Thursday, August 7, 2008

Interns.....Just when you get to know them they go back to school!

I don't know if this is the most interns the Arboretum has ever had but it's certainly the most that have been here during my most recent tenure. And they're all good workers, knowledgeable, sensible, and self possessed. I have wondered before about how the world works; how does it happen that you get a group like this, not to suggest that past years were chopped liver, but these guys were, are, an exceptional group. Most of them will be leaving over the next week or two or three. One or two may repeat next year but maybe not. I hope so.

It is always sad when they leave. The headhouse goes from being a loud, busy, conversational place to a more sedate, quieter, calmer (not in a good way) location. And it's still hot. This year we will not only lose a lot of interns, but seasonal laborers as well. Of course more will arrive next summer but thats not really a consolation right now.

It's just a little beaver, how many cherry trees can it eat?

Likely it's the parents that are doing most of the damage to the cherries in the cherry nursery by Hickey Run. Over the last couple of weeks everyone had noticed the classic beaver damage to the trees closest to the stream. Still....I was a bit surprised to come in Thursday morning and find the Sue Greeley, Floral and Nursery Plants Technician, Wildlife specialist, Arborist, and more, was parked behind the Headhouse with this young beaver. She wanted the parents but got this gullible youngster instead. After much discussion, Sue decided to return this guy/girl to its parents.

She/He showed a remarkable indifference to the group that slowly assembled around the trap. Just kept debarking the 'Dreamcatcher' (USNA cherry introduction) branches. I guess that means that the cyanide in the branches isn't hurting him/her. Cows can poison themselves by eating cherry leaves; it happens during dry summers when the browse disappears but they can reach cherry foliage. Farmers actually have to attend to this situation. I can remember cutting cherry trees with my uncle during summers on my Grandmother's farm. Curiously sorghum and Johnsongrass also produce dangerous amounts of prussic acid.

Years ago I remember there was a problem with the Tidal Basin Cherries; a beaver was cutting them. As I recall this beaver took down a good number of trees before he was trapped and relocated.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Joe Pye Weed....You don't have to plant butterfly bushes to attract butterflies

If you drive by the Fern Valley Meadow you can see this plant from 100'. Actually, I can see it from 100', so if you have average eyesight you ought to be able to see it from twice as far.

Good plant that favors wetlands but tolerates average garden moisture. It's a butterfly magnet drawing swallowtails (see photo to right) reliably when it blooms in late summer. Because it is tall, up to 8', it works well at the back of a deep border, or as an accent plant. Very nice informally along a fence. Resistant to pests and diseases, it will benefit from an occasional soaking in a dry summer.

If 8 feet is too much for you there is a selection of a small species of Eupatorium; 'Little Joe' that only grows to 3-5 feet.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hannah collecting Gaura biennis in Pennsylvania in 2006....Flowers on a plant in Fern Valley we grew from the seeds August 2008

Hannah, Joan, and I (Fern Valley Staff in 2006) went on a seed collecting trip around State College, Pennsylvania in the fall of that year. We spent two days in the Bear Meadows Sedge Bog, and another day collecting in various places nearby. We brought back seeds from a variety of plants including Larch, Verbena hastata, Leatherleaf, Blueberries, Phlox paniculata, this biennial Gaura, and a few others. The Verbena and the Phlox have been or are flowering in the collection already. This morning, just returned from Florida and on my pre-work circuit of the Arboretum, I noticed that the Gaura had begun to flower. It is always good to find another plant that blooms later in the season!

The flowers are attractive, mildly fragrant, and much like those of the common perennial, Gaura lindheimeri. The plant itself is a bit loose and quite tall. It would be most appropriate in the garden in less formal settings and p;ossibly growing out of and overtopping earlier perennials. They could help support the ~6' stems. When we collected the plant the flowers were distinctly pink and these barely so. Various things can affect flower color the likeliest is that the flowers age to pink. Theses have just opened. We shall see.

Big big Container Plants

Coincidence is an interesting concept; I had just been thinking about the feasibility of obtaining large magnolias for a customer on Capitol Hill, and the next day, on the way to the Florida Scrub Jay Trail, there it is, Cherry Hill Tree Farm. Thousands of flowering Crape Myrtles among their other plants. The last 10 years or so that I was at Behnkes, we bought large container plants from Cherry Hill: Magnolias, Hollies, and Crape Myrtles. Their smallest trees are 15 gallons and they go on up through 35, 45, 65, 100 up to, get this, 670 gallon! live oaks. These people do containers right.

I knew they were in Florida, but had never thought about their exact location that turns out to be about 20 miles from the Wildwood Garden. The scale of the nursery is as epic as the size of their containers, it stretches on for at least a mile and a half mile and the trees extend off the road into the distance. Didn't stop, but it seems as neat and well attended as I had anticipated. Their material is always clean, well pruned, and generally in good shape. They are a wholesale nursery so their material has to pass through a retail nursery, but they have great stuff.