Monday, December 8, 2008

Nice Sunrise Over China Valley

That sunrise isn't just pretty, it's metaphorical; I started in my new position at the Arboretum today and China Valley was cold. The temperatures have been mercurial (analytically true) . A week ago we had highs in the 50s and lows near 40 while the last few nights have been cold: near 20F, 24 this AM. Tuesday night is forecast to be wet with a low of only 47F though and we are supposed to get into the 60's by Wednesday afternoon. Wow.

I first worked at the Arboretum almost 20 years ago and I was the Gardener in China Valley. While I have come full circle, the garden has been moving forward. The half-dozen Magnolia denudata that I remember as barely over my head are real trees now. A Nyssa sinensis is assuming shade tree proportions and the Taiwania cryptomerioides that was 6 feet tall, has more than trebeled in size. This is a lovely, rarely encountered conifer that seems to tolerate both poor soil and our summers without missing a beat. The Heptacodium have grown, very reasonably, to the size of large Crape Myrtles, which they vaguely resemble in that they are vase shaped, multi-stemmed shrubs with attractive bark. Their's is a chalky bone-white. It is another, not quite so uncommon, but still underutilized plant; inconsequential white flowers in summer have notwithstabding a wonderful fragrance and are followed by attractive reddish bracts that give the appearance of hydrangea panicles.

It is curious and disconcerting to be back. When I left, the Miscanthus and Pennisetum that came from Kurt Blumel and were intended to carry the garden until the Chinese plants came through were still the dominant visual component in the garden. I remember dividing the Miscanthus with Beth Finney, and planting a "River of Grass" on the flood plain stretching from the bottom of the hill to the Anacostia River. That planting has come and gone. Other gardeners remeber disassembling it. That's the way it is with gardens though; they evolve......some plants grow, some are transplanted, some die and are replaced with newcomers.

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