A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Plant of the Week: Pontederia cordata (Pickerel Weed)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

Although a few of Wave Hill’s hardy water lilies are in bloom this week, many of the plants in the Aquatic Garden are biding their time for their big moment a little later in the summer.

One exception is pickerel weed (Pontaderia cordata). With spikes of tightly-clustered, lavender-blue flowers that stand tall above arrowhead-shaped foliage, it is a dramatic sight and one that will continue for several weeks yet.close-up

Native to the wetlands of much of eastern North America, it is categorized as an emergent aquatic plant, for the simple reason that its stems emerge above the water line. Such plants are usually found in shallow water, such as at the edges of ponds and rivers, where the roots can take hold in the mud below. setting

Other aquatic plants, such as the water lilies, are able to root in deeper water. They have long, flexible leafstalks (petioles), attached to leaves that float on the water surface. Unsurprisingly, these are called floating-leaf aquatics.

Plant of the Week: Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) is native to the mountainous parts of Eastern Europe, and has been a popular garden plant for centuries. Its soft, light-green leaves resemble little cloaks—explaining the “mantle” part of the common name—and sprays of tiny, chartreuse flowers blossom through most of the month of June.better-close-up

The foliage is covered in fine, water-repelling hairs, which cause moisture from rain or dew to coalesce into beautiful, silvery droplets. One benefit of our recent damp weather is that it has ensured that this phenomenon has occurred on an almost daily basis.leaves

Look for lady’s mantle, and its glistening globes of moisture, around the garden, particularly in the Flower Garden, the Wild Garden and the Kerlin Overlook—as shown in the right foreground in this last shot, taken at the Kerlin Overlook on a recent cloudy morning.setting

Plant of the Week: Oenothera macrocarpa (Missouri Evening Primrose)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

One of the beds in our Wild Garden is planted deliberately with low-growing annuals and perennials in order to provide a pleasing contrast to the surrounding plantings, most of which are considerably loftier.

Short but spreading, the Missouri evening primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa) is a low-grower that adds to the tapestry of colorful blooms in this meadow-like bed.plant

Each large, yellow flower opens towards evening and lasts only until the next morning but a succession of buds keeps the display going for a period of many weeks.close-up

A dry spell might cause a temporary intermission, but a good summer rain can start up another cycle.

There are more than 100 species of evening primrose (Oenothera spp.), all originating in the Americas. The Missouri evening primrose is native to Mexico and south-central US.setting

Plant of the Week: Actinidia arguta (Hardy Kiwi)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

Our Italianate Pergola, situated on the Great Lawn, frames the majestic views of the Hudson River and the Palisades beyond. Growing atop it is a large hardy kiwi plant (Actinidia arguta).setting

Its multiple, gray-barked stems match the pillars and almost seem to be part of the structure.the-plant

Its many branches cover much of the Pergola’s roof and, although bare in winter, they are full of handsome foliage all summer. The resulting shade is much appreciated by visitors and creates perfect conditions for the shade-loving tropical plants placed here during the warmer months.

Closely related to the familiar kiwi fruit (Actinidia deliciosa), which can only grow in more southerly locales, the hardy kiwi, as its name suggests, can thrive in colder climates. It does produce fruits—smaller versions of the type seen in stores, but equally tasty—and these develop from the flowers, which are open now.close-up

Kiwi plants are dioecious, meaning that plants have either male or female flowers and, nearby, is a male plant of the variegated kiwi (Actinidia kolomikta). Unfortunately, this plant seems to be devoid of blooms this year and there is little chance of pollination, despite the large numbers of flowers on the female plant. The result is likely to a very sparse crop of fruits this autumn.

All the kiwi plants (Actinidia spp.) are native to temperate East Asia. The term “kiwi fruit” was coined by commercial growers in New Zealand in the 1970s. Before then, the fruit had been referred to as Chinese gooseberry, because of the similarity in taste.

Plant of the Week: Phlomis tuberosa (Tuberous Jerusalem Sage)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

The tuberous Jerusalem sage (Phlomis tuberosa) is a handsome plant with distinctive tiers of lavender flowers arranged in evenly-spaced whorls on tall, dark-red stems.close-up

It can be seen now in full bloom in the Wild Garden, close against the pergola of the adjacent Aquatic Garden.setting

There are several species of Jerusalem sage and, although related to the true sages (Salvia), they are placed in their own separate genus (Phlomis). Most of them, including the tuberous Jerusalem sage, come from the dry climates of southern Europe and Asia but will make reliable garden plants here in the Northeast, providing they are planted in well-drained soil.the-plant

Unsurprisingly, the specific epithet, tuberosa, indicates the tuberous nature of the root system.

Plant of the Week: Papaver atlanticum (Atlas Poppy)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

The apricot-orange blooms of the Atlas poppy (Papaver atlanticum) can be seen in various places around the garden from spring and, on and off, into late fall.the-plant

It is a short-lived perennial. It self-seeds readily and our gardeners deliberately leave a few seedlings each spring when they are weeding, so that the plants can flower later in the year.close-up

Native to the Atlas mountains of Morocco, some authorities refer to it as Papaver rupifragum var. atlanticum, indicating that it is a natural variety of the Spanish poppy (Papaver rupifragum), which is native to both Spain and North Africa. Other authorities consider it a species in its own right, hence Papaver atlanticum.

It can be spotted at Wave Hill in the Wild Garden—as shown in the first shot below—and also near the Herb Garden—the second shot—and close to the Perkins Visitor Center.setting-Wild-Gardensetting-herb-garden

Plant of the Week: Iris germanica ‘Florentina’ (Iris cultivar)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

This iris has been in cultivation for so long that it is not known where it originated. In fact, taxonomists cannot even agree on what to call it. Some consider it a natural, white-flowered variety of the bearded (German) iris and call it Iris germanica var. florentina, while others think it is a cultivar (cultivated variety) or even a hybrid. We’ve settled on calling it Iris germanica ‘Florentina’, for now.plant

It is one of the irises used as the source of orris root, the thick, fleshy rhizome that has been used for centuries as a fixative in perfumes and for medicinal purposes. The latter is not recommended these days because, along with most of its iris kin, the plant is poisonous.close-up

Grown in Italy since Roman times, it was particularly common around Florence, as alluded to in the ‘Florentina’ part of its name. A very stylized representation of the flower appears on the Florence’s coat of arms. The fleur-de-lis of the French monarchy is also thought to be inspired by the iris.

We have examples of this lovely plant in both the Herb Garden and the Wild Garden, where it can be seen in full bloom this week.setting

Plant of the Week: Erigeron pulchellus var. pulchellus ‘Lynnhaven Carpet’ (Robin’s Plantain cultivar)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

In the wild, Robin’s plantain (Erigeron pulchellus) is found over much of eastern North America. Often seen in rocky, wooded places, it is equally at home in fields and roadsides. Its small, daisy-like flowers are mostly white.

This selection, ‘Lynnhaven’, has a dense coating of tiny hairs over the foliage, giving the plant a slightly gray appearance and the flowers, which are opening now on tall fuzzy stalks, are larger and have a slight hint of lilac.close-up

Completely happy in poor and dry soils, it can also tolerate full sun or part shade and moist conditions. It spreads by underground stolons (shoot-like roots) and quickly forms a weed-suppressing thick mat—a far more attractive ground cover than a load of mulch!leaves

There are some large patches of this excellent, native ground cover plant under the linden tree in front of Wave Hill House.setting

I selected it as Plant of the Week back in early April 2017, and have returned to it this week in honor of National Wildflower Week. Although not a true wildflower, because it is a selection or cultivar (a cultivated variety), Robin’s plantain is a fine garden plant, originating from the wild.

Plant of the Week: Malus sargentii ‘Tina’ (Crabapple cultivar)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

There are many types of crabapple—more than 400, if one includes all the species and cultivars—and they reward the gardener with blossom in spring and ornamental fruit in fall.

We have several impressive specimens on the grounds here at Wave Hill, but most of them would be too large for the average home garden. Malus sargentii ‘Tina’, however, is compact enough for almost any yard. The normal form of the Sargent crabapple (Malus sargentii) grows to at least 10 feet high and can spread to about 20 feet wide, but ‘Tina’ tops out at only five or six feet and perhaps 10 to 12 feet wide.

Right now, our tree is covered in masses of red, densely-packed flower buds and they are popping open to reveal creamy-white insides.close-up-2

close-upIt is a wonderful display and can be seen behind the Perkins Visitor Center on the edge of the lawn, on your right as you head toward to Wave Hill House.setting

Plant of the Week: Stylophorum diphyllum (Celandine Poppy)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

Native to much of eastern North America, the celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) is a welcome, self-seeding perennial that can light up a shady corner of the garden in spring. It can be seen in several places in the Wild Garden. Look for it in the right foreground of this first photo, taken looking north. It will likely be in bloom for some weeks yet.setting

Although not a true poppy, it is a member of the same family (Papaveraceae), and its blooms are very poppy-like in structure, with golden-yellow petals arranged around a large cluster of stamens at the center.close-up-2

The foliage is deeply lobed and covered with silvery hairs on its underside, making for an attractive ground cover, even after the flowers are finished.close-up-1

A dry spell later in summer can cause the plants to die back and go dormant for the rest of the year.

There are at least two other plants that have celandine as part of their common name. Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) is related and similar in appearance to the celandine poppy, but has smaller flowers and an invasive habit. Lesser celandine (Ficaria verna)—also known as fig buttercup—is a much smaller plant, with glossy leaves and a more star-shaped, yellow bloom. Both are native to Europe and have become problem weeds in North America.