I took a quick trip out to Long Island NY last weekend and since it was just me in the car it was a very brief back and forth before the decision was made to sneak in a garden visit. Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, NY was the choice.
I used to work ten minutes from this NY historical state park and obviously because of the greenhouses, plant collections, hundreds of acres of open land, plus a manor house, you know it was a favorite pitstop along the way to and from work, but I had already been visiting for a few years before that. Over the years the visits have settled in to follow a traditional path, and that path nearly always begins in the main greenhouse.
What shows up in the main greenhouse depends on the season or the year. Sometimes the beds are filled with delphinium or foxgloves, poinsettias, chrysanthemum, orchids… wherever the mood of the planting staff has gone. This March it was overwhelmingly tropical.
Radiating off the Main Greenhouse are several grow houses which back in the day served to supply the estate’s cut flower supply.
Back a few years ago, more of the greenhouses were accessible but today there are still at least six of the side greenhouses open for visitors, and you can always find plenty to see.
I seem to remember one of the greenhouses being a fern house. Imagine my surprise when these bright, tropical rhododendron greeted me through the next doorway instead.
Vireya rhododendron represent a section of rhododendron which hail from the tropics of Southeast Asia. As you can see, out of the couple hundred species there have been quite a few exceptionally showy selections and hybrids.
Sorry but I thought the vireyas were exceptional 😉 Next on the agenda was a short stroll over to the camellia house.
The camellia house (1917) shelters the largest collection under glass in the Northeast. I believe I once read that Mr. Coe got a really good deal on a bunch of imported camellias and only later discovered that they likely wouldn’t be hardy in his new garden. Build a new glasshouse was the solution! In any case, this year I managed to catch the tail end of the show.
Here’s a little 1996 NY Times article on the camellia house.
The camellia house is another place which comes and goes. Some years it’s a thicket of bloom and bush, other years it’s recovering from the occasional massive pruning these big plants need. I guess this year was somewhere in between, still excellent of course.
A brief run through the grounds was the next requirement.
William Coe built Coe Hall as a residence, but his botanical collections and interest in horticulture had this former gold coast estate donated as a school of horticulture, and then preserved as an arboretum. As such it’s filled with interesting things, and whether you’re just strolling or looking for specific plant goodies you can’t go wrong on a beautifully sunny March morning.
I tried to get a quick visit in with all my favorites. The giant sequoia trees were looking sad, as it appears fungus has finally caught up with them, but I was happy to see the odd monkey puzzle trees were still up to their usual monkey business.
The monkey puzzle is an exceptionally curious thing, and ranks as one of those living fossil trees which still keep chugging along as if the dinosaurs were still around to graze them. Nowadays they’re confined to the Southern tip of South America but eons ago ranged across continents.
How can people not get excited about plants? Beats me…
So that was last weekend. Maybe you can guess that in the week since I’ve been busy and/or lazy again, and if that’s a bad thing well at least on the good side it spares you from much of the rest of our snowdrop season. It was an ok year in case you’re curious. Too much wind, a lot of temperature ups and downs, and last year’s monsoons seemed to have been too much for many of the plantings, but hopefully the snowdrops which did come up will be enough to last until next year.
We’ll see. Have a great week regardless 🙂