An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

August 30, 2010

Paxson Hill Farm

Let this blogger take you back to Pennsylvania now. We will be ping-ponging between here, New York, Virginia and may even pay a visit to New Jersey before I finish going through all my summer photos. It seems that the season finds me flush with things to post, but perhaps I should preserve a few for the leaner times this winter.

I first heard of Paxon Hill Farm from fellow blogger James of View from Federal Twist. His post intrigued me enough to want to put this on my to-do list while I was vacationing nearby. When we got there I soon had the distinct impression that this nursery is one of those that sells plants to help defray the cost of maintaining their beautiful gardens and considerable menagerie. Besides animals, the gardens at Paxon Hill were full of great design ideas, water features, interesting focal points and great plant choices. Like James, I was also intrigued at how they mixed the common railroad tie with other materials in a very uncommon way. Some of the garden was still a work in progress, but seeing what has already been accomplished makes me want to stop here again in the future.

Agave Urn

Pondside 2

What, No Coaster

Railroad Tie Pathway


Railroad Tie Path with Bloodgrass

Fish Tank 2

Railroad Tie Pathway 2

Fountain Grass

Path to Bridge

Blue Urn

If you are ever near New Hope, Pennsylvania, you should stop by Paxon Hill Farm. Do not worry if there are non-gardeners in your party, even my normally garden-center-weary, yet tolerant wife and son enjoyed their visit.

August 24, 2010

Epiphyllum oxypetalum

Saturday, August 21, 2:29 p.m.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum 08-21-10 1429

Monday, August 23, 6:45 p.m.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum 08-23-10 1845

Monday, August 23, 9:12 p.m.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum 08-23-10 2112

Monday, August 23, 9:46 p.m.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum 08-23-10 2146

Monday, August 23, 10:14 p.m.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum 08-23-10 2214

Monday, August 23, 11:35 p.m.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum 08-23-10 2335

Monday, August 23, 11:37 p.m.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum 08-23-10 2337

Tuesday, August 24, 8:32 p.m.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum 08-24-10 0832

August 20, 2010

The High Line

From the first time I read of its proposal, The High Line has fascinated me. So I knew when we visited Manhattan this summer, I would make time to explore it, and I was not disappointed.

Rudbeckia at Chelsea Grasslands

Rudbeckia at Chelsea Grasslands

The High Line was constructed in the 1930's to elevate freight trains above the streets of New York's Meatpacking District. For half a century it delivered the milk, meat and produce that a hungry city needed. Buildings were constructed around it and took advantage of railroad tracks right outside, or in some cases inside, their second story. The last train ran here in 1980 and the tracks soon fell into disrepair. Mother Nature, who even in Manhattan abhors a vacuum, set seed in the railroad bed. Perhaps, this weedy growth, an unusual history and the need for open space inspired the park.

10th Ave. Square

10th Ave (2)

Today The High Line is richly planted, mostly with natives that seem perfectly at home among the tracks. The landscape evokes what may have been growing here when Manhattan was just a wild island along the Hudson. However, this park does not deny its human history, in fact it is embraced. There are also many spaces where busy people can relax on benches and lounge chairs, enjoy the city view, listen to concerts and mainly take advantage of the totally linear nature of the park and simply stroll above the busy streets.

Persicaria amplexicaulis


View Towards the Hudson

Prairie in the Sky

Liatris aspera

Liatris aspera

The Standard Hotel

The Standard (3)

The Standard (2)

Rhexia virginica

Rhexia virginica

Along the Tracks

Prairie in the Sky (2)

10th Ave. Square

10th Ave

Helenium x ‘Ruby Tuesday’

Helenium x ‘Ruby Tuesday’

This is one of my favorite photos from the day, with Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) blooms in the foreground and a well-known New York icon in the hazy distance. One of the reasons I published this post today was to be on time to enter the Gardening Gone Wild Picture This Photo Contest for August.

Eryngium yuccifolium

The High Line is perhaps the most unique garden I have ever visited, and few places so successfully integrate themselves into their surroundings. If you visit New York, put this on your to-do list. If you want to find out more The High Line has an excellent web site, that includes a month-by-month plant list, lots of historic and contemporary photos, a list of events, insight into its design and lots more. If you want to see how other photographers interpret this place, there is a Flikr group for The High Line where many other perspectives are shown, besides my own. At the end of my visit, I could glimpse the second section which will soon be open. We could see some of the plants where being installed to become another piece of the new New York.

August 19, 2010

Quirky PA

While on vacation we ventured to two places in Pennsylvania that were a bit on the odd side, which of course means I enjoyed them. The first place was the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, which was was founded by glazed tile baron, Henry Chapman Mercer to house his collection of pre-industrial artifacts. To do so he built his own six story castle out of cast concrete to protect his efforts from fire. I am sure Mercer intended us to look at his collections, which included all kinds of tools, lamps, furniture, wagons, and many other things, as long as they were made by hand. However, I was as equally intrigued by the building, which was very odd with stairs going this way and that, odd little windows, narrow passageways and items were stuffed everywhere. In the center is a great hall that is open to the roof, but is chocked full of suspended whaling vessels, carriages, wagons and furniture hanging from the ceiling. It was delightfully disorienting as if the laws of gravity did not apply here and reminded me of MC Escher's Relativity.


This photo was from the Mercer's web site and shows the building under construction in 1915.

The Mercer Museum

Mercer Museum

Mercer Museum (8)

Mercer Museum (9)

Mercer Museum (10)

Mercer Museum (3)

The other quirky place we went was Ringing Rocks Park in northern Bucks County. The centerpiece of this park is a 5 acre field of boulders in the middle of the woods where one out of three boulders ring like a bell when struck with a hammer or another rock. The whole place is very mysterious and several web sources say that no plant will grow in the boulder field (though I did see a dead sapling), birds will not fly over it and animals will not cross it. The average depth of the boulder field is about 14' which makes the fact that nothing grows there not so mysterious and without plants you would not expect to see any animals. I do wonder though what forces brought these boulders here and concentrated them. As to the ringing, no one is exactly sure, but most believe it has to do with their composition and geological stress. Whatever, it was cheap fun.

Ringing Rocks 1

Ringing Rocks 3

Ringing Rocks 4

Addendum: I thank my firiend Chris who found the following explanation of Ringing Rocks.

"The boulders are made of a substance called diabase which is basically volcanic basalt. This is one of the largest diabase boulder fields in the Eastern United States. The boulders have a high content of iron and aluminum and were thought to have broken apart during the Pleistocene Epoch probably about 12,000 years ago. The boulders were created through many years of freeze-thaw cycles that broke up the diabase into individual pieces, a process known as "frost wedging". The rocks may then have accumulated in this one area as the water saturated soil provided lubrication for the stones to "creep" downhill to their present location, a process known as "solifluction". This could have happened during the prior ace ages when overlying most soil literally slid over the frozen permafrost below, carrying the boulders with it."

August 14, 2010

Bloom Day - August Survivors and Thrivers

In order to have any color in August, beyond green, I usually plant annuals that will carry the garden through the hottest part of the season. This summer in particular has been a trial with long stretches of high heat, and no to little rain (until recently). Over the years I have found some things that give lots of color with minimal effort on my part. One annual I try to plant every year are Zinnias, in particular the Profusion Series, but this year they were not available for some reason. After reassurance from a co-worker, I ended up trying a new one, Zahara Fire (Zinnia marylandica 'Zaraha Fire'). Like the Profusions, I have had no mildew problems, they have bloomed non-stop, put up with the heat, humidity and drought, but the flowers are larger and a bit showier.

Zinnia marylandica 'Zahara Fire' (2)

Another annual I plant regularly is Angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia), and I usually pair a dark purple variety with a chartreuse Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea batatas 'Margarita').

Angelonia angustifolia (2)

For the past few years I have been planting a tropical Butterfly Weed (Asclepias curassavica). This summer I was late getting them in and they are just now beginning to bloom, and I have also noticed that last year's plants must have set seeds which should be blooming soon as well.

Asclepias curassavica

One of my favorite summer plants is not grown for its flowers. The old-fashioned, shade loving Coleus (Solenostemon scutellariodes) never had much appeal to me, but I very much like the newer Sun Coleus, whose cultivar numbers seem to increase exponentially every year. I am currently having a summer fling with 'Big Red Judy'.

Solenostemon scutellariodes 'Big Red Judy' (3)

The Kong Series of Coleus came out several years ago and like the older varieties, prefers shade, but has much larger leaves (and a few blue flowers).

Solenostemon scutellariodes

Most Lantanas (Lantana camara) are annuals for us, but until this winter I had several varieties that managed to come back. We lost all but the hardy 'Miss Huff', so I replanted with the less sprawly, more compact 'Ann Marie'.

Lantana Camara 'Ann Marie'

Here is the unflappable 'Miss Huff'.

Lantana camara 'Miss Huff' (3)

Another perennial that has proven able to withstand the heat and humidity, without any foliage issues has been Phlox paniculata 'Coral Creme Drop'.

Phlox paniculata 'Coral Creme Drop'

Dahlias are more or less hardy here. The first one came from an assorted pack, and the second is one of the Bishops, but I'm sorry I don't know which one.

Dahlia (2)


Blooming since June is Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'.

Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'

The recent rains have given the already long-blooming Crape Myrtles a second wind. They are so generous with their blossoms, they even give a few to plants that wouldn't normally have any, like this fern.

Cyrtomium falcatum

The last photo is of Golden Brocade Asiatic Jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum 'Ogon Nishiki'). While it has no flowers, it is hard to miss that color.

Trachelospermum asiaticum 'Ogon Nishiki' (4)

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day occurs on the 15th of each month. Gardeners from all over the world post what is blooming in their gardens and send them into GBBD Central, deep within the green hills of Indiana, where CEO Carol @ May Dreams Gardens keeps everything in order. Please pay her a visit and be sure to thank her for the effort.