Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Washington Square Village Sasaki Garden Plants

London planetrees
November is a lovely time to visit our garden, when the plants are wearing and shedding their ever-changing autumn shades.

Lining the northern and southern borders of the garden are a large number of hawthorn trees (Crataegus), while the eastern and western boundaries of the park, just outside the gates, we have neat rows of London planetrees, a hybrid of Platanus orientalis (Oriental plane tree) and Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore).  I believe the one leaning a bit precariously may have been pushed a bit by Hurricane Irene this summer.  It is amazing how well all the Sasaki specimens have held up over the years.

In the northeastern corner of the garden we have two remaining eastern redbuds (Cercis canadensis).  This small growing tree is native to the eastern part of North America and thrives from northern Florida to southern Ontario.  Its heart-shaped leaves and deep magenta blooms in mid-spring set this beautiful tree apart from the crowd.   I have often wondered why it isn’t planted more often around New York City.

Dogwood (red-orange foliage)
Growing nearby in this sector of the WSV Sasaki Garden we have a two dogwood trees (Cornus kousa); one in the center of the garden, the other under the willow tree.  There is another dogwood, Cornus kousa v. chinenensis, also known as the “Starlight” tree near the mulberry.  Dogwoods, I understand, have lately not done very well in city parks.  Frequent pruning can act as a hedge to disease.  The empty oval currently in the garden once housed a dogwood and maybe should be replaced with a new one that will survive harsh city conditions.  I wonder if the aforementioned mulberry was deliberately planted here or volunteered itself as so many have around our city.  Either way, the birds are delighted to taste its sweet berries.

Arranged in the northern section of the garden is a bosquet of 16 crabapples in planters that double as benches for garden-goers.  Malus is the Latin genus name from the family Rosaceae.  Aside from the appeal of two shades of pink blooms in spring, the artistically-twisted branches are a wonder to behold.  Other representatives of the Rosaceae family, the long-blooming roses, have largely been removed.  Hopefully their replacements will be coming soon.

Japanese maples (center)
As companions two exquisite Japanese maples (Acer palmatum), deep crimson in November are so so beautiful!

Rhododendron (left)
Various azalea species with different autumn leaf color patterns are interspersed around the garden plot.  I am not sure if the Sasaki azaleas are native to the U.S.  Azaleas are of the closely related to Rhodedendra.  We have a few different varieties of rhodies in the garden also, many of which have buds.  Will they bloom again before the frost hits them?

Junipers were looking good this autumn.  Perhaps it was the moist summer that has given them their healthy glow.  I’ve noticed in past years they have been more dried out with drought conditions.  There are many species of juniper from both the old world and the New World.  They are members of the cypress (Cupressaceae) family.

Silver maples
The two silver maples (Acer saccharinum) in the garden, with pale yellow leaves and silver-grey bark are quite towering 50-somethings.

The three weeping cherries in the southwestern section of the garden are, I swear, the first to bloom in the city.  In the fall they are also quite lovely, with their cascading yellow leaves, but the early spring was a spectacular sight to see them bloom.  Much of the time snow is still on the ground.  Prunus subhirtella is the botanical name.

We have a rare mock-orange (Philadelphus 'Burfordensis’) bush located next to the west garage entrance.  Another nearby out-of-the-ordinary plant growing nearby the weeping cherries, a cotoneaster is a relative of the aforementioned hawthorn.

Burning bush
It was clever of Mr. Sasaki to include some evergreens in his ornamental scheme:  The geometrically-shaped boxwoods (Buxus) will hopefully soldier on all winter along with the other mainstay evergreen shrub interspersed throughout the park, the yews (genus of Taxus), while the companion plants spend the cold months naked.  Also showing some green under the snow and tawny leaves will be some lovely moss on the western side of the garden and a few pines on the eastern front.

Barberry (foreground)
The beautiful specimen of burning bush (Euonymous alatus) is an ornamental shrub native to China, Korea and Japan.  It is really stands out with its bright red coat at this time of the fall.  It only slightly outshines the numerous barberries (Berberis) shrubs that have put on their autumn colors in different ways.

Last, but not least, and arguably, perhaps the most impressive specimen of all—that weeping willow (Salix babylonica)—must be mentioned.  Its homeland is northern China; this coveted gem has come to the New World via Holland and the Silk Route.  What a miracle that this giant is surviving all these years, perched precariously above a parking garage!

I look forward to making frequent trips to the garden when it is covered with frost and snow, and when the buds start appearing in the springtime.

We would like to thank Edward Walters and Hubert J. Steed for their essay and photographs, respectively.


  1. The plants discussed in this essay represent a portion of all the plants in the garden. For a complete photographic inventory please visit http://www.pbase.com/hjsteed/wsvg_sg_plants.

  2. nice opinion.. thanks for sharing...