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Posts Tagged ‘arnold arboretum’

Bedrock Gardens in Lee, New Hampshire, is open to the public.

Many of the activities people used to seek out for entertainment are closed these days, so more of us are walking in woods and shady cemeteries or looking for nearby public gardens. One of our favorite gardens was started by friends in Lee, New Hampshire, but we haven’t visited there for a while. Silly reason, I suppose: since Covid-19, I’m afraid to use a public bathroom on the highway.

Arnoldia, the voice of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, recently touched base with staff of public gardens around the country to learn what their days have been like in the shadow of coronavirus.

“Public gardens,” the magazine reports, “like other cultural institutions, were confronted with the same stay-at-home mandates that shuttered their communities. According to the American Public Gardens Association, more than 25 percent of gardens closed on a single day (Monday, March 16), and by the end of March, only 4 percent remained fully open to the public. The plants, of course, did not wait to begin growing until gardens reopened. The sunshine-colored blossoms of forsythia and daffodils put on their radiant shows no matter what.

“The unrelenting arrival of spring was, in many ways, incongruous with the national mood. It also meant that horticulturists at public gardens continued working despite closures and event cancellations at their institutions. Schedules changed. Procedures changed. But there were plants to be tended. [Thirteen] horticulturists from gardens around the country describe the on-the-ground realities of caring for their collections during the first months of the pandemic — the months in which an old normal faded and a new normal was created.”

Among the updates is one from the Bellevue Botanical Garden near Seattle, the New York Botanical Garden, the San Francisco region’s Filoli (“birdsongs provide a sense of vibrancy during the day, and large animals [like cougars, coyotes, foxes, and raccoons] leave evidence of nighttime visits”), Utah’s Ashton Gardens, the Boston region’s Wakefield Arboretum, Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory, Pennsylvania’s famed Longwood Gardens, Denver Botanic Gardens, the Morton Arboretum in Illinois, and Florida’s Naples Botanical Garden.

Conor Guidarelli, Arnold Arboretum’s horticulturist, had a rather sad entry about the Covid-19 version of the annual Lilac Day, and event that Suzanne and I loved to attend when she was small.

He says he “spray-painted white arrows on the sidewalk to request one-way traffic to limit potential exposure of those in the garden. I spent the afternoon posting normal signage (‘Please don’t pick the lilacs,’ ‘No picnicking at the Arboretum’), along with another, ‘Don’t smell the lilacs.’ ”

Golly. There’s almost no point in going if you can’t smell the lilacs. We once spent a whole day sniffing as we tried to find a particularly fragrant variety we thought was called Persian Lilac.

The Arnoldia article concludes, “By the end of the spring, gardens and arboreta began to reopen. Bellevue Botanical Garden and the Arnold Arboretum were among the few whose grounds remained fully open throughout the early months of the pandemic. Ashton Gardens reopened on May 1, allowing visitors to catch the late-blooming tulips, and Filoli reopened on May 11. Attendees at both gardens were required to purchase timed-entry tickets. Filoli initially offered eight hundred tickets each day and later raised the number to fourteen hundred.

“Prepurchased tickets became the modus operandi for gardens — a way of preventing attendance surges and of reducing interactions between visitors and staff at entrance bottlenecks. Denver Botanic Gardens reopened with a ticketed entry on May 22. The Morton Arboretum reopened to members on June 1 and to the general public on June 15. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens reopened on June 13, allowing a one-way path through the indoor conservatories. Longwood Gardens reopened on June 18, about three weeks before a massive corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) came into bloom.

“Due to state-mandated limits on guest capacity, the garden significantly expanded their evening hours so that more visitors could obtain tickets to experience the rare and short-lived bloom. Some visitors were relieved to find that the notoriously foul smell of the flowers was muffled by their masks.

“Naples Botanical Garden fully reopened on July 6. New York Botanical Garden partially reopened on July 21. By the end of July, the Wakefield Arboretum had opened for limited reservation-only tours and special programs.” Read more at Arnoldia, here.

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My husband’s spring visit to the Arnold Arboretum and a guided tour by Andrew Gapinski, manager of horticulture, got us looking up information on witch hazel.

Steve Kemper at Yankee Magazine had this to say: “Witch hazel grows from southern Canada to Florida and from Minnesota to Texas, but it flourishes most densely in the eastern half of Connecticut. Not quite a tree but more than a shrub, witch hazel has speckled gray bark, a slim trunk typically just a few inches in diameter, and a bushy top that ends well shy of 20 feet. For three seasons of the year, it’s inconspicuous in the understory.

“But after all the leaves have fallen and the last aster has succumbed to frost, witch hazel displays its exuberant eccentricity, bursting into festive yellow blossoms that Thoreau compared to ‘furies’ hair, or small ribbon streamers.’ At the same time, the previous year’s blossoms have ripened into hard fruits, which now explode, propelling the small seeds up to 30 feet. …

“The Native Americans called this strange plant ‘winterbloom’ and ascribed special powers to it. They used it as a cure-all, steeping the bark and branches to make a tea … which they put on cuts, bruises, insect bites, pinkeye, hemorrhoids, and sore muscles — maladies for which witch hazel is still used. “

At the Boston Globe, David Filipov adds, “Native Americans used witch hazel as a cure-all. So did the early European settlers. … Because of that, Dickinson Brands Inc., the world’s largest producer of witch hazel, has quietly prospered here, in what is arguably the witch hazel capital of the world.

“Owners and employees say they have avoided the layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts that have benighted so many companies. And in this season of shrinking sales and mounting losses, the privately owned company says it has experienced double-digit growth. …

“Sometimes the product’s rich history as an all-round remedy intrudes upon the company’s attempt to place the Witch Hazel brand as a gentle skin-care product for the modern woman.

“ ‘Back in the day, they used to use it a lot on the animals’ who had cuts and scrapes,’’ [an employer] recalled. ‘As a matter of fact, most of the race horses of today use it. After they work out, they wipe the horses with it. Yep, cools the horses down.’ ”

Read all about this built-to-last Connecticut industry at Yankee Magazine and the Boston Globe.

(Witch Hazel was a character in the Little Lulu comics of my childhood. Different witch.)

Image: Franz Eugen Köhler

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Many flowering trees are early this year. I associate lilacs with Mother’s Day, the Lilac Festival in Rochester, New York, and Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston — events that occur May 13 this year. But here we are in April, and lilacs are delicious everywhere.

The unusually dark red of the Japanese Maple at Dunkin Donuts is hard to capture on film. But as amazing as the color is, even more amazing is the tree’s comeback after March’s unseasonal heat and frost blasted the first leaves to brown. I was sure that was it for this year, but the leaves are richer than ever.

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