Saturday, September 4, 2010

Zingiber mioga along the dry stream in China Valley is flowering now

 You have to get down on hands and knees to see the flowers which emerge sequentially from that curious tulip-shaped inflorescence that lies prostrate on the ground. The shoots and bud are used in Japanese cuisine; they have a spicy cilantroish aroma. Z. mioga  is extremely hardy considering that it's a member of a subtropical genus in a tropical family. It seems to handle zone 6b pretty regularly.

There are a few variegated forms. 'Dancing Crane', the one that I've known longest, is a lovely delicate plant that lacks the vigor of the species requiring excellent soil, regular moisture, and some shade. At least here in zone 7. 'White Feather' seems to be a monster, albeit a beautiful one, We planted a single stem a few months back in not so wonderful soil and it's produced 5 perfect new shoots since then; I expect it to be a valuable source of variegated texture in partial shade. We're already thinking about where to establish colonies.  Plant Delights Nursery lists it.

As soon as the adhesive sets the new China Valley sign will be finished

Jeff will take the bungee cords off and Amanda will mulch around itt. Obviously it's already luring visitors into the collection on just its first day.

Okay, I give up. What is it?....Visiting new nurseries and revisiting familiar ones

Sometimes I don't find anything exciting, new, or unique; I usually buy something anyway. It's always possible that any nursery you visit might have the most excitingly beautiful unknown plant you've ever seen. Usually not. Still, once in a while something pop up. From time to time I bring something back to Brad either for his eclectic container plantings at the Arboretum, or for his personal collection. Usually a piece of the latter ends up at the Arboretum. Yes Brad, I did notice that there is a container made up just about entirely of things I've brought back from Florida. Sorry for not mentioning it. Anyway I got this plant in April and can't remember it's name. I didn't keep one so I don't have any records. I remember it had a funny repetitive name but that's not getting me anywhere. It's a large herbaceous tropical that is supposed to flower all summer. I don't monitor the containers as well as I ~2 inches across so it is impressive. I know that name will come back to me!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Buckeye Junonia coenia, on Elephantopus in my front bed...Butterflies everywhere this year!

Daphniphyllum macropodum..

There are so many great plants that we see only in public and collector's gardens.Some have ridiculously specialized requirements, some are almost impossible to propagate, and others grow so slowly they are next to impossible to incorporate into a planting plan.Others though could be valuable additions to the palette of woody landscape plants..Daphniphyllum macropodum should definitely be more widely available commercially and in more gardens.Its easily grown in average soil and deciduous shade and easily propagated by stem cuttings. Though typically listed as a USDA Zone 7-9 plant there is increasing anecdotal evidence of its surviving at least in the warmer parts of Zone 6.

I first met this plant in the early 1990's at the US National Arboretum. I was the China Valley gardener and while we didn't have any specimens in my areas, one valley over at the base of a north-facing slope were (and are still) some wonderful specimens. It was love at first sight. 

Beautiful bold evergreen foliage superficially resembles that of Rhododendrons but without the issues of borers, weevils, and plant killing phytophthora.Actually, in my twenty year acquaintance I haven't noticed any pest or disease problems A quick glance suggest some exotic version of the common houseplant Schefflera. Although the literature observes that Daphniphyllum may atain arboreal proportions in it's native haunts, our plants,rangin in age from 20 to 30 year, are mounded shrubs between 10 and 15 feet high and wide. Rich green 8" evergreen leaves held atop purple/red petioles are arrayed gracefully on mounded shrubs. The flowers aren't much but the fruit is wonderful' the species is dioecious so you'll need a male and a female, but it's worth the effort.The deep blue drupes (on the female plants) mounded atop the red petioles, accented with a glaucous bloom are outstandingly beautiful.

Daphniphyllum is a species widespread throughout eastern Asia; the Flora of China lists 10 species. At the US National Arboretum we have accessions of Daphniphyllum macropodum from Japan, China, and Korea by a who's who of Arboretum plant explorers. John Creech and my friend Skip March from southern Japan in 1976, Barry Yinger from South Korea in 1985, and Lawrence Lee from the Huangshan Mountains, Anhui Provence China in 1988. I am proud to have planted these last plants near the op of a north-facing slope in China Valley in 1991.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The slightest bloom is beginning to appear on Diospyros virginiana, our native Persimmon

Their Asian counterparts are still as green as can be. Many persimmons are strongly sour, astringent, until the ripen to a soft condition. Folklore decrees that it is best to wait until the fruit has been frosted; that the process of freezing starts the fruit to rotting which makes it palatable. I remember a few years ago a particularly hot summer ripened the fruit on the trees in August. That hasn't happened this year, I think, because there has been enough rain to keep the trees hydrated and the fruit happily alive.....not rotting. I looks like we've got another couple months to wait this year.

Amanda was pretty destructive with a sledge hammer, but it turns out the Bobcat is stronger and faster

It hasn't been cool enough for us to resume our invasive removal/land reclamation days, but today we went ahead and dug out the foundation for the old toolshed. Amanda, Neal, and I started out "John Henry"; we did really well with the top tiers, but when Nathan arrived with the "steam engine" havoc began to be truly wreaked. We hauled the debris to the brickyard dumpster and graded the area. Something still wasn't right. So we removed the mass of accumulated "stuff" that had been accumulating behind the shed for years and it looks pretty sharp now.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Patrinia scabiosifolia and Jasminum 'Fiona Sunrise'...King Midas always says, "you can't have too much gold"....well everybody else does

Fiona is just a tropical storm now and there's no assurance she'll become a hurricane, but if she does, her namesake 'Fiona Sunrise' would, I'm sure, appreciate a little rain.This Jasmine is an incredible plant sans flowers and fragrance. Brilliant yellow foliage clothes tendrils that grow six or more feet a year. We cut them back every winter and every year they explode into a carpet of gold. I'm usually amazed by the purported parentage of "hardy jasmines", but this one seems to be a legitimate offspring of Jasminum officinale Plant Delight's weighs in with strong positive opinions.

Tony Avent''s entry for Patrinia scabiosifolia observes that it's of Korean origin. Indeed, the first time I met it, it was growing in the Korean Triangle (Bed K-0). I wasn't that impressed but my feelings have gradually turned 180 degrees over the past 20 years. It is so dependable and so spectacularly golden that I can forgive the odd foliar fragrance.

I have to weigh in here on a completely unimportant issue, the color "gold". It seems there is a movement afoot to remove that term from the lexicon of floral colors based on the fact that it technically can be restricted to referring to that odd metallic yellow color of the metal gold. Well.....this is not France and we don't have an Academy to mediate these disputes with omnipotence so I am going to make a proposal. I suggest we allow that common usage of "gold" that suggests the dark saturated color of.....well, golden flowers. Let common usage rule.

Leptodermis oblonga

This is a beautiful little shrub and a tremendously useful plant. It grows a couple feet tall and a couple feet wide and those small leaves visible below the flowers make a wonderful textural addition to the sunny garden. Seeming to thrive in, well, below average conditions, it handles poor soil and below average water, it can be massed to cover ground in problem places.

And the flowers are not only beautiful and fragrant, they keep coming all summer long. These plants are growing a little ways down the paved path through China Valley on the down hill side. Enter the path from the road, pass the bamboo on your right and watch the right-hand side of the path.

Tony kept a pet Cicada for a few hours today until the noise drove everybody crazy

The nighttime chorus is a mixed bag but Cicadas are pretty much it during the day. We tend to think of the periodical species, particularly the 17 year cicadas, but there are over 2,000 species worldwide including a number of North American "annual cicadas". I think this guy is one of those, genus Tibicen; sometimes called the "dog-day" cicadas because they appear towards the end of summer. We can only hope! Temperatures are 10-15 degrees F above average this week. We're in the mid-90's again. And a hurricane is coming. But hey, it's a dry mid-90's and the only downside to that is the stalled High is allowing pollution to build up so today was a Code Red day for air pollution. Tomorrow and the next day will likely repeat. The good news is that relief cones with a cold front on Friday if it's able to make its way against the Category 4 Hurricane that's also scheduled to arrive Friday. It's been an exciting year.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I was pruning on Korean Hill and found several dozen of these guys on Ulmus parvifolia

These aren't exactly pretty, but they're interesting. I used to know what they were when I was younger. I'll figure it out tonight or tomorrow. They are one of those "gregarious species that appear in the summer.
Like schooling fish, they move together. It's fun to get their attention and then move your hand back and forth. Their synchronized response never fails to make me laugh

Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar, Battus philenor

      I admit it, I can't get enough of these guys. They're just os odd. This was one of a late hatch in the Herb Garden. It's predictably on Aristolochia. I see the butterflies in the garden and they do have large areas of iridescent blue on their hind wings. The problem is they're shy and don't tolerate my close presence; hence they're another subject that I ought to come in on the weekend and sit patiently for....someday

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Odd insect cuts pieces of Rudbeckia petals for camouflage.....(Synchlora aerata)

What can I say? I wasn't going to eat it.

September 1.......I emailed Dr. Michael Raupp at the University of Maryland and he identified this odd insect as a Camouflaged Looper, the caterpillar of the Wavey-lined Emerald Moth. He does a fun weekly post on insects and sent me this relevant link.   When I googled the species, I found photographs of one looper adorned with Liatris petals....pretty!

Beltsville Agricultural Library sign planting

I stopped by to take a look and ended up pulling a few weeds. Foxtail had insinuated itself into the Lovegrass (flowering front right) I spent 10 minutes and removed most of it. The Rudbeckia is flowering; it'll be larger next year but still looks good.