In 1793, a Boston merchant named Theodore Lyman began developing his country estate in Waltham, Massachusettes. He hired an English gardener by the name of William Bell to lay out the property in the English picturesque style. Fascinated with agriculture and horticulture, Lyman’s property included large specimen trees, open fields, a pond system, a kitchen garden, and a greenhouse complex which is still in use today. It is among the oldest greenhouses in the country.
The greenhouses were used to grow a variety of hard-to-obtain fruits such as pineapples, figs, lemons, limes, and bananas. During the 1870s one of the greenhouses was transformed into a grapery. Three-and-a-half-foot-high ground beds were constructed of brick to hold soil for the root systems. Visit the Lyman greenhouses in June to taste the Black Hamburg grapes, still growing today. Cuttings were obtained from the royal greenhouses at Hampton Court, the former palace of King Henry VIII in England!
Wafts of fragrant herbs flourish here in the greenhouses. Sample the different varieties of the scented geranium.
If you visit from January to March, you will be dazzled by the luscious camellia blooms which burst forth in a profusion of color: reds, whites, pinks, and variegated. Originally built to grow peach trees, the camellia house at the Lyman Estate has one of the few collections still in existence today. Camellias were first introduced to America in the late eighteenth century by a French botanist, Andre Michaux. He brought them to Middleton Place, an estate in South Carolina. Boston soon became a center for camellia culture.
Exotic houseplants, orchids, pottery, and gifts are available for purchase. Take home a piece of living history and some excellent photos!
You may think gardens are sound asleep this season, but here are some examples of how the winter garden can be layered with intrigue and vitality throughout the colder months… We choose evergreens but we also consider the bark and branching structure of trees and shrubs. The seed heads of many perennials are as beautiful as their past flowers. Colors are heightened by a glaze of ice. Ornamental grasses bleached blond and dusted with snow are lovely. The winter garden is quiet and contemplative…a peaceful space.
Now that we’ve had our first few frosts here in the Northeast and November is fast approaching, it’s time to bring your dahlia tubers in for the winter months. If you haven’t already, you will need to cut the plant back so that only 6 inches of a stem stub remains. Using a pitchfork, pierce the soil about a foot from the stem stub and begin to loosen the soil by gently rocking back and forth with the pitchfork. Once unearthed, the tubers can be stored in paper bags (mark the variety on the bag) in a cool dry place.
May is a good time to plant the tubers back into your garden beds. Select a spot in your garden with well-balanced and composted soil that receives full sun throughout the day. I use tomato cages around the dahlias to support the plant as it grows. Some varieties can reach up to 8 feet in height! Tag each cage with the name of that particular flower. Do not water as there is plenty of moisture in the soil at this time of year. Over watering will cause the tubers to rot in the ground.
The first leaves of the plant should poke through in a week or two. When the first set of leaves is about eight inches to a foot high, I pinch out the center bud to encourage the plant to form multiple stems. This will produce a greater quantity of flowers per plant. As the plant grows, delicately train the stems to grow within the tomato cages.
Now that we are all dahlia experts here, I thought I’d provide a brief history and some fun facts…
The dahlia is national flower of Mexico. Dahlias were first spotted in Mexico in the 16th century. The flower was used by the Aztecs to treat epilepsy and the hollow stems were used as water pipes. In later years, the Director of the Botanical Garden at Mexico City, sent “plant parts” to the Royal Gardens of Madrid. From there, the plant made its way to Belgium, Italy and England where other species were developed.
The dahlia is is not scented but like most plants that do not attract pollinating insects through scent, they display brightly colored petals in a vast range of hues. One of the greatest joys of gardening is harvesting and arranging the fruits of your labor. Dahlias make excellent cut flowers and look radiant alone in bud vases or alongside zinnias, celosia and snapdragons. Happy gardening!
Today we brought some holiday color and cheer to the corner of Winthrop and JFK in Harvard Square. We love this job because it’s located at a prime location which gives us the opportunity to create some beauty and share some whimsy with the community. We are so happy to lend our designs and support to the Harvard Square Business Association, Upstairs on the Square and The Red House!
For more holiday decorating services, please visit our page.
Here at Jean Brooks Landscapes, we’ve got our finger on the pulse of Boston culture and design.
TIPI’s in the garden = the new place to hangout! Here’s our version in our “woodland children’s garden” window display at 875 MAIN STREET. We’ve had 2 tipi commissions from clients since this went on display in late August. coincidence? I think NOT!
….Planted as a CUTTING in 1908! Franklinia or The Franklin Tree. You can find this sprawling tree in bloom right NOW on the Chinese Path/Explorer’s Garden at the top of Bussey Hill at the Arnold Arboretum. This shot reminds me of a Dutch still life with the ants!
The first reported encounter with this tree on the continent was in the British colony, Georgia. John and William Bartram first observed the tree growing along the Altamaha River in 1765:
“We never saw it grow in any other place, nor have I ever since seen it growing wild, in all my travels, from Pennsylvania to Point Coupe, on the banks of the Mississippi, which must be allowed a very singular and unaccountable circumstance; at this place there are two or 3 acres of ground where it grows plentifully” (W. Bartram, 1791).
While it’s difficult to transplant, once established Franklinia can survive a century or more like the one pictured here. The tree is now extinct in the wild for a number of reasons but mainly due to overcollection by plant collectors and a fungal disease introduced with the cultivation of cotton plants. Because Franklinia does not tolerate compacted clay soil (which, unfortunately are the conditions in Cambridge) or any disturbance to its roots, the tree is a bad candidate for urban environments. True, it’s not planted much in Cambridge or Boston yet, it looks so familiar…At Jean Brooks Landscapes, we love planting Stewartia which is in the same family as Franklina and has a VERY similar look. Both have the colorful exfoliating bark. Both have the same red leaf in autumn and the same fried-egg- looking flower. Stewartia has a smaller, more delicate flower than the Franklinia which has a heartier, rubbery, magnolia-like petal.
If you get the chance, I highly recommend visiting the Arboretum in the new few days. Foliage color is at its peak AND the Franklinia atop Bussey Hill, the miraculous survivor from a 1908 cutting is still in bloom!
Ladies and Gentlemen, behold one of the first signs of Spring: The daffodil!
For those of us taking cues from nature (not gauging our seasons by the calender), March is full of promise. Early buds blooming, birdsong and butterflies. With daylight savings only ten days away, the promise of extra sunlight is already upon us.
Look for the pussy willow, tiny little pops of lavender and yellow crocus.
A favorite of mine (a la my grandma), “When willows bloom, Spring looms!”
So be patient, fellow New Englanders. Spring is upon us.
There hasn’t been too much snow in this New England winter so you won’t have to search very hard. You’ll find them blossoming quite naturally and heartily right through the soft snow. The flower is so hearty in fact, that the petals remain on the flower for months! Yes, it is needless-to-say, hellebore are highly valued by gardeners for their winter and early spring flowering period; the plants are surprisingly frost-resistant. Many species of hellebore are ever-green or have a chartreuse or greenish-purple flowers.
While they are commonly mistaken for wild roses, the hellebore is in the Ranunculacae family and has five petals. Some species are poisonous and several legends surround the flower. During the Siege of Kirrha in 585 BC, the flower was reportedly used by the Greek besiegers to poison the city’s water supply. The defenders were subsequently so weakened by diarrhea that they were unable to defend the city from assault. Who’d have thought such a sweet and lovely specimen could cause such damage!?