Saturday, July 10, 2010

Back to the International Supermatket for Dragonfruit and Durians

The Dragon fruit, the Durian, and the  Purple Yams are for sure vegetable matter and so legitimate subjects for this blog. The Abalone not so much, but I couldn't resist....photographing. I did resist buying them, but won't next time I see them. I'm definitely getting a Durian when I figure out what to do with it.

Annie's's the thing: these photographic enticements arrive pretty regularly via email.

 I love this nursery. And, as a point of reference, the vast majority of her plants aren't annuals. At least those on the website. Many of the plants in the Florida Garden came from Annie's. Here's what I ordered today:

1    Dudleya hassei "Catalina Island Live-forever"
2.   Agropyron magellinacum "Blue Wheat Grass"
3.   Aristea major
4.   Arthropodium cirratum "Regna Lily"
5.   Carex testacea "Orange New Zealand Sedge"
6.   Cuphea 'Strybing Sunset'
7.   Dudleya pulverulenta "Chalk Live-Forever"
8.   Echium gentianoides 'Tajinaste'
9.   Glaucium grandiflorum
10.  Linaria reticulata 'Flamenco
11.  Mirabilis longiflora "Angel's Trumpets"
12.  Ipomopsis aggregata 'Skyrocket'

That Annie! She caught me at a weak moment this rainy!!! Saturday morning. Some of these are plants I've wanted for a while (the Dudleyas, Aristea, and the New Zealand Sedge). The Ipomopsis I'm intrigued by since I. rubra  is doing well for me. Mirabilis longiflora is just my kind of plant, which is to say, weedy, fragrant, and drought resistant. Horned Poppy is one of my favorite plants so...Glaucium grandiflorum with orange flowers and blue foliage requiring no The Echium will work in Florida and the others were just impulse buys. It's going to be a fun box.

About planting in the summer in hot Zone 7 sites.  For  the sake of simplicity, in my mind I divide hardy plants  into two groups: those that make most of their growth in the spring, with maybe a bit more in the fall if it rains when things cool off; and those that love heat and, providing you supply them with water, do their growing in the summer. Conventional wisdom tells us not to plant in the summer, but that last group of plants is much happier if planted when it's hot. In fact, many will languish if dropped into the cool wet soil of early spring. Think of tomatoes or geraniums; you can plant them in early April, but they just sit there till the soil warms up. If planted in the fall, hot season perennials may not make enough growth to get through the winter. Most heat loving plants aren't partial to wet feet in the winter, so they want good drainage and need to make enough growth the first year to get through that first winter.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Digging footers for the new signs going into the Asian Collections

What a beautiful place to work. Hey, I work there!

iWe're going to be the first Collection to get Phase 2 signage. That means we'll have signs identifying the different sections of the collection: The Camellia Collection, Japanese Woodland, Asian Valley, China Valley, and Korean Hill, and some arrowed directional signs. I'm particularly looking forward to the China Valley sign that will go at the head of the China Valley path. I bet we get a lot more people coming in from the road when we identify the space. Hey, I like to know where I'm going before I make a turn off the main road; literally and figuratively I mean.

I knew it was going to be a good day as soon as I got up this morning

I decided,with some of my extra energy, to water the Library Garden before going to work and the sunrise only confirmed my suspicions. All afternoon the clouds were spectacular.
As a bonus,there were lots of butterflies and the Anemones began flowering
And as if this wasn't enough temperatures are supposed to drop into the 80s and we're expecting somewhere around an inch of rain. It's times like this when you have to rein in your satisfaction or the Universe will feel compelled to remind you how things really work. Pride goeth before a fall.
It was inevitable.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Quercus variabilis bark. This tree is growing along the roadside in the Asian Collections

Just a bit uphill from the big Davidia. How about all those different colors? This plant was grown from seed wild collected in China.

Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars, just where they should be, eating Aristolochia

What can I say, they're just cool caterpillars. Jeanette found them while watering the scented Pelargoniums.

150 foot long spider web at the Brickyard.....I wasn't scared.

It's beyond my photographic ability to communicate the effect of a spider web that ran more than 100 feet around the perimeter of this pile of wood chips. It just kept going and going and going....until it met itself coming.

As I often do in situations of ignorance, I went fishing on the web and discovered that there is a group of spiders called "the social cobweb spiders." That sounded promising, The description of their webs as three-dimensional and irregular further encouraged me. Sue Greeley looked for spiders, but even with better vision than mine, failed to locate any. I'll come by before work tomorrow and see whats shaking. I think it's a pretty safe assertion that these webs are the work of some type of social spider. I had never heard of such a thing but discovered that they often huge number of individuals, 1,000s, of varying ages live together.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pomengranate in the Herb Garden

Dwarf Pomegranates, Punica granata nana, are hardy here (USDA Zone 7); most people don't realize it so there aren't a lot around but they're kind of fun. Dark green leaves and orange flowers in the middle of the summer make them identifiable from at least 100 feet while driving. I found buds, opening buds, and partly and fully open flowers on one lant in the Herb Garden. I didn't find any fruit because they don't set a lot of fruit. There's usually one around by the end of the season on three or four plants. Still, there's something about Pomegranates; they're symbols of fertility, fecundity, harvest; you just want one in your garden.

I took a few minutes to check the progress of the containers and plantings on the east Terrace of the Admin Building

They're looking good. Brad's containers haven't missed a beat in the face of 100 degree day after 100 degree day. These plants love the heat. The red Banana!

The Herb Garden staff is tough. The heat isn't going to beat might kill them but it won't beat them

Jeanette has some odd strategy that involves a towel and GrayC just mops herself. They are a tough group. When I took these pictures (mid-afternoon) most of us has retreated to air conditioning. They were out there working which is admirable but worrisome. Sometimes you just have to admit Nature's supremacy.

It was hot today, we hit 100F again. Still, I found these leaves here and there that were nice

The to one is a Loropetalum along the path to tthe Pagoda in Asian Valley. the next one is some Aroid Brad has on the East Terrace, and the bottom picture is Chard in the Herb Garden.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Podophyllum hexandrum: hey, it's just a rotting fruit on a declining plant,

But the morning sun lit it up along the road and it seemed beautiful to me. It must be the heat!

This is a close relative of our own native Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum. It grows from India to China at lower elevations in the Himalayas, forming large colonies. The fruit is supposed to be edible and tasty but I didn't come upon this one till it was past it's prime.

The large Emmenopterys henryi in the Asian Collection at the USNA are flowering heavily

And they're spicily fragrant too!

I imagine the heat had something to do with the heavy flowering; these trees, grown from seed collected by L. Lee in 1988,  have flowered before, but never so heavily or so near the ground. I was able to walk up to trusses and photograph them at eye level. It's interesting how similar the flowers are to Pinckneya; Stefan's first response on hearing they were flowering was to recommend that cross. Alas the Pinckneya is out of flower these last few weeks. Next year we'll have to save pollen.

Biological systems are so complex that it's difficult to draw useful conclusions from isolated experiences, but here's what I find noteworthy about the year preceding this unprecedentedly heavy flowering: last year was a good year generally for plants with uniformly abundant moisture excepting one six week period in the summer; last winter, despite much snow, was fairly mild; we had no frosts in March (unheard of) or April (uncommon); excepting a handful of decent days it has been ridiculously hot these past 4-5 weeks. Who knows whether any of these factors individually or in combination contributed to all this flowering. When I read accounts of flowering Emmenoptery, heat does seem to be a common factor.

Of all the plants that Lawrence Lee, ex-curator of the Asian Collections USNA, collected, Emmenopterys henryi, was, as I recall, the one he was proudest of. In the early 1990s, his plants would have been among only a very few specimens in North America. Though it is far from common now it isn't exactly rare. When I returned to this collection two years ago I was amazed that plants that I remembered as saplings, barely taller than I was, now soared 60,70, 80 feet into the air. And they were barely 20 years old. I have to suspect that our plants are among the largest in cultivation in North America.

I coveted this plant when I first met it; I'm a sucker for red petioles and incised veins. Right now I'm in love with Rhamnus/Frangula caroliniana, no red petioles, but those same deepset veins and wonderful red fruit. Anyway, Emmenopterys seemed like a good plant for a small garden; at that time the literature pretty generally described it as a small to medium-sized tree. Somehow I managed to resist it when it began showing up at the more esoteric mail-order nurseries. It's good to be reunited after so many years.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Beltsville Library plants are standing up to the water moratorium pretty well

And the Campsis is beginning to climb its new post. The Coral Bark Maple far left was severely damaged in the snowstorm of this past February. It has recovered in terms of shape and form but still it's much smaller than it was last year. Not a bad thing; it can always grow!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I'm not watering any plants but I'm not thrilled about it....and to be berated by WSSC at the same time??!!

WSSC, our local water authority, is replacing part of an 8 foot (in diameter) line and has issued a mandate limiting water usage. I'm excited that their new sonar technology detected a problem before it became a huge blowout and I'm willing to cut back my usage by 1/3, I'm sure we've done more than that. Possibly I'm just being sensitive because I'm a gardener. I mean I don't have a pool and so I don't know what sort of hardship not topping it off for a week would be. I suspect not so serious as losing most of your annuals or vegetables. I would have hoped for something more nuanced than "all outside watering is prohibited: grass, gardens, flowers..." I'm cooperating but does that mean I have to  let hundreds of dollars worth of container plantings die for lack of 20 gallons of water? I'm glad I don't have a vegetable garden, or any significant new plantings.

Most water restrictions aren't so heavy-handed. For example, they allow hand watering of newly planted material. They differentiate between irrigation and selective watering My feeling is that this is not a well thought out edict, and there wasn't any input from anyone who cared about gardening. It's certainly not well timed as it was released the very day of a double-digit rate increase. I'm not suggesting conspiracy: maybe God's sense of humor, or possibly just another affirmation that irony is the driving force of the universe.

While I'm whining I have to wonder about WSSC's assertion that despite their pleas for a one-third reduction, usage has only dropped 8%, ah now I see they have acknowledged 14% in a bragging, self-congratulatory statement in which they continue to berate the efforts of their customer to conserve.   Everyone I know is making an effort and a lot of people have gone away for the holiday weekend. I'd like to see those figures and have them explained to me. An article this weekend related some details about the state of the infrastructure and it isn't good. We can no doubt expect more of this sort of situation. I only hope that in the future WSSC can try to be a little less opaque and paternalistic in their relations with their customers.