Posts Tagged ‘cyclamen’

The past year has been an olfactory adventure in Longwood’s research greenhouses. In preparation for Making Scents: the Art and Passion of Fragrance, we brought in a variety of fragrant plants for trial. Some plants, such as roses, are common and easy to obtain. Fragrant varieties such as Rosa ‘Secret’s out’,  R. ‘Gros Choux d’Hollande, R. ‘De Resht’, R.  x centifolia, R. ‘Compte Chambord’,  and ‘Jaques Cartier’  will be making an appearance in the Conservatory during the exhibition.

Rosa 'Comte-de-Chambourd'

Rosa 'Comte-de-Chambourd'

Other fragrant plant requests are more exotic and elusive. Everyone has heard of frankincense and myrrh, but very few people grow them. I know how rare they are, because I was given the task of locating and purchasing these plants. Alas, I did not have the aid of three wise men to guide me, so I was left to my own devices. Fortunately, I had the help of fragrance expert Art Tucker, many horticulture interns, and the Internet. Surprisingly, frankincense can be found at a nursery in New Jersey.  Myrrh came from a nursery in the the Southwestern United States. Both plants exude a sap when the bark is wounded that hardens into a gum.  The gum is used to produce the fragrances of frankincense and myrrh.



One of the most surprising and delightful fragrant plants was already in Longwood’s plant collection. Senna didymobotrya or “Popcorn Senna” emits the pleasant aroma of hot buttered popcorn when the leaves are gently brushed.  I always enjoy watching the faces of people who are not familiar with the plant when they get the first whiff of hot buttered popcorn. This plant should be planted near movie theaters!  Golden yellow flowers grace this plant, which increase its ornamental value.

Senna didymobotrya

Another quirky, fragrant plant has been kicking around Longwood’s greenhouses since 1957. Paramongaia weberbaueri was collected on the slopes of the Andes in Peru. It looks like a giant daffodil, blooms in the fall and has an amazing fragrance. In fact, my first indication that Paramongaia was in bloom was the sweet fragrance that filled the greenhouse. I looked around to see where the scent was coming from and was amazed to see a daffodil-like flower blooming in the fall!

Paramongaia weberbaueri

Paramongaia weberbaueri

Aloysia virgata, or sweet almond bush, has been a work horse in our greenhouses. It produces spikes of fragrant white flowers all year long that resemble Buddleja flowers. The sweet, nutty aroma fills the research greenhouses, and sometimes even permeates into the hallways of the headhouse. While visiting the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, I caught the sweet scent of almonds on the wind nearly 200 feet from the tree-like Aloysia virgata that was growing in one of the beds.

Speaking of Buddleja, there are two pleasantly fragrant varieties slated for display in the Gardens this year. Buddleja asiatica is a species that blooms in January, with white flowers and a pleasant fragrance.  We trialed this plant in our Research Department a few years ago in hopes of finding another winter-blooming Buddleja to supplement the other Buddleja species that we use from Mr. du Pont’s time.  ‘Winter Waterfall’ is a newcomer that will be making its Conservatory debut this year.  It resulted from a cross with Buddleja asiatica. It has a slightly different fragrance than B. asiatica and white pendulous flowers, and it blooms in November and December, which makes it a perfect addition to the Christmas display.

Buddleja 'Winter Waterfall'

Buddleja 'Winter Waterfall'

The award for the most exotic fragrant flower goes to Passiflora ‘Ruby Glow’.  Not only did this plant have the best fragrance out of all the Passiflora trialed, it also had the best foliage.  The fragrance is tangy and flora. The flower is a site to behold. It resembles some strange sea creature with tentacles.

Passiflora 'Ruby Glow'

Passiflora 'Ruby Glow'

I have to say that not all of the plants cooperated. Cestrum nocturnum produces an amazing vanilla fragrance that smells heavenly. Unfortunately, it is only fragrant in the early hours of the morning when the garden is empty, and most folks are sleeping. On cool mornings when the greenhouse vents are locked down, the sweet vanilla scent is trapped in the greenhouse, and I can’t help but smiling when that sweet smell surrounds me.

Some smells are downright unpleasant. Caryopteris divaricata ‘Maxim’ smells like bad onion soup when the leaves are brushed. Plectranthus neochilus is also known as the skunk plant, and you can smell why. The scent of it lingered in the headhouse for an entire day after I transported the plant through the area, causing several people to comment. While pruning a lemon-scented Eucalyptus, I became nauseous. For a few minutes I was convinced that I was coming down with stomach flu, and needed to go home. Thankfully, the feeling passed, and I realized that my discomfort was coming from the smell of the Eucalyptus. Yuck!  I try not to get to close to that plant.

Trialing fragrant plants was extremely interesting.  The first question I got whenever someone new entered the greenhouse was “What is that smell?” Since we were surrounded by so many fragrant plants, it was an adventure to find exactly where the scent was coming from. I hope you also have a great adventure when you come to see these plants in the Conservatory for Making Scents: the Art and Passion of Fragrance, which opens April 10.

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I love the theme of the 2010 Philadelphia Flower ShowPassport to the World (through March 7). This year’s show features gardens themed to some of the world’s richest horticultural locations, including South Africa, Brazil and the Netherlands! More than 60 professional organizations have been grooming their best plants and planning the most innovative designs to fill the Convention Center with treasures from around the world for the 8 day show. Here at Longwood Gardens, we’re proud to be a part of the show by featuring some of the most exotic plants that we have collected and cultivated over the years. You’ll see our plants immediately upon entry to the Flower Show, in The Explorer’s Garden, which is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Victoria 'Longwood Hybrid' in summer

A 28′ tall hot-air balloon floats magically overhead while underneath you’ll marvel at Longwood’s incredible water-platters (Victoria ‘Longwood Hybrid’) which have pads that are between 3-4′ across!  We also have some of our most prized South African native plants on display, including the winter red-hot poker (Veltheimia) and Chasmanthe bicolor.  From the Portuguese island of Madeira, Longwood collected parent seed for our hybrid blue cineraria (Pericallis x hybrida).  From the Canary Islands off the coast of northwest Africa comes Echium wildpretii with its dramatic towering spires of pink.  From the same family of islands hails sweet broom (Cytissus x spachianus) with its elegant arching stems of electric yellow. Lastly, be on the lookout for the elusive Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis) as they might decide to flower this week as well!

Longwood Gardens, with our 4-acre conservatory complex is only 30 miles from the Philadelphia Flower Show and offers a world of garden adventure each day of the year!  I invite you to come and explore our gardens that feature designs from around the globe.  Let’s look at a few inspirational plants and spaces that are in full bloom right now.

Burle-Marx's Cascade Garden

The Cascade Garden was designed by Roberto Burle Marx from Brazil.  It has been growing and evolving for almost 20 years!  In the center of the garden emerges what looks to be two giant tree trunks from the rainforest, which have been covered with vines and epiphytic plants.  As you follow the curving path through the garden, you are greeted with colorful bromeliads and philodendrons, many of which are native to Burle Marx’s home country.  Look up to the walls and see that they, too, are draped with exotic foliage in many textures and colors.  The sound of water fills the air as brimful waterfalls cascade to clear pools below.

Mimulus 'Valentine' in the Mediterranean Garden

Nearby,  the Mediterranean Garden showcases many plants that are native to South Africa, including Aloe capitata, Euryops pectinatus, Chasmanthe var. duckitii and Clivia miniata, which blossom each winter with heads of bright yellow flowers.  Filled with sweet nectar,  the pink form of winter red-hot poker (Veltheimia) forms a soothing sweep underneath graceful pepper trees (Schinus) as vibrant purple Cyclamen and golden Tulip batalinii (both natives of Persia) mix sweetly near the pathway.  The Mediterranean garden was designed by a Californian garden designer and features the beautiful California native flower Mimulus ‘Valentine’ that flanks the central bench.

Hippeastrum 'Lemon Lime' in the Mediterranean Garden

Longwood’s relationship with the foremost bulb growers in The Netherlands brings us some of the best cultivars of lilies, tulips, narcissus and amaryllis available.  You’ll find one of the newest plants in the Orangery–Lillium ‘ Florian’.  The sweetly fragrant blossoms are the most delicate pink infused with white.  The stately petals stretch almost 10″ across and the strong stems reach almost 3′ in height!  Narcissus ‘Constantinople’ is a tazetta-type narcissus that is commonly known as the paperwhite.  This cultivar boasts strongly ruffled petals and an intoxicatingly sweet scent that is hard to describe!  This type of narcissus is not reliably hardy in zone 6, but gardeners in warmer zones 7 and 8 would be wise to try this cultivar in your garden.  Equally suited to warmer zones is Hippeastrum ‘Lemon Lime’.  This has to be my favorite bulb in the Conservatory now! The elegant floral display atop each lengthy stem is a sophisticated shade of chartreuse.  It complements warmer colors nicely and will have a blush of pink in very cool weather. Look for it in the Mediterranean Garden meadow this week.

Longwood Gardens has combed the world for some of the most exciting plants to share with you on a daily basis.  I invite you to join us and travel the globe as you stroll through our Conservatory!

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In less than one week, Longwood’s tireless staff removes the entire chrysanthemum display in a complete make-over of the Gardens. We have three days each year (the three days before Thanksgiving) to transform the Gardens into a Longwood Gardens Christmas. Our 2009 theme of pollination has carried over into our Christmas preparations, with many of the popular trees, wreaths and decorations featuring flowers, fruits and insects. 

I can’t wait to see the 28-foot tree in the East Conservatory covered with hundreds of animatronic blue butterflies complementing the blue and silver themed display in that garden. Familiar favorites like paperwhite narcissus and artemisia will be displayed alongside blue flowered Salvia glechomifolia and Plectranthus thyrsoideus.  These plants are natives of Mexico and Central Africa, respectively, and will be in full bloom throughout the winter season!

On the Exhibition Hall floor you will be amazed at the floral “carpet” that our gardeners and designers have been working on busily. Hundreds of poinsettias, begonias and ivy create a tapestry of color almost 85- feet long! Our inspiration for this masterpiece is the floral carpet created each year in Brussels, Belgium. Theirs is a short-lived palette of begonia flowers–while ours will last the duration of the display, from November  26-January 10.  The reflective pool of water on the floor surrounding the carpet will lead your eye to the decorated floral tree on the Exhibition Hall stage.  At Longwood, not only do we hang ornaments on our trees, we also install living plants on an elaborate framework complete with irrigation! 

Kids of all ages should be on the lookout for the garden railway running outside the Lower Reception Suite overlooking the Main Fountain Garden.  There will be a forest of 28 multicolored Christmas trees lit with energy-saving LED lights. The trains will dart in and out of this “forest” creating a festive atmosphere.  This year Longwood Gardens in projecting that 97% of our 500,000 outdoor displays of Christmas lights will be LED.  What an amazing green initiative were accomplishing! 

As you enter the Reception Suite from the outdoor train display you might see these wreaths that feature the fruits of pollination.  In between maintaining the gardens,  many of Longwood’s talented staff are floral artists creating dazzling displays out of traditional and unusual material.  These pieces are constructed of salal leaves and mood moss.  It takes about  three hours per wreath, with a total of four people working on them at one stage or another!  Thank goodness for all of Longwood’s dedicated volunteers!

Speaking of volunteers, not everyone has to be experienced in horticulture or floral design to participate in the creation of a Longwood Gardens Christmas.  The watercolor you see here was created by one of our volunteers!  The image is the Mediterranean Garden, which will be transformed into an outdoor California  patio garden this Christmas.  Flowering Aloe, poinsettia and cyclamen are all popular outdoor plants during the mild winters of California.  This display will make you long to be outside on a cool California evening, with a glass of wine in hand. Look closely at the French doors, which will offer a peek  “inside the home” to a Christmas tree! The planning process for displays such as this span an entire year, if not more! We go through countless discussions and revisions before the final product reaches the Gardens. We’re currently refining the plans for 2010… our year of Fragrance… even though we haven’t finished installing 2009 yet!

This is just a quick glimpse of some of the things we are up to in preparation for a Longwood Gardens Christmas.  We hope to see you at one of our ice skating performances, or in the Ballroom to sing alongside the Longwood Organ during our dazzling Christmas display, which begins Thanksgiving Day. Happy Holidays!

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