At Willowwood, the summer of 2022 will be best remembered in one word – watering! The long stretch of dry and warm weather necessitated watering recently added plant accessions. Surprisingly, numerous well-established plants showed stress and required irrigation. Thankfully, the rains returned and our plants and gardeners are no longer looking stressed.
Despite the drought and heat, annuals continued to bloom beautifully. Additional plants were added to the Rosarie and looking very colorful. Edits and additions are still being made to this garden, including bulbs.
Another area in need change was the Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry) bed, adjacent to the Tubbs House. Several shrubs were slowly consuming the bed. As they grew, the garden had lost much of the early spring detail it had once displayed. These shrubs were transplanted into an area by the tent lawn, allowing the White Forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum) to ‘breathe’ once again. Species tulips will be planted to the area this fall and additional herbaceous plants are planned for a spring planting.
In typical fashion, the spring bulb displays will be planted in November. We will focus on using bulbs outside of the large flowering tulips. Thanks to a grant from the Willowwood Foundation, daffodils, various grape hyacinths, summer snowflakes, camas and fritillarias will be used to create a colorful spring display. We will be planting 2,000 Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica) bulbs in the Winter Garden. These are a deep blue flower that slowly spread to bloom in early to mid-March, providing years of attractive color.
As always, there is a lot of activity at Willowwood. I hope that you will be able to come out soon on a weekday to chat with the gardeners or take a long quiet stroll on a weekend. The air is crisp and cool with some fall color persisting, making this a wonderful time of the year to enjoy the Arboretum.
Manager of Horticulture, Morris County Parks Commission
With Halloween just around the corner this Monday, this weekend kicks off the festivities for families throughout the state. While no festive events are scheduled at the arboretum this weekend, visitors are encouraged to come visit to enjoy the orange leaves, natural spider webs, and enjoy the trails while covered in early morning fog for some spooky fun!
We were worried that the drought this summer would cause the plants to turn brown rather than showcase their usual bright colors but the significant rain in the last two months has helped revive the plants for a brilliant display. This weekend will be a great time to enjoy fall color since the Japanese maples are finally reaching their peak. Some favorites are the bright yellow Acer ‘Waterfall’ near the small waterfall in the Cypress pool, the Acer palmatum ‘Ornatum’ which was planted by Robert Tubbs in 1910, and the intensely red Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ across from the Metasequoia. Fall foliage can be tricky to time at Willowwood since different types of trees have different timing. The native maples changed colors early and have lost most of their leaves while the Japanese maples only began to change colors this week. The Katsura have already dropped their sweet, yellow leaves but the Ginkgo has recently turned colors to a summery yellow. Meanwhile, a pear tree near the lilac collection in highland park turned a bold orange this week just in time for Halloween. As always, nature’s timing is on mother nature’s schedule.
Overnight frosts have already hit the gardens this month and sent the gardeners for their pruners and shovels to remove spent plants from the gardens. However, several late-season bloomers haven’t been discouraged by the cold weather. These include asters such as Aster tataricus ‘Jindai’ and Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’ which are both in bloom in the cottage garden. There are also Anemone throughout the garden such as Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ in Pan’s Garden. A staff favorite, Tricyrtis formosana ‘Amythestina’ is also in bloom around the large wooden barn closest to the main house. Seasonal fruits are also appearing in the garden such as Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Gold’.
We hope that you enjoyed visiting the Willowwood Arboretum this year and will come back to visit again!
With the growing season coming to a close, please be mindful that the annual wildlife management program will be in effect with several closures in December and January for firearm hunts. For up-to-date information on park closures and events, please visit the morrisparks.net website.
Tom Molnar will provide an overview of the Rutgers University dogwood breeding program from its start in the late 1960s to today including the development of “hybrid” dogwoods by plant breeder Dr. Elwin Orton to the new color breakthrough yielding the dark pink Cornus kousa ‘Rutpink’ Scarlet Fire® dogwood. He will also provide a glimpse at exciting plants now in the development pipeline.
Tom Molnar is an Associate Professor in the Plant Biology Department at Rutgers University. He obtained his PhD from Rutgers in 2006, and today is responsible for the Rutgers’ program dedicated to research and breeding of hazelnuts and woody ornamental landscape plants. The woody ornamental program is primarily focused on dogwoods including Cornus kousa and Cornus florida and their hybrids, and builds upon decades of previous work at Rutgers started by Dr. Elwin Orton in the 1960s. Tom’s new kousa dogwood cultivar, Scarlet Fire®, exemplifies the programs’ goals to develop and release attractive, high-value plants that incorporate disease resistance, wide-adaptation, and unique colors that are of interest to homeowners and the nursery and landscape industry in New Jersey and beyond.
Autumn leaves are swirling and we have reached another lovely FALL season at Willowwood. And while members of the Willowwood Foundation Board of Trustees are already busy planning for a spectacular SPRING, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge some “changing of the guard.” We thank trustees Peter Williams and Margo Dana for their years of service as we welcome Olga Christie to our Board. In addition, Leslie Allain, our long time administrator whom many of you know, has now fully retired. Our debt to her is tremendous and we are thrilled that she has joined our board. We are pleased to report that Patti Millar has accepted the position of Foundation Administrator and she has hit the ground running!
You will no doubt meet Patti on May 21, 2023 on the occasion of our long-awaited, newly re-imagined SILVER ANNIVERSARY LILAC PARTY. Save the date for a bash that will appeal to each of your senses as we celebrate spring. Keep your eyes peeled for regular updates in this space and on Instagram.
While your calendar is handy please make note of another unique opportunity, the 7th annual Tubbs lecture slated for April 23 in the Stone Barn. Tom Molnar, an associate professor at Rutgers will provide an overview of the University’s longtime dogwood breeding program.
The Foundation’s commitment to the glorious vision of the Tubbs Brothers remains stronger than ever as we continues to work closely with Morris County Parks to support horticultural initiatives, professional internships and staff education, educational programming, and scholarships. Please support our programs and events and be sure to visit the Arboretum, a place of beauty and joy in every season.
Summer 2022 is here in all its glory and change is in the air. I am pleased to announce that the Willowwood Foundation Board has recently added a new trustee, Olga Christie of Far Hills. Olga is an accomplished gardener and photographer. Native plants, trees, and shrubs reign supreme in her home garden and her passion for nature photography has been beautifully expressed through her images of Willowwood Arboretum in all seasons. We are delighted to welcome Olga to the Board.
After another stunning and showy season our lilacs are sleeping once again. But have no fear! They will spring back to life in time for our 25th Lilac Party next May. So please save the date: May 21, 2023. The Lilac Party Committee is hard at work planning an exciting reawakening event after our long period of covid hibernation. More details to follow.
If you haven’t been by the Arboretum lately, be sure to put a visit on your summer “to do” list. Of special note is the newly renovated Rosarie. There are several unique features including an eye-popping “purple door” and a gentle water feature which adds coolness and a sense of peace to the lovely environment.
Special thanks to MCPC staff member Zinnia Cheatham, Plant Records Curator Specialist, for her informative bloom reports and Instagram posts.
With best wishes for a safe and happy summer.
Meryl Carmel President, Willowwood Foundation
Planning Your Event
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