October’s Bloom Where You Are Planted Edition
Photo by Paul W. Meyer
Our History at Home offerings typically sprout from history and architecture. Today, and once every month, we offer a conservation cornucopia from the Conservancy and some friends on trees, gardening, and stormwater management. We hope to help you “Bloom Where You Are Planted.”
October – Black Gum, Tupelo
by Paul W. Meyer, Conservancy Board Member and
Morris Arboretum’s Retired F. Otto Haas Executive Director
For a native tree that is widely distributed across most of eastern North America, black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) is surprisingly little known in our landscapes. Perhaps it is because its entire, dark green, oval leaves are relatively nondescript. Or maybe it is because it is usually widely scattered in woodlands, seldom in pure stands. Also, since it is relatively slow-growing and difficult to transplant, many landscapers elect to plant another tree that might provide more instant gratification. Though not widely planted here in its native homeland, it is revered and celebrated in gardens and arboreta abroad, especially in the U.K. and Europe.
Black gum is indeed an exceptional shade tree that should be more widely planted here in its homeland. In the Wissahickon Valley it can be found growing naturally on the streamside as well as on the dry, higher slopes. It is a tall canopy tree and its foliage in the forest is often hard to observe.
Its flowers are small, and not likely to attract attention, unless you are a honeybee. Honey from tupelo flowers (especially the more southern species Nyssa ogeche) was made famous by the 1971 Van Morrison hit song and is sometimes called the “queen of honey”. Flowers on individual trees tend to be largely male or female (polygamo-dioecious). Female flowers successfully pollenated produce small blue-black fruits in the autumn that are relished by birds and other wildlife.
Black gum’s outstanding moment of fame comes in late October and early November when the shiny, dark green leaves take on shades of yellow, orange and especially, vivid crimson. The iconic grove of black gums at the Morris Arboretum, growing on the slope above the rose garden, creates a dramatic show year after year.
Increasingly, black gum trees grown in large containers are being sold, making transplanting easier and more reliably successful. Also, in recent decades, cultivars have become available that are selected for their upright form, resistance to leaf spot diseases and most important, exceptional fall color. Two popular cultivars that are becoming available are ‘Green Gable’ and ‘Wildfire’.
Planting a black gum is an investment for the next generation. Though slow growing, a black gum can live for hundreds of years and achieve heights of over 100 feet. It is well adapted to most soil conditions, but not high pH.
I have seen evidence in recent years that black gum can tolerate stressful streetside conditions, including several trees growing here in Chestnut Hill along Germantown Avenue. Last spring two black gums were planted in the small park just below Mermaid Inn and a small specimen of Nyssa sylvatica ‘Wildfire’ will soon be planted in Pastorius Park near Lincoln Drive by the Friends of Pastorius Park.
See the full gallery of images HERE.
Photos by Paul W. Meyer
Top: An outstanding grove of black gums grow on the hillside above the rose garden at the Morris Arboretum. Some trees are well over 100 years old while many younger trees arose from root sprouts of fallen trees blown over by the 1991 tornado.
Second: Recent city plantings of black gums demonstrate good adaptability to stressful urban growing conditions. These trees are growing near the Comcast Center in center city Philadelphia.
Third: A young black gun growing along the 7900 block of Germantown Avenue.
Fourth: A black gum with its beautiful fall foliage.
Fifth: Black gums are perhaps the best native tree for vivid, shiny red autumn color.
Sixth: A black gum growing on Germantown Avenue displays the first hints of fall color.
Bottom Photo: Snow highlights the attractive silhouette of a mature black gum at the Morris Arboretum.
See the entire gallery of images for this month’s article at our Tree of the Month page! Visit our History at Home page for more information.
Chestnut Hill Conservancy is regularly highlighting special trees in our community, both large and small, as well as common and obscure. In doing so, we hope to promote an appreciation of our arbor legacy and foster a culture of stewardship and renewal of this invaluable resource.
October – Color in the Garden
by Emilie Lapham, Conservancy Board Member, avid gardener, botanical artist, and active participant in several noted local and national garden organizations.
Color in the Garden
Color is one of life’s pleasures. Talking about color can be an intricate topic as there are so many associations and emotions that color brings about. Around the world, cultures attach some surpassingly different attitudes to a given color. The color wheel explains how all colors are derived from the basic 3 primary colors red, yellow and blue but color in nature color is so so much more subtle and blended. In talking about the use of color in your garden, let’s think about what pleases you.
House & Garden
Context and the relationship of architecture and the surrounding landscape should be thought of in a harmonious manner. Does your house present a color palette to complement or would contrast be a good idea? If you like a color scheme that is not in keeping with the house, choose a location that is away from the house. Gardens can be thought of by area and plantings, so different color schemes can add interest. Color can even drive design concepts and ideas. The famous English gardens of Sissinghurst are a fine example of color as an important design tool. Vita Sackville West and Harold Nicolson developed the elegant White Garden and several gardens based on a single color. Sissinghurst is a must for garden travelers.
The Philadelphia region enjoys a climate that offers four seasons with some distinct differences. As seasons vary so can the colors, and some plants change with the season in lovely subtle ways, for example hydrangeas. It is no surprise that after the monochromatic grays and browns of the winter landscape, bright and even rather garish colors are most welcome! However, the winter landscape has a special kind of beauty also.
Color definitely affects physiological disposition, and flowers are known to make us happier. Think of the many ways we use flowers for celebrations and events. Color is part of why we love flowers. In planning a garden think about interesting combinations of colors with some related and some contrasting groups of color. That said, foliage alone can provide an interesting color palate that can be very elegant and calming. There are soft blue greens and bright chartreuse and yellow greens that can combine with deep greens or bronze as a backdrop. There are no rules, color is personal. Never underestimate the power of white, especially near a sitting area enjoyed on summer nights.
Try some new colors from one year to the next. Experiment with ideas through planting some annuals and containers with bursts of color. One success in my garden this year has been some Iceland Poppy seeds. Given the name and the instructions you might think Maine would be a more suitable place to plant these poppies, but I sprinkled some seeds on bare soil in July and this fall there is a daily show of exquisite colorful flowers and they change daily. One more idea for color in the garden is the objects. Furniture, pots, sculpture and even pumpkins can add a spot of color to a garden. Grow in living color!
All Photos by Emilie Lapham
Top: Bold color from an Icelandic Poppy. Second: Rising Sun Eastern Redbud, Cercius Canadensis. Third: Harmonious color of Dogwood and house. Fourth: The first burst of color, early spring. Fifth: A band of bright colors lights up the block. Sixth: Soft pink tones of October. Seventh: Light yellow Baptisia. Eighth: Chartreuse repeated in tiny splashes. Ninth: Icelandic Poppy. Tenth: Let a pretty weed stay for a while. Bottom: Foggy Fall morning.
See the entire gallery of images for this month’s article at our A Gardener’s World page! Visit our History at Home page for more information.
Smart Homes & Utilizing Technology to Manage Risk
Wednesday, November 3, 2021 at 7:00 pm (Virtual)
Chestnut Hill resident Allison DeCaro, a principal with the insurance brokerage firm Johnson, Kendall & Johnson, will join expert risk consultant Rick Albers in presenting the latest advances in automated home protections including fire and security systems, water mitigation, personal cyber security, and best practices when renovating or building a home.
A free, virtual program, Ask the Experts addresses a featured topic by an expert on prevalent issues relating to historic home and landscape care. Ask questions; get solutions! Organized by the Chestnut Hill Conservancy and co-sponsored by the Chestnut Hill Community Association.
Register for this free event HERE.
Ask the Experts is presented with support from Johnson, Kendall & Johnson.
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  • November 4 – Historic District Advisory Committee Public Meeting 6:30pm. Register HERE for a Zoom link to attend
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Always feel free to contact us with any questions about the Conservancy, our programs and events, or your membership at info@chconservancy.org
Chestnut Hill Conservancy | 8708 Germantown AvenuePhiladelphia, PA 19118