Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Metasequoias in the Mist

Today started out cold and wet. Then the warm air moved in and fog appeared.

A Little Red for the Holidays

It’s a matter of perspective…really. If the garden were full of blooming peonies, irises, roses, lilies, wisteria…., well, you wouldn’t look twice at a few straggling leaves on a straggly little shrub. No matter that they’re so red they seem to glow from inside. The thing is though, we’ve just passed the winter solstice, an event that makes me happy beyond all reason, and color is at a premium. We takes what we can get. And really those leaves are incredible. Itea is, generously, a nondescript smallish to medium shrub. True, its small flowers are fragrant but that’s a technicality. In the first place they aren’t very fragrant, maybe at a range of 1-5 inches! and in the second, it’s not that nice a smell. Not repugnant, just not something you’d go out of your way for. The longer you garden and the more you read the more you realize that while there are many wonderfully fragrant plants there are a goodly number universally described as fragrant, that will drive you to question your own olfactory facility. Itea is one of those plants, but I love it anyway, for that little surprise of color it offers at the darkest time of the year.


Hypericum patulum, is another deciduous shrub that stubbornly holds onto a handful of leaves through midwinter. There is a planting at the top of China Valley across a narrow grassy strip from the road. Sometimes the stragglers color completely like itea; that’s beautiful.  Sometimes though, they retain areas of green along with the red; that’s intriguing and beautiful. Again, it’s a gentle appeal, gainfully employing gloomy December days, however depressing, as providers of perfect settings for the delicately subtle beauty of lingering leaves.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Camellia 'Winter's Fire' ( @ this week's volunteer letter)

Good morning everybody,

I was off on Monday attending to various issues so I missed this year’s leaf team in the Asian Collections. Pat, Keegan, and Keevan must be excellent motivators (or severe taskmasters?) because the team finished the entire collection. All paths and groundcovers are bare and the leaves we’re keeping are in appropriate beds at appropriate depths flattened and anchored by yesterday’s rain. We have the usual piles along the road and a new large pile in the parking lot, but they’ll be vacuumed up next week and transported to our composing area.


The camellias continue to shine. ‘Winter’s Fire’, Dr. Ackerman’s coolest selection, sits in full bloom at the entrance to the collection across the path from the sign. It has quite large red flowers with white viral blotches. Very showy. ‘Winter’s Rose’, another Ackerman introduction, grows at its base. ‘Winter’s Rose’ is unique because of its size. The two plants growing there, near the entrance to the collection, have been in the ground almost 20 years and are barely a foot tall. What a remarkably useful plant in the garden! It ought to be more commonly available. The moles continue to rampage under the camellia paths. I don’t know what’s going on! The good news is that moles are carnivores and don’t eat plants material. The bad news is that voles adopt discarded runways using them for shelter and transportation. They do eat roots. The slight warming trend is allowing some of our mums to hang onto their flowers. While technically still in bloom, they aren’t looking real good. Maybe it’s time to give up on fall flowers for this year.


As fall departs though, winter arrives. We are seeing buds swelling on the Chimonanthus praecox. They’ll be flowering in a week or two, which is maybe a little early, but close to typical. Prunus mume  won’t be far behind. There have been years when I’ve cut both for Christmas. Across the path from the big planting of Chimonanthus in bed V, Styphnolobium japonicum ‘Gold Standard’ has grown as fast as any tree in the collections. It’s golden yellow branches are pretty impressive. The nandina have responded to your severe cut-backs with thick richly green foliage and an abundance of fruits. The Stewartia’s multicolored bark is on display now that the plants are bared for the winter. The Thujiopsis across the path again in J-8 have the same intricately patterned texture they have all year, but it jumps out now with so many visual distractions removed… Giovanna, Gracia, Betty, Terri, and I worked there in beds N-1 and N-2 last week finishing the clean-up.  That whole area is a great winter space. Sometimes I regret that those plants aren’t visible from the road but it’s a nice reward for people who do get out of their cars and walk.


There are still a few cutbacks to do. They’re mostly isolated and or late-flowering perennials. There are a handful in the Japanese woodland below the parking lot and in the camellias, a few around the pagoda, and others here and there. It’s become more a matter of walking around until you come upon them than of going to an area and working in one place. Tomorrow is supposed to be partly sunny with a high of 42F and windy: sustained winds of 15 mph with gusts, during the daytime, between 20 and 25 mph. Not a horrible day but not a great day either. I’m always excited to see you all, but if you come in, know it’s going to be quite chilly.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Diospyros kaki 'Pendula'

Cool little plant growing along the road in the Asian Collections. It began fruiting a couple of years ago but this is more than it's ever had.