Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spring at Darlington III

Spring this year has been a particularly pretty one for the flowering trees, shrubs, and plants at Darlington House.  This past weekend, with temperatures unseasonably reaching into the nineties both days, we witnessed the final flowering of the grounds, ahead of the summer's more subtle shades of green.  Come have a look.

Several years ago we planted a row of six crab apple trees (Malus 'Candy Mint Sargent'), replacing a row of heritage apple trees that deer destroyed overnight one weekend.  The crab apples were at their peak flowering on Saturday morning, and were covered with bees and other insects gorging themselves on their nectar.

The lilacs were in full throttle over the weekend, and by Sunday our Syringa vulgaris 'Edith Cavell' were covered with the plumpest of their wonderful, almost sickeningly sweet fragrant flowers.

These diminutive grape hyancinth (Muscari racemosum), took over from the earlier white snow drops I showed in a previous posting.  They really do smell like Grape Nehi soda.

The boxwood (Buxus) hedges on our property were particularly happy this year, and sent out a lot of healthy new growth.

The flowering crab apple (Malus sieboldii zumi 'Calocarpa') that we planted a decade ago at my cousin Joanna McQuail Reed's suggestion put on a great show this year, and was covered on Saturday morning with its pretty, palest-pink blossoms.  By Sunday afternoon many of the petals had already fluttered to the ground.

This is the first year that we do not have the pleasure of an ancient flowering red bud tree that was planted on our property well before the Proctor's bought it in 1931.  We lost the red bud last summer in a freak storm that destroyed half a dozen of our mature trees, and denuded whole sections of the property.  We are planning on embarking on a planting program this year to re-populate the landscape. 

Do you have any favorite old-fashioned trees or shrubs that you particularly like?

All photos by Boy Fenwick


  1. A towering "Sweet Betsy" (Calycanthus floridus), also known as Carolina Allspice, grew under the window of my grandparents' bedroom. I remember falling asleep in their bed with that heady, strawberry fragrance wafting through the room. I've planted one near my own window in the shade of some rhododendrons. Smells are the mother lodes of memory. Donna

  2. Reggie Darling, how beautiful it all is. many favourites that directly relate to parent, grandparents. Tuberose is just one.

  3. The lilacs..oh how I miss them!

  4. Sign me up for the first classic design and style blogging convention at Darlington House. I'll do a lot of the cooking, how's that for an idea? Of course, that would mean I'd have to come out a few days early...As for old-fashioned plants, I have an Eastern Redbud in my front yard. It's too violently pink for my Pieris so I am hoping to find the tree a new home. Shipping to Darlington House most likely makes no sense. Darn. Of course, here in California, old fashioned plants are camellias, fuchsias, azaleas - shrubs from the days before we understood that we live in a Cadillac Desert.

  5. Reggie --

    In the country we have apple, plum and pear trees, some redbud (or Flowering Judas, as we used to say), and several dozen dogwoods, all of which are fairly old and, in theory, under some threat of blight. A few of the plum trees are very, very old and I will probably have to replace them within the next few years. There are also some very old apple trees which contain a treehouse complex. (No, no one uses it.)

    There are several large formal gardens built around 150-year old boxwoods, a cutting garden, and around the pool, climbing roses and a butterfly garden. In the spring, there are several kinds of narcissus on various parts of the property.

    I've also had roses and lilacs planted around an 18th century cemetery belonging to the people who built the house, and down by a small river a few hundred yards away I've planted various types of semi-wild white-flowering plants to outline its far bank in the dusk.

    There's also a stone circle that once held an enormous silver maple, One morning a few years ago I woke to find it on its side. So the circle now functions as the world's largest flower pot, with both spring and summer plantings. (I used to try pansies and the like over the winter, but the deer always got them.)

    This year or next, I intend to put in three fairly large copper beech trees down by the pond. (But I've been intending to do that for awhile now, so we'll see.)

    Cheers, etc.

  6. Reg- your beautiful posting marks a sad day- have you seen that An Aesthete's Lament is calling it quits? I feel like I have lost a friend. The burden is now completely on your shoulders, my dear Reggie. Don't let us down.

  7. Heavenly thing to recommend: Toyo Nishiki Quince. It's an old fashioned thing that is stupendous...blooms start out white then turn pink...

    (These are not my photos)

    We're here in Richmond and I finally found one at the gorgeous Ivy Nursery in Charlottesville.

    Adore your blog...thanks so much for keeping us amused.

  8. I have three seed packets that I purchased last year from Charleston Farmhouse, the former home of Bloomsbury's artists and writers. They are delphinium, phlox and hollyhock. I've been waiting until I could find the right place to grow them and perhaps get a crash course in gardening as I am the firm possessor of a thumb noir.

    After looking at the gloriousness of the Darlington House garden, however, I am inspired to DO SOMETHING.

    Thank you. xx

    (And have added your blog to my list as well; thought it was there already. Now it is. )

  9. Beautiful grounds and plantings; I know you are enjoying such a lovely spring. As a child, I spent many happy hours reading in and under a rather large dogwood tree. I love both pink and white dogwoods--stunning in the spring; crimson in the fall; leafy in the summer; and lots of gorgeous red berries for the birds in winter.

  10. You need some large shade trees to give your house some scale background and soften the lines. Plant disease resistant Elms: Princeton, Valley Forge or New Harmony.

  11. My rhododendrons have just come into bloom, as is the Japanese Styrax with its beautiful drooping snowbell blooms.

  12. Anon 8:26: I will have to look in to your suggestion. I checked and see that it is hardier than I thought, active in zones 2-9. We are right at the cusp of 4/5 in our village.

    LA: Tuberoses -- I have never (wittingly) grown them, must think about it.

    Lindaraxa: We are going over to visit Windy Hill Farm this weekend to select additional lilacs to add to our property. I have a hankering for some really dark, inky purple ones.

    LPC: You are welcome at Darlington House anytime, no need to wait for a convention!

    Ancient: Your grounds sound lovely, and I long to see them one day (when, by the way are you going to transform from commenter to blogger?). We have had mixed results at Darlington with Beeches, the Queen of estate planting in my view. We planted a European Beech nearer to our house than was adviseable (in retrospect)that is growing like Topsy, but have lost both a Copper and a Purple one we planted elsewhere on our property, much to our regret and penury (they were big'uns).

    Magnus: I, like many, am crushed that Aesthete will no longer be one of my daily joys. Those are much bigger shoes than any of us that remain could even presume to fill! If there's anyone out there I would nominate Little Augury for such a challenge...

    Anon 10:15: Must look in to this one.

    Lisa: I am longing to plant flower beds again, having taken our grounds to a tabula rasa of lawns, trees and shrubs, and am waiting for inspiration (and funds) to build out a large, deer-resistant walled garden to play in. To have seeds from Charleston is enchanting, indeed! Thank you for adding me to your blog-roll, I am flattered.

    T&C: I adore dogwood, a marvelous suggestion. Unfortunately they struggle where we live, as one of our neighbors will endlessly bore you with at the slightest provocation.

    Anon 6:48: I agree, our property could use more, larger trees. As I wrote above, we lost at least half a dozen of them last year. What are not shown in these photos are those that remain, which include a European Beech, many maples, a towering Norway spruce, a monumental tulip tree, a number of oaks, more black walnuts than I would like, and more. We recently planted a Princeton Elm to provide much needed shade where one we had planted five years ago was ripped out of the ground by last summer's devastating storm. That being said, we are seeking to add more trees to the property, but I am afraid they will not become the mature beauties I would love to have for many years, and certainly not in my life time. Thank you for your comment.

  13. I have been wanting a Golden Chain tree
    (Laburnum X Watereri.)
    ever since I saw a large one gracing a courtyard in Cambridge . It was glorious and I intend to investigate. Michael Dirr says it needs protection- from biting cold. Prefers some relief from heat of the day. won't survive standing water. prone to twig blight, and may loose lower branches later- so needs a facer plant.
    None the less- Cheers !

  14. It's been a magnificent year for trees and shrubs in Kansas as well. Perhaps mother nature's make-up gift for the hideous winter I think all of us had. Spring starts with the Yulan magnolias, the redbuds (species and 'Oklahoma' which is darker and has glossier leaves, then crabapples both pink, white and dark rose. Accenting all of the color are various viburnams. Not having acres as you do, I let my neighbors grow the big trees that frame my garden, and I focus on the understory trees that have greater beauty.

  15. Reggie,
    I want to come to your house, take a barefoot walk on your lush green grass and just breathe in all the intoxicating scents and admire the fruits of your labor.

    And, if I am truthful I would also like to bring my large french flower bucket and clippers...I will need a momento of my visit afterall!

    Happy Spring Weekend!

  16. Plane Trees! So old fashioned, gentle and pretty. With their big open heads and irregular limbing they look like White Oaks that have been pickled then accented with bright green leaves. They are hardy in zones 4-5 and come in many new disease resistant cultivars. Plant at least 2 or maybe 3 so that they become the "underpinning" to the whole place and buy large. Before you know it they will be ancient.

  17. Mr. Darling -
    I know it is not a tree or shrub really, but a big bed of old-fashioned heliotrope looks really smashing. Dark green leaves, deep purple flowers, dependable, easy to care for, vanilla fragrance, turns toward the sun all day and then adjusts at night to face the sunrise - what's not to like?
    Doug in SF

  18. Lilac bushes, I recall the deep fragrance, and I am transported back to the boyhood age of nine.

    Always Bumby


Please do comment! I welcome and encourage them, and enjoy the dialogue.

Related Posts with Thumbnails