Saturday, November 6, 2010

After I judged pumpkin bread at Behnke's Nurseries, I visited the pansies (and the Johnny-jump-ups)

As usual they were perfect. Behnke's takes their pansies seriously, protecting a long tradition of excellence. I can picture the pamphlet the declaimed, not modestly, but accurately, that "We're known for our Pansies".

When I began work there, about 30 years ago, they still started pansy seed in sand beds outside. seedling were hand dug to go into large packs of 50 seedlings or smaller "market" type packs, or potted into small pots. They were moved in and out with the weather and any that "stretched", that is to say, grew out of tight clumps and became leggy, were ruthlessly, and with no regard for financial cost, discarded. At some point the seedlings began to be grown in cell-packs, filled and planted by machines, and mechanically transferred to their final containers but management stayed pretty strict about quality control and it shows in the plants I saw today.

I met an interesting woman, a fellow customer, who explained to me on noticing that I had heard her talking to no one, that she always found herself talking to pansies because they had such distinctly human faces.

Fall backlighting

Actually we don't "fall back" until tomorrow night (when we reset our clocks to Eastern Standard Time, but it's a nice sunny morning and I love morning light. I'm still feeling that overwhelming need for plants that was sparked by those tropicals in the greenhouse.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Spruces that flanked the front doors of the Headhouse are gone

The tree contractor took 'em both out this morning while another contractor began to assemble a quintuple-wide temporary building that will house most? of the Arboretum staff during the renovation of the Administration Building.

On the morning of her last day Laurie, the Friendship Garden intern, discovered a mummified homunculus in the cocoon of a Saturnid moth

Laurie Metzger came to us, curiously, from the Washington Ballet where she both performed and taught. Her term in the Friendship Garden concluded today, but she has applied for several internships opening now and seems like a good candidate. As he usually does at the departures of his interns, Lynn brought chocolate Dove Bars. I don't know if I can get in any trouble by posting a picture of a dancer eating an ice-cream bar but I'm taking my chances. Many, though by no means all, of our interns are recent graduates and haven't established the sense of self, or the confidence that will come to them as they mature. That was not the case with Laurie who came ready for action with a take charge attitude. We all enjoyed her stay and would love to see her return.

She did find that attractively odd gall in the second photograph. If you look closely at the bottom picture you can see the mummified head and a portion of the ribcage of a very tiny person....or something like that. (I swear, except for cropping, I did not modify this picture in any way)

Euphorbia tirucalli 'Fire Sticks' in front of the Administration building

We've had a funny fall: no 70 degree days to speak of or ever high 60's. We've jumped from high 80's and 90's pretty much to 50's. Still, though it's been cold we haven't had any freezes. It's worked for this wicked selection of the Pencil Tree, which really needs cool weather to produce this kind of color. Summer's heat tempers the color to yellow or maybe orangish yellow, but the cool temperatures of autumn really bring the fire.

Damn I love plants.....Pretty much all plants!

Stopped by Homestead Gardens because it's just a few miles from our mechanic. They have their Christmas displays out and their houseplants fully stocked.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It rained all day in Washinngton DC

So I potted up some cuttings that had rooted sufficiently. Actually, I stuck a few too, of Buddleia colvillei, the Himalayan Buddleia. It did live through last winter, but failed to flower. It was advertised as flowering, unlike most buddleias, only on old wood. Since it was just about killed to the ground, it makes sense that it didn't flower. I had hoped that the growing season was long enough and hot enough for it to finish a cycle of growth and start sort of create old wood in one season. It didn't happen, though I still hold hope for the future. Maybe a more established root system or a bit more attention from me in late summer. Possibly more attention to watering and possibly fertilizer early, then late? Anyway I'm starting a handful (the irregular unlabeled row of four in the middle of the flat) and I'll grow winter one or two in the greenhouse next year for flowers in 2012.

The other plants in the flat are Rhododendron eriocarpum (the primary ancestor of the Gumpo Azaleas), a white form from a plant wild collected in Japan, Hydrangea 'Izu-no-Hana', Podocarpus 'Okina', and Hypericum longistylum. I also potted some cuttings of Dr. Ackerman's cross between Camellia japonica and Franklinia alatamaha. There was some thought that cutting were difficult but all of those Young Choe took this past summer rooted. That's exciting.

Rainy fall pictures from the US National Arboretum

Of course the maple field has good fall color (top two) and Fern Valley is always beautiful.

It's raining this morning so I'm sticking this picture up from yesterday afternoong. It's the Asian Collectins USNA

The rain is welcome here, but I'm excited because it's raining on the Florida garden too, and though I haven't been there for months,my obsessive study of NOAA weather observations suggest that it didn't rain last month. That's a bit early for the dry season and though the heavy dews mitigate the drought to some extent.... Anyway it's good news for all the new plants I put in this past summer! We'll go back down after Christmas. The garden usually looks good for that visit.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Camellia chrysantha, C. x williamsii 'Night Rider', C. changii, C. brevistyla var. brevistyla

These all come to us from the collection of Dr. William Ackerman, retired USDA Research Horticulturist. Over the course of his career he accumulated, both by collection and cooperation, an impressive assemblage of rare and prize plants including a number of species. It's wonderful to be able to observe these plants.

The first and third are subtropicals and the reason we were moving the group inside today. The bottom plant, is a cool little plant. The flowers were abundant and just over an inch in diameter (~3 cm.). C. brevistyla var. brevistyla. C. chrysanths, the top plant has yellow flowers, or at any rate, will have yellow flowers when it blooms. The red new leaves and the large stipules are pretty decorative now. The second plant down, C. x williamsii 'Night Rider' is a plant that's hardy here. Look at the leaves; they're beautifully veined, dark green, and uniformly unblemished. I don't know this variety but it described as being slow growing, small, or both. The sing salmony dark pink flower will not be hardy for us. It comes from a coastal sub-tropical climate. Amanda noted that the color is tropical.

Follow up Fall 2012 The plant was planted out in June of 2011 and survived the winter of 2011-12. It suffered no damage but that seems reasonable; Camellia Forest lists it as USDA 7b and we had a very very mild winter. It flowered nicely and made good growth. This coming winter (2012-13) is forecast to be much colder than last year. We'll see what happens.

George was going through the cones of Pinus Coulteri when I left this afternoon

Looking for viable seeds, he found instead, this tiny next of spiders. He obligingly held it for me to photograph but seemed happy to put it down as soon as I took the picture.

The Pinus coulteri died over the winter and we cut it down. It produced unprecedented quantites of these huge evil cones. Possibly it was stimulated to do so by some awareness that its time was near at hand. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to have lived long enough for any seeds to have matured. George went through all the cones on the tables without finding a living seed. We'll need another collection. That means somebody will have to go to Baja California. Oh dear. I'm thinking I could see fit to make the sacrifice.

Pachyveria glauca.....some plants are so easy to propagate we just throw leaves on a plate???

I went into Polyhouse 7 this afternoon looking for mums and noticed this...this plateful of succulent propagules.

The genus "Pachyveria" contains the crosses between Pachyphytum and Echeveria. Glauca is a pretty little plant with glaucous, go figure, stems and leaves whose ends are sort of faceted. I have no idea why we chose plate propagation, but it seems to have worked.

It's one of the first plants I ever grew. It was one of a collection of succulents that occupied a large shelf I build to extend the ledge of the south-facing window of my bedroom. I was 13. When I learned that it was possible to root every single leaf, I spread leaves throughout the collection.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nathan is repairing another wall in the Asian Collections

Actually he's replacing a wall beneath the Pagoda. Today he poured the foooter. That required 20 odd bags of concrete so we dragged the old cement mixer down the trail, and a generator, and, because the water was turned off yesterday, 80 gallons of water in trash cans. Amanda and I helped but Nathan did most of the work. Tonight I'm tired but the footer is in and in a week Nate will be able to start building the actual wall.

The irrigation systems are being winterized this week and next

That basically means that the contractor is turning off the water and blowing all the residual water out of the lines with a large air compressor. So, when it freeze this winter there won't be any water in the pipes to expand and break them.

The low point in the Asian Collection is, very reasonably, the flood plain of the Anacostia River. Carole, Marcus, and I went down there this morning to locate the 6 long lost Quick-connect couplers, open one, and blow the water out of the low point of the system. We did find them all with the help of a Schonstedt Magnetic Locator. We flagged them and photographed them with referents. Its a good feeling, finding things that have been lost!

Euscaphis japonicus....good November color

We have a lot of Euscaphis in the collection; this one at the base of Korean Hill is my favorite. Not just because I planted it 20 years ago. I like the color of its fruit. They're a lightish coral. There seems to be a good bit of variation as regards the color of the fruit from this attractively light color through a gradually darkening range that extends to rich reds. The fruit are visible in the bottom picture though their color seems distorted by the abundance of color in the photograph.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vaccinium macrocarpon, the Large Cranberry, in the Fern Valley bog

You never know what's going catch your eye or your fancy (Quercus alba)

When you're walking through Fern Valley. This goofy leaf was just "floating" (it was actually attached) there, partially skeletonized and partially colored for fall. I almost had a sense that this was a winged' glide to the right. Those protuberances must be antennae.

Epiphyllum what a fragrance!

I've grown the "Fishbone Cactus" probably half a dozen times over the past 45 years without ever flowering it. After a few years the plant would get large, I'd get frustrated, maybe the leaves would get infested with "cactus scab".....anyway, I'd give up and get rid of the plant. Sooner or later I'd buy it again; it's hard to resist the curiously shaped leaves.

This plant is growing in the Lobby of the Administration Building at the Arboretum, or at least it's growing there now. It is no doubt flowering courtesy of having spent last winter in a greenhouse. And of course the Administration Building is on the verge of being closed for a couple of years for a total makeover. Still, it's there now and will probably last through the weekend.

Diospyris lotus, the Date Plum

More good fall foliage on Korean Hill.