Saturday, June 27, 2009

Paliurus hemsleyanus...a curious small tree from China (Seurat's take)

I keep finding plants in China Valley that amaze me. Well maybe not amaze, but these are weird fruits! Hey, I see them described as drupes in various sources. I have my doubts; the drupes we are most familiar with are peaches, almonds, nectarines, etc. A drupe has a leathery covering (exocarp), a fleshy middle (mesocarp), and a hard interior (endocarp) surrounding one seed. These umbrellas are not typical drupes but they are cool!

The plant itself is a medium sized tree growing slightly up from the base of a north-facing slope. Its in the Rhamnaceae and is supposed to have stipular spines. I missed them. Krussman (Cultivated Broad Leaved Trees and Shrubs) observes with an exclamation point that they are sometimes absent??? At lunch I interogated George Waters and he mentioned spines on the trunk itself. This will bear more investigation. I guess I will eventually get to know the curious flora of China Valley.

Tradescantia spp. ?

I'm pretty sure the top one is T. ohioensis and the bottom one is T. virginina. {If you click on the pictures you can see glabrous white peduncles on the (?) T. ohioensis, and clearly hairy sepals and hairy pigmented peduncles on the other.} I collected the atypical pink form from a gas station in northern Georgia two years ago. Though it clearly is flowering at the same time as the blue (virginiana?), in general it is later; it's covered with flowers now and there is only a smattering of color left on the others, which I have, in fact, mostly cut back.

These are pretty nice plants if you are ruthless; when they come to the end of their blooming period and lodge (collapse in splayed ugliness) just cut them back to 2-3". They'll regrow and flower again within a month or so. Failing that severe pruning, they will lay there reproaching you with their ugliness as they gradually resprout from various places and eventually rebloom anyway. They're nice for a touch of color in partial shade in an informal area.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Asclepias tuberosa, Butterfly Weed....No matter how they feel about orange, everbody loves this plant!

Veronicastrum virginicum in the Fern Valley Meadow

If you're tempted to grow Lysimachia clethroides, Gooseneck, don't. Though attractive, it's just too pushy, gobbling up garden space, crowding out less vigorous neighbors, and eventually moving out into the world. Though the tips of the inflorescences don't bend down so far as Gooseneck, Veronicastrum has quite a graceful form. It gets quite large and though I have always thought of it as a plant of wettish meadows and average perennial borders, it can apparently tolerate somewhat drier situations.

I bought a selection, the cultivar 'Fascination' from Lazy S'S Farm Nursery earlier this year and Pete Sheuchenko mentioned that his stock plant survived unattended (read unwatered) in a sunny dry site. I suspect a lot of what we think of as moisture loving plants would be more accurately described as plants that compete better with more water and so are no likely to be found naturally in dry areas. When we defend their spaces for them they survive happily in soil of average moisture content.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Leptodermis oblonga...just a nice unassuming shrub that blooms for much of the summer

These plants are still flowering in China Valley about 100' in from the road below the trail; they've been in bloom for over 6 weeks. It won't knock your socks off, but the color is very nice. Roses outshine it and iris and hydranageas. Even Astilbe is more impressive for a few weeks, but there's something about this plant. You can cut it back or's not demanding, actually sort of like a caryopteris, and it just keeps going. There will be flowers in September, and there won't be disease problems or pests. I like it!

Iris ensete 'Edged Delight' from Dr. William Ackerman, the novelist and producer of winter hardy camellias

Apparently many years ago Dr. Ackerman released a number of selections of Iris ensete. We're on a mission to reacquire them and grow them in the Asian Collections. We have about 18 now and this is the first to flower. It is nice!

Trollius chinensis:....evil seedhead

The aggregated follicles are typical of the family Ranunculaceae (the other typical fruit is an achene). I just looks like it's related to Columbines and Hellebores.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Talinum teretifolium....a beautiful little succulent with pink flowers

We collected seed last year in the Little River Canyon and Fern Valley personnel grew this beautiful flat of flowering plants in less than a year! You can see this tough little beauty at Soldier's Delight Environmental Area west of Baltimore. Its growing in dry chemically inhospitable conditions there as it was in Alabama at the Dolomite Barrens. We collected it from a more benign site but it is still a resilient plant and I like that! I hope that I can grow it in my own garden in Adelphi where sand and gravel enforce a dry regime. It is a relatively undemanding plant and a good candidate of hot dry areas. It doesn't live too long, but seeds about in a non-invasive fashion.

A quick glance at Plants Database tells me that this plant is another victim of taxonomic reevaluation and is now more accurately, Phemeranthus teretifolius. Hey, it happens in the best of families.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Evodia danielli: this is a great plant for insects

I noticed, this past weekend, that Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is budded up. Every year when the Sedum flower, I put a lawn chair near the big group in the front garden so I can watch the bees, moths, butterflies, etc. scramble for position. I have always though I was basically an observer (as opposed to a participant) and this is hugely entertaining.

Still, this darned Evodia is even more an insect magnet than Sedum. This plant (below the path about 100' into China Valley) is covered with bees and bee allies and the buds aren't even open! I remember growing it from a seed distribution that came with American Horticulturist sometime in the 1970s. I germinated a few seeds which isn't surprising considering the fact that there are about 10,000 seedling under the 18' in diameter tree. Or there were before I killed them. The plants must have come to nothing because other than their successfully germinating, I don't remember them at all.

Triodanis perfoliata formerly Specularia perfoliata....Venus's Looking Glass: I found a nice native plant in the Asian Collections!

You don't see so many annual natives, and this is surely a pretty one.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Viburnum nudum backlit

Someone brought seedlings to a Four Seasons Garden Club plant exchange about four years ago and now I have a big gawksy plant. It's time to sex it and get it a mate so I can have some of those spectacular berries.