Saturday, June 13, 2009

What with all the rain we've experienced recently, I've photographed a lot more fungi than butterflies

But this swallowtail on Dianthus chinensis was too outrageous to resist! I was a guest docent in Jim Dronenberg's garden, one of 8 stops on the first annual Brunswick Maryland Garden Tour. It was quite an experience to spend so much time in his garden. Rare plants are everywhere, the lithic constructions are massive and wonderful, and I got to talk to Jim McKenny, the author of My Virtual Maryland Garden, one of my favorite Blogs, for, well, a long time. Jim D has more than 50 Tree Peonies. Wow. I have been in that garden dozens of times, but never experienced it at a leisurely pace before. Every time I stopped and looked closely I saw something rare or beautiful.

Jim M has memories of the Arboretum dating to the '40s. Among other things he recalled a large grassy area at the north end of present China Valley that was filled with Sternbergia lutea. There is no grassy area anymore, but there is a remnant population of Sternbergia. I hate to think about the knowledge that exists only in peoples minds. It's good to record things like that. We talked too, about how many amateur photographs there must be of this site (and so many other areas of interest) that are sitting in albums and shoeboxes waiting to be tossed out. Ouch!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Buddleia lindleyana: a lovely shrub whose ungainly habit is more than compensated for by these lovely pendulous flowers

The native Magnolias are kings (queens?) of the Magnolia collection in the summer

The Asian Magnolias rule in the spring, but this week the only show in town are two natives: Magnolia virginiana and Magnolia grandifloria, the Bull Bay. It's quite a show. And, while both species are flowering heavily now, both will continue to dribble flowers out a few at a t ime for the duration of the summer. I know it''s not appropriate to talk about gender differences but as a designer, I always flinch when I'm with a couple and the subject of Magnolia grnadiflora comes up. Statistically men hate them for their messiness; they drop leaves every single day of the year. Most women, not all, seem to feel that the incredibly huge and richly fragrant flowers offset the annoyance of constantly falling large leaves.....Here's the thing though. Come to the Arboretum this weekend and you can see and smell all you want and we'll deal with the mess. What a deal!

Magnolia virginiana (top photo) has flowers smaller than those of the Bull Bay. Their fragrance is a bit citrusy not so thick and rich but still wonderful. Depending on your Zone and the cultivar you choose they range from fully deciduous to almost fully evergreen. The leaves are a soft green on top and grayish-green, almost whitish, on the undersides. This was my favorite small tree for many years and I put them in countless designs. It would be a good thing if I have enabled the planting of hundreds of these magnolias.

Everybody loves the large evergreen Magnolia (bottom photo). You just might not like it in your own garden. The fragrance is rich, almost overpowering when an entire tree or more is in full bloom. The evergreen trees grow relentlessly frequently overpowering small areas. It takes heat to produce flowers and in cooler climates they're often espaliered against a sunny wall. Lots of work there, the flowers must be worth it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Excuse the photograph, but I watched 5 goldfinches bathing in the stream below the large bridge in Fern Valley

It was pretty cool. They were just underneath me. As soon as I got the camera out they flew up into these dead Hemlock limbs. I just have this 4x (one more than the last camera!) zoom but the point is that this is a place that birds do bathe. I've seen others here before. The water didn't seem a whole lot higher than usual despite all the rain. It does slow in summer, but the flow in spring and fall is usually fairly consistent. Birds like 1-<2" and seem, in my experience, to prefer gravel bottoms. Thats what we have here. I'll try to get by here more often in the afternoons; maybe there'll be other species: bluebirds or indigo buntings would be nice.

Arisaema saxatile the flowers have opened and look at that tongue!

Bletilla ochracea: Golden Chinese ground orchid

There is some gold on the lip but the plant itself is obviously pale yellow. I remember in the early 90s taking care of, oh about 75 quart pots of these plants. They were mature and flowered in an old glass greenhouse that no longer exists. Grown from seed, there was tremendous variation in color; some were quite yellow, some barely not white. They all were nice but we had no clear idea of their hardiness and worried about planting them all out and losing them to a bad winter. Clearly they were planted out at some point after I left the Arboretum. They just came into flower late last week as the commoner Bletilla striata was finishing up. There are several nice colonies of these plants; this one is near the pagoda.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Arisaema candidissima in China Valley

This is a late one, but a connoisseur's favorite; a lovely graceful white flower with subtle green striping. There is a pink (ish?) form that is also flowering now.

Agarista populifolia, like many other spectacularly fragrant plants the flowers aren't, spectacular that is

In the heart of Fern Valley, the area between the road and the stream, that currently houses the shady cultivar collection, there are a number of large ungainly evergreen shrubs. This plant used to be Leucothoe populifolia, but I guess the taxonomists decided that it just didn't belong anymore. Probably lacked that powerful tendency to be raveged by leafspot that is such a defining charcteristic of the genus Leucothoe.

Obviously Ericaceous, the small white flowers give out a powerful aroma of....something. Something sweetish. I think of the fragrance as being related to honey, but I describe Fothergilla the same way and don't see/smell much in common. It eventually makes a ~12 x 15' evergreen shrub with a loosely informal appearance.....180 degrees from, say, an English Boxwood. The slight elevation in average temperatures associated with Global Warming/Zone Creep/... seems to have made available to us, here in the Washington DC area, a nice southeastern native shrub.

Xylaria sp.? polymorpha? Dead Man's Fingers

I got a hot tip on a creepy fungus. Thanks Alice! There were, no doubt, prettier things in Fern Valley today, but this is too cool to ignore. I read Tom Volk's Fungus of the Month page pretty regularly, about once a month, and he has this entry on the FV fingers.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ramaria sp. Coral Fungus, possibly R. stricta??

I do actually think this is Ramaria sticta, a wood decaying basidiomycete. This colony actually forms an arc approximately 3 feet long and ~3" across. If it were circular and if the fungus was amushroom, it would be a "Fairy Ring".

Unprecedented quantities of rain spread out nicely over the last month and a half sre making most plants happy, and generating quantities of fungal fruiting bodies. I'm surprised there aren't mushrooms growing on my boots!

Hydrangea macrophylla serrata 'Chiri-san Sue'

This is not really my kind of flower though I do seem to like pink in moderation. Our plant is fairly small and at first glance these delicate flowers could be Anemonella!

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' on the road through Fern Valley

I was admiring Annabelle's deliciously rounded, ivory mounds when it occurred to me that the Hydrangeas were probably flowering along the road in Fern Valley. Hey just kidding; I don't even know anybody named Annabelle. I remember the Edgar Allen Poe poem Annabelle Lee, but I think Poe liked his women about 12 years old and anorexic (he was a man ahead of his time as I am a man behind mine). No mounds for EAP.

It's convenient how the Hydrangeas come into flower as so much of the spring display is waning. Hydrangea quercifolia, Oakleaf Hydrangea, has also begun to flower and there are wonderful plants also along the FV roadside. A number of selections have been made from H. quercifolia; some are represented in the FV shady cultivar area and more are coming.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Once I started I couldn't stop taking pictures and it's Arisaema season!

They all exhibit that basic aroid pattern, but beyond that they come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Arisaema consanguineum, top photo, forms colonies of 5' plants that superficially resemble Fatsia. Arisaema saxatilie, middle photo, has interesting white flowers like small Spathiphyllums. Arisaema fargesii is a frighteningly robust plant with large, striking, bi-colored coiled flowers. Arisaema candidissima, a plant that some claim is the most beautiful of all the Arisaemas, a genus generally considered more curious than beautiful, is just beginning to flower now. The Asian Collections contain a remarkable collection of these curious ariods.

Cymose inflorescences: Euonymus and Tilia

If you already know what a cyme is you can stop paying attention, but if you don't, its sort of cool, sort of interesting, and easy to understand. There isn't a lot of thinking involved but in a couple of minutes you'll know something you didn't know before and that's good!

There are two basic inflorescences, or arrangements of flowers: racemose, or indeterminate and cymose or determinate. Imagine flowers grouped along an axis with the growing tip at the end; if the oldest (lowest) buds open first then there is the possibility for an infinite amount of new buds to be produced above them and flowering can go on ad infinitum. If, however, the end, the tip, the apical meristem, whatever you call it produces the bud that flowers first, then all the others have already formed and are waiting below it and so the number of flowers is determinate, there will be no more buds produced. Racemose inflorescences are indeterminate and cymose are determinate. There are lots of variations on these two basic themes.

All through school I was shown diagrams of cymes, or groups of buds with the largest in the middle; Today I just happened on two plants with very typical cymose inflorescences: Euonymus carnosus and Tilia sp..

Family kidding!...It's nice to know God has the same sense of humor I do

Finally got a new camera, the headache is gone, and I'm back in the game. Look what the powers that be chose for my first photograph on the new camera. Wow.

My sons called me a few weeks ago and described this fungus to me over the phone; they were working and their client was worried about the Stinkhorns growing in their mulched bed (and they do stink). I asked Max what he thought they looked like and the alliterative two word phrase he responded with was a literal translation of what I had learned as the scientific name of this fungus when I was a boy. But I'm not going to provide either here.

The camera is another Canon. I like them and they use AA batteries, not rechargeables which just don't work for me. It is much like it's predecessor but lighter, more powerful, and lacking the fold-out viewing screen that allowed me to lay the camera on the ground and still see the image. Still, it will be good. We have gone a good ways towards acclimating to each other and the rest of the week will be only better!