Monday, September 29, 2008

These tropicals are growing on top of a bed of spring flowering natives

Though it's supposed to get up to 80 F today, fall is definitely here. Cool nights, lots of dew, earlier sunsets, driving to work in the dark, Halloween decorations. All the signs are here. Almost 2.25" of rain fell in Adelphi from the storm systems that moved through late last week and through the weekend. Regionally though, the amounts were extremely variable; one day I saw figures that showed Baltimore with 3.9", Washington with .95, and Dulles with .32". Wow. For a while it seemed as though we wouldn't even get enough to keep us from having to water this week, but Kyle (the tropical depression) came through for us and the Arboretum ended up with about an inch and a half which is enough at least for a while.

The tropicals are ecstatic. It's still warm, the humidity is up, and they have an abundance of water. Brugmannsias seem to be entering the peak of their last flush of bloom. Though they are tropicals, they seem to prefer the cooler days of autumn to the heat of summer. That's counter-intuitively true of Pelargoniums as well, though cool wet nights can cause their flowers to rot. This spring, with its consistent rainfall, turned out to have been a good season to have started grass seed. If you planted grass seed earlier this month you did the right thing, and will actually have to mow in a week or two.

Fall perennials are coming into their own: among others, Asters, Japanese Anemones, Chelones, the late-season Salvias, Tricyrtis, and varieties of what used to be called Chrysanthemum rubellum. I like all of these plants very much, and though others may be more beautiful, it's hard to imagine getting more show for your investment than you do with these perennial mums. New varieties seem to appear every year. I remember when there was only 'Clara Curtis' and 'Mary Stoker', but now there are at least a half a dozen more. Unlike the traditional garden mums, they don't need to be disbudded, or divided, or restarted, and they won't flower till October. Good plant!

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