Friday, June 24, 2011

Impatiens omeiana and Asarum maculatum,

Amanda and I have both been working on upgrading the planting around the GCA Circle. She was tasked with it two years ago and I, last year. I know things are moving in the right direction, but I'm increasingly aware of large areas of bare mulch. Not attractive. Even if it were good mulch it would be too much and in fact, it's coarse and chunky, drying to that "bleached bones" effect. I looked around today for relief. Facer plants for the front of the beds. I snatched an Asarum maculatum from bed "L" in the Japanese Woodland; it's an evergreen clumping ginger. Then I snatched Impatiens omeiana from the circle area and moved it across the path in front of the tree peonies. both are very cool plants. After lunch, I dug some sods of Phedimus 'John Creech' from China Valley and planted them under the Musella and the Colocasias. It's a nice low green Chinese sedum that forms lush green mats.

More Fern Valley composites: Stokesia laevis and Rudbeckie maxima

They just keep on coming; these are flowering in the Coastal Plain section of Fern Valley.

Amanda talked her sister into volunteering for the afternoon in China Valley

And she's a tough taskmaster mistress? That just sounds wrong. She must have relented at the last minute and decided to help with cutting back this vicious rose with hooked thorns of steel. She laughed this morning while describing the tasks she's decided on. That was a side I'd never seen. Sibling stuff. I know they're really close because they've been visiting back and forth for Amanda's entire tenure. And we appreciate any volunteer contributions.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Manfreda sp. and Liatris oligocephala: they were planting plants I collected with Joan and Amy

LinkIn Bibb County Alabama in 2008. They're going in a part of Fern Valley that we never attended to much when I was there: across the road from the Coastal Plain planting and a bit towards Hickey Run. It's always exciting to see new plants go into a collection and it's extra good when you were there at the beginning.

Some days are leaf days. I can't explain it

from the top: Plumeria dwarf 'Pink Flamingos'; Hibiscus occidentalis; Musella lasiocarpa; Colocaia 'Blue Hawaii'

I love the patterns, the colors, the veination. I am a plant geek.

We fired a shot across the bow of the groundcovers today, the volunteers and I

And I broke my own record for way I'm going rest on my laurels with almost 10 years to go. One of the good things about being, well, large, is that sweating 10-15 lbs of water a day is no big deal. For Nancy, pictured spearing a huge ant mound, it'd be seriously dehydrating. Anyway 3 of 6 volunteers came in today despite the ridiculous humidity, the dewpoint hung in the 70F range, and enough heat to keep things on the edge of unbearable. Carmen came in early post orthopedic surgery and pre rehabilitation; Julie and Nancy followed and we made our first foray against the groundcovers.

Ironically, the groundcovers were the first things I remember loving about this garden. There are a lot of groundcovers and I mean more in the traditional sense of pachysandra, ophiopogon, liriope, carex, etc. I'm good with Graham Stuart Thomas's definition of a groundcover as anything that keeps the sun from hitting the soil, but for convenience sake I usually mean the commoner sorts. Any day in winter when there's no snow cover you can go to the Asian Collections, especially the older parts, and the world is magically green. I'm not a big winter guy in terms of embracing browns, grays, and whites. I like my green and I can get it here. Still.....

If you plant them, they will grow, and grow, and grow, becoming huge formless mats that swallow up small plants and steal water and minerals from even medium-sized shrubs. It was time to take action and we did. We took out a truckload of pachysandra and smaller quantities of ophiopogon, liriope, and hostas. I seem to remember actually digging a few Japanese Painted ferns that had invaded an important accession of Rhodea. I love those ferns, still, everything in it's place.

Amanda made a point earlier this year that I'd not arrived at yet myself. To wit: when you let groundcovers grow unrestrictedly, they assume a configuration you'd never intended and frankly, it's often not a good shape. Groundcovers used properly are important visual elements in the garden but we need to confine them to configurations that are aesthetically appealing. It's a shame that we're just going in that direction on the eve of her, Amanda's, departure. I'll try to keep her posted.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Echinacea purpurea 'Milkshake'....a cultivar of a native plant

LinkI'll let Angela describe it. There sure are a lot of Echinacea cultivars all of a sudden.

Fern Valley Prairie...the rayed composites are assuming dominance!

the three flowers from the top down are Ratibida pinnata, Helianthus sp., and Echinacea sp.

Hey, I used to know the species, but I'm getting old. Yesterday was the first day of summer and already the Meadow and Prairie are coloring up. Joan, Michael, et alia have been working; the populations of both areas are shifting in a good direction. There are a lot more appropriate grasses than I remember in years past; Indian grass, Panic grass, Little bluestem, ... I like it.

Gardenia jasminoides 'Michael'....three years in an open garden in Washington, DC

In the Asian Collections actually, about 20 feet below the Pagoda. And they weren't sissy winters either. Last year we had consistent cold and the winter before saw temperatures below 10F twice and over 3 feet of snow. There was no damage even to the leaves on this gardenia. To be fair, I have to admit that the spot is a bit sheltered and the city is of course a heat island, but still...

Michael isn't a variety that has generated a lot of literature; Mike Dirr observes that it is a "a cold hardy form" and that it "was selected by Joseph and Debbie Powell of Columbus, Georgia and named for their son Michael". There are other cold hardy selections that will survive in USDA Zone 7b or possibly a bit colder. I like Michael because the flowers are huge, at least 5" across. This is really just a good gardenia that seems to survive Zone 7 winters!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Zephyranthes grandiflora, rosepink rainlily

I take this picture every year....because the flowers are beautiful.

Disanthus cercidifolius fruit....look, they're little hearts!

Are they cool, or what? Yet another sheepish admission; I've never looked at the fruit the 35+ years that I've had at least a passing familiarity with the plant. The flowers in spring are interesting, the gray-green foliage is a wonderful foil for the pink hydrangeas that surround it in the summer, and of course the spectacularly red fall color is the reason most of us plant it. I just never noticed the fruit!

On the first day of summer the Daylily Collection at the National Arboretum is beginning to flower

The Daylily Collection, The Daffodil Collection, the Peony Collection, and the Boxwood Collection share a garden. The boxwoods form a framework within which the other three groups display sequentially. There are plenty of traditionally typical daylilies but I'm drawn to these oddballs.

Actually, as much as I love this collection and as wonderful as it is, there's something a bit off-putting about hundreds of daylilies lined out side to side. They're too much the same; the flowers are spectacular and unique but they're mostly in the same color range. And the plants are almost identical. And not especially attractive. I use them often in borders, mixed or perennial, usually inserted singly. The form of their flowers is much more effective when there aren't 500 plants shoulder to shoulder. Still, I wait eagerly every year for the season to begin and I'll get out there a couple times a week till they're done.

Orchis graminifolia....the flowers opened for the summer solstice

I wish I was a more humble person but I'm all too familiar with the Universe's responses to hubris. I'm also aware that this is considered to be a fairly easy orchid. Still....not on the east coast, or among my peers. So I'm happy that it has lived through it's first winter in the garden and flowered for it's second time. The knowledge that the plants could disappear anytime doesn't lessen the enjoyment. Deer could eat them, this winter could kill them, or maybe worse, they could prosper and multiply for any number of years and then die inexplicably. That's what makes gardening so much fun.