Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hamamelis....Winter Interest in the Garden

Michele Koskinen

Hamamelis "witchhazel" is a deciduous speciman tree or small shrub 10 to 15 feet tall and wide with a vase like shape and is native in the eastern and central part of the United States. Native Americans used the leaves and bark of the Hamamelis for medicinal purposes and are also used today as an astringent for acne and other skin applications.

Hamamelis mollis 'Pallida'
The beauty of the hamamelis comes not in the spring or summer, but the fall and winter. The flowers are spiderlike bright yellow and have a light fragrance. They are often the only bit of color in a drab late fall and winter landscape. Many hybrids on the market are smaller, upright and narrow. The flowers run from the typical yellow to orange and red. If you are looking for winter interest this is a wonderful addition to your landscape.

Two gardens in the Philadelphia region with large collections of Hamamelis are Scott Arboreum (2011 Scott Arboretum Blog on Hamamelis) and Morris Arboreum.... Plant Collection.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Roxborough HS Rain Garden

Roxborough HS Rain Garden – Alyssa Van Alstine

This blog is long overdue, as this project was completed in June; however, giving birth to my daughter in July sort of put a hold on things. Three of my AP Environmental Science students from Roxborough High School installed a rain garden as part of their Senior Project.  The students became interested in rain gardens after learning about rainwater management in urban areas and how this relates to both surface and groundwater pollution. To learn specifics about rain gardens and rain garden installation, the students attended a 2-day Rutgers University short course. Previous blog on classes

Before choosing the location of the garden, the students surveyed the school grounds to find a location prone to flooding.  The courtyard area adjacent to the side entrance was chosen, as the driveway frequently held water after a storm.

Much time and preparation went into the actual garden design. The students calculated the area that would drain to the rain garden to determine the size of the garden.  Soil samples were collected and percolation tests were performed to make sure that water would not pond in the garden after a storm event.  Research was conducted to choose rain garden friendly yet drought tolerant native plants that would specifically attract butterflies and other pollinators to the garden.

The actual garden installation took place over the course of one unseasonably warm day in May, and was a quite laborious process. The students cleared the very sizable garden area by hand, digging out the top 6 inches of topsoil from the garden location. They then mulched the entire area, as well as dug out inlets for the water to flow before planting the native plant plugs.

Overall, this was a very time consuming yet awesome project. The students were happy to fulfill the requirements for their Senior Project, yet satisfied to leave a legacy at RHS by way of their rain garden. It was a gratifying and educational experience for us all.