Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An August Visit to Yew Dell - Pomegranate, Banana, Pineapple Lily and Bamboo in Kentucky!

Late last month, my wife and I were passing through Louisville, Kentucky and took the time for a quick visit to Yew Dell Botanical Gardens.

It's not the biggest garden by a long stretch, but I have to say I was mighty impressed and surprised with some of the plants I saw there. Here are some of the highlights:

Aster divaricatus, White Wood Aster, pristine foliage in August plus a carpet of starry flowers. What could be nicer?

Not blooming yet, but looking incredibly robust and healthy, here's another aster - A. oblongifolius "Raydon's Favorite," which wins rave reviews from Mt. Cuba Center

OK, this is not so pretty, but botanic gardens are useful in part to see the brownouts you'll rarely find in a gardening magazine or nursery catalog. This is Coreopsis verticillata Golden Gain.  

More proof that Firewitch Dianthus can make a beautiful groundcover

The sign said Ensete montevidensis, although I've seen usually seen this listed as Ensete ventricosum, cultivar "Maurelii". The common name is Red Abyssinian Banana. Unfortunately, it's only hardy to zone 9, so I imagine Yew Dell planted it as an annual, where it adds some bold and striking tropical ambiance.

I was excited to see what appears to be a thriving specimen of Eucomis comosa, the Pineapple Lily. What beautiful foliage! And even past its prime, the flowerhead is still attractive. I've often seen Pineapple Lilies labeled as hardy only to zone 7 or even zone 8, so it was a real treat to see it growing well in zone 6. (I suppose it's possible that the gardeners lift the bulb for overwintering...I'll have to make inquiries...)

I was surprised to see some Fargesia rufa "Green Panda" clumping bamboo growing happily in the shade at Yew Dell. Later I realized that Green Panda is supposed to be cold hardy to zone 5, so it should be able to handle Louisville winters without any problems. 

This was my first time seeing Green Panda in person and I have to say I think it looks pretty good in the flesh (so to speak). I'm not sure that I have enough shade at this point to keep it happy during a hot Southern summer, but it's tempting to give it a try anyway...

Splish! We heard some splashing sounds as we passed a tiny pond. Close examination revealed this fella.

Peeking through the greenery, we spotted another frog sheltering in the pond

Tragic, but beautiful.  Not sure what kind of bird this is. Maybe a Pine Warbler?
Some sort of Lantana camara. Such cheerful candy colors! Definitely planning to add some Lantana to my garden in 2015.

Anyone know what this is? It looks like a really nice groundcover. Maybe some type of sedum? There was a sign nearby that said Manfreda virginica, but clearly that's not this plant

Here's your trusty blogger leaping into the photo to selflessly serve as a yardstick in measuring this 10-12 ft tall banana plant. Maybe Musa basjoo? No sign here either. If it is M. basjoo (or another Musa), I'd be very interested to hear how the garden overwinters them (although they do seem to be located in a protected spot at the edge of a stone wall that presumably absorbs some heat in the wintertime and helps create a warm microclimate).

I've seen Nepeta x faassenii "Walker's Low" Catmint recommended by numerous sources, but it wasn't looking so hot at Yew Dell when I visited in last August 

Here's an (unlabeled) Oakleaf Hydrangea looking kind of crispy and stressed in a bright partial shade location

Sorry for the overexposure in this photo, but trust me when I say that this Oakleaf Hydrangea was growing in significantly more shade - high dappled shade, but shade nonetheless - and it looked much happier than the Oakleaf Hydrangea that was forced to cope with more sunshine. Seeing these two plants nearby reinforced my suspicion that Oakleaf Hydrangea probably prefers mostly shady conditions in hot summer climates. (Well they probably can tolerate a fair bit of sun with lots of supplemental water, but if left to their own devices with minimal extra watering, I suspect they only look their best in the Southeast with lots of shade.)

A pomegranate growing cheerfully in zone 6 Louisville?!
Blew. My. Mind.
True, it is a dwarf pomegranate (Punica granatum Pleniflora), but still I did not know that pomegranates could survive north of zone 7. (I've actually been under the impression that even zone 7 was iffy.)
Seeing this pomegranate seemingly growing happily here has forced me to reexamine my assumptions!

The foliage on this hybrid Witch Hazel - Hamamelis x intermedia "Westerstede" - had seen better days.
Sedum reflexum, Stonecrop, looks like it can make a great groundcover. (I don't think I saw a cultivar name listed, but this looks like photos of Blue Spruce that I've seen online.)

Some kind of tall sedum (not sure which -- I thought it was S. spurium Voodoo, but that's clearly wrong). Whatever it was, there were loads of honey bees buzzing about happily all over the copious flowerheads.

Silphium laciniatum, Compass Plant, a U.S. prairie native with beautiful compound leaves and soaring stems (8-10 feet tall?) that - as shown here - can topple to Earth in dramatic splaying fashion

Solidago rugosa "Fireworks", the top-rated goldenrod in a Chicago Botanic Garden trial, simply stunning en masse as shown here. Solidago reportedly provides bees with an important late-summer source of pollen and nectar.
No tag on this, but I suspect it might be Lespedeza thunbergii. It's a pretty shrub / large perennial, but I don't have any plans to add it to my TN garden and I'm a little surprised (if my identification is accurate) that Yew Dell still has it, given that concerns over its invasiveness have landed it in the Significant Threat category of the Kentucky's Exotic Plant Pest Council