Saturday, December 17, 2011

Look at those 10 dollar Phalaenopsis

Holiday shopping today, finishing up....ha ha. Anyway, I went to Ikea to buy one of those tall narrow galvanized florist's containers that they had last year. Of course this year their galvanized containers were a different shape. Oh well. I did find these Moth orchids. They were all in great shape and there were some wild selections. They weren't named but hey, for ten dollars....

Friday, December 16, 2011

I love Salvia splendens in all its incarnations

This one is spending the winter in Greenhouse 7 and it'll throw flowers all winter long. Many salvias flower perfectly nicely during the short days of winter so you see them as components of seasonal displays in cool winter conservatorys.

Tricyrtis hirta 'Miyazaki' dried capsules

It was odd to encounter this large clump of Toadlily with its arms extended and fruit ascending. We've been patting ourselves on the back for the efficiency with which we put the garden to bed for winter but maybe there's a price to be paid for our meticulous maintenance. Maybe we cut back plants here and there that still have something to offer. It does feel good to have everything tidied up for the new year. And I did still find one nice clump of Tricyrtis to admire....

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Look it's a mad scientist

No, it's David Kidwell-Slak transplanting germinated Box huckleberries , Gaylussacia brachycera. And showing me some impressively vigorous rhizomes. He's discovered that the most efficient way go germinate the seeds is in liquid. He actually puts the seed into the small jars, monitors them, and upon germination, transplants the small seedlings to cell packs. They prefer to start under the surface and push into the air so this is a somewhat complex procedure. Apparently germination is the weak link in the life cycle of this uncommon relict species.

It's a great plant, a beautiful evergreen ericacious subshrub whose foliage colors up for the winter. Growing in dry shade, it's native to the mid-Atlantic from Pennsylvania to Virgina and west to Kentucky and Tennessee. Not at all common, it occurs in, what had been thought to be, clonal colonies. I remember almost sensationalist articles from many years ago that estimated the ages of some of those colonies as up to or even over 10,000 years. Because these clones don't reproduce sexually each colony is essentially one plant making them among the oldest living "plants". The story even made it into newspapers and popular magazines. David isn't sure of those dates; apparently they were calculated by measuring the growth of the plant and extrapolating to the size of the colony. In the top picture he's showing me rhizomes, only a few years old, which could produce large colonies without the passage of thousands of years. The Arboretum has samples of plants from many stations and Margaret Pooler has co-authored an article on the clonal fidelity of these colonies. It turns out that all the colonies aren't composed of a single clone but sexual reproduction does seem to be minimal.

It's interesting, but I'm more a gardener than a scientist so I'm excited at the prospect of a garden worthy selection of two. Evergreen groundcovers for dry shade are at a premium so it'd be great to have this as an addition to the palette. Plus, for those of us in the mid=Atlantic, it'd be a native plant.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sarcococca hookeriana (maybe).....a particularly nice accession

Look at those leaves!

I like the shorter Sarcococcas, Himalayan Sweet box, much more in theory than I do in the garden. They seem like such a perfect groundcover: a short dark green evergreen sub-shrub with fragrant flowers in the late winter or early spring. The problem is that most plantings have significant areas that are bleached, chlorotic, or yellowed for whatever reason. I must have passed this bed a thousand times and never paid enough attention to it to see that it's much nicer than your average Sarcococca. And different: the leaves that live on red/maroon twigs are darker, longer, narrower, glossier, and unmarred by any hint of yellow. It would be wonderful if this was a genetic trait but this planting is our sole representation of accession 66751 so maybe it's just growing in a perfect location. And it is growing in a very good location with shade, drainage, and adequate water.

It was wild collected in Shaanxi, China in 1996 by Kevin Conrad et alii including Rick Lewandowski. The collection notes hint at what I've come to believe are the optimum growing conditions, "Dense shade on a well drained ledge; 70% NE slope; humusy loam, deep organic surface layer;" In other words, rich organic soil and perfect drainage in deep shade....Aha!

Today I took a flat full of cuttings (it's in the boxwood family and the whole family roots....well, really easily) so we can try them in different sites and see how well it does. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Epimedium stellulatum winter foliage

LinkWe'll come through sometime in February and cut this back along with all the other evergreen epimediums but for now it's an interesting textural element: punctuation in the winter garden. The spiny serrations are very cool. It'll be covered with a cloud of white flowers next spring, but I think I like the foliage best. It's possible, more or less, to divide epimediums into clumping and spreading; some spread vigorously by rhizomes and so serve well as groundcovers while others spread very slowly remaining in irregular clumps for years and years. The difference is a matter of degree; some clumpers seem to never spread and, on the other end of the spectrum, some of the spreaders rapidly and inexorably take over the bed they're planted in. Because the flowers are so complexly beautiful, almost orchid-like, I'm sure many a gardener has daintily placed one of the spreading plants in a mixed woodland planting only to find that as the years have passed it has overcome its less aggressive neighbors. I'm sure I'm not he only one!

The evergreen epimediums are great foliar accents in the winter. We have drifts of pachysandra, liriope, ophiopogon, rohdea, et alia in the collection that, along with the evergreen shrubs, provide the form for the winter garden but it's fun to have accents. Epimedium lishihchenii is another large-leafed Chinese species (leaflets to 5" long) that's fun in the winter with its leaf undersurfaces a pale violet.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Trachelospermum difforme....well, Joan Feely cleaning seeds that will someday produce

Climbing Dogbane: the first time I knew there was a native trachelospermum was when Joan cam back from a collecting trip this fall talking about it. She found it in Mississippi in the Delta National Forest. The vine is deciduous unlike it's Asian siblings and the fruits are quite distinctive.

I know Trachelospermum jasminoides, Confederate Jasmine; an evergreen groundcover, it's ubiquitous in planted landscapes in the SE. It will climb if there's something to climb on or just sprawl otherwise. Trachelospermum asiaticum is also evergreen, also a groundcover with fragrant flowers, it's not so widespread as jasminoides, there are a number of variegated cultivars of asiaticum. Both are Asian. I didn't find a lot of information about difforme; it's apparently a widespread but uncommon resident from Maryland south to Florida, west to Texas, and north through the Midwest approaching Michigan. I found multiple references to the flowers being strongly fragrant so I look forward to them. It may be a few years, but it's good to have things to look forward to.