July 30, 2020. Today would have been my mother's 92nd birthday. She died several months ago. Her memory had been failing and she had been ill for a while. She started Ambleside together with my father back in 1965. I was in the seventh grade and remember taking the bus down after school to help out. So now I take time to wander through the garden center and the gift shop stopping to look at different plants outside and then the crafts and ornaments that fill the store--she had many favorites, and they all told stories...Agapanthus (Lily of the Nile), Colchicum (Autumn Crocus), Erythronium (Dogtooth Violet)...My father was a dreamer, always cooking up ideas to be implemented by someone else. He often reminded me that it was all of the 'little things' that were the most important. My mother was his partner, and she shared his dreams. But she was a 'doer' and she was fabulous at all of the 'little things.'
When Ambleside opened in 1965, she obtained, with assistance from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, a reproduction of Pieter Bruegel's 1565 drawing entitled 'Spring'--the 60"x42" copy still hangs at Ambleside, though it has moved from wall to wall...(Anenome pulsatilla Pasqueflower), Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft), Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (Plumbago)...When we did the New Jersey Flower Show in 1983, she was asked to find some props to place on the bench in the display garden. She came back with a pair of reading glasses and Ernest Wilson's plant book entitled 'Aristocrats of the Garden.' For the Flower Show the following year, she found another book by the same author: 'More Aristocrats of the Garden!'
...Peruvian Birdhouses made from gourds, Haitian metalwork fashioned from recycled oil drums, Butterfly and Hummingbird ornaments from Ecuador carved out of Taqua nuts...My mother developed a passion for folk art from different countries, and she especially loved nativity sets. Ambleside's garden shop became known for its international flavor with an extensive collection of gifts, crafts, and ornaments from around the world. We attended trade gift shows during the summer months to purchase for upcoming Christmas holiday seasons; she could walk all day in 'flats' and still be going strong at 5PM keeping track of new nativity sets, and carved Russian Santas, and German Nutcrackers and candle Pyraminds. As the holidays approached, her displays and floral arrangements made the gift shop truly magical...Felt figurines from Kyrgyzstan and Nepal, Soapstone carvings from Zimbabwe, palm fibre Brushkin animals from the Philippines...
My mother got to spend this past Christmas with us here in New Jersey. I brought her to Ambleside; she helped to make a wreath, she helped to display a nativity, and she reminded me again how to identify the really good carved wooden Santas from Russia--the eyes always look at you no matter where you stand! Before I took her back to Vermont after Christmas, she tucked into her bag a felt Santa from Estonia, a painted egg from Austria and a small wooden Santa from Russia...Pinxterbloom Azalea, Wild Sassafras, Riversi Purple Beech...
AMBLESIDE'S DISPLAY GARDEN 1984 NJ FLOWER SHOW
MOTHER'S DAY IS FOR FLOWERS
March 2018--So winter is on the wane and we are coming out of hibernation--There were only a few Christmas trees left from this past Christmas--I left them standing so they wouldn't feel so badly that nobody picked them (they weren't magic ones unfortunately). Anyway, I finally took them down to make room for new materials soon to be arriving and I must report that the 3 remaining Concolor Firs were still fully covered with needles and nearly as fresh as when they come in last November. So, come this Christmas, along with the Magic Trees, remember that Concolor Firs will, and do, keep their needles until March!!
December 2017 So now we are into the holiday season--winter is in the air, and temperatures are dropping. We are busy putting all the trees into the ground with a bit of nice warm mulch on top. We are busy putting containerized shrubs into the greenhouses. Everything is getting ready for a little nap. I am close behind!
But none of this until I tell the story of the Magic Christmas Tree! It was this past Sunday evening when a family with two young girls came in to find a Christmas tree--I watched as the father nodded to his older daughter as if to say 'It's OK, go ask him'. She came up to me and quietly asked, "I just wondered if you had any magic Christmas Trees this year." I paused, looked at her, and then I remembered. This was the same family that had come to Ambleside last year looking for a tree. As I held up different trees for them to see, one particular Fraser Fir stood out. I stepped back from the tree and it remained standing upright all by itself--perfectly balanced--a Magic Christmas Tree. It went home with that family. "Now I remember," I said to the girl. "Let's see if we can find another this year." It took a bit of searching, but we found it.
So here at Ambleside, we wish you the best for the holidays--Have a very merry Christmas--And remember, there can be magic in your Christmas Tree, too!
BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND--THE PLANT PAIRS!!!
This year's candidates include the following--
August 2017 Dwarf Japanese Maple 'Mikawa Yatsubusa'--Hinoki Cypress Gracilis Compacta-- Dwarf Blue Spruce---Dwarf Cryptomeria 'Black Dragon'--Dwarf Andromeda 'Cavatine'--Dwarf Norway Spruce 'Hillside Upright'--Topgrafted Dwarf Japanese White Pine--Topgrafted Dwarf Lilac 'Scent & Sensibility'--Dwarf Japanese White Pine 'Fukuzumi'--Barberry 'Admiration'--Dwarf Norway Spruce 'Vermont Gold'--Dwarf Azalea 'Flame Creeper'--Weeping Dawn Redwood 'Miss Grace'--Topgrafted Blue Star Juniper--Japanese Maple 'Hupp's Dwarf'--Dwarf Threadleaf Cypress 'Snow'--'Centennial' Holly--Dwarf Variegated Boxwood--Dwarf Jack Pine 'Beehive'--Dwarf Ginkgo 'Jade Butterflies'-Dwarf Japanese White Pine 'Tanima no uki'--Dwarf Hinoki Cypress 'Chirimen'--Topgrafted Hinoki Cypress Gracilis Nana--Topgrafted Dwarf Cherry 'Little Twist'--Topgrafted Dwarf Japanese Maple 'Shaina'--Topgrafted Cotoneaster Apiculata--Dwarf Japanese Red Pine 'Jane Kluis'--Abelia 'Sunshine Daydream'--Dwarf Arborvitae 'Rheingold'-- Dwarf Japanese Maple 'Winter Flame'--Dwarf Bald Cypress 'Peve Minaret'--Dwarf Japanese White Pine 'Hagaromo'--Topgrafted Variegated Willow 'Hakuro Nishiki'
March 1. 2017 Spring is in the air--it will likely get cold again, perhaps even snow, but some trees can't wait!
August 28, 2016--Hot and hotter! Finally, the dog days of August are about over. We have been busy in the garden...annuals are about gone, hopefully most are still alive and well in your gardens...so the spring space dedicated to annuals is now a late summer space dedicated to the 'display garden.' We have created a walk-through garden planted with a wonderful assortment of unusual trees and shrubs planted in pairs--each half of the garden a mirror image of the other half.
We are always hearing about and reading about garden centers with the greatest selection of plant materials--not having visited all those centers, we can't agree or disagree. What we can say however, is that Ambleside has for over fifty years offered, and still does offer among the widest selections of plant materials in New Jersey. How is this for an exercise: Take this list to your local garden center and ask to be shown the following plant materials.
Dwarf Barberry 'Admiration'---Dwarf Cedar 'Red Star---Dwarf Boxwood 'Tide Hill'---Weeping Katsura Tree---Abelia 'Sunshine Daydream'---Dwarf Japanese Maple 'Tattoo'---Top-grafted Tree Form Korean Lilac---Coral Bark Japanese Maple---Dwarf Cryptomeria 'Tansu'---Top-grafted Dwarf Hinoki Cypress---Dwarf Japanese Red Pine 'Low Glow'---Top-grafted Dwarf Hinoki Cypress 'Verdoni'---Callicarpa 'Early Amethyst'---Blue Spruce 'Iseli Fastigiate'---Dwarf Japanese Maple 'Ryusen'---Nandina 'Firepower'---'Dragon Lady' Holly---Top-grafted Dwarf Ginkgo 'Mariken'---Japanese Maple 'Twombley Red Sentinel'---Fastigiate Norway Spruce 'Cupressina'---Microbiota decussata 'Russian Juniper'---Variegated Azalea 'Silver Sword'---Dwarf Andromeda 'Cavatine'---Dwarf Japanese White Pine 'Pent Azuma'---Weeping Dawn Redwood 'Miss Grace'---Picea Omorika Nana 'Dwarf Oriental Spruce'---Dwarf Nandina 'Burgundy Wine'---Dwarf Japanese White Pine 'Tanima No Uki'---Top-grafted Blue Star Juniper---Tree Form Winterberry Holly 'Sparkleberry'---Top-grafted Dwarf White Pine 'Vercurve'---Dwarf Bald Cypress 'Seacrest'
After that visit, come see us, walk the garden, and we will show you all the rest of the plants on the list!! We hope to see you soon! Signed,
PAIRS OF PLANTS PERFECTLY PLACED/PLACED PERFECTLY PLANT PAIRS!
__SUMMER 2016--FROG TALK__
June 30, 2016 "What, all of your azaleas have finished blooming??" We are still going strong here with more in the wings just waiting to pop into bloom! The Lollipops have just finished, the Lemon Drops are going strong, the Milleniums are just starting, and the Pennsylvanias have yet to break bud. That's a lot of color for early summer! These are all hybrid crosses of the native Azaleas that grow in open woods throughout the east coast from Georgia to New England, and bloom from early spring well into summer depending on the variety. Remember Henry Thoreau, hanging out up there by Walden Pond in Massachusetts during the early days--he spent winters in
his cabin waiting for the wild Azaleas to bloom with their unforgettable fragrance. Those azaleas that he was waiting on were probably either Pinxterbloom or Sweet Azaleas (Rhododendron periclymenoides or Rhododendron arborescens). Other wild azaleas native from New Jersey south include Swamp Azalea (Rhododendron viscosum) and Coast Azalea (Rhododendron atlanticum). Piedmont Azalea (Rhododendron canescens) and Plumleaf Azalea (Rhododendron prunifolium) are native to the southern Appalachians, but are perfectly hardy up here. Any garden with all these plants and their subsequent hybrid crosses would be filled with color nonstop from April into early August!
Blooming white, pink, yellow, and red-orange, many of these hybrids are fragrant--with some being deliciously so!! All are hardy in our area, and are wonderful companion plants to evergreen azaleas, rhododendrons, and laurels. Some tolerate moist soils, some tolerate dryer soils--all are happy with evenly moist soils with some high canopy trees to provide for a bit of afternoon shade. Check them out, discover the fragrance that Thoreau knew and extend the blooms in your garden!
JUNE 6, 2016 My father died a month ago. His memory had been failing for a long time; he'd been diagnosed with dementia. He started Ambleside together with my mother back in 1965. I was in the seventh grade and remember taking the bus down after school to help out. So now I take time to wander throughout the garden center and stop to look at different plants--he had many favorites, and they all told stories...
EUROPEAN GINGER AND A JAPANESE UMBRELLA PINE
...Paperbark Maple, Enkianthus, Blueberry Bushes...He often mused about his horticultural gene that prompted him to open a garden center and take a 'road less traveled' with all of its potholes. We fell in some, we dodged others. We landscaped a town; we exhibited 8 times in the New Jersy Flower Show during the 80s and 90s and received 8 Governor's Trophies or Highest Point Scores..Dawn Redwood, Winterberry Holly, Fothergilla...Ambleside became known as one of the most interesting and unique garden centers in New Jersey with an extensive selection of rare and unusual plant materials...American Yellowwood, Cornus Mas, Stewartia...I am still amazed that he was always able to keep up his enthusiam. And I am grateful that he managed to pass on that horticultural gene to me. When he finally started to slow down, he told me not to put him out to pasture in left field--I told him that I wouldn't; how about if I pitched, he played third and we would move the base back a little each year...Zelkova, Ostrich Ferns, Japanese Tree Lilac...
He spent some time in left field, and then he ended up here on the porch with his pipe and the New York Times and a whimsical greeting to whoever came in. Women could always count on an appraising look and then the compliment 'you are like a breath of fresh air!' He would ask men what their project was, and whether or not a Fringetree might fit. Sometimes he would work his way toward politics, sometimes he'd ask if they had seen a certain Times article, sometimes he'd ask if they knew what loquacious meant ...European Ginger, Japanese Umbrella Pine, Viburnum Carlesi...
VIBURNUM CARLESI--KOREAN SPICEBUSH
APRIL 23, 2016--SURE LOOKS LIKE SPRING HAS TAKEN IT'S OWN SWEET TIME IN ARRIVING--FINALLY, I CAN SEE LEAVES COMING OUT ON ALL OF THE TREES IN THE WOODS--THEY ALL STARTED TO LEAF OUT WITH THAT MARCH WARM SPELL, AND THEN STOPPED WITH THE EARLY APRIL COLD SNAP--CERTAIN THAT SOME LEAF BUDS WERE FROZEN SO SOME TREES HAD TO START ALL OVER AGAIN MAKING LEAF BUDS--ROUGH LIFE FOR ALL!!
ANYWAY IN SPITE OF THE FICKLE WEATHER, CARLESI VIBURNUMS KEEP ON SCHEDULE. INVARIABLY, EVERY SPRING, SOMEONE WALKS DOWN OUR STREET CHASING THEIR NOSE-SEARCHING FOR THE ORIGIN OF THE WONDERFUL SPICY, SWEET FRAGRANCE OF THE VIBURNUM CARLESI. MY FATHER OFTEN REFERRED TO THIS PLANT, ALSO CALLED KOREANSPICE BUSH, AS HIS CHANEL #5 BUSH AND SUGGESTED IT BE PLANTED NEXT TO OPEN BEDROOM WINDOWS!!! SO CHASE YOUR NOSE, ENJOY THIS, AND DON'T GIVE HER PERFUME, GIVE HER A VIBURNUM.
APRIL 8 2016. WELL, WE GOT PAST THE FIRST COLD SNAP--SOME MAGNOLIAS WERE FROSTED; SOME PAID ATTENTION AND KEPT TIGHT BUDS SO THEY STILL HAVE FLOWERS COMING. NOW THERE IS ANOTHER LAST GASP OF WINTER ON THE WAY SO WE WILL SEE IF THEY STILL PAY ATTENTION! PAST WEEK WAS BUSY, BUSY, AND BUSY!!!--ONE SHIPMENT AFTER ANOTHER--LOTS OF COOL THINGS FROM THE WEST COAST--I ALWAYS FORGET HOW MANY GREAT THINGS ARE SOON TO ARRIVE. MANY FABULOUS MAPLES ALL IN FULL LEAF--HAVE TO PROTECT MOST INSIDE OR UNDER PLASTIC UNTIL AFTER THE COLD SPELL......AND FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN WONDERING, THE BEST DELIVERY OF ALL WAS MY FIRST GRANDCHILD--A DAUGHTER, PHOEBE JEAN, BORN TO MY SON AND HIS WIFE. AND HOW ABOUT THIS--BORN ON APRIL 2, SHE HAS THE SAME BIRTHDATE AS MY DAUGHTER!! TOO COOL.
APRIL 2, 2016. Too bad that so many of the saucer magnolias got zapped with the cold weather last week! Looks like cold weather is coming again this week. Many magnolias bloom later than the pink saucer ones. I just went out to tell our magnolias here to keep their buds tight a little while longer so they don't get frosted. Hopefully we will get to see them bloom for longer than 24 hours! We're expecting lots of color--pink, maroon, white, and of course yellow.
MARCH 25, 2016. Winter Heath often blooms beneath the snow beginning in mid to late February and continues into April. Shown here with either pink or white flowers, all heaths require protection from cold winds, and very well drained soils.
MARCH 11, 2016 SO WHAT IS BLOOMING FIRST THIS YEAR ??!! WITCH HAZELS ARE STILL GOING STRONG, ALTHOUGH WITHOUT ALL OF THE SNOW. CROCUSES ARE POPPING UP ALL OVER ALONG WITH THE OCCASIONAL DAFFODIL; AND NEXT, IT LOOKS LIKE A TIE BETWEEN THE YELLOW FLOWERING CORNUS MAS AND THE SHOWY PINK OKAME CHERRY.
FLOWERS OF CORNELIAN CHERRY (CORNUS MAS) AND OKAME CHERRY (PRUNUS X OKAME)
JUNE Finally the spring rush is slowing and I see time to relax up ahead on the horizon! I did manage to find the time to visit all the wildflowers--a big colony of Yellow Trillium that never fails to bloom and the fickle Bloodroots, Virginia Bluebells and Dutchman's Breeches that bloom and then embark on mini road trips throughout the yard to relocate, set themselves up and establish new clumps for next year. Late spring and early summer bring in the ornamental flowering trees that too often get overlooked--Not a lot in the way of pink flowering trees, but I suspect that someone is quietly working on new varieties.
Fringetrees have ususual flowers resembling clumps of confetti hanging down--thus the sometimes-used- name 'old man's beard'. Fringetrees grow happily in both sunny and partially shaded conditions, and are usually available in both single stem treeform or multiple stem clump form. There is an American Fringetree (Chionanthus Virginicus) and a Chinese Fringetree (Chionanthus retusas) with each variety having its fans--
my father long championed the American Fringetree with its much larger and more fragrant flower clusters. Needing to counter him, I have always favored the Chinese variety with its much more irregular and sculptured branching structure. Both varieties bloom in mid May into June.
Styrax Japonica and Styrax Obassia are wonderful unusual trees not often seen in the landscape--Japanese Snowbell (Styrax Japonica) is a small, twiggy, well behaved tree covered with small white bell like flowers; and the related Fragrant Snowbell (Styrax Obassia) grows much larger, has large leaves, beautiful branching structures and clusters of lightly fragrant flowers drooping down. There is a pink variety of Styrax Japonica (Styrax Japonica 'Pink Chimes') and also a weeping white variety (Styrax Japonica 'Carillon'). Pink Chimes shows a pale pink that seems to fade somewhat with hot weather. All of the Snowbells flower from late May into early June.
After the Styrax finish, it's time for the Japanese Tree Lilac. Blooming throughout June, this hardy tree will grow to about 25' tall with an almost equal width. Covered with large clusters of white flowers, the Tree Lilac (Syringa Reticulata) is extremely showy in bloom with a fragrance not be be forgotten! The Tree Lilac makes for a great small ornamental tree off a patio or low deck. 'Ivory Silk' is the most popular variety of Tree Lilac, being a more compact grower and a reliable bloomer
CORNUS MAS BLOSSOMS IN EARLY SPRING
APRIL My father always told me that the month of April was the hardest in the garden center business--everything is all happening at once and there were always too many things to get finished in preparing for the upcoming year. And my brother always told me to slow down because there was too much happening in the spring and that if you didn't find time enough to watch some plant emerging from the winter you might just miss it and have to wait until the following year! My Bloodroot and Dutchman's Breeches come to mind and I have to make a note to remember to visit them each year. Fortunately, the Cornus Mas that shades some of my wildflowers blooms for a long time and I never miss it. Bunches of tiny yellow flowers cluster in round balls and seem to last throughout the month. If the bees wake up and pollinate flowers, cranberry shaped fruit appear in late summer--suitable for preserves (we received some from a wonderful Russian lady who worked here years back--though she forgot to remove the pits!) Cornus Mas, also called Cornelian Cherry is native to Eastern Europe and is perfectly hardy throughout New Jersey. This small ornamental tree will grow to about 20 feet in height and about 10 feet wide. It is available in clump form and sometimes as a single stem tree. More mature trees will show attractive exfoliating bark, making this a good choice ornamantal for multiple seasons--Another nice harbinger of spring on the way, Cornus Mas blooms after the Witch Hazels and starts before the forsythia.
MARCH SOMETIMES WINTER JUST HAS A HARD TIME LETTING GO, AND SOMETIMES SPRING JUST HAS A HARD TIME GETTING GOING--BUT THE WITCH HAZELS ALWAYS BLOOM--SOMETIMES IN THE WINTER AND SOMETIMES IN THE SPRING!!
Witch Hazels are gaining in popularity with many more varieties being named in recent years. Most hybrid varieties--crosses between Hamamelis mollis and Hamamelis japonica (Chinese and Japanese Witch Hazels), bloom from January through March depending on the individual cultivar. Flowers can remain on plants for nearly a month with many being lightly fragrant. Pictured below are some Witch Hazels in flower following a late winter snowfall.
PRIMAVERA WITCH HAZEL
DIANE WITCH HAZEL
JALENA WITCH HAZEL
Arnold's Promise Witch Hazel in early spring
Diane Witch Hazel blooming in early spring
Witch Hazels prefer well drained soils, and perform equally well in light shade or full sun. During the fall months, Witch Hazels provide spectacular combinations of yellow, orange, and red foliage.
GARDENS ARE TO LIVE IN
BEAUTIFUL GARDENS START AT AMBLESIDE