Friday, January 14, 2011

Euphorbia cotinifolia

This is a great plant. Right now it's living in the tropical greenhouse. During the warmer months, it lives outside in it's large pot. As I recall, Pat Lynch donated this and Brad has been using for the last three or four years. It's a great plant either as a stand alone specimen, or as part of a large mixed container.

It's only hardy to USDA Zone 9 (hey, maybe I ought to grow it in Florida) and it has the milky sap typical of Euphorbiaceae. Clearly it's named cotinifolia for its distinctly cotinus like leaves. Probably why I like it.

I've always had a thing for lighted greenhouses at night

So I had to check these lights out when I noticed them from the parking lot this morning. The extra light will promote premature flower production. Probably to facilitate pollination.

On the way to work, in the dark, I listened to a story on the radio about the deleterious effects of artificially extending daylength....for humans. Apparently studies have demonstrated all manner of health problems that are caused or exacerbated by extending the day with artificial light. I may have been hallucinating but I seem to recall a suggestion that we all ought to turn the lights off two hours before we go to And sit farther from the television. Did they really say that the World Health Organization had determined shift work (night-shift, I assume) to be a carcinogen? I don't know, but the idea that millions of years of evolutionary development of circadian rhythms could be thrown off by artificial light does make a certain amount of sense. Oh my. Anyway I'm pretty sure all Margaret is shooting for is premature flowering.

Nathan hurls a log into the back of Amanda's Mitsubishi

It's on. He, Amanda, Coley, and Pat resumed the cleanup/reclamation work we did so much of last winter. They started where we stopped last year, across the road from the Camellia collection.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Abutilon 'la vie en rose'...what would Edith say?

I'm overwhelmed by the number and variety of taxa of Abutilon. It's a huge genus with cultivars out the wazoo. Because the name begins with "ab", every time you read a catalog or a plant list there it is right at the beginning! In spite of liking the plant, I tend to roll determinedly by? I have one plant myself, Abutilon 'Voodoo' which is an outrageously rich deep red. It's trained as a standard and lives outside all summer. Most of the cultivars are designated as forms of Abutilon x hybridum. I like the softer pastel colors in summer containers where they bloom dependably supplying, by virtue of the size and color of their flowers, a pleasant element in mixed plantings. There are peaches, corals, soft yellows, and pinks that mix congenially with lots of other flowers. I feel bad not keeping them over the winter though

In spite of the recent explosion of cultivars, I think of Abutilon as an old-fashioned plant. The common name, "parlor maple" sounds old-fashioned and the plants were popular over a century ago when houses weren't so warm in the winter as they are now. They don't quite want to freeze but are happy in the near approach. This selection in addition to it's lovely veined flowers has cheerfully white and green variegated leaves.

Camellia lutchuensis: this is one I've been waiting for!

Another one of Dr. Ackermann's species camellias, this is supposed to be the most fragrant of camellias. The buds are swelling; it's going to flower this spring.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Agarista populifolia in the snow

They were lovely today, branches bowed into graceful arches by the weight of last night's snow. It isn't a plant that you can count on the look good all winter though. Eventually the cold will get to it, hey, it's Florida Leucothoe. The leaftips will burn and whole branches will die. A good hard pruning in the spring and it'll be beautiful again. There are a good number of large secimens in Fern Valley, many visible from the road.

Rhapidophyllum in the doesn't care about a little snow

That's what we got last night: a little snow. Just the perfect amount for the garden.

Rhapidophyllum is the hardiest palm here in zone 7a or 7b or even into 6. The excellent specimen of a SE US native palm live comfortably here in the Asian Collection. The buds in the bottom picture belong to Magnolia denudata, a lovely early Magnolia that regularly is blasted by late frosts. We were lucky the last two years and I have every confidence we'll have another great display this spring. Which is just a bit over two months away so far as this Magnolia is concerned.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Anacostia River view from the Japanese Woodland bench improved tremendously today

The tree contractors were on site today and the Asian Collections pulled the long straw. We've been waiting quite some time to have this "pole" (what's left of a tree when all the branches are removed) dropped. It was too rotten to climb and drop piece by piece, it distinctly leaned/loomed over a number of valuable plants. Wedges, ropes, complex notching, and careful cutting got it to a stage where it had to be pulled over I missed photographing it falling because they needed my strength (read weight) on the rope that provided both the final impetus for the fall and influenced the angle of that fall enough to save the Acer henryi on the slope below.

The elation that we felt on dropping the dead snag successfully didn't transfer to our next project: taking down a beautiful 3+ foot in diameter White Oak that suddenly died this summer. We only got about a third of the canopy down when the predicted snow began to fall and the tree crew was called in and reassigned to snow removal. They'll no doubt be back this winter to finish.

Except that it's cold, winter is a good time to do tree work on in gardens and on farms. My father was raised on a farm in upstate New York a mile or so east of Lake Ontario. When he told us stories of life on the farm he often talked about cutting firewood in the winter. They used a horsedrawn sled to move the cut logs from the woodlot to the woodshed. That was an exciting idea to me; here in the DC area we hardly ever have enough snow to support a sledload of firewood! I guess that "lake effect" snow was pretty dependable on the east side of Lake Ontario.

We did a good bit of tree work and cleanup last year and I expect we'll get around to some more of that this winter.

Monday, January 10, 2011

When you put an orange bowling ball in your garden in Florida you're casting your alleigance...but sometimes a bowling ball is just a bowling ball

Like in my case; I just like the color! 49% of Floridians are Florida State Seminole fans, 49% Florida Gator fans, and 2% Miami fans. According to my informal observations. This ball came from a thrift store and without doubt identified its prior owner as a Florida Gator fan. We occasionally drive through Gainsville on the way south just to mix things up; there are areas of the city that are the same color as this ball.

The Gulf of Mexico was tranquil and pleasant if a bit cool for swimming.

That sine curve of mole hills look like anthills to me but I have it on the authority of long-time residents that they are the product of a burrowing mammal. I just liked the look of them.

Visited the Florida Garden for a couple of weeks; just returned

We drove down the day after Christmas, starting early in the a.m. and driving directly into a huge snowstorm. It was pretty but the Carolinas weren't equipped to remove snow as quickly as it fell and we were on slick pavement from SE Virginia through North Carolina and well into South Carolina. It was nerve-wracking but no accidents save 50 or so "slide-offs". Much of I 95 is bordered by mature Loblolly Pines; the odd gust of wind blasted the snow from the trees resulting in a 2-3 ? second white-out. I always say alls well that ends well. We arrived after dark and were greeted by the lights around the pond; the angel is behind our house.

We arrived 10 weeks or so into a drought and in the midst of record low temperatures (it went to the mid-20'sF the first two nights we were there, then warmed nicely for the last week and a half) so there was much brown foliage. Our garden did better than many as I've become a realist and don't grow tender tropicals. The golf courses in the Villages (there are 27?!?!? of them) were surrealistic arrangements of browns, beiges, and tans punctuated by the irrigated greens and the odd occurrence of evergreen foliage.