Wednesday, September 6, 2017

US National Arboretum Rain Gardens in the Administration Building Parking Lot: They planted it this morning and then the rain started!

Bradley Evans along with gardeners and interns planted the last of the five rain gardens in the main parking lot. The gardens came as part of the contract for the Springhouse Run Stream Restoration and will cut down the amount of runoff that we send into the storm sewer.

I'm really psyched for the gardens. I sat in on a few of the initial meetings with the National Capital Area Garden Clubs, Inc., sponsors of the gardens. They proposed that we do themed gardens to show visitors various options for rain gardens. There's a Butterfly Garden, a Low-maintenance Garden, a Formal/Traditional, a Xeric, and finally a Coastal Plain that I lobbied for. Brad developed the planting schemes and sourced the plants. He's been planting them for a few months now. The top, Xeric garden was just planted this morning. The bottom Traditional garden was the first planted.

The plant choices are what's got me excited about the gardens. I'm old enough to have been around for the beginnings of the "rain garden" phenomenon. Plus I live in Prince Georges County Maryland the home of the "original" rain garden. I've been around for the experience to date. The first rain gardens focused on "rain" when selecting plant material. I remember cardinal flowers were popular along with a litany of "wet meadow" species. Well, it turns out that raingardens, with their perfectly draining engineered soil, tend more towards the xeric end of the spectrum than the hydric. Designers have recognized that but their palettes are, maybe not unimaginative, but typically pretty limited.  Brad has a lot of cool plants in here, selections I've not seen in rain gardens before: Salvia lyrata, Bouteloua gracilis, Ilex vomitoria, various sedums, Nasella tenuissima, Salvia azurea, and on and on and on.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Introduction Garden at the United States National Arboretum...introductory because we feature our plant introductions

This is not your grandperson's introductory garden!

When I returned to the Arboretum in 2004, the area around the Administration Building was pleasantly planted and cleanly maintained. It wasn't however, exciting. It is now.. Color, texture, architecture, geometry, and whimsy manifest themselves throughout these gardens.

 Bradley Evans has been in charge of these planting for years and they have grown under him. We started at the Arboretum on the same day in November 2004. Brad, in the Asian Collections, and I went to Fern Valley. Within a few years we'd both agreed to  move, Brad shifted  to the Intro Garden while I went to the Asian Collections. Angela Treadwell Palmer, a well known horticulturist/designer, began the redesign of the Intro Garden. She moved on in the spring of 2008, and Brad has been running with it ever since.

National Arboretum introductions form a framework for a mosaic of bold tropicals, curious succulents,the occasional rarity, and uncommon or new annuals and perennials.  Brad has been refining designs for succulent planters for almost his entire tenure in this garden. See the top and bottom pictures especially.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Favorite Seasons Evolve

Who'd have ever thought late summer would become my favorite season?! Of course summer was my favorite as a child; hey, schools out. Not late summer though; schools coming. As I began to garden fifty odd years ago of course I loved spring. The return of green from the bleak dreariness of a mid-Atlantic winter.We don't do snow that much but we do clouds and rain. Rebirth, spring bulbs, all the flowers. Wow! At some point, I deserted spring, though we stayed friends, and transferred my affections to fall, where they stayed until the intellectual apprehension that fall inevitably led to winter soured my passion.

For those of us who grow bananas, cannas, giant aroids, palms, the new coleus, ... late August and early September which used to be a miserably hot, interminably long, prelude to fall became something to look forward to. I still love the garden in spring, and I'm looking forward to fall, but this is as good as it gets. Go figure!

Thoughts from an Aging Gardener

I began this blog in 2008, posting almost daily for about five years. Then something happened. Actually, a lot of things happened and, I posted occasionally until two years ago, when I completely stopped. The stoppage was long overdue; quality of writing and photography fell to embarrassing lows. Concepts and themes were weak or lacking altogether.

While some of my issues were physical: arthritis in my hip, loss of hearing in one ear, and a tremendous deterioration in my vision; there was a bit of burnout. Over ~45 years of gardening, I’d saved up many things I wanted to say but eventually I ran dry, a realization that generated even greater admiration for the many wonderful bloggers that are able to go year after year and remain fresh. To this day I continue to read many of the same blogs that predated 1003 Gardens.

Well, in the interim, I’ve had some surgeries: a hip-replacement, two cataract operations, and a cornea transplant. I’ve learned to accept diminished hearing. I’m beginning to be able to accept the fact that, at 65 post hip surgery, though far from feeble, I am not the physical force I once was. I’m adjusting, I’m afraid rather gracelessly, to the fact that younger gardeners are better suited to the heavy manual labor I used to relish both at the Arboretum, and even in our personal garden. I realize now though, that I do have things to say, so I’m going to take another shot at it!

My intent, though we all know starting in one direction doesn’t guarantee anything, is to weave three threads together. Karen and I have had a house in central Florida for the past 11?! Years. I’ll be retiring there at the end of next year. Karen may go a bit sooner. So, I’ll be talking about letting go of gardens, both my personal garden, and the Asian Collections at the US National Arboretum where I started in 1991 and where I’ve been for the last 10 years or so. I’d also like to address the issues of aging gardens and aging gardeners. I guess there’s a question as to whether my immersion in these circumstances will allow me enough perspective to be helpful, but I’m gonna try. Finally, I realize that, immodest as it may sound, I’m a very good gardener and a more than adequate designer so I’d like to pass on some acquired insights related to interaction of those two disciplines.