New plants grow from old ones Horticulture: At the annual William Paca Garden sale, visitors can buy nursery stock propagated from species known in centuries past.

September 07, 1997|By Nancy Taylor Robson | Nancy Taylor Robson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If you crave a little gardening restorative after this horrendous summer, don't miss the historic William Paca Garden's annual fall plant sale in Annapolis next Saturday and Sunday.

Created by the William Paca Garden horticulturist, Karen Long, the event is a way to clear out surplus plant stock, share rare and antique species with the public and raise cash to benefit the garden. Prices run mostly $5 and under for 3-inch to 6-inch pots. There are also numerous 2- and 3-gallon shrubs and roses that are priced higher. Propagated by the staff and volunteers at the William Paca Garden, the plants are all rare and antique species; many are not available anywhere else. Because some are propagated from cuttings of historic plants, buying a plant here is like buying a piece of history.

The Blue Passionflower vine (Passiflora caerulea), propagated from a plant on Oatlands Plantation near Leesburg, Va., is one example. A prolific climber, it has a striking broad-petaled flower with tendrilled blue filaments that radiate from the bloom's center, and produces a sweet-scented fruit used in drinks and ice cream. Native Americans used the whole plant to treat swollen or irritated eyes; the root was a general tonic. Another plant whose roots go back to our Colonial beginnings is Red Plume Flower (Justicia carnea). The specimens in the Paca Garden were propagated from the one at Tudor Place in Washington, a Georgetown house built circa 1806 by the Peters family, who were related to George Washington. The Acanthus mollis was the model for the carved tops of Corinthian columns.

The William Paca Garden, a magnificent 2-acre reproduction of an 18th-century manor-house garden, descends from the rear of the William Paca House on Prince George Street to a brick wall on King George Street. Many of the plants in its carefully tended beds, pots and topiaries are varieties that have been in cultivation in the Annapolis area for three centuries. Except for the conservatory plants, most are well-adapted to Maryland's wide-ranging climate. Ironweed, Great Blue Lobelia, Fan-tail Willow, Lenten Rose and Cut-leaf Lilac (Syringa laciniata), a lacy shrub with spikes of lavender bloom, all fall into this category and will be for sale.

"The Cut-leaf Lilac withstands heat better than the French lilac," explains Lucy Coggin, collections and public-programs director at the William Paca Garden. Another heat and drought lover is the Double Pomegranate plant, whose intense red blooms are illustrated in a copy of a 17th-century engraving in the Visitor's Center.

The mission of the William Paca Garden is not only authentic reproduction of a period garden, but preservation of rare and antique species. Some plants in the Paca collection are propagated from the only example of a species in the area like Native Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), a vine propagated from an old plant at the mansion at Sandy Point State Park.

"[Plant] owners are usually pleased when we want to take cuttings, as we can replace their plant if it fails," Coggin says.

The volunteers at the William Paca Garden are avid amateur horticulturists. One volunteer discovered a rare white variety of the common rose-colored marshmallow that blooms along the rivers and creeks of Anne Arundel County. Small plants of the white marshmallow, (Kosteletzkya virginica 'Alba') will be available at the sale.

The sale, in its sixth year, is so popular that by 9:30 a.m. there is a line outside waiting for the 10 am. start. "We have people peering over the fence while we're setting up," says Coggin.

In addition to the sale, the beautiful garden itself is well worth a visit. Admission is $3. Pineapple plants with several fully-formed pineapples grow in the center of a lush bed of thyme and nasturtium. Moneywort, looking like the tentacles of a beached octopus, spills down a stone wall. Butterflies flutter through the oleander and buddleia. The overall effect is both therapeutic and inspiring. "Flowers in Bloom," the garden newsletter that identifies all of the blooming plants, is a helpful accompaniment to a self-guided tour. It is updated bimonthly to keep up with the garden's blooming cycles.

If you go

The William Paca Garden fall plant sale takes place at the Visitor's Center at 1 Martin St., off King George Street, in Annapolis Sept. 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sept. 14 from noon to 4 p.m. A catalog is available with full plant description, browsing tips and plant history for $5. Call 410-267-6656.

Pub Date: 9/07/97

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