large drift of leucojum

March Magic

Spring officially arrived on March 20 but I’ve been seeing signs of life in the garden for quite a while now, long before the calendar marked the arrival of a new season. Extending bloom time into the winter season is great fun, soul soothing, and easier than you might think.

In the Philadelphia area, Winterthur does an amazing job highlighting early spring bloomers and even has an area behind the mansion called the March Bank. H. F. du Pont started the March Bank in 1902 and it now features huge drifts of Galanthus (snowdrops), Leucojum (snowflakes), Crocus, Eranthus (Winter aconite), Chinodoxa (Glory-of-the-Snow), and Adonis among other bulbs.

I had the opportunity to visit Winterthur’s March Bank this year and was so impressed with the display I have already added some bulbs to my wish list for fall planting this year.

Galanthus are available in many different sizes and often have unique attributes that require close inspection. Who doesn’t love a plant that requires you to get on your hands and knees to admire and examine it? Eranthus emerge early and provide a little sunshine in flower form. These charmers are easy to grow and will seed around or can be moved to different parts of the garden.

A Galanthus (Snowdrop) surrounded by Eranthus (Winter Aconite).
A Galanthus with unique green markings


A Galanthus with hints of yellow – a very desirable trait.

Leucojum really make a statement in the garden. Their blooms are larger than Galanthus and they create a white carpet when planted in mass. Even when planted individually, Leucojum will cause a garden visitor to stop and view the amazing flowers.

A field of Leucojum (Snowflake) on the March Bank at Winterthur
Leucojum in the foreground and the Winterthur Mansion in the background.
A Leucojum flower up close

Crocus plants are available in a variety of colors and will self-seed and pop up in different locations. While this might annoy some, to me this is part of their charm. Most Crocus plants are also resistant to destruction by deer, squirrels and other critters. Glory of the snow bulbs are one of the first blooming plants to appear in spring. Members of the Lily family, these cuties produce beautiful snow kissed blooms. Winterthur uses Crocus and Chinodoxa (Glory of the Snow) in combination with a beautiful result.

Crocus and Chinodoxa (Glory of the Snow) planted together in drifts at Winterthur

Named after the Greek God of vegetation, Adonis plants sport feathery foliage and lovely yellow flowers. These plants are superb additions to any woodland setting. While sometimes difficult to find, they are worth seeking out.

A yellow flower surrounded by lacy green foliage
A gorgeous Adonis bloom surrounded by lovely, feathery green foliage

I hope you’ll consider adding some early bloomers to your garden this year. If you do, I’m confident you’ll enjoy years of pleasure when spring arrives early in your garden.


Lasting Landscapes by Carol

Winter walks

Most people don’t think of February as a month for garden tours, but I encourage you to change your mindset. Winter is a perfect time to experience gardens when you can see their bones, notice what creates interest and enjoy smaller crowds. Peace comes with touring gardens in the quiet of the off-season.

In the Philadelphia area we are lucky to live in America’s Garden Capital. With over 30 public gardens within 3o miles of the city, we have many gardens to choose from. A number of these gardens are open in the winter and waiting for your visit. I recently visited two area arboretums and was enthralled with their meandering paths, extensive plantings and winter wonder.

The Morris Arboretum was first on the list. Located in Chestnut Hill, the site includes tens of thousands of plants including many collected by plantsman John Morris and his sister Lydia who lived on the property when it was a private home. Some of Delaware Valley’s oldest specimen trees grow at the Morris. During our visit we took note of these features as well as the use of evergreens to frame views, spent seed heads, plants in flower and texture created by plant material.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) needles provide amazing texture in the winter garden
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Spent roses cascade over a bed of lavender and rosemary
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Corylus fargesii catkins offer interest in the winter
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Metasequoia buttresses contrast beautifully with the blooming Witch Hazel
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Snowdrops (Galanthus) bloom happily in the winter garden
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Mahonia x Winter Sun flowers are beautiful golden rays in February
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Evergreens are especially noticeable when they perfectly frame a view like this waterfall

In addition to the outdoor spaces, a number of Philadelphia’s public gardens have greenhouses or conservatories that provide a break from the cold and access to flowering non-hardy plants. Who doesn’t love being immersed in a sea of lush foliage or fragrant blooms in the middle of winter?

Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Inside the fernery we were warm and enveloped in humidity

The second garden I had the opportunity to see this winter was the Tyler arboretum located in Media. Tyler spans over five hundred acres and includes seventeen miles of hiking trails and extensive plant collections. Tyler is one of the oldest arboretums in the region dating back to 1681. The property that makes up the arboretum today was purchased by Thomas Minshall from William Penn. Like the Morris, Tyler is home to some magnificent trees including those deemed ‘champions’ because they are the largest individual specimens of a particular species. We particularly enjoyed the Witch Hazel collection during our visit.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol
One of many blooming Witch Hazels at Tyler
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
A fragrant wintersweet bloom (Chimonanthus praecox var. Luteus) soothes the soul
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Croton alabamensis shows off some lingering fall color and awaiting spring flowers
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
The structure of Sweetgum ‘Corky’ (Liquidambar styraciflua) was mesmerizing
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Bark might go unnoticed during the growing season, but not in the winter.

Clearly I was inspired by my tours to two Philadelphia’s area gardens this winter. I encourage you to seek out some you would like to see and make a plan to visit. I’m confident that in addition to many ideas for your own landscape, you will leave with a calm mind and warm heart.


PPC amphitheater

A Perennial Favorite

Each year I look forward to the Perennial Plant Conference in October, an amazing full day event including lectures given by horticulturalists from around the world. This year’s conference welcomed speakers from Japan, the Netherlands, the US, and Britain.

Started over 35 years ago, the conference continued its educational focus by gathering experts in the field to share knowledge and experiences. The sold out conference attracted 600 attendees and was held on the grounds of Swarthmore College which is advertised as “the most beautiful campus in America.” I can attest to the beauty of the campus. As with the other attendees, I was able to tour the campus before and after the conference. I even ate lunch in the gorgeous amphitheater where students celebrate graduation rain or shine.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol Perennial Plant Conference
This is what the crowd looks like during a break. I can see the coffee urn but it seems to be a mile away!
Lasting Landscapes by Carol Perennial Plant Conference
Loved these chairs – what a great place to take a break from the auditorium.
Lasting Landscapes by Carol Perennial Plant Conference
Shady spots welcomed visitors too.
Lasting Landscapes by Carol Perennial Plant Conference
The amphitheater is my favorite spot on Swarthmore’s campus. Just stunning.
Lasting Landscapes by Carol Perennial Plant Conference
When you tired of sitting you could tour the rose garden.
Lasting Landscapes by Carol Perennial Plant Conference
The blooms were amazing.
Lasting Landscapes by Carol Perennial Plant Conference
This water feature with floating blooms and the reflection of the surrounding trees was magical.
Lasting Landscapes by Carol Perennial Plant Conference
The fall colors in the gardens inspired visitors.
Lasting Landscapes by Carol Perennial Plant Conference
Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ colonized along the pathways.


The conference was co-sponsored by ChanticleerLongwood GardensThe Hardy Plant Society/Mid-Atlantic GroupPennsylvania Horticultural Society, and The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College. That’s some serious backing, which is probably why the speakers are well regarded and the attendance so impressive.

This year’s program included presentations on naturalistic plantings such as Midori Shintani’s discussion about the Millennium Forest and her team’s strategy to merge the cultivated gardens into the natural expanse beyond. Midori explained how her team used random software to position plants in an organic way.

Jacqueline Van Der Kloet, an internationally acclaimed garden designer from Holland, shared her tips for a cohesive design including the need to consider a winter framework of trees and hedges, a planned sequence of flowering for maximum impact, use of repetition for a naturalistic effect, and a recommendation to tie plant colors to the buildings in the background. Of course Jacqueline also suggested lots of bulbs which was no surprise given her Dutch background.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol Perennial Plant Conference
When you are Dutch, bulbs are a must.

Ivin Etienne, Horticulture Display Coordinator for The Garden at Newfields in Indiana, explained that plants have to perform in a public display. There is no tolerance for a part of the garden that isn’t working when you have visitors every day. He highlighted a number of tried and true plants used at Newfields including Hellebores, Epimediums, Baptisia, Iris, Hosta, and Echinacea.

Panayoti Kelaidis is associated with the Denver Botanic Gardens. His presentation focused on rock garden plants that thrive in Colorado’s alpine environment and can also be used in other parts of the country if given the right conditions.

Lee Buttala, an author and television producer, stressed the need to let plants go to seed in order to allow new varieties to be born and to create more balanced ecosystems.

Finally, British garden designer, James Alexander-Sinclair, shared some of his work and explained his design principles such as using angles to make a space look bigger, hiding parts of the garden to reveal it slowly, and doing more planting close to the house. I particularly liked his comment that gardens are only as good as those who look after them. He said what the world needs is more gardeners. I am glad I am one of them at that I have the opportunity to tend gardens every day and attend wonderful educational events like the Perennial Plant Conference.

If you have a passion for perennials or just love plants, I encourage you to attend next year. Be sure to register early though as the 2020 program will likely sell out quickly.



Hitting the Rails

I love visiting the High Line when I go to New York City. I’ve meandered through this amazing park in the winter and in the summer and am confident it is beautiful in every season. Once home to the New York Central Railroad, the elevated railway turned garden was set to be demolished. Fortunately, a motivated and visionary Chelsea resident took the lead and set up a foundation to transform one and a half miles of the abandoned railway into a recreational space. As the New York Times said, the ‘frog of the railroad was to become a prince of a park.” The High Line has been open for ten years and currently includes fifteen different planting zones and over 100,000 plants inspired by the wild landscape that once grew on the abandoned site.

Imagine my excitement when I learned my home city, Philadelphia, was opening its own rail park inspired by the High Line. The first quarter mile of the three mile park opened in June of 2018 and is situated on the obsolete railways of two rail lines that serviced the popular Reading Terminal Market in Center City.

Philadelphia Rail Park
The first phase of the Philadelphia Rail Park invites visitors to stroll through an industrial part of the city
Philadelphia Rail Park
One of the unique features of the Rail Park is this metal wall highlighting Philadelphia based companies
Philadephia Rail Park
When you need a rest you can relax on a swing and take in the sights and sounds of the city below
Philadelphia Rail Park
While dogs are welcome, they are encouraged not to water the plants.

Philadelphia Parks and Rec commissioner, Kathryn Ott Lovell commented that the park “will connect neighborhoods during a time when our country needs to be connected and that’s the great power of parks.” I couldn’t agree more. Gardens and landscaped public spaces have the amazing ability to transform our attitudes, lift our spirits and bring us together as a community. If you are able to visit either of these parks I encourage you to do so. I visited Philly’s Rail Park last month and left inspired and wanting more as I experienced my adopted home town from a unique perspective.