Sunday, December 23, 2012

Iris unguicularis, I think, flowering for Christmas

I read Beverly Nichols description of his infatuation with this plant in about 1974 and I've wanted it ever since.  It's a beautifulblue  iris that flowers in the winter. Jim Dronenberg gave me this either four or five years ago, and this is the first time it's flowered. It sort of languished up till this spring. This season it produced a good sized clump of foliage. If I pay attention to it next year, it ought to be more than twice this big by next winter. I'm hoping that means more flowers

Friday, December 21, 2012

Oh my goodness

I'm glad the world didn't end. Yet. Now the president and Representative Boehner can get down to business.
Read this short from e! Science News to celebrate.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chimonanthus praecox in full bloom???

It does flower before Christmas fairly regularly, but usually only a few flowers open per shoot. When, or if, it gets cold enough to damage those flowers there are plenty of buds left to open. Well, this year all the eggs are pretty much in one basket. It's very impressive and I love the fact that no two years have the same profile.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Warm and sunny today...62F

Good weather for Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis' and this one's flowering it's head off. For years I looked at this as frivolous and slightly "wrong", but I've changed. It's just fun to have these flowers in early winter.

A rock for bed "J-M"

Pat did a good thing today. Our tree contractor just ground a stump that had been embedded in the stone wall along the east side of bed "J-M'. When the tree was first cut down and the stump was fresh, someone planted Schizophragma hydrangeoides , a vining hydrangea, next to the stump to cover it up. It worked well for part of the year, the period starting when the leaves emerged and ending, just after flowering, as the summer began to heat up. Summer seemed to stress the plant and the leaves were unfailingly ugly: the green faded to yellow, parts turned brown and black, and other parts were eaten by insects. It was ugly through fall and winter. When it lost its leaves in the autumn, the remaining tangle of stems trapped any leaves blowing by and it was a mess all winter. A year ago, thinking that the stump was rotten and we could rip it out with the Bobcat, I moved the schizophrama. The stump turned out not to be as rotten as I'd assumed and that spot hasn't looked good for the past year+.

It looks good now. Pat spotted this stone at the brickyard, hauled it out to the collection, and set it into the bank. Now he just needs to add a few stone to the wall and it'll be perfect.

Monday, December 17, 2012

These salvaged paperwhites have been flowering in this spot since....about 1970

I planted them because I couldn't bear to throw them out. I don't remember but I'm sure I dragged them mercilessly from December to April. They must have looked horrible by spring. It wouldn't be so amazing that they've been there so long if I wasn't such a young person. Well, I used to be.

They are derived from pre-cooled bulbs that were forced into premature bloom. Curiously now some have reverted and bloom in the spring while others, if the weather allows, flower at the end of the year. I get a big kick out of them but they do make me feel old.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ilex purpurea

This is a beautiful underused holly. Fairly compact with a good shape and clean foliage, it holds its berries, nicely arranged, on purplish stalks. This plant is growing on the flood plain of the Anacostia River below the Asian Collections. We don't have data on it's source but it has been here a good many years.

Tony led a "pest walk" through the growing area this morning

We saw a good variety of pests; some of them were living on beautiful plants.

Morning sun through the Asian Collections...December 14

You hadt've been there.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The light was great today....

if I was a better photographer I could prove it!

Eugenia and Mina cme by today; we walked the collection

Mina is going back to Bulgaria tomorrow. She will have her hip replacement. She urges me to do the same. All things in good time.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

x Sycoparrotia semidecidua and Nandina 'Lowboy'

These are not the commonest plants in the world. They look pretty good together though. 'Lowboy' is a wonderful  obscure selection of Nandina domestica; I'm not sure why it isn't more popular. It is smaller than the species and has great winter color. There are berries in there though the cultivar itself is listed as sterile. I'm not sure whether this means that somehow seed has been moved here from a fertile planting (of the species) and we just neglected to notice seedlings, or whether this cultivar does occasionally set fruit. I'm leaning towards the latter option but I'm not certain.

I am certain the x Sycoparrotia semidecidua is a cool plant. It grew on me. The first 10 years or so that I knew these plants, I had no use for them. They do have issues; they are unprunable. You can remove branches to allow passage underneath, but it's impossible to reduce the overall size of the plant without destroying that lovely structure. So whatever's in its way has got to yield! And it's semi-deciduous which means it's.....I don't want to say hideous, but I have to, for large parts of the winter. Still, look at it now! It's surely worth the space if you have it. Plus it's in the Hamamelidaceae, which is one of my favorite families.

Interesting "green" technological discovery

I read e-science news and a few other similar blogs because, well, because advances happen so quickly, discoveries are so exciting, and I'm fascinated/obsessed with nanotechnology. Discoveries in nanotechnology are happening so fast and over such a broad scope it's hard to believe that the popular news media completely ignores it. It's almost an antidote to what we read about in the newspapers.  I'm not saying that we're on the brink of a revolution like the one that occurred after the development of the transistor, but... This article on a "natural" alternative to cobalt for use in the cathodes of lithium-ion batteries, is an example! Even if it isn't about nanotechnology.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I alway say, "better ruffled petals than ruffled feelings"

From the top: Camellia x Winter's Joy'; Camellia x 'Winter's Fancy'; Camellia x 'Pink Anemone'; Camellia x 'Winter's Fire';

The early flowering fall camellias in the collection are mostly white and pale pink. Now that we're into the season there are some vibrant pinks opening. There are no temperatures predicted for the next two weeks cold enough to hurt these flowers so the collection ought to be spectacular at least through Christmas. It really is impressive this year.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Brad worked on the orchids this week, repotting and mounting

Intriguingly innovative. The odd pieces in the middle and bottom picture are ceramic tiles leftover  from construction in the Bonsai area. We have pallets of them overgrown with vines. They're kind of creepy on the pallets but very cool with the orchids. When the orchids flower they'll be on display to the public. .

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Asian Collection volunteers adjusted the Carex planting under the this Japanese Snowbell today

Before they began working, in the picture I didn't take, the carex grows up to the base of the tree, obscuring the interestingly contorted roots. They dug out the plants that covered the crown and moved them up the hill. They stretched what had been a shapeless planting into a graceful semi-circle that draws attention to the muscular trunk and braided roots. It was their idea and it was a good one.

Continuously tweaking is the difference between a good garden and a very good one. We try to do something on this order every day. We're on our way.

The good thing about the sun setting at 4:46.... that if I'm coming out of China Valley at the end of the day this asparagus is backlit gloriously. Asparagus cochinchinensis.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

C'mon, It's December!

This is one  confused lily in the Asian Collections.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We went to Broookside Gardens to see their holiday display

Their yearly light display, "The Garden of Lights" started the day after Thanksgiving and goes through the sixth of January. We always go; it's a tradition. It's wonderful every year. They have pretty much totally converted to LED's. That's good because they're brighter, use much less power, and allow for colors like blue and purple that were never done very well with incandescent bulbs. This blob is a monster they've had for years but they completely redid the colors. I didn't capture the blue very well; it's incredible. And they've done a number of trees in blue. It's always fun. They display in the conservatory included a train setup which included this model of a train setup inside a model of the conservatory. Kids love it and since I'm just an older kid with a gray beard, I liked it too.

They provide live music in the visitor center and we always try to go when Jim Dronenberg is harping. The music was beautiful; it occasionally bordered on the irreverent and approached the risque. Children loved it intuitively.....I can only hope some of the literal content was over their heads.

The tender succulents are put away for the winter

So naturally we're settling in for a pleasant string of 70F degree days!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sunrise on December 3

Sunrise is still receding and will be through the end of the year. Our latest sunrise is 7:27. We have turned the corner as regards sunset. Or at any rate we're standing at the corner waiting. Our earliest sunset is 4:46 and the good news is that we're there now. The bad news is that we'll be sitting on that time for another thirteen! days. Then it'll turn around and a week later or so, we'll begin to experience a net gain in daylength every day.

I love sunlight. In Capetown South Africa tomorrow the sun will rise at 5:28 and set at 7:46. I don't necessarily want to move; I'm just saying....

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Things change gradually but we notice them suddenly

My gardening life is going through changes. I'm not shopping for miatas or mistresses but things feel different than they did just a few years ago. I'm transitioning from installing a garden to finishing off and maintaining a garden. I did love the exuberant excitement and anticipation, even the feeling of power (I admit it Thomas), that went along with making beds, creating hardscape, installing new plantings...but much of that is finished now.

This past weekend the dogs and I spent a lot of time in the garden, my home garden that is. Where I used to see infinite possibilities I'm now looking at a somewhat confused actuality. The space has turned on its head over the past 27 years. Two tiny concrete stoops are covered with two large sunny decks that despite how they feel to me, aren't new anymore. Terracing (by hand with shovel and wheelbarrow) has totally reconfigured the topography of the back garden. Eight fairly large trees are gone, victims of storm or chainsaw. We had three removed (two dead, one too close to the house) since summer. Maybe that's whats prompting my introspection. It's getting a bit late in the game for me to be planting major trees.

Not to worry; we still have plenty of trees. With two horticultural professionals in the house there's been no shortage of plants flowing into this garden and some of them were trees. Several times I essayed attempts at planning the garden on paper, prompted by an intellectual awareness that ultimately all this planting, when it came to fruition, ought to lead to a coherent conclusion.  In all  those attemps though, I failed miserably at confining the garden to paper and ink, so we forged ahead and the actual garden came out rather nicely. I expect because experience, experiment, and repetition are good teachers. Spending 27 here years has taught me some of the subtleties of light, drainage, and soil particular to this site.

So I'm thinking that now I'm in the "finishing" phase; the earth moving has been done, excepting the large (~80 x 75 foot) compost area at the back of the property which I will leave to the next generation. Beds have been created. Woody plants are in place and and many have begun to approach mature sizes. Slow colonizing perennials and bulbs have been in the ground long enough to establish themselves.Still there's work to do but it's a different kind of work; it's maintenance. It was exciting planting small trees that I knew would eventually overtop the house but it's also satisfying to tend plants you've already planted. Pruning, deadheading, occasional fertilizing, hand watering during droughts are all enjoyable tasks that allow me to be part of the garden.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Abutilon flower and tree slice

People bring odd things to the large table in the headhouse where we eat lunch. I liked the veins in both the flower and the wood.