Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ruellia carolinensis and Elephantopus in Adelphi front bed

If you add the Panicum in the background that totals three natives as opposed to the two non-native, the dwarf Crape Myrtle and the Erica x darleyensis. All the plants are pleasant and easy in this well-drained sunny site. The Elephantopus seeds enthusiastically so it is perhaps more of a challenge than some gardeners are interested in. The Ruellia, however is a wonderful plant. It seeds about some but individual plants come and go a rate that allows for a relatively constant number of plants though the locations change. I've occasionally wondered whether this is the "single wild petunia" that Henry Mitchell rhapsodized about. Probably not; he was a consummate plantsman.

Wandering plants are an element in the traditional definition of a Cottage Garden. My garden here in Adelphi, is occasionally labeled a Cottage Garden by visitors. I understand their point-of-view, but question their conclusion. We do have a lot of roses, vines, and ambulatory/reseeding plants arranged in what can only charitably be called a cluttered design. Still....I think there is too much emphasis on leaf texture and color and not enough on floral effect to actually be a Cottage Garden. Of course it's the same garden whatever you call it!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I got to work early this morning, so I went to the Herb Garden

I know, I know, I know...I have a tendency to use superlatives and whats worse, to use a limited number of them. Here's the thing though, this is a wonderful garden. Wonderful is the right word here. I can't help if I've already used it three times this week (I'm only guessing, I don't think it's that bad!). Despite being limited to a garden of plants with "herbal uses", there are hundreds and hundreds of different plants here, beautiful, fragrant, interesting. The interpretation here is the best we have to offer. The garden is meticulously groomed, the plants are mature healthy specimens. Wow.

I have many gardening friendships with the generation before mine and since I'm approaching 60, I know a good number of gardening enthusiasts in their 80s. This is a very accessible garden. It's level, paved, relatively small, with a huge number of plants. If accessibility is an issue this garden is a good choice.

Canna flower in Adminstration Building container

Cannas have been experiencing, by fits and starts, a revival that began sometime, I think?, in the 1980s. Still, occasionally, when I propose them in designs, I elicit an immediate expression of distaste an often the comment "ditch lilies". There is a traditional prejudice against them in the South as plants of the trailer park poor. Well, I have experienced my own "trailer" prejudice in Florida after buying a property with, not a stick-built house, but a double-wide. These prefabricated homes certainly aren't trailers, but on the other hand....they are licensed yearly by the DMV. Not that they ever move....still....

I am very happy with my double-wide house and I love Cannas. I like the plants themselves as much as their flowers, though the flowers come regularly and are beautiful. The foliage can add bold texture and the plant itself adds a bit of architectural structure to the summer garden which has a tendency to become a bit unstructured. This is a plant that has benefited from Global Warming, or Zone creep; many gardens in the Washington DC area now have clumps of Cannas as perennial elements. Thirty years ago not so much. In my experience the variety 'Bengal Tiger' is one of the most dependably hardy selections, and has strikingly variegated leaves. They all grow so quickly that digging the crowns after the first frost and storing them in the coolest place in your house is an easy worthwhile approach.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ratibida pinnata and Verbena hastata in the Fern Valley prairie and wet meadow respectively

All day planting went on in the areas around the new Fern Valley "wet meadow". After work I stopped by to see if I could figure out what had gone in. Not really....I saw a lot of grasses had been planted but I'll have to wait to learn the rest. I did see the Gray-headed coneflowers and the taller Helianthus that are visible from the road. Down in the lower basin there are nice plants of Verbena hastata that, I suspect, are grown from seed that FV collected in Pennsylvania a few years back. These plants are so large they must have gone in as plants last fall so I figure it's the last of the Pennsylvania plants. I could be wrong though. Anyway they are nice.

Arisaema consanguineum:the largest Arisaema in the Asian Collection?

Entering China Valley from the road, the trail parallels the road for a few hundred feet. Walk about halfway to the curve and start looking towards your right. You will see, back from the path, what appears to be a stand of Fatsia. Look more closely and it will reveal itself as a colony of this vigorous aroid. They're setting seed now and I liked the curve of the stalk supporting this seedhead. The fantastic mottling of the stalk is characteristic of the species which is both robust and prolific. This one will reseed itself about but its a cool plant.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Albizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate' , Silktree or Mimosa

Pink powderpuff flowers that attract hummingbirds, finely dissected compound leaves, and the classic form of a small savannah tree: pretty much everybody knows this plant as Mimosa, though of course it isn't a Mimosa. Here in the Washington DC area, we're about at its northern limits though in theory it's a USDA Zone 6 plant. As you go north you see very few specimens; as you go south, this time of year, you see gazillions of them. Whole interstate exchanges are populated by Mimosas. They seed prolifically and might take over the south if it weren't for a vascular fungus that eventually dooms any individual tree.

This cultivar has reddish/brownish leaves hence the name. I have always liked Mimosas for, well I like everything about them, but have never felt as though they were plants that needed purchasing. Like Redbuds, seedlings are abundant around a mature specimen. They're easily distinguished by their feathery leaves, easily transplanted, and grow as fast as any tree, 2,3,4 feet a year. The only problem is that this cultivar, 'Summer Chocolate' is really really nice, but you have to buy it to get it.

Clematis texensis at the small entrance to Fern Valley (across from the golf course)

This has always been one of my favorite Clematis. Though there's no scale in the picture, the flowers are almost an inch long. Like others of its tribe, it enjoys fairly good soil with a decent amout of moisture and maybe some lime, shaded roots, and a sunny top. Having provided these initial conditions, you will not be burdened with further demands. Just enjoy the flowers and the seeds.

There are a numbe of Clematis cultivars that are listed under Clematis texensis; I have my doubts, but they are generally very attractive and many share, to some degree, the urceolate flower structure of the species. All are difficult to obtain, rarely appearing at a retail Garden Center, and often out-of-stock from mail-order or internet businesses. Still they're worth the effort.

Sedum pallidum from Azerbaijan flowers in China Valley

Nice little garden plant. The foliage is about 1-3" and the flowers stick up another inch or two. Cool.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mary's house celebrated its 100th birthday yesterday: the memorial glade was inviting

With a lovely tea party. The garden cooperated thanks in no small part to the extraordinary amount of rain we have received over the past couple months. Hydrangeas seemed to respond particularly well with lush growth and huge abundant flowers. Really though, everything appreciated it.

That cycle of regular heavy rains seems to have ended now and we have had some hot weather though, as I write this mid-morning Sunday, its wonderfully cool. We had about 8" of rain last month and we're over 6" this month. That's more than double the average. Temperatures have been generally cool, though we have had the odd few days here and there with temps above 90F. That's worked well for plant growth. The hot days goose them into growth and the abundance of water and generally cool temperatures allow that growth to happen. The down side is that the weeds have gone crazy too, both in the numbers that germinate and the rate at which they grow. If there's an upside here, we may be cutting into the seed bank for many weeds. They're all germinating!