Friday, October 21, 2011

Sunrise this morning

Although the days are getting distressingly short, the brisk dry air and an occasional sunrise like this are compensations.

Clear air, bright sun, a few bananas, and just a hint of fall color impart a surreal quality to the Central Valley

It's not the look that comes to mind when you think about typical Washington Gardens. Where's the high shade, the turf, the azaleas, the dogwoods, hostas, liriope?


I am much taken by the effect of low lighting on plant pubescence. Or any pubescence; I recall an infatuation of 40 odd years ago. Like a typical teenage boy, I was of course primarily attracted by her intellect, but I was captivated by the blonde summer bleached down on her lightly tanned skin. In a non-carnal kind of way. As with the Loropetalum there were more striking aspects to her appearance, but I am and have always been a sucker for backlit pubescence.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Aster ageratoides 'Ezo Murasaki'

LinkI liked it two years ago, and I like it now. What started as two 3" pots with one small plant per pot has covered 3-4 square meters. The flowers are small and the pinkish color is unusual among asters.

There was a lot of action in the Asian Collections today

The volunteers came in and moved dwarf mondo grass around bare stone steps amongst other things. Hundreds of school children thundered through the garden in a non-destructive way. And Robert Webster, botanist in the USNA Herbarium came out to voucher (produce herbarium specimens) of ours in fruit. We must have one of the best collections of Asian Cercis outside of Asia itself.

Chimonanthus nitens flowering in the shade of Cedrus deodara

This is not Chimonanthus praecox, the delightfully fragrant Wintersweet, but it's a pleasant enough shrub. I first met it at Behnke's many years ago. I'd been begging the Woody Plants buyer to get us more Wintersweet, a plea that had been meeting pretty grim resistance for several years, when all of a sudden appeared, six 15 gallon 6 foot plants of C. nitens. Any reasonable markup would have made them around 100 dollars retail. But they aren't fragrant and they were large, and..... I think they were eventually sold at some discount and starting the next year they always stocked Wintersweet. Which, as I always say, is a plant that belongs in every Zone 7 garden. I've had a soft spot for nitens ever since; There's a ghostly quality to the delicate pendant flowers that isn't apparent from this picture which suggests the area is much better lit than it is. The magic of digital exposure adjustment has turns a quite gloomy area into a cheerfully bright one!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I've always admired the tapestry of the Fern Valley Bog

A mix of texturally interesting plants: Spagnums, Carex spp., Crowsfoot, Cranberry, Chamaedaphne... The fall leaves even seem arranged. (not by me)

Solidago sempervirens where the Fern Valley main path meets Crabtree Road

This is a cool goldenrod with a lot going for it. The flowers are attractive and pretty typical for Solidago, maybe a bit larger, but the ripened seedheads are spectacular, even better with a little frost. And the clumping basal foliage is persistent well into the winter. Hence sempervirens I assume. It's a dune dweller with a huge range that includes the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. There are two varieties, basically a northern and a southern. This is one of the Solidago's I grow in Adelphi.

I missed the 40th Anniversary of the Washington Youth Garden

Even Hallmark didn't have a card. I used to go over much more often when I was in Fern Valley. They've done a lot of good things since last I visited. The eight foot deer fence is nice. I see fruit trees on the inside. The flower border on the ~north side is, as always, lovely. They use good tough plants that don't need pampering. While there are a few roses still flowering nicely, the stars right now are Symphyotrichum (Aster) oblongifolius and Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Sheffield'. The Apollo program celebrated its 40th this year. The Eucalyptus (in the third photo) hasn't been in the ground 40 years, but it has survived four or five. That's impressive.

Next year I swear I'll get by every few weeks in the summer. It's a fantastic garden and a wonderful program.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fern Valley staff and volunteers plant the S. Dakota etc. plants in the prairie

From the road it looked like someone had lost a piece of jewelry....or this was a circle of Druids without any trees. Walking in, I discovered they were planting a selection of the plants that GrayC, Scott, and Kevin had collected and Brad had grown from seeds. Now they're going into the ground. Some of them were collected with the idea that they could be useful elements in roof gardens. I frankly don't know most of them beyond having watched them for a year and a half and the small amount of research I've done. There's nothing a exciting as a new plant (I am a geek) and this is one planting with a dozen new plants. Wow.

The vegetation on the plot was killed off and some amount of limestone? chips dug into the top layer of soil. That should improve both the drainage, and the pH. Pre treatment, neither was ideally suited for dry prairie plants. It will be great fun to monitor this planting.

If you look closely to the left of Liz's head in the bottom picture, you can see the purple asters that complement her top and glasses.

Helianthus angustifolius, Swamp of my personal favorites

I walked through Fern Valley yesterday and came upon this planting. I know a lot of people aren't excited by yellow flowers; I like most yellow flowers. Hey, I grow five different goldenrods. Over the unvoiced, in recent years anyway, objections of my spouse. There's just something right about yellow flowers in the fall.