Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lonicera fragrantissima: I just noticed it was flowering yesterday

Today it's encased in ice. Usually it doesn't flower much till the end of February. I've alluded to the fact that this winter has been congenial towards "winter flowering" plants. Since it barely froze last night and forecasts call for a bit warmer tonight then even warmer, it may be flowering for a few weeks. This winter has been what I like to consider to be/wish was typical for us, though it's really warmer than average. I suppose I oughtn't talk like this; the universe will throw a sub-zero blizzard our way.

The weather forecasts were spot on.....again

It's amazing how accurate they've gotten over the last 10 years. This week they called for an inch or so of snow followed by freezing rain and then temps a bit above freezing. Nailed it!

The Monkey-puzzle and the Sabal palmetto dislike this weather as much, probably more, than I do. They've both been in the ground for over five years so I'm not worried about them but neither comes from an area with a lot of cold weather or snow. The picture doesn't show how short both are; The Auricaria isunder three feet tall and the Sabal a bit shorter. I suppose I should count my blessings. If the Monkey-puzzle were to attain any size, it would attack anyone walking up the steps and block the view from the living room window. When I planted it I had thoughts of moving it when it got 4-5 feet tall but hey, maybe it'll never grow. Otherwise I'll coppice every couple of years and see how it goes.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Molten sun rises behind the Paper Birches in the National Grove of State Trees

Everyone loves this planting of  Betula papyrifera  (the state tree of  New Hampshire). I don't know how we keep the trees so healthy. We're a bit, actually a lot, south of their favored territory. It's way too hot and humid for way too long in the summers both for the birches and for me. Back in the days Lindane it was no problem to keep borers at bay. I'm glad that we're getting those dangerous pesticides off the market but....Now, though I think Imidicloprid is labelled for borers, I don't see how it can work this well.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

George wrestles a branch into the air and feeds it into the chipper

Today was a big day for those of us who garden at the US National Arboretum. Our Facilities Unit has repaired the big chipper and agreed to bring it out every two weeks to chip the debris that we produce and haul to the road. This may not seem like a big deal on first hearing, but for quite a few years we've had to cut our debris into ~8 foot lengths, load it onto our little trucks, and drive it to our recycling area. That was not an efficient use of time, or vehicles, or even folding saws, so we're all loving the rebirth of the chipper.

I remember when the it was new in 1991; so does Chris (watching George in the picture), one of the other Chris's, one that's not me. He was there twenty years ago. It, the chipper, was very impressive in it's youth, big, loud, yellow, new.  According to its specs, it would take branches up to 10" in diameter. That only worked if they were dead straight, which meant it could chip a telephone pole. I think it could have back then. It's not as strong now, but it did chip everything we needed it to. That's a good thing.

Today's Poetry Daily Selection is a terrific poem

A Winter Night by Tomas Transtromer translated by Robin Robertson; insane imagery.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chimonanthus praecox with the Anacostia River in the background

The fragrance from this large planting reaches almost to the parking lot which is 200 feet ? away.

The sun shone sideways through a clear sky this morning....

somehow the effect wasn't harsh. It suffused the morning with  a warmish, almost rosy, light. I'm arriving just after sunrise now because of my eyes.

I have uncorrectably severe astigmatism so when it is dark and wet I navigate blindly through a beautiful world of luminescent cobwebs. Not good for driving. In order to avoid driving in the dark, I changed my start time at work from 7:00am to 8:00am. Days are so short near the Solstice that if I didn't leave on time, I was in danger of having to drive home in the dark. Things are better now. We've been gaining minutes in the evening since the 14th of December when sunset moved from 4:46 to 4:47. Today it set at 5:13 so we've added 27 minutes at the end of the day. Oddly though, sunrise has only begun to shift in the past week and we've gained only 3 minutes. An upside to this is that when daylight savings time kicks in this spring, I'll be so far ahead of the game I won't be driving to work in the dark. That's a hateful thing, to fight through the short days of winter into the light of spring and then to be arbitrarily plunged into morning darkness again. I won't miss it.

Winter moves along here in Washington. We haven't had much snow and no extreme cold. We've been down into the mid teens a few times but those plants that flower for us in the winter don't seem to mind. There are flowers on Viburnums, Camellias, Chimonanthus praecox, Prunus mume, and Winter jasmine. Statistically we're at the coldest part of the year; next Monday the average low temperature will rise from 28F to 29F, Tuesday the average high will likewise rise a degree from 43F to 44F. I guess that means it gets better from here on in. I don't know though; the Farmer's Almanac has us down for a blizzard at the end of this month.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Grewia occidentalis....I brought it back from Florida

I don't really know why. I do like it but it's going to be difficult this winter. I'll have to find a place in the sun for it which means in the living room which is pretty full of plants. All I can say is that it was a beautiful plant covered with flowers in a three-gallon container/I had it once before and, as I remember, it stayed out too long in the fall. Native to southern Africa, it could theoretically survive in the Florid garden if it was watered regularly. Of course that's not going to happen.. Plus, I suspect it would, on those regular occasions when the temps fall near 20F, turn brown and nasty and I don't want to add more plants like that; we have enough already. So I'll enjoy it through the winter. There's nothing like flowers in the winter, even if they're in the house.

Winter Salon at Jim and Dan's: superlative food and matchless company

Jim Dronenberg has more than doubled the size of this planting area since my last visit. He did the brickwork, installed the beds, and I have no doubt, planted those beds with the rare and beautiful curiosities he accumulates. I can hardly wait for next spring

It had to have been the largest event I ever attended there; I  missed their Perennial Plant Association Dinner. There were at least 50 attendees; an unbelievable selection of experts, geeks, and the less fanatical.  I was able to talk with Nick Weber owner of Heritage Roses though  recently enamored of dahlias. Ed Aldrich, the local dean of hardy tropicals, and dozens of other serious plant people. Jim and Dan enforce a strict rotation of seating. Everyone changes rooms and seatmates between courses.

Oddly, I met for the first time, a volunteer, Suzy ? (hey, I'm not a reporter!) from the Herb Garden at the Arboretum; she came with her husband Vinny, who was very tolerant of a houseful of wild-eyed fanatics. I was excited to hear her speculate about ways to increase the Arboretum's presence in Washington. She was both astute and positive. There were so many people and so little time....

I am grateful beyond words to Jim and Dan for providing the  opportunity, on a regular basis, to exchange knowledge, ideas, and experience with this kind of group in such wonderful surroundings.