Garden Photo of the Day

Springtime at Acorn Hill

By Kim Charles

Douglas Flory and David Lloyd's property in PA offers a look ahead to what's just around the corner!

"Here are a few photos from Spring 2016 at Acorn Hill, our home in Rosslyn Farms, just outside of Pittsburgh, PA.  Our 75 year old house sits in the shade of a large chinquapin oak which you can see in the first two photos, hence the name Acorn Hill and the giant acorn sculpture in photo #7. (The other large tree you can see in the first photo is a thriving American Elm, one of the few left in our part of the state.)  

We use the space above an old stone wall for daffodils and daylilies, which you can see in the next couple of photos.  Over the years, we've found we have better luck with the tried-and-true varieties, like Mount Hood and King Alfred; a lot of the newer, more exotic-looking narcissus varieties don't naturalize as well for us, and some peter out after a few years, much like tulips.

We also have two beds of wild tulips, (Tulipa turkestanica).  Unlike tulips bred in Holland, these are much shorter, naturalize rapidly, and are not bothered by deer, rabbits, or squirrels.  They are not as showy as Dutch tulips but bloom much earlier, so are a welcome sight in our garden.  The last photo (placed first) is one of our Yoshino cherry trees with an acorn bird house, made by the same local artist, Jack Mayer, who created our large (about 4' high x 6' long) acorn.

I hope you enjoy these glimpses of spring time, especially you northern gardeners who still have weeks of Old Man Winter ahead of you!"

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  1. frankgreenhalgh 02/24/2017

    G'day Douglas & David - The mature elm and oak trees are great, and I love the old stone wall and acorn bird house. I wonder whether the elm hasn't succumbed to Dutch Elm disease because it has some resistance or is simply lucky to escape infection so far. Does anybody know if there are differences in susceptibility of selections of elms to the disease in North America? I also wonder whether there are differences in susceptibility of trees to the elm bark beetle, which is a vector for the fungus causing the disease.

    Thanks guys for your post. Have a great week-end everybody. Cheers from Australia

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 02/24/2017

      Hi Frank. There are elm varieties that are being sold that have resistance to Dutch Elm disease, although I can't name them off the top of my head. The American elm is such a stately tree and it is sad that it has gone the way of the American Chestnut. I grew up on a property in Iowa with dozens of huge elm trees, some two hundred years old; all succumbed except for one young tree. It would be interesting to know why it, and the one in the post, survived.
      Have a great weekend!

      1. floreyd 02/24/2017

        Hi Tim! We are lucky to live near Sewickley, PA where there is a partner organization of the American Chestnut Foundation, which is sponsoring an ongoing project to bring back the American Chestnut! I can't really tell you what adaptations have been made to the genetics or breeding stock but somehow they've boosted its disease resistance--or at least are in the process of doing so.

        1. User avater
          Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 02/24/2017

          Thanks for the info! I took a quick look at the site and got all emotional......So great to see this work being done.

    2. floreyd 02/24/2017

      Hullo, down under, Frank! I am almost completely ignorant of tree wisdom, but have often wondered whether the location of our elm--surrounded on three sides by asphalt driveway, believe it or not, and on the fourth side by a continuation of that stacked stone wall you see, has somehow acted as a sort of quarantine against Dutch elm disease. I could, of course, be completely wrong! Regardless, we feel blessed to be able to live with it and the other old trees on our property!

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/24/2017

    I love your bountiful display of's so satisfying when the clumps are so mature and flower packed. Have you gotten to the point of digging and dividing? I remember your garden and property from an earlier sharing (your signature acorn sculpture is very memorable) and it's nice to see it this time of year. I appreciated reading the info on the advantages of the more wild type tulips. I bought a 100 count blend of apricot colored large ones last fall and not a peep of green is showing. I think the squirrels or voles need to send me a thank you note for providing winter sustenance for them...grrr.

    1. floreyd 02/24/2017

      Meander1, I'm honored that you remember our garden! I guess the acorn is kind of memorable! The species tulips do seem pretty unpalatable to rodents and deer, thankfully. While we haven't had to do much with the daffodils, our woody shrubs have grown in to the point that we need to move some things around and perhaps have a giant shrub give-away. We've only been gardening at Acorn Hill since 2003, and for so long it looked a little bare--then suddenly one year, it looked like a jungle! Funny how that happens! : )

  3. User avater
    treasuresmom 02/24/2017

    I see you have lots of my favorite flower - daffodils!

    1. floreyd 02/24/2017

      Love them! : )

  4. tennisluv 02/24/2017

    Daffodils - truly one of the harbingers of spring. What lovely large clumps you have. Although we are having a warm winter/early spring here in GA (78 Degrees today) and many of my neighbors' Daffodils are blooming, mine have yet to start. The acorn sculptures are great and I really like the Japanese Pagoda on the right side of the retaining wall. I didn't know there was a wild tulip but since tulips are an 'annual' in my neck of the woods (we need to chill them in the fridge before setting them out), I stopped trying to grow them.

    1. floreyd 02/24/2017

      Sonya, try these species tulips! They're so carefree and have spread for us so well. Not sure what zone is too warm, but hopefully they'll do well for you! Thanks for the kind words about our garden. Enjoy the weekend!

  5. NCYarden 02/24/2017

    Gorgeous property. I really like the acorn sculptures to emphasize the trees and locale...clever. I am not familiar with that tulip, but I love it. I'm going to look into seeing if it would naturalize here, because I really can't be bothered with the Dutch type anymore (although Christine did inject a half dozen into a new bed we created - I expect a one time display...sigh). Can't help but smile with all those delightful daffodils. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Luvfall 02/24/2017

      I'm a big fan of the various 'species tulips' which includes Turkestanica and Clusiana (my favorite). They may do well for you because they require less cold to perform. Also, because of their smaller stature the deteriorating foliage is less noticeable in the garden.

      1. NCYarden 02/24/2017

        Nice! Thanks for that bit of info. Going shopping this weekend.

      2. floreyd 02/24/2017

        Thanks for the tips, Luvfall! I agree with you, re: the tattered foliage. Not only less mess, but they seem to decompose much faster than the fleshy leaves of the dutch tulips, which frankly are more mess than they are worth!

    2. floreyd 02/24/2017

      NC Yarden, thanks for your compliments, and for getting our "visual pun" with the giant acorn. I guess we should really place it under the oak, but it's so heavy that I'm pretty sure it's destined to stay where it is!

  6. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 02/24/2017

    Wonderful glimpse of spring, which is coming quite early this year. It's nice to hear that someone else has had problems with some of the newer daffodils. Some of the really unique ones like 'Billy Graham' and "Lorikeet' simply disappeared for me after a couple of years. Love the species tulips. Great retaining wall.

    1. floreyd 02/24/2017

      Tim, isn't it discouraging to spend all that money on fancy daffs and have them skip out on you?! Thank goodness for the old standards. Great bang for our bucks! Hope you have a great weekend--

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 02/24/2017

        Have a great weekend, yourselves! Looking at your other comments, I see that you are having the same reservations as I about early spring. Nice weather and the spring bulbs can take it if the temps dip, but our trees and some other perennials? Ouch! Keep on sharing your garden.

  7. Chris_N 02/24/2017

    The oaks are wonderful trees and the drifts of daffodils are impressive. I like your species tulips. Tulipa tarda is a similar species with bright yellow flowers that will multiply if given the right conditions.

    1. floreyd 02/24/2017

      Thanks for the tip on the Tulipa tarda--I'll definitely research them. We need all of the multiplying we can get! : )

  8. sheila_schultz 02/24/2017

    Douglas and David, the photos of your property in the early spring are so hopeful and cheery, especially to those of us still caught in the roller coaster of warm and cold temps. My Denver gardens have been waking up, but the snow and cold of today reminds me not to hold my breath for blooming daffodils... yet! Have fun in your gardens this weekend my east coast friends, don't forget the sunscreen! Ha!

    1. floreyd 02/24/2017

      Sheila, way too much stuff has "woken up" in SW Pa and we fear we will lose much of our spring flowering, unfortunately... I think the bulbs will be fine--they're tougher than the peach, apple, and cherry blossoms. Thanks for the kind words!

  9. GrannyCC 02/24/2017

    Beautiful start to the morning. A breath of Spring is blowing our way. You have a lovely garden.

    1. floreyd 02/24/2017

      Thanks, Granny CC! I hope it is sunny today where you are!

  10. LaurelEm 02/24/2017

    Now I have Spring Fever. Love the daffodils. I have found the same thing. The simpler, older varieties just keep coming. Add Flower Record to your list. They are very hardy in Wisconsin for me.

    1. floreyd 02/24/2017

      Will do--thanks for the recommendation! And ditto on the spring fever! : )

  11. greengenes 02/24/2017

    Spring longings for sure! I can almost smell the fresh sunny air! I love this especially your acorn! you have a wonderful wall to show your bulbs! Thanks for stirring us up!

    1. floreyd 02/24/2017

      Thanks! I should have said that in front of the wall we have some (new, still establishing) peonies. They seem to love the reflected heat from all that stone!

  12. Meelianthus 02/24/2017

    What a beautiful property Douglas and David, and those trees are spectacular ! You must really look forward to Spring with the many, many bulbs you have planted - so refreshing! and your sculpture is amazing, great focal point.

    1. floreyd 02/24/2017

      Meelianthus, thanks so much for your kind words. We DO look forward to spring, but this year we're wishing it wouldn't come on quite so soon--trees leafing out in Feb. in PA isn't quite right...

  13. floreyd 02/24/2017

    We love our trees, and feel so fortunate to be their caretakers! Thanks for the kind words. I'll submit some more photos to Kim later in the season, Diane! Cheers--

  14. Cenepk10 02/25/2017

    Beautiful, guys. Love the sculpture & the jonquils ( jonnyquils )

    1. floreyd 03/15/2017

      Thanks so much! We're anxious for this year's crop since we've had such an up and down winter--75 degrees followed by 12 degrees then half a foot of snow, etc...

  15. user-7007498 02/25/2017

    Good evening, Douglas and David. I am late to the blog today-had to leave early this AM and just got home from work at 9:30pm. Enjoyed your photos, and the great comments and tips. I live across the state in Harrisburg, and share your concerns about the way too early spring. All my hellebores have opened, and the epimediums are pushing up new growth. Most of the trees and shrubs have swollen, if not open buds. No going back now. This is sure to be an interesting year, but that is what makes gardening fun, challenging, and frustrating all rolled into one.

    I garden on a half acre property and have about 2,000 bulbs scattered about. Narcissus and alliums are my favorites. I have never tried some of the species tulips, but after seeing your beautiful display, and the comments of others, I will be adding some to the garden this fall.

    I, too, love the acorn. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. floreyd 03/15/2017

      Hey Kevin--just now seeing some of the later comments. I have to say I'm not optimistic now that we've had the snow and bitter cold... Like you, we had many things break bud (hydrangeas, pearl bush, all our spring bulbs, Cornelian Cherry Dogwood, etc.), and you're right: it will be interesting to see what happens. Good luck--I think you all got much more snow over the past two days than Pittsburgh's gotten.

      1. user-7007498 03/16/2017

        We ended up with 19 inches of snow, which should help cushion the blow of the next 3 days with lows below 20.

        Last year I lost the top 4 feet of a young Japanese Stewartia after a 7 day cold snap after it broke bud, so we will have to see. April in February, now February in March. Things are so mixed up.

  16. donnastiner 02/26/2017

    Such a lovey landscape. I o hope to see pictures of the wild tulips.

    1. floreyd 03/15/2017

      Donna, thanks for the compliments! Right now, everything is buried under a few inches of snow, just when we thought we'd turned the corner to Spring! The wild tulips are in the second to last photo, just before the shot of the giant acorn.

      1. donnastiner 03/15/2017

        Thank you. So pretty and so different. Donna

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