Saturday, February 5, 2011

It's 1969 and I'm finishing the small upper wall at my parents' house

My father must have taken this picture. I doubt I've seen it for over 40 years.

The larger wall (foreground) I mostly finished the year before. That was my first cold frame and it was a couple of years old; I was just relocating it to this newly leveled bed. Notice the leafpile in the top bed. I dragged bag after bag of leaves and grass clippings home both to go into a compost pile and to compost directly on beds over winter. My mother has continued to improve the soil. After ~42 years of amendment with organic materials, the soil (initially clay) is in pretty good shape.

A picture taken more recently would show a large ornate gazebo and the brick wall that replaced the chain link fence. And of course an established mixed border. I guess I ought to have that picture but I don't. This spring, I swear.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Salvia melissodora....the salvias are flowering again in Polyhouse 7

Grape scented sage is one of my favorite salvias. I like the flowers, the leaves, the fragrance of both, and the name (from the Greek for honeybee + fragrant). It's a plant that's been on my list for Florida for the entire four years I've gardened there. I just never got it done

It gets large, I read 6-7' but have never seen a plant as tall as I am (6'2"). In the heat of summer, the leaves are bluer/grayer than they are now. I know it has been used medicinally by native Americans in Mexico too. Wow. Good plant!

Senecio talinoides forma cristata.....Brad discovered and propagated this excellent cristate succulent

He's got a handful of them now and they'll go somewhere visible this summer. I think it's a sport of 'Jolly Gray'. I remember when these plants were in the genus Kleinia. Hey Senecio is already a huge genus, or maybe I ought to say is still a huge genus because sections of it have been split off lately. I think it still contains over 1,000 species. This one intrigues me because according to San Marcos Growers it's hardy to 20-25F. That sounds like a potential Florida plant!

Brad did tell me yesterday that one reversion needed to come off. It's moreobvious in the picture than it was in person.

Camellia Japonica x Franklinia alatamaha cross from Dr. Ackerman

I'm just posting a photograph to monitor the progress of the bud. Like many C. japonica cultivars and the species itself, the bud is swelling as the days lengthen. It's showing pink petal edges. I can't wait.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Nathan picked up stone for his project to rebuild the steps from the parking lot into the Japanese Woodland: Pat helped him unload

There are five primary entrances to the Asian Collections at the US National Arboretum: the entrance to the Camellia Collection; the entrance from the Parking Lot; the head of the path across from the weeping Cercidiphyllum; the head of The path to the Pagoda; and the entrance to China Valley. Three of those work pretty well; they're attractive, walkable, and inviting. A fourth, the entrance to the Camellia Collection is neither well defined nor especially inviting. It's a good site thoough, and neither of those issues presents any problems. It's a simple fix and we're on it.

If I did my math correctly that leaves one, the entrance at the south end of the Parking Lot. This one forks right at the beginning with one path leading north parallel to the road heading past a nice Ginkgo, under the large Davidia, eventually meeting up with the path from the middle entrance and taking you either to the Chimonanthus overlook or the GCA Circle. This fork works nicely. The grade is okay, surface okay, and the plants draw you in. The problem is the other side of the fork, the path down into the Japanese Woodland.

A grassy slope leads down to timber steps that have been degraded by erosion. The grass itself isn't able to handle the volume of traffic and doesn't do well. And there are drainage issues associated with the runoff from the parking lot. To top it off, it just isn't a very inviting entrance, which is unfortunate because it's the first part of the collection most people see.

We're beginning by reworking the steps and extending them farther up the hill. That will eliminate the section of turf that's killed every year. It will also redirect runoff. The stones we unloaded will be both paving and risers. Nathan will set them in a porous matrix that will allow us to direct the water movement and maybe infiltrate some fraction of it. We can begin work as soon as the ground thaws. Unfortunately winter is hanging on and at this point our starting date looks to be at least three weeks away.

Who knew Cryptanthus had such nice flowers

I guess this is part of Brad's bromelliad explosion. I'm not sure I ever noticed a Cryptanthus flowering before....and it has a bit of fragrance. I have no idea what species it is. I'm thinking there are 100 or so?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) and Zygopetalum x flowering in the Greenhouse

All dressed up and nowhere to go. These plants normally go on display in the Administration Building, but since it's temporary out of commission..... Actually Brad works a few into the temporary building where our visitor services are housed. It's nice to see things flowering when we're tending our plants so I'm not complaining.

Interesting weather today: it started out cold and rainy and ended up sunny and 60+F

Some melting went on but this last snow was so wet and heavy that combined with the fact that the ground is's going to be a slow melt. Still, it was great to see sunshine. The good news is that the sun didn't come out until after the groundhog woke so he didn't see his shadow, so we won't have 6 more weeks of winter. Unless we do.

Pelargonium ionidiflorum is flowering in the cool (35F) Polyhouse

All the scented Pelargoniums have attractive flowers, but this one is exceptional. The flowers are small but dark and it flowers a lot! Plus the foliage is finely dissected and compact. The fragrance is described variously as "celery like" or just "fresh". I don't know but it's a good plant visually.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Euonymus lanceolatus in the Cryptomeria Walk at the Bonsai Museum

Carole and Alan were talking and it turns out this is a rare plant and we have good germplasm. IThis was grown from seed wild collected in Japan. Today I "tame" collected seed so we can produce a few more plants. I'll do some cuttings too.

Superficially it looks like E. americanus the common native Strawberrybush. Deer seem to favor euonymus over just about anything else and it's getting more and more uncommon to see a mature plant in the woods. It comes back nicely from the roots after each cropping and so forms in effect a groundcover. I remember when the large twiggy shrubs covered with the distinctive strawberry fruits in the fall were regularly encountered. As deer populations have exploded most of the native undergrowth has disappeared, even the plants that weren't their favorites.

I know you have to break some eggs to make an omelette....

I'm sure eventually they'll start the rebuilding phase.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Euscaphis japonicus....winter twigs and buds

It's nice in the winter: the stubby striped twigs and the red buds. Considering the fall color and the fruit, this is almost a three-season plant.

Helleborus x 'Pink Frost' from Heuger Gartenbaubetrieb

Larry (from facilities) found me this morning while looking for someone to move plants in Polyhouse 8 so they (facilities) could replace a non-functioning Modine (heater). George and I went back and shifted enough plants to allow for the repair. While I was looking for space, I noticed a flat of Hellebores, one of those random groups of plants Brad had picked up somewhere. He does find some good stuff. One was flowering and caught my attention; the flowers were white suffused with a warmish pink and streaked faintly from the center, with green. And, while they weren't upturned, they pointed out. The plants, sans flowers, are beautiful too; the leaves are streakily variegated suggesting some Helleborus lividus in the mix and the petioles are a wonderful dark red. Wow. I love this plant.

Now for confession. I used to be obsessed with Hellebores but something happened. I still admire them and appreciate them for their unseasonable flowers, but.....Many have foliage that turns nasty either in the cold of winter, or just as they're flowering in the spring. And most of the flowers nod and so are difficult to properly appreciate. To top it off, frankly I think I was overwhelmed by the explosion of cultivars. The doubles don't work for me and while the spotties and the picotees are incredible I think enough was enough. I pretty much gave up on all the "orientalis" hybrids, contenting myself with the Christmas Rose, H. niger.

Well, this one has just about got me back in the fold. I've got to have it! And it's available everywhere from Plant Delights to Digging Dog. Heuger Gartenbaubetrieb is repped by Yoder Brothers in the US.

In a gray winter even a flower or two are nice

The weather has been typical for Washington in late January. Some snow, some melting, many clouds. It's hard to look for early bulbs because of the snow but rain midweek may melt it and I expect we've been making progress under the snowcover. I finally cleaned the four Pelargoniums in the west window of the office and was rewarded by finding these two flowers.