GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2006 show2
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Show #2

This week we visit the Morris Arboretum located 30 minutes from downtown Philadelphia. It was founded by siblings John and Lydia Morris over 100 years ago and is full of some of the most historical plants in the country. The Morris Arboretum is one of the best places to find rare and unusual trees and some of the best indoor plants. The Arboretum is famous for the seeds they collect worldwide which they then plant in their greenhouses.

Jane Kirkland is an author and photographer and a native Philadelphian. She travels the country talking to children and their families about the virtues of her 20-second nature break. Jane spent much of her life writing and teaching about computers. One day she went to the grocery store, looked up and saw a Bald Eagle. She went to the local Park Ranger and told him what she had seen. He explained that it wasn't all that uncommon, that they have been flying over the local state park for 20 years. At that point, Jane promised herself that every time she walked out of the house she would take a few moments, stop, look around and try to see something she had never seen before. As a result, she discovered a world of plants that heretofore she didn't know existed. She became aware of the beauty right under our noses. That experience led her to ultimately leave the world of computers so she could write a series of books to share with kids and their families. Jane wants everyone to spend 20 seconds each day and enjoy nature, the benefits are amazing. A city is a great place to find nature, you don't just see pigeons. Arboretums are a great place and one of the best arboretums in North America is the Morris Arboretum.

Tony Aiello is Curator and Director of Horticulture for the Morris Arboretum. Tony tells us that John and Lydia Morris moved to this estate in the late 1800's and set up their garden estate. They traveled the world collecting plants and discovering garden styles, then brought the plants and ideas back, creating their own gardens. And it is magnificent today. There are some fabulous trees which were undoubtedly planted as small trees but they've grown into magnificent specimens.

An example is a huge Katsura tree. It is their hallmark tree, is around 100 years old and it is majestic. The roots go way out, seemingly stretching forever. This is an example of the right plant in the right place, this tree is obviously very happy here. The hillside behind has springs so it has a constant supply of water, even during hot, dry summers. Its size and grandeur attest to the fact it is happy in this location. It is important when planting trees to not plant too deeply. Many homeowners plant a tree too deeply, covering the roots which virtually suffocates the roots. It's important that the tree be planted high enough so that the roots have exposure to the oxygen that they need. When planted you don't want the tree to look like a telephone pole in the front yard, make sure you can see the roots flare, see the tops of the roots. That's the best way to make sure that the roots and tree will survive and be happy.

Another grand tree is the Engler Beech. It is one of the rarest trees at the Morris Arboretum and probably the biggest of its kind in North America. The Morrises were great collectors of plants and introduced a lot of rare plants while living here. This is a great example. The Engler Beech was probably introduced in the U.S. through the Arnold Arboretum in Boston and this is probably one of those plants. The Morrises were patrons of plant exploration, similar to patrons of the arts, they were patrons of plant exploration. That's a way that plant-collecting trips are funded. They would fund these trips and get part of the efforts from the trip. This tree is expansive - broad with multiple trunks. In many homes today we've gone to single trunk trees because of space limitations, but there are options available in the home landscape for multiple trunk trees. They happen to be more compact, but Tony wishes we would use more of these type trees. The foliage on the Beech is stunning. It is one of the last trees deciduously that drops its leaves and the color is very interesting. It's a wonderful addition to the landscape and the color in fall is spectacular. This tree provides interest in the fall and in the winter landscape.

The Dawn Redwood is a tall, straight, spikey tree. This specimen is about 50 years old and close to 100 feet tall. They are incredibly fast growers and can grow several feet per year when young. As a homeowner one must pay attention to that fact, you need to make sure that your area has room for a tree this big. In our home landscapes we often want instant gratification, so we plant closely, the problem with that is that it cuts out light and air circulation that the plant needs. This can lead to an early demise or at the minimum increased plant disease. Thus, give trees light and air and the space they need. Some, not familiar with this tree, think that in the fall when the foliage turns brown that the tree is dying. That is not so. Dawn Redwoods have several seasons of interest and in the fall their needles turn brown and fall. They're a Deciduous Conifer, which sounds like an oxymoron, but they're one of the few plants that do that. They have great fall color, the trunks are beautiful in the winter - they create a cathedral-like feeling, then in the summer, they're very clean with beautiful foliage. At one time, these trees were thought to be extinct. Until the 1940's they were only known from the fossil record, both in North America and China. They were discovered alive in China in the early 40's and first brought back to the U.S. in 1948. Thus, all Dawn Redwoods in this country are no older than those brought here first in 1948.

Eric Johnson introduces the Knock Out Rose. One of the most exciting innovations in rose breeding technology is the Knock Out Rose. The Knock Out Rose is a shrub Rose or a landscape rose that has been designed to be particularly disease resistant. So you do not have all the problems with Black Spot or Downy Mildew, that our grandmother's roses had. They have taken this rose a step further and developed the Double Knock Out, which is a fantastic deep pink double Rose. It's stunning. They have made it possible for the average, everyday gardener to bring these typically tough to grow plants back into the garden. For more information, visit the garden tips area of our website.

Joe and Tony next visit the Fernery. It is a lush, beautiful environment. There are waterfalls and lots of green Ferns, as well as a lot of rich history. The Fernery was built by John Morris in 1899 during the Victorian time. At that time there was Pteridomania - Fern mania - people went crazy about ferns. If you had modest means, you had a terrarium in your window with ferns in it. If you had more means, you build a fernery. John designed this structure-it has no internal columns-so it provides a nice open space. It's not a big conservatory but there is a lot packed in. There are between 75 and 100 ferns here at any given time. Several people are dedicated to taking care of this fernery. Many of the ferns are tropical, thus have high humidity and high light requirements. Thus, it is a glass house. The Morrises designed this in a Japanese style so it marries tropicals with Japanese gardening style, which results in the waterfall, koi and pond. There's a whole different, wide range of elements here. We next look at some of the 75 to 100 varieties of ferns. First we look at a tree fern, in Tasmania or New Zealand they are native. There they grow to 8-10 feet tall and appear as trees. They might grow outside in zones 8 to 10 but they wouldn't survive here in zones 6 and 7. The Bear Paw Fern is on of Tony's favorites. It has beautiful leaves and soft stems, which is where it gets its name. They are soft and fuzzy with some cushion effect and crawls down the rock face. They don't spray pesticides or herbicides in here, instead they release Ladybugs and other natural predators to eat harmful insects. They utilize beneficial insects, the technique is IPM (Integrated Pest Management). Next we view a huge Bird Nest Fern. Joe has seen much smaller varieties for sale in garden centers. Here they let them grow and the old specimens add a lot of structure and architecture to the Fernery and interior landscape. The foliage grows upright and you see incredible contrast in its design. The underside of the foliage has a burgundy, spiky look that is striking. The Staghorn Fern is a great fern for a hanging basket. It is a high humidity-requiring plant and sometimes challenging to grow. In a conservatory, it is a wonderful specimen and nothing looks like them, they really stand out. Tony has identified several ferns that would be easier for a homeowner to grow. The first is a Dwarf Bird's Nest Fern, it doesn't get as large as the one we saw earlier and is an easy, low care plant for the house. Joe has one in his house and it does well even with some neglect. Polypodium "Green Wave" is an interesting plant, it has an architectural look to it. It will grow tall, is readily available in garden centers, has a nice green color and adds a good bit of contrast to either a lighter or darker plant. Rabbit's Foot Fern is another plant that contrast well with other ferns. It works well in hanging baskets or on a pedestal in the house. It is a wonderful plant to have around. When looking inside the plant it is readily apparent why it is called Rabbits Foot. The feet or stems are soft, like a rabbits foot. It has a fine texture, is a great contrast to a more coarse texture plant or a plant with a different shade of green. The fernery has been fabulous and the three easy to grow varieties of ferns have been outstanding.

Eva Monheim is a horticulturist and teacher at Temple University-Ambler Campus. Eva tells us today about forcing plants, which they did at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Everything on the floor there was forced. All the plants were raised in greenhouses, out of season and forced and put into displays. Today Eva shows us how to force branches, plants and fresh cut flowers. First, you look for nice, fat, plump buds on your plants outdoors. Once you bring them in, cut them on a sharp angle and put them in warm water. If you want to speed up the process a little put them in a warmer location. If you want to slow the process put them in a cooler location. This will extend the life of your fresh cut material and it will extend the spring season. You'll have flowers indoors and when these are done you'll have flowers outdoors.

Trees and ferns start from seed. Tony tells us they travel the world collecting seeds and sometimes plants and bring them back to the Propagation House. Here we view some of the most recent efforts. There are a number of interesting plants here. What distinguishes the Morris Arboretum from other botanic gardens and arboretums is they go into the wild, around the world, collect seed, bring them back and growing them. Everything gets pretty much the same treatment, the same light conditions and the same humidity conditions. The medium they use is a vermiculite and bark with a little peat so it retains moisture, but it is well drained at the same time. This can be done at home, these materials can be purchased a garden centers.. Since 1979 they have been on 17 or 18 trips to Korea, China, most recently the Republic of Georgia, Armenia, to Europe, even around the United States. On these collecting trips and they have found some special things. Tony is particularly excited about Chinese Hemlock and has some young ones germinating. As well, they have some seedlings grown from seed. They were collected as seed in 1998, thus they're about 6 years old. They're getting to the size where they'll be planted in the arboretum. The American Hemlocks that they grow are susceptible to the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, which has been a real problem. The Chinese Hemlock is resistant to the Adelgid, thus they've been going to China for about 12 years collecting Chinese Hemlock and they have a large number here. They have been sharing Chinese Hemlock with other arboreta and universities and there is a lot of research going into producing these and getting them to the public.

As well they have some slightly older plants that are ready to go into the garden. These have been potted in individual pots. They have some young Katsuras that Tony brought back from China in the fall of 2005. These seedlings will, in the future, become like the great old tree we saw outside. Plants have a finite life span, so they're always planting new things.

At the Morris Arboretum they have also collected a number of Witch Hazels. Particularly at this time of year they are wonderful to see, it is the hot new plant in the winter landscape. Tony doesn't think any garden is complete without a Witch Hazel. We look at a yellow plant although they come in a variety of colors from yellow to orange and red. They're wonderful plants, very fragrant, they make great cut flowers. They add color this time of year to the landscape when it is otherwise dreary. If you combine varieties you can get 4 or 5 months of continuous bloom. Native Witch Hazel blooms in the fall, some hybrids of Asian Witch Hazel bloom all through the winter and into March. So, more than most other plants you can get 4 or 5 months of continuous bloom. Tony is also working on hardy Camellias. Here in Philadelphia, zone 6, they're above the limit of their normal hardiness.They will grow in the south or on the west coast but don't do well here. So, Camellias in Philadelphia are a big deal. They have some from their collecting trips that Tony next shows us. Joe loves Camellias for their evergreen foliage. Tony shows us cuttings from original plants collected in Korea in 1984 and they have been evaluating them for about 20 years. They started with about 750 plants in the late 80's from seed collected in Korea in 1984. They're now down to about 45 plants, narrowing it to the really hardy plants that have real promise. Nothing in the retail system is presently available from the Morris Arboretum, from their seed collection, but there is a plant called Korean Fire, which has nice red flowers that is readily available in the nursery trade at specialty Camellia nurseries. Tony is also excited about a great rose and it is easy to find. He is at their cold frame and shows us the Pink Knockout, one of the Knockout Rose series and one they're particularly proud of. They co-discovered this and the royalties from this plant helps support their efforts here at the arboretum. This is a pink Knockout but there are other colors as well. There is the Original Knockout, which is cherry red, there's a Blushing Knockout which is pale, shell pink and there is a Double Knockout which is double cherry red. There are more colors to come. This rose was the top selling rose in North America last year. It is a great rose for every gardener. Joe thanks Tony for the tour of the Morris Arboretum. It has been a great experience, one we'll long remember.

Links ::

Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn's Landing
The Morris Arboretum
Jane Kirkland

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