Saturday, October 16, 2010

I scored big at the 4-Seasons's Plant Exchange

We celebrated Ed Aldrich's 50th birthday at the Plant Exchnge. Ed stands unequaled atop the pyramid of those of us in the DC area that grow hardy tropicals. Or at least unsurpassed. He also stands in the top picture describing one of the many plants he brought to the exchange.I didn't bother to move away from his contributions. We take turns; I had the 19th turn and took Alpinia caerulea from amongst his plants, then Dyckia altissima, and Agave 'Mr. Ripple', Mimosa borealis, Sesbania sp., all from amongst his contributions. Karen got a Russian Pomegranate and an Acer griseum. Someone contributed this huge collection of floral arranging paraphernalia including dozens of frogs. We took a couple of them.

The weather was brisk, the food was wonderful, and the company was congenial. Plus, we all, at least temporarily, satiated our cravings for new and unusual plants. The exchange has been held for years at the home of Jim Dronenberg and Dan Weil. This year they were preoccupied with preparations for another event so Lynn Title generously offered to host. Her garden is both beautiful and interesting; it's a large attractively diverse garden that contained enough unusual selections to stump us all. I now crave her variegated Russian comfrey Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold', a striking plant.

I found this Batface cuphea lurking in the planting I deconstructed this morning

I'm reluctantly giving this cool plant away. I can't keep it through the winter and I'm certain it's not hardy, anyway it won't be hardy planted in mid-October. There are a lot of member of the new world genus Cuphea and though there has been recent, scholarship published, not much of that information seems to have worked its way into the mainstream of horticulture. Consequently, this plant comes labeled just Cuphea. Next year I will make an effort to secure the monographs on the genus, but also a handful of different plants for bedding out as summer annuals. Hummingbirds do like them and this one has been covered in flowers since early summer.

Havoc and Carnage in the name of the 4-Seasons Garden Club Plant Exchange!

There is a 90% likelihood that a killing frost will occur her in the next two weeks anyway. And the good news is that with a little babying maybe the green plant in the middle will flower. It's a fuchsia scutellaria I was excited about finding in Florida last winter. Apparently not excited enough to protect it from the incursions of its more energetic potmates. I doubt it's hardy so if I can't protect it long enough to bloom, I'll dig it and give it to Brad for his containers. I expect I ought to have done that in the beginning. Confounded by my own covetousness again.

I particularly like this plant exchange because it facilitates the diffusion of less common plants into more gardens. Many of my hardy palms came via this route; the hardy cestrum at the library, several hedychiums, a few hard to come by roses, and on and on. And I've contributed some good stuff. We have colonies of rohdeas, a plant that is only slowly making it's way into mainstream gardening here in DC. In the past we've brought bundles of them. I got my first Iris unguicularis there, and seedling Viburnum nudum from someone's natural stand. Hardy selections of Dyschoriste oblongifolia and Justicia carnea. All of these have lived through at least two USDA Zone 7 winters. Neal Peterson has more than once brought paw paw seeds.

This year I've propagated a couple roses that came from Nick Weber's Heritage Rosarium; I love Rosa moschata and the myrrh fragrance of 'Little White Pet'. And I'll return pieces of some hardy hedychiums that originally come from the exchange. I always bring a few tropicals in containers that have grown to unmanageable size over the summer; someone's always happy to get them. Maybe the variegated copperleaf, Acalypha wilkesiana. Definitely the everblooming dwarf heliconia, Heliconia psittacorum (in the picture). In the past I've broken a piece out of Euphorbia tirucallii 'Fire Sticks' to root and given away the plant. That keeps it to a reasonable size. And there's the Chrysothemis pulchella. Maybe I'll throw in some generic phalaenopsis and oncidiums; they build up on the window shelves!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Geraniums and Anemones: I do like single(ish) flowers

We're having a good cold rain today and the most colorful flowers I see out the windows are potted pelargoniums on the deck railings and Japanese anemones throughout the garden. Fall camellias are starting to open and various asters are close to their peaks on one side or the other. It's a good rain particularly in light of the huge planting project many of us participated in yesterday at the Arboretum.

Religion and politics are good topics to avoid when the family gets together for Thanksgiving dinner. Along those lines, when the subject of double versus single flowers arises in conversation amongst a group of gardeners, it pretty generally heats up the discussion. Some topics just seem to roil our psyches, bringing powerful feelings from the depths to the surface. I'm a person who generally prefers to avoid confrontation and there are some topics: native plants; global warming; orange flowers, though not so much lately; inorganic versus organic fertilizers are a few, that set off warning alerts in my head.

I'm guessing we've all heard friends rage against the gratuitous creation of double-flowered forms of every garden plant. I don't think all doubles are bad but I do wonder why it's so much easier to buy a double kerria, than the wonderful single form. I much prefer the single Japanese anemones to the doubles, at least on those varieties where the flowers sit atop the plants on long peduncles. The singles float lightly in the air while the doubles just seem clunky. I'm definitely not ready to give up most of my roses, though I do grow and like a few singles. I think we can all agree there are double Echinaceas that really ought not to be.

While I don't generally consider myself a pragmatist, my position on double flowers is not philosophical and experience has taught me that there are sometimes advantages to single flowers. Single peonies can hold their heads up in the rain where their showier siblings require quite a bit of tedious and elaborate support. When I was younger I was an Estate Gardener in a large garden in Washington, DC. I inherited a wonderful planting of mature peonies; they were a favorite of the owners. Anticipating spring rains, at a not inconsiderable cost, I bought large strong peony rings. I was careful to put the rings out early enough for the foliage to grow through them and I raised the rings assiduously as the season progressed. Even so many of the heavier flowers overburdened their stems. You can't stake 1,000 stalks....well not reasonably. Still, I wouldn't give up double peonies.

Right now my specimen pelargoniums are flowering wonderfully and so are Japanese anemones., which, I guess, brought the whole double/single thing to mind. I grow only single or barely double pelargoniums in part because the flowers last much longer. Wherever the petals touch, in the presence of the least bit of water, they brown out. Even my singles require regular cleaning. Doubles are hopeless.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A little bit of production of winter annuals

We're not growing so many as we have in the past but there's good variety. kales, cabbages, chards, fennels. It's fun to watch the tiny plugs become plants. They look particularly nice in the morning sun.

The sky was interesting this morning

Nuts, mostly acorns I suppose, popped explosively under the wheels of the car as I toured the grounds this am. It has cooled off again and rain is forecast for Wednesday night and Thursday. We're doing a big planting project today, all the gardeners, horticulturists, and curators. We did it last year and it forced us all into making some decisions and planting some plants. We've got a number of interesting Asian maples and some oak cultivars. Quercus dentata pinnatifida, Q. dentata 'Carl Ferris Miller'. Acer tegmentosum 'Joe Witt', is a regular tegmentosum except that instead of being striped, the bark is a ghostly white in the winter. That ought to be quite an effect when the trees get some size. We've got some Pinus armandii grown from seeds from Carole's trip and a few Euptelea pleiosperma, and a miscellany of odd plants. I know they (the plants) will be happy to get into the ground.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Black and Yellow planters on the north terrace at the Administration Building

I'd tell Brad he's a genius, but he already knows it...he mentioned it last week. But seriously, this is a cool planting. My flavor-of-the-year canna, 'Australia' is integral so it has to be good. And big points for  Jasmine officinale 'Fiona Sunrise', one of the gaudiest plants I've ever seen.

Black fruit day: Ilex macrocarpa and Euscaphis japonicus

I drove past a plant lover's house in Silver Spring last night

If I hadn't been on my way to an appointment I would have stopped. I'll go back someday to talk. Interesting conifers, tropicals, and color. Wow.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Today was Columbus Day, a holiday, so I stayed home and gardened

There are more weeds in the compost than there were this morning and fewer weeds in the beds....which is not to say that the beds are weed free, only better than they were.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tucked between the main entrance and the North American Pavillion, is one of my favorites

This planting of Dawn Redwoods always catches my eye. I took the opportunity of being in the Bonsai/Penjing Museum to reacquaint myself with and admire the plantings and the trees. As always it's wonderful, and as always I regret the time that's passed since my last visit. Hey what do I always say? "better late than never".

The sales tent was particularly beguiling this year.....or was I just in the mood?

The show continues through Columbus Day, Monday. In previous years, I've not seen so many plants in the sales tent or such a diverse selection.There were even a few Bletillas, hardy orchids. As always the vendors, fanatics themselves, are wonderful sources of advice and enthusiasm. They'll tell you the straight truth about cultural conditions, so you'll know whether you can handle a given plant or not.

I love the plant in the top picture; its colors are so excellent for fall. This one was in the tent, but mine is spiked and this will be the third fall it has flowered; I'll find that name somewhere. The middle plant, the white and yellow flower, is Odontoglossum Serendipity 'Yellow Mellow', the bottom one, Cattleya Chocolate Dorman 'Merri-Chloe'.

I didn't intent to buy any orchids but....well, it must have been the weather. Three little ones jumped into my box: Dendrochitum javierii, Miltassia 'Kauai's Choice', and Odontoglossum Serendipity 'Yellow Mellow'. The Odontoglossum is the middle picture of the three above. The Dendrochiton has narrow strap leaves and a nodding yellow bottle-brush raceme. It is in spike but showing no color. I was tempted by other taxa of Dendrochitons, many of which have structurally interesting foliage, but restrained myself. The Miltassia is one of those larges spidery ones.

the National Capitol Orchid Society Fall Show is being held in the Bonsai Penjing Museum at the Arboretum

It's total immersion orchids. normally these displays are spread out in the cavernous auditorium of the Administration Building; this year, everything is compressed into a much smaller space. I like it. The plants are close together and close to the visitors so that upon entering you're overrun with smells and colors.  The space is linear in a sort of a gallery way, moving visitors along at a pleasant pace.