Sunday, September 25, 2011

Horticultourism--Tyler, TX

Lovely glass fountain at Blue Moon Gardens with complementary gazing balls

I've been meaning to visit Tyler's very large municipal rose garden for some time now.  We are rose enthusiasts, after all.  So we woke up early, stopped off at the little red taco wagon for our customary Saturday chicken fajita breakfast tacos, and hit the road.

The gardens were looking well--plenty of blooms, well maintained--but the truth is that it's not really our cup of tea (excuse the pun)--and not just because of its focus on moderns.

Here's the thing: making an entire garden out of nothing but modern roses is like trying to write a sentence using nothing but exclamation marks.  All these vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows are screaming at you from all over the place, trying to grab your attention.  But there are so many of them, and they are all in uniform, boxy parterres, so nothing really draws you eye any more than any other thing.  It's overstimulating and unsatisfying simultaneously.

Using parterres seems like a clever way to impose form on plants that are often so formless and scraggly, but it represses the distinctive personality of each cultivar.  It de-emphasizes the rosiness of roses.  Or so it seems to me.

The admittedly impressive rows upon rows of roses.  Note that the garden is at least this big again to the right.

There are some nice architectural elements in the park. I think it would have been better to select some roses for specimen plantings and some for massing, and then use the architectural elements to support the specimen plants--corners and archways and urns and central medallions in walkways that direct your attention and make the best use of different cultivars' strengths.  And then use evergreens in the background to ground the whole thing and to give some relief from the riot of color.  Think of a classic perennial border in England--a veritable Mardi Gras of colors and forms, set off by an impossibly smooth grass walk and the neutral background of a weathered brick wall--uniform, serene contrasts to the busyness of the flower beds. (See also the Bagatelle rose gardens in France)

As it is, this was our favorite part of the whole experience--a three-level koi pond tucked in a shady spot away from the roses.  Why not put a few roses around the pond's sunnier bank?  Some lovely cascadey thing, like swamp rose or 'Climbing Pinkie' or a very mature unpruned Tea rose.

And then my other favorite thing was this cultivar--you should click on it to fully grasp how heavily covered it is with hips, and what a bright gold those hips are.  I've never seen anything like it. Unfortunately, it was unlabeled--maybe 'Dainty Bess'?  If anyone recognizes it, please let me know.

I feel like I've been a little unfairly harsh--it's pretty nifty that a smallish town--or any town at all, really--has taken on the expense and trouble of maintaining a collection of this size.  I mean, look at the pic above--so clean and orderly!  Can you imagine how much mulch this requires annually?  And there are some very pretty spots--the koi ponds, the camellia walk, and the idea garden full of blooming perennials, for example.  It was just that it helped clarify for us some of our own ideas about how we think roses are best used in the landscape, which would be less rigidly formal, more individualized, and mixed with other species.

After that, we went to Chamblee's Roses, which I had always thought of as the Antique Rose Emporium's main competitor.  I think their main focus is wholesale and mail order, though.  Their excellent facility was scrupulously clean, tidy, and weedless, but it isn't a showplace the way that A.R.E. is. It is definitely worth the visit--we bought 8 roses and a book between the two of us--but it's a straightforward production unit for a terrific boatload of roses rather than a magical garden experience.

It was thanks to Chamblee that we finally got Buck roses.  "Moderns," we had hitherto sniffed dismissively.  But when saw them in person and full of blooms, they pretty much had us at hello.  We bought 'Dawn Star' and coveted 'Quietness' and 'American Legacy.'  They seem to combine old rose flower shapes with high fragrance on what are reputed to be very hardy plants.  We'll see what kind of shrubs they make. (Footnote: all 3, coincidentally, are posthumous releases of seedlings Dr. Buck gave to family and friends, according to this thread on Gardenweb.)

And I finally got some David Austins: 'Abraham Darby' and the 'Ambridge Rose' and 'Sharifa Asma'.

We also picked up a 'Mrs Dudley Cross' and peppery little 'Spice,' to replace the one from my undergrad days that died of Horrid Fungus our first summer in Elgin.

Then, back in Tyler, I saw the official lettering of the trip--how adorable is that New York Store?

 Delectable vintage lettering in Tyler's brick-paved downtown square

Next, on the spur of the moment, we googled "best nursery in Tyler," and got a recommendation for Blue Moon nursery, which turned out to be that unexpected something extra that makes a trip.  It was a small place with a lot of very nice plants in excellent shape set in creative, lovingly tended--and immaculate--display gardens.  We picked up a bog sage, a tiny yellow daisy whose name eludes me, some purple-flowering Thai basil, a hummingbird feeder, and two Dwarf Hamlins (that Pennisetum alopecuroides cultivar I was seeing all over the place at TNLA).

On the grounds they have this awesome patio/performance area--a fireplace, a niche for an urn, a mantel, a window, and--is that a pizza oven?  Whatever it is, it's delightful and convivial filled me with envy.

 Fireplace and patio at Blue Moon Gardens

At Blue Moon, they recommended we eat at either Edom or Ben Wheeler--apparently, these two rather remote hamlets are bursting with culinary goodness.  We chose The Shed in Edom where we had very satisfactory old-school chicken fried chicken and country fried steak; but interestingly, it was the fried cabbage (pretty much everything on their menu is fried--be prepared) that was the revelation--caramelized, sweet, but not soggy. Delectable. They must fry it very fast, in what tastes like bacon grease.  So it's going to be a salady week making up for that one, but, lordy! that cabbage was good.

I like this conjunction of signs.

So, all in all, a good trip. Long, but good.  We learned some useful things, bought some nice plants, saw some gardens, and had some yummy food.  That's about all you need.


Anonymous said...

OK my dear, you're in trouble now. You should have never posted the picture of the outdoor fireplace! We'll have to get together so I can pick your brain for ideas like that for the outdoor fireplace at the Pillars at the lake lot. I've got the fireplace insert and a start on the brick. Now I need your input! I love the window and urn in the chimney!


Bob said...

Great report on your road trip. I need more roses as well. I've lost five to the heat. It seemed I just couldn't water enough. I think maybe not enough water was actually getting to the roots. I've made a list but I just can't pull the trigger until this heat breaks. When are you guys going to plant the ones you bought?

Elgin_house said...

Believe it or not, Bob, we've already put everything in the ground. We're lucky enough not be on water restrictions, and once the temperature started to get into the 80s and low 90s, we figured they could hack it. So far, everything's alive, though no one's growing ecstatically or anything.

I'm sorry to hear you lost several roses! What an awful year! What are you going to replace them with?

Ladonna--outdoor fireplaces are wonderful! So cozy. I rather wish Matt & I could do one, but there isn't really any good place for us to put it.

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