Sunday, December 26, 2010

On the road south

Still don't know if we'll encounter snow or if we do, how much. I'll see the Florida Garden tonight though. *by flashlight)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Today (Christmas Eve) was the official holiday; I watered for a couple of hours by myself

It was fun..... hey, it's Christmas Eve!. Brad left very good instructions regarding his material; a good example for the rest of us. So I watered the Tree Ferns and a few other things here and there. It was calming work. I had lists for later in the day; there were a few things still to be bought, and wrapped, and cooked but everything was under control so I just enjoyed the plants. The flowers at the bottom belong to Sansevieria cylindrica, or one of its close allies. Usually it flowers on the floor, not up on a bench, so I don't ofen get so close to the flowers themselves. They're nice!

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cornus officinalis seeds and cones of Cedrus libani var. stenocoma: cool stuff on George's desk

I was just admiring Cornus officinalis a few weeks ago for it's exfoliating bark and look, George has collected seed from a plant in the Dogwood Collections. This variety of Cedar is more cold hardy than most so they'll use it as underatock for grafting; they're all compatible for grafting purposes.

You don;t usually see the Capitol Columns or the Washington Monument from these angles

But hey sometimes you aren't quite positioned the way you might want to be regarding a given situation; you can still take a look. The sideview of the Columns is from just across the road from the Fern Valley Prairie. The cityscape is from the top of Mount Hamilton. Mount Hamilton is not a mountain by any standard, but is a respectable forested hill; the Azalea collection lives on the lower and middle slopes on the south, east, and north sides. Trails and a road (off limits to vehicular traffic) lead to the summit and it's worth a walk for the city views. I took this photograph through an opening in the canopy, but this time of year, with no leaves on the trees, you can get 360 degrees of view. The skies have a distinctively winter look.

The first time I can consciously remember seeing this sky was in November of 1961. I was a cub scout and our pack had the honor of raising the flags that circle the Washington Monument. I didn't actually remember the date, but I do remember that we raised the flags to the top of the pole and then lowered them to half mast in honor of the death of Sam Rayburn, Texas Congressman and Speaker of the House of Representatives. So it must have been 1961, just a tad over 49 years ago.

I've edited thousands of photographs and, though I never end up using the option, it's hard for me to resist trying "autocorrect" or it's equivalent; I like to see what a "computer" would do to my picture without my guidance. So I take a look and then undo and go whatever route I go. "Autocorrect" always wants to add green to a winter sky, actually the whole picture. I guess it misses the chlorophylliferous tint that's not suffusing the world this time of year. So do I.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Camellia petelotii var. petelotii flower

The Golden Camellia has flowered for us before Christmas in what's basically our Zone 9 house. I left a few in the "Zone 8" house and their buds are still tight.

Ilex (serrata x verticillata) 'Sparkleberry'

Big plant alongside the road in the Holly Magnolia Collection.

I missed the Solstice eclipse and the moon was back to full power by 6:30 a.m.

Actually this picture is out of sequence; I took it yesterday morning (technically less than 24 hours ago). If I were the kind of person who cheated, I could have photoshopped the eclipse, but hey, I'm not that technologically adept, er, I don't do that kind of thing. I missed the solstice eclipse by sleeping through my alarm after 2 days of being violently ill. Oh well, I guess there'll be another one in 400-500 years.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Brookside Gardens Holiday Light Display

We went to Brookside (one of my favorite public gardens) to celebrate the Solstice. It was, as always, breathtaking. They seem to have just about finished converting to LED's; colors are much better. We interrupted a television crew in the middle picture but they continued cheerfully.

a few flowers on this Plumeria in Polyhouse 7

There's just something about Plumeria flowers, beyond the fragrance I mean. I think I like the simplicity of their form and the way the pink suffused the petals and the gold at the base of the petals. la la la.

Salvia involucrata: not another salvia!

This is actually a different accession of a species I photographed earlier and the flowers are a bit lighter in color. After posting this I went to see the Holiday LIght Display at Brookside Gardens. Oddly, they had, in the conservatory, high potted specimens of this very salvia. It was too dark to photograph them but I enjoyed to coincidence anyway.

The Hollies in the Holly Magnolia Collection seemed happy to see some sun today

Leaf Team did leaf removal there yesterday and I think it made 'em feel better about themselves.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Gotelli Collection is beautiful in the snow

Personally, i prefer this light coating to the 3 feet we received last February. This second picture is Calocerus decurrens 'Berrima' and the bare branches below it belong to Pinus strobus nana, one of my favorite conifers.

Here are the overwintering Salvias that I've been photographing for weeks

It's a wonderful thing to come in from the snowy cold and find. They'll be bedded out in the Herb Garden next spring. The purple spiky one on the far right is Salvia leucantha and it's one of my favorites. It's also a plant that isn't fazed by drought. I have a few large patches in Florida garden and we'll be visiting them Sunday next.

Sunrise was beautiful this morning

Traffic was nonexistent this morning; I got to work ridiculously early because well: it was Friday; schools were on a two-hour snow delay; and it's the end of the year. So I watched the sun rise, or anyway I watched it until 6:55.

Chimonanthus praecox in the snow

Chimonanthus has one of the best fragrances in the floral kingdom, and it flowers in winter. I smelled the flowers 20 feet away from the plants. Apparently they don't care that temperatures have barely risen above freezing for a week.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It was cold today and snowed from about 10:00 to mid-afternoon

Some funny wind blown patterns are frozen into Beech Spring Pond. If it doesn't warm up soon, we'll be able to ice skate outside. That's not a situation that occurs often in Washington DC. It's been over 10 years!

Juniperus deppeana 'McFetter'

The blue Alligator Juniper (named for the texture of its bark) is one of the easiest cleanest blue conifers for us. Doesn't make much sense since it comes from the SW US and Mexico, arid, less humid locales. This plant, in the Gotelli Collection, is a little taller than I am and a bit wider.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ipomopsis rubra from Alabama in Fern Valley plants

It doesn't need a flower to be beautiful.

Tennessee Cotinus obovatus among the Fern Valley plants in Polyhouse 8

They're still incredible, especially backlit. I can't wait to get them in the ground.

It snowed all day in Poly 8. We keep it cool so the exterior plastic must have been below freezing. The small amount of humidity in the air condensed on the top, froze into small crystals, and as the wind rippled the plastic, was dislodged and fell as "snow". It was odd, though Ido like the concept of snow falling all day with no accumulation. Apparently it's supposed to snow outside the greenhouse tomorrow.

Jeanette is putting the "Power Plants" to bed for the winter

She's cutting cane without a machete. It's safer that way; look, she still has both her legs.....Should I have said that?

Despite our flirtations with brutal winter the Ginkgo leaves on the ground retain their lovely autumn golds.

Asplenium ceterach, Rustyback...Stefan collected fern spores in Azerbaijan

I don't know anything about this fern I didn't read today. Apparently it grows on limestone rocks in a wide range extending from eastern Europe through north Africa into western Asia. I like its tight radial symmetry and I'm a sucker for a compact rosette. We'll keep an eye on it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

If you don't poke around, you miss stuff. Osmanthus fragrans var. aurantiacus

The tag says Osmanthus fragrans yellow-flowered form; it looks like what I know of as var. aurantiacus. It has a wonderful fragrance, but the Polyhouse was so cool and dark I had to work to smell it. Actually, I didn't find this on my own. Sue Bentz tipped me off that there were a handful fo different O. fragrans in one of the Research houses. They're going to maybe, remake the heterophyllus x fragrans cross that produced Osmanthus x fortunei? Or something. I didn't care; I just like the fragrance. One of the first plants we put into the Florida garden was Osmanthus fragrans, the species. It'll be flowering in two weeks when we get there regardless of how cold it gets in the interim.

This is a better dusting than yesterday!

We didn't get a lot of snow, but with temperatures expected to stay below 30 for the next few days, it's not going anyplace soon. My "go to" adjectives for describing winter conditions hereabouts are dreary, bleak, and interminable. Maybe interminable is a stretch, but "biting" doesn't usually pop up in mid-December. But it is today.....biting I mean. Temperatures this a.m. started below 20F and rose slowly. Steady winds between 15 and 20 mph assisted by random gusts up to almost 50mph kept it bitter. I felt bad for Max and Peter whose schedule had them tree pruning on a ladder.

Temperatures in Florida didn't reach 20F as predicted; it was 28 at 5:30a.m. and I expect that it dropped only a degree or so before the sun rose. Tonight is expected to be a bit warmer than last night;I've got my fingers crossed about damage levels. At least the pipes shouldn't freeze!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Salvia elegans 'Peach'....the scent not the color

The Herb Garden Salvias continue to flower in Polyhouse 7.

Demolition continues at the Adminstration Building of the US National Arboretum

At least we assume it does. Here comes a new dumpster to sit at the bottom of the refuse chute. Hey, maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised and the project will finish on schedule!

First snow of the winter US National Arboretum

There was a dusting of snow on the ground this morning, both at home and at the Arboretum (look very closely).The large Needle Palm, Rhapidophyllum hystrix, (a SE US native, not an Asian plant at all) seems happy enough in China Valley. Temperatures fell all day as as the jet stream dipped towards the Gulf of Mexico. It's supposed to go down to 21F tonight here and, get this!, 20F in Central Florida. Wow~ We're going down for two weeks just after Christmas but this may take all the fun out of it.

The winter visit usually finds the garden in the best shape of the year. It doesn't rain a lot in late fall, but there are heavy dews and the temperatures are so much cooler than they were in late summer that the plants seem content. Typically temperatures did dip into the low 20's sometime in late January or early February producing considerable dieback. By the spring visit though things have begun to grow back so I cut back and it's all good. It'll still be all good in the spring, but it's going to be ugly now. Oh well; a certain amount of "dealing with adversity" is part of gardening.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pole clip for tree trimming from the ground (just attach it to the top of af a long pole)

Pruning trimming, not decorating trimming. aA lunch we all admired the new Fern Valley clip .

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii.....this is the curious waxy fruit

The translucent berries are a good source of saponin and so a sort of natural soap. I just posted the spectacular fall color of this same tree less than three weeks ago. Today the trees are completely defoliated.

Paramongaia weberbaueria....alas this year their splendor is on display only to fellow overwintering tropicals!

Other years, as they flower they get to come out to the lobby of the Administration Building and strut their stuff in public. P. weberbaueri is a dramatic winter-flowering (South American) Amaryllis relative. As beautiful as the flower is, the light floral fragrance surpasses it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hibiscus mutabilis....another year without a successful flower

It's good to have something to look forward to. Next spring I'll move it to a hotter location. If it had flowered only a week or two earlier it would have made it.

Berberis thibetica....I know I post this a lot but I like it

Maybe because, according to our records, this plant is a propagation from a collection of E.H. Wilson. We have it by way of the Arnold Arboretum, which makes sense. We're all a bit wary of barberries in general; they seem to present chemical (and physical?) properties that make them unpalatable to deer and so, are invading natural areas replacing the native vegetation eaten by overpopulations of deer. Haven't seen seedlings of this plant but who maybe different soil, a differnt moisture regimen, a slight shift of temperature and it could begin to spread. So we watch.

Actually, this particular plant is in an awkward location. It's too close to the path and probably too large to transplant with a certainty of success. Amanda has stuck a handful of cuttings and eventually, after we've established a replacement or two, we'll remove it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Calocedrus decurrens 'Berrima Gold'....Look at that color!

(I added the second picture after this post)

Holy Moley look at this thing. I didn't photo shop it at all; it's just incredible. Coming in this afternoon I noticed it amongst the Conifer Collection plants in our growing area. Mariya tole me there is one in the collection, the Gotelli Collection. This plant will be going out next year? or sometime. I searched and found a label from Forestfarm still hanging on it. They had a listing , but go figure....sold out. This is a plant I would have cheerfully paid the freight from California for. Maybe next year. It's good to have something to look forward to!