Saturday, October 24, 2009

Diospyros kaki...the Japanese Persimmons are fruiting in the Asian Collections

They're not ripe but they are pretty.

Aralia spinosa...interesting fall display on a widespread local native

Devil's Walkingstick, Hercules' Club: you've gotta love a plant with names like this. It's difficult, on the other hand, to love it when you reach out for a handhold on a steep slope and grasp a hand full of spines. Still, it takes all kinds and this week it's beautiful. I took this picture along the Fern Valley road across from the golf course fence (about 3/4 of the way from the parking lot to the bridge over Hickey Run.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Odd fungal growths on Red Oak stump in Fern Valley

All the gardeners know this tree; it lived just alongside the service trail to the Fern Valley pond and on those rare occasions when we drove to the pond, we navigated carefully through the section of trail narrowed by the base of this ~200 year old tree. I know I'll miss it.

The fruiting bodies of the fungus clearly demarcate the boundary between heartwood and sapwood. The tree has only been cut a week so the fungus has gone from a mycelial to a fruiting stage fairly rapidly and apparently as a response to exposure to air. It seems likely that the fungus would have eventually manifested itself as either a canker or a "bracket". If this were a White Oak, I'd think Strumella and possibly it is anyway.

Sunrise over the Capitol Columns....they've been worth coming in early to see this week

They (GrayC et alia) shamed me into actually walking around the columns to get the reflection on the pool. My shoes got wet, but it was worth the sight.

Helianthus angustifolius, Swamp of the classic "fall perennials"

This is a wonderful plant; it blooms for a reasonably long period in the fall, it gets up to bout 6' in height, and despite superficially looking like just another weeds composite, it has a sort of dignity and bearing that belies that initial impression. And it doesn't need to grow in a swamp. Average garden conditions are fine. Planting in a border or a mass planting will provide support for a plant that can potentially splay open as this one has. Is it any less beautiful this way? I don't think so.

There is that old saw about gardening that suggests that new gardeners favor annuals and as their sophistication progresses, move to perennials, on to shrubs and finally to trees. No doubt there's a grain of truth there, however small. I've noticed that beginning gardeners tend to focus on spring, then move to summer, then fall, and eventually end up planting for winter. Some of us. Sort of.

Anyway, though fall generally provides all the splendor and extravagance we need, there are a few traditional standards and this is one of them. Also good are Chrysanthemum rubellum vars., and so many Asters; I favor Symphiotrichum oblongifolia. There are some spectacular specimens in the Youth Garden border. Allen Lacy's The Garden in Autumn, is a great book: well written, pleasantly readable, and a great introduction to the garden plants of fall..

Thursday, October 22, 2009

MEO involved in culvert operations....if we keep fixing stuff and fixing stuff and fixing stuff, sooner or later everything will be perfect

Apparently the culvert whose job it was to carry water under the road from the Ellipse to the Fern Valley Wet Meadow was collapsed. This MEO crew replaced it today. I have to wonder what effect it'll have on the Wet Meadow. Will there be a lot more water? I have no justification for thinking this but my feeling is no. Since rain is forecast for this Friday and Saturday, we will just give the system a little test and see what happens.

We really are fixing things, another plumbing project, unrelated but concurrent, closed the road in front of the headhouse for two days, but will increase our water use efficiency and save us money.

Acer triflorum at the entrance to China Valley

Beautiful fall color plus exfoliating bark in a small to medium sized tree. Very nice. This maple still doesn't have much of a presence in the trade, but it is coming along. I first saw it at Brookside Gardens twenty odd years ago. It is in the trifoliate group of maples which puts it in the elevated company of Acer griseum and henryi.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Smithsonian Interns in Fern Valley

Erin Clark brought a cheerful group of interns to tour a few of the Gardens today. With Joan off collecting, I was elected for the walk through Fern Valley. The day was perfect and FV was in autumnal glory. We stopped to talk to Nate and see how the wall was coming. If you click on the picture there are glimpses of the wall barely visible. It's about 2/3 done and I like it for its extreme relief; some of the stones are over 4" thick. Some already have lichens growing on them. It ought to be done Friday or next Monday.

Sunrise across the Ellipse

I got to the Arboretum early today and made my morning circuit; the fog was so thick I was almost sorry I'd chosen the route around the Ellipse. Between the darkness and the fog visibility was about 20 feet. An hour later it was spectacular, a fitting preamble to another perfect day. Amy called from the planting project in Azaleas to alert me to this crazy sunrise. Apparently it was even better before I got there. Three minutes later. That's why it's good to keep a camera with you. You just have to be in the right place at the right time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fall is happening at the Arboretum and the Maple Field is a good place to see it

Itea virginica 'Little Henry'...this is the reason people plant Virginia sweetspire

We can only hope that for some people it will be a reason not to buy Burning Bush, Euonymus alatus, another shrub with brilliant fall color. The downside to Burning Bush is, of course, its tendency to move about by seed...invasively even. Itea stays a bit smaller (especially this selection) than Burning Bush though it does sucker in favorable (moist) conditions. A tendency to be a little lax and open is easily cured by an occasional bit of pruning. On the upside, Itea tends to hold a certain number of its leaves well into the winter so that if it snows this December or January, there will likely be red leaves against white snow. Itea is a North American native while Burning Bush is of Asian origin.

This plant is part of a planting that went in this year below the main parking lot for the Administration Building at the National Arboretum. I didn't mention it at the time, but that project was yet another small step in the continuous improvement of the campus here. Ivy and a miscellany of not so nice plants were removed and replaced with a sustainable planting of beautiful native shrubs: Rhus aromatica 'Grow-Low', Rhus typhina 'Tiger Eyes', and Itea virginica 'Little Henry'. All three are tough, all three are decorative, and all three will take the conditions on the slope. I like it.

Itea is one of a number of plants that are generally grow in wetlands or moist areas, but which seem to be equally adaptable to drier conditions. I've never heard this phenomena discussed, but it seems likely to me that the same sorts of adaptations that allow a plant to live in water might also help to minimize water loss....waxy cuticles, etc. I'm reaching here, but there are certainly a large number of wetland plants that have an above average ability to withstand drought.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cotinus obovatus......our native Smoke Tree

I can only conclude that I'm less fickle than I feel, or portray myself. I consistently come back to this as my favorite tree.

Ilex litseifolia is almost a perfect holly...well, I didn't see anything that wasn't perfect

I suspect I give the impression of being a little bit uncritical.....well, maybe even a rose-colored-glasses wearing Pollyana, but that's mostly for public consumption. I think that, like your children, you can love plants even knowing that they have faults. And it probably doesn't always do a lot of good to harp on inadequacies. I love many Hollies that I know have problems; maybe leaf chlorosis, or spot necrosis, or berries that just aren't a good red. Maybe the growth is awkwardly irregular, maybe there's dieback of twigs or branches.

I had to call Stefan at home to figure this one out. I photographed the label because I didn't know the plant. It turns out that that name, an obsolete synonym, is ungoogleable. I almost got it on my own by trying "Ilex liteseafolia" (which is, in fact, the way our label spells litseifolia) but alas, that didn't work. So I called Stefan, who, of course, put me on to the correct spelling. It's still one of those obscure of those plants that only Google to the "Flora of China" and a few other arcane and unhelpful sites.

Here's the thing though; click on the top picture, the close-up of leaves and berries. The leaves are thick, perfectly-shaped, and evenly dark green. The berries are smooth, unblemished, and a wonderful shade of crimson, none of that cheap scarlet. It's a perfect plant. Well, something might be wrong with it. One of our specimens died a nasty cankerous death. have to like it.

Entry in Flora of China.