Friday, December 2, 2011

Philadelphus incanus....sort of a candle in the wind

We have dozens of Philadelphus and they're all defoliated, all brown, all except this one shoot on this one plant. It is December. We had our first hard frost last night, well, our first heavy frost. We only dipped a few degrees below freezing but it had been warm and almost humid Thursday so the frost was impressive. The Mock Orange flower was open yesterday and seems unscathed though I bet another degree or two would have toasted the open flower.

Rogue flowering shoots happen with some frequency. If you've been gardening for a while, or even just paying attention you've seen them. Azaleas, even non-fall bloomers throw the odd flower out of season. Once in a while a mop head hydrangea will flower on new growth. I guess the triggering mechanisms aren't infallible. Anyway, when it happens, it's fun.

On a related blooming note, I don't see anything premature happening on any of the Prunus mume, but the Chimonanthus praecox are showing color. They normally flower before the first of the year, but not always in the beginning of December. Nate blew the parking lot and the nw end of the collections and I did the other end. The garden is beautiful thanks to the weather and yesterday's cleanup. And there are things going on: still odd bits of fall foliage color including the red leaves carpeting the ground under the Euonymus carnosus grove. One of the trees in the grove is still holding a good bit of foliage too. Colorful fruit are scattered about: purple Callicarpa dichotoma, red Nandinas here and there, the yellow-fruited Stranvaesia davidiana in the Japanese Woodland has at least quadrupled over the past three years and now a respectable plant, and dozens of others. The Camellia collection is bursting with color, but there are dozens of camellias scattered through the collections; I think I prefer the individuals to the collection which is somewhat overwhelming. The carpet of fallen leaves set off the evergreen trees, shrubs, and particularly the groundcovers. Counterintuitive though it may seem, it's going to be a great week for the Asian Collections.

Hamamelis leaf outside the Headhouse

It's just a special leaf. I wonder if the fact that the petiole was partly broken had to do with the curious coloration. It has been a good fall for odd leaves!

Fruit of Polygonatum cirrhifolium

Curious, almost beaked.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Camellia 'Yuletide'

I think. I couldn't locate the label. It's just to the right of the restrooms in the Asian Collections. There aren't many fall bloomers with color this deep. In the trade that is. We do have a planting of Korean Camellia japonica near our tool shed that flowers with the typical red of the species but in the fall.

The weather continues to be wonderful. We had 6 volunteers today: Julie, Nancy, Betty, Terry, Eugenia, and, our newest addition, Angela. We got a lot done. Nathan weed whipped perennials and the rest of us raked them onto tarps, loaded them onto the Mitsubishi, and drove them to the "Green Waste" pile. Plus we picked up fallen twigs and branches and pruned as we went. We did a total of 6 loads and finished the bulk of the "cut-backs" for the year. After all these years, I'm still impressed by the amount of work that gets done when you have so many hands.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis'

It's December, or it will be in a couple hours, and we've barely been below freezing. This is the time of year when I usually enter the "denial" stage. Maybe winter will pass over us; maybe we'll get into the high 40's or the 50's F every day and the sun will shine. No snow, no ice, no roaring dry cold winds out of the west. I can remember winter's when German Iris flowered in January in hot spots in the city. And a clump of wax begonias survived on the south side of the house only to succumb to cool wet weather in March. And snapdragons flowered in a planter at the Beltsville Post Office all winter. Of all things. Spring'll start the second week of February for sure, maybe the first.....

It never happens that way though. And it's always okay. Winter's kind of fun in it's own way. We usually get the animals flea and tick free before it warms up. Fires are nice. Frost, even snow, is beautiful. To see the dendritic filigree of branches against the sky or, heaven help us, snow is worth a bit of cold. And it's good to see the garden clear of the rambunctious sprawl of summer. Good for perspective. And pruning. I enjoy pruning, playing at omnipotence, deciding what direction a plant will take for the rest of its life. They're more manageable than children. I like that. And then to watch it grow, develop, fulfill its promise. As the years pass by, spring seems to come more quickly and go the same. So I guess I'll just try to embrace winter and whatever comes with it.

Still, when I come around the bend from Beechspring Pond headed up to the Asian Collections and see these cherries blanketed with pink flowers warmed in the early sun it is understandable that my thoughts might turn to spring.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fargesia robusta 'Green Screen' and Fatsia japonica 'Spider's Web'

It did start out warm, calm, and sunny this morning, but by the time I got this far into the collection the wind had picked up, the skies clouded over, and scattered raindrops were falling. This is a beautiful combination, the clumping bamboo and the variegated Fatsia. The white flowers just make it better.

The Canola is flowering in the Power Plants exhibit

Don't they know it's almost December? But you know those mustards; they like it on the cool side. I was a little surprised when I drove by it this morning, but it was 63F and sunny. I guess the plants must have interpreted the cleanup by the leaf team yesterday as a sign they were supposed to do something.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Vandas are flowering in the Tropical House

Brad mentioned this plant at lunch and I stopped by on my way out to the collection to resume blowing leaves. This is an orchid I've never attempted; they need a lot of light.

The fall flowering Camellias are putting on an impressive show at the US National Arboretum

My how they've grown. The plants and the planting are both nearing what I remember from before those two deadly winters of the late 1970's. Most of the plants in the collection now could survive that degree of cold though it seems as though, what with Global Warming, they may never have to. The oldest have only been in the ground twenty years or so but some have grown rapidly. A good number are as tall or taller than I am and clearly there are a lot of flowers. I even found a red and white bicolor today but the light wasn't good enough for a picture. In general the fall bloomers have smaller flowers than the C japonica cultivars that bloom in spring. And there's less variety in the flowers in the fall; most are light to medium pink or white, but there are a few with deeper color. Still, it's an experience to wander through an acre of these plants at the end of November.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Unidentified Pansy in a container outside the front door

It's been a good season for pansies; for a month or so our highs have been mostly around 60F and our lows around 40F. We've been a few degrees below freezing on a few occasions but that doesn't bother pansies. Looking at the 10 day forecast, it seems like we may keep this pattern into early December.

Frangula (Rhamnus) caroliniana. I like this plant

It's a SE US native, either a large shrub or a small tree, typically growing to about 15 feet tall. The textural effect of the glossy leaves with deeply incised parallel veins is an interesting contrast to the more usual understory plants here in USDA Zone 7. As a plus, they linger well into fall or even early winter. The red drupes are attractive in season; apparently birds love them and move the plant around in their travels. In fact, Mike Dirr is less than enthusiastic about the value of Rhamnus in the landscape, I'm sure in no small part due to its tendency to seed about. I'll keep an eye on it here, but we're hundreds of miles further north and with luck it won;t be weedy. Even so, I'd prefer it to the woody Loniceras that have taken over so much of the wild understory hereabouts.