Saturday 24 March 2012

Not only lines of trees

A lime tree avenue has replaced the former avenue of elm, Stora Uppåkra, Sweden

Along our streets and roads, we can even today see the heritage of the Baroque era in the form of countless rows of trees. Although it of course sometimes can be appropriate with an avenue, we could also plant different-sized groups of different-sized trees at varying distances from each other, together with shrubs and flowering herbaceous plants. 

Nowadays when nearly all nurseries only prune trees to be suitable for avenues or street environments, it is even hard to find beautiful, natural grown specimen for natural plantings. That is a pity.

Replanting Vendelsö Avenue. Photo: Jenny Blom

Vendelsö Avenue in Haninge south of Stockholm was planted at the end of the 1800's and is a mixed double line of elm, maple, ash and lime. Some trees had to been cut down for security reasons and a supplementary planting has been carried out during last season.

Of course we shall preserve and maintain old, existing avenues. They have a cultural and historical value as well as a great importance for biodiversity.

But when we are going to plant along the roads again, we could actually try to live a little bit more in our own time and create dynamic and more diverse roadsides.

Why alone on a row?

Saturday 18 February 2012

Perennial Plant Conference

From the left, Ray Stephenson, Ron McBeath, Ed Snodgrass, Tammi Hartung,
Panayoti Kelaidis, Susan Band, sitting infront, Georg Uebelhart

For the fifth year in a row a winter conference on perennials has been hold at Die Bildungsstätte Gartenbau in Grünberg in Germany. As usual, George Uebelhart had put together the exellent program and he also acted as moderator during the three days, Friday-Saturday, last weekend.

Even this time the program was well composed with very interesting talks and it was Susan Band from Pitcairn Alpines in Scotland who had the honor to open the conference with her presentation.

Ron McBeath from Lambereton Nursery in Scotland gave two talks, one on plant hunting and plants in the Himalayas, Sikkim, Nepal and China and one on rock plants, and he showed beautiful pictures of the high mountains and Primula, Meconopsis, Gentiana and other plants.

Together a total of three educational lectures on plants from both alpine and subalpine environments as well as other mountain plants. Particularly, I now feel tempted to some time go myself to the Himalayas.

Under the heading A Passion for Stoncrops Ray Stephenson spoke in glowing terms of small and obese Sedum species. Ray from Coppington, UK, is the holder of The National Sedum Collection and he has made many trips to various parts of the world in order to find different stonecrops. He is also chairman and editor of the Sedum Society Newsletter and the writer of the comprehensive book Sedum - cultivated stonecrops.

Rhodiola bupleuroides, male plants. From The Sedum Society Newsletter

We had great fun all the time, not just because of  the fascinating lectures, but also thanks to all the nice delegates from Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden and of course Germany. The Swedish group consisted of 15 plant enthusiasts and only Germany had more participants.

In the late afternoons till early mornings, in the cozy German Bierstube, the vague memories of today's lectures were diluted by chilled and tasty beer.

Since all the lectures were interesting, it is difficult to select a single presentation that would be better than any of the others, but when Ed Snodgrass began to show pictures of roof gardens and mentioned their importance to biodiversity I smiled contentedly inside where my heart is situated.

This was the fifth perennial conference and Ed Snodgrass is also a fifth generation farmer and nurseryman, and the president and founder of Emory Knoll Farms in Maryland, US. He is the co-author of the books Green Roof Plants: A Resource and Plant Guide (2006) and The Green Roof  Manual: A Professional Guide to Design, Installation, and Maintenance (2010).

Green Roof Plants at Emory Knoll Farms in Maryland. Photo: Emory Knoll Farms, Inc

I was also very inspired by the lectures of the two Colorado residents Panayoti Kelaidis from Denver Botanical Gardens and Tammi Hartung from Desert Canyon Farm, Canon City.

Panayoti Kelaidis is a true plant lover and a devoted collector, and when he lined up image after image from beautiful Colorado, I felt quite quickly that there I have to go. He has written several books such as Flourish: A Visionary Garden in the American West and participated with his brilliant photographs in others as in the monograph Penstemon by Robert Nold.

Tammi Hartung told us about the use of herbs in food and as health supplements. That is an area that particularly interests me and for me there were therefore many familiar plants she talked about, but also some more unusual and less known. Tammi gave us several recipes that we could try at home. More recipes can be found in her books Homegrown Herbs: A Complete Guide to Growing, Using, and Enjoying More than 100 Herbs and Growing 101 Herbs That Heal: Gardening Techniques, Recipes, and Remedies.

On the whole, this year's ISU conference was very successful and we got all really inspired so now I am already looking toward next winter, and the sixth perennial conference. But as early as this August the ISU congress is held in the Netherlands. See you there?

The informal talks are equally important and fun as the conference itself

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Dynamics and biodiversity in the garden

Under the heading "Blütengarten der Zukunft" in the German magazine Garten Praxis the editor Jonas Reif has invited different garden personalities to share their views on the flourishing gardens of the future. The title is taken from Karl Foerster's famous book "Vom Blütengarten der Zukunft", ie future flower garden, which came out in 1917.

In the latest issue, released in February, I am contributing with an article translated into German. If you do not have access to Garten Praxis and prefer English I am here publishing the original text. Go ahead, enjoy!

A Poppy meadow - the opposite of a static planting

A good example of the strictly controlled, static garden is the classic perennial border.
Here the perennials are planted in blocks or patches and the idea is that they should remain in the spaces allotted to them, not to sneak off to their neighbors. The planting is then usually viewed from a mowed lawn.

Even if static plantings of course can be very beautiful, they always look unnatural and arranged. In nature, you rarely stand on a mowed lawn and look at the forest, the meadow or the beach. Instead you are an integral part of the habitat you visit. You're actively in the forest and can move freely among the trees and flowers and are not merely a passive observer.

And above all, here the plants are not growing in rows or squares, rigid blocks or distinct modules. On the meadow the perennials are developing without the gardener's constant restrictions. That kind of plantings I want to see more of in the future.

Although all plantings are arranged to some extent unless the plants have invaded the site on their own, the method of planting in well-defined blocks makes it also appears that it really is artificial. In the future I would like to see more ecological, dynamic gardens where succession is a desired concept, where the plants are allowed to self-seed and spread, where the leaves gnawed by insects is an aim in itself and where biodiversity is a priority.

We can create sustainable plant communities, where the beauty is not only found in the individual plant and its color, shape and structure or the group of plants, but furthermore in the co-existence and competition between the plants and between plants and the fauna.

It is possible to make a wide range of different biotopes in parks and gardens as groves and woodlands, swamps and bogs, wet meadows and dry meadows, prairies, heaths and steppes.

These days, when more and more gardens are covered with slabs and other stone materials, it would be a great opportunity to introduce the well-drained, long blooming, low maintenance stone and gravel garden to a broader public. I'm very surprised that this garden trend has not already occurred, because the extreme dry habitat garden is very exquisite and extremely easy to maintain.

If we used limestone in the garden, both slabs, gravel and boulders, we could create a paradise for sun-loving plants and insects and still have room to walk and sit. It could be like the big Alvar of Öland in southern Sweden, where one can walk around among flowering herbs. The spring could start with thousands of flowering bulbs and then the garden blooms continuously until November.

You can use any type of sand and gravel in a dry habitat garden, but with lime stone fewer unwanted species will thrive. Anyone who have ever seen a well composed flowering steppe-like planting will want to have one in their own garden. But the steppe as theme isn't only suitable for a family garden but even more for public spaces where it is important with low maintenance costs.

Despite the influences from Karl Foerster, Richard Hansen, Rosemarie Weisse and some others, all kind of habitat plantings still are rare in Germany and elsewhere. Let us change that! Start digging and create your flowering steppe already today!

Vom Blütengarten der Zukunft. Das neue Zeitalter des Gartens und das Geheimnis der veredelten winterfesten Dauerpflanzen.

Monday 30 January 2012

The Prairie Nursery

The Show Garden at The Prairie Nursery

Last year I made a prairie tour to Illinois and Wisconsin for three weeks and now I am planning another trip to U.S.this summer. Maybe I'll start with the 30th Perennial Plant Symposium in Boston, Massachusetts and then continue to Chicago. This time my plan is to drive through Illinois to Kansas and then back to Chicago through Missouri and to make interesting stops here and there along the road.

Of course it is the world's last and only preserved prairie landscapes that attracts, the Flint Hills of Kansas. There one can view large herds of bison and rolling prairies as far as the eye can see. But before we go deeper too much into the forthcoming trip, I'd like to tell you something from a visit to The Prairie Nursery in Westfield, Wisconsin, I visited last summer, the first week of August.

Neil Diboll shows me the difference between the species of Vernonia

The Prairie Nursery is run by Neil Diboll, a highly skilled grower and an internationally recognized pioneer in the use of native North American Prairie plants in gardens and landscapes. Neil is also a very talented and entertaining lecturer and I have earlier been privileged to listen to his lectures in both Alnarp in Sweden and Weinheim, Germany.

I have previously bought seeds from The Prairie Nursery to my landscaping projects in Alnarp, Laholm and Mariestad, and was therefore particularly interested in meeting Neil and his staff and to see how the nursery looked like.

Thousands upon thousands of small prairie plant seedlings in the greenhouse

After looking around in the office, we drove to the nursery where Neil first showed me the modern greenhouse, where nearly everything was controlled automatically, but the monitoring of the small, scrawny seedlings were handled manually of course.

Part of the model gardens at The Prairie Nursery in Westfield

At the nursery they have created several small model gardens with different themes. Here were, for example, a butterfly garden, a healing garden and a deer resistent garden. The prairie plants were planted in beautiful combinations in each garden plot and just at my visit, nearly all the plants appeared to be at their absolute peak development. It was clear that I had managed to hit on the right week for my stay, at least regarding the amazing flower display.

Agastache foeniculum, Monarda fistulosa and Ratibida pinnata

Liatris and Parthenium integrifolium

Neil Diboll and Peter Gaunitz outside the office. Photo: Sarie Doverspike

Thursday 19 January 2012

Trees for Tough Urban Sites

A short speech before the ceremony. Roland von Bothmer and Henrik Sjöman
Today was the day of nailing at SLU in Alnarp. Henrik Sjöman nailed his Doctoral Thesis on a plank standing in our coffee room for this very purpose. His supervisors Anders Busse Nielsen and Roland von Bothmer offered him four different hammers and even four kinds of nails to choose from. Henrik took the safest hammer but had brought a beautiful home-forged and family-made nail in his pocket.

Henrik’s Doctoral Thesis is named Trees for Tough Urban Sites – Learning from Nature. He has been studying forestry systems, taxa and plant communities in both China's mountain forests and the Steppe woodlands of Romania. The essay will be searchable on the Epsilon.

Nailing the Doctoral Thesis, 19 January 2012, 10.00 am

Henrik's Choice infront of the feet of Anders Busse Nielsen

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae Doctoral Thesis No. 2012:7

Thursday 22 December 2011

Madison Arboretum

One of the first days of August this year I visited The University of Wisconsin Arboretum in Madison.There is so much to see here and very excited, I stopped already directly at the entrance to the park at a colorful prairie planting with Yellow Coneflower, Ratibida pinnata, Sweet Coneflower, Rudbeckia subtomentosa, Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum and Pale Indian Plantain, Arnoglossum atriplicifolium, among other prairie species.

Steve Glass is telling me about the Curtis Prairie

At the Visitor Center I met Steve B. Glass who showed me around and was my excellent guide the whole day. Steve is as restoration ecologist responsible for the restoration planning and the fire management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum where he has been active in all phases of prairie restoration since the late 80s.

Steve showed me first the Native Plant Garden and then we walked out on the Curtis Prairie and studied the dynamics of prairie vegetation. My guide turned out to be a skilled prairie ecologist and since he was both pleasant and accommodating, we had a very fruitful day in the great outdoors.

Afterwards, Steve gave me even a bag full of interesting material and a book on plants at Madison Arboretum, which I had great pleasure from.

A colorful prairie planting already at the entrance to the Arboretum.

Yellow Coneflower and Pale Indian Plantain at the entrance

Eupatorium purpureum in the dry shade beneath a Bur Oak

Purple Coneflowers, Echinacea purpurea, at the Curtis Prairie

Curtis Prairie is the oldest restored prairie in North America and occupies about 60 acres of land. It is a deep-soil tallgrass prairie with a huge diversity of prairie plants. In July and August the Liatris, Monarda and Echinacea provide for the greatest color display and in early fall it is the grasses and the sumacs who excel in the most brilliant fall colors. The Smooth Sumac, Rhus glabra, grows scattered almost everywhere on the Curtis Prairie and spreads by underground runners. In autumn the leaves turn deep scarlet red with less orange tints compared to Rhus typhina

Ironweed and Yellow Coneflower at the edge of the Curtis Prairie

The Curtis Prarie with Liatris and Eryngiym yuccifolium 

Along the path to Greene Prairie we passed through a small woodland with dry, sandy soil. Here we found many drought tolerant species as Plantain-leaved Pussytoes, Antennaria plantaginifolia, and the Silver Sage, Artemisia ludoviciana, growing among the patches of Smooth Sumac.

Big leaves of Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum at Greene Prairie 

Steve discoverd a hybrid between Compass Plant, Silphium laciniatum and Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum with intermediate leaves growing at Greene Prairie

Nodding Onion, Allium cernuum, along the track

Saturday 10 December 2011

Grasses shines in autumn and winter

Molinia arundinacea 'Cordoba' in the citypark of Laholm in November

Autumn is the time when grasses step up and outshines all withered perennials and former blooming companions in the border. Whenever you place a plant in the garden, you should always think about how the sunlight wanders around during the day. Almost all plants are most beautiful when they get the sun's rays from behind, but the grasses shines more than any others when backlit.

Plant thus the ornamental grasses where you can see them illuminated from the place where you usually find yourself in the garden, for example from your patio.

Here are some good grasses for autumn color, but there are plenty of others too. The Tussock grass, Deschampsia cespitosa, is one of the best grasses to capture the sun's glowing rays; however this grass needs heavy soils with a good water storage capacity to survive more than some few years.

Molinia arundinacea can withstand drought better, but prefers moist soils. Andropogon gerardii and Schizachyrium are drought specialists and can handle very difficult situations without any rain if they are well established.

Molinia arundinacea in Sichtungsgarten Weihenstephan, Germany

Deschampsia cespitosa in München in October

Little Bluestem, Schzachyrium scoparium, in Lahom, Sweden, in late November 

Little Bluestem backlit in November, Laholm Citypark

Big Bluestem, Andropogon gerardii, Westpark, München, Germany

Big Bluestem in Sichtungsgarten Herrmannshof, Weinheim, in early October

Switch Grass, Panicum virgatum, in Laholm in late November 

Miscanthus sinensis 'Purpurascens' in Westpark in München