Monday, September 17, 2007

Why Not Conifers?

That's the answer I received when I asked the Canadian woman sitting next to me at dinner Friday night what had brought her to the American Conifer Society's Northeast Region's Annual Meeting. I figured she must be an obsessed collector like so many of the other 150+ attendees. But she was just interested in learning more about plants. And why not conifers?

Why not indeed? They're fascinating.

Friday's dinner was followed by a presentation from Dr. Richard L. Bitner, whose new book "Conifers for Gardens" has just been published by Timber Press. In the morning, after breakfast (at 6:30!!!), we hopped on three buses and after an inexplicably circuitous trip arrived an hour and a half or so later at Cornell Plantations, one of my Very Favorite Places in the Whole World. It looked as good as ever.

From Plantations we traveled north, through Skaneateles to Sycamore Hill, the gardens of George and Karen Hanford. This amazing place is only 15 years in the making from what I understand. It's not open to the public except for at certain times, so if you see a chance to get in there, grab it. The conifer collection alone is astounding, but there is a lot more going on, too. Ponds, fountains, statuary, all variety of trees, shrubs and perennials, and lots and lots of little areas���������it's really a wild place. (And by wild of course I mean wildly cultivated.) I won't get too much farther into it, because Michelle Buckstrup is actually profiling the garden for our January issue. Watch for that.

The Maze.

The Ruins, a work in progress.

Ah. I loved this. My favorite plant of the day. It looks like golden afternoon sunlight is reflecting off the needles of this spruce. In fact, the day was quite gloomy. This is Picea mariana 'Golden', which glows all on its own.

After dinner Saturday night came the silent auction results, and then the live auction which was as raucous as promised. I did snag a plant, though not a conifer. It was a Japanese maple, 'Atrolinaire', donated by Diana Smith at Topiary Gardens���������many of the group had visited her Friday and raved about the place. I am looking forward to stopping there the next time I am Syracuse way.

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