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Overview_IMG_4582Build in the 1980s as a gift to Sydney from the city of Guangzhou in Southern China, this garden celebrates the relationship between the Chinese community in Australia, as well as the 1988 Bicentential of Australia’s colonial settlement. It covers about 2.5 acres and was designed in the southern style known as Ling-nam, by Chinese landscape architects using the concept of controlling and manipulating natural forms to produce a sense of wildness in a controlled space. The design is governed by the importance of ‘Qi’, the central force of life and energy, as well as by the Taoist principles of Yin-Yang and the five opposite elements: earth, fire, water, metal, and wood. [click to continue…]

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dogwood kousa clusterNative to Japan, Korea, and China, kousa dogwood is a small deciduous flowering tree or large shrub that is covered with flowers in late spring. The branches are at first upright but become more horizontal and tiered with maturity. Older bark becomes mottled with gray-and tan. The pointed oval leaves are 2-4 inches long and .75 to 1 inch wide. They are dark medium green in summer but turn red-purple in fall. The “flowers” are actually a cluster of tiny green flowers surrounded by four white pointed bracts one to two inches long. They appear in late spring facing upward and last for six weeks, turning pink before giving way to berry-like pink to red roundish fruits that persist into winter and are attractive to birds. Similar to flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), kousa dogwood can be distinguished by its pointed white flower bracts, later bloom time, more upright habit and greater resistance to anthracnose. An outstanding choice as a specimen tree or planted in small groups especially when associated with woodland gardens. The genus name, Cornus, comes from the Latin word, cornus, meaning horn and probably refers to the strength of the wood. The specific name, kousa, is the Japanese name for the tree. Cultivars are available with pink flower bracts and variegated leaves. [click to continue…]

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rubus_benenden2Brambles may not be at the top of your list of favorite garden shrubs but many are ornamental and deserve a place in the garden. The most common Rubus species are blackberries and raspberries, known for their fierce prickles but there are many other species that may be grown for their flowers, foliage, and/or bark. Rubus belongs to the rose family (Rosaceae), a large diverse family that also includes cherry, hawthorn, and lady’s mantle. [click to continue…]

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Cornus-floridaA native of eastern US, flowering dogwood is a small deciduous tree beloved for the white flowers that cover the tree in spring. Botanically, however, the flowers are actually greenish and very small but are produced in clusters and surrounded by four white, notched petal-like bracts. The over-all effect is a white flower about three to four inches across. A variety, rubra, has pink bracts. Clusters of small red berries attractive to wildlife follow in late summer and persist into fall. The simple, entire, oval leaves are 3 to 6 inches long and 2.5 to 4 inches wide with sharply pointed tips. They appear rosy green when they appear in the spring turning bright to dark green in summer and then red in the fall. The tree is low branching with the branches arranged in horizontal tiers and the medium brown bark is checkered. A popular choice as a specimen tree or planted in small clusters especially on woodland edges. The generic name Cornus. coms from the Latin word cornus meaning horn and may refer to the strength of the wood. The specific name, florida, comes from the Latin word,flos, meaning flower. [click to continue…]

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Magnolia macrophylla bigleaf_magnolia3This flowering tree is native to North American and is found in the southeastern US where it grows in moist woodlands. A member of the Magnolia family (Magnoliacea) the tree has the largest leaves of any tree native to North America. The leaves measure up to twelve to thirty-two inches long by seven to twelve inches wide and are bright green above and fuzzy silver-gray below. The fragrant flowers appear in May to July and have ivory flowers tinged with purple at the base. They are eight to twelve inches across and give rise to hairy, oval fruits up to three inches long. The fruits turn red in the fall and carry red berries. Trees are demanding in their moisture requirements and do not tolerate drought, urban pollution, or wind that may shed their leaves. They do not produce flowers until they are twelve to fifteen years old but are attractive specimen or shade trees. The specific name, macrophylla, comes from the Greek words macro meaning large and phyllon meaning leaf, referring to the large leaves. [click to continue…]

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Book Review: If You Plant a Seed

If You Plant A SeedSome children’s books have beautiful illustrations, others have a stellar text, and still others carry a message. Kadir Nelson’s book, If you Plant a Seed, has all three plus unique other qualities that make it special. Written for children ages four to eight in preschool to third grade, it is also very appealing to the adults that no doubt will read it. [click to continue…]

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muhlenbergia-schreberi-2Nimblewill is a perennial grass native to eastern North America where it grows in moist partially shaded areas such as open woodland. It does particularly well in disturbed areas and is found in lawns, gardens, orchards, and nurseries. A warm weather grass, it grows well in the summer but turns brown in early fall so is considered undesirable as a lawn grass. In warm climates nimblewill can become aggressive in lawns especially is moist, shady areas with infertile soil. It is often mistaken for Bermuda grass or creeping bentgrass. [click to continue…]

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Hydrangea quercifolia snowflakeOakleaf hydrangea is a deciduous stoloniferous shrub native to the Southeast US where it grow in moist woodlands. It is a member of the Hydrangeaceae family that also includes mock orange and Deutzia. The branches are exfoliating and provide winter interest. The dark green, oak-like leaves are large, lobed, coarse, and handsome in spring and summer but really put on a show in the fall when they turn shades of burgundy. The flowers are produced in long pyramidal panicles four to eight inches long in early to mid summer They emerge white and slowly become shades of pink as they age. Flowers are produced on old wood so prune immediately after flowering. Although hardy in zone 5 the tops may be killed to the ground or the buds frozen resulting in poor flowering. Good cut flower. [click to continue…]

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Ajuga-Lamium CombinationPerfect for a shady spot, Lamium ‘White Nancy’ and ajuga ‘Purple Brocade’ will do well in both dry or moist conditions. Both have pretty flowers in late spring to early summer and outstanding foliage for season-long interest. The purple foliage of the bugleweed is set off by the silvery white of ‘White Nancy’s leaves and the leaves of the ‘White Nancy’, in turn, provide a good background for the blue flowers of Ajuga ‘Purple Brocade’. This combination makes an outstanding groundcover even on slopes and banks, and under trees and shrubs. For a fabulous effect plant over spring bulbs. [click to continue…]

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digitalis_purpureaCommon foxglove is a biennal or short-lived herbaceous perennial that is native to Europe where it grows in disturbed sites. It is a member of the plantain family (Plantaginaceae) that also includes speedwell (Veronica), turtlehead (Chelone), and Penstemon. In the first year the plant produces an evergreen basal rosette of light green leaves that are wrinkled and downy. In the second year it produces one sided raceme of two to three inch long pendulous purple flowers with white spots. The flowering begins in late spring and continues for about a month. Plants freely reseed themselves and once this is accomplished the plant can be removed from the garden as it becomes somewhat unattractive by late summer. On the other hand, the removal of the flowering stalk before seed set will encouraged rebloom and push the plant to act more like a perennial than a biennial. The flowers are attractive to humming birds and bees, the seeds to birds. Many cultivars have been developed that expand the range of colors available. The leaves, flowers and seeds are poisonous and the leaves provide the drug digitalis. The genus name Digitalis is from the Latin word digitus meaning finger and refers to the finger-like shape of the flowers.

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