1 Yesterday, I welcomed a small group to my home for a guided walking tour of my gardens. The guests included Mrs. Megumi Takahashi, the wife of Mitsui USA CEO Mr. Motomu Takahashi, and the wives of his executive team. The weather was warm and humid, but everyone was excited to see what was blooming. They are all holding maps that identify the various buildings, garden beds, and allees on the farm.
3 Under this prolific climbing hydrangea is one of four trunks of tall white pine ruined by Hurricane Sandy. I am very fond of climbing hydrangeas growing on trees, so we left the trunks there - three years later, they're looking quite pretty. The group agreed.
4 I showed the group how beautiful the hostas and epimedium were doing also. They were so robust in this border below the trees. Epimedium is one of my favorite plants. It is also known as horny goat weed, barrenwort and bishop's hat.
5 Cotinus, commonly known as smoke tree or smoke bush, is an upright, loose spreading shrub with leaves that are deciduous, and simple oval-shaped. The smooth, rounded leaves come in shades of yellow, deep purple, green and pinkish bronze.
6 As we neared the entrance of the main greenhouse, I pointed out more hostas, but also the young Camperdown elm trees. I have several more mature specimens growing around the farm. Grown as beautiful shade trees, eventually these trees will create a lovely canopy of lush foliage right at the door to the greenhouse.
7 I led the group into my main greenhouse to show them all the exotic and tropical plants inside, which are often used to decorate my home during parties and other gatherings. In the forefront is a jade plant, Crassula, also commonly known as friendship tree, lucky plant or money tree. Jade plant care is not hard - the important thing is to allow it to dry in between waterings.
8 This is a giant Staghorn fern, Platycerium. It is an epiphyte, meaning it grows on other plants, and has fronds that are upright and form a bowl. It grows best in bright, indirect sunlight and prefers moist air. Here's a link to more information on these great plants on my web site. http://www.marthastewart.com/266466/staghorn-ferns-101
9 We walked into my cutting garden, and I explained how it was once my vegetable garden until mole crickets forced us to move the vegetables to another area.
10 Fortunately, mole crickets don't eat flowers, so all the flowers in this garden are thriving.
11 The poppies are all starting to bloom beautifully. Poppies are herbaceous annual, biennial or short-lived perennial plants. The flowers have four to six petals, and many stamens. The petals are very showy and come in almost every color.
12 Poppies require very little care if they are grown in soil that drains well and gets full sun. The only downfall - poppies have a relatively short bloom span.
13 These climbing rose bushes are also doing nicely. Look at all the buds that are just waiting to open. Last month, we transplanted a few of the climbing rose bushes to these tower trellises. These are some of the many rose bushes that were transferred here from my home in East Hampton two years ago. I am so happy with how well they're doing.
14 The peonies in the perennial border were blooming. I told the group they would see a lot more peonies a bit later in the tour. The peony is a flowering plant in the genus Paeonia. Most are herbaceous, perennial plants with deeply lobed leaves and large, beautiful, fragrant flowers.
15 We stopped for a quick group shot in front of the cutting garden and the perennial border. The gentleman next to me is Jamie Unwin from PS Tailored Events. http://pstailoredevents.com
16 Along the clematis pergola, the group got to see the wonderful palette of blues and purples. The alliums are so big and beautiful right now. And, on each granite post, is a different clematis. They are a little late in blooming this year, but they are starting to come up nicely.
17 Clematis is a genus of about 300-species. They are mostly vigorous, woody, climbing vines. They need at least six hours of sun a day, and should be planted in well-drained soil. They have deep roots, so they should also be watered thoroughly.
18 Here is another clematis. These plants are valued for their ability to climb, and to scramble up walls, fences and other structures. They grow in any good garden soil and their roots usually do well in moist cool areas where they can get full sun.
19 We moved on to look at the bald cypress trees. Bald cypress, Taxodium distichum, is a deciduous conifer. The leaves are borne on deciduous branchlets that are spirally arranged on the stem. Bald cypress trees lose their leaves in winter months, hence the name "bald."
20 A cypress knee is a term used to describe the distinctive structures that form above the roots of cypress trees. The knees are woody projections that grow above the water line. Some botanists say they provide oxygen to the roots, while others claim it serves a more structural support function.
21 As we walked toward the Winter House, we stopped to look at an old apple tree. This is one tree with only one trunk; however, the other two stem-like structures you see are actually "crutches" we built to support the heavy weight of the branches.
22 The next stop was this Linden Tree Allee between two of my horse paddocks. The linden tree, Tilia, is also referred to as basswood or lime, though it is not related at all to the lime fruit. They are straight stemmed trees with smooth bark - a very nice tree for roomy landscapes.
23 A lovely picture of Mrs. Megumi Takahashi and Chef Pierre Schaedelin of PS Tailored Events.
24 As I led the group toward the Summer House we stopped and looked at some plants along the way, including this Astilboides tabularis. Just look at its giant leaves! The leaves can measure about 24-inches across. This plant provides such a dramatic effect in the garden.
25 Magnolia is a genus of about 200 flowering plants. It belongs in the family, Magnoliaceae. They usually grow on acidic soils that are rich in nutrients. They have dark green, oval-shaped leaves and produce one to three inch wide flowers that have up to 18 tepals. For more information on Magnolia trees, go to my web site. http://www.marthastewart.com/248931/magnolia-trees#248931
26 Look at the beautiful magnolia bloom. Magnolias are prized for their flowers and forms, and produce large fragrant flowers that are white, pink, red, purple or yellow.
27 The group couldn't wait to see the herbaceous peony collection - it is just beginning to pop with bright pinks, and whites. It was the perfect location for another quick photo.
28 Peonies are native throughout the northern hemisphere and have been cultivated for centuries both in Europe and in Asia. Herbaceous peonies are the most well-known. They are perennial plants that bloom during the transition from spring to summer. When blooming, this garden is the most eye-catching.
29 Peonies bloom for about seven to 10 days, but their shining green foliage lasts the season before dying back to the ground in winter. To perform best, peony plants should get at least five hours of full sun with rich, well-drained soil.
30 Peonies are relatively drought-tolerant when well established. If you look closely, you will see a strand of twine underneath this bloom. Peony flower stems may not always be strong enough to keep the often heavy and showy flowers upright, so staking is often essential.
31 Just look how gorgeous the flowers are. I planted 11-rows of peonies in this garden and there are two varieties in each, so a total of 22 types of peonies.
32 The tree peonies were in full bloom a couple of weeks ago, but there were still a few beautiful flowers for the group to see.
33 There are several ginkgo trees in my newest garden behind the Summer House. The scientific name is Ginkgo biloba. They are broadleaf, deciduous trees with uniquely fan shaped leaves that start out green but change to golden fall foliage. They are hardy, disease resistant trees.
34 The garden is still a work in progress; however, it is coming along nicely. The boxwood 'tide hill' which is the light green you see here is a dwarf Korean boxwood cultivar that usually only grows to one-foot tall. It's a beautiful shade of green that pops in this garden.
35 After seeing the garden behind the Summer House, my gardener, Ryan, took over the tour that followed the carriage road to the stable.
36 The group stopped to see Ban Chunch, the Fell pony I acquired for my grandchildren. He is always eager to see visitors. The Fell is a versatile, working breed of mountain pony originating in England. It was originally bred on the fell farms and used as a driving and riding mount.
37 The next stop on the tour was a visit with the peahens. Peafowl are forest birds that nest on the ground and then roost in trees. They are also among the largest of the flying birds. When these birds are born, it is difficult to assess their sex. Now that they are a bit older, we've found out they are all peahens.
38 The horse-chestnut was still showing many beautiful flowers. This Aesculus hippocastnum is a large deciduous tree commonly known as the horse-chestnut or conker tree. It's easy to spot by its showy bright pink flowers.
39 While the group was down by the stable, we took a quick picture.
40 From the Boxwood Allee, the group could see the horses grazing in the paddock. Four of my wonderful Friesians were outside - Rutger, Ramon, Rinze and Meindert.
41 The Weeping Copper beech tree, Fagus sylvatica, has sweeping pendulous branches and purple leaves. The stem of the tree is often not visible because of the weeping branches, but it's there. This tree needs moisture and well-drained soil and prefers sunny to semi-shaded locations in order to thrive.
42 From a distance, the group could see the beautiful Weeping willow trees. Salix babylonica is a medium to large sized tree, with alternate and spirally arranged, narrow light green leaves.
43 The group then walked through the Pin Oak Allee. I love Pin oaks because they are so easy to maintain and grow relatively fast. Its canopy is very distinctive because the upper branches point upwards, the middle branches are perpendicular and the lower branches drop downward.
44 The tour also took the group past the beautiful Malus 'Gravenstein' espalier apple trees. There were lots of small fruits for everyone to see. I love these crisp and juicy apples, which are great for eating, cooking and baking.
45 These attractive apples were first introduced to western North America in the early 19th century with the Russian fur traders that settled in California's Sonoma Valley. I can't wait for apple picking season.
46 It was time for a late morning snack. Because it was so warm and humid, we had cookies and punch in my kitchen. Chef Pierre made these delicious cookies for the group - they all disappeared quickly.
47 There was also a delicious punch. My longtime housekeeper, Laura, makes it for our tour groups - pomegranate juice with lemon and orange. It's made from concentrate given to me by Pom Wonderful, and it is delicious. http://www.pomwonderful.com/
48 The group was curious about the large mortar that sat on my kitchen counter. I said it was used for guacamole, but most often, it's used for "cat-a-mole" because it is a favorite resting spot for Empress Tang.
49 Mrs. Megumi Takahashi and I posed for one more picture at the end of the lovely tour.