Object of Desire: Prunus mume

It was 2000—the beginning of my garden journey—I attended a Master Garden Conference and one of the many speakers, was showing photos of beautiful woodies—trees and shrubs.

Since I had been a Midwestern and Northeastern ‘City Gal” up until then—I was mesmerized by all the diversity of plants one could choose from.   

Three stars, feverish plant notes scribbled in darkness in the margins of the slide list the speaker had prepared —so began a quest for the Object of Desire: Prunus mume ‘Kobai’ —a semi-double, deep red-pink color. Blooms in the Winter Garden.  Jan-March.

One of the interesting things the speaker noted was that Prunus mume or Japanese flowering apricot, was one of the plants that uses vernalization—Latin “of the spring.” 

Prunus mume 'Kobai'

Prunus mume ‘Kobai’
Entwined Gardens viewed from above.

In the southern garden—meaning it holds its ability to flower until after a certain exposure to cold, number of weeks of growth, or other seasonal clues before flowering—who wouldn’t want this smart beautiful small tree in their garden!

My friend Gayle was sitting next to me and we made a pack to scour local North Carolina nurseries for ‘Kobai’.  

Months later, on a repeat visit to a nursery, the object of desire was spotted! Feverish phone calls made and plants put “on hold” until we could arrange transport.

A small tree–growing 15–20 ft–‘Kobai’ normally bursts forth with enticing clove scent and deep magenta blooms, the second week of January.   It gives hope in the garden, when all is snowy in rare years, or brown in most years.  

 It lures me outside to basque in the scent – purifying and uplifting body and soul, just as the Feudal Lords would create and share their gardens with the  warriors, workers, writers or artists–after battles or work–a place to go to relax and cleanse thru sight and scent. 

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The world famous Kairaku-en Garden in Japan, boasts 3,000 specimens including 100 different cultivars of Prunus mume.

For centuries, the Prunus mume has inspired traditional East Asian art and poetry.  The famous Japaneses Kairaku-en Gardens were created with just that purpose in mind.  I can hardly imagine being transported with the overwhelming scent of 3,000 specimens, knowing the power of just one at Entwined Gardens!

‘Kobai’ is so memorable that every summer, since it got a little too big for it’s britches–all leafed out blocking the lake view–we contemplate elimination or heavy pruning–but then the visceral always dissuades the logic and it stays as is.

This year with the strange weather, I thought for sure the buds had been nipped in the single digit icy weather.   I was glad for the snow and ice–well for few days–but missed my favorite object of desire.  

Last week the glorious show began, a good 5 weeks later than anticipated;  I cut a few stems and brought them inside which filled the house with the anticipation of spring.

Stem

I remembered to call my friend Gayle, the talk, and grateful I am that my object of desire lures me out of my comfort zone in front of the fire–to the garden everyday–no matter how cold–to be refreshed and inspired by my smart beautiful tree; knowing that my long ago quest was well worth the effort.

 “Few plants are as closely associated with the JC Raulston Arboretum as the Japanese flowering apricot, Prunus mume.   J. C. Raulston widely promoted this winter flowering tree as a valuable addition to the southern landscape. It flowers from late December to early March depending on selection and brightens the winter garden with white to deep red-pink flowers and a delightfully spicy clove scent that warms even the coldest day.”

JC Raulston Arboretum
Department of Horticultural Science

Note:  the above link to the JC Raulston Arboretum provides a list of the Prunus Mume on display at the Arboretum.

Enjoy – living the  EntwinedLife

Jayme B

NC Certified Environmental Educator

Garden Conservancy Regional Representative

JC Raulston Arboretum Volunteer

The Mark of Adventure (4 of 4)

So here we are at day 4 of our virtual explorations of plants and adventurers.

Being a like minded adventurous spirit,  I am always eager to learn a little behind the scenes – just what goes into planning an expedition… so I was delighted when ‘The Mark of Adventure‘, Mark Weathington, stepped in  at a recent event -Volunteer Appreciation Day –  for  J .C.  Raulston, Sarah B. Duke Gardens, North Carolina Botanical Garden, and Juniper Level Botanic Garden –  to share what was in his suitcase.

Even though Mark was leaving in 2 days to give a talk at a prestigious event: 5th Global Botanic Gardens Congress    and hunt plants in New Zealand, he took the time out to delight his audience with his always packed and ready to go roller bag for plant collecting.

MW Suitcase1This bag gets checked, let’s see what’s inside:

  • MW tech2Notebooks for documenting & sketching, multiple pencils for writing &  marking.
  • Business cards printed in English and the language of the visiting country… plenty of them!

All collected plants must be meticulously cleaned, packed and labeled.  No traces of  soil can be left on a cutting or on seeds… so each night plant hunters can be found in their lodging with sinks or trash cans filled with water for cleaning…  a soft brush is  handy.

MWZiplock2

  • Hefty Zipper Bags  – Mark prefers those with the actual plastic zippers.
  • Scissors  and knife.
  • A spray bottle for a little moisture.  Plastic Plant markers.
  • MWtech3Mark showed the size of the specimens collected (held in right hand), which after cleaning get wrapped in foil.  Paper towels, some moss which also acts as packing material.MW sifter
  • Little sieves from the Dollar Store help when cleaning and sifting seed.
  • Small muslin bags for storing seed in a variety of sizes.
  • A loop or magnifying glass to insure correct ID and check for tiny insects or minute traces of soil.  It is not uncommon for Customs agents to dump the whole lot!

MWtech4Then there’s the tech equipment…

  •  GPS,  to mark location of collected specimens.
  • Chargers for  phones,  that is if there is any reception!
  • Laptops, etc.  which  must also be compatible with the country’s power.
  • Charging for same in vehicles,  Mark brings a charger that accommodates multiple gadgets simultaneously.MW machete
  • Duct Tape – Of Course!!!
  • A re-engineered fishing rod,  when coupled with a cutting implement, PVC pipe  and wire…

MWMachete2An invention of Mark’s to give him extra reach up in a tree or down a ravine to get that plant of desire just out of reach.  Can’t you tell he loves his work!

  • MW booksBooks to research and ID in the country visiting….
  • Passports, Visas,
  • Collecting permits…
  • Folders,
  • Padded envelopes,
  • Flattened fed Ex boxes
  • Labels.
  • MW permits2 Research lists of  plants – those that can not be collected  in particular country and
  • A wish list for the expedition!

MW listAll collected material gets dropped at inspection center usually near an airport and the plant hunter holds their breathe hoping the documented specimens make it out of customs of the visited country.

Then more waiting as the specimens are sent on through to the US Department of Agriculture for another round of inspections… the waiting begins…

MW labelsWhile Mark was still out in the hinterlands of New Zealand… this was posted by Lizzi Lathers of JCRA…

imageLuck!!!   Some of the plants already arrived at the JCRA!

Stay Tuned!  I’ll be following up with a behind the scenes look at what happens next…. as we follow the journey of the collected plants!

Thanks again Mark for the interesting and creative presentation… It was a huge hit!

Enjoy – living the  EntwinedLife

Jayme B

NC Certified Environmental Educator

Garden Conservancy Regional Representative

JC Raulston Arboretum Volunteer

A Visit under the Oaks

At this time of year chores at Entwined Gardens include raking the leaves and acorns from under the Oaks.  It somehow seems like a never-ending task, but one that always elicits a mixed bag of frustration and wonder, as I visit under the Oaks.

The grove of Oak trees was on the property when my husband purchased this woodland paradise.   He hates the thought (and expense) of  thinning them.   So many hardwoods were cut adjacent to our property when the woods became a golf course community – habitat lost.

But their  limbs have begun to hang over our rooftop,  making the back deck and terrace a constant battleground… and a potential threat of roof damage in some crazy storm.

I know – first world thinking!

Overhang

The acorns under foot can be dangerous, the leaves slick…  and with a back that easily twists out of shape… I do get annoyed from the raking and sweeping.

It is not an easy task to establish new plants under the Oaks, as they provide a dense shady canopy for most of the year, so I often grouse (to myself) that I’d really like a more refined view from my dining room and kitchen…  more light would be nice.

Most recommended woodland plants I’ve tried have languished, as the roots of the Oaks are far-reaching – sucking  up any available moisture from the hard packed,  root bound clay soils.

Then  comes the fall when the thick drop of leaves builds up an anaerobic layer, smothering anything below.

To have any success,  I have learned to plant specimens in pots. Should they survive the deer, then  I create a modified raised bed – planting on top of the of the woodland floor adding good soil amendments  around the root ball and  spreading out the  hauled in soil around the plant – yet not too high to smother  the roots of the Oaks.  It’s a learning experience and indeed a delicate balance.

I grumble more as most of the acorns sprout with ease just laying on top of – well anything –  in the pots in the raised planting and across the woodland floor…  while nothing else grows with vigor under the thick woodland floor of  tannic acid…  each spring I have a sea of Oak seedlings.

Oh a good remainder  when raking – to limit the amount of Oak leaves added to the compost pile –  no more than twenty percent  because they take forever to break down and will create an acid, anaerobic mess.

While on the topic of tannic acid, (Plant Geek Alert!)  it  is also found in acorns… this is the true reason that squirrels and Jays hide the nuts… waiting for rain and melting snows to wash away the tannic acid  over time to make them palatable.  It is also nature’s way of distributing the nut seed with squirrels acting as dutiful gardeners planting them in new locations where often they forget to retrieve.

Or, is it Mr. Squirrelly shrewdly planting a tree for ensuring a future harvest?

The deer eat acorns and don’t seem to have a digestive problem.  Then again the deer seem to eat just about anything, except poison ivy or just plain ivy!   Dang!

The sprouted acorns cannot get raked,  so this becomes a zen like meditation of tugging them out one by one.  There  are hundreds each year! It always amazes me how quickly they can put out a tap-root of several inches long once they get growing as temperatures become mild in early spring.

Last year I had an indoor mini forest of Oaks growing in a large pot of Aspidistra – cast iron plant – which we bring in for the winter.  It was amazing that 15 or so acorns sprouted and developed leaves!  Note to self: to look for photo.

So in the midst of raking, hauling and grumbling,  I am reminded to pause, look up and ponder…

OakWonder… good for the back, good for the soul – the majestic Oak.

Today with milder temperatures  under a Carolina Blue sky,  I laid down in the leaves to take the photo, resting and hoping to capture some frolicking squirrels, as they perform aerial feats of delight, soaring from tree to tree, but no suck luck.

I am reminded that these giants are also woodland habitat to Woodpeckers, Jays and lodging for migrating flocks.

Squirrel NestMajestic crooks are protected nurseriesfor the baby squirrels called kittens.

Shelter also for butterflies and host plants for moths.

All in all – grateful for their beauty,  the  shade for our home.  The Oak flooring we walk on, and Oak furniture we use.  The delicious wine that is aged in Oak barrels…

Grateful for the Oak table our family gathers around.

Now back to work…

Enjoy – living the EntwinedLife

Jayme B

NC Certified Environmental Educator

Thanks for taking the time to visit under the oaks…

Leave a comment on your what your favorite Oak …

Grady Garden – A beautifully woven horticultural textile retreat…

Under the high shade of these tall pines, is the relaxing garden of Pat & Perry Grady.

I love to visit a garden and  sit  in the chairs or benches along the way… to pause and take in the views.   There is usually a reason a bench or chair has been placed in a particular spot… if for no other reason than to just contemplate what goes into a garden, or an EntwinedLife.

The Grady Garden has many charming places to sit, if only for just a minute or two… to notice the rather steep grade, listen to birds, then quiet; enjoy the majesty of the tall trees – the rustle of wind, juxtaposed to the interesting textures on the ground.  Then the eye catches a glimpse of color off in the distance  which beckons on to explore the next visual delight to explore.  A beautifully woven horticultural textile retreat  high above the stress of the hectic world.

Grady lng view yellBut don’t be fooled… from my observations this is a tough challenging location… the shade, the heavy mesh of tree roots unseen which will greedily suck up the water needed to establish any new plant additions… let alone the fortitude and strength it takes be able to dig a hole though the tangle, worthy for any new plant addition! (especially at today’s dear prices) and hope for its survival.  Another challenge is defining paths  – there is quite an elevation change both front and back,  and the constant maintenance to tidy the leaves and pine needles before  the signs are put up and visitors welcomed  – is a task of patience only Zen Master gardener will rise above. Yet, this all looks so easy woven together.

We honor you dear gardeners for sharing your private spaces with us!

Pat, how long have you been gardening at this location?

29 years

What is the first thing you added, removed or changed in this garden?

Added shrubs and took out a few trees

Do you collect plants and if so what?

Anything for shade

Any favorite garden tools?

Rake

How much time do you spend working in your garden?

About 6 hours a day

What is your mulch preference?

Pine bark and pine straw

Anything new added to your garden?

Arbor in back yard

What is your first memory in a garden?

Living on the farm and having a row of zinnias and gladioli planted in my mom’s vegetable garden

What is it that got you started gardening?

Being outside

Grady Chair

Where do you go for inspiration?

Just take a walk in garden and visit other gardens

 Do you have a favorite Garden you’ve visited?

J C Raulston Arboretum

 Do you have a favorite Garden Magazine?

Carolina Gardner

 Who is your Horticultural Hero? Or Garden mentor?

Ann Clapp

Describe where you most often sit in your garden or looking out at your garden

Front porch

 If money were no object what would you add or do differently?

More gardens and paths

Do you have garden wisdom’ to share? 

Just work and enjoy

Grady Birdhouse benchPat & Perry Grady look forward to seeing you during ‘Open Days Tour’…  You’re more than welcome to try out all the chairs and benches and relax.

DSC00767Enjoy – living the  EntwinedLife

Jayme B

NC Certified Environmental Educator

Garden Conservancy Regional Representative

JC Raulston Arboretum Volunteer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helen’s Haven – a wildlife habitat in the heart of Raleigh

Playground to garden guru – Helen Yoest, husband David Philbrook and their charming brood, The Yoest /Philbrook Family are surrounded by Helen’s Haven – a wildlife habitat in the heart of Raleigh, North Carolina.

You are invited to  visit and meet the newest additions to the family – Pepper and the Chicks. Saturday September 21!

Pepper

Pepper on patrol!

Helen inspires an adoring public with wit, wisdom & whimsy…

Just an uncanny sense of solid Horticulture mixed with thoughtful solutions and non stop delight.  Frankly if she doesn’t empower you to Garden with Confidence… Perhaps you should try Mahjong!

Let’s meet Helen:

Helen

David is my husband of 25 years, but he doesn’t do anything in the garden. But I thought I should mention him since he does let me get away with gardening.

 How long have you been gardening at this location?

 16 years.

What was the first thing you planted in or changed at Helen’s Haven?

Hmmm, I had to think about that! 

I put in a privacy hedge of Leyland Cypress. Yup, sure did. They are doing SO well, but not a day goes by that I wonder why I wasn’t more creative at the time and put in multi-species hedge instead. The privacy is wonderful, though.

Do you collect plants and if so what?

Dear oh dear, I have to admit to an addiction? No wait, I see you are only asking about a collection. Elephant ears, any native wildlife plant, weeping trees, rock garden plants, and any BIG, BOLD, LUSTFUL plant.

How much time do you spend working in your garden?

Every Sunday. It may be for an hour or 6 hours, but that is the only day I have. It is my most anticipated day of the week. If something should get in the way of that, I will pick up another day to cover my lost time. I couldn’t go a week with out getting my hands dirty. But I visit daily.

Any favorite Garden tools?

My knees.

What is your mulch preference?

Composted leaf mulch from the City of Raleigh

Anything new added to your garden art collection?

I have a couple of new pieces of garden art. You will have to come see them for yourself.

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 What is your first memory in a garden?

 Planting tomatoes with my dad.

 What is it that got you started gardening?

 I wanted to be with my dad and be like my dad.

 Who is your Horticultural Hero? Or Garden mentor?

My horticultural hero are the staffers at the JC Raulston Arboretum. I’ve even dedicated ” Plants with Benefits” – to them, specifically naming Mark Weathington, Tim Alderton, and Chris Glenn. Then there is John Buettner. Thew, I’m one lucky gardener!

Where do you go for inspiration?

Everywhere. I’ve never visited a garden I didn’t like. I get to see lots of them as a Field Editor for BHG and my other garden writing travels. I get ideas from every garden I see. I was just in Anthropologie and took away a gardening idea.  Once your eyes are open to something new, ideas just jump out at you.

 Do you have a favorite Garden you’ve visited?

Oooo, this is a tough one. Public garden I’d say Chanticleer. Private garden I’d say the one I just scouted.

 Do you have a favorite Garden Book?  Website – Blog – Magazine?

 My favorite garden book is Gardening with Confidence ® of course lol.

 And my second favorite book  is naturally my next book due out the first of the year,

But seriously, Fallscaping  – Extending your Garden Season into Autumn- is an all out fave. I guess it’s because I’m such a big fall garden love.

My fave magazines are Country Gardens and Gardens Illustrated.

How much time do you spend just enjoying your garden? And what type of things…

About an hour a day. Usually take a walk through to feed the chickens, throw the ball to my dog, Pepper, and hang with the kids.

If money were no object what would you add or do differently?

I would feel less guilt. lol  Dang if my kids don’t eat a lot of beans and rice….

Do you have garden wisdom’ to share? 

Nope. Just get out and experiment. If I have to convince you to garden, then your heart isn’t in it. You’ll know when the time is right.

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Describe where you most often sit in your garden or looking out at your garden.

The back porch. I invite everyone to just come and sit. It’s very relaxing. The mixed border is before you, giving you an opportunity to watch the wildlife.

See you at Helen’s Haven!

DSC00767

Enjoy – living the  EntwinedLife

Jayme B

NC Certified Environmental Educator

Garden Conservancy Regional Representative

JC Raulston Arboretum Volunteer

Thyme in Rita’s Garden…

Garden Conservancy Gardener Rita Mercer invites us to enjoy the Thyme in Rita’s Garden…

Jayme B:  What is your first memory in a garden?

RM:  My first memory was in the forest behind our house in northern S.C.  We played at the creek, Continue reading

Color me blue…

There are overcast, drizzly, cold days in late winter where the soul longs for the warmth of spring… color me blue…

Often when I need an outing, one of my favorite local haunts is not the coffee shop, but the local nursery for shopping therapy. Continue reading