Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cornus florida, Flowering dogwood, fall

The Crape myrtle in front of it's pretty nice too. If you look closely you can see foliage of Yucca rostrat just below the crown of the Dogwood. The Yucca has been in the ground over 25 years and is about 15 feet tall. It's an odd plant to see this far north; it looks, at first glance, like a palm tree. The winds that tore the banana leaves last night almost persuaded me to take down the giant wind chimes, but I relented. It was so cold that everyone's windows were closed and the wind itself was loud. In the winter without the damping effect of foliage, the sound penetrates anyway but last night, despite the crashing and clashing I couldn't even hear the chimes in the house.

I planted all the plants I've accumulated over the past few weeks including Anemone japonica? x 'Robustissima' and Tricyrtis sinonome that I bought today! I know better than to plant a Tricyrtis in this dry sand but hey!....they were beautiful and on sale.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Camellia sasanqua 'Bonanza' along the path to the Pagoda

This is one of the darker colored fall blooming camellias, and somewhat shorter than the typical sasanqua.

The Fall Camellia season is well underway here, so if you're in range and you can steal an hour or two this weekend, it'd be worth a trip to the Arboretum to walk through the Camellia Collection. Park in the Asian Collections parking area and take the trail leading off the road just below the restrooms.

It's dark in the morning when we start work

Next weekend when Daylight Savings Time quits for the year we will have faced our latest sunrise, 7:41 am. The days, of course, will continue to shorten, but that extra hour of light in the morning means that the latest sunrise in December/January (it stays on the same minute for almost two weeks!) will be 7:27am.

Asters flowering at the Capitol Columns

We don't actually require that you color coordinate your outfits with the plantings, but we do appreciate it.

These Asters were added this spring. The planting was always intended to include three elements: Amsonia hubrechtii has attractively subtle blue flowers in the spring but it's major asset is it's golden fall show; Schizachyrium scoparium, Little Bluestem, a native grass that turns a lovely shade of of of...coral? for the winter; and now this sturdy Aster that looks like 'Purple Dome' but whose identity I have so far failed to ascertain. George voted one way, Joan another....I'm not going to be the one to break the tie, but I'll find out next week and amend this sad paragraph.

It looks great though. Before the Asters we had an annual grass as the third plant in the design. I think the Aster was a good choice.

We've got this cool unknown Ophiopogon by the stone bench in the middle of China Valley

I was crawling around on my belly, lifted the peripheral fringe of leaves and behold: lovely blue berries. I didn't just happen upon them though. I've been waiting my chance all year. I'd heard rumors the berries were pretty.

Look at that fine texture, a foliage effect unlike any other Ophiopogon or Liriope. It does look a bit like Liriope spicata, but the foliage is much finer and longer and the plants clump, they don't run. like other Ophiopogons, it's evergreen; it doesn't lose its leaves every spring before regrowing new ones. It's a very good garden plant.

It was wild collected in China in 1980 by the SABE, Sino-American Botanical Expedition, a group that included Ted Dudley of the USNA. We've grown it ever since.

Odd autumn effects: Loropetalum chinense 'Zhuzhou Fuchsia' and 'Hindwarf'

Hey, we like 'em for their outrageously pink flowers and we like 'em for their maroon/red/purple leaves. We like the fact that they flower a bit in the fall a bit in the winter and still nicely in the spring. This multicolor fall foliage though, just takes it to another level. I don't know if every fall will result in these curious color mixes, but judging from the fact that various individuals in various places had the same combinations, I think we can assume the Zhuzhou will stay with the orange color and Hindwarf with the red.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Big Snapping turtle

As I pulled up to the Asian tool shed one of our walkers frantically waved me away from the east side of the road. She was worried I'd run over this monster.

Amy showed me this incredible fungus on the Cryptomeria Walk


Good yellow color: Lindera obtusiloba and Lindera erythrocarpa

These are Asian shrubs; we have a nice eastern US Lindera but it hasn't colored up yet. The whole genus has excellent fall color.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Went to Johnson's Garden Center on Wisconsin Avenue today

It's just a mile or so away from our planting job and we needed some grass seed and lime as part of the finishing touches. Johnson's is uptown, but definitely in town. I hadn't been there for years but I remembered it as one of the suppliers for my earliest plant obsessions.

The last couple of years before I turned 16 and got my driver's license, I walked a lot, rode my bike, and took buses. A typical all day excursion sent me all the way down Georgia Avenue to the Mall where I'd spend the day at museums. I always went to the Natural History Museum and then to either the National Galley, the Castle, the Freer, or somewhere else. Mid-afternoon I'd start for home by cutting west to Georgetown. I'd make a stop at the Third Day, an interesting storefront plant shop on P Street just off Dupont Circle. They always had something unusal. I continued west to Wisconsin Avenue then north, stopping at what was then the Audubon Bookshop. Great place for anyone with an interest in Nature. I still have a copy of Gray/Fernald purchased when I was 14 and inscribed with a curious loopy handwriting I recognize but couldn't reproduce now. I continued north on Wisconsin eventually reaching Johnson's Garden Center.

Forty-odd years ago the floorplan was configured differently, but I felt the same sense of excitement as I approached the store and, oddly, the old smell of the place came back to me. It smells different now, floristy but different. It's probably all those chemicals that have come off the market!

I recall the anticipation approaching the front of the store where dozens and dozens of flats of 3" house plants were lined up. I loved it because many of those plants were not your ordinary houseplants. I saw my first Crossandra there, my first Zebra plant (Aphelandra), odd Philodendrons and on and on. Every trip there was something cool. I remember buying a 3 gallon Convolvulus cneorum and carrying it the ?7? miles home. It was wonderful all summer but succumbed to the winter. Possibly the beginning of my obsession with Mediterranean plants. I still have a Cissus quadrangularis that I bought there 45 years ago. I was glad to see that curious Alocasia selection today; they still have interesting plants.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sassafras albidum...I was admiring the Tigereye sumac when this small tree across the streetcaught my glance

Same great colors and it wasn't purchased, planted, or tended. Good deal. There was Sassafras growing under the bamboo in the back of our garden when we moved in 25 years ago. Now that the bamboo is disappearing, the sun will return and ours will color up as nicely as this one has. The land on which our suburban neighborhood stands was once a sand and gravel operation so these plants are either relict specimens or colonizers.

I don't too often take issue with Wikipedia, but I've been in and around the nursery industry most of my adult life and Sassafras is not "often grown as an ornamental plant", unless you credit Nature or God as gardeners. It ought to be more widely used. I did a design many years ago somewhere in East Silver Spring; next door to the property was a mature Sassafras almost 2 feet in diameter. It was fall and the leaf colors were the same as in the pictures above. I fell in love, and went through a period where I put it in designs pretty regularly but seem to have gotten away from that.

I don't remember, but I'm sure Sassafras was one of the first trees I learned to identify. Back before curricula were honed and focused to maximize scoring on mandated standardized texts, skeletonizing leaves or making wax paper mounts or ink prints from leaves were regular fall activities. We all learned, before we were fifth-graders, that Sassafras had 3 kinds of leaves: right-hand mittens, left-hand mittens, and mittens with two thumbs. And we liked that the leaves are fragrant. Fifty years ago we learned that the roots were used to flavor beverages and candy. Now that a potential carcinogen, saffrole, has been isolated that's no longer true but if you crush a leaf or scratch a twig or root it still smells great. Now, fifty years later, saffrole is an important chemical in the manufacture of MDMA, Ecstasy. An interesting turn of events.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rhus typhina 'Tigereye Bailtiger'....serious fall color

Fall is dragging its feet this year. Almost November and just hints of color in the landscape. Temperatures are good; nights in the 40's days in the 70's. I do love fall but at some point I put two and two together and figured out that fall led directly to winter. That took a bit of the shine off the season. Still, it's great to be able to work for hours outside without needing IV hydration. And the color will come.

I grow this Sumac in a container. Rhus typhina, is a pretty frightening plant. It colonizes xeric rocky sterile slopes alongside the Interstate Highways. This selection, 'Tigereye', with its lime green/yellow foliage, is definitely a dwarf and looks to be less vigorous in terms of spreading than the species. It hasn't been around all that long though, it was patented in 2006, so the jury is still out. I see it for sale more and more recently; it's crossed over into the "box store" inventories, though possibly that ought not to surprise me. They do like flashy plants that sell themselves.

Removals and bed prep on the first day, drainage and planting on day two

My sons Maxwell and Peter do most of the work!