Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Horticultourism: Festival Hill, Round Top

Two weekends ago, we visited one of my favorite gardens in Texas--Festival Hill at Round Top.

Cloister garden at Festival Hill, Round Top

I had been before, but years ago, before my Horticultural Awakening, and only had vague memories of strange and whimsical stonework. Then, late last year, Matt & I were in the area, and I said, "Hey, what about that Festival Hill?"

And it turned out to be wonderful.

Steps leading from the Cloister Garden to the Mediterranean Garden. This sort of lovely, idiosyncratic detail--differing levels, an arch, a column, a gratuitous curve--is totally characteristic of the structures at Festival Hill

Festival Hill is a music camp and (classical) concert venue occupying a number of large, antique buildings surrounded by woods.  The grounds are defined by local stonemason Jack Finke's stonework, which charmingly combines the refined and the rough-hewn and looks like what you might get if a poorer civilization constructed itself out of the wreckage of an older, wealthier civilization.  I love it--decadent, quirky, and very well suited to its location.  Mr Finke, sadly, passed away in 2010--his truncated blog notes that his children took over his role as groundskeeper at FH as he took on more stone work.  I hope they or someone else is able to carry on in his tradition there.

A nifty stairwell with a funky balcony sort-of-a-thing

And then the plants, the result of the combined efforts of Madalene Hill, the famous herb gardener, Lynn Lowrey, the eminent plant collector and promoter, and current garden director Henry Flowers, are so neat!  An unusual passionflower, a rare willow, a myrtle I'd never seen before, a citrus-scented cypress, a whole panoply of named lavender cultivars...

Lemon Cypress - Cupressus macrocarpa 'Golden Crest'
I got more inspiration and enlightenment from the small "Cloister Garden"--about 1,000 sqft, I guess--than from the entire rainforest pyramid in Galveston the week prior to that (I had a very nice visit with friends, but horticulturally, the pyramid was a bit of a shrug).

Cloister Garden at Festival Hill - a small homage to 'Souvenir de la Malmaison', it contains S de la M as well as its sports, 'Kronprinzessin Viktoria' and 'Souvenir de St Anne'.

Whereas look at this niftiness--you want it, don't you?  Someday, it shall be MINE.  It's a super-curly willow, possibly  Salix alba 'Curly Locks'.

Salix alba 'Curly Locks'?

Similarly, look at this beautifully robust lavender, Lavandula stoechas, possibly 'Otto Quast'? I've never had much luck with lavender, but look how sturdy and attractive this is.

Lavandula stoechas, possibly 'Otto Quast'
It was growing in a whole bed dedicated to myriad cultivars of lavender, oregano and other silver-leafed herbs.

Mediterranean Garden--Madalene Hill ascribed this garden's success to excellent drainage and a thick mulch of gravel.

In addition, the grounds include a "pharmacy garden," with all kinds of obscure medicinal plants from around the world. It's fortunate that photographs don't capture temperature--our first visit was at the height of the drought last fall, and the garden was blistering, dessicated, and muggy. 

Pharmacy Garden--looks pretty good for the worst drought in living memory.
But they still contained many blooming plants.  The grounds outside of the garden were in more dire shape.  Look at this lovely bridge--over empty air and crispy weeds.

I bet this bridge looks really lovely when you can't see its Sac-rete foundations...

The pond is really quite big, but as you can see, the entire thing had evaporated.  And the woods were full of dead trees.

The salty crust at the bottom of what was once a pond

The map below shows you the extent of the pond--and the grounds as a whole, for that matter.  I added some purple smudges where the gardens (that I know about) are.  Our most recent visit was impromptu, and I was wearing utterly inappropriate dress sandals, so we didn't get to explore much to check back in.

Festival Hill gardens map
We need to go back soon to see how the pharmacy garden looks when it gets moisture, whether any water has collected in the pond, and how the woods are doing.

Another of the delightful details that characterize this place--why build just another bridge when you could build a spitting god's head bridge?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Peak Rose, Baby!

On trellis: 'Fourth of July'; to the right of that: 'Cramoisi Superieur'; around the corner: 'Comtesse du Cayla'

It's officially Peak Rose!  Very nearly every rose in the garden is blooming like mad.  Yay!

'Fourth of July' is making a splashy showing on the big trellis, and the ox-eye daisies we planted in the middle of last summer's drought are blooming and providing filler (those that survived, that is.)

Left front: 'Kaiserin Friedrich'; at its base: 'Ferdinand Pichard'; magenta scraggly thing: 'Wild Blue Yonder'; peach in corner: 'Comtesse du Cayla'; shrub by trellis: 'Cramoisi Superiuer'; on trellis: 'Fourth of July'

The daisies and society garlic make a nice matrix to kind of glue this bed together.  It's a bit untidy, but we just call that "cottagey" and hope no one looks too closely.  We haven't really been able to keep on top of the weeds lately, either--they're delirious with rain.

At corner of house: 'Duchesse de Brabant'; speck of yellow next to that: 'Graham Thomas'; first big pink rangy thing: mystery cabbagey rose; rangy pink thing in front of trellis: possible "Maggie"; white behind the daisies: 'Souvenir de la Malmaison'; pink to the right of the daisies: 'Reine des Violettes'
The gazebo is half-smothered by roses, and the AC bed, which received many of the fruits of our trip to Tyler last year, is blooming up, starting with the indefatigable 'Belinda's Dream' and a baby 'Spice' that replaces one we lost back in 2007 to the Horrid Fungus.

By the pond, little 'Clothilde Soupert' has surprised and delighted us with the lavishness of her blooms.  She's had some balling, but she's got so many flowers that a little browning and balling here and there doesn't much matter.  CS reminds me of a bubble bath.

L to R: last of the 'Golden Dawn' narcissus, which had a surprisingly long bloom period, 'Clothilde Soupert', and 'Victoria Blue' salvia.
'Cramoisi Superieur' has always been one of my favorite roses, but for some reason, I have the devil of a time photographing it.  My camera just cannot cope with that particular shade of dark magenta-red. Still, I thought these blossoms were unusually and enjoyably prim in shape.  But the color just is not right.

And this is the first bloom (that I've captured) of 'Marchesa Boccella', which I received a year ago as a rooted cutting via the exchange on Helpmefind.  That pretty purple weed is clambering all over MB--I need to yank it out, but it actually looks quite attractive with the light pink of this blossom.

'Marchesa Boccella' with a rampant viney purple weed--a legume of some kind, I think.
And finally, Peak Rose coincides with Peak Poppy this year.  We've got an absolute forest of them in our Grass-n-Roses bed, some double,some single, some wildly fringed, but all the exact same shade of pink.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Peak Rose?

I think we may be approaching Peak Rose. Things are popping into bloom all over the place. The rose garden by the kitchen door is coming along nicely--the society garlic and oxeye daisies are filling in between the roses and are starting to bloom.

'Fourth of July' is starting to flower up with its summery blossoms splattered with cherry red.

'Sombreuil' is covered in buds and has interestingly peachy-greeny tones before it opens.

The 'Tinka' cluisiana tulip is showing its butter-yellow interior.

The poppy buds have started opening.

And the weather is heating up--it was in the 80s over last weekend.

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