Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tropical look landscape in North Silver Spring (Zone 7)

This was planted two years ago and it's coming along nicely. The Banana 'Basjoo' is thriving on this sheltered site. Two Needle Palms, Rhapidophyllum hystrix, are doing well but coming on slowly (one is visible just below the lowest banana leaf). The Crocosmia adds hot colored flowers and Ferns, Mahonias, Callas, and Hostas add lushness and textural diversity.The low shrub at the far right beside the patio is Gardenia 'Chuck Hayes'. In the background a grapevine clambering over a strong 4x4 timber structure screens while it contributes to the atmosphere. I didn't photograph a large clump of Hedychium 'Elizabeth' because the heat (98F at 11:00am) had it drooping. It's coming in nicely as it's gone from 3? shoots two years ago to more than a dozen now. My sons built the pergola but not the patio. I hope that in the future they will be able to take as much satisfaction as I do from revisiting jobs they've installed, or in my case designed!

Friday, July 23, 2010

On Jeanette's advice, good advice, I've been monitoring the Phlox and Joe Pye Weed outside the Herb Garden driveway

It's a goldmine; butterflies, bees, and hummingbird moths swarm continuously. Photographing the hummingbird moths is a problem for me because it takes a long time to get a good picture and I'm at work. I take a minute or so on my way to lunch or back or whatever but to get a good picture you've got to sit and wait till a subject flies onto the flowers your camera is pointed at. Then you gently squeeze off a picture or two. What I do, is I chase them around so that they're moving and my hand it lunging and.... I ought to come in on the weekend or stay late but I'm almost dead by the time the day is over so I can't really sit in the sun with the heat index over100 and...well anyway I have a good collection of mediocre photographs of hummingbird moths and now here's another one!

It was interesting watching them today; they are just as territorial and just as pugnacious as hummingbirds plus occasionally they get into it with the carpenter bees who are about the same size. I like insects, invertebrates in general actually. At some point when I was younger I accumulated a collection of books, popular and scientific about insects. I have all of Fabre and a few dozen other volumes. I've often thought that by the time I reach a point in my life when my mobility lessens even more than it already has, I'd like to have a planting of insect friendly plants that I could watch from a user friendly location; maybe Sedums, Weigelas, Eupatoriums, Phlox, Angelica. Maybe even Evodia, not the big invasive Tetradium, but the small one at the top of China Valley. It definitely bears thinking about. I'll start that list today.

ANS Field Trip finds the butterflies

As I write this at 5:00 pm, the heat index has dropped to 105, the temperature to 98. These are some intrepid naturalists. They came seeking butterflies, birds, plants, reptiles; I'm sure they'd even have welcomes a big snake. Notice thought, that they do have the good sense to stand in the shade.
I was curious about the nature of their outing, they'd told me they were from the ANS, which I know from having been a member is the Audubon Naturalist Society, so I googled their event. I discovered that today was part of a Summer in the Parks program that encouraged members and non-members to see and learn while experiencing various habitats in various locations around the area. 

"Join two naturalists to explore the summer richness of parks in the Potomac Watershed. As summer arrives and progresses into its muggy days and nights, wetlands and meadows soak up the sun and come alive with plant and wildlife activity. We’ll explore these habitats with walks of up to 2 - 3 miles, at a slow summer pace, in search of birds, butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles, amphibians, and summer plant life. "

They were finding butterflies everywhere and identified half a dozen for me in about a minute. The heat didn't seem to diminish their enthusiasm any, or if it did they must be a frightening bunch when it cools off.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Coming through Fern Valley just after 6:30 this morning and what do I see?

Wow. Final tests. I see from the photograph, though I didn't notice it this morning that there's a bit of mud in that water. Anyway, Michael tells me the system will be operational by the end of the day. I can't help but be excited for them. I remember spending hours and hours setting and moving water five days a week and fairly regularly splitting the weekends with Joan so that one of us would come in Saturday, the other Sunday. This is one heck of an improvement. And no leaky pipes. And no falling rainbirds. I have to say wow again.

The signage work in the Asian Collections has stopped for a bit but we have every expectation it will resume and finish

Haven't seen those guys for a few days though. Hope everything's all right.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dianthus superbus var. longicalycinus: Japanese Carnation

The plants aren't anything to write home about but the flowers are remarkable. This plant has been seeding about in the Asian Collections at least since the early 1990s. Right now a goodly number of them are flowering in the bed with the Stone Lantern. Balloonflowers, Platycodon, are flowering heavily with them.

Candy Lily, Pardancanda norissii: whatever you call them we have a nice mixed planting in the Asian Collections

These are growing right along the road in the shadow of the big Davidia. These used to be bi-generic hybrids, whose parents were Pardanthopsis dichotoma and Belamcanda chinensis now changed to Iris dichotoma and Iris domestica respectively. Anyway they're cheerful exotically patterned Irids, easily grown in a sunny location. They aren't long lived, usually lasting two or three years, but occasionally if the site is right one or more will take hold. Failing that they seed readily, producing interesting progeny.

Monday, July 19, 2010

They look like aliens don't they?,,,,,I think it's the triangular heads

There's still things going on in Fern Valley.....natural things not construction related things

Past the shed, a Sabatia has colonized the Northern Bog, I think there was Sabatia here last year.Mimulus ringens is flowering on both sides of the trail and in the island bed adjacent to the bog.
Clethra alnifolia, is flowering all through Fern Valley; it's a butterfly magnet. Clethra isn't the most controlled or architectural plant, but I bet you've got a friend who's a little bit wild and we're not going to dump them. A long time ago Joan told me a funny story about a delicate and refined visitor who observed, somewhat haughtily, that "You let your Clethra run." There really isn't any choice. It's the nature of the beast. And Itea is the same way. As much as I love these plants I reflect before I put them into designs.

I did weekend watering yesterday, Sunday, and I was struck by how many plants belonged to Fern Valley. Then I stopped to think that, for the last 2+ years, FV has been non-stop rescuing plants that lived in the path of construction: the new Trail System or the the same time unprecedented numbers of seed collections were going on. It all adds up. The construction seems to be just about done save a bit of fine tuning so those plants can go back into the ground. But likely not till the fall. I think by this point I might have thrown my hands up but I guess that's really not an option. Anyway, the hardest  part seems to be over.

In the picture below, the fringe along the road is all Elephantopus and it has all resprouted since the trench was filled about a week ago. Wow. I love this plant though with some reservations. It is frightening how fast it came back on this site. Still, it has wonderfully textured foliage in basal rosettes, nice purple/blue flowers, and never seems to be fazed by drought. Flora of North America lists 4 species, one of which is a major component of the dry flora around the Florida Garden.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Some days all the jokes seem funny; today all the plants were entrancing

Aroids, Aloes, Papayas et alia....

This malvaceous beauty looks better going than coming

I think, but then I tend to feel that way. (Was that wrong?) Just inside the entrance to the Herb Garden, before you get to the Yard Long Beans, some of which are, in fact, approaching a yard in length.
 And before you get to the Rose Garden where Rosa bracteata straddles a fence bearing single saucer-shaped flowers held horizontally.

Watering on the east Terrace of the Admin Building (USNA) I was struck by all the variegated Aroids and Canna 'Stuttgart'?

Pretty good foliage.