Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Weekly letter to the volunteers in the Asian Collection at the US National Arboretum

[We have a remarkable crew of volunteers who work in the Asian Collections. Their knowledge level and experience are intimidatingly high. After 5 years, I'm continually amazed at how much work they get done. I don't want to imagine where we'd be without them. Every Wednesday I try to write them a letter letting them know where things are in the collection and what we'll be trying to do the next day. I've been writing these for a few years now. I decided to post them on the blog thinking maybe they're give some insight into the Collection.]  
Hello everyone,

Had no idea it was going to rain today and it really hasn’t rained enough to more than inconvenience anyone. It’s supposed to be dry tomorrow, partly sunny, and pleasantly warm. Good weather for gardening! Parenthetically, this is almost the perfect time to plant grass seed whether you’re reseeding a large area or just lightly overseeding stressed portions of your lawn. Temperatures are cool enough to not stress and at the same time warm enough to encourage germination and growth. We seem to be getting dribs and drabs of rain along with an occasional deeper soaking. This means we don’t have to water as much as we might have had to. The only down side is that birds are massing in huge flocks either to migrate south or to winter hereabouts. If you don’t conceal your seed with straw, or preferably  a light topsoil or leafgro application (~1/4”) it can disappear quickly!


But wait, enough about lawns and gardens, how about more about me?! Just quickly I swear. Saw Dr. Daoud this morning and my physical constraints have been removed. I am able to do the normal things that people do. No lifting extremely heavy objects, swinging mattocks, digging ditches… but usual gardening tasks including blowing and spraying are okay. That sounds good to me; it’s been years since I enjoyed swinging a mattock! The graft continues to look good. It heals from the outside in and the small area still “unattached” has trapped a pocket of fluid that is keeping my vision blurry. The doctor assures me that it is not unusual for transplants on transplants to take months to completely heal.


The Osmanthus fortunei at the junction of the road and the path to the pagoda is in full bloom. Yesterday I could smell it 30 feet away. Great smell. O. fragrans is probably flowering at the pagoda. The Gymnaster Savatieri we moved from bed J-M to the sidewalk by the women’s restroom is starting to flower. The  flowers are nice and it’s a weedy (I mean vigorous) thing, a good groundcover. We may need to move the hostas out of its path! K & K continue to work at the GCA Circle. They finished excavating the gravel bed and are adding gravel as I write. It was frightening looking last week; after K&K worked on it for a day, we’re all feeling much better about prospects for restoration. The dwarf mondo that you all planted on the other side of the circle has re-greened after the depredations of last winter and is keeping soil/mulch from washing out of the beds. Little improvements like that are wonderful. It’s easy to forget you’ve done something like that, but remember how messy those edges used to look? Now the interface between the edging bricks and the paving is sharp and clean. The big things and the little things keep adding up…


This week I’d like to concentrate on K-0 at least for the beginning of the day. We can weed out the dead nutsedge and plant the Lysimachia ‘Persian Chocolate’. There is pruning to do, and some cutbacks as well. We’ll plant the begonias,'Shaanxi White' that  are eating up a corner of one of our lath beds. I’d like some of them to go into bed C-5 in the moist area in front of the stone bench and possibly trailing down the south side of the steps a few feet. We’ll find a spot for the rest. I’m thinking maybe in Ca-2  (the bed  between the Dogwood Collection and the main Camellia path). They like soil that’s rarely dry and a bit of sun but not too much. Like B. grandis, they are beautiful when they’re happy and ugly when they’re stressed. While we’re in C-5, let’s move some more dwarf mondo from the steps below the pagoda to the steps in C-5. We made a good start at this project but there are places that still need planting. There are other miscellaneous things including de-leafing the tree peonies at the GCA Circle and in bed J-N2. I’m thinking we ought to move the Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’ from bed C-8 where it’s being shaded out to the open space in the middle of C-5. Eventually that’ll be too shady too, but not for 4-5 years.


Happy fall,








Monday, September 29, 2014

There's Some Flowers out there


 From the top: Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’; Camellia ‘Winter’s Star’; Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’

They’re subtle but that’s okay. Autumn isn’t spring. Spring starts slowly then builds to a breathtaking crescendo of peonies, wisteria, iris, lilies, hydrangeas… Early autumn is calmer, richer…somber almost. After all, the year isn’t beginning, the year is winding down. The pace has slowed which is okay because it gives us time to spend looking at individual flowers, or fruits, or the occasional precocious red or gold leaf. We have time to walk out and check on whether the any of the osmanthus or elaeagnous are flowering. If they are we’ll smell them before we see the tiny flowers. It’s almost  It takes more time to examine the intricately mottled flower of the toad lily than it does to absorb the splendor of a 100 foot wisteria in full bloom. Well maybe not, still…..