio, a shade garden provides a cool respite from the bright sun. Enclosed by hedges, it is  accentuated by masses of variegated hostas whose cream markings glint in the sun.

Not far, a guest cottage (one of numerous outbuildings) adds charm to the garden.

As do whimsical sculptures that invite contemplation.

Unfortunately we ran out of time to tour the last property called ‘The Residence.’ Dating to 1793, the Federal style, two-story house was built by William Madison, sixth child of James Madison, Sr. Birthplace of the Woodberry Forest School, it is today the home of the Headmaster. 

To learn more about the history of the Dolley Madison Garden Club and its programs, click here for the official website

 

5 Ways To Honor Our Planet On Earth Day

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It’s been a half century now since Earth Day made its debut on April 22, 1970. I still remember the strangeness of being dismissed early from school to clean up litter. At the time, the idea seemed foreign to us, which means, of course, that we were used to throwing our trash on the ground. It’s hard to imagine in this day and age that was the common mindset.

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY

In the decades since, the world has made some progress in tackling pollution. And as I’ve aged, I’ve come to realize that Earth Day means more than picking up litter. Nowadays, I mark the day as a time of reflection. To that end, I meditate on Earth’s capacity to sustain life, man’s dependence on its resources, and just what my tiny role on our home planet can be.

Thinking about these things always fills me with gratitude. Recently, I’ve been working on becoming a better inhabitant. Here are five ways to honor our planet this Earth Day.

1. RECOGNIZE THAT WE EXIST BY EARTH’S CHOOSING

It should go without saying that the Earth exists separately from its inhabitants. Every bit as alive as we are, our planet provides everything that makes our life possible on its surface. We exist by its choosing, which is remarkable when you consider what we do to it. 

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On Earth Day, drink deeply of the natural beauty that surrounds you and give thanks for the benevolence of our planet.

2. WEAN YOURSELF OF CHEMICAL DEPENDENCY

Chemicals can make life easier. And they are hard to give up. The obvious culprits like herbicides and fertilizers are only part of the problem. Many of the products we have at home contain additives that are harmful to our planet. And let’s face it, buying “green” isn’t always so fun to do.

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On Earth Day, take stock of your bad habits and choose at least one offending product to cut from your life.

3. STOP EATING FOODS OUT OF SEASON

Eating foods out of season is bad for the planet. Why? Because food has a carbon footprint. Purchasing exotic, or out-of-season produce only contributes to long-distance transportation emissions. Moreover, foods modified for shipping are generally lower in flavor and nutrients.

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On Earth Day, reevaluate your choices and strive to realign with the natural flow of things. Support your area farmers and purchase food locally whenever you can. 

4. ACKNOWLEDGE WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER

It bears repeating that we are on this earth collectively, not individually. As a result, each individual’s behavior impacts the broader community. It is the sum of our combined actions that forms our human experience on Earth.

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On Earth Day, embrace your unique role in the world and take responsibility for the impact it has on the course of our planet.

5. GO BACK OUTSIDE

Although technology has broadened our horizons, it has also driven us indoors. Yet, Earth’s changing seasons, infinite weather forms and stunning natural beauty are all waiting to be experienced outside.

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On Earth Day,  rededicate yourself to going outdoors and celebrating the incredible planet that is our home.

Wishing you all a very Happy Earth Day.

 

How To Cope With Boxwood Blight: An Expert Weighs In

It’s not every day you get to discuss your problems with an international expert. But Lynn Batdorf is the real deal. Batdorf is the world’s top resource on everything boxwood, including all of the diseases and pests that affect this diverse species. Recently he spoke to me about how to deal with the latest threat to our gardens, the dreaded boxwood blight.

WHERE DID BLIGHT COME FROM, ANYWAY?

Given its rapid spread, you could be forgiven for assuming that boxwood blight is a recent arrival. But in fact, the fungus was first reported in the United Kingdom in the mid 1990s. Following its discovery, the disease quickly spread across Europe and New Zealand before landing in North America in 2011. In the years since, it has been decimating landscapes across the world at alarming rates.

Boxwood blight was first discovered in the United Kingdom in the mid 1990s.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF BLIGHT

Boxwood blight is caused by the pathogen Calonectria pseudonaviculata which causes leaf spots, stem cankers, defoliation and eventual death of the shrub. The fungus usually begins on the bottom branches and moves up the plant by splashing water. It begins as dark leaf spots with a black ring, which Batdorf refers to as ‘frogs’ eyes.’

Boxwood blight leaf spots

Soon after the spots appear, they expand to cover the entire leaf and the blighted leaves begin dropping from the plant. The disease next progresses to the stems, forming narrow black streaks called cankers. As the cankers enlarge, they girdle the stems and the twig dies.

Photo: Landis Lacey & Kelly Ivors, NCSU Dept. of Plant Pathology

Blight infects all the above-ground parts of the plant and will cause defoliation of the entire shrub in less than 10 days. As Batdorf puts it, the plant simply dies from exhaustion. Indeed, each time the boxwood tries to recover and produce a new leaf, blight spores hop back up on it. Eventually the shrub succumbs, deprived of its source of life-giving energy.

Row of infected boxwood in Connecticut/Photo: Sharon Douglas, Ph.D., CAES

TRANSMISSION

Although it can at first resemble other boxwood diseases such as Volutella and Macrophoma, the main thing that sets blight apart are its spores. Said to live up to 5 years in the soil, they are nearly impossible to eradicate. As a result, once boxwood blight has appeared on a plant, it will most likely keep reappearing.

To make matters worse, during growing season transmission of the disease is usually splash-related. This means it generally occurs through irrigation or rainfall, both of which easily spread blight to nearby shrubs.

Irrigation helps spread the disease.

Moreover, boxwood blight can overwinter on infected plants or hide in leaf litter. It is also transmitted by tools, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, vehicles that contain infected leaves and pets. And host plants include all members of the boxwood family such as pachysandra and sarcococca. Recently, these two popular ground covers have also shown signs of being infected by the fungal disease.

A new host, pachysandra can also spread blight/Photo: CAES

STRATEGIES FOR COPING WITH BLIGHT

So what’s a gardener to do? Up until now, there have been few options. More recently, instituting a preventative fungicide spray program has shown some promise in protecting non-infected plants. However, since the spores live for so long in the soil, this involves expensive, bi-weekly spraying during the growing season for at least five years.

For those who aren’t comfortable or able to invest in such measures, Batdorf (who is not a fan) offers some suggestions. He recommends first that you only purchase from reputable nurseries. Sadly, he says you should no longer buy English box. It is the most susceptible of all.

English box is the most susceptible of all varieties.

Second, he advises against shearing plants when wet. Boxwood blight thrives in humidity and moisture.

Avoid pruning in wet conditions.

Third, Batdorf recommends you collect and remove all leaf debris that may be harboring spores. And, don’t compost dead leaves in the vicinity of boxwood plants. 

Don’t compost near boxwood plants.

If you do diagnose blight on your boxwood, remove and destroy the plants. Then dig out the infected soil and replace with clean soil. Replant with a different species. Unfortunately, other boxwood, even so-called resistant varieties, are no longer candidates for that space.

OTHER NON-HERBICIDAL STRATEGIES

Whether or not you’ve decided to use fungicides, here are Batdorf’s three main recommendations for helping to prevent boxwood blight on healthy shrubs. (The key thing to remember is that blight loves to spread by splash from soil to plant.)

Remember, boxwood blight spreads primarily by splash.

1. APPLY 1″ OF PINE BARK MULCH

Apply 1″ of mulch (not 2″ or 3″, which can hold too much moisture) around the plant’s drip line to prevent splash. Batdorf recommends pine bark over hardwood for its better aeration. Hardwood can suffocate boxwood’s delicate surface roots.

2. LIMB UP THE BRANCHES

Limbing up the branches by 6 to 8 inches will help prevent splash up from the soil.

3. PRACTICE SANITATION

Regularly vacuum up the area under your boxwood to remove all dead leaf debris, which is a major cause of infestation.

Clean up all dead boxwood debris.

BEST DISEASE-RESISTANT BOXWOOD CULTIVARS

Finally, although there are no known resistant boxwood, some have been found to be more tolerant than others. One of the best ways to limit your exposure is to plant less susceptible varieties. Below are some recommendations.

DO NOT PLANT. At the top of the list are ENGLISH BOX, Buxus sempervirens Suffruticosa and Buxus sinica var. insularis Justin Brouwers. Other highly susceptible cultivars include Buxus sempervirens Marginata and Buxus sempervirens Elegantissima.

Buxus sempervirens Elegantissima

BETTER choices are Buxus microphylla Jim Stauffer, Buxus X Green Mound and Green Mountain.

BETTER STILL are Buxus microphylla japonica Winter Gem, Buxus sempervirens Dee Runk, Buxus hybrid Green Gem and Buxus microphylla John Baldwin.

BEST OF ALL and recommended for all new plantings are Buxus sinica var. insularis Nana and Buxus microphylla japonica Green Beauty.

For more information on Lynn Batdorf, the U.S. Arboretum’s National Boxwood Collection (which he curated for 36 years) and his many books, articles and lectures, click here for his website. He also provides on-site consultations.

 

Why Star Magnolia Deserves A Spot In Your Garden

Magnolia stellata, commonly known as Star Magnolia

First introduced from Japan in the 1860s, star magnolia has long been a resident of the American garden. One of the smallest magnolias, it produces a cloud of showy white or pink flowers in early spring. The blossoms appear before the leaves, dangling like fallen stars on the tree’s smooth, bare branches. It’s enough to leave you speechless. Continue reading

Nurturing Wildlife Habitats: Five Ways To Save the Planet

For many of us, attracting wildlife to our gardens sounds good in theory but fails in practice. Especially when it comes to that four-legged pest the white–tailed deer. However, there are many sound reasons for enticing birds, insects, even small animals back into our yards. It’s not only good for our local ecosystem, but it also keeps our flowers blooming. And it just might be the right thing to do. Continue reading

Spring Fever: How To Force Branches To Bloom Indoors

Why wait for spring when you can force it to come early indoors? Spring flowering trees and shrubs are a ‘natural’ for forcing. Why? Because their buds formed in the fall before they went dormant. Once they’ve been chilled long enough, they’re ready to cut. And for many of us, that time is now. Continue reading

How To Design With Naturalistic Plantings: An Expert Speaks Out

Naturalistic plantings at Denver Botanic Gardens

If you’re used to order in the garden, naturalistic plantings can seem a bit out of control. But installations such as New York City’s High Line are bringing this new, plant-driven approach more and more into the mainstream. That’s according to award-winning designer Carrie Preston of the Netherland’s Studio TOOP. She spoke recently in Maryland on how to incorporate naturalistic plantings into all types of landscapes. Continue reading

The Best Hellebore Varieties For Your Winter/Spring Garden

February can be a bleak time on the East Coast. Days are short and the sky hangs low on the horizon. But there’s a small-sized perennial whose early, colorful blooms never fail to lift my mood. It’s the lovely, cup-shaped flower called hellebore, commonly known as the Lenten Rose. Continue reading