Saturday, March 26, 2011

Enough refined grace and beauty from the native plants at the Lahr Sale, off to Behnke's for some flash and splash

Stock, asters, and a tiny Erodium reichardii from steppables. Plus some colorful Chard and mixed greens for cool spring containers.

Geum triflorum, Prairie Smoke from the Lahr Native Plant Sale

I love this plant. I've had it off and on for a few years. It doesn't seem to live a long time but it does reseed. I've been a few years without so it was great to see good looking plants. I bought three plants of Cumberland False Rosemary, Conradina verticillata 'Snowflake'. We grow a number of shrubby mints in Florida including some Conradinas but don't have any here. I'm thinking it can help replace some of the low evergreen structure in the sunny front bed. Recently we've removed some heathers and heaths and a small cryptomeria because they got too big. The bed has acquired a desolate formless look in the winter. More evergreen subshrubs will help. And a Lonicera sempervirens 'Major Wheeler' which is a spectacular selection of a great native honeysuckle vine. Also a Sweet Betsy trillium, Trillium cuneatum.

I went to the Lahr Plant Sale in Beltsville this morning

Not at the Arboretum where it has been these past 25 years.

There were a lot of plants, I mean a lot of plants! When Joan told me there were only going to be seven vendors instead of the usual twelve or so, I was a bit worried....for no reason it turns out. I worried too, I worry a lot, that the vendors might suffer from the loss of customers who just "walked in" while they were at the Arboretum to see magnolias or cherries or whatever. No worries: I've never seen so many customers an hour into the program. A lot of people showed up just for the sale. Anyway, it seemed like a very successful sale. I bought a few things!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Magnolia denudata is still nice but dropping quickly

Just before sunrise. We got to 5 degrees below freezing F and the magnolias weren't hurt too much but it's supposed to snow a bit this Sunday and it may get a bit colder and that would not be good.

If you drive around the cherry nurseries, you can see these plants without even getting out of your car

We have records of 1,058 plants in the genus Prunus in our collections. Not all are still alive, not all are here at the Arboretum, and not all are cherries. Still, we have a lot of cherries and a lot of "different" cherries. Sure the Yoshino's at the Tidal Basin are nice and the Kwanzans in upper Northwest; the Weeping Higan's, and 'Snow Fountains' around town are beautiful. Still, it's fun to see this incredible variety of cherries planted at the Arboretum.

Camellia petelotii var. petelotii 'Vancouver' x Camellia flava...F-1's from Dr. Ackerman

We have four of these F-1 crosses; these two have flowered and two are still in bud. Both parents have yellow flowers but from what I can tell neither has enough hardiness to suggest that their progeny would survive Zone 7 winters. I checked in our database and discovered that we have tried, in the open garden, plants with the same genetic mix and they did not survive. We'll see if some clever siting and a bit of pampering can bring them through a winter of two.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring blooming camellias are flowering at the US National Arboretum

FROM THE TOP Camellia japonica 'Daisy Eagleson'; Camellia x 'Fire 'N Ice'; C. japonica 'Red Candles' (plant); Camellia japonica 'Red Candles' (flower); C. japonica 'Hagoromo'; C. japonica'Julia Drayton'; C. japonica

Most years it's reasonable to say that there are spring-blooming camellias and fall-blooming camellias; not so much this year. Cold weather came on so quickly last fall that a large percentage of the bud on the late fall-bloomers didn't get enough heat to flower until this spring. Temperatures weren't low enough to kill the buds, as sometimes happens, but they did delay much of the flowering of the late season cultivars. They finished up over the last month or so. Now the "true" spring flowering camellias are flowering; there are mostly selections of Camellia japonica.

Our collection seems to be passing through adolescence into young adulthood. Most of the plants are taller, all of a sudden, than we are, some considerably so. Because two bad winters in the late 1970's devastated the first planting of camellias, these current plants are relatively young. There are a few plants that predate the recent unpleasantness but most have been planted in the last 15 years. I guess I have a picture in my mind of the plants from 2004 when I returned to the Arboretum. Well, they've grown in the last 7 years.

The seeds are germinating; this is one of Brad's flats: Portulaca, Leycesteria, Incarvillea, et alia

We don't root everything in the propagation house under mist! (Corkscrew willow)

These pieces have just been sitting in a bucket of water in uncovered Polyhouse 8 and there you go! Brad says he's going to use them in large containers this summer.....maybe with vines?
I do remember reading once that rooting large sections of weeping willows was at one time a landscaping technique.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Staphylea holocarpa 'rosea' flowers opening at GCA Circle

I never seem to get tired of pictures of huge trees coming down....I know, it's wrong

Usually they take them down in fairly small pieces, but we decided it would be okay to let the top of this tree, a dead white oak, fall into the semi-wild area of seedling camellias. The piece you see in midair was incredibly large. Amanda told us that she could feel the shock in China Valley which is about 300 feet (I measured it on Google Earth) and one huge ravine away. The plan worked; the top disappeared into the camellias and a few choice cuts removed the odd branch sticking up. As bad as I feel about the tree dying, it is good to be able to leave the wood in the garden in an inconspicuous place. Forests expect and require a good supply of rotting wood. In this case we could oblige.

Cardamine concatenata and Trillium cuneatum are flowering along the roadside in Fern Valley

I went by Fern Valley this afternoon, rallied the energy. Because this area is right beside the road (under the big Beech across the road and down from the parking lot) it didn't take all that much energy. Besides the Toothwort and Sweet Betsy, there are abundant Virginia Bluebells showing color, a clump of Trillium luteum, various violets, and things I've forgotten. It'll be good this weekend as will the rest of the collection. I know Bloodroot and Hepaticas are flowering; I'll summon up my energy tomorrow and walk through!

Phalaenopsis gigantea courtesy of Pat Lynch

This is a wicked cool arboreal Phalaenopsis from Borneo.

Dr. Richard Olsen and entourage collected vouchers of Corylopsis today

I did a personal survey and decided that I like the fragrance of Corylopsis glabrescens best. In particular I like the plant that appears in front of you if you walk down the path to the Pagoda from Hickey Hill Road, not the C. pauciflora off the trail to the left, but the sprawling plant on your left when you bear right at the fork in the path. It's nice enough to plant just for fragrance and it's lovely too.

Magnolias by Moonlight

Sunrise didn't happen till 7:11 today and I got in a bit early. The Magnolia Collection was fun under the not-quite-still-full moon.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Asian Collection is Spectacular this week

Thanks in no small part to the many Corylopsis. There are over 20 species in the genus in the Hamamelidaceae. We have a handful of them in the collection. Richard Olsen, who ought to know, maintains that we have one of, if not the, top collection in the US. They're all flowering now and provide a good counterpoint to the Magnolias. The perfumes are different, the Magnolias are rich and spicy, almost tangible in their richness; the Corylopsis, not so strong, more floral, almost citrusy. Actually the Corylopsis scent is not especially strong but, by virtue of the number of plants and flowers, pervades the entire garden. The plant in the middle picture is Corylopsis pauciflora, finely branched and symmetrical compared to the others. The flowers in the bottom picture are C. glandulifera; this plant in China Valley is among the most fragrant of our specimens.

Camellia x 'Night Rider', look at that color. and shapely petals the texture of fruit roll-ups!

The pollen parent was Camellia x 'Ruby Bells', the seed parent C. japonica 'Kuro Tsubarki'. The cross was made by the late Os (wald) Blumhardt (1931-2004) in New Zealand; the plant flowered for the first time in 1980. Blumhardt was a plantsman, nurseryman, hybridizer, and plant explorer of the first order. He founded Koromiko Nursery on the North Island after training and apprenticing through the New Zealand Institute of Horticulture. Working with a variety of taxa including Magnolias, Rhododendrons, Camellias, and Orchids, he produced a quantity of hybrids, many of which are important commercial plants. 'Night Rider' is his best known Camellia; 'Star Wars' (Magnolia campbelli x liliflora) is a great plant known, grown, and admired world-wide. 'Saxon Glow' and 'Saxon Blush' are among the many vireya hybrids that are widely grown in areas warmer than ours! I am tempted to read his biography, Oswald Blumhardt; New Zealand Plant Pioneer, by Cathering Ballard, but am slightly put off by the cost, 50$ used. Maybe I'll just go for it; he clearly led an interesting life. Apparently his nephew, Chris Blumhardt, is attempting to carry on the tradition including both the Nursery and the breeding programs. Wow.

I liked this camellia for it's foliage the first time I saw it. It came in with the other Camellias from Dr. Ackerman last summer. Now that I've seen the flowers, I'm sold. The only problem here is that it's considered a Zone 8 plant. Technically we're Zone 7. I'm thinking though with a little creative siting, it might be done. I guess that means this is another plant I'm going to be propagating this summer.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Enemion/Isopyrum biternatum, eastern false rue anemone in Sally Boasberg's garden

(The false rue anemone is the top picture, the bottom is Corylopsis.)

On the way to Jim's Pamela Harper soiree yesterday, we stopped by Cleveland Park to pick up Sally Boasberg. Sally, a garden designer, is also an indefatigable advocate for "green" in Washington. I first met her through the Friend of the National Arboretum board; she's a board member. Sally generously offered, post non subtle hints on my part, to show us her garden. It's a spectacular 3/4 acre property including quite a deep ravine. The house sits high on one corner of the property so there are wonder views of the garden from two terraces and a large bay window. Trails wind down and throughout the plantings.

It's a shade garden with a bit less shade now, minus a 52 inch 100 year old white oak that went down this winter. I was overwhelmed by both the beauty of the garden and the variety of the plant materials. She has to have the largest collection of Osmanthus on the east coast. We've just pulled out of winter here, but there were cyclamen galore, and trilliums, corydalis, hepaticas amongst swarms of more usual spring flowers. We walked through quickly so I know I missed a lot.

The clumps of false rue anemone were impressive. It occurs naturally in moist woodland setting at our latitude but a bit west. It certainly does well here. I remember planting very small plants in Fern Valley a few years back but haven't checked on them recently. I'll do that Monday afternoon. Sally, an excellent plantsperson, is an enthusiastic proponent. One of the things she admires is it's easy recovery from heavy snowfall; when the snow melts, the plants pop up, in flower, none the worse for wear. The flowers are pleasant and the colonies are a nice textural addition to the late winter/early spring shade garden.