Physostegia virginiana

2017 – Obedient Plant

The obedient plant or false dragonhead is a very fun plant that has some very unique qualities. First of all, the obedient plant’s common name comes from the flowers’ unique pliable nature. The flower heads can be pushed along the axis of the stem and will remain wherever they are moved. This makes the plant very useful for cut flowers or flower arrangements. This plant is a rhizomatous perennial that is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae. A common characteristic of this family is a square stem. The flowers a pale lilac with a tubular shape and snapdragon appearance that grow on terminal spikes. The flower spikes bloom from the bottom to top from late June to September. P. virginiana has sharply toothed, lanceolate leaves arranged in an opposite manner. The square stems can reach up to 4 feet but may fall over if the soils are too rich or it is not receiving enough sun. Beware this plant can spread rather aggressively either by seed or rhizomatously with stolons. To prevent this a gardener can pull up the undesired shallow roots to keep the plant tamed.

Obedient plant lives in a wide variety of habitats from open meadows to stream banks. It is native to much of North America from Quebec to Florida and even west to New Mexico. This plant is great because it can tolerate moist soils with poor drainage or soils on the drier end of the spectrum. The nectar of this plant is desirable to many species of butterflies and even attracts hummingbirds. Overall this is an excellent plant and can really give a show in the late summer, early fall especially if used in a rain garden.

Hibiscus moscheutos

2017 – Rose Mallow

The common rose mallow or swamp mallow is an upright shrub-like herbaceous perennial that is commonly found in moist areas such as marshes or lake shores.  H. moscheutos is a member of the Mallow family, Malvaceae.  This plant is unique because you can bring those showy tropical looking hibiscus flowers to the garden.  The flowers are typically a large, beautiful, funnel shape with five separate petals.  Interestingly the stamens and stigma are fused into one structure called a column.  Petals are normally white, pink or red with or some variation in between. H. moscheutos flowers are normally darker towards the middle and can become quite large and showy reaching anywhere from 8 to 10 inches.  Though an individual flower may only last a short period of time, the plant itself continues to bloom through late summer into fall.  The rose mallow can bring quite the accent to any garden and it is recommended to plant a group of 3 or more for a visually appealing effect.

This plant is native to the eastern and southern parts of North America and can be grown in hardiness zones 5-10.  The rose mallow can grow rather tall, reaching anywhere from 5 to 7 feet in a single growing season.  Since it is capable of growing so much it may need to be staked for support.  The optimal growth conditions for H. moscheutos are full sun and moist soils rich in organic matter but, it can tolerate lower quality soils even those containing salt.  It will grow very well in these conditions as long as the soil is not allowed to dry out.  If this plant is being grown in colder regions, one should consider mulch during the winter to protect the roots from frost.  Also it is recommended to prune in the early spring for a bushier growth form.  Japanese beetles have been known to cause damage to the foliage of this plant if left unmanaged.

Amsonia hubrichtii

2017 – Hubricht’s Bluestar

This beautiful clump forming, herbaceous perennial has many noteworthy characteristics making it an excellent choice as a green ribbon native plant.  It is a member of the Dogbane plant family or Apocynaceae.  One trait expressed by members of this family is a milky/latex sap.  Due to this, A. hubrichtii is not preferred by deer.  It is known for its elegant powdery blue star shaped flowers which grow in clusters at the ends of the stems.  These delicate flowers make an appearance in late spring around April and last until the end of May sometimes even longer.  The foliage is another notable characteristic.  These thin, filamentous leaves grow along the stem in an alternate fashion.  They are a beautiful green during the growing season and turn to a stunning yellow during the fall.  This foliage can bring nice texture and color to any garden.

Native to south-central United States Amsonia hubrichtii can grow to about 3 feet tall and spreads 2-3 feet at maturity. This plant is ideal for many different garden situations and is very low maintenance.  It performs best in well drained, rich soil but can tolerate a wide range of conditions.  A. hubrichtii produces the best fall color in full sun however blooms may persist longer if given some afternoon shade. It is also notable that Amsonia is the preferred nectar source for Mourning Cloaks and other early butterflies. Sometimes the plant may grow too tall and flop over.  In order to prevent this, it is recommended that you cut back the stems about a 1/3 after its done blooming.

Steve Wright Awarded Chanticleer Scholarship

December 6, 2017  – In December 2017, Steve Wright, Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens Director of Horticulture and Curator of Plant Collections, received one of the two prestigious Chanticleer Scholarships. Since 2008, The Chanticleer Scholarship in Professional Development has promoted creativity and leadership by providing public garden professionals across the country with financial support for academic training to improve their leadership skills. Specifically, the scholarship supports an educational experience and travel expenses to meet with other leaders in the field of public horticulture.

With this support, Steve’s primary goal was to meet with the curators and garden managers at other gardens who are managing nationally accredited collections of rhododendrons. In addition to simply seeing their gardens, Steve was interested in sharing plant lists, learning how those organizations curate and manage their collections, and generally “talking shop”. In addition, he used the opportunity to visit nurseries and individuals who have made significant contributions in the world of native azalea conservation and propagation. The experience took him all over the east coast with stops in Auburn, AL, Marietta, GA, Sevierville, TN, Asheville, NC, Aiken, SC, Richmond, VA, and New London, CT.

The Scholarship is aimed at public garden employees who are in, or hope to move into, leadership positions and feel they need more training and exposure. With such a small staff at Jenkins, these travel opportunities are rare, and taking significant time away from the Arboretum during the busiest time of the year makes things a bit complicated. Regardless, the experience proved to be very valuable for Steve, and the connections made will be valuable well into the future at Jenkins. Many thanks go to the Chanticleer Foundation for providing this wonderful opportunity.

Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens Receives Land Ethics Award for Trout Creek Watershed Restoration

April 12, 2017  – Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens has been working diligently for many years to protect and restore the floodplain of Trout Creek. In recognition of these efforts, the Arboretum was awarded an Award of Merit at the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Society’s Land Ethics Symposium this past spring.

Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens’ Trout Creek Watershed Restoration

Over the past few decades, parts of the once ecologically-healthy land that surrounds Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens have been significantly degraded. Nearby housing, roadways, and commercial development increased the volume, intensity, and frequency of storm water runoff. Consequent erosion has caused significant damage to the floodplain and stream bank along Trout Creek. In addition, man-made disturbances led to an increased presence of non-native, invasive plants which displaced more ecologically valuable native species. These invasive species had dominated the floodplain and forest edges and openings for many years.

As nearly all of the Arboretum’s 48 acres drain into Trout Creek, the Arboretum has developed a long-term, comprehensive restoration plan to address these concerns. The plan involves reestablishing the ecological value of the property and, at the same time, mitigating storm water runoff and stream bank erosion. This plan has 11 major goals and guidelines:

  1. All non-native, invasive trees and shrubs are to be removed.
  2. All species to be used for replanting must be carefully selected and appropriate for the conditions of each site. Each species’ mature size, light requirement, moisture requirements, and soil requirements, including pH must be considered.
  3. All plant selections used for replanting must be native to the eastern United States, preferably the Mid-Atlantic region. Whenever possible, plants of known local provenance should be used;
  4. Plants selected for replanting should, as much as possible, have high wildlife value, particularly to birds, bees, butterflies, and other insects.
  5. Understanding that it is a major component of a healthy ecosystem, we will work to increase species diversity of the Arboretum as a whole. In addition, if available, plants listed as rare, endangered, or threatened in Pennsylvania will be given priority over others.
  6. Wherever applicable, we must consider species that colonize to help prevent storm water damage and stream bank erosion.
  7. Because Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens is a public garden, aesthetics is always important. Many of the characteristics that make plants attractive to wildlife (fruit, flowers, fragrance, etc.) are also aesthetically pleasing. All planting design must take those characteristics into consideration.
  8. As long as the above guidelines are followed, there are no restrictions for species selection within the deer exclusion fencing. Plantings outside the fence however, must be deer resistant or tolerant, otherwise the plants will be caged until they are tall enough to be above the browse line.
  9. In areas that receive relatively little care and no irrigation, soil amendments with mycorrhizae and a generous layer of hardwood wood chip mulch will be used to give the plants the best chance of survival.
  10. As these are large projects and because we want to raise awareness for what we are doing as an organization, we will collaborate for completion of these projects with other community organizations such as the Boy Scouts.
  11. During site preparation, including the invasive species removal, all woody debris will be left on site, but must be lopped and oriented transverse to slopes. This debris will further increase wildlife habitat, but will also intercept and reduce runoff and soil erosion, break down and return nutrients back to the soil, and act as a natural mulch to retain water for new plantings.

The amount of work completed to date has been remarkable and all of this work fits into one of four work areas, or “projects”, none of which are currently accessible for public visitation, but are obvious as you drive along Devon State Road or look out from the public garden.

1)  Browning Hillside:  The Browning Hillside, directly above Trout Creek, is a sloped, 2-acre tract with significant water run-off from the above residential community. The consequent erosion affects not only the Arboretum property, but also Trout Creek. The hillside, which had been mowed grass, has been returned to a forested corridor that links the public garden to a section of Conservation Woodlands.  Careful planning included a pathway which is surrounded by native plants suitable for bird, bee and butterfly habitat. Over 350 trees and shrubs of 61 different species and approximately 1000 pollinator-friendly herbaceous plants were planted by the Jenkins staff and the volunteers. The hillside is now fully planted with native plants which attract wildlife, control erosion, and add beauty to the Arboretum.

2)  Conservation Woodlands: A roughly 2.5-acre section of Jenkins Conservation Woodlands, which includes the headwaters of Trout Creek, was restored in fall of 2016.  To do this, 50 invasive trees and large shrubs, some as tall as 50 feet were removed.  The invasive plants included Norway maple, burning bush and shrub honeysuckle. After clearing, the area was replanted with more ecologically valuable native species, many of which are currently caged to protect against deer browse.

The staff of Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens, its weekly volunteers, and volunteers from The Vanguard Group were instrumental in carrying out this project. Jenkins encourages volunteerism as a community service. Our volunteers are immensely valuable to us and we could not accomplish all we do without their help.

3)  Devon State Road—east side:  This section of Jenkins Arboretum is about 700’ long and extends 150’ in from the road edge. After several invasive species removals with help from local Boy Scout troops, the Arboretum’s staff replanted the area with more than 50 native trees and shrubs which will inhibit the reestablishment of those invasives. Additional site preparation will be done in 2017 and a substantial shrub-layer planting is being planned for spring of 2018.

4)  Devon State Road—west side:  This is a section of the Arboretum that includes Trout Creek and parallels Devon State Road. It is roughly 1500’ long and extends 150’ in from the road edge. Due to runoff pressures from the macadam roadway, bank erosion has been severe.  Invasive plants were removed and replanting was done with native plants appropriate to holding the stream bank. Specifically, alders, willows, and sweetspire have been planted. Jenkins’ volunteers have propagated several thousand herbaceous plants with ornamental and wildlife value to help hold the bank.   In addition to protecting and preserving the stream bank, this restoration beautifies a large area of road-front. In total, the project took more than 6 years to complete. Three different local Boy Scouts completed their Eagle Scout project in this area by helping to plant nearly 1,000 trees and shrubs of 64 different species. What started as a badly neglected area that was severely eroded and overgrown with invasive species is becoming a valuable habitat for birds, bees, and butterflies and will be crucial to mitigating further stream bank erosion.