Saturday, December 19, 2009

At midday we had about 11" and it was still falling at a rate of at least 1.5"/hour.....We're anticipating 8-12 more hours. Wow

Jingles enjoys the snow with some reservations. Apparently it's more fun if the snow depth is less than her height, though she did barrel through a drift or two. Karen and Peter had a job scheduled for this morning, tieing up boxwoods to prevent snow damage. They moved it to yesterday afternoon. Good call!

In general though, as far as plants and gardens are concerned, I like heavy (accumulations) of light (dry, fluffy) snow. It's a good insulator, keeping roots at 32F and doing a bit to prevent heaving of perennials and premature growth. This is a good storm. This snow is light and fluffy so it won't break branches. We aren't technically in a blizzard, but we have had winds up to 30mph, snowfall at 3"/hour, with  a temperature of 25F. The winds prevent enough snow accumulating on evergreens to do any damage. All I'm doing is adding logs to the fire.

I've never driven away from deep snow to go to Florida, but I think I can handle it. We're going down this week and I'm pretty excited. The winter visit is always fun because it's been raining regularly since the last vist (in July). There'll be weeds, but the plants will have grown nicely and a number of them flower heavily this time of year: Odontonema stricta, Schizostylis coccinea, Cuphea micropetala, Osmanthus fragrans, Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, Aloe saponaria (a hummingbird magnet), et alia. Others will have some flowers. I erected a couple of trellises last trip; one for a Bougainvillea, and the other for Lonicera sempervirens. The plants ought to have made good strides towards concealing their new supports.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rosa luciae var. luciae.....nice hips....or heps

I have read and reread the literature without really understanding the relationship between this and Rosa wichuriana. I think that R. luciae and R. wichuriana are synonymous but that begs the questions of variety luciae. Our rose, like Wichuriana, is a prostrate scrambler, rooting readily as it creeps, that flowers in late summer through early winter. The plant itself is frightening in its vigour and the ease with which it sends down roots, but the hips are nicely urceolate and a pretty glossy red.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Photinia davidiana yellow fruited form.....

This medium sized evergreen shrub leaps out in winter; the foliage is mostly green, but yellow fruit, and the occasional scarlet leaf or two make it hard to miss. This plant is on the uphill side of the path that leads from the Davidia to the Chimonanthus overlook.

Seedheads of Anemone japonica in China Valley

If you've grown Clematis then you've seen this seedhead. Ranunculaceae, Buttercup Family.

Amanda cuts back Japanese Anemones with the new reciprocating saw

It's like a string trimmer but instead of whipping with a nylon string, two blades that look like large gears chop fiercly with a reciprocal motion. It cuts fairly cleanly and we don't have to get down on our knees on frozen ground. I like that part. Amanda chopped, I raked, and we did what would have taken three people most of the day in three hours.We like anything that allows us to do more in less time.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quercus falcata outside Fern Valley's a big one

I like this tree a lot. Spanish Oak has a fairly distinctive profile. Since the camera is pointed SW, we know that the rosy pre-dawn glow isn't the sun below the horizon; it's the artificial lighting from downtown Washington.

Tillandsia usneoides is ready to take on another Washington DC Winter

Jeanna and I planted….well we tucked actually, the Spanish Moss into branches of the Live Oaks in the National Grove of State Trees mid-summer 2008. They lived through last winter which included a few nights of single digit temperatures (Fahrenheit). 

Generally, when it’s given a hardiness zone rating, Tilia u. is rated a USDA Zone 8 or 9. Widespread throughout the south, there are regular references in the literature, to its occurrence in Maryland though its more likely to be encountered in extreme SE Virginia.  After years of observation, my, untried, conclusion/guess is that while temperature is definitely a limiting factor,  a lack of winter moisture is what really draws the line.

During winter visits to the Florida garden, I noticed that a combination of unfrozen water, humidity, and nighttime temps that regularly drop below the dew point without freezing, combine to produce heavy heavy dews. It isn’t unusual for the windows to be opaque until the sun dries things out. Regularly Tree frog tracks in odd arcs, ornament the sliding doors. It largely evaporate later in the day, but every morning all the plants including the Spanish Moss are dripping wet. These conditions coincide with the dry season, dry in the sense that it doesn’t rain. Still, moisture is moisture.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It rained all day so I brought a couple of orchids into the office for inspiration

The top plant is an unnamed Dendrobium, w/ 'Fire Coral' as a parent. It came from a NCOS (National Capitol Orchid) show three years ago. I've long since lost the plant label, but materials science being what it is the adhesive sticker on the side of the pot with the price ($20.00) is still in perfect condition despite being watered at least 200 times. Wow. The yellow and brown flower is...well I don't know what it is; maybe an Oncidium? It came from a Flea Market in Florida and cost 3$ about three years  ago. It was likely a culled plant from a cross. Flea Markets are good outlets for the 995,996.997?  seedlings out of a million that don't make the cut.  Still, it's a nice plant.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What can I say?....bleak days make for bleak photographs

High winds and cold temperatures drove most of us inside yesterday. The forecast suggests that winter is arriving; we'll have nighttime low temperatures in the mid 20's F for most of the next two weeks. That's not unreasonably cold but the only flowers we'll be seeing for a while are the trur winter bloomers.

Still, it's nice to know Milkweeds flourish in the shadow of the Capitol Columns.

Pelargonium panduriforme, Fiddle leafed Geranium

The Herb Gardern maintains a large collection of potted scented Geraniums, that they overwinter in our polyhouse. This is not the best season for flowers, but hey, it was a cold windy day; the temperature barely rose above freezing despite it being a sunny day. Any flowers were good today, so after I checked the Asian plants for wate, I stopped to look at the geraniums.The leaves are still fragrant of course, and there weren't many flowers, but these were especially nice.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Euonymus carnosus has interestingly pink fall color that lasts for weeks on the ground

These leaves have been filtering down for about three weeks and most of them are still holding color. This is a grove of plants that straddles the China Valley path in the middle of the first big curve as you descend from the top. I'm not especially partial to Euonymus for various reasons: some are invasive, deer love them and not in a good way, and Euonymus Scale is often an issue. These plants, though, are beginning to grow on me. I've never heard of anyone planting a plant for the effect of it's fallen leaves; this could be the one though.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Actually, its interesting to look at the components of the table arrangements close up

Tke the bug's eye view as it were.

Pittosporum sp. ....there is an unanswered demand for good, interesting, shade tolerant broad-leafed evergreens

Maybe this could answer that call; it's a pleasing upright vase-shaped plant, less than 15 feet tall, with small fragrant flowers. It's clearly hardy here in USDA Zone 7, and doesn't seem to show any invasive tendencies, though it does have those red fruit that birds have a tendency to distribute. This plant is just down the main steps in the Asian Collection in the bed on the left-hand side.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Somebody put together some spectacular winter arrangements....I found them in the headhouse when I came in at the end of the day. I think it was Young Choe


They will function for a few events here over the next week or so. Every year I'm impressed by them. Every year they are wonderful, but this year the variety of materials is very impressive. Every year I try to photograph them. Every year the flourescent lights and the horrible backgrounds are issues. I could wait until they're on tablecloths but then it would be so dark that I'd need flash and that would ruin the pictures. So I took closeups. You can't see the background. Too much. The light is still not perfect so the colors are a bit off but clearly these are well conceived and executed.

Brookside Gardens does holiday lighting very well!

Monday, December 7, 2009

It's not winter for a couple of weeks and we still have some nice fall foliage in the Camellia collection

Two Asian maples are a little bit behind the curve here, but it's nice to have them. Acer pictum mono in the top picture and an unidentified species below add hot color to the, mostly pink and white, Camellias above the Anacostia River.

One of the great things about Washington DC is that we don't usually have enough winter to put the garden down

Of course winter hasn't begun yet, but since two late-winter/early spring bloomers have begun to flower.....27 F two night in a row isn't quite enough to trash the Camellias, even with a day's snowfall thrown in. And it isn't every year that Prunus mume starts flowering in early December, but this cultivar, 'Shiro-ninawa' is always the first to flower. Chimonanthus praecox is more likely to begin ist long flowering season before the middle of the month, still the flowers don't usually open while the foliage is still lush and green.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The tropical plantings are hanging in there on the 5th of December

The silly variegated ginger is barely hardy in the Florida garden but looks great one week into December just a bit north of Washington, DC. Go figure. We're sitting on an Ephemeral milestone; on the last day of November the sun set at 4:47 pm, the next day, December 1, we lost another minute of daylight in the evening. The sun set at 4:46. The good news is that after sitting on that number for almost two weeks, it will change to 4:47 so we've seen the earliest sunset. Of course the bad news is that sunrise will continue to move in the wrong direction until the last day of this month when it will rise at 7:27am. Again, that number will sit unchanged for almost two weeks until it starts to drop and they days will be growing at both ends. I can hardly wait.

Curiously, we have already seen our latest sunrise this year. On October 31,the sun rose at 7:34 am. The onset of daylight savings time, the next day, moved it to 6:36 am and it's been steadily getting later though, as noted early, it will stop at 7:27.

I took the picture this morning about 9:00 am. It ws raining and the rain turned to snow shortly thereafter. Now at 1:00, there's nearly an inch of snow on grassy surfaces, cars, plants, etc. Nothing has accumulated on the streets or sidewalks probably because it is above freezing and has been, excepting the odd hour or two) for....well since last winter.

Poinsettia growing house at Behnke Nurseries (and this is a tiny house half empty!)

This will be the last year the Behnke's grows Poinsettias; they've sold their growing facilities. I'm saddened by that news, but happy to hear they will continue to operate their retail facilities. Behnke's really grew Poinsettias well, actually, they grew all the seasonal crops exceptionally well. Their annuals were always good dependable plants and because they produced them, they were able to include, every year, some interesting, obscure, unusual selections that you wouldn't see anywhere else locally.

There was a time not so long ago when Behnke's Poinsettias were head and shoulders above the rest; now they're just heads above the best. Behnke's quality hasn't slipped, but the rest of the world has made strides. One of the wonderful things about the explosion of communications technology is that it means anybody can find out how to grow a perfect Poinsettia (or do countless other things well). Experience still counts and Behnke plants are still at the top, but the chain stores that used to be filled with "Charley Brown" plants now stock fairly passable material. 

I used to love the growing houses during the month before Christmas. Acres of Poinsettias: red , white, pink, striped, variegated spread out in huge blocks of color.  It was a sight to behold. For a few weeks at the beginning of December, every available body delivered them. Twenty or so drivers and helpers arrived before 5:00 am and milled around in sleepy confusion until the growing staff pointed us at trucks and directed us to the blocks of plants we would be loading and delivering that day. Getting up at 3:00 in the morning wasn't fun, and often it was cold outside, but seeing those acres of plants under artificial lights like some odd oasis of tropical splendor in the midst of a cold, dark, somnolent world was quite an experience, one that I feel privileged to have participated in.

I expect change is inevitable, and with so many people jobless and losing their homes and retirement equity it seems almost self-indulgent to be this unhappy about Poinsettias, but a little bit of something I valued is passing out of the world.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Itea virginica...Virginia Sweetspire below the Administration Building Parking Lot

I have to thank Brad for siting these plants here. They are backlit every afternoon  and they are a pleasure to see. Itea is an undemanding, fast growing, disease resistant, pest free native. Plant it between the setting sun and someplace you are in the evenings in the fall and winter. It will be $20 well spent.

Now that we've hired Amanda as an ASRT, shes free to pursue her Zoological interests

You will notice that the three women in the picture all have their heads down. Betty and Terri, (volunteers) and Amanda, soon to be the new China Valley ASRT were doing cutbacks and cleaning up today and Amanda hit the zoological jackpot, spotting bot the egg-laying praying mantis, and the quarter-sized Snapping? Turtle. That's one cute turtle.

We did a good bit of work, timing our leaf removal to coincide with the leaf pickup truck. Almost all the leaves are down now and all the views of the collection visible from the road are clean and attractive and the rest are coming along.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rhododendron kaempferi 'Dorsett' December bloomers continued

Encore Azaleas didn't invent reblooming.. These plants were in the Central Valley when I was in the Asian Collection the first time (coming on 20 years).  I think it's safe to assume the plants are mature and they're about 10 feet tall which is what kaempferi does and more upright than spreading, also typical. The picture captures the flower color pretty well, maybe no ones favorite but pleasant enough and this time of year we're kind of in the beggars can't be choosers situation. The flowers will keep dribbling out all winter as temperatures allow; If it's over 45 F there will be flowers. Rhododendron kaempferi is a fairly cold hardy Azalea ranging up to USDA Zone 5 and I suspect the winter flowering is phenomenon limited to the southern end of its range. Luckily for us, Zone 7 is the southern end.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reblooming Iris are having their best year in....well in a while ('Autumn Bugler' , on the bottom, and an unknown variety)

From a gardener's standpoint it's been a good fall here in Washington. Plenty of moisture, mixed with a reasonable number of sunny days. Temperatures have dipped below freezing twice, once almost a month ago and the past two nights. But only a few degrees; we haven't yet had a hard frost. The fall Camellias are unmatched, lots of Roses still have flowers, the Ericas are slipping into flower, late Mums are still good. And the Iris.

If you look at a catalogue of Tall Bearded Iris, anywhere from half to almost all of the listed varieties are reblooming. Not all of them reflower reliably this far north, but this year they did. I enjoy the reblooming varieties immensely. I use Iris, as architectural design elements, not bedded, so the flowers are sort of gravy. Only frost stops the fall flowering once it's begun; I always feel sad about the inevitably blasted buds that mrk our first hard frost, but hey, they'll be flowering again in 5 months. To encourage reflowering, and this is true of just about any perennial that reblooms, a bit of fertilizer after the first flush, and adequate water will help ensure that second set of flowers. When choosing Iris, I've found that if you read the labels or descriptions, it's easy to figure out which rebloom the most reliably.

Monday, November 30, 2009

If they only ate brown stuff, it wouldn't be so bad

I looked closely and I have no idea what this cute little fellow is eating, but he and his relations have the potential to damage our collections either by eating the plants outright or by scraping them with their antlers. Fortunately, the Arboretum is fenced and we have only a few deer living on our 440+ acres.

Twenty years ago there was a long list of plants deer didn't eat. As their population density has increased, most of those plants have fallen away and now we're left with the Berberidaceae and the Ranunculaceae. Nandinas, Mahonias, and Barberries (many of which ought not to be planted becuse of their invasive potential)  provide a range of shrubs, many with good winter interest. The Buttercup family contains a lot of wonderful perennials including Columbines, Hellebores, Monkshoods, and Delphiniums and also Clematis. So there are some plants left. I have heard stories though, of deer nibbling the new growth of Nandinas.

Max and Peter were on a job a few weeks ago in a quite civilized part of upper NW Washington and a buck the "size of a cow" walked under the arbor, into the garden, and approached them to a distance of about six feet.  Twice. They're young men and I wonder if our hormones are similar enough that they were reacting to potential rivals?

Okay, no excuses! I want that hoop house covered this afternoon

Well, mybe not this afternoon. These are valuable Crape Myrtles that can't be removed until their propagations are securely established. Then maybe we can cover the house again.

Senecio crassissimus from Madagascar

So many incredible succulents come from Madagascar and Bismarkia too! ....endemism and all. According to Pat Lynch though, all the exports aren't wonderful.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cranberries are an attractive fruit fresh or boiled in sugar water

I'm cooking today because our family delayed Thanksgiving dinner until my Mother was released from Suburban Hospital's Stroke Unit. She feels fine now so we'll just do everything two days late. There are, of course, a ridiculous number of elaborate cranberry confections, and there will be a selection of them at dinner, but I follow the simple recipie on the bag adding only a pinch of ginger or cloves and some orange slices. I either like to see the fruit, which I do, or I'm lazy, which I am. It's good when you get two for one. 

Cranberries are good Native fruits. About a qurter of the  Fern Valley bog is taken up by three Cranberry plants. The yield is never high, but I have hopes for the future.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Eleagnus ebbingii 'Gilt Edge'....cheery plant on a gloomy day

Thanksgiving curmudgeonry....bah humbug

I guess I've given up watching Thanksgiving parades. If I wanted to watch celebrity interviews I'm pretty sure there're other better places to do that. If I wanted to watch infomercials for Pillsbury or Disney....well I don't. And it seems particularly egregious to follow up the Pillsbury infomercial with a two minute commercial break. Since the floats and balloons themselves are subtle advertisements, if we overlay them with infomercials, and follow with actual commercial breaks we have three layers of advertisement.  Ours is a capitalist economy and I'm not a hater. I don't resent the rich. I don't hate business, but, regarding these parades, the pendulum has swung a bit too far towards commercialism for me and I guess I'll take a few years off.

I do remember when the coverage consisted of nothing but long range views of the parades from stationary cameras sited some distance off the parade routes. That wasn't ideal, but now I feel like I'm watching a talk show that occasionally shows a view of a parade. I imagine television executives with their cohorts and advisors decided that just looking at a parade for 3? hours is boring. Maybe that's why there aren't any televised parades between New Year's Day and Thanksgiving, ~330 days!. And some interviews are fine, but if we have to hear 3 minutes of speculation about where the plot line of All My Children will be going for the next few months, why couldn't we be viewing the Parade at the same time? Maybe I'm just in a mood.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rhus typhina 'Tiger Eyes'....there's something very wrong about representing a vertical shoot horizontally but I need maximum magnification

Still raining but the sun broke through Wednesday evening for an hour or so. This is the terminal shoot of 'Tiger Eyes' with the last half dozen leaves recently removed. Nice and hairy and the huge leafscars surrounding the buds are cool. I can't help it I'm a geek.

Euphorbia characias wulfenii: I told you it looked good with water on it

The rain won't stop and the clouds won't go away, but there's always something worth looking at.