Saturday, June 20, 2009

2009 USNA Intern Party at Mike and Carole Bordelon's huse showcased their excellent garden

Their front garden includes a 6-legged octopus created from Juniperus procumbens nana (parts of two arms are visible in the picture), various perennials, assorted dwarf conifers, and a rock garden featuring xerophytes, international and southwestern. The back is a shade garden of textural and tonal contrasts created with hundreds of perfectly grown specimen plants including this unusual hellebore. And.....Joan's new dog Scout made a new friend.

Hydrangea arborescens 'Hayes Starburst'...another cultivar of a native plant

Its seems that at last north Americans have begun to use our own flora; there's been a virtual explosion of selection, hybridization, and naming of native plant cultivars. They better be good because "purists" have no use for them and the rest of the gardening public will judge them impartially? so that they have to mesure up against long establish selections. I don't think theres any doubt that many people will have a place in their gardens for this easy, fast-growing, dependable shrub that will grow and bloom well in a bit of shade.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Actaea of the best parts of the summer in Fern Valley

Actually, I'm sorry it's no longer Cimicifuga racemosa, a name that rolled off the tongue. Quite a few plants that were not Actaea before are now. Oh well, it could be worse. Stefan tells me that if the genus Salvia isn't split, it will subsume quite a few well established genera. Apparently our, the north American, Salvias will actually leave the genus. Oh well. The problem is, as I age my mind becomes less limber and so less able to cope with these changes. Well, I guess exercise won't hurt it!

Black Cohosh, Bugbane, Fairy Candles....this plant has some interesting names. It provides a nice vertical element in the summer, grows in the shade, doesn't seem affected much by diseases or pests, and tolerates a wide range of soil moisture from quite wet to average garden conditions. It's a good plant. There are cultivars with quite dark foliage that may include some western genes but still have good names like 'Black Negligee'. I like the species. Occasionally I come upon large stands of it in wet woods and that is quite a sight.

Bug sex in a surreal environment

Michael (Fern Valley ASRT) and Anna (FV Intern) showed me these weevils? I know just what you're thinking and you're wrong; it doesn't make them pimps, it makes them purveyors.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Echinacea 'Sundown', a Saul brothers production,, and 1/2 near native

Cornus quinquenervis with Swallowtail in China Valley

Anchusa sp. (top) and Anthemis sp....more plants from Azerbaijan

I like the hairy rosette with the twisted sculptural leaves, but Stefan says that this Anchusa species produces, serially, rich cobalt blue flowers. Sounds good. Anchusa is in the Boraginaceae, a family noted for hairy leaves, wonderful blue flowers, and scorpioid cymes. I just like saying that: scorpioid cymes, and its an interesting "uncoiling" inflorescence.

Anthemis is a fairly large genus in the Daisy family and most look generally similar. The ferny leaves and prostrate growth are typical. If it proves not to be too weedy this could be a nice low perennial for textural effect. The flowers will likely be white, and pleasant if not exciting.

Gymnocladus chinensis...Wouldn't you just like to live under this tree?

There's just something about compound leaves. And these are huge and healthy and lush and well-defined; there's a symmetry to this plant that I don't feel in say, Albizia or the native Coffeetree, Gymnocladus dioicus. I love the native tree, particularly its pods. I actually have a box of them sitting next to me on the desk, but the tree overall has a sort of a spare appearance, like a Black Walnut or a Robinia.

This Chinese tree is not especially accessible in the literature; sources I found suggest it's a USDA Zone 9 plant but it does live here in China Valley so that can't be right. There seems to be an inherent conservatism in the initial appraisals of hardiness. Better safe than sorry? Anyway it would be nice to be able to step outside and see the world through these leaves.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Eleutherococcus setchuenensis...

Hydrangeas, Iris, Roses everywhere...sometimes simple is good too.

Sedum pallidum and a trailing wooly Convolvulvus from Azerbaijan

Everyone likes the sedum, which is very nice, but I'm a sucker for gray foliage, Mediterranean plants, and hairy leaves. Whatever flowers follow will be a bonus.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Psychopsis papalio...This gawky plant has been flowering ~monthly since November 2007

Bought it at the National Capitol Orchid Society Fall show and sale at the Arboretum and every month or so it squeezes out another one of these giant flowers from a new bud at the end of what is now a 2' long flower scape. It looks better with the garden (and flamingos) as a backdrop than it does inside. I hope it's enjoying the weather!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Look! The Azerbaijani plants are headed for the collection: they're excited about having their roots in the ground

I planted 27 accessions of Stefan's collections today and I have half a dozen to go. I figure, what the heck! We sent him over there, he made the collections, he's grown them out and now we might as well see what they'll do in the garden. I like the problem solving aspect of taking a truckload of plants with various requirements for soil, moisture, light, space,...out into an existing garden and inserting them in such a way as to show off their characters and enhance the beauty of the collection. I didn't say I was that good at it, just that I enjoyed doing it. As it turns out, I am pretty happy with most of the placements, very happy with some, and at least satisfied with the rest. It was my though that, in addition to those other parameters, it would be nice if I could concentrate them in a few areas to make them easier to observe. I succeeded to some extent.

There were a number of plants that demanded perfect drainage so I planted as many of them as I could in the higher up, altitudinaly, of the Rock Gardens that Bradley Evans had installed in China Valley. It sits just above the path below the Magnolia denudata Memorial Grove. I put a species Helianthus there, Dianthus ?carthusianum ?, Sedum pallidum, Arenaria sp., Convolvulus persicus, Erysiumum sp., and a nice small Eryngium.

Moving down the path and backtracking along the spur trail that leads back to the Central Valley, I planted Plumbago europaea and a Salvia verticillata type below the trail among the rocks at the head of the dry stream bed.

Stil farther down the valley on an east facing slope near Albizzia 'Summer Chocolate', are Atraphaxis spinosa, Jasminum fruticans, and a nice prostrate Anthemis with pinnately compound ferny leaves. Along the stone steps that bisect this large area, I put Limonium meyeri, ?Limonium carnosum?, and Geranium albanum.

Walking down the valley along the bottom of this bed, the trail faces south, then makes a sharp bend and continues NE. At this bend, are: bearded type Iris; a beautiful Asparagus whose dark foliage has a beautiful and unusual sheen; Teucrium nuchense; Chamerion stevenii with silvery foliage and pink flowers; and a type of Larkspur with pink flowers. Now I just have to take care of them and watch what happens.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Unnamed Brugmansia

Picked this up in April in Ocala Florida in a 1 gallon pot, brought it back, stuck it in the ground and its way ahead of overwintered plants. Of course we don't have a greenhouse, but for 7 dollars this seems like a good way to go.

I am of course tempted at this juncture, to go into my complaint, rant even, about the way local Nurseries and Garden Centers have missed the boat on tropical plants but that's just too boring. If you missed it and you care, there's the link!

I think the plan is now to take the truck on the April trip (to Florida) and bring back quantities of Aroids, Gingers, Brugmansias, etc. I want to do my part to make the world a more tropical looking place!

Adenium obesum, Desert Rose: this unnamed cultivar came from a Box Store in central Florida

If you don't know this plant, its a member of the Apocynaceae which was already one of my favorite families before it subsumed the Asclepidaceae, which I liked even better! Adenium is a caudiciform plant (it grows from a swollen base) that can grow to a height of over 5'. On a plant that size the base would be 1-2' in diameter making a quite impressive specimen. It looks sort of like an upside down green turnip with multiple branches tipped with glossy evergreen leaves. The flowers occur throughout the year for me; it's more often in flower than not.

Sometime in the late 70s or early 80s, this plant broke away from the specialists and collectors and began to pop up in garden centers and nurseries. The flowers on those first plants weren't so sharply bicolored as this one. As spectacular as these flowers are, they pale in comparison to other varieties; Bob Smoley's Gardenworld lists, regularly from 5-10 named selections and he likely has at least that many more not listed. Still haven't visited their new location which is about 15 miles from the Florida Garden. Maybe this July.

You might think that in Zone 9 there would be enough hardy tropicals so that tender houseplants wouldn't appeal to a lot of people, but there must be something about this plant....At flea markets there are often entire vendors who carry nothing but Desert Rose and it's common in nurseries and box stores. This plant was about 1 1/2' tall and cost 5$ and we brought it north!