Saturday, May 30, 2009

Got my order from Lazy S'S Farm Nursery and planted most of it!

Sonja Behnke Festerling (Albert's, the founder's, daughter) used to talk about her "cardboard garden" (pots in beer boxes) referencing the result of too much buying and too little planting. Jim Dronenberg has, in my experience the most extensive "container ranch" that I have ever seen, and it's full of wonderful plants! About five years ago I resolved not to go down that road again. I've done fairly well at it. If I put something in where I know it really can't stay forever I console myself with the thought that I will reconsider a site and move it. It's interesting how we can tell ourselves lies we know are lies and accept them anyway. Still, in my garden of limited watering, they are much safer in the ground than on the baking deck. The older I get the more good habits I seem to develop????

I planted most of these plants today. The Phlomis, Jerusalem Sage, is a wonderful shrubby mint with fuzzy grey foliage and cheerful yellow flowers. I had it for many many years and one spring it just turned black. I'm putting this one in the same spot under the (considerably taller at 15') Yucca rostrata. Hedychium greenii, a root-hardy ? ginger with wonderful red leaves will go beside the front stairs in back next to Hedychium coronarium, the Butterfly Ginger. Gladiolus 'Carolina Primrose' goes in front by Thuja Rhinegold; the buttery yellow will be nice with the golds and yellows of Rhinegold.....

Friday, May 29, 2009

Rubus odoratus....nice, easy, fragrant, large flowered, ~shade tolerant , suckering.....I could go on and on.

It is a nice shrub though. Definitely informal, there is a place for it in woodland clearings. And I forgot to mention that it's thornless. There is no scale in the picture,but the flowers are large, 2" or so across. And disease free.

This plant is in Fern Valley; many of its siblings were sacrificed to the trail renovation project. The greater part of the colony was repeatedly, several hundred times?, driven over by a Bobcat moving soil, gravel, or whatnot. We put down a thick layer of wood chips and particle-board, but only a couple plants in the area that was the temporary roadway survived. I'm not worried. Adjacent plants are already moving into the devastated area. I expect that by the end of next summer we ought to have the planting back in its entirety.

Nathan rode the cherrypicker to remove dead wood from the Davidia involucrata

He looks almost Biblical up there doesn't he? There has been something going on with this tree for as long as I can remember (almost 20 years). Earlier this month it looked so bad I got crazy and just cut the ugly ends off of 5 or 6 largish branches. It was fairly effective visually except for the fact that I couldn't reach to top of the tree with the pole pruner. Two weeks later Nate cleaned up some of the mess I left by making better cuts and attending to the taller parts of the tree.

We have a number of other Davidias but only one of flowering size: the cultivar 'Sonoma' which (ha ha) flowers at about a foot. Normally, excepting 'Sonoma', it takes a great many years for a Davidia to flower so we don't want to sacrifice our most spectacular specimen from a highly visible location Moreover, it flowers heavily; it just looks ratty much of the year! Carole, in discussions with gardeners in China, learned that they occasionally cut the trees, even large ones, off at the ground, choose a likely sucker, and regrow from there. That seems a bit drastic for this tree though it does produce numerous and vigorous healthy suckers. A seedling from this tree planted itself alongside the road about 100 feet down from the mother plant. It's 20-odd feet tall now; maybe when it reaches maturity and begins to flower we can restart the older plant!

Iris prismatica in the Fern Valley Bog

Another rainy spring has kept this bog and its residents happy thus far. Iris prismatica is a plesant small plant. Native in bogs and marshes all along the east coast, it's an easy one to identify. I perennially forget the distinction between the other native wetland species, Iris virginica and Iris versicolor, but the narrow leaves of this one are a giveaway. The lush Sphagnum and the menacing Cranberry in the back may have to be controlled to protect these other associated bog species.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Trollius chinensis...beautiful late flowering Trollius

The form of this flower is, I think, just wonderful, it's a little bit available online and through mail order; there are even a few cultivars. This group has all opened in the four days since I'd last looked at that area. Wow.

Lazy S'S Farm Nursery exists only in virtual reality so far as shopping is concerned, but we conned our way in for a look!

On our way to the Garden at Whilton we realized we were passing by Lazy S'S Farm Nursery, an internet/mail order nursery that pretty much specializes in plants rare, newly introduced, or great old standards that aren't easily available anymore. They're heading into their 40th year and have done no retail from the site since 2006. We wheedled our way in just to see the location and met Debby and Pete Sheuchenko and Maya and Katie (see middle picture). We only took the time to see about half of their houses, but I saw dozens and dozens of plants I had to have. As I write this I'm looking at a printout of what I just ordered: 11 plants!

Pete reminded me that one of our interns at the Arboretum last year was an alumna of their nursery. It took me a minute or so to remember who Amanda was but I quickly realized that she had worked for Brad in the Introduction Garden. As soon as I placed her I remembered that no intern (I'm serious here....I know I do exaggerate occasionally but this is Gospel) had ever impressed me so much with their detailed knowledge of uncommon and choice plants. Pete tells me she has a remarkable memory, quickly learning the plants, their descriptions, characteristics, and their location at the nursery! The latter was a particularly useful skill in the greenhouses; Pete declared her the fastest "picker" (order puller) ever.

I couldn't believe anyone so young could possibly discuss plants the way she did. I actually remember telling her after her final presentation that I was sorry I hadn't recognized her knowledge earlier. I think at that point she had about 2 days to go! She was one of a good bunch of interns last year. This year's have begun to appear and they seem like they'll be great too!

Visited the Gardens at Whilton this was a remarkable place displaying x100's of collector plants in a garden laid out by an artist!

Design is a tricky thing; hey I'm a designer, so that may sound a bit self-serving but it's hard to get it just right. If you take a group of good, that is to say beautiful, interesting, and well grown, plants and arrange them in good faith without committing any egregious errors, you'll almost always come up with a presentable design. It's a lot more difficult to arrange the masses so that there is a balance from multiple points of view. Then to integrate the nuances of texture and color.....most of us are lucky to do that here and there throughout a garden. This is a masterfully designed garden, and it's even more astonishing to me that, because it is in some sense a collector's garden, there are not a lot of masses, sweeps, or groups of plants; there are a lot of single plants in this garden. I can't begin to explain how much more difficult that makes design. If I had a rating system which I don't, I would give large sections of this garden whatever my highest rating would be.

Mrs. Daniels and two of her gardeners, Polly and Lois, showed us (mostly Four Season's Garden Club & I thought I noticed a few NARGs) around the garden she has been building outside of Charlottesville Virginia. Beyond the design, I was impressed by the quantity and quality of beautiful rarities. The Yellow Garden is extensive and just fantastic. There are hundreds of interesting selections of Japanese Maples. The house that dates to early in the last Century, has a number of old oaks surrounding it and there's a giant Ash visible in a distant field. The areas nearest the house are, of course, the most fully developed, but she is moving out to the perimeters of the fields. The last picture shows this stage in development; I assume paths, pots, perennials, etc. will follow in due time.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

This may look like a display at a flower show, but it's Mary's back deck! (playfully photoshopped)

I swear this table wasn't arranged for this picture; we just dropped by to stick a Brugmansia in (where George Waters had planted one many years ago) and the Paper, the coffee cup, the cut Peonies and the secateurs were right there. Mary did remove one item, a plastic tub, but hey. We all need oases like this! On the DC side of the line, in Takoma Park, this is a special garden. It wasn't on the Garden Tour this year because this tour doesn't repeat houses in consecutive years, but the garden enjoyed or prolonged wet spring and looks better than ever.

Friday afternoon Amanda and I begin to refill the newly empty "Green Waste" area

We recycle all of our organic waste at the Arboretum. Trees fall, pruning happens, leaves fall, weeds are pulled, containers plantings get retired when their season is over. We even compost our apples cores, those of us who don't eat the cores, orange peels, et cetera from lunch! We take this debris to the Brickyard, an old Brick production facility with a few kilns and buildings remaining, where it is sorted and stored for most of the year.

When we drive into this area with debris, we roughly sort it, choosing a pile: soil, that includes both soil excavated from the grounds and the remains of planted containers; green waste, that's weeds and softwood pruning remnants; wood, self explanatory; construction debris we get rid of in a dumpster.

Once a year this heavy equipment comes in and processes the good stuff; grinding, mixing, screening take place and the result is those huge piles of useful organic material. The green waste pile from the current year is ground and then composted for one year to kill weed seeds, so this year, last years pile becomes this year's usable compost.We have wood chips, leaf mold, screened topsoil, compost, and a good quantity of sort of general purpose mulch which is produced by grinding a combination of the above ingredients.The exact proportions are a trade secret, actually they vary depending on availability. We had, I'm going to guess, over 500 yards of mulch to use last year with a street value of around 10,000 dollars. That's in addition to smaller quantities of compost and leaf mould, which of course are more expensive per unit, and an essentially limitless quantity of wood chips. And we have two good sized piles of topsoil. Pretty good!

Beltsville Library Garden Open House

Weather was okay and the garden is in good season. 9 out of 10 people want to grow alliums!