Saturday, September 19, 2009

Clematis heracleifolia China Valley type

I remember these plants from my first tour in China Valley. Lawrence Lee, the curator at that time and of course my direct supervisor, collected seed in China. When I arrived a few years later they had been germinated and potted into 1 qt pots. There were many of them; I don't remember the numbers but a lot! We planted them out about halfway down China Valley and there are a few dozen of them still there. They're nice compact upright plants that top out at about 2 feet. Interestingly about half of them have pale blue flowers, the other half soft pink.

I am not a taxonomist so I'm not going to challenge the name of this plant but I will observe that the Clematis heracleifolia that I am familiar with typically grow to twice that height, have larger (2x?) flowers that are almost all a darker blue color, and spread by rhizomes. Their flowers also have, what I consider to be, a delightful perfume. On the downside they tend to lodge, or flop because of their height. Their stems just aren't rigid enough to hold them upright. Still, they are wonderful plants in the right place.

Regardless of the names, Larry's collection has at least two very useful traits: they don't spread by rhizomes, and they stay compact and upright. They're in full flower right now; small grouping so of them abut the China Valley Path midway down the valley.

Thymus pseudolanguinosus....pretend you're very small, and standing on the road looking up the 6" cliff of the curb

I know I've mentioned before how much I like the plantings in the circle in front of the USNA Administration Building. It's a great site in full sun, with good drainage (because the soil is mounded). The black surface of the road absorbs plenty of heat; those Mediterranean plants love their heat. The blue flowers in the background are, of course, Perovskia or Russian Sage.

Wooly Thyme is a great prostrate groundcover for sunny well-drained areas. Period. Sometimes you need a groundcover that's willing to step back and allow the specimen plant or plants to be the focus of an area. There are lot of 6", 8", 10" groundcovers but often their growth is just irregular enough to distract visual focus downward away from the headliners. Prostrate Cotoneasters, larger Thymes, most of the prostrate Junipers. Another issue with many of these plants is their tendency to grow on top of themselves and so eventually become shells of foliage perched on ugly accumulated leafless stems. Junipers are notorious in this regard.

Wooly Thyme is content to lay low and play second fiddle.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Euscaphis japonicus and Paeonia suffruiticosa....nice seeds

In the autumn horticulturist's fancies turn to thoughts of ripening fruit. The shockingly colored seed capsules of Euscaphis japonicus are attractive to almost everybody; I guess it takes a geek to feel the same way about the Tree Peonies fruiting display.

Euscaphis is an Asian native, a large shrub/small tree with interesting bark, not so exciting flowers, and this wild fruit. We have a good number of mature plants all through the Collection including this one that is growing above the road near the main entrance. Tree peonies are everywhere, though most of them have been deadheaded to save the plant from using energy to produce seeds that might go to overall vigor or even better, next year's flower production.

Fatsia japonica 'Spider's Web'.....the Fatsias just look better and better as the season winds down

What can I say? It came through the winter a little bit tattered but look at it now! Fatsia is an araliaceous ? evergreen shrub that is about at its limit here in Zone.....we'll call it 7b. Tolerates pretty deep shade; I have one growing against a house wall under a 12' wide deck.

This one lives beside the path to the Pagoda in the Asian Collection. There are others in the vicinity some variegated, some not.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nyssa sinensis....a prematurely colored leaf falls, impaling itself on a Carex 'Ice Dance' leaf. What are the odds?

I could drop this leaf from 20 feet a thousand thousand times without hitting this. I guess this is just further proof that God has mad skills. In case we needed it.

I love Nyssas, native and Asian. Good simple trees with great fall color, deep red, and.....their fruit is a major food source for bears when it ripens. If you saw my recent picture of fox droppings composed almost entirely of plum pits.....Joan and Hannah and I saw bear stool in Bear Meadows bog that were their functional equivalent substituting Nyssa seeds for Plum pits. Minimal matrix.

The only downside is the tendency towards leaf spot that so often disfigures our native trees before they can attain their full fall glory. It's worth taking a chance. Breeders are working to produce resistant varieties. This Chinese plant seems clean but maybe don't run out and cut down natives to replace with Asians. More research.

Colquhounia coccinea...I check the plants every few days searching for buds. No buds so far but I found this vigilant predator

We push the envelope here at the Arboretum just as many of us do in our personal gardens. This is a USDA Zone 8 evergreen shrub, but a dieback for us. I think it likely that it can flower on new wood, but have seen no buds to this point. With at least? six weeks till our first frost, I'm not too worried....still.

The other plant I'm monitoring, in fact another dieback, is Hibiscus mutabilis, a large-flowered ~tropical~ Chinese Hibiscus that has been a passalong plant in our southern states for more than a century. The specific epithet mutabilis refers to the color progession (from white through pink to red) that the flowers undergo as they age. In Zones 9 and 10 the stems of the Confederate Rose survive winters and the plant can reach upwards of 12 feet. They tower over our double-wides! Zone 8, and our own Zone 7, with colder winters that kill back above ground growth, produce the dieback type growth pattern. Our plants are only a couple of years old and so far the buds have been frost killed before the flowers opened. This year we've got buds well underway and I expect to see at least some flowers. There will be pictures!

I have to think that until recent warm winters contravened tradition, that H. mutabilis didn't work well in this area. Passalong plants generally spread to the limits of their survival, indeed occasionally defying accepted notions of hardiness. If it would have grown here, it would have been grown here. I say, but I'm not certain. Maybe there are pockets of Confederate Rose in Baltimore!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Excellent plants around the Administration Building

I did one of my weekend watering days this past Sunday. There's a love-hate relationship there; while it's hard to get enthusiastic about giving up a weekend day to work by yourself, it's a good thing spending enforced time in parts of the Arboretum that I probably wouldn't have visited otherwise. There were a good number of visitors, many from out of town, and most of them were pretty talkative. Sunday was a beautiful day, sunny with interesting clouds, cool in the morning but warming up nicely in the afternoon. The plants appreciated the warmth and sun after a few days of cool, wet weather.

The containers and tree boxes on the terrace of the Administration Building were particularly good. They've been planted for months now and have filled out, exploded really, with new foliage, flowers, and fruit here and there. The tropicals appreciate our summer heat and seem to double in size every month. Some of them probably actually do!

I have been in love with Agave attenuata since I saw a cascade of it alongside the road above Paia that climbs the slope of Haleakala. The planting tumbled 150' dowhill beside a steep driveway. It's a wonderful sculptural plant in any location but that was spectacular. Lycoris radiata, Red Naked Ladies are cool plants that flower now in early fall, then put on their leaves for the winter. There are spectacular drifts of them under the south side of the terrace. I didn't look at the cultivar of Ficus elastica with the outrageous variegation, but I've seen one much like it in nurseries around Tampa: 'Ruby'. These are just a few of the dozens and dozens of quirky and beautiful specimens that have come into their own over the summer. They're worth a look. Brad has done another good job.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Amy found this caterpillar and I have no idea what it is but I'll find out!

It looks an awful lot like a Sycamore Moth, Acronicta aceris, but that's an English caterpillar. Browsing through photos of various other members of the genus tends to confirm my suspicions that this guy/gal is an Acronicta, but I'm not an entomologist and so will wait for expert input.

Okay, we've got this greenhouse full, well ~1/3 full of roses and this empty rose garden.....

Last week's project was the removal of the existing rose planting in the USNA Herb Garden. Next week, we'll have this giant planting party/group project and the redesign/renovation of the rose collection in the Herb Garden will be well on the way to completion. All the roses won't be new; a few we kept in the garden and another 30? or so are being propagated and will have a place in the new plan. Its a bold and exciting move. I like it. Without reading every label, it seems as though these are mostly old-fashioned roses with examples of all the major groups. I'm excited. Roses grow quickly so, even though these are young plants, next year will be a good year, 2011 will be better and 2012 will be spectacular.