Saturday, June 29, 2013

On her best behavior

Someone has heard she might be made into wood chips if she doesn't turn things around and seems to be making an effort to behave...

She's still not looking great by any means, but every week she's sending out more leaves and giving me hope that she'll stick around for a while. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Philadelphia Parks: Matthias Baldwin Park

This is the first in an occasional series.

Philadelphia has a number of incredible public parks and spaces that are well-known, like Rittenhouse Square and Fairmount Park, and boasts of gardens with worldwide reputations in its periphery, like Chanticleer and Longwood Gardens. And yet some of the greatest horticultural surprises in this city can be found in the tiny, lesser known spaces and places tourists might never find. I was passing through the featured park today and wanted to share it with everyone, so that's what I'm doing. I'll continue to share little Philadelphia green spaces when I'm inspired to do so.

Matthias Baldwin Park, formerly known as Franklin Town Square, is a 2-acre public park in the Franklintown or Spring Garden neighborhood of Philadelphia, depending on who you ask.

Photo courtesy of

The historical marker reads, "Baldwin Locomotive Works. For years the nation's leading locomotive manufacturer, it exported products worldwide. Established here by Matthias Baldwin in 1835, it was an early example of integrated industrial organization, employing more than 15,000 workers. Its 39 buildings encompassed 17 acres and transformed the area from a rural estate to one of the city's first factory neighborhoods. Relocating to Eddystone in 1928, ceased production in 1956." 

The manufacturing buildings are long gone, but now residents and passerby have this small but well planned park to enjoy.

From the east side looking west

What first struck me about this park when I started to visit it years ago were the terraces. Some of them seem to be only a few inches above one other and yet the perennials worked so well together. None of the plants overwhelm or grow taller than the ones behind them. Everything behaves exactly as it should! And though the terraces themselves and many of the plants are not that tall, you can't see the opposite side of the park from any point, lending a nice bit of privacy for those sitting on benches or lounging in the grass.

In fact, I didn't learn until writing this blog post that the terraces are actually part of a public art installation titled "Connections", created by Athena Tacha. The design was first proposed in 1981, the final plans submitted and 1986, and the terraces were first planted in 1992, as seen here:

Photo from the artist's website,
Some of my favorite trees as little babies!!

And now look like this:

Photo (by Jim Fennell) from the artist's website.

Well I feel all educated now, don't you?

Moving on.

From the north side looking south

Though the plants are the star attraction for me, the views of the skyscrapers in Center City (Philadelphia's downtown) don't hurt.

I love the contrast of traditional flowers (echinacea, roses) with this yucca (an uncommon plant around these parts).

The park is bordered by a chain-link fence on its northern and southern sides, but a lot of clematis were planted against the fences, leading you to notice the masses of purple rather than the fences themselves. I've never seen clematis like this - they're incredibly full and lush.

Breaking up the terraces here and there are these rock towers. There are several (you can see them all in the aerial photos above) and they're such a pleasing vertical line after looking at the horizontal lines of the perennial terraces.

My blog header photo was even taken here last spring:

There you have it - Matthias Baldwin Park. I hope you enjoyed my nickel tour and mini-history lesson in one. If you ever find yourself in Philadelphia, I hope you'll take some time out to enjoy the public art cum flower gardens in this great green space.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

The hollyhock finally bloomed!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - June 15

I keep looking around my garden this week thinking I need more in-between plants - plants that will bloom in between the first rush of spring and summer blooms. And while that may still be the case, I realized that this year is has been remarkably cool and the flowers have been a bit slow and lagging behind other years (see June 2012, for example). I'm definitely not complaining - I love that it's still cool enough to get a lot done outside before the heat and humidity chase me indoors.

Here are the few plants in bloom right now:

In the absence of a trellis to climb on, this rose has flopped over and taken on massive bush-like qualities.
Callirhoe involucrata, aka winecups. They somehow jumped down to the sidewalk and seeded themselves in. Though likely a prime spot for dogs, I'm leaving it there to spread. 
Callirhoe involucrata at the front steps. I'm sure the mailman hates me but I love how they spread.
Lacecap hydrangea
St. John's Wort and Nepeta siberica 'Souvenir d'Andre Chaudron'. Bee heaven!
Happy little bee
Nepeta siberica 'Souvenir d'Andre Chaudron'. This plant started as a 1-inch plug last year and is already 3 feet tall.
Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam' with some of the Nepeta siberica in the background
Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'
Some sort of evening primrose from my mother and on-its-way-out salvia
This yarrow was hiding - I didn't even see it until I was done snapping pics
This Centuara montana and spiderwort have been in bloom for over a month.
I bought this Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising' last fall on sale. It is GORGEOUS!
That's it from my delayed city garden this month! Thanks so much to May Dreams for hosting, and go take a look at what else is in bloom around the blogosphere. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Update on the half-dead viburnum

I wanted to thank all of you for your suggestions about the problematic viburnum in my last post. Here's where I stand at the moment:

Summer Snowflake clearly heard us talking about her, because she started doing this:


and this:

Wow, that's a terribly fuzzy picture. Sorry!

I also cut into her, per many suggestions, and she's alive and green.

But the fact remains that she looks terrible and since I'm all about appearances, I don't want a dead-looking bush in such a prominent position. This weekend she's getting the old heave-ho, I think. I think. Do you hear that, Summer Snowflake? Now's the time to bust out some flowers!

In truth, if she survives the apocalyptic storm and hail that's coming our way tomorrow, I might take it as a sign to see what she does for a few more weeks, at least until I make up my mind about what bush to purchase to replace her.

In other odd news, I turned from photographing the viburnum and saw this really strange leaf on my backyard table. Oh hey, just kidding, it's actually some cooked lasagna noodles. I think it's J's attempt to feed Stanley, the one-eared squirrel. Either that or we're getting some freaking weird hail.


Friday, June 7, 2013

When bad bushes happen to good people

Back in March, I moved my viburnum from the front yard to the side to continue to develop a privacy screen between me and my neighbors (I blogged about it here). I was religious about watering every day. It formed new buds, then leaves, and even tiny flowers emerged (though not the full flowers you'd see on a healthy viburnum).

Everything was going great!

Then I got the great idea in early May to remove the two wooden stakes holding it up, because surely 2 months is long enough for it to have grown roots that will stabilize it, right? Clearly common sense is not one of my strong points.

That weekend was very windy, and the viburnum kept toppling over again and again. During one of the times when I was trying to right it, I noticed all sorts of fuzzy white things on the undersides of the leaves. Then I noticed some little bugs in the crooks of the branches.

See the fuzzy white thing on the leaf?


Some internet sleuthing made me think they were mealybugs (though in hindsight, I'm not so sure). When they didn't budge after spraying them with water, I did something I never do. I bought and used pesticide.

That didn't go over so well. The fuzzy white cocoon-type things are still there. And now it looks like the entire viburnum is dead.

Dead. Or just hibernating in June.
The leaves have curled, shriveled, and turned brown. The flowers are gone. And those damn fuzzy white things are still there.

However, from what I've read, mealybugs may cause the leaves to wither but not necessarily kill the shrub, so I don't know what's going on. Did I underwater? Is it bugs? Was it the pesticides? Is it really dead or just not looking so good?

No matter what caused the current situation, I have an 8-foot-tall dead-looking shrub in my yard. And here is where I turn to you, internet readers. What would you do?

To help, I'm including some pictures of how it looks in the context of everything else around it:

From backyard looking toward front: L-R - 2-year-old Eastern redbud, possibly dead viburnum, and dwarf lilac on the far right 

Opposite view. Eastern redbud in foreground, possibly dead viburnum in middle of photo.

Your choices are:

a) Keep the shrub and hope it comes back to life next year
b) Remove the viburnum and plant something else in its place (if so, suggestions?)
c) Treat it somehow - it just needs some TLC!
d) Other - Insert your suggestion here

Sunday, June 2, 2013


The gift continues.