Arnold Promise

Witch Hazel 'Arnold Promise'

Much to the delight of our visitors, we were able to exhibit several Witch Hazel cuttings at an event recently, taken from the shrubs at the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens. This one is ‘Arnold Promise’, one of the Arnold Arboretum’s most famous plant introductions. We really love its striking yellow tendrils, and always look forward to it blossoming in the Gardens in late winter.

To read more about this stunning plant, we refer you to an Arnold Arboretum blog post: https://www.arboretum.harvard.edu/the-ultimate-early-bloomer/

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Cedar of Lebanon

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Another of our noteworthy trees in the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens is the Cedar of Lebanon (cedrus libani). A slow growing tree that can live thousands of years, the Cedar of Lebanon has existed in the world for many millennia and is often said to have been planted by God. (Ours, of course, is still very young by comparison!) There are many biblical references to the Cedar of Lebanon – a symbol of strength, beauty and majesty.

A mature Cedar of Lebanon has a massive trunk, a flattened top and broad spreading horizontal branching. Lower branches typically remain on the tree as it ages, often touching the ground. It is a slow-growing tree that will typically grow to 40-60’ tall.  The needles resemble those of the larch, but are evergreen. The needles are grouped in tufts of 30-40, are a dark blue-green color, and stay attached to the tree for 2 years. When they fall to the ground they don’t decay for several years.

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The tree has had many practical uses throughout its existence. One of the most valued construction timbers in ancient history, the wood was used by the Phoenicians to build ships, and by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and Persians to construct houses and temples. Cedar resin was used for mummification, and its bark used for various medicinal purposes. The Ottomans used cedar wood as fuel for railway engines. And the list goes on.

The tree is symbolic of Lebanon and still graces its flag, yet after millennia of harvesting the tree is in trouble.  In 1876, Queen Victoria ordered a protective wall to be built around a 102-hectare grove, but deforestation continued despite this. In recent decades the cedars have been declared a protected natural resource. By then, this immense forest had been reduced to just a couple of hundred specimens that grew in a handful of isolated patches.

One of the few remaining stands of ancient cedars is the “Cedars of God”  located in the Qadisha Valley and is said to be the oldest remaining cedar grove in existence. In 1998 it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  While deforestation is not a major problem there now, climate change is a huge concern instead. Global warming has interrupted the natural ability for the trees to viably reproduce, so in recent years there has been an effort to regenerate the cedar forests through planting programs. I refer you to a great article by The New York Times about the current situation.

Our wee Cedar of Lebanon is only an upstart compared to its ancestors, but we hope that future generations will see it continue to grow into a majestic specimen. After all, “A man does not plant a tree for himself; he plants it for posterity.” (Alexander Smith – 1863)

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London Plane – a great winter tree!

London Plane Tree

On a blue-sky winter day like today, we will sometimes get questions from visitors about the funky tree near the street that has “dangling ornaments”. We know immediately they are referring to our London Plane (Platanus × acerifolia), a cross between the American Sycamore and the Oriental planetree.

Our London Plane was planted in 1995, so is still a young tree. It is beautiful in the summer months, with lovely large leaves that resemble maple leaves. (Fun fact: all sycamores, including London plane-trees have alternate branch and leaf arrangement, while all maples have opposite branching.)

But in the winter, when the leaves are gone, one can fully appreciate other features of the tree, including the lovely “dangling ornaments” as well as the great camouflage bark.

Nature's Ornament

The “dangling ornaments” are its fruits which are in aggregates of hundreds in a round ball about 2.5 cm (1″) across. Many remain on the tree into winter, but eventually fall to the ground and break apart.

The other really interesting feature is the bark, which exfoliates to reveal a colourful camouflage pattern. While this feature is present year round, it is often better appreciated in the winter.

London Plane Tree

Our London Plane is also graced with some climbing ivy, adding even more interest.

London Plane Tree

A little extra reading:

An interesting resource about the history of the London Plane is found in an article from, well, London of course! The Secret History of the London Plane Tree.

A Tree for All Seasons – Seven-son Flower

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Another very interesting tree in the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens is the Heptacodium miconioides or Seven-son Flower, located along the path towards our Rose Garden.  Native to China, it is a rare plant and reportedly may no longer be found in the wild.

As the name indicates, the flower heads tend to be comprised of seven flowers. It blooms in late summer, unlike most other trees, providing a September highlight.

Seven Sons

After the blossoms finish, the autumn colour of  its “afterbloom”, comprised of tiny fruit surrounded by showy rose coloured calyces, is stunning.  The tree is a good source of nectar for butterflies.

And of course the incredible exfoliating bark adds year round interest. Today, we have winter photos to show, as it is indeed winter!

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For more information on this unique plant, and other photos, visit the Missouri Botanical Garden plant database. (This is a good resource for information on many plants – you may want to bookmark it!)

Fun fact – While the heptacodium is presumed to be named for the typical number of flowers in a whorl, it features a variety of numbers in its display:

  • 7 flowers
  • 6 petals on each flower
  • 5 calyces on each “afterbloom”

Next time you are in the Historic Gardens, be sure to keep an eye out for this unique garden resident.

A Living Fossil – the Dawn Redwood.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides - Dawn Redwood

One of the more notable trees in the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens is the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). The Dawn Redwood is a unique and magnificent tree, and one with a very interesting history as well.

The Dawn Redwood is a tall tree with fern-like, feathery needles. One of its unusual features is that it is a deciduous conifer – the needles change from green to russet brown in the fall and then drop from the tree. The resulting “winter” look is quite striking, as seen above.

Another interesting feature of the Dawn Redwood is the bark – rough, red and sometimes peels in long strips.

The history of the Dawn Redwood is a very interesting one. It existed on earth more than 50 million years ago, the only sign of existence being fossils found in Asia and North America. That all changed in 1941 when a Chinese botanist discovered an unusual tree in a remote village – samples later confirmed that it was a Dawn Redwood. A few years later a grove of Dawn Redwood was discovered in an isolated valley in China. The Arnold Arboretum was the first North American institution to receive seeds and was instrumental in their distribution to botanical gardens and universities around the world. Now, seven decades later, the Dawn Redwood is commercially available in garden centres and nurseries everywhere. For more in depth reading on the history of the Dawn Redwood, have a look at this publication by the Arnold Arboretum.

If you want one for your own property, plan carefully – it grows very tall, 70-100 feet, and  can reach up to 40 feet in width. But given the space, it is a magnificent tree. Below is a photo taken several winters ago showing the long shadow cast by one of our Dawn Redwoods… in the centre of the shot.

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We actually have several Dawn Redwoods in the Gardens, very close to our pond bridge. Have a look next time you are visiting!

Maple Mania

Maple Mania – When we think of maples, most often we think of the iconic Sugar Maple and its beautiful fall foliage. But there are lots of other great maples, and many cool features besides the beautiful maple leaf that is so very Canadian.
 
The bark of various types of maple in the Historic Gardens add interest all year long. You have to get up close – the beauty is in the details. Here we have the rough bark of the Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus), and the pretty designs of two of the striped (or snakebark) maples you will find here – the native Acer pensylvanicum and the Asian Acer rufinerve.
 
Fun fact – our native striped maple is also referred to as “Goosefoot Maple” for its broad, three-pronged leaves. Check one out next summer!
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Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)

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Native Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum)

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An Asian Striped Maple (Acer rufinerve)

Camouflage Bark

We often post photos of colourful blossoms and beautiful landscapes in the Historic Gardens. Today we wanted to change things up a bit. Some of our unsung heroes in the Gardens are also our largest residents – the trees. While they are magnificent, many of their features are overlooked by visitors as the colours of summer take the eye. In the winter one has more opportunity to look more closely at the trees, and notice some of the unique features.
 
These three photos show the “camouflage” bark that exists on some of our trees – shown are the Kousa Dogwood, Japanese Stewartia, and London Plane trees. Each have other cool features as well, but the mottled bark is worth a second look!
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For more information on the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens, visit www.historicgardens.com