This weekend I visited the Camellia house at Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Part in Oyster Bay, NY. It was a good outlet for a gardener-going-stir-crazy on the brink of spring. The property and buildings, part of a 1920’s Cold Coast Era estate, were donated by the crazy-rich Coe family in the 1950’s to the state. The main house is an amazing mansion made from Indiana Limestone in the style of an English sixteenth century Elizabethan country manor. The den includes a balcony loft for a music entertainment.
The architectural design of the Camellia greenhouse (pictured below) is so beautiful and about 20 percent of the Camellias were planted by William Robertson Coe back in the 1920's. You can spot the older Camellias; their branches and trunk are much thicker than the others. Recently, the plants were uprooted so the old soil could be enriched. As a result, there is evidence of root shock on the leaves of many of the old plants. The greenhouse workers say that the plants will survive, but it may take a year for them to recover from the trauma of being moved. Apparently, plants have feelings too.
The greenhouse itself has arched doors and a brick façade. It’s really vintage, with the original heating grates underfoot and old irrigation piping throughout. Tropical Camilla can be kind of difficult, I think, to grow indoors without a greenhouse. The plant likes a humid environment, and then a period of drying out in cool air.
While I seem to be pretty lucky with keeping Orchids, I haven’t tried Camellia plants yet. There were cold hardy Camellias (japonica hybrids) growing outdoors on the park grounds, and several for sale in the dining room of the house. I bought one and right now it’s sitting outside on the north side of my house waiting to be planted. I placed it in a spot that doesn’t get cooked by the sun since Camellias like to be shielded slightly in part-shade. This plant can grow up to 10 ft. high and apparently, it can tolerate colder climates. I’ll have to let you know if that is true in a year. The one I chose has white and red pinwheel-designed flowers. It’s called April Dawn.
Jessica Damiano, Newsday’s garden detective, says that it’s safe to move shrubs as early as March 8th, while they are still dormant. Next week I’m going to start raking out some of the leaves I left from last season and cutting back the perennials.
As soon as the Forsythia blooms, it’s alright to begin pruning and fertilizing the rose garden. I’m a little nervous about cutting back my roses, but I’ve been told that if you cut them back in early spring, remove old leaves, remove the old mulch and replace it with new mulch, (which often contains the pests and fungus left over from the previous season), then the plants will do very well. Last summer I moved most of the roses on my property to the west side of my perennial garden where they would get more sun.
Around the 28th Damiano recommends cutting back hydrangeas all the way to the ground. You can also start weeding now in spots you let go last August. This practice will cut down on the amount of weeds you have this season.
I plan to add a tree to my property this year since I lost one when we had the cesspools replaced. I’m looking to put in something that won’t grow too high and affect the sunlight in my perennial and rose gardens, maybe a Weeping Cherry.
Daylight savings time begins March 13th and then I get an extra hour to garden after work. I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to sacrifice an hour of sleep to spend more time with my good friend THE SUN. Spring is my favorite time of the year.