Friday, February 24, 2012

Cornus officinalis in the Gotelli Collection

Magnolias in China Valley 24 Feb 2012

If you were driving along Hickey Hill Road this afternoon and stopped pretty near the middle of China Valley, looking down through the rain and the haze, you would have seen a variety of precocious Magnolias: M. denudata, on the left and a grouping of M. zenii, M. biondii, and M. amoena.on the right. They are either brave or foolhardy to flower in February here. More to the point I suppose, they may be very lucky Magnolias this year. The 15 day forecast doesn't suggest any temperatures below 30F, and that only once. Combined with a few 32's, these trees could skate through relatively unscathed. That would be against all odds.

One of the problems with deciduous Magnolias in USDA Zone 7, is the fact that they often flower so early that an odd cool night will destroy the flowers turning a beautiful tree into a mass of rotten flowers. Our (the US National Arboretum) introductions 'Galaxy' and 'Spectrum' were developed to address this issue. They flower later than many of the older selections giving them better odds of escaping a late frost.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Late February behaving as mid-March continued.....Magnolia x Loebneri 'Neil McEacharn' & Prunus x 'Okame'

Warm weather continues here in DC. I don't think we hit 70F today but I didn't hear any complaining. All 6 volunteers came in and we kicked some...we got a good bit of work done. We cleaned up nicely around the GCA Circle, removed dead wood from Japanese Maples, cut back many Epimediums, pulled much cress (mostly Nancy with much help from Angela), removed a few plants that were visually complicating areas, transplanted some Adonis amurensis to a site where it's visible from the road, and enjoyed the day and the garden. I've been wanting to move some of the Adonis since....forever. The only plantings were in the middle of the collection and most people don't even get out of their cars in January when it flowers. A lot of people do walk the roads  though, and now there's the beginning of a colony visible from Hickey Hill Road.  Next week we're going to start on our major project of spring 2012 which is to select attractive groundcovers from withing the collection, dig portions, and move them to China Valley where there isn't enough groundcover. We need them both for aesthetic reasons and to make it more difficult for weeds.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sedum rupestre 'Angelina' at the entrance to the Cryptomeria Walk

Sedum 'Angelina' is one of those new breed of "marketable" plants. It's got Proven Winners written all over it. Because I'm a person who's preternaturally self-aware, I can hear the tone of  snobbish contempt in that sentence and....well, I'm wrong. It's not fair to hold against a plant the fact it was chosen for its ability to appeal to a mass market of unsophisticated gardeners. I think. Anyway I do like Angelina. I bet most people buy it in the spring or summer when it's bright yellow gold. It is a perfect plant for marketing; after being drawn to it by the color, think how reassuring it must be to read in the description that it thrives in poor dry soil. 

I like the winter color seen here (and here). Orange, amber, whatever. It's very cool and works perfectly at the base of the Japanese Maple.It's one of the sedums I planted last year in the new steps my sons did for me. Max blew the leaves off the steps today and the sedums are all tumescent and colored up, ready to grow as soon as it warms up.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Look at the names on those seed packets! I know a few, but the rest of them??!!

(If you click on the picture it'll enlarge enough to read the labels. Or maybe you have a large monitor, or aren't old and infirm like I am and you can read them they way they show!)

 It's exciting to grow the commonest most familiar plants from seed. These aren't common or usual and I'm really excited about them.

The Potomac Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society had a meeting at the Arboretum a few weeks back and George happened to be working that day. They generously offered the "unclaimed" seed packets from their seed exchange. Brad, George, and I were intrigued by the variety and we're each growing a flat of seed trays. Only a few of them are Asian but there are other gardens: North American Natives can go to Joan in Fern Valley; George can use a few decorative annuals and perennials as accents in the Dogwood Collection; and Brad, with his containers and the Intro Garden can absorb a lot.There's just something exciting about planting seeds, watching them germinate, and growing them into mature flowering plants.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Eranthis hyemalis, Winter Aconite

My affection for this short European geophyte is disproportionately large considering it's diminutive stature and its plain, almost weedy, appearance. It's always an early bloomer, often showing some foliage and partly open buds as early as mid-January. Cold weather often stops it in its tracks and many winters partially opened buds sit for two or three weeks before a warm spell opens them up. There has been no shortage of warm spells this winter so it's no surprise that clump after clump of fully open flowers are smiling up at us as February moves towards an end.

Sometime between Tuesday and Wednesday day length will pass 11 hours leaving us just 60 minutes shy of the equinox. The Vernal Equinox this year is March 20. By then our days will be 12 hours and 9 minutes. Don't ask me. I'm sure there's a good explanation. I only know that I prefer daylight to darkness.