Saturday, April 17, 2010

Trillium grandiflorum is flowering in many places throughout Fern Valley

There is a colony of this Trillium beside the main trail near the top of the steps that take the path to the stream level and another across the stream from the bottom of those same stairs. Odd individuals pop up here and there as a result of ant transported seeds so you can expect to see them anywhere.

Paeonea obovata, Paeonea cv., Paeonia 'Heron'

This is just another one of those outrageous spring weekends and, as gardeners, we don't have any extra time, but if we did, the Tree Peonies in the Asian Collection would be worth a visit. Tree Peonies have become trendy acquisitions and there are private collectors with hundreds of plants. Still, some of ours are 50 years old, many are species, and others are wild collected. The flowers are beautiful, but either lean in close if you're in front of a plant, or click on the images above for a closer view of their private parts, intricate, interesting, and with a peculiar beauty of their own.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rhododendron periclymenoides buds....hey they're nice too

This is the trail along the Fern Valley stream; I've just passed the pond on my right. If I continued walking over the hill, I would reach, in a short distance, the fallen Beech Trees basically between the trail and the stream. The quantity of bloom is ridiculous this spring, and this is a good plant ot see that on. Pinxterbloom in average deciduous shade flowers dependably but sparsley; the flowers are attractive and fragrant but you'd never say that it "put on a show".....except for this year.

Geranium of the plants Stefan brought back from Azerbaijan

It was evergreen through the winter, its first in the ground, about 5" high and almost 2' in diameter. This is a tidy controlled plant at this point; after spending it's first winter in a warmish greenhouse and flowering in late winter, this plant produced some vigorous long growths.

I'm monitoring the other Azerbaijani plants in China Valley (they had to go somewhere) and the Anchusa that produced huge hairy sculptural rosettes last year is heavily budded. It has not flowered before; Stefan raved about the purity of their blue color. They are growing in the top bed, just below the road, and near the grassy cut-through.

Continue on the CV path past the cut-through and on your left there is a small gravel rock-garden bed containing a few more plants from that trip. The Wallflower is still flowering, the Helianthemum is alive and obviously healthy, and I see life from the Dianthus. The Eryngium sp. is budding up and will  flower within the next couple weeks.

Way down the Valley on a sterile sandy slope the  Atraphaxix spinosa, a woody Polygonaceae, and one of the more interesting plants came through the winter frighteningly well and are growing vigorously. This is a plant we will be watching closely for invasive tendencies. It seeds heavily.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Today we rounded up all the Koi from the Administration Building Pool, and selected about 100 to go back into the pool

The rest were sorted according to size and quality and will be sold to the public this Saturday. The same day the Arboretum will have a sale of surplus books and art. I swear I'm not buying any more old books. Or fish and the art is....well...curious. Still, it was fun catching the fish. Now we just have to clean the pool, which is drained now,  and refill it. Fun times.

Rhododendron alabamense, R. austrinum, R. periclymenoides

You can see these native azaleas from your car as you drive past he lower end of Fern Valley. They're in the Coastal Plain planting, a collection of southeastern plants. These three are all are the Magnolias that are starting to flower there.

Miscellaneous early roses in China Valley

At the head of the paved China Valley path, on the left side there is a rock with a rose growing over it. Rosa sericea pteracantha, the Wingthorn Rose isn't really grown for its flowers but for the spectacular winged thorns that adorn the twigs. The single flowers are attractive enough though, and have a pleasant fragrance. Continue around the curve and just a little ways on your left is Rosa chinensis minima. Nice little flowers start early and continue to frost with a mild but distinctly old rose fragrance.
Across the path and about halfway to the next bend is a graceful arching shrub with single pale yellow flowers covering the dark curving stems. Rosa hugonis, or Father Hugo's Rose is one of the classic Chinese introductions from the turn of the last centurI don't get any fragrance but it is a quite beautiful plant.
Look on the other side of the path again a bit farther down and there's a Rosa primula, with attractive single yellow flowers and fragrant foliage.

Nathan, Neal, and Amanda raking and dragging in the Central Valley Asian Collections

It's a bit late to be removing last year's grass foliage, but the snow and it's aftermath put us behind a bit. Anyway they're working in a pleasant environment!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It was exciting to see that the trail from the road to the Fern Valley Pond has been reopened even if it's only a temporary thing

It's unfortunate that the reason it was reopened was to facilitate dealing with the fallen Beech trees and the collateral damage surrounding them. But hey, for about a week this time of year it's one of the nicest 100' walks at the Arboretum, with various native Azaleas flowering on both sides of the trail, perfuming the walk to the pond which is itself ringed in spring wildflowers. It was closed as part of a plan to limit the number of entrances to the collection, but has been retained as a service entrance. I'm just happy that it's open this week.

Delospermum sp. cooperi ? Hardy Purple Iceplant

It's curious enough that there are so many hardy Mesembryanthemems, but it just seems wrong that they're flowering now early-mid spring. Actually this plant has been flowering for a week at least. Excepting that three or four day stretch last week this has been a fairly cool spring.

Brad has some interesting things growing on the small hill above the parking spaces nearest the Administration Building. There are a number of upright Opuntias, a few more mesembs, and a variety of uncommon perennials. It's always worth a look.

Thanks to daylight savings time, I get 4 different weeks every year to watch the sun rise at the Arboretum

This morning the nuances in the clouds made the morning beautiful despite the absence of brilliant colors.

I looked in Brad's greenhouse yesterday

The aroida are out of dormancy and some of them are weird.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ulmus chenmoui, the Langya Mountain Elm...a Chinese Elm with nice flowers!

Plus a pretty good resistance to Dutch Elm Disease and many of the other maladies that tend to affect Elms. This tree overhangs the China Valley Path most of the way down the valley. Pat planted it and recalls having to stand it up and stake it at some point. It seems to be well established and firmly rooted at this point. The abundant fleshy green flowers are surely something though.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Of course my favorite Azalea would be the Florida Azalea, Rhododendron austrinum

This one's in the parking lot in Fern Valley; I could smell it from a few parking spaces away when I stopped in after work. This particular plant is a bit precocious, most of the other R. austrinum individuals aren't flowering yet but they're close. I think the heat absorbed by the paved parking lot speeds it up a bit. Directly across the road is a cool small tree, Red Buckeye or Aesculus pavia with bright red erect inflorescences.

The Lilac nursery is in full bloom and will last through this weekend

They come in all sizes, shapes, and standard Lilac colors including lilac. The fragrance is a bit overpowering, but hey, it's only once a year.

Davidia involucrata, the Dove, or Handkerchief Tree is Flowering along the road in the Asian Collections

We won't be having a party to celebrate, but it is quite spectacular. The seedling 100 feet down the road won't flower this year, but it's getting pretty big.

Peonia ostii....a recently discovered Chinese Tree Peony

This plant is adjacent to the paved China Valley path about 2/3 of the way down the valley. We have dozens of Peonies in flower now and the bees seems disproportionately interested in this one.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Yesterday was a perfect day in Washington; the air was clear, the world glowed, and we could all breathe again

Apparently the same combination of circumstances that generated the explosion of flowers on Cherries, Magnolias, Lilacs, et alia, induced record pollen production from trees. Go figure. This past week, it's been difficult to breathe even for those of us who don't normally suffer from pollen allergies. Just the volume of pollen in the air....well, it's disgusting but the rain on Thursday night/Friday morning cleared things out. Cool temperatures Friday and Saturday haven't stimulated the massive releases of early last week so it was nice yesterday (Saturday). Forecast temperatures in the high 70's, if we get them will send the pollen count back up but I have to think we've run through a lot of the bad spring flowers.Probably wishful thinking.

Does it sound arrogant to say that my garden was breathtaking yesterday? I remember thinking it and I didn't feel arrogant. It takes a certain amount of hubris to make a garden. But it takes a lot of serendipity, a good combination of circumstances, a reasonable amount of time, and a lot of humility to make a good garden. Our newest Asian volunteer, Tatton, was working with Betty and the staff on Thursday sprucing up the Camellias for yesterday's tour and made the observation that "gardening is like playing God", and it does require a certain amount of hubris. Otherwise we'd just do restorations. But we don't; we either think we can do it better or we just want it our way. I encourage people to play a more "godlike"" role in their gardens. You have to feel empowered because, look! you are in charge. A garden is an artificial situation that requires leadership;  a rudderless garden, though it may contain beautiful things, lacks coherence and unity.

My definition is a broad one; I consider a garden to be a relationship between a gardener, or gardeners, and a space. If you don't feel empowered enough to make the BIG decisions, you won't establish that relationship and the garden becomes a place with less meaning, a place that's less you.

Of course the magic of early morning wore off as the sun rose higher in the sky. Dandelion flowers opened; I dug dozens yesterday. Midday's harsher light revealed other weeds to be removed, yet more snow damaged branches, and a range of problems to be worked on. I spent most of the day in the garden. It was wonderful.