Cape Cod Chapter Develops Garden at Orleans
Phyllis Laking Hunt
The Rhododendron Display Garden in Orleans, Mass., is located on the Village Green at the intersection of Main Street and Route 28. The garden is a joint project of the ARS Cape Cod Chapter and the Parks Department of the Town of Orleans. Orleans, located at the elbow of Cape Cod, acts as a service area for the Lower Cape, a place where residents of other towns come to do their shopping and see their doctors. Orleans has a large retirement community as well as summer residents and tourists. The garden provides a quiet spot in the center of a busy community.
Orleans was not the Chapter's first garden. In 1988 when the Cooperative Extension Service asked the Cape Cod Chapter if they would consider a display garden at the Barnstable County Fairgrounds in Falmouth, the Board decided it was a good idea.
Dr. Richard W. Chaikin, founder of the Cape Cod Chapter and then president, said, "The Massachusetts Chapter has gained a lot of members from their participation in the Massachusetts Horticultural Show and I thought the Cape Cod Chapter would benefit by having a display garden at the fair."
This was not an ideal site. The garden would only be visible to large numbers of people during the fair. Also, the fair was in July, not a peak bloom period, but this difficulty was overcome. Dick, thinking that people would be interested in having their garden look good at other times of the year, assembled a collection of unusual and superior foliage plants and late-blooming azaleas to let people know about these varieties. Plants were donated by Willard Hunnewell, Dick Brooks of Kalmia Woods Nursery, Le-Mac Nursery, Rhododendron Species Foundation, Rosyln Nursery, Transplant Nursery, Weston Nurseries and Dick Chaikin of Cape Cod Vireya. Connie Le Clair, landscape designer and Cape Cod member, planned a well-labeled garden. By the time of the fair in July 1989, the garden was completed and manned by members. It won an award for best educational exhibit. But the garden was not really successful in getting members.
"People came by to look but they had their children with them and were more interested in the rides and such, than the gardens," Dick said.
At the same time as they were creating the county fair display, the Cape Cod Board looked into having a garden at a location without the fairground disadvantages, and the idea emerged of having display gardens at various sites on the Cape. The Chapter was three years old and 70 members strong. Cape Cod members were very ambitious in those days! Connie Le Clair, who was working with the Orleans Parks Department to help landscape Orleans' civic areas, approached them about having a rhododendron display garden. Both the Parks Department and the Cape Cod Board were enthusiastic and an agreement was signed in July 1989.
Under the agreement the town was responsible for site preparation: stump removal, soil filling, stone terracing, manure incorporation, rototilling, water provision, and grass seeding. The town also agreed to mulch the beds, cut the grass and provide some watering. Cape Cod Chapter agreed to supply the plants, plant and label them, and provide a sign for the garden. The Chapter also agreed to do the dead heading, spraying for insects and disease, fertilizing and pruning. We agreed to split the weeding. The Chapter retained ownership of the plants. The Chapter also retained ownership of the plants at the fairgrounds.
The Orleans Village Green is 1.2 acres but appears larger because the Snow Library, which abuts it, sits on 2.1 acres of connected landscaped lawns. Orleans is situated in climate USDA Zone 7a. Although the Green is not on the water the winds do sweep across it. Additional soil and manure were added to the sandy Cape Cod soil to prepare the site. Superphosphate and peat moss were added during planting.
The first section of the garden was planted in the fall of 1989 and spring of 1990. The garden was dedicated in May of 1991. A sign was installed, a band played music, an Orleans selectman was present and there were refreshments for all.
Cape Cod Chapter Display Garden, Orleans, Mass.
Photo by Connie Le Clair
Connie describes her design this way. "The first section was carefully designed with island beds encompassing a wide range of plants with a color palette starting with pink going into purple, yellow, peach, red, buff and back into pink with white interspersed throughout."
Some plants were purchased but most were donated by: Briarwood Gardens, Dr. Gustav Mehlquist of Gem Gardens, Dr. Charles Findlay of Shorleaf Nursery, Bea MacDonald, Rick McKeon, N. E. Hosta Society, Transplant Nursery, Robert Walker, Weston Nurseries, and Whispering Pines Nursery. There were several articles in the local papers at the time stressing how fortunate the town was to have thousands of dollars worth of rhododendron planted on the Village Green.
In 1992 the Cape Cod Board decided to dismantle the fairgrounds display and relocate the donated plants to Orleans in what is now known as Section II.
"It looked a bit isolated and I felt the park could use more plants. Dr. Mehlquist offered us plants and Section III was born in the fall of 1994," Connie said.
Many of the plants Dr. Mehlquist donated are his new cultivars such as 'Firestorm', 'Today and Tomorrow', 'Connecticut Yankee', 'Scarlet Romance' and 'Dorothy Swift'. Connie felt that one more section was needed to put the garden in scale with the park. The park superintendent was agreeable but felt the garden was large enough to require an irrigation system. An agreement was made with the town that the Chapter would pay for the system and installation and the town would maintain it. The irrigation system was installed in the spring of 1995 along with the plantings of Section IV. Rhododendrons were provided by Dr. Mehlquist and late blooming deciduous azaleas were donated by Weston Nurseries. The irrigation system has already proven a garden saver during the 1995 summer drought.
|ARS Cape Cod Chapter Rhododendron Display Garden|
|Orleans, Mass., Plant List as of August 1995|
|(The number preceding the name refers to the number of plants. "A" designates azalea and "R" designates rhododendron.)|
|Section l - Initiated in 1989||1 A 'Golden Showers'|
|1 R 'Dexter's Orange'||1 A 'Lemon Drop'*|
|5 R keiskei (low form)||1 R yakushimanum 'Koichiro Wada'|
|1 R 'Hallelujah'||1 R 'Summer Snow'|
|1 R 'Johnnie Bender'*||1 A 'Lobster'|
|2 R yakushimanum hybrid||1 A 81-84|
|6 R 'April Dawn'||1 A 75-15B|
|3 R 'Dexter's Champagne'*||1 R 'Ponticum Roseum' (syn. 'Maximum Roseum')|
|1 R 'Flaming Snow'||1 A 'Garden Party'*|
|5 A 'Komo Kulshan'*||5 A 'Late Love'|
|3 A 'Pink and Sweet'*||1 R ('Catalgla' x 'Bow Bells')|
|8 A 'Marilee'||1 R degronianum (formerly metternichii )|
|8 R 'Arctic Pearl'||1 A prunifolium|
|3 A kiusianum (white)||5 A 'Yuka'|
|3 R ( decorum hybrid x williamsianum )||Companion Plants in Section II: Hemerocallis .|
|3 A 'Michael Hill'|
|3 R 'Ginny Gee'||Section III - Initiated in September 1994|
|4 A 'Conversation Piece'||3 R 'Firestorm'|
|2 A 'Mathilda'||3 R 'White Peter'|
|3 R [Idealist' x ('Golden Star 'x 'Odee Wright')]||3 R 'Today and Tomorrow'|
|3 R 'Golden Star'||3 R 'Connecticut Yankee'|
|6 A 'Balsaminiflorum'||5 R 'April Reign'|
|3 R 'Mary Fleming'||1 R orbiculare|
|9 A 'Wintergreen'||3 R ( williamsianum x 'Scintillation')|
|3 R 'Molly Fordham'*||3 R 'April Gem'|
|1 R 'Grfin Kirchbach'||3 R myrtifolium selection|
|1 R ('Caroline' x 'Catawbiense Album')||3 R 'Scarlet Romance'|
|3 R 'Mary Belle'||3 R 'Dorothy Swift'|
|3 R 'Tiffany'||3 R 'April White'|
|3 R yakushimanum||3 R 'Wojnar's Purple'|
|5 A 'Yuka'||3 R ( yakushimanum x wardii )|
|1 R 'Lem's Monarch'||1 R 65-052|
|3 A 'Late Love'||3 R 'April Dawn'|
|3 R 'Teddy Bear'||1 R 'Dick Redfield'|
|1 R yakushimanum hybrid||1 R praevernum (?)|
|3 R 'Mehlquist's Windbeam'||3 R 65-002-9|
|3 R 'Mehlquist's Scintillation'||3 R 75-031-1|
|3 R 'Melanie Shaw'||3 R 'Bob Stewart'|
|5 R 'April Rose'||3 R X-5|
|6 A 'White Gumpo'||1 R degronianum (formerly metternichii )#12|
|Companion Plants in Section I: 1 Pieris 'Variegata', Epimedium , tiger lilies, Astilbe 'Sprite', Hemerocallis , hostas, daffodils and tulips.|
|Section IV - Initiated in Spring 1995|
|Section II - Initiated September 1992||4 R ( decorum hybrid x williamsianum )|
|2 R maximum (red)||3 R ('Scintillation' x williamsianum )|
|1 R pseudochrysanthum||1 R 'Catawbiense Grandiflorum'|
|1 A 'Peach Glow'*||3 A 'Pennsylvania'*|
|1 A 'Weston's Bonfire'*||3 A 'Lollipop'*|
|1 A 'Orange Pink'*||3 A 'Frank Abbott'*|
|1 A 'Coral Glow'*||3 A 'Parade'|
|1 R 'Summer Summit'||3 A 'Ribbon Candy'|
|1 R ('Caroline Grace'* x actenopodum )||3 A 'Sandy'*|
|1 R yakushimanum ssp. makinoi||Companion Plants in Section IV: Magnolia|
|3 R 'Baden-Baden'|
|*Name not registered.|
There are now about 260 rhododendrons in the garden. There are no plans to make the garden larger although improvements will continue to be made. The garden contains species and hybrid rhododendrons, miniature to large, plus daffodils, tulips, daylilies, hostas, a variegated Pieris and other ground covers. Most of the trees in the park, sycamore, maples and locusts, are not ideal. They are shallow-rooted and drop numerous seedlings which must be weeded. Some of the locusts blew down during Hurricane Bob. Magnolias, dogwoods ( Cornus kousa ) and the Okame cherries, which do well on the Cape, have been planted. As the undesirable trees are thinned, more trees will be planted.
Photo by Connie Le Clair
Funds for the gardens have been raised by annual, public plant sales in Falmouth and Orleans since 1989 and by donations from individuals. Businesses and individuals have been generous in donating plants.
The most difficult aspect of having a display garden is getting members to work in it. A relatively small number of people have done most of the work. The garden is located on the Lower Cape and the majority of members live on the Upper Cape. The work has been done and the situation seems to be getting better as more members join and are exposed to the garden. The plants have done well considering our annual summer droughts. We have lost very few plants. Plant growth should accelerate with adequate summer irrigation.
The normal schedule of maintenance involves a spring work day which includes weeding, fertilizing and edging. A work schedule is set up for June through September with members volunteering for a specific week or weeks to weed, deadhead and check on the watering. Each member then calls the next member on the list for the day and section of the garden on which they worked. The Parks Department pitches in when necessary. Connie oversees the development and maintenance of the garden with the assistance of Muriel Parker, who does the phoning and sets up the schedule. The rhododendrons are sprayed with an anti-desiccant in late November.
Section I is now five years old and is taking on the appearance of a mature garden. This year the Chapter has produced a membership brochure which includes a description of the Orleans garden and a map. The brochure has been put in libraries and other public places around the Cape. In 1996 the Chapter's annual meeting was moved to Orleans. Dr. Mehlquist was honored for his contribution to the garden and the contribution of all the members who have worked in the garden was recognized. Members started the meeting with a visit to the garden. A park bench with a plaque honoring Dr. Mehlquist was placed in the garden by the Chapter (see article in the Summer 1996 Journal). The plaque reads: "To honor Dr. Gustav A. Mehlquist, world renowned hybridizer, for his generous contribution to this garden, April 14, 1996."
Back in 1989 when the Cape Chapter embarked upon its first display garden, the idea was to attract new members and spread the word about rhododendrons. It is difficult to evaluate how successful we have been in achieving these goals. In the New England tradition, the sign identifying who makes the garden possible, is quite discrete. The public does use the garden. Favorable comments have been made to our members. Motorists waiting for the traffic light can see it. School children are brought over from the nearby school for outdoor classes. People who work in the area sometimes stroll through it. In May, the Chapter's plant sale is held there. On the 4th of July the Village Green is crowded with people watching the parade. Picnic tables by the Snow Library are used. At Christmas time the crche is located on a corner of the Green. Members of other garden clubs are starting to take an interest in it, and one new member said she joined just so she could work in the garden.
Although the display garden is developing well, one garden seems to be enough for our chapter to handle. The idea of having Chapter gardens at several locations on Cape Cod has not been mentioned again!
Phyllis Laking Hunt is president of the Cape Cod Chapter. She is a contributor to the Massachusetts Chapter's journal, The Rosebay.