One of the most rewarding aspects of working at Cedar Spring Nursery, was being given the opportunity to assist with the creation of a series of display gardens. Perhaps it is because of my admiration for the large English estate gardens such as Rousham or Great Dixter, or maybe it has more to do with my belief that if you're going to sell plants, you need to have set aside enough space so that you can show your customers what they will look like in a true garden setting, as opposed to lined up alphabetically [by botanical Latin of course!] on a bench. As such, over the past three years, I've been privy to the creation of what I do believe are truly one of a kind display gardens!
The garden along the fence that runs the length of the perennial and nursery stock department is known as the Jurassic Garden, and it is here where we grow some of our most unique items. The photo above shows what is a grafted Wisteria tree that has all but overtaken one of my favourite bold perennials - Angelica gigas. I love the bold contrast in colour present this year, thanks largely to the fact that the Wisteria waited until June to leaf out, and with all the rain..... Yeah, the foliage is looking a tad bit chlorotic I would say! The photo below is of one of at least a dozen Agapanthus flowers that also reside there. I have finally found one that is truly hardy to our -30C winters!
It is also here that we display some of our more zonally challenged specimens which are grown in pots so that they can be brought in for the winter. Few people can walk past our Cycas revoluta [King Sago Palm] without questioning as to what it is. One customer was convinced it was a large plastic pineapple. Kudos for such an unexpected guess, but come to think of it..... The plant in the foreground came from fellow plantsman Darren Heimbecker at Whistling Gardens near Brantford. If memory serves it is Kalopanax sieboldii, whose large palmate foliage and spiny stems add a definitive Jurassic appeal! He, like the Wisteria sent up all new growth from the base this year, leaving last year's spiny stem to resemble an archaic skeleton..... works perfectly! In the background of the next photo is a simple Dracaena that we salvaged from the annual benches four years ago, potted up and have overwintered in one of the hoop houses. Amazing how large they will grow if given the care!
Miss Britt Marie Crawford is the only Ligularia that I offer on the benches. I love her deep purple, ripple edged foliage, and the large orangey-yellow daisy like flowers that bloom... well, at this time of year! Next in line is a perennial Hibiscus whose foliage is of a similar colouring! I want to say that it is Kopper King, but I could be mistaken. Not a fan of Hibiscus, but my clients seem to like it!
Making our way to the front of the property, we come to what is without a doubt, my favourite of the display gardens. Cast in dappled shade thanks to two large Acer 'Crimson King' trees that flank its length, this border is home to many of my personal favourite shady characters!
Thalictrum delavayi 'Splendide' is always a hit on the benches when he smothers himself in his signature opalescent mauve buds that open to reveal exquisite four petalled flowers. Here in his partly shaded location, he stands head and shoulders above his shady companions, whereas in my own garden, mine towers close to 3m in height. I have it staked, and many people stop and inquire about the 'thin tree with the pink flowers!'
Nor am I a fan of many of the Campanula species, but I do have a soft spot for these two in particular. I first met the pair at Lost Horizons, that denizen of all things woodland when it comes to plants, and have included them in every subsequent planting that I have undertaken. Campanula punctuate 'Pink Octopus' is a bizarre little oddity in the sense that the usually bell shaped flowers are instead shredded, looking as its name suggests, like the arms of an octopus. I have had some gardeners say that it spreads like wildfire, but for me, three years in, he remains a well behaved, often commented upon charmer!
For northern gardeners, I am often suspect of suggesting the more traditional Acer palmatum species, but I have no qualms about suggesting one Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' - also known as the 'Full Moon' Japanese maple. Thrice as hardy as his more delicate cousins, this guy offers up fabulously chartreuse, heavily pleated palmate foliage that in my eyes resembles hundreds of miniature Geisha's fans every Spring. We offer no winter protection, where he is prone to some pretty severe cold winds over our lengthy winters, and yet he comes back year after year!
Did he scare you? Hands down the most commented upon piece of statuary in the gardens is this rather unique downspout Gargoyle! My employer fell in love when she spotted him in the supplier catalogue. One has to admit that he does bring a newfound attention to what is usually an eyesore in most gardens!
Our resident Miss Grace weeping Metasequoia has steadily sold out by the end of June. For those who want to own a truly prehistoric piece of history, but do not have the space necessary for the true species, Miss Grace is the perfect alternative. Those looking for a Yen inspired garden should definitely consider this one!
By this time of year the colour has pretty much faded from what is one of my personal favourite tree selections: Fagus sylvatica 'Roseomarginata.' We were lucky to find this one, with its somewhat flat side which lined up perfectly with the rail fence in front of which he is positioned. Early Spring is when he truly struts his stuff: Purple, cream and pink variegation stop people in their tracks!
He is somewhat hard to see, but Acer palmate 'Hana Matoi' - another Whistling Gardens acquisition is a low growing thread leaf specimen whose pink green and white variegation is most marked in the Springtime. I was worried that he was going to be tender hearted, but he is another of the ' leave me alone and let me do my thing' selections that remind me of the fact that sometimes we have a tenacity to over pamper our garden residents.
Two more pieces of statuary. Those familiar with my own garden will recognize the Buddha Boy. He has proven to be most popular this year, and already I have three orders for more for Spring 2016. The very cool dragon is reminiscent of HBO's monolithic series Game of Thrones, and he also maintains a Yen like atmosphere in our woodland garden!
And we have come full circle. It is only now that I realize that I have forgotten the one remaining display garden, but after viewing it, I think I will pass. It is made up of Hosta and Polygonatum, but as has been the heatwave for many this past week, its typically lush green ambiance is looking more brownish yellow. This is perhaps the only drawback to display gardens: if they are not well maintained, and do not look at their peak best all season long, only then can they turn into an unwanted distraction. Lucky for me, the gardens here have all performed to, if not above my requirements. Its easy to see why I am more at home among plants than I am with people!