What a lollapalooza of a year for garden challenges…frequent and strong winds, torrential downpours (rather than soft showers), a constant brigade of bunnies, and a new blight on the horizon that could have a devastating impact on our Newport landscapes. This annual blog is always a bit of a tell-all confessional but even I am overwhelmed by the big “events” this year.
Where to start?… Last November, our 175 year old female Gingko (seen to the right in the above feature image), branches laden with 1″ seed pods, went down in the Woodland Garden during a wind storm (fortunately, in the opposite direction of the Orangerie, below).
It took with it a multitude of plantings — a large cherry tree, old rhododendrons, clusters of hostas, and smaller specimens trees, leaving gaping holes which we are still trying to fill in a summer short on some horticultural selections.
Not celebrating yet…Having suffered through a number of years where coyotes were becoming a presence even on Bellevue Avenue, we found ourselves without them this summer (where they went, nobody knows). But it has taught us a lesson on the topic of the food chain. Suddenly, a whole raft of critters have no predator, starting with deer, and ending with voles and bunnies…who are now sunbathing on our lawn between flower foraging.
They munch the top off our spring tulips and pull out plantings at will. And the deer (despite all our measures) work on the larger plant areas, leaving us few options except to keep the everchanging garden neat and tidy.
We’ve resorted to an attractive temporary “fix”…replacing the empty spots with large pots of complimentary plant material.
Caught in the act…Just a few hours after planting our young specimen Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ in this prominent site along the driveway, I sighted a deer about to munch away on this beauty’s lower branches. I quickly gathered the team and threw up a temporary deer net around her.
We’ve formalized it to look a bit like a “pavilion,” in which it will probably be encased for years to come.
The “gift” that keeps on giving… While I adore that we inherited such stately old trees when we bought this property in 1994, one has proven to be quite the headache — the English little-leafed linden. It secretes a sticky sap that covers and discolors anything under it — from cars to hostas, which in my novice days I planted throughout the woodland area. This is especially annoying in the summer when I love using hosta leaves as alternates to floral arrangements.
Speaking of hostas…some animal has carried in an almost undefinable disease that is rotting their roots, forcing us to dig out the 3′ wide plants peppering the woodland. And we can’t replant until we’ve thoroughly carried out a lengthy sterilization of the area.
A mere shadow of her former self…We tree lovers have a saying…if Newport were a tree it would be a beech. Just a month ago we all learned that the “Beech Leaf Disease” has invaded our town and there is currently no cure! It is an understatement to say that it could have a devastating impact on the landscapes we hold dear. This 30 year old copper beech was planted specifically in this location as a backdrop to our formal garden and to be seen so clearly from both floors of our home. Her deep copper color and majestic full canopy make/made such a statement, as well as being a perfect backdrop to the Parterre Bench. She’s clearly not well…
Ending on a high note…Despite what may be transpiring in my blogs, I always want to close with a positive thought. Our 23 year old ‘Hally Jolivette’ 4 cherries struggled with scale for years (despite all the efforts of our professional landscape service)! My wonderful gardener, Kat Cotta, took matters into her own hands and spent two weeks cutting out dead and infected branches, thinning the canopy to allow for sun and air circulation. Hallelujah! They have greened up and, fingers crossed, we can enjoy their shell pink blooms for another 23 years.
Hope your garden “oopsies” haven’t been too sobering this summer…