The early months of the year came with mixed blessings. As gardeners, we welcome the cold snap that kills off overwintering pest and diseases but it also halted the project that has been the major focus of our work over the past two months: the redesign of what was previously the Hybrid Test Garden.
The program of 'testing' new hybrid rhododendrons will no longer be formally observed in the garden and this section of the garden will now be known as the Entry Garden and will be devoted to display of our favorite rhododendrons and companion plants. Specifically, the work that was halted by frozen ground is the completion of Phase One improvements that include a new walkway, assembly area and new planting.
Overall, the work has resulted in quite a disturbance and as the ground becomes workable again, we are moving ahead to make way for coming season of flowering by "capping off" the Phase One improvements with grading and planting scheduled for completion by early March.
Phase Two will begin in August with the addition of two more walkways. The completion of these two phases will result in greater accessibility for visitors to the gardens.
We will be adding more trees to this section of the garden to add to the ones already established here - Gingko biloba, Sorbus aria 'Lutescens', Magnolia soulangeana, Enkianthus campanulata and Crypomeria japonica.
The Entry Garden trees will contribute to the overall framework of the new design. We favor the idea of broadening the season of interest beyond rhodendrons to include some fall color. Forest Prince serviceberry, Amelanchier × grandiflora 'Forest Prince' and Franklinia Altamaha , Franklin tree would make a good start. At ground level we are looking forward to adding companion plants both woody and herbaceous to provide ground cover and added color.