Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Paper bush at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
I often take children on treasure hunts through garden or woods. We search for what's in season, what's unusual, cool, or beautiful. We admire, photograph, sketch or gather, depending on where we are. We make fairy houses and other wondrous crafts with pods, cones, dropped leaves and petals.

January 26th at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, I was on my own, no child in tow. In the 'dead' of winter I wanted to find what was most alive and most appealing outdoors. Here are some treasures I discovered in just a tiny part of the BBG, on the walk from the #2 train to a meeting in the auditorium.

Of course, Snowdrops. Not so unusual in January but a very pleasing reminder that spring is coming. Also a big container of pansies at the entrance on Eastern Parkway. A stand of green stinking hellebores mixed with the copper of faded fern stems, and sprays of hardy Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) displaying their yellow flowers. (below)Buds
I swear I've never seen Paper bush before (Edgeworthia chrysantha, top image) but this shrub gathered a crowd of admirers, all gardening professionals. The "American Hort. Society Encyclopedia of Plants" shows pictures of this species with yellow flowers. So these must be the buds.
Fattening up too are the buds of the Star Magnolia, one of the first to bloom in spring. Their flowers are often blackened by late frost so never a favorite in my own gardens.
Last Fall's fruit still looking attractive are yellow and red-berried hollies.
A little wrinkled but still vibrant are the fruits of a flowering crab (Malus 'Sugar Time')

What looked like an
evergreen Magnolia
was spark-
ling in the sun. (I didn't
dare hop over the fence
to check the ID tag).

The variegated leaves of
the Kumazasa bamboo
(Sasa veitchii) below,
while not in peak con-
dition, served their
architectural function
around the viewing
platform of the Japan-
ese Hill and Pond

Without the distraction of flowers, I found lots of bark treasures, in particular two varieties of Crape-myrtle. The bark is so smooth it seems like a sanding machine has just completed its work.Whenever I'm in a special garden I'm looking for stuff that I can plant at home. One of the great treasures found on this hunt is a stand of Black Bamboo (Phyllostchys nigra), so called because of the shiny black stems of the mature plant. I actually do use it on my roof garden in a 30" pot. It's very successful for its conditions but will never compare to this magnificent specimen. Note how it's planted at the BBG isolated by a swath of driveway. Someone must have measured the longest possible root creep and decided it's safe.


Shady Gardener said...

Thank you for your tour. I'm still in the "dead of Winter," here. I have to laugh (and confess) that when I looked at your first photo (without enlarging), I was sure you'd put candy kisses on the branches. ;-) (for the kids?) ha. Have a great weekend.

Saturejka said...

Edgeworthia Chrysantha is really interesting, I never saw it before to. Thank you for your spring photos, in Polad we are now in the middle of very snowy winter...

Urban Gardens said...

That bark is so beautiful! Thank you for this wonderful secret tour.

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Sorcha, Yesterday it snowed in New York, and this morning the temperature is 16F, bitter cold for us,but all of these plants should be fine.esp

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Shady, When I first moved to Pottsville PA I was regaled with the tale of Mrs. H who was entertaining a group of lady friends at home. She was famous for her roses but would let them admire her back yard rose garden only through a window.
Turns out some creatures had gotten all of her blossoms and she had wired on plastic roses which looked fine from a distance. What a SCANDAL!

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