Friday, May 14, 2010

Epimediumm davidii 'Wolong Selection'.....They're like tiny spiders, except pretty

Some days I wish I was about a foot tall; the older I get, the more difficult it gets to get my eyes level with flowers arching 8" above the ground. Epimedium season is largely over, but this is one of the later ones. It's from Western China and was collected by Armand David just about 150 years ago. This plant is growing at the intersection of the GCA Circle and the path that continues around to the Pagoda.

Fargesia robusta

Because they're spread around the collection, it's not immediately apparent how many different "clumping bamboos" we grow in the Asian Collections. This is one of my favorites because the culms are both nicely striped as they mature, and are larger than those of most of the other Zone 7 selections; these new ones are well over 1/2 inch in diameter. The commoner species of Fargesia don't produce culms anywhere near this size. The clumps of this species can top 15 feet under favorable conditions; ours is not that tall but still growing.

Clumping Bamboos are getting a lot of interest because....well....because they won't eat whole neighborhoods. Just in the past year and a half, we've added a number of different new clumpers, but they haven't been in the ground long enough for us to draw any conclusions. Three small plants of a Borinda came through last winter unscathed in the middle of China Valley. We had a legitimate Zone 7 winter though not a particularly stressful one. Still, it's encouraging bcause descriptions suggested it was likely a Zone 8 plant. We will continue to assess and I will continue to report.

Rhododendron cumberlandense, R. minus, and Kalmia latifolia cv.: some spectacular shrubs in Fern Valley this weekend

The Mountain Laurels are at their peak this week as are the later native Azaleas and Rhododendrons. Though we have flirted with drying out the last week or so, there's been adequate moisture all spring and most of last year. Among the many plants that have responded well are the Ferns of Fern Valley. Cinnamon and Ostrich Ferns are well known for their ability to achieve fairly spectacular sizes when growing in constantly moist conditions, but most ferns seem to have the ability to get a little bigger in seasons where they have more water than ususal. This is one of those seasons. Combining this moisture with the sporadic short hot spells we've experienced this spring and we have a lot of big healthy ferns. Worth a look....

Those Pitcher Plants are too much....hey, they eat bugs and they're beautiful

Joan's Pitcher plants are still in search of a southern bog site.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This Azerbaijani convolvulus is flowering near the top of China Valley

It's not a vining type, but a sort of low perennial. Pretty flowers, not so spectacular a plant. I like it.

The Courtyard of the Beltsville Library looking north by northwest

Got an early start this morning so I stopped by on the way to work. I had watered Saturday and it rained a bit Wednesday night (~.2").  The 18th week of the year is usually a good time for gardens hereabouts and this one is no exception. The roses are blooming, only one is visible to the left of the Birch trunks, as are a number of perennials (Dianthus, Salvia, Phlox, Lilium, Hemerocallis, Iris, ...)  none of which are visible from this angle. Still, I had to use this picture because this is the first "landscape shot" when the garden has looked good. It took two years!

So far I have been free to plant whatever I choose so, of course there are a goodly number of root-hardy tropicals that won't make much of a show for a month or six weeks. For example, Cestrum auranticum, Jacobinia carnea, Hedychium coronarium, H. coccineum, Musa basjoo, and no doubt some I've forgotten. 

There are quite a few natives including Monarda spp, Phlox spp., Celastrus scandens, Morella, Fothergilla, Rhapidophyllum hystrix (near native), Lonicera sempervirens, Campsis radicans, ... .

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Planting Project adjacent to the Adminstration Building parking lot

I've been intrigued by these plants sitting patiently beside the lath house for the past few weeks (the plants, not me) and I was excited to see what was going to happen to them. There are some good ones here, an interestingly varied collection, including a weeping form of Acer buergeranum, the Trident Maple. Tomorrow, light permitting, I'll take pictures of the finished planting and identify some of them.

A few older plants went and some turf disappeared to make room for this planting. As much as I love the Crape Myrtle 'Natchez', I think we may have enough of them already on the grounds so I wasn't sad to see one disappear. I was a bit sad to see a nice Magnolia go, but sometimes you have to make way for new things. Plus, any planting with variegated Yuccas in it works for me.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rosa henryi

This rose grows past the bamboo at the top of China Valley. It was grown from seed wild collected in 1987 in Changhua, Western Zhejiang Provence. From a plant growing at ~350M in an exposed rocky area in a mixed forest.

Stefan tells me it is related to Rosa moschata, the Musk Rose. That's easy to believe; it has a wonderful fragrance, as well as similar flowers and habit. It's flowering earlier than my Musk Rose. Stefan, and the literature, tell me further, that it can clamber to a height of 6M. It won't bowl you over, either flowers or fragrance, but it's a very nice rose.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Alangium platanifolium: an interesting and attractive large shrub native to eastern Asia

Ours began flowering last week just beside the path leading from the Asian Collections Parking Lot to the GCA Circle. It is, typically, vase-shaped with pleasantly coarse dark green leaves and these very curious flowers. Graham Stuart Thomas described them as "fuchsia-like" while Dan Hinkley likened them to Dodecatheon, the Shooting-star. I guess there's some resemblance, but really they're unique. I know, only from the literature, that they produce brighly colored blue to violet fruits that are reputed to be striking against the yellow fall foliage.

Vanilla planifolia, the Vanilla Orchid, flowered in our warm greenhouse earlier this spring

It was pretty interesting but, to me, more interesting was the form of the vine growing up the greenhouse wall. I got in the habit of going in to see it and so yesterday, when I had weekend watering duty, I paused to take more pictures of it.

I know I've alluded to my fascination with the curves of  tropical rain forest plants, and it'd be hard to beat this one for grace of sinuosity. Usuallly Vanilla appears as a confused mass of foliage concealing its curvaceous elegance inside a tangled confusion of  green. This one shoot has been growing against the stucco texture of the wall seemed particularly attractive yesterday.

I learn from Wikipedia that vanilla is the second most costly spice. Only saffron, which is, essentially, the processed stigmas and styles of the flowers of the Autumn Crocus, Crocus sativus, is more expensive. Go figure. Of  course the functional unit of "vanilla" is the vanilla bean, the dried seedpod of the Vanilla orchid. Pollination is required as only fertilized flowers produce seeds and thus the pod which is what we really want. It almost begins to look like one of the flowers is going to produce fruit so I'll have a good excuse to continue monitoring the plant.

I walked through Fern Valley Sunday on the way home from weekend watering

The wind finally drove me out, but at least I wasn't a butterfly! This one was sitting in the lee of a Hemlock trying to wait out the winds. We had two+ days of sustained 20mph winds with regular gust to ? 30 mph. It felt like the beginning of March not the middle of May.