Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Schedels' bequest is a treasure trove of the horticultural arts

The serenely sedate Schedel Arboretum and Gardens on South Portage River Road, Elmore, is a living legacy left to the community by Joseph and Marie Schedel.

The operations of this horticulturally significant estate are paid for by the foundation they established and by donations. Reginald Noble is the estate's director.

Visitors who enter through the wrought-iron gate walk along a winding drive to the mansion, framed on each side by showy annual gardens. In front of pink shrub roses are pockets of sun-loving burgundy coleus among tall blue salvia and bordered with dwarf white snapdragons. These pristine gardens flow into beds of 1,500 pink and red geraniums, accented with white.

Because the grounds are equally divided into low and high land, great diversity of theme gardens is possible. While leisurely strolling the gardens next to the mansion, a visitor can enjoy the reflecting pond with its large collection of water lilies. Nearby, the formal rose garden boasts many hybrid tea roses.

More than 18 varieties of can nas, oriental lilies, and other perennials are interspersed with tropical banana trees and elephant ears. The Cleopatra cannas have burgundy streaks on the foliage. The Australian canna is a rich burgundy. The beds of iris and the peony collection with its 28 new varieties were spectacular earlier in the season.

A huge pedestal urn is the feature in the central English perennial garden on the west side. In the distance, a rare collection of ornamental beeches stands out. The garden of labeled specialty peppers and ornamental kale and chards is a personal favorite.

From the top of the steps, a vista of the lowland gardens spreads out below. The giant containers along the way are cascading with verbenas, rubrium geraniums, and annual blood grass. The beautifully structured terrace wall was created last year. This year, a waterfall was installed that flows into a brook that meanders into the Japanese garden pool.

Recent plantings of arctic willow, "heavy metal" grass, northern sea oats, cutleaf stephanandra, viburnum, weigela, juniper, spruce, and sedum have been added.

Because Mr. Schedel was an arborist, the priceless collection of trees is noteworthy. On the grounds are 18 dawn redwoods that he started as cuttings. The Gold Rush dawn redwood was acquired this year. Also new is the Japanese larch. Near the water's edge, a grove of bald cypress expose their famous knees.

To make the landscape better each year, horticulturist David Halsey devotes great attention to the overall garden details. Spring is spent getting bedding plants ready, completing bed designs, completing the gardens, fertilizing, and pruning. The staff this year planted 18,000 annuals and spread 100 cubic yards of mulch.

After the July rains, the fight is on against weeds, insects, and disease. Each week brings marvelous garden changes as plantings come in and out of bloom.

Schedel Arboretum and Gardens is open May to October, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $5.

Mona Macksey is a free-lance writer for The Blade.

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