Category: Horticulture Highlight

Horticulture Highlight: Willow, Salix sp.

April 5, 2022

Horticulture Highlight: Willow, Salix sp.

Willow weep for me, willow weep for me

Bend your branches green along the stream that runs to sea

            -Ann Ronell

Composer/songwriter Ann Ronell (1905-1993) recounted that her 1932 popular hit song (covered by scores of recording artists since then) was originally inspired while at Radcliffe, by beautiful willows on/near campus. Before and since then, innumerable people (and wildlife) have likewise been enthralled with countless willows.


Japanese White Pine

December 1, 2021

the white pine that stands by the lake. Tall and dense, it’s a whistling crest on windy mornings. Otherwise, it’s silent. It looks over the lake and it looks up the road. I don’t mean it has eyes. It has long bunches of needles, five to each bundle. From its crown springs a fragrance, the air is sharp with it. Everything is in it. But no single part can be separated from another…

              -Mary Oliver

 Whenever I think of or hear the name Japanese White Pine, Pinus parviflora, an immediate image is of one with a great blue heron resting on a long horizontal branch spanning above the placid water of Auburn Lake, which created a mirrored reflection.


Autumn Joy Sedum

October 5, 2021

No spring, nor summer beauty hath such grace,
As I have seen in one autumnal face.
-John Donne

Expected autumnal beauty is usually delivered with striking leaf colors as with our tupelo, Franklin tree, fothergilla, Virginia sweetspire, and of course maples to cite just a few. Herein however we sing our praise for a late-bloomer with reliable deep-red or raspberry flowers amongst the surrounding cornucopia of fall foliage.

Autumn Joy Sedum, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is a lovely, award-winning (Royal Horticultural Society) herbaceous perennial. This is a hybrid originated in Germany between Sedum spectabile and Sedum telephium, which had the original name of ‘Herbstfreude’.


Balloon Flower

September 7, 2021

bring the balloon of the mind

that bellies and drags in the wind

into its narrow shed.


Herein our balloons are tangible and closer to the ground, the long-blooming Balloon Flower, Platycodon grandifloras. Before these chalice-shaped, blue to purple, but also less commonly white or pink flowers open, their flower buds swell into little sphere-shapes, hence the common name. These buds will pop audibly when squeezed, but take our word for it let them flower instead. Within the CAMPANULACEAE, the bellflower family, this genus contains only one species (monotypic) although there are numerous cultivated varieties. This species and several of its cultivars have been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit blooming from late-June to September.

Purple flowers of Platycodon grandifloras

This perennial is native to eastern Asia and will have stems reaching 2-3-feet high. Balloon Flower is used in traditional Chinese medicine. In Korea these plants have culinary usage. In Japan these flowers are included in the Seven Flowers of Autumn which since the Nara Period (710-794) have inspired poetry and art.

On a future visit to Mount Auburn allow yourself to also be inspired by these Balloon Flowers found at Asa Gray Garden and Cypress Avenue.

Blue color is everlastingly appointed by the Deity to be a source of delight.

            -John Ruskin

Why make so much of fragmentary blue

in here and there a bird, or butterfly,

or flower, or wearing-stone, or open eye,

when heaven presents in sheets the solid hue?…

            -Robert Frost