Friday, February 10, 2012

Magnolia zenii, we suspect.

These flowers are from a plant from seeds that were collected on Carole Bordelon's NACPEC collecting trip. Now that it's flowering size we are going to confirm it's identity. Pat brought this branch in and I photographed it during a staff meeting. The first background is a stainless steel table. I like it for its interesting reflections. Pat suggested a black background and It really works better. He ought to know; he's done hundreds of photographs of the magnolias in the Holly Magnolia Collection.

While the temperatures this weekend won't hurt most of the prematurely flowering plants, if they really do get into the teens, they'll just trash any unfolding magnolia buds or open flowers.

Bed "M" in the Asian Collections at the US National Arboretum....back in the day

Bed "M"(the long bed) is the bed along the road with the large Davidia; it's a showcase bed because of its location and its selection of plant materials. The layout has evolved well and we attend to its maintenance conscientiously.  It has changed since these hand drawn maps and typed plant lists were created about 40 years ago. So has our mapping technique. Now we map with GPS: plants, beds, memorial benches, and the rest. There is still a small triangular bed adjacent to it that is surrounded by paved roads. Today the small bed is K-0, part of our collection of Korean plants. There are three plants on the drawing, two Berberis verruculosa and a dwarf Ilex vomitoria. All gone. I don't think we have either anymore. The Triangle is a wonderful small bed though, planted with a wonderful Acer griseum, an exactingly pruned Pinus parviflora, and a mixture of interesting plants.

Many of the plants mapped for bed "M" in the hand drawn map are still there. The Davidia, the groundcovers, the mangy dwarf Picea abies selection that we're tempted to remove every year. The planting of Hypericum calycinum, a North American native, that we put off removing because it's an attractive functional plant. There are more on the map that are gone now, but which live on in my memories from the early 1990's: Stransvaesia davidiana, with it's wonderful winter fruit; Juniperus confertus,that I had to prune to reveal the short stone wall it grew over; the hateful Pfitzer Junipers that took a whole day to clear of leaves in the fall. Good memories and bad memories....not really bad memories, but some change is really for the best.

If you click here, you can see a post from June 2009 with pictures of much of bed "M" and the smaller triangular bed.   The top picture is that portion of bed "M" that juts out towards the triangle bed, the bottom picture is bed K-0, the Korean triangle.

Ophiopogon jaburan and Adonis amurensis at the USNA

We, the volunteers and I, found this little arrangement with the Mondo grass fruit and the seeded in Adonis amurensis. We went over and investigated the large clumps and sure enough, there they were. You have to have mixed feelings about these fruits; the color is beautiful beyond description but if you're bigger than a chipmunk it's hard to appreciate them. I guess they're just one of those wonderful little things that we can go out and find in the winter when we need something beautiful.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cheetahs enjoy the warm winter weather at the National Zoo

The entrance to the auditorium where the Smithsonian puts on its winter in-service training for horticulturists is just across from this enclosure. The speakers are always excellent; today was no exception. Still, part of the fun is seeing these incredible animals. When we arrived at ~8:00 they weren't outside but when we left at noon they were strolling around agreeably. The back of the enclosure abuts the zebra yard. I always feel a bit for them. If I were a zebra I have to think I'd like to live a bit farther away from such lethal carnivores.

Brad weeding plans from the Prairie collecting trip

Scott, Kevin, and GrayC brought back seeds and propagules; Brad has been charged with growing them on. He amended the soil in this bed to increase drainage and things have gone well. Joan and her volunteers planted out some of the products of this trip last summer in the Prairie section of  Fern Valley. I ran into some of those same volunteers this morning at the Smithsonian and they assured me that those plants were doing well, indeed, had grown. I've got to get out and look at them. They're easily visible from the road, identified by the dense thicket of plastic labels. Joan and Michael did serious soil amendment there too. It included mixing in limestone gravel and creating a slightly raised berm.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pelargonium crispum 'Cy's Sunburst'

It's a lemon scented geranium of course; I love the species and this is even brighter. There's an irregular yellowish band around the perimeter of the leaves. It's a bit hard to see here. I think because the leaves are so chartreuse and the greenhouse environment softens them up a bit. Harsher conditions would make for better color definition! Still, it's a great plant, one of my favorite plants for a sunny windowsill in the winter but we haven't had one for years. I'm seriously contemplating drastically reducing the orchid population in the south window in favor of a few more gesneriads and some miscellaneous goodies. That might be a good chance to include a few scented geraniums. This would be one of them.

Tuesday February 7 in the camellias at the USNA

I spent some time today in the Camellia Collection picking up....not sticks, but more medium-sized branches to smallish logs. It's my own fault; I just haven't gotten through there enough. All the larger branches are out now though. Surprisingly I was alone. The weather was warm and sunny and at least a third of the plants have open flowers. Winter is supposed to show up tomorrow for at least a brief stay. Cold rain, a bit of snow (less than 2"), and actually cold temperatures. 19F Friday night? and highs in the 30's over the weekend. The good news is we're supposed to warm back up again into the 50 early next week.