Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Perfect Pruning with Judith Ogden

On Saturday, April 11, 2015, I tagged along with my friend and gardener, Jane, to Ogden's Nursery in St. James, Long Island. 
 Judith Ogden was giving an outdoor, hands on seminar on pruning, at Nissequogue Farm.  She is an award winning Landscape designer.
 Ogden's Design & Plantings, Inc. isn't a retail nursery, but rather by appointment only, for landscaping projects, but open to the public monthly at seminars from April to September.
 Nissaquogue Farm is meticulously laid out and tended by Ms. Ogden.
There was a wonderful old shed which sheltered large landscaping pots and iron trellises.
 When we got there she was ready with pruning tools of every sort.

 She explained the different types of pruning shears. These were useful for snipping off
 spent blossoms on certain white hydrangeas.
She expertly gave us instructions regarding where to cut the hydrangea canes.
 What I liked about Judith Ogden's seminar was her authenticity.  She is the gardener!  In her world, a perfect landscape happens over time and with considerable work.

 Then we took turns cutting the hydrangeas back.
 One of the ladies compared completely dead branches to live ones.  Stems with green still showing could be used to propagate new plants by putting them into wet soil, and keeping them wet for the season.

 Pruning rejuvenates the hydrangeas and reduces the chance of disease by eliminating dead material.  With regards to Hydrangeas, only these white ones which make buds on new growth, not the blue ones which make buds on last year's stems, should be pruned. 
 Here she is topping off a tall variety.
 Judith Ogden tackled a huge Callicarpa, one of my favorite shrubs, otherwise known as Beauty Bush or as I call it the purple berry bush.
She reduced its size with the long shears, by snipping off the tips of the branches.  This will result in many more berries for the birds to feast on in January.
 Rose of Sharon
 Butterfly bushes

 Rose bushes, were all on her list to prune that day.
 And so we did too,
strengthening the plants.
 I started pruning my shrubs late in March.  This is one of my Knockout Rose bushes.
 You can see that it is already pushing out new strong growth.
 A Spirea which I severely trimmed back is now covered with new leaves.

 White Hydrangeas are putting out many new leaves.
These shoots are coming off of stems that I just pushed into moist soil in a plastic pot and kept them  in the shade and wet last summer.
 Another white hydrangea that is coming back after pruning
 This is an Oak Leaf hydrangea that I cut way back
 because it was covering up a clump of white Bleeding Hearts.
During the winter I go outside and clip sleeping branches of Japonica and Forsythia to force bloom.  This month,  I brought them outside hoping to see roots develop later on in the summer.  Then I will plant them directly in the soil.

Nissequogue Farm (Ogden's Nursery) is located at
 650 North Country Road, St. James, NY  (631) 473-5064,

Visit her website: www.ogdens.com/calendar for future seminar dates.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Skip Madsen, A Man with a Passion for Growing Camellias

Robert "Skip" Madsen is the 96 year old Camellia expert from South Carolina.
He has lived on a eighty acre family farm, on John's Island,  which has been in the family for generations.  He told me that his grandparents and parents ran the property as a chicken farm.   He and his wife transformed it into the Camellia heaven that it is today.
Originally, Skip planted baby Camellias directly into the soil, on his land in straight rows.  When a customer bought a plant they would dig it out, wrap it in burlap and send it on its way.  It was a considerable amount of work. This particular Camellia is growing in the soil near Skip's house.
 Mr. Madsen has a succession of greenhouses that focus on the different stages of Camellia propagation.  The first greenhouse has flats with course sand, with just stems used as rooting material for starting the process of grafting. Then in another greenhouse he has plants that are one year old, then another greenhouse shelters the two year old plants.  Eventually they are taken out into the garden and lined up neatly to grow some more.  In the old days they were transplanted directly into the farm's soil.

When plastic pots began to be used in nurseries, the young Camellias were transplanted from the potting greenhouses into pots.
Still in neat rows.

Of course there are many, many Azaleas growing in the garden, retaining their untrimmed  graceful natural shapes.

 Skip's operation has been expanded by his son, Pete, and two greenhouse  workers, to include a huge catalog of Herbs, and other plants.
 This is a plant bench that is warmed by water,
 from a huge warm water tank.  The seedlings are growing nicely there.
 This is a very cool machine that packs the plastic seedling boxes with growing medium.
 The paddles just tap the medium into the containers.
 producing very neat boxes for transplants.
 Two ladies very expertly complete the process of starting seedling plugs.
This takes a great deal of patience.
On of the things that I liked about Skip's  greenhouses were the plants that have volunteered on the earthen floor.  The ferns were amazing.
There were plants in pots of all varieties.
This was a kumquat tree that was growing delicately, and Skip told me to try it rind and all.  It was the sweetest thing ever.
Another dwarf tree growing next to Skip's house was a Southern Magnolia.
 To celebrate Skip's 96th birthday, we all went to the Magnolia Plantation & Garden, on the Ashley River., in Charleston, SC.
 The plantation is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is nearly, 500 acres, and continues as  the ancestral home of the Drayton family since 1676.
 He was presented with a plaque  from the Coastal Carolina Camellia Society for his outstanding work in the breeding and promoting the growth and love of Camellias.
 Skip supplies the society growers with stock root plant material which they use to propagate and perpetuate varieties of Camellias.  He has given garden space with root material planted in the farm's soil, to whitch cuttings are grafted, for future transplanting.

 Live Oak Trees on the Magnolia Plantation.
Spanish Moss hanging from the Live Oak Trees.
Camellias and Spanish Moss arranged on the party tables.
Many of the Camellias in the Plantation's gardens were started from plant materials supplied by Skip.
How lucky was I that I got to tag along on the back of the Plantation's golf cart and get a cook's tour of the gardens which was Skip's birthday present from the  society.  This is a wild Azalea.
Here's the one thing that I learned from spending time with Skip Madsen and his Camellia society friends.  They love to talk to you about their plants and show you their love for these amazing flowering shrubs and trees.
Take a trip to Charleston, South Carolina and meet and speak with Skip Madsen, the world's best and most passionate Camellia grower.  He is truly a national living treasure.