Saturday, May 16, 2009

Beltsville Library: I worked on bulb foliage, weeding, planting and general clean-up

Because there will be an Open House next Saturday and I had to! Of course the garden is open 24/7, but next Saturday, I'll be there to interrogate. I planted a Cestrum aurantiacum which is cool and I'm thinking about donating a Choisya ternata as well. The courtyard situation would provide a bit more winter protection than I can here. Still...I'm ever the optimist. More interesting than Knockout Roses.

Calycanthus chinensis

I love our native Calycanthus floridus but this is a nice plant too. Like the native species it is shade tolerant, has impressively large flowers, clean foliage and is generally undemanding. I particularly like the texture of the petals; their roughness helps them interact with sunlight better than most white flowers.

Like C. florida, this species tends to grow in the forest alongside streams. Also like C. f., in spite of its preference for streamsides, it doesn't seem to have any trouble adapting to much drier locations. C. occidentalis, California Sweetshrub is a third species that has entered into hybridizing efforts.

Probably because they are so attractive, adaptable, and easily crossed, there are a number of hybrids available. 'Venus' and 'Hartladge Wine' are the most frequently encountered. I came across a short interesting summary article by Dr. Thomas Ranney from NCSU.

Polygonatum cirrhifolium: okay this isn't the most spectacular plant in the world, but I really like those "prototendrils"

"Epiphyllic prototendrils"???!)

Hey, this is a tall plant, some of ours are approaching 5' and the season is early, with thin stems. It could be easily flattened by wind, rain, and or gravity so it works its way up through more rigid vegetation, clinging with those cool tendril-tips. It's another Chinese plant and our are located in China Valley alongside the path on the first inside curve as you descend from the top. I constructed a light bamboo structure, sort of tall wickets, to help support the plants.

This is yet another plant without a wealth of information readily available regarding it. The Flora of China suggests the stems reach a height of 90 cm.; ours are a good bit taller than that now. It's not a Tree Peony but it is interesting and has a certain grace.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Fern Valley Wet Meadow: staged, excavated and graded, inspected, coired, planted, and now open to us all!

It was a bit of a long process, but it seems to have turned out in the end. The Persimmons are missing but there is a nice viewing platform, wonderful trails, some interesting and attractive new plants in the Prairie, and a new walking entrance to Fern Valley proper. I can't wait!

Schisandra lancifolia: another obscure Chinese plant

But look at those buds....pretty nice. I can't wait for the flowers. The vine is vigorous to the point of being frightening.

When I was younger, Schisandra was in the Magnoliaceae. Now it has been awarded its own family, the Schisandraceae. This is another plant from which useful? compounds have been isolated. My Chemistry goes only so far; I can't tell you what a nortripterpenoid is but I'm sure its a great thing.

There are still wonderful Peonies at the Arboretum this weekend

I don't know what the bottom one (herbaceous) is but its a part of the Peony Collection in the Boxwood Area. The Tree Peony in the top picture is 'Spring Carnival' and you can see it in the Asian Collections at the GCA Circle.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ulmus macrocarpa var. dorsettia sports odd galls on its leaves

Fern Valley Main Entrance is now open!

You can now enter through the Meadow, pass the Wet meadow/Infiltration basins planted with native wetland plants, and follow the trail through the North Woods into the rest of the Collection. This bridge is open now; the rest are soon to follow.

Eugenia prunes the Weigela japonica sinensis at the top of China Valley

Eugenia is one of the Asian Collection volunteers; with Betty, Terri, and Neal she comes in weekly to help with maintenance in the collection. Yesterday Betty, Terri, and Eugenia worked at the top of China Valley indiscriminately pruning, weeding, and generally grooming. We cut back some overly energetic vines, removed dead wood on deciduous shrubs, and weeded.

Weigela is not my favorite shrub, but this year we got our money's worth out of them. They have been flowering for two weeks and look like they will go on for another week. Not bad.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rosa davurica, Amur Rose,

One great thing about the Asian Collections is that there are plants there that you just won't see in other gardens. Well, maybe a garden here or there, but we have a lot of obscure taxa. So I Google them and frequently the hits I get consist of images, threads of discussions in obscure user groups, entries in the Flora of China or the USDA Plants Database, and articles from medical or pharmacological journals. This is one of those plants. It has apparently been used medicinally in China for a long time and is now being investigated by Western scientists. There is some suggestion that it can be of use in halting anaphylactic shock and as a cancer treatment. That sounds exciting but I see those kinds of articles a lot. Maybe something will come of it! We can only hope.

I do know, by my own observation that it is a vigorous, enthusiastic (euphemism) rose that had interestingly red stems in the winter and is covered with fragrant single pink flowers now. Presumably it is fairly hardy since it comes from an area that experiences cold winters. I worry that because it spreads so incredibly quickly it may be a problem to contain, but it is pretty. Its flowering now along the top of China Valley, easily visible from the road.

We finished the installation and planted the Bamboo, we have chosen the relatively common Pleioblastus viridistriatus

It will grow to about 3' quickly, float lightly above the wall, and ought to be a pleasant addition to the GCA Circle area.

Baptisia australis is flowering in the Fern Valley Meadow across from the Youth Garden

Beautiful blue spires on a dependable, long-lived, disease and pest free perennial.

Pat Lynch candles the Japanese Black Pine at the entrance to the Adminstration Building

The new growth of pines starts as "candles" (small shoots that look like candles) that expand to become the new branchlets of the current year. If you want to control the grown of a pine, you can snap off all or some fraction of the candles before they expand. Pat has candled this tree before and will doubtless do it again. I think he likes being up in the air.

The new Greenhouse at the Arboretum is now open; after a trial period during which we will master the systems we'll try it with plants!

This is the main hallway; if it looks antiseptic, sterile, and technologically intimidating, I did a good job with the photograph! It's not like the greenhouses of my youth. I remember Behnke's old glass houses with lead (and no doubt asbestos) in the glazing, algae covered structure, and hand-cranked chain-operated vents. Hey we had houses like that here not so long ago. And I grew up frequenting Merrill's orchid houses in Kensington. This feels more like a hospital. The massive stainless steel doors ought to open into operating rooms. Wow. And sterility will be our goal. All plants entering will be inspected.

We're all Dr. Moreau and the plants are no longer adored objects of our obsession, but innocent victims helpless in our decontaminated prisons.....well, maybe not. I guess there is a design precedent or two. The old Persian walled-gardens used rigidly linear geometric hardscape to provide counterpoint and stage for the uncontained riot of the botanical world. All the metal, glass, hydraulics, and electronics in this new greenhouse don't approach the magic of one seed germinating and growing into a plant. I think I'm fine now.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nathan and Amanda and I installed bamboo "containment" today above the GCA Circle in the Asian Collections

To prevent "running bamboos" from taking over the garden and then the world, you can install a heavy plastic barrier. First we dug a trench 2" shorter than the liner (~32"). Then we inserted the liner leaving 2" exposed above ground to prevent surface runners from escaping. Next we backfilled the trench leaving an opening to bolt on the binding strap that connects the two ends. Tomorrow we will finish back-filling and plant.

Trillium catesbaei, Rose Trillium...very pretty, variable, late-flowering

Trillium cuneatum, Sweet Betsy, is our earliest Trillium; I posted it April 3 this year and it was well into its second week by then. The Rose Trilliums are peaking now in the second week of May. Six+ weeks of flowering Trilliums is a good season.

T. catesbaei, is a Southeastern Trillium that grows in a variety of habits and is relatively easy of cultivation though it doesn't seed about with the enthusiasm of say T. grandiflorum or cuneatum. These plants are in a small population in Fern Valley. They are above the trail beside the stream a bit downstream from the steps to the new platform. Some of the variation in flower color is the result of aging, but variability is a part of this plant and the flowers range in color from white to quite dark rose.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Indigofera amblyantha....the hits keep on coming in China Valley

The Indigofera is kind of twiggy and kind of leggy, but provides an interesting counterpoint to the semi-double herbaceous Peony. I always expect this Indigofera to flower in the summer and it always surprises me!

White Pearl in Red Dragon's Mouth...C'mon how could any rose live up to that name?

It's an okay rose with a nice sweetish perfume, but that name.....

Magnolia sieboldii 'Colossus'

Magnolia sieboldii has always been my favorite non-native Magnolia. While its siblings are so often bold, maybe even overstated, this plant has a quiet dignity. A multi-stemmed large shrub or small tree, it's probably best planted on a slope where you can look up at the fragrant pendant flowers. I lay on my back to get this picture but the view was worth it!

The species is a fine plant and there are a number of selections; 'Colossus' (this one) has flowers and leaves somewhat larger than the norm. Like the species, it blooms after most of the Asian taxa, and seems, in my experience, to tolerate shade better than many Magnolias, flowering abundantly and happily under deciduous trees.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lychnis yunnanensis: I bought this at the Beltsville Garden Club Sale last year

I know nothing about it except that it is a Chinese, go figure, Lychnis that has limited availability through a few specialized nurseries. The actual color is better than I am showing though I'm not sure in what way. It looks a bit "too" colorful in the picture, but is pleasant in the garden! Reportedly it's a reliable, long-lived perennial for the front of the border. Next year I'll know more!

Jingles and I went shopping for (mostly) perennials for the Beltsville Library Courtyard Garden

We weren't the only shoppers at Behnke's; the great weather and Mother's Day combined to fill the parking lot. I am always impressed at the variety and quality of the perennials at Behnke's. They have a great selection of woody plants too, they're in good shape, and the prices are pretty good. No true Nursery or Garden Center is going to be able to match Box Store prices across the board, but no Box Store will have the breadth of selection or a staff with the knowledge and experience that a Nursery/Garden Center can supply.

If you click on the receipt, it becomes larger and legible. The 10 "steppables" include five Pink Pussytoes and five low Thymes. Unidentified annuals include Petunias and Cosmos. The courtyard is quite hot, actually it bakes, because of the masonry that defines it, so Dianthus, Salvia, the Broom, the Lavenders, Thymes, and Antennaria should all be very happy. It seems that the first incarnation of the garden had it as a classic shade garden with Dogwoods, Azaleas, Hostas, et alia. It's just too hot. The Dogwoods are working, and some shaded Azaleas are okay, but I'm gradually removing most of the Azaleas and most of the Hostas. Its going to become something approaching a Mediterranean garden...right in my wheelhouse!

If you're interested in seeing any of these plants in the ground, they will, of course, be planted in the Courtyard Garden at the Beltsville Library. There will be an Open House on Saturday May 23 starting at 11:00 am where I will be happy to discuss these or any plants or anything horticultural or botanical!