Page 4 spacer Botanic Garden News spacer Spring 2000
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President's Garden continued
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(Continued from page 3)
House has also been expanded.
Climbers 'William Baffin,' 'New
Dawn,' and 'Pierre de Ronsard' ('Eden') have
been planted on the white fence surrounding the
herb and kitchen gardens, and Rosa gallica 'Officinalis,' the Apothecary's rose, or Red Rose
of Lancaster, has been added to the medicinal
bed in the herb garden. New English roses from David Austin include 'Graham Thomas,' 'The Prince,' 'Heritage,' and 'Lucetta.' 'Frederic Mistral,' 'Carefree Wonder,' and 'Ballerina' are new shrub roses, and two old varieties, 'Ispahan' (a damask) and 'Mrs. John Laing' (hybrid perpetual), were also planted. The latter was first planted in the gardens here in 1891. Mention of this is made in a journal in the Smith College Archives along with an unattributed quote: "I deem the rose the nightingale of flowers." It will be interesting to see if the performance of this rose stands up to its longevity in commerce of over 100 years.
     Other woody plants of significance on the grounds include a venerable specimen of the royal azalea, Rhododendron schlippenbachii, planted in front of the house in the 1930s. In his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Mike Dirr says of this azalea "[there is] no adequate way to do justice to the beauty of this plant by the written word." It is in full and glorious bloom in May. To the right of the house stands a handsome example of the cut-leaf European beech, Fagus sylvatica 'Laciniata,' which, according to our records, measured fifteen inches in diameter in 1932. Perfectly proportioned and lovely year-round, it becomes a cloud of gold in the fall, a color echoed by Fothergilla major by the garage to the left of the house. Several shades of gold along with orange, red, and burgundy brighten the foliage of these plants in autumn for an outstanding effect. Also with golden fall color is the statuesque specimen of Halesia monticola, mountain silverbell, atop the slope behind the garage. In late April to mid-May this tree is covered with pendent white bells-a breathtaking sight.
spacer      At the bottom of the sloped lawn toward Paradise Pond the fruits of Ilex verticillata 'Jolly Red' glow scarlet even in mid-January. This cultivar has much larger fruits than those found in the wild, and it can be clearly seen from College Lane. The twin specimens of Wisteria floribunda on the back of the house reach 35 feet, and the old, twisting branches are covered with foot-long lavender racemes in April, appearing before the foliage. They are so magnificent in bloom that the Yankee Candle Company wanted to photograph them in 1999 for a new candle jar. They came a bit late with their cameras, though, as a heavy rain had decimated the flowers. In June, nothing rivals the Cornus kousa, Kousa dogwood, growing just beyond the terrace. This species is a favorite of mine, and this particular plant is the most floriferous of any I have seen. It presents a spectacular vision seen from the rose garden.
     Some of you may be familiar with the huge Magnolia soulangiana 'Alexandrina' across from the herb garden above the iris border. If you do visit it, make sure to walk in among its multiple trunks-they are unusually large and beautiful. Up until the ice storm of 1997, this tree created a veritable wall of pink flowers in April. It suffered serious damage in the storm and has been heavily pruned in hopes of its recovery. This tree was planted in the late 1920s and flowered initially in April of 1933. We look forward to a return of its original splendor.
     We all look forward to spring-especially the gardeners among us who eagerly await the first flowers of new plants, and the new flowers of old favorites. While you leaf through seed and plant catalogues, perhaps you might put a blank garden journal on your list of purchases. Knowing the history of a plant always makes it that much more interesting to grow. In a hundred years, someone might be reading your gardening notes! decoration

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