Oliver Nurseries       
In This Issue
Along the Connecticut Shore
Tending to Plants, After the Snow Melts
A Beautiful Rock Garden
Fortunate News Clips
Roots to Branches Forum
Along the Connecticut Shore...


By Kimberly Day Proctor


No one who lives along the shore of Long Island Sound needs to be reminded of the ravages of Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. But it may be a good time to take a closer look at landscapes that may be exposed to storms in the future. The evidence of severe winds during Sandy can be seen miles inland where needle burn from salt spray has shown up on white pines and other evergreens. The salt spray and flooding of salt water is the biggest danger to plants. The spray burns as keenly as a blow torch, and the salt in the soil makes it much more difficult for the roots to absorb water. There are very few plants that can survive being immersed under salt water for more than 24 hours. Even so there are both preventive and restorative measures that can be taken to ensure that gardens along the sound will thrive.


Rosa virginiana
Rosa virginiana

The first place to start is plant selection. There are some plants that are tolerant of salt spray, some that will tolerate a relatively high level of salt in the soil, and a select few that will tolerate both. As a general rule, native plants have adapted the best to the local conditions; in fact there are some that positively thrive in the most exposed spots. American Beach Grass (Ammophila breviligulata) holds the tops of sand dunes with tightly knit rhizomes and can take the heat, wind, salt spray and shifting sand. But few properties have sand dunes as a landscape feature and most aim for a bit more cultivated look. The following short list of grasses, herbaceous perennials, trees and shrubs is a starting point. Not all are native but these have been proven to stand up to the elements along the coast:


Herbaceous Perennials

Calmagrostis acutifloraFeather Reed Grass
Dechamsia flexuosaHair Grass
Panicum amarum, virgatumSwitch Grass
Schizachyrum scopariumLittle Bluestem
Achillea tomentosumWooly Yarrow
Aquilegia canadensisEastern Red Columbine
Comptonia peregrinaSweet Fern
Coreopsis verticillataTickseed
Perovskia atriplicifoliaRussian Sage
Sedum in varietyStonecrop
Solidago sempervirensSeaside Goldenrod


Trees and Shrubs

Aronia arbutifoliaChokeberry
Calluna vulgarisHeather
Clethra alnifoliaSummersweet
Gleditsia triacanthosHoneylocust
Juniper virginianaEastern Red Cedar
Koelreuteria paniculataGolden Rain Tree
Morella pensylvanicaNorthern Bayberry
Pinus thunbergiiJapanese Black Pine
Prunus maritimaBeach Plum
Rosa rugosaRugosa Rose
Rosa virginianaCommon Wild Rose
Viburnum dentatumArrowwood


The biggest preventive aid to plant damage is fresh water. In advance of a storm, saturate lawn areas with water to aid in the leaching of salt water from the storm afterward. As soon as possible following flooding or extreme salt spray, wash all plant material and the ground below with fresh water, and irrigate lawns. The application of gypsum (Calcium sulfate) to gardens and lawns is also very beneficial. The gypsum allows the salt particles to detach from soil particles and leach from the soil. It also changes the soil structure (but not the pH) by making it more porous, aiding in the removal of salt. While it is almost impossible to over apply gypsum, follow the recommended rates on the package. Once again, copious applications of fresh water will move the gypsum down through the layers of soil. To be certain of the soil's salinity, and to understand what the best continued treatment is, do a soil test. See link: http://soiltest.uconn.edu/ 


May the winds be fair, the sun bright, and all future storms sail off into the Atlantic well south of Connecticut!


Kimberly Day Proctor has worked as a landscape designer and illustrator in Connecticut for the last 30 years. The fields of horticulture and art have dovetailed well. Her illustrations have appeared in the annual catalog of Oliver Nurseries. Most recently her ink and wash drawings accompanied author Sydney Eddison's memoir, "Gardening for a Lifetime."  


Tending to Plants, After the Snow Melts   


By Mimi Dekker        


This time last year, I had little work to prep my gardens for spring. With the open, "warm" winter, few of my plants required any serious tending. But this year, after 36 inches of snow fell on us overnight in February, I was anxious to see how my plants would fare. During a snow storm, I gently shake off light accumulations of snow from the boxwoods and dwarf conifers, but there's only so much you can do when the snow arrives overnight in a blizzard.


Most healthy, established trees and shrubs will weather a severe snowstorm. In fact, the snow cover helps insulate root systems and micronutrients in the air, which come down with the snow, and slowly leach into the soil. But many needled and broad-leafed evergreen trees and shrubs get hammered with high winds and heavy snow, and large branches or entire specimens may be lost. You don't have to look far to see large limbs of Pinus strobus (Eastern white pine) littering the ground and taking out power lines during and after a storm. Dwarf conifers and Japanese maples don't necessarily fare any better, and can suffer split and broken limbs and branches. A young Buxus 'Green Velvet' hedge enclosing my terrace was still buried at the end of February, and I feared it was flattened. After a few sunny days, the hedge miraculously fluffed back into shape. Not so lucky was a young Acer palmatum 'Garnet.' Two of its three main limbs were last seen rolling across the lawn like tumbleweeds.


A Wikstroemia under the packed ice is better left buried. After the thaw, all is fine.

Even if a tree or shrub looks like a "goner," consider your alternatives before removing it. Damaged or discolored leaves and needles don't always indicate the plant is dead. Wind and sun reflecting off the snow can burn leaves. Scratch the stem, and if the cambium is bright green, the plant should show signs of growth when the weather warms. If you're not sure, get professional advice or wait until mid-May when new growth really starts to take off. Many shrubs and trees will recover from heavy snow loads when their splayed branches spring back naturally. Some, like Thuja occidentalis 'Emerald Green,' may need a little help. You can tie their branches up to regrow normally. On any shrub or tree, split or torn branches must be cut back to remove the damaged parts to prevent disease.


In summary:

  • Know where your plants are. Don't walk on or otherwise compact the snow over your plants.
  • Talk to your snow removal contractor. Make sure your contractor knows where you want snow pushed and piled on your property.
  • Place plants out of harm's way. When planting a garden, keep in mind where you'll need to push or stockpile snow, and avoid these areas or use herbaceous plants (with top growth that naturally dies back every winter).
  • Clean up gardens in the fall. Cut down herbaceous perennials and grasses. Keep gardens tidy and well pruned and stake young plants, as needed.
  • Prepare for the worst. Secure trees and shrubs prone to splitting or splaying in the fall.
  • Be patient. Resist heroic measures to dig plants out from underneath heavy snow. Once the snow has melted and your plants are freed, begin assessing each area of your garden.


A Beautiful Rock Garden   


By Lori Chips


If there's one private garden in our area that you shouldn't miss seeing it is Anne Spiegel's in Wappingers Falls, New York. And you're in luck, because it will be on the Garden Conservancy's Open Days tour this spring. Winner of the prestigious Linc and Timmy Foster Millstream Garden Award, and a reasonable drive away (not far off the Taconic Parkway) it will open your eyes to possibilities whether you are a rock gardener or not. Be assured that I don't make recommendations like this lightly. I have known Anne and Joe Spiegel since the mid-90s and I can still recall the first time I viewed their incredible garden. As I remember it wasn't even "high season" at the time, but it was a humbling experience nevertheless.

Rock Garden
Looking down at the house from the top of the cliff. The crevice garden to the right is only partly planted in this picture.

It is relatively challenging to make a rock garden look natural in New England. The site is usually not dramatic enough, nor mountainous, craggy or steep enough. Anne's site is all of these - the impact of it is breathtaking as you step out of the car. The height of the cliffs and outcrops she has planted are taller than her house by a good measure and, by the way, this is not a good place to visit in high heels, not if you want to get close to the plants. And you'll certainly want to do that. (As always though, be sure that where you step is a pathway, and one that your host wants you traveling).

Rock Garden
Notice the skillful integration of troughs, man-made steps, and the natural rock outcropping.

This garden is a wonderfully harmonious collaboration between nature and the nurturing gardener. The balance achieved is intrinsically beautiful. What Anne has brought to this striking topography is the art and abilities of a true plantswoman. Due to an inadequate well, this windy sunny garden is never watered, and Anne has logically focused on xeric plant material, growing many of her favorites from seed. She sources these from our own dry land in the American West, and other low rain areas like Turkey. Many are rare endemics. You will see plenty of examples from one of her favorite plant families, Fabaceae (the peas), including Astragalus and Oxytropis. A profusion of Phlox carpets certain areas in the spring, and Eriogonum, the western buckwheats, are another well-loved genus.


Rock Garden
Spring Phlox below a natural ledge.

Penstemon are also particularly well represented. With a plantswoman like Anne, though, it can be difficult to pigeonhole her "favorites." That is because you are just as likely to find a monotypic species thriving in an alkaline bed here, an endemic from the Caucasus tumbling out of a wall there. Collomia, Phacelia, and Vitaliana hunker in among the stones. There are pygmy Daphnes in this landscape, and I have spotted the impossibly silver leaves of rare hardy Convolvulus and Helichrysum. Here is a gardener who has flowered Eritrichium (one of the rock gardeners holiest of grails) and she has a soft spot for Gentians. It is a rich and varied planting, often full of surprises. When I was a relative novice at this, I recall Anne telling me that such-and-such a seed exchange was listing Smelowskia. In my ignorance I thought she was making a joke (and making up a word). These days Smelowskia is on my wish list when ordering seeds.

Rock Garden
Troughs along a span of wall garden. The white flowers are Potentilla davurica var. mandschurica, we got our first cuttings from Anne.

These choice plants have been carefully seated in a series of stone-walled raised beds rhythmically stepped up the cliffs, or tucked into beautifully developed crevices. The visitor will get to see and learn what performs best in specialty beds such as tufa, limestone or pure sand; the examples here are of the highest caliber. She has, by the way, been a long-standing and loyal customer of Oliver Nurseries. Besides plants, many of our troughs have made it into her growing trough collection, and are handsomely integrated into the garden. She has chosen to display a number of rectangles in various sizes, plus ovals, and a couple of unique free-form troughs. I have found Anne to be a rock gardener always willing to share her areas of expertise and answer questions, especially if the visitor is genuinely interested. (This is a hint, by the way. Pulling out a notebook and pen for the answer is the height of garden etiquette wherever you happen to visit.) Your host and you both know that a method, a source, or a botanical name is as likely to stick in your head as last year's annuals will in your garden.



Rock Garden
Deep, gravel filled crevice garden for choice alpine subjects.



After this gorgeous alpine tour-de-force, it may seem a touch anticlimactic to mention that far away down the driveway a fenced stream garden has been developed, squishy enough for the water lovers. And remember to visit what is now referred to as "The Last Outcrop" being populated with shade plants like anemones, hellebores and hepaticas.


Rock Garden
Rivers of Phlox out the back door of the kitchen.


This is ultimately a garden in which the needs of the plants come first. Designers take note! It is not about bending the plants to our will. If we fulfill what they need first, they thrive. A thriving vista is generally a beautiful one. What Anne has done, however, is to satisfy the needs of these alpines in a sweeping, massive, stony, stunning setting. Experimentation is always ongoing here, to the benefit of the landscape, but also for the close-up inspection of the visiting horticulturist. In our time as garden lovers, there are plenty of gardens we visit and forget. This is not one of those.

2013 Lori Chips 
Rock Garden
Anne, Joe and the late beloved Ranger, one of the best dogs I ever met.


The Spiegel garden will be open for visitors on Sunday, May 5, 2013, from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., 299 Maloney Road, Wappingers Falls, N.Y. 12590. So make a note on your calendar, and set your GPS. You will not be disappointed.



News Clips  


Roots to Branches:

A Community Forum Exploring the Past, Present and Future of Fairfield's Urban Forest


This three-hour educational community forum is designed to promote networking and gather the community's input in order to develop priorities for defining and achieving our vision of the future of our urban forest. The forum will be held Saturday, April 13, 2013, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the CT Audubon Society, 2325 Burr Street, Fairfield, CT.


For more information: call the Fairfield Audubon Center at 203-259-6305.



Oliver Nurseries
For more information visit our Web site at www.olivernurseries.com, or call us at 203-259-5609.  

Image in header: Detail from Spring, engraving by Bruegel. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Dick Fund, 1926.


Oliver's gardens photographed by Mimi Dekker.


Copyright 2011 Oliver Nurseries