Saturday, March 13, 2010

Primuls (vulgaris?) from Stefan's Azerbaijan trip

They look quite a bit different than they did last year. The leaves seem to have tightened up a bit outdoors; perhaps they were a smidge etiolated in the polyhouse? I'm no expert on the genus, quite the opposite, but these look a lot like what I know as Primula vulgaris, which makes a certain amount of sense. The range does extend as far east as Azerbaijan. Still, I'll wait for a voice of greater authority.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Primula sieboldii 'Late Snow'....I guess every combination of "snowflake" was taken

Amanda potted up (and Cipteronias) from Chris Carley's NACPEC collecting trip two years ago

We cold stratified the seeds from that trip and most germinated last year, but some seemed to require another winter. Just beginning to germinate are Taxus chinensis, and Cephalotaxus sinensis. Cardiocrinums are large Lilies. It will take these plants a few years before they bloom but they sure germinated well.

Dipteronia is an unassuming plant whose claim to fame used to be that it was the "other" genus in the Aceraceae. Since the maples have been subsumed into the Sapindaceae (a family with well over 100 genera) I guess it's 15 minutes are over. 

Rhipsalis sp.: (pilocarpa?) one of Brad's plants

Rhipsalis are epiphytic cacti that generally like heat, humidity, and maybe a bit less light than most terrestrial genera. Various species are found throughout the tropics but it is assumed they originated in South America. The Cactaceae is exclusively a new-world family.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Heucherella 'Golden Zebra'

Okay, it's gotten to the point.....some of these cultivars don't seem real. This is another one from Terra Nova Nursery. I think I like it a lot....or I hate it?

Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri is flowering now in Polyhouse 7

I brought Brad a small plant of this from Florida a couple of years ago and he's multiplied it many times and produces individuals of a stature and quality that makes me embarrassed to look at the specimen in my windowsill. Still....for a plant who's main claim to fame is the small plantlets produced at the tips of its big floppy 'Donkey Ear ' leaves, its got nice flowers.

Severe pruning on the Ilex Cornuta 'Carissa' hedge

One good way to improve a garden is addition by subtraction. Cold-bloooded gardeners undertake this process motivated by a superior sense of design and a ruthless nature. Most of us are pushed into it by circumstance...something like two blizzards in a week.

When we began to look closely at the hedge above the GCA (Garden Club of America) Circle we discovered that there was too much damage to solve the problem with a superficial pruning. The gap in the bottom picture shows how deeply we needed to go to remove split branches. The good news is....well, look what you can see when the hedge is lowered 2--3 fee! Soooo, we took a roughly 5+' high by 6' wide hedge and made it about 3' high and 2' wide. It looks horrible now but hey, its a Chinese Holly. It'll recover in no time. And so long as we can keep it more or less in bounds, walkers will have a nice view down the Central Valley.

Sometimes you get carried away in these proects; after looking at the hedge through new enlightened eyes, we decided to remove a couple of plants from the north end to permanently create a view of the area above the circle. It turned out to be a good mornings work.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wasabia sinuses could use a good shot right now

The Wasabi is flowering in the cool Polyhouse this week. Wasabi is not horseradish though both are in the Mustard family and the roots are the functional organ of both. If you look at the rightmost flower (click on it to enlarge it) you can see the beginnings of the silique, an oddly derived capsule characteristic of  the Brassicaceae.

Quercus glauca.....sometimes the unfolding leaves are worth taking a look at.

Adonis amurensis...boy there are a lot of yellow ranunculaceae with radially symmetical flowers that bloom before everything else

This one is the best though. Actually I'm beginning to regret planting Winter Aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, and whatever other Eranthis I've planted. They do flower early, but they don't have the wonderful dicentra-like foliage of Adonis. Actually they feel a bit weedy.I don't know.  Even more confusing to me is the fact that I'm pretty fond of just the plain old Common Buttercup, Ranunculus acris ? It's a bit weedy but cheerful.

Plants in the ranunculaceae, buttercup family, are pretty generally unpalatable to deer so that's a plus. Since 1992, the Adonis pictured, in the Asian Collections, has gone from, as I recall, three small plants to a few large clumps, a handful of small plants, and, dozens of seedlings. It seems to me that most of the seedlings are last year's. We had abundant moisture all last season so it was a good year for germination. Pheasant's Eye is easily grown in decent soil in the dappled shade of an open woodland. The foliage does go dormant with the advent of warm weather, but if sited carefully, this can almost be a god thing.

On tour at the US Botanic Garden...In the middle picture: Pat, Amanda, Chris Carley, and Clive Atyeo

If you are familiar with the layout of the Botanic Garden, you will recall that there are two exhibit rooms, at the east and west end of the Atrium, that normally house non-living exhibits. Currently one of those spaces is dedicated to "orchid materials". These are ties that belonged to Merritt Huntington. Apparently Merritt had an extensive collection of orchid theme ties that began with a gift from Clive's wife. I liked the ties because they reminded me of my own closet; my ties actually trend towards the conservative, but I have a lot of shirts made from similar print fabrics!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dendrobium 'Merlin', Epidendrum ciliare, xBrassolaeliocattleya 'Ojai': I went the the USBG Orchid Show again

Amy arranged a guided tour so we had the inside information on the concept, the execution, the plants....everything. Two weeks later, some of the plants are the same, some have been changed out, and it's still a wonderful show.

One of our guides was Clive Atyeo, who tends the orchids for the Botanic Garden and has done so going on 20 years. Before that he worked for 27 years for Merritt Huntington at Kensington Orchids eventually becoming head grower. While it was great to be able to tap his encyclopedic cultural knowledge, his stories were the best.

The middle orchid, the Epidendrum, is a huge plant; and was a donation. While repotting it, Clive discovered his own label in the pot; it was a plant that he had previously owned. Merritt allowed him to sell his own plants at Kensington Orchids and apparently 20-odd years ago he sold this plant that then grew and grew and was eventually donated to the USBG. Wow.  There were other good anecdotes and he'll be doing a repotting workshop at Brookside Gardens in Glenmont later this month.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pelargonium hirtum from the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden....this is a plant you can't help but love

I have always loved desert plants. Or admired them. Actually I think the latter led to the former. There's something wonderful about a plant that can sit, without water, for months and months of scorching heat, revivify magically within hours or days of rain, and top the whole cycle off with beautiful flowers. If you add an interesting  seed, like this one with its silken pappus and curious torsion you just have a wonderful plant. Even the achenes are arrayed interestingly. Wow.

My personal love affair with succulents eventually led me to caudiciforms, those xerophytes that store water in an enlarged organ derived from stem tissue and located at or near soil level. There are caudiciform members of many planat families, it's one of the obvious ways to store water. The genus Pelargonium, with its swollen stems has obviously headed down this road. Our grandparents, or maybe great grandparents overwintered common garden Geraniums by hanging them upside down in a cool location for the winter. There was enough storage capacity in those succulent stems to carry the plants through the winter. The desert species, like P. hirtum, just spend dry periods defoliated and looking dead. Rains bring refoliation, flowering, and in the case of this particular species, abundant seed production.

It wa take your mother to work day in the Asian Collections today. Amanda's mother, Kathy, volunteered for a day and found out how hard her daughter works

Okay, I'm in my high fifties. Simple arithmetic tells me that the difference between my age and that of most of the interns and young gardeners is something like 35 years. Still, I've never been older than anyones  parents though...until now. I imagine from now on it'll just be a matter of time until  become a grandfather figure.

One of the things about Amanda is that she works tirelessly, ceaselessly, relentlessly almost. It's difficult to keep her in lists; she starts at the top and works through item after item. I keep looking nervously over my shoulder. I know she made a list for today. for the two of them to work from. It included such things as cutting back Epimediums and Caryopteris, raking storm debris from beds and trails, and any number of things I didn't even know about. I also know they finished it shortly after lunch. I never had any doubts.

Shortia's a good sign if a plant flushes out new growth in the spring after being transplanted the preceeding year

Joan's Shortias are putting up new leaves so it looks good for their future in Fern Valley. Hey I have no doubt we can transplant healthy container plants into the garden. Of course I'm an optimist but the situation definitely looks rosy.