Gardener’s Corner: Summer Edition

July 7, 2017

With the onset of the warm summer months, the gardens are at their fullest and our gardeners are busy adding new native plants to our garden rooms and maintaining them daily, preventing pests and weeds from encroaching into the landscape.

We are pleased to see a positive impact on the gardens from the implementation of our most recent water mitigation best management practices. By controlling the direction of water flow and the rate at which water moves across the landscape, we are able to minimize the need for maintenance following heavy precipitation events. We’re adding mulch and soil to low areas that have been washed out by rainfall. In the Vaseyi Creek, additional rock will slow the flow of water and prevent further washout. The increase of intensity and frequency of precipitation events is a by-product of climate change. By planning ahead and implementing measures now, we mitigate the negative effects of climate change at the Reserve.

One of our summertime priority best management practices is removing Azalea Gall from all azaleas, especially the flame azaleas. Azalea Gall is a fungal growth that is caused by a wind-borne fungus whose spores overwinter in bark and buds, emerging in the spring and summer months. To treat the azalea, the galls are removed by hand and disposed of in the trash. To keep it from spreading, the gall should not be returned to the landscape by tossing further into the forest. Although unsightly, the gall doesn’t cause any significant harm to the plant. Gall removal helps ensure healthy flower production and reduces weight stress on branches.

The overarching goal of our planting activities this season is to enhance the overall appearance of the Reserve and increase our plant collection using the original Master Plan to guide our efforts. We’re planting in all the garden rooms of the Core Park, including the Maple Entrance, Green Roof Garden, Woodland Glade, Azalea Walk, The Wildflower Labyrinth, The Vaseyi Pond, and The Viewsite.  At the Viewsite, we’re adding plants to the sunken gardens. At the end of the Woodland Glade Trail, a new collection of wood poppies engulf the forest floor underneath a Fraser magnolia. Native plants added to the landscape this summer include Wood Poppy, Creeping Phlox, Purple Coneflower, Texas Tickseed, Golden Seal, Trillium, Fire Pink, St. John’s Wort, Mountain Mint, Red Salvia, Bee Balm, Doll’s Eyes, Chokecherry, Christmas and Wood Fern.

This year has seen a number of new permanent installation in the gardens. Those attending the spring and early summer Visitor’s Days got to experience the new locust boardwalk leading from the Vasyei Trail into the Vaseyi Pond, inviting guests out to the expansive garden rooms at the Viewsite. From the Viewsite, visitors can now enjoy a new locust arbor leading into the Yellowwood Trail, “pointing towards heaven” as Founder Betty Balentine commented. We look forward to visitors getting a chance to experience these new installations.

In the Nursery Complex, we’re getting prepared for our Summer Plant Sale on Friday, August 25th, potting up our native azalea plant collection and other native species into larger pots for gardeners to take home from the sale. In Nursery Complex, we are expanding the areas surrounding the greenhouses to provide more space and better conditions for azaleas. Throughout the year, nursery staff are potting up red spruce for public land restoration projects. With spring at a close, fertilization activities were complete in June, allowing us to focus on maintenance and watering.

Maintenance activities are at a high during summer months in order to remain ahead of the curve. We are diligently pruning and cleaning up of the beds and inspecting daily for pest control. During the warmer months, wildlife is active in the gardens and the need for pest control measures are at their height. We spray deer and rabbit repellent to prevent them from consuming our plant collection. To prepare for next year’s growing season, we’re collecting woodland wildflower seeds such as Bloodroot and Wood Poppy and planting them.

In the upper elevations of the Reserve above the Chestnut Lodge, our vegetable and flower garden known as the Sky Garden is producing summer veggies and flowers heartily. The founders and staff are enjoying the summer’s bounty of squash, zucchini, and tomatoes ripened by the sun and enriched with the forest soil. May your summer gardens be bountiful and beautiful as well.