Thursday, 14 June 2012

A field trip to Avant Gardens

Today I took a long-postponed field trip to Avant Gardens in Dartmouth, MA.  The experience was a delight.  I guess I'm quickly becoming a bit of a plant nerd and being in a nursery created by another plant nerd was deeply satisfying.  Dartmouth is about an hour's drive from Boston, so I'd been putting off the trip, hoping I could find plenty of horticultural treats to keep me busy closer to home.  I was completely bored by my last couple of trip to my local garden center and the roof garden still has some very patchy areas so I decided to venture forth.

It was soothing to explore the nursery's cold frames and greenhouses.  The things that impressed me most were things that I've researched less because I don't need them for the RBB's roof garden.  Avant has an amazing selection of succulents (I might be tempted to get a few for indoors as winter approaches) and interesting annuals (unfortunately not white).  They also had some intriguing evergreens, but I'm not sure how I feel about evergreens right now.  I will probably wait to see just how boring and structure-less the garden is this winter before devoting precious real estate to what I think of as "rough-leaved green blobs that look the same all year 'round".  (I'm sure I'll repent heartily of this attitude December through February!)  As I looked around, I found a good sized white clematis "Paul Farges" that I couldn't resist and a geranium x cantabrigiense 'St. Ola' to introduce to 'Midnight Clouds' and 'Double Jewel'.  Here's the geranium:

Then I decided to turn myself over to recommendations.  There are so many plants, many not in flower, and I didn't want to miss the good stuff.  Fortunately I had the chance to speak to the owner, Catherine, who gave me lots of food for thought.  I ended up with a Fothergilla major 'Blue Shadows', a Viburnum plicatum 'Summer Snowflake', a Spirea thunbergii 'Ogon' and - this is certifiable insanity - a tiny Chinese fringetree 'Arnold's Pride'. 

Here's the fothergilla:

The viburnum:

The spirea:

And the fringetree:

I chose the fothergilla because it gets to be a decent size (in the scale of my garden): 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide, has nice-sized roundish steel blue leaves, and puts out white, unfortunately bottlebrush-shaped but fortunately honey-scented flowers in spring.  I chose the viburnum because I've been pondering getting a viburnum for a while and this one came highly recommended.  It has beautiful white flowers all summer long and grows to about 8 feet by 8 feet, though it can be pruned back.  The spirea was an easy choice for its foliage, which I think will look great with the rest of what I already have.  The leaves are a light yellowy green and sort of feathery in appearance.  Apparently they turn incredible shades of yellow and orange in the fall and stay that way through the end of November.  The spirea is also supposed to put out white flowers very early in the spring - never a bad thing.  The 5 foot cube size should also fill in some currently empty space nicely.

I'm sure the fringetree will keel over when it realizes it can't send its roots down more than a foot and a half, but in the meantime, I get to nurse a tiny flicker of hope that I might one day enjoy the scent and luxurious softness of fringetree flowers in my very own rooftop paradise.

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