GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2006 show26
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Show #26/413


This week Garden Smart visits an historic property, the 127 acre Frelinghuysen Arboretum located in Morristown, New Jersey. It is a nationally recognized center for horticultural activity and is not only a place of beauty but one of learning as well. Each garden teaches a lesson. The house was a private residence built in 1891 and features English gardens. In 1971 the property was donated to Morris County. Today Frelinghuysen Arboretum provides enjoyment and enrichment through its many well groomed gardens. All inspire and delight the novice and professional alike and remind us that New Jersey is the Garden State.

Don DiFrancesco was a State legislator in New Jersey for 26 years. He served 10 years as President of the New Jersey Senate. And, it was quite an honor for him to be Governor of New Jersey in 2001. As Governor he was fortunate to see the state from High Point to Cape May. He attended many functions and visited every county in the State. The beauty of New Jersey is not talked about enough, not seen enough, therefore people around the country don't know of its beauty. One can live on a farm in New Jersey and commute to work in New York City, or go to the beach on the weekend. New Jersey isn't just the Turnpike, it isn't just flying into Newark Airport and it isn't just the Sopranos. They have it all in New Jersey and New Jersey is beautiful. The State is filled with natural resources. Its coastline is beautiful, the Appalachian Trail, the Warren and Sussex county Mountains, the hills and short hills, are all spectacularly beautiful. New Jersey has anything anyone would want as far as hiking, fishing, sightseeing or even planting a tree. New Jersey is known as the Garden State because so many people have gardens, including vegetable gardens, in their backyards. The Frelinghuysen Arboretum is one of the many sights people should visit in the state. It's a great location to bring children. Don welcomes all in the Garden Smart audience and invites everyone to come and visit. New Jersey is a great state.

Joe meets John Morse, the manager of Horticulture at Frelinghuysen Arboretum. John has been interested in plants since a young child. He later attended Cornell University where he earned a bachelor's degree in botany and horticulture. Following that he earned a Master's degree in plant pathology. While at Cornell he worked for the Cornell Botanical Garden and Cornell Plantations. He was there approximately 10 years. After that he became the Curator of Outdoor Gardens at the New York Botanical Garden, in the Bronx. After working there about 2 and 1/2 years he came here, to the Morris County Park Commission. The Frelinghuysen mansion was built by George Griswold Frelinghuysen in 1891 as a summer country residence in Morristown. The property is comprised of about 125 acres and is a wonderful mix of formal and informal gardens, meadows, trees and shrubs. In addition to his duties at Frelinghuysen he manages the Willowwood Arboretum which was the former residence of Henry and Robert Tubbs. It is located in Chester, New Jersey. He is also in charge of Bamboo Brook, which is the former residence of landscape architect Martha Brooks Hutchison.

Joe is anxious to see the Frelinghuysen Arboretum. He and John first visit the enabling garden. This garden was designed for Arboretum visitors with physical limitations. To address that, they have incorporated raised beds. The beds are varying heights. In one, visitors could garden while standing. The next, a little lower, allows visitors to access it while sitting. The beds aren't very deep making it easy to reach into the bed. The plants have also been purposely selected. They have multi-sensory appeal. The plants are fragrant, visually interesting or interesting to touch. They also have some planters accessible from wheelchairs. These have hanging plants on pulleys, which are designed so that they can be lowered and visitors can tend them from any height, even from a wheelchair. These hanging plants are easy to lower and have a knot in the cord so it can't go down too far. One could sit in the chair, tend to the hanging baskets and when through, raise it. There are a number of these under the cover of the pergola allowing several people to work on these plants at the same time. A wide variety of plants are grown in these containers and since hanging baskets are great year round there can be activity here every month of the year.

They next look at some tools from the enabling garden. Many are designed to make gardening easier for anyone, especially people with limitations. For example, pruners with a rotating handle help reduce fatigue. When pruning for an extended period of time, the back and forth motion can make hands and wrists tired. The rolling action is designed to make that easier. Another example - when watering, how many times must one turn the faucet on and off or try to get the sprayer on the end of the hose? It can be tricky, even if totally capable. With limitations, one may need assistance. There are some tools that make that easier. Quick connection devices are helpful. One allows you to pull a lever and release the watering device. When changing out to another device with a similar end just push it back in place, with a click. Joe likes a watering wand with a release trigger. The water is off until you squeeze the handle, let it go and the water is off. It's easy, requires very light pressure and it has a nice cushioned handle. The automatic shut off also helps conserve water. Normally when through watering one must go back and shut off the water. This is extra work and requires extra time. Additionally, there are different size handles, which also makes it easier to control the flow of water. One watering wand has a curved neck which allows one to get up and into hanging baskets. This is helpful for someone that has difficulty reaching heights. If the basket wouldn't lower, water could still be applied where needed and without straining your body to get the hose up and in.

There is a new line of tools designed to take pressure and fatigue off your hand, wrist and forearm. The curved nature of the handle is designed to create force right from your forearm down into the area where you're actually digging. They are made of lightweight material, thus not as heavy and they're a great green color so they look good in the garden. And they have cushioned grips.

We next visit the Children's Garden, the site of the Branching Out Program. This program was started in 1974, thus this is the 32nd year of operation. This area is divided in such a way that each child has his or her own gardening bed. They've found it to be a very popular program, there is a waiting list each year. Once children get into the program they like to come back several years in a row. The gardening year is divided into 2 sessions. One runs from mid April through late June, the second early June through early September. The children have some latitude in what they plant, but they are limited to the types of plants that John and his group supply. The staff provides transplants which the children set out in the garden as well as provide the seeds they directly sow. John thinks some of the most important lessons taught are some of the tenets of horticulture. The garden is organically maintained and they don't use synthetic pesticides or sprays. The principles of integrated pest management (IPM) are taught. In other words, not all bugs are bad, there are good bugs and bad bugs. It's a great concept and gardening is a great hook. When you plant a seed and that little round ball becomes a plant in no time, it's the closest to magic. John knows, it hooked him.

Joe and John next visit the marsh meadow. It's really a detention basin, which is a facility designed to gather, hold and release storm water that is created by the parking lot. The difference between a detention basin and a retention basin is a retention basin is designed to hold water and let it slowly sink into the ground. A detention basin is just designed to slow down the water. The parking lot has about 200 parking places, all impervious material. Imagine a summer downpour and all the runoff that is generated which could create erosion downstream. With this system the water comes into the detention pond through a number of pipes at the perimeter, it gradually fills the detention basin, then slowly exits through the 3 inch diameter pipe which then makes its way to the Whippany River. Normally when one sees a detention pond they're planted with grass or weeds, sort of a monoculture. This is different, much more bio-diverse. One of their goals at the Arboretum is to educate people as to possible alternatives. Provide new ideas and ways to approach different problems. To that end they've planted a number of native species. This makes sense because in a grass lined pit one must mow it, fertilize it, put chemicals on it and then with the runoff of water it contaminates, which eventually gets into rivers and creeks. Here, with the bio-diverse environment, one achieves actual filtration without utilizing fertilizers and chemicals, importantly it reduces the need to even perform maintenance. Other than periodic weeding, it really is a self-sustaining eco- system. Plants have been chosen that are appropriate for a wet environment. In looking at the basin there are 3 distinct zones. The bottom of the basin, is frequently inundated by water. That area is planted in flood plain species. Around the margin it is moist. But at the top it's really quite dry. In the basin, at the bottom, where they have periodic flooding and drying, they have Blue Flag Iris (Iris virginica), a native plant. They also have a variety of reeds and rushes. These handle, even standing, water very well. As one moves up the bank, where it's not always wet, but often moist, are some interesting shrubs, such as (Ilex verticillata), Winterberry holly. Its fruits are turning red. Next to it is Red Twig Dogwood, (Cornus stolonifera), a wonderful winter interest plant. As well they have Bald Cypress, (Taxodium distichum). In total there are over 50 different types of plants in this basin and it's a great example of what can be done ecologically. This approach makes a lot more sense than a monoculture, which John thinks is utilized too much today.

Tom Castronovo is a featured columnist with the Gardner News. Tom believes that for a good looking lawn or a healthy landscape that soil testing is the answer. It's cost effective and takes the guess work out of fertilization. There are 2 different ways to test the soil. First, is a basic soil test, available from your local home gardening center. This type test provides very basic results. The other type of kit that's available is from your local county cooperative extension office. This type kit provides more detailed, professional results. Either way, it all starts with the soil.

Joe and John next visit an area next to a parking lot. It is planted with ornamental grasses. There are 2 reasons why these plants are here. One they wanted to increase the number of ornamental grasses they have on display and two they wanted to minimize runoff into the parking lot, then into the detention basin. By looking around one would never know there is a parking lot just 15 feet away, thus it's a great plant for screening. Since this is the parking lot this is a tough site, it has very harsh conditions, full sun, windy, a lot of reflecting light as well as heat. Yet the plants seem to be thriving. Ornamental grasses are one of John's favorite plants. He likes their upright habit and their fine texture. They display movement when the wind blows and they are great for winter interest when there isn't much else happening in the garden. There are about 25 different kinds of ornamental grasses utilized in this area, all with different shapes and sizes. There should be something for everyone. We look at some of John's favorites. (Calamagrostis sp) Karl Foster Feather Reed Grass is smaller in size than other ornamental grasses but has a wonderful upright inflorescence. It blooms a little earlier than others, blooming in mid summer, but the inflorescence should last through late fall into early winter. Once established, these plants are fairly maintenance free. They are best planted in late summer to early fall. At that time lift and divide the grass. If transplanting at the Arboretum, they would probably tie it up and move it at full height just to preserve its ornamental qualities. When a homeowner transplants, John suggests cutting off the top half, even two thirds, just to make it more manageable to move. Without the benefit of a large crew and as an individual, a smaller plant is easier to work. And cutting it doesn't seem to set the plant back at all. They're tough plants, the main challenge is preventing weed growth. Here, to do that, they use organic mulch, which also helps conserve moisture. Looking at several other varieties. (Miscanthus sinensis) is virtually all green but does have beautiful panicles at the top. Next to it is (Miscanthus sinensis), 'Strictus', banded Porcupine Grass. When it comes into flower it will have small panicles at the top. But before that it has an entirely different look; wonderful banded variegated foliage that lasts throughout the summer season, but does develop an inflorescence later in the season. Another beauty is (Panicum virgatum), a selection of native Switchgrass, which is a lot bigger. What's great about ornamental grasses is there are so many choices, so many varieties and lots of options.

We've had the opportunity to see a lot of established beds throughout the garden but we've also watched a perennial bed go in. Many of us either have perennial beds we want to rejuvenate or want to put one in. What are the virtues of doing that in the fall? Fall is the ideal time to renovate or restore a perennial garden. The heat of the summer is over, nights are cooler, we're starting to get dews in the evening, yet the soil is still warm which promotes root growth and allows the plants to become established before winter. Good drainage is important. Here the beds are raised for several reasons. First, it's visually appealing, it lifts the plants up, providing a visual pop. Secondly, a raised bed makes it easier to amend the soil. When the soil is amended a lot of organic material, such as compost, is important. Here they've added a lot of compost. The organic material will break down, thus it's important every year to replenish all the nutrients and all of the soil that's going back into the bed. Compost feeds the plants and it adds structure to the soil which is important for drainage. After the soil is ideal, add the perennials. This bed has relatively small groups; threes and fives for example. They've utilized smaller groupings here because people are walking close to this garden bed. Also, not all perennials look good all the time. Thus with smaller groups, that is not as much a problem. Here they strive for successive blooming to carry the interest forward over a longer period of time. Adding to the variety of plants addresses that issue, that way there isn't 1 big bed of 1 thing in bloom for a couple of weeks, then nothing. Before the perennials go in the ground they're in their original containers with the planting mix, a combination of vermiculite and perlite. The mix is great when in the container but when in the ground the roots need to spread out into the native soil. So, shake off the potting mix, this gives the roots the best opportunity to spread out and not have the roots girdled from the pots. Here, they planted Echinacea purpurea, Purple Cone Flower, but first cut them back. This plant would die back on it own, that doesn't mean it's dead because the roots are still viable, but you want to get out the dead and dying foliage because a cleaner garden promotes a healthier garden with less chance of disease in the fall and spring. In addition to the herbaceous perennials they've added some ornamental shrubs, such as Viburnum. This was balled and burlaped. It is important to plant properly. Pull back the burlap, make sure it is the kind that will rot over time rather than the synthetic type that can hurt the plant if left in place. Plant it at the height it was growing either in the original garden or in the container. If there is any type of wire basket around the plant, do everything possible to cut away as much of the wire as possible. The plant needs every opportunity for its roots to spread. Anything that promotes root growth is good. Once everything is in place, top dress with a nice, organic mulch. This not only makes it look great, dressing up the plants, it also helps retain moisture which is key in the fall and the wintertime. Many people think when it's cooler, moisture isn't as important. But that's when the air is the driest. Thus it is important to mulch to hold in moisture. Moderate soil temperatures are important. Mulch is like a blanket, it helps protect the soil temperatures underneath. Also, mulch is important for a recently planted garden because it helps keep weeds away, providing a protective barrier from weed seeds germinating because it keeps light from hitting the weed seeds. As well there can be diseases in the soil and mulch keeps those from splashing up and on the plant. By following these simple steps the garden will look much better in the spring. If we were to wait and plant in the spring these plants wouldn't look nearly as good come May or June.

Joe thanks John. From the beauty of the historical home to the newly planted gardens these grounds are magnificent. Thanks for showing us Frelinghuysen Arboretum.

Links ::

Frelinghuysen Arboretum
Radisson - Piscataway, NJ
Gardener News

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