Friday, March 11, 2011

Abeliophyllum distichum roseum?

We moved a planting of Abeliophyllum last year from a bed adjacent to the stairway below the Davidia. It was just in a location that needed to look good 12 months a year and it really only was nice for two weeks. Abeliophyllum is a very early flowering shrub and when I checked it out this week one of the plants was distinctly pink. Others were the typical white of the species so I wonder if there isn't just regular variation throughout a population that will give you the pink form once out of ?20 plants.

Nathan Camp, artisan in stone and wood, sculpts a bench from oak harvested here at the Arboretum

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rain in Central Florida! Rain in Central Florida!

We did get almost half an inch the first of this Month but other than that it's been over a month without significant rainfall. The same system that's supposed to give us 2-3" here in Washington has brought rain to Wildwood. Actually the rain stretches from mid Gulf of Mexico to Labrador. Last night we got almost an inch and a half and the best is yet to come. That's a good thing.

Sustainable means never having to say you're sorry

Wait, no, that's not right.

I was talking yesterday with a fellow gardener, a good and knowledgeable gardener, and the subject of the Florida garden came up and the fact that we're only there 4 weeks a year. Her immediate response was, "you can't have a garden if you're only there a month a year." To which I responded, "you must not be getting the concept of 'sustainable' gardening." Only of course I didn't because it would have been rude and I like her and also it didn't occur to me till later. It is true though, that the essence of sustainable gardening is putting plants where they could last without intense inputs. Could that possibly extend to a situation where you only garden 1/12 of the year? I don't know.

What I did respond, immediately, was, "yes you can if you use natives." Since we had been politely sparring about anti-nativism, it was an appropriate response. Understand, this is a person I like and respect, yet she maintains that it's not fair that there are people advocating for the use of native plants "exclusively" while no one is advocating the use of non-natives. To my mind that's like saying we have any number of charities that attempt to assist the unfortunate, but nobody's raising money for Bill Gates. I just don't get it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Anemone keiskiana, Coptis japonica, and Asarum splendens......

We found some interesting plants flowering under the leaves when we cleaned up bed J-2 in the Japanese Woodland today. Anemone keiskiana is a beautiful little ground-covering perennial. White Anemone sylvestris type flowers are made much more attractive by the interestingly mottled leaves.

Coptis japonica is small and cheery but seemed sort of lost in the vast monotony of the late-winter forest floor. It's pretty though. I remember seeing a native Coptis at Bear Meadows in Pennsylvania with Joan and Hannah. I don't think we even looked for seed; Joan told us it was impossible here because of our hot summers. Like so many nice plants. This asian species works though.

Asarum splendens is entering the mainstream as a groundcover or shade perennial. I would observe that though it is beautiful and I love it, it moves constantly and relentlessly once established. At first this is great. Later less so. The flowers are excellent!

If the adjectives clotted or matted suggest themselves as you walk through your garden possibly you ought to readdress your leaf mangement system

We left a lot more leaves in the collection this winter than we've ever done intentionally before. A few times this winter, I walked through with a blower and "adjusted" the leaves throughout the collection. This consisted mostly of moving stray leaves back to the areas where we'd decided we wanted them to stay. Occasionally I removed some or actually transported tarp loads some distance, but for the most part it was just minor adjustments with the blower.....except I didn't go back into the Japanese Woodland after December.

We went in today and it wasn't pretty. Leaves had blown, lodged, matted, clotted, and generally positioned themselves so as to give the impression that we'd totally abandoned the area. Which we had, but only for January and February. It doesn't take a lot of leaves to make a bad impression so it didn't take long to fix it. We tidied up quickly,

The Japanese Woodland below the Parking Area is a pleasant space. Large beds of ground-covers planted with shrubs and understory trees define the space under a high canopy, or at least what's left of a high canopy. I remember Lawrence Lee laying the area out when it was newly cleaned and empty. He put in all those ground-covers including pachysandra and liriope, but also including Kadsura, and Iris tectorum. We, dug quantities of divisions from existing planting in the older parts of the collection and planted all spring. I was impressed at his choice of Kadsura as a groundcover. It's held up well under the big Parrotia.

I think our experimental approach to the leaves was fairly successful. Basically, we blew them into areas where we wanted them to settle down in and stay. We hoped that heavy rains and snow would force them against the ground where they'd be "glued together" with water, and various biological effluents. Eventually that did happen. We did got through a few cycles in which the leaves were rained on, sat nicely, but then dried out and were blown around. Those are the ones I kept "returning" throughout the winter. The last heavy snow did a good job of mashing them down so that we've been able to address the "out of place" leaves fairly quickly and efficiently. Positives: we saved time, energy, and kept our leaves which will finish breaking down and add an organic component, and a few minerals, to our soils. Minuses: the collection required attention throught the winter to keep it from looking messy, some sections looked a bit messy anyway, we're going to end up doing some mulching in the spring that we might have done in the winter.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cornus mas and Jaminum nudum: early yellow in the Asian Collections

I remember a remark by Allen Lacy, philocopher and garden writer, to the effect that there's a superabundance of pink in the spring garden. Except he said it with such wit. Anyway, there's a good shot of yellow before the pink begins to rule and these are major players. Chimonanthus is wrapping up but the witchhazels are still flowering and forsythia is one the way. We already have flowers opening on some Corylopsis but the bulk of that is yet to come.

There was snake handling involved (on Amanda's part)

She dug up not one, but two frozen snakes. We thought the smaller one was a large worm snake, but when I enlarge the photograph, the faint but distinct markings of a garter snake are visible. The other one is interestingly colored in a way that makes me think that it may be a hog-nose but color is not a reliable trait with snakes, so I don't know for sure.

It took me a while to get out of the trailer this morning and the snakes were dug and in a plastic basket by the time I got there. They were "frozen" in their positions of repose, but thawed after a few hours and curled affectionately around Amanda's gloved hands.

Amanda and I finished a trail widening project we'd begun yesterday

The path to the Pagoda from the road has always narrowed inexplicably just past where the path to the lower Valley Overlook branches off. Twenty years it's bothered me and I couldn't take it any more. Yesterday we dug the Carex morrowi var. temnolepis, that had been on the corner and moved it. {Parenthetically, I wonder if this is the same plant to which Barry Yinger later gave the cultivar name 'Silk Tassel'?}. I dug quantities of the Deutizia gracilis 'Nikko' and didn't come up with any place to move it. Today we removed the edging stones, cut into the hill about a foot and a half, dug a mini-footer, added CR-6?, tamped it, relaid the edgers, retamped, and finally laid down a top layer of stone. We'll let the Deutiza flower this spring and then cut it back. Right now some of the plants that were partially cut back look awkward but they'll do for now.

Another thing that's always bothered me is the way the paved path from China Valley was almost 3" higher than the path to the Pagoda; we fixed that too!

Monday, March 7, 2011

George Marshall was the co-owner of Patapsco Valley Sales and Supply

One of my friends was murdered Saturday. If you've been in the retail gardening world in Washington or Baltimore over the last 30 years, and you've bought baskets, terra-cotta, birdbaths, plastic pots, or elegant cachepots wholesale, the odds are that you'd met George Marshall or his brother Jack. It's almost a certainty that if you live withing 200 miles of Baltimore you have something in your house that passed through their hands figuratively and likely literally. On our front deck we have a strawberry jar I bought from George almost 20 years years ago that my son Peter planted with herbs. There's still an original clump of chives living in it.I haven't learned all the details but apparently George and Jack came upon someone trying to steal merchandise from their warehouse and he ran them down with a truck. The Baltimore Sun article says Jack is expected to recover. But not George.

I met George for the first time in the spring of 1982. I had begun working at Behnke's Nurseries Company in Beltsville, and George sold us terra cotta.....clay pots. One of my duties, my first taste of autonomy, was doing the weekly ordering that kept the clay pots stocked. George was the salesman for Patapsco Valley Sales and Supply, and, with his brother Jack, co-owner. Every week George came by and we went over the inventory together. I am a bit of an optimist and I can remember George reining me in as though he was worried my enthusiasm would get me in trouble with management.

When I left Behnke's, I went to work for George and Jack in their warehouse in Baltimore. I unloaded trucks, loaded trucks, and learned a lot about terra cotta pottery, baskets of all kinds, and the relationship between retail outlets and their wholesaler. It was a fascinating place; their cavernous warehouse held an inventory prodigious, not just in volume but in variety. Containers came in from all around the world. Jack specialized in baskets and had 1,000's of different baskets of all sorts: cocoa-midrib, rattan, split bamboo, seagrass, all shapes and sizes. Some had been in the upstairs of the odd old warehouse for years and years. All that had to go when they went "legit". Bookkeeping became strict and accurate and inventory wasn't allowed to sit around for years waiting for that certain buyer.

They sold clay pots from 1" to who knows how big, and ridiculously expensive Italian terra-cotta, soft Guatemalan animal pots, strawberry jars from Georgia, novelty clay from Florida....and on and on. Birdbaths from Zanesville, huge glazed ceramics from Malaysia, hand-thrown glazed jardinieres from California, and several lines of cast concrete figurines and fountains. Plastic too including pink flamingos. I bet they'd corralled a good supply of gnomes motivated Gnomeo and Juliet. They were sharp buyers that way.

I didn't make it to the MANTS show this year, we were in Florida, so the last time I saw George was January past. I'm sorry I missed him then. I miss him now but when I look at the Chinese bamboo chicken basket I'll remember him, or the odd Chinese terra-cotta apple planter planted with weird succulent in front of me now, or the French "frost-free" 18' clay grape swag pot in the bed outside this window window. Oh my.

Primula sibthorpii from Azerbaijan

I posted this on March 13 last year. Look how it's grown! I have to say, all Primroses don't improve through time hereabouts. Actually it's quite rare for a Primula that isn't outrageously pampered to improve from one year to the next. This plant has more than doubled in 51 weeks.

You wouldn't think this a great site for Primroses; most of them don't like to be dry but we tend not to run the irrigation here because this is the top of a line that reaches down into Asian Valley. The Valley stays wet so we often pass on running this section; that means that this plant spent last summer, hot and humid, in a mostly dry condition. It's a tough little bugger, and Stefan did say he collected it from a dry area.