Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Pink Beds Field Trip Recap

If you could order up the perfect weather for a field trip, you would order a day like we had for this trip.  It was truly a drop dead gorgeous spring day.  

Carrie Radcliffe, (Flora Unlimited) made arrangements with David Danley, (Pisgah National Forest Botanist) who oversees this area for the Forestry Service to conduct this field trip for SAPS.  On top of that, we were treated to the presence of our own Dan Pittillo who always accentuates the level of knowledge with his presence.  

This is typically the best time to see the blooms but the season is delayed at least a couple of weeks.  However, David provided us with a tour to one of the numerous bog sites among the Pink Bed area which includes 2593 acres and is habitat for one of the best populations known of Federal Threatened swamp pink (Helonias bullata). He kindly orchestrated it so we could get a good view of the bog and the plants without having to get our feet too wet!  

David also provided us with a lively discussion of the intricacies of sphagnum moss (Sphagnum spp).  He has been studying the microscopic differences among this species for decades and has identified 36 species in Western NC.  We were dazzled by other bryophytes, including the rare Carolina mnium (Plagiomnium carolinianum).He also told us about the challenges of managing these fragile and constantly changing plant communities.  Beaver activity, humans and invasive exotic plants are the most threatening elements.  Carrie and David discussed the similarities and differences between managing this large, intact natural area and the smaller, more fragmented bogs in the southern extent of the distribution of swamp pink and purple mountain pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea var. montana), another bog jewel hat is hidden in the area.  

Although the Pink Beds have not fully awakened from dormancy, a handful of woodland gems were blooming.  Trout lily (Erythronium ubliatum) and wood anemone (anemone quinquefolia) graced the drier parts of the wooded understory.  The leaves of false hellebore (Veratrum parviflorum) stood out strongly.  Yellowroot was showing off its usually inconspicuous flowers by blooming en masse in sunny, wet patches.  Various violets were blooming, including sweet white violet (Viola blanda) and Halberdleaf violet (V. hastata)>  We admired the pistillate and staminate spikes of a sedge flower (Carex communis), and were overwhelmed by the many other species in the area that were not blooming and thus unidentifiable.  The buds of horse sugar (Symplocos tinctoria) were quite showy!
Contributed by Kathy Stilwell with Carrie Radcliffe

Here is a link to Ed Shwartzman's inventory of the Pink Beds.  It is a fascinating description of the area.  

A few of the participants have graciously offered their thoughts on the day.

From Karen Lawrence:
"An adventure through the tangled woods to study bogs, finding the interesting plants growing among the sphagnum mosses and learning that there are many different species of sphagnums.

Seeing the splayed out leaves of the Helonias and longing to see the bright pink blooms with the blue anthers of this Swamp Pink wildflower.  We all vowed to come back in a month or so.

Finding a wonderful grouping of Trout Lily blooms.  Walking the boardwalks over the swamps where the beaver have worked the area and hearing migrating warblers like the Black-Throated Blue, Parula, and Blackburnian Warblers.

Mostly, being with Carrie Radcliffe, Dan Pittillo, and Dave Danley and learning so much from them about the history, plants, and management of the Pink Beds."
From Jean Hunnicutt:
Who could have imagined we'd have such a wonderful day - with no Helonias in bloom!?!
This was the first visit for most of us to this amazing site and we weren't disappointed.  The Pink Beds Loop is a beautiful hiking trail and David's side trips to the mountain bogs were challenging and fun.  Thanks to our 3 guides - David, Carrie and Dan - for a day of learning and wonder.  I'm looking forward to going again when the Helonias are blooming (or not).
From Elena Marsh: 

"Tom and I really enjoyed the trip with you and the others.  It was amazing to be able to wind thru the brush and woods to find bogs hidden in there.  And the walk itself was wonderful too.  Just wish more was in bloom for us to see but did learn about the different mosses and also the site we were walking on itself.  You get a much greater appreciation for the area you are visiting after you learn about what is actually there." 

From Mark Westhafer:

"We enjoyed the Pink Beds tour, and especially having David narrate the tour.  His knowledge was impressive.  I had never heard of Helonias so that was new. it was a new area to us and we enjoyed the hike and seeing the area.

We'll be back for more!"

David Fann provided photos...

Trout Lily

Dan Pittillo

David Danley



Carrie Radcliffe and David Danley

Dan getting a close up of trout lily by Karen Lawrence

Thank you to David Fann for providing these photos.David Fann's Photos of the day

Carrie's shots from the day

Here are a few more shots from the day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Smith Gilbert Gardens Visit by Flo Chaffin

Smith Gilbert Gardens Visit
April 14, 2014

Dark gray skies, low ceiling: the forecast was for rain. We met at 11 on the steps of the house at Smith Gilbert Gardens for a tour of the house and gardens led by Robert Gilbert. As we waited for the last folks to arrive, the raindrops started falling. So we walked around to the carriage house and started the day with a delicious picnic lunch.
Lunch gave us time to get to know each other a bit. We all met Ann Parsons, the new Director at Smith Gilbert. I was lucky enough to be at her end of the table, so I heard a little about her background at the Norfolk Botanical Garden and a garden in Miami (the name escapes me now). We all had questions about the beginnings of the garden, so Bob patiently answered them, and threw in a few choice stories to go along.
Lunch was finished, but the rain had just gotten started. So we loaded up with raincoats and umbrellas and started out into the “heart” of the garden, under the big pecan, where the garden had its “roots”. Along the way, Bob pointed out favorite or unusual plants, beginning at the small bridge with the Ilex cornuta ‘D’Or’, a gold berried Chinese holly that came originally from Callaway Gardens. And of course he also talked about the sculptures along the paths, too. “Woman and Dog” by Marcia Pels has a great story behind it. Marcia was a friend, Bob said, and he and Richard knew this work as something of a reflection of her life. She had only managed to have long term relationships with the dogs in her life. At some point, she called them with a proposition: if they wanted the sculpture, she would sell it to them for the price of a trip to Europe with her new boyfriend. The payments must come in monthly installments so that, while traveling, they would be sure not to run out of money. So Richard and Bob got the sculpture, and she and the boyfriend got the trip, but I believe in the end, she was left only with the dog.

It would be too much to recount all the wonderful stories about plants and sculptures. We spent a couple of hours walking through the gardens. It rained some, and more, and some again. I’ll just name a few that I remember, and include the photos of as many as I can.
The woodland gardens are filled with masses of wildflowers and perennials. I can’t remember seeing such large clumps of Bloodroot, Solomon’s Seal, Mayapple, Wood Poppy, Hosta, Farfugium, Fern, Cyclamen in one garden. We wound our way past mature specimen Japanese Maples, masses of Rhododendron, multiple species of Illicium, and Ilex. We witnessed Magnolia acuminata v. sub-cordata in full glorious bloom. And we noted various species of Crataegus (Hawthorn) sprinkled throughout the garden, with the favorite being the Parsley Hawthorn, also in full bloom.
We moved on through the rain into the conifer garden. My, how it has grown since first planted! It is stunning, and gaining momentum. We followed on to the ponds and Scree Garden. Although the ice and snow this winter took out two very large trees, the sculptures and much of the garden was spared, and I think it is on its way back even now. We all got to sit for a spell in the “not quite” Tea House overlooking the waterfall and ponds. What a marvelous spot for repose, and for coffee and dessert with friends.
We were pretty well soaked when we got back to the house. On the screened porch we shed our wet things and went into the kitchen to begin the house tour. While the exact layout of the rooms has changed over the years, the house itself remains a lovely and solid piece of architecture, enhanced by Richard and Bob’s thoughtful modifications and incredible attention to detail. We heard a great story about the hall mural, which was the last piece of the renovation work, and almost wasn’t included at all. But in the end, the artist offered up a mature and beautiful work, and I believe Bob might have also matured a bit in that process.
I personally have toured the garden and grounds once before with Bob as the tour guide. I was amazed and inspired then, and this time was no different. The plant material is amazing. The mature specimens are enlightening. The house is gorgeous. The art, including the bonsai collection, is awe inspiring. The thirty plus years of day to day work that went into this place reflects such culture, such high standards, and such love, it is difficult to put into words. But when you visit, you feel it in your bones. It was a gray, soggy, gorgeous, brilliant, eye opening day, and I think we all felt privileged to be included.