Last weekend, Christie and I drove over to Hot Springs, Arkansas for the weekend. The town is aptly named after the natural springs that flow from the ground and have brought travelers here for hundreds of years.
Our trip to Hot Springs was inspired by the Tulip Extravaganza at the Garvan Woodland Gardens, but we also enjoyed the National Park focused on the hot springs. (Ask the locals and they’ll tell you that it is the first US National Park. In truth, it doesn’t have that official designation, but it was the first nature reserve set aside by the US government, before there was a national park system.)
As you can see, the gardens were beautiful. They are planted fresh each year so that they can create new swaths of color and have premium new bulbs from Holland. We enjoyed the diverse palate of colors and tulip styles.
The gardens included lots of neat areas and we spent our whole afternoon wandering through the acres of carefully designed planting. I have uploaded a photo album with tons of pictures, so feel free to peruse them all by clicking on the photo below.
A little over a week ago was the first day of Spring. This year Spring greeted central Oklahoma with another snow event. For the first time in my life, I lost count of how many times it snowed on us this Winter! It was a record breaking year.
The good news to come from the snow is that everything was well watered throughout the cold half of the year. And now the trees are starting to wake from their slumber.
Every year I notice new things in the Spring. This year I noticed many trees in my neighborhood covered in little fuzzy red along the tips of their branches. The trees were so thoroughly covered that it almost looked like fall colors on the trees. I thought maybe it was the new leaves coming out of buds on the trees. On closer inspection, I decided they weren’t leaf buds emerging, but tiny blossoms. These trees are not what I would considering flowering trees. I’m wondering if these trees always light up red in the Spring or if this only happens after really wet Winters like the one we just had. I’m thinking this Winter and Spring were special. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of these trees and now they have stopped their show of red. I’ll be watching for this next year.
Colors that I never miss in the Spring are the yellow Forsythias and pink Quince bushes. They are some of my favorite colors during the year. This year our Quince bush bloomed more than a month later than it did last year! There are many other fruit trees in bloom: cherry, plum, peach and pear.
Christie and I spent some time on Saturday just driving around town looking at all of the blooming trees. It was like looking at Christmas lights. We drove slowly down the streets, looking down each side street and backtracking whenever one of us announced a good tree worth turning around for.
We didn’t realize how many large Saucer Magnolia/Tulip Trees (Magnolia x soulangeana) were in town until this weekend. There are some surprisingly large ones in our neighborhood that must be very old, since they are relatively slow growing trees. Many of these trees were in back yards and we only saw their tops over fences because we were looking for them as we drove around town.
Daffodils and Hyacinth have been blooming all over town for a couple of weeks and Tulips are just getting started. We are excited about the unveiling of our new tulip colors this year. It won’t be long!
Our multicolored Peach tree is blooming up a storm, as well. The dual colors of this tree amazes everyone that looks at it. I have a lot of close up (macro) pictures I will be sharing of many of these blooms over the next week. Stay tuned!
Over the last year I have read several plant-related books that have referenced a classic historical fiction novel by Alexandre Dumas, The Black Tulip. Alexandre Dumas is the author who wrote The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. After reading about the importance of this book and its portrayal of a very real tulip obsession in Holland, I found myself an old copy of the book and read it last Fall.
The book focuses on a tulip fancier who is committed to being the first person to breed a truly black tulip, a challenge issued by the royal plant society. The story intertwines historical figures and events, to really put the reader into the time frame of these events.
I have to say that this book was one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in quite a while. It has a nice love story, with the main character being equally entranced in his love interests: a female and a trio of tulip bulbs.
I would recommend this book to anyone, really. You don’t have to be a plant nut to enjoy the book, and it might even shed a little light on what may otherwise seem to be a crazy obsession.
Do you know of any other great works of fiction that involve plants in pivotal roles?
We have had a rather stunning Tulip display in the front yard for about 6 years now. I started by planting red and white tulips staggered in concentric circles in the figure 8 garden. Those individual bulbs have multiplied quite a bit over the years.
This Fall we decided to add to the display, without removing any of the current bulbs. Red and yellow Tulips are easy to come by and are a common color scheme. I was adamant that we didn’t do something common. We looked into different colors that we could add to our red and white to make a nice theme. We decided to add a couple of pinks and purples to the mix. It will be a sort of Valentine’s mix of colors.
We are adding about 60 bulbs this year – 15 Apricot Impressions, 15 Purple Flag, 15 Pink Impressions and 12-15 Lilac bulbs that my in-laws bought in the Netherlands.
I’m excited to see how these bulbs complement our Spring display next year. We were also careful to pick Tulip styles that match our existing contingent of Darwin hybrids. The added bulbs didn’t have to be Darwins, but we didn’t want to add a bunch of different heights and frilly shapes to our existing display.
Future modifications will probably mean that we’ll have to dig up bulbs and replace them with different colors. The other option would be to have an “anything goes” bed of Tulips, but for now we’re going for more of a planned look and I think it has been working really well. We’ve even had a couple of neighbors ask if they could use our Tulip bed for photo shoots with their kids. We were happy to oblige! That’s what it’s all about – having others enjoy our Tulip bed.
I was able to attend a meteorology conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia during the first week of June. I had never been to Nova Scotia before and I needed to stay in the city for the week, but I was still able to get in a little sight-seeing. Along with some historical sights, I visited the Public Gardens, which is a Victorian Garden originally established in 1867.
The gardens are well maintained and well used by locals. I was surprised by the number of plants and trees in bloom while I was there. As you can see in the map above, there is a large pond (including ducks) and a couple of smaller water features. There is also a nice bandstand, which is a common music venue during the Summer.
Apparently the gardens were badly damaged in September 2003 by Hurricane Juan. Many large trees were destroyed. When I was there, the signs had all been covered over with new growth.
Some of my favorite plants were the orange Maple trees (pictured above), the rhododendrons (above) and the tulip beds (below). I also saw a planting of neat Euphorbias, which might have been ‘Tiny Tim.’