Friday, July 17, 2009

Swarthmore Woody Plants Conference... Amy, Lynn, Barbara, Nathan, Young, and I went today

So the National Arboretum was well represented in the audience. Of course, Richard Olsen, lead scientist for the USNA's urban tree breeding program gave a talk that was so intellectually challenging that it kept the entire hall awake for that last shift before lunchtime. It sounds odd but I'm not kidding. Nobody nodded off because they were concentrating too hard! Rick Lewandowski suggested a solution to an area of dry shade at the Library: Box Huckleberry, Gaylussacia brachycera, and reminded me that I need to propagate Clinopodium georgianum. It's a honey of a sub-shrumbin the Fabaceae.

I always enjoy both the Perennial Plant Conference and the Woody Plants Conference at Swarthmore. I tend to question the usefulness of many programs and presentations, not aloud or in print because that would be rude and could be hurtful. However, after attending a number of these events, I can say truthfully that I have never walked away without feeling inspired and I've always learned things.

The entire campus of Swarthmore comprises the Scott Arboretum. The plantings are varied, interesting, and largely mature, including any number of impressive specimen plants. I always enjoy the seasonal plantings around the Arboretum office. We ranged afield during breaks and at lunch finding the Clematis texensis in the middle picture, the purple-leafed Solanum in the bottom photo, and (NOTE) a Ribbon or, get this, Tapeworm! Plant, Homalocladium platycladium, a Polygonaceous from the South Pacific. And Strobilanthes gossypinus. If you get the chance to attend one of these conference and see the Arboretum, take it!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hemerocallis 'Memories of Oz' (top) and 'Skinwalker' Daylily selections in quarantine...curious flowers!

After it has been determined that they aren't carrying Daylily Rust, they'll go out into the Daylily beds in the Boxwood Collection. The Daylily collection, though perhaps a bit past peak, is still beautiful and worth a visit. It's integrated into the Boxwoods inside the Bladensburg Road fence.

If there are too many Daylily cultivars, at least they don't all look the same. Hey, there are three basic colors for Peonies and what, half a dozen? flower forms. Where do the hundreds and hundreds of cultivars come from? And don't get me started on Iris or Hostas. Daylilies come in a lot of colors in lots of shades, with lots of differently shaped flowers in different sizes that bloom from early summer to late fall. Often they have interesting names; if 'Skinwalker' is a bit gruesome, it's at least colorful and evocative?

Daylily Rust is a disease caused by a, go figure, rust fungus, Puccinia hemerocallis. I remember a related fungus, Puccina graminis, from pathology classes in college. All rusts are pretty similar. Their lifecycles are curious in that, though they do most of their damage on a particular plant species, they normally require a separate host to complete the sexual portion of their life cycles. The primary alternate host of our rust is plants of the genus Patrinia. The fungus is Asian, and so far as I know Patrinia is Asian. I know I never liked Patrinia scabiosafolia, a tall yellow flowered late-summer bloomer. It's pretty enough but has an unpleasant odor. I remember it growing in the "Korean Triangle" (that is now Asian Collections bed KO). Daylily Rust, however, doesn't need an alternate host; the spores it produces on one Daylily are able to infect another. I have a vivid recollection of Andre Viette declaiming vehemently against the evergreen daylilies, claiming that they were a large part of the reason for the diseases spread. And maybe they are.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

George found this excellent caterpillar on a willow at the end of the day

We did a project today on the Floodplain below China Valley

The project was a great success; some good things happened, some bad things happened, and we did just about everything we set out to do. We cleared vines off the fence line, we mulched just about all the plantings, we cleared a horribly overgrown ex-pond, and generally reclaimed an area that had backslid a bit. The day worked out well for Michael (Fern Valley ASRT) until about 2:58 pm. He removed many undesirable and/or invasive plants with his brand new machete (that arrived today mid-morning). He mulched, he pruned. Then, just before 3"00, his machete flew into the river (not from his hand). A few minutes later his hand saw interracted inappropriately with a fingernal and the finger beneath it. A good day finished poorly; Michael's spirit seemed undaunted. Bravo.

The top picture shows George, Michael, Amanda, and Jeanette, who, at 7 months, okayed the profile. They are working, or about to work, or have just finished working. A big group of canoists is barely visible in the background. Since installing the floating pier, we regularly have visitors who arrive on the river. They'll come to a more attractive place after our efforts this week and last.

The Floodplain is a geat place to approach the Anacostia River. Walk down the China Valley Trail, exit the gate (that's open daily from *:30 am to 4:30 pm, and walk out to the river. I see lots of interesting birds: bald eagles pretty much daily, a variety of herons regularly, and dozens of other species. Just across the Anacostia is the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, with Water Lilies, Lotus, and other aquatic and emergents. I learned, only today, that Camellia Research used to take place on the floodplain. There were polyhouses, and nursery beds. None are evident now though we did just release, and are propagating an interesting Camellia japonica cross that we cleaned around today: one of two plants that remain from an earlier period.

And we saw good bugs. ( dont think I have latent melanoma...the unhealthy pallor of my arm is an artifact of magnification) I hope.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Odd Peony fruit week continues

Perovskia, Liatris, Nepeta, and drumstick Alliums in the circle in front of the Administration Building

I vaguely remember planting those Alliums on a group project a few falls back. Brad had them laid out in a vaguely riverine pattern that's not discernable from this picture. I planted from one side and someone else from the other and its really working now. They're past their prime but its more the form than the color.

The circle works best for me in the early morning with the sun coming in low. I think I like the circle better than anyone. Everybody seems to take issue with something, and maybe it wouldn't hurt to lose the 'Red Sprite' Winterberries, but the berries do a lot of work all winter and I just ignore the plants the rest of the year. There are thymes, mesembryanthemums, and other tough plants. Weeds are almost a thing of the past!

Belamcanda chinensis, the Blackberry Lily is a good midsummer perennial

Blackberry Lily because as the seedpods ripen, they split longitudinally revealing rows of shiny black seeds that don't look at all like blackberries. Of course they are literally black berries, so I guess the name is legitimate. The plants are easy requiring full sun, or at least 5 hours a day, average soil, and not a whole lot of supplemental watering. The ripe fruit are cool looking too and the seeds germinate readily which is either good or bad...AND the leaves provide some good vertical structure; they are especially attractive with the sun shining through them

When crossed with Pardanthopsis dichotoma, the result is xParancanda, which produces flowers in a wide range of colors on plants that essentially resemble Belamcanda. I remember once on a driving vacation when my children were children, finding an incredible colored xParancanda in a tiny Nursery way upstate New York (Watertown?). It had three spikes in full bloom. I cut the spikes off and gave them back to the sales clerk. They would've just broken off in the trunk of the car. She was outraged, almost angry, but the plant survived for years.

It's not a bizarre fungus, it's seed pods from a Tree Peony!

Asclepias syriaca and Liatris pycnostachya (I think)...All the Meadow/Prairie flowers aren't yellow!

It just seems that way. I do like yellow but it's good to have other colors. Rudbeckia, Helianthus, Silphium, Ratibida, Solidago are all nice but Dalea is coming and Hibiscus. Maybe Indian Paintbrush, for sure Old Man Vine. Thalictrum flowered but the blooms are so small and the color is so subtle it seems lost in a field. Anyway summer is the season for meadow and prairie plants.

I neglected to fill the hummingbird feeder this Sunday and, I didn't see this myself, but I have it on good authority that goldfinches!!??!! were attempting to eat from the empty feeder. Goldfinches? nectar? I've never heard of such a thing. Anyway its washed and refilled so we'll see.