Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fritillaria thunbergii: You don't just love this one for its flowers!

Hey, spending all that time in China Valley must have predisposed me to be attracted to Chinese plants! Tony Avent claims this is hardy so here goes.

90F by Tuesday?...The cool spring that has been so wonderful for tulips is about to turn hot

This will be an incredible weekend at the Arboretum. Rising temperatures (into the mid-80s F) will encourage sluggish Azaleas buds to open; Redbuds, Lilacs, and Viburnums continue to flower, Tree Peonies and some Iris a starting to bloom as are many many other plants.

There is a book sale in the Administration building featuring duplicate volumes from the Library. Saturday will be the main day for the FONA plant sale that also features books, gardening paraphernalia, a few textiles, some jewelry, and probably other things I have forgotten! Fern Valley, the Native Plant Collection, is open and beautiful; the native Azaleas are just beginning to bloom, Trillium grandiflorum carpets various areas, Stylophorum diphyllum, is abundant. The Azaleas collection that had been lagging a bit due to the cool spring will explode in response to this weekends forecast heat. I'm scheduled to water Sunday, but I'll be in Saturday too: its too good to miss!

Friday, April 24, 2009

FONA Plant sale opens with a bang: Books; Exotic flowering carnivorous plants; and Kathy Jentz, surrounded by her magazines!

I enjoyed the new format of the FONA plant sale and they did have some weird and wild plants. I bought Rhodophiala bifida, the Oxblood Lily; Fritillaria thunbergii, a rather plain looking Thunbergia except for the fact that the leaves terminate in short coiled tendrils!; Pinguicula luaeana, an incredibly large-flowered Silene-pink Butterwort reported to be hardy to USDA Zone 6; and Salvia buchananii, a ~tender salvia with incredible large tomentose dark purple flowers. A nice haul!

The FONA booth still has, among thier books, a few volumes from the library of the late Franziska Reed Huxley. A wonderful plantswoman, FONA board member, and longtime organizer of this sale she left much of her horticultural library to FONA. Many of us experienced the bittersweet pleasure of acquiring one or more of her books last year. Today I picked up a glossy octavo trade paperback Florida Wild Flowers and Roadside Plants. I happily paid the $2 asking price and was pleasantly surprised to find it both enscribed by Franziska, and signed by the author.

Washington Gardener is a bimonthly gardening magazine focused on the Washington DC area. It would be cheap at twice the price of 4.99/issue.

The plant sale continues tomorrow (Saturday April 25) from 9am to 4pm. Lots of good stuff left!

Fern Valley! Open again...the back entrance is open but the new main entrance is still on hold for a little while

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A quick ride through the Arboretum before work is aesthetically rewarding: most of Fern Valley opens tomorrow after being closed for a while!

The top picture is Meadow Road below the Bonsai Collection, the middle picture is Legume Hill and the a research Prunus planting, and the bottom picture is the road through the bottom of Fern Valley.

Ampelopsis arborea and Rhamnus carolinianus two scary genera germinating: Native ampelopsis (not Porcelainberry) and Carolina Buckthorn

One of the plants that most impressed me on the Fern Valley Tennessee/Alabama collecting trip was Carolina Buckthorn. Deeply incised veins in dark green leaves are almost reason enough to grow it, so the ~1/3" red fruits are a just a bonus. We saw plants 10'-20' tall but Dirr list the national champion at over 40'. It was a beautiful plant and I'm ecstatic to see good germination.

The Ampelopsis we all know is A. brevipedunculata, Poreclainberry. I have seen vines upwards of 75' tall with diameters of 3-4". It's a scary Asian plant and absent the diseases and pests that normally control it, it rampages through our landscape. This native is also an "enthusiastic" vine with purple berries. Compound leaves, bi- or even occasionally tri-, distinguist it from its evil Asian relation.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Panoramas are nice in the spring

Neviusia alabamensis and Illicium floridanum: there are some beautiful plants in Fern Valley

NASA Celebrates the 50th Anniversery of the first Apollo moon landing...USNA plants "Moon" Sycamore for Earth Day

A "Moon" Sycamore, in this case, is a descendant of a tree that grew from a seed that went to the moon with Stuart Roosa in 1971. We planted this one by Beech Spring Pond in perfect Sycamore habitat! I dug the hole myself and curiously enough, just as I lowered the tree into the hole it began to hail! I swear. I don't know what it means but there must be some significance. Or not.

The event was a joint endeavor with the Arboretum hosting and cooperating with NASA and
American Forests, a conservation organization founded in 1875!!! They support our American forests by both lobbying and actually doing things. Plus they have a great magazine. It was good to plant a tree for Earth Day. We are, after all, an Arboretum.

FONA Plant Sale this weekend! I want a lot of these plants!

This will be the most exciting FONA sale for years, maybe ever. Euphorbia cvs, Eucomis, Cypripedium, Aquilegia cvs. and on and on. The bananas coming off the truck were the end of that load, but trucks rolled in all day long. I don't know who the double Columbines are, but they are beautiful by any name.

This year the format is a bit different; FONA is selling a lot of plants themselves, including all the ones pictured above, but in addition there will be independent vendors including 9 nurseries, a number of plant societies, and a large number of non-plant vendors. I have ordered from Camellia Forest for years and to be able to shop from their plants! Wow! There is a wealth of information at the FONA website. The hours this year are: Friday MEMBERS ONLY 11am-6pm; Saturday 9am-4pm; and Sunday 10am-12pm.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lindsay Hicks (Education Unit) and I presented an Arboretum "Power Plants" display at the Senate Earth Day Event

Because of the likelihood of rain we were inside instead of on the grounds of the US Botanic Garden. I was pleasantly surprised though, by how agreeable the inside area was. We were on the 9th floor with a relatively unobstructed western view (which our booth faced). Of course the sun shone most of the day after the weather forecast drove us inside. Still it was a cheerfully educational day.

Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, created a stir as he toured the exhibits. He visited the USBG around the corner from us on our right, crossed the aisle to Chrysler/Daimler, then the tidal pull of the crowd pushed him past us as he recrossed the aisle, so he ended up visiting all three of the booths adjoining us but missing ours! I'm not taking it personally!

There were around 6o exhibitors all "green". There was lot of technology: automobile manufacturers presented state of the art electric vehicles, Pepco explained their vision for the future, we saw the environmentally solid windows, floors, roofs, and walls of the future. LED technology never ceases to amaze me. I studied several presentations of permeable paving surfaces, and an associated display by Montgomery County on general watershed monitoring. Very exciting and encouraging!

Foggy sunrise over the Capitol Columns VII

Here's the story: I arrive at the Arboretum just about the same time every day, I drive past the Azalea Collection, and the sun rises to my left. This time of year the mornings are regularly foggy so if my arrival coincides with sunrise and it's foggy voila, I get a chance to take this picture. It's not a hard picture to take as long as you happen to be in the right place at the right time, but someday I'll get it perfectly. I'd like the columns to be visible; they're in this picture but obscured by the glow of the sun.

Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, there are two weeks every year when I tend to hit sunrise: the first week in March, and the third week in April, so if this week doesn't yield another chance I won't have to wait another year, just 11 months!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Geranium albanum: another good plant from Azerbaijan

Here is another good one! Less frequently encountered on this side of the Atlantic than in England or on the Continent, Geranium albanum is treated generally favorably in the literature. Geranium enthusiasts, Bath and Jones, in The Gardener's Guide to Growing Hardy Geraniums suggest that it is undeservedly underplanted in formal plantings, usually being consigned to the semi-wild garden. It is described as being partly evergreen but this determination applies to plants grown in Great Britain. While it seems to be on the margins of availability there, I found no sources for the plants here.

All of my experience with the plant consists of having observed it in a greenhouse over a ~6 month period. There is no disputing that it is flowering heavily or the beauty of the attractively striped petals. It has been in bloom now for several weeks and the testimony of others suggests that it will continue to flower for another couple of months. By my judgment that makes it the equal of any G. striatum that I am familiar with. This is another plant that bears watching.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Saturday was the best day of the year so far!

And so, we covered some ground. I visited some old gardens and some current clients and generally enjoyed spring in Washington, which is not so extravagantly acclaimed as spring in Paris, but is still a great experience. This is a wonderful city for trees and gardens.

Tulips were everywhere; this is a good year for them with adequate moisture and cool soil and air temperatures. I do love mass plantings, but leave them to gardens with deep pockets. They really do need to be pulled out every year because the inevitable incremental decline is so obvious in a large planting. The number of flowers usually shrinks and the size almost always shrinks. Still, if you plant them in clumps, this isn't such a problem. Dig a hole a foot or so in diameter and dump in a dozen bulbs. It'll be great the next spring and if it's a bit less impressive the following year that'll be okay. I've had clumps that were still attractive after 5 years. There are lists and lists of "perennial" tulips, that is varieties that don't decline, but I don't know....our summers are just a bit too hot, too humid, and too wet to optimize tulip performance.

Having said that, I must admit that there are species tulips that increase in number, seeding around, and forming bigger clumps by offsets. They have a delicate beauty and I grow them but they're not the same as the large-flowered gaudy varieties!