Saturday, October 17, 2009

Plants I am motivated to seek out because I heard about them at the Swarthmore Perennial Plants Conference

From Jimmy Turner, Senior Director of Gardens at the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden: Yucca gloriosa 'Bright Star'; Salvia transylvanica 'Blue Sprires'; Monarda x 'Peter's Purple'' Zaxmenia hispida; Phygelius x recta 'Cherry Ripe'. But wait, there's more! see the website.

From Bill McLaughlin at the US Botanic Garden: Penstemon triflorus; Berlandiera lyrata; Buddleja marrubiifolia; Helenium flexuosum; Clematis reticulata et alia.

From Beverly Fitts, Perennials Instructor at Longwood: Hibiscus x 'Red Flyer'; Phlox paniculata 'Jeana'; Keiskea japonica.

Swarthmore Perennial Plant Conference 2009

They do two a year: the Woody Plant Conference and this one. I believe I've only missed one. Since Swarthmore is only about a two hour drive, and the Scott Arboretum=the Campus is so wonderful, and because the speakers are consistently excellent, it's easily the best and least costly way to get a hold on "new" plants. Plus you never know who you're going to see. I've been waiting to hear Bill McLaughlin talk about those obscure SE/SW plants that he has amassed at the USBG ever since the courtyard garden opened. Because I'm a plant geek and always prowling for new plants, I loved the presentation of Jimmy Turner, the Senior Director of Gardens at the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden. Apparently they trial a ridiculous number of plants every year, and their conditions are ours multiplied by, well, a lot! Among his plants I saw a half dozen or more must haves. Not to slight the other speakers.

This is the Scott Amphitheater; it was designed by Thomas Sears, a fairly well known Philadelphia landscape architect and built in the early 1940s? Typically, at one of these conferences, it would be filled with attendees eating their lunches. It was raining this year but we walked through it anyway. In the introduction to every conference, Claire Sawyers, reminds us that Commencement ceremonies are held there, rain or shine....I don't usually give a second thought to that remark, but this year...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

This is not a flamingo, its an Aesculus germinating

I know it's not a flamingo because I've seen a lot of flamingos; real ones, wooden ones, many ceramic, but mostly plastic. Actually, I can look over the screen, out the window, and see three now.

Most members of the genus Aesculus, including buckeyes and horse chestnuts, produce these large fruits, "buckeyes". Along the Fern Valley road, there are hundreds of Aesculus parviflora and pavia. The seeds fall and the leaves fall and it rains and the seeds germinate above ground. I've raked up thousands of these "chestnut sprouts" but was never struck by the form of an individual.

Fall foliage of Hydrangea serrata 'Beni-gaku'....that's a mouthful!

Pink and white bicolor flowers make this a very popular Hydrangea, but it's almost better, at least just as good now. Betty pointed this one out to me last week and it's only improved since them. While many plants have something to offer in two, three, or even four seasons, there's usually one spectacular show and the others are more nice, pretty good, or okay. This plant really jumps out at you summer through fall. To see these plants in the Asian Collections, walk down the stairs across the street from the big weeping Katsura. A little more than 100 feet? 'Bene-gaku' will be on your right. (Just a little bit farther on the same side of the path, is a Japanese Persimmon whose fruit is coloring up nicely.

Of course the main difference between the subspecies Hydrangea macrophylla ssp. serrata and the species is that while the serratas typically have a flat, or "lacecap" inflorescence, those of the macrophyllas are usually rounded, or of the "mophead" type. As far as general form, serrata's branches are more slender and tend to arch gracefully while the species has stockier straighter stems. Serrata (the mountain hydrangea) is also a bit more cold hardy, and Mike Dirr observes, a bit more prone to mildew than the mopheads. That's rarely an issue with us here in Washington, DC, though we did have a bit of mildew on hydrangeas this year. I expect it's much more of a problem in Georgia

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Penthorum sedoides....This is a nice subtle addition to the palette of autumn colors

"Ditch Stonecrop" is not an especially pleasant name. The plant does love moisture, occasionally living as an emergent. It's native throughout the eastern and central United States disappearing westward only in the Tall-grass Prairie.The flowers are white and not so exciting, but the fruit....ah. This picture isn't quite right, but I'm not going to alter the colors. Its really a softish orange/peach

I'm not sure my judgement is to be trusted though, because, for the past few weeks, I've been admiring the wonderful reddish fruit on the non-native knotweed. Penthorum really is a beautiful little plant though, and it is a native. This one is growing on the left side of the main trail in Fern Valley just past the island.

Aster ageratoides 'Ezo Murasaki'....this is going to be a good one

The color in the photograph is just about right. This is another plant from Asiatica; it came in last week. We'll keep them in containers for the winter and plant them out next spring. Maybe I'll divide them next spring. I potted the ~4" pots to 300's and the roots were straining at the edges of the smaller pots.

I don't know much about it except that the color is spectacular and it blooms late in the season. Both big plusses in my mind. I'm sure it's an easy plant, hey, it's an Aster! Barry notes that the flowers are quite frost resistant, a useful trait for a plant that flowers this late.

Acer pseudosieboldianum is showing spectacular and early fall color

This is a NACPEC collection from 1997. It's growing near the bottom of a steep north-facing slope towards the bottom of China Valley. Few other Maples have shown color yet this year. The Sugar Maples from Vermont in the National Grove of State Trees, and a few other odd Sugar Maples have colored up but that's about it. As a small to medium sized tree, this looks to be a winner if your local climate can support it.

Nathan Camp on temporary assignment in Fern Valley

As our De facto staff stonemason, Nate's services were required for this project and complicated bookkeeping was, in turn, required to get him temporarily out of the Asian Collections and into Fern Valley. He's going to face this existing cinder block wall with Pennsylvania field stone. Part of the FV Trail/Bridge project involved repairing and replacing the benches throughout the collection. Along the stream on the main trail nestled into, and concealing this block wall was a large "V" shaped bench. It was a favorite of visitors; if mosquitoes and the weather allowed, there was almost always someone on that bench. The replacement for the old mossy bench is free standing and so exposes the wall. After this work we'll have to make sure the bench is far enough away from the wall to leave the new stonework visible. Maybe we need to figure out a way to get a Purple-stemmed Cliffbrake into that wall?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Salvia glabrescens 'Momobana'

Fragrant. It's fragrant. Anything that flowers in October is good and add fragrance! Wow. Asiatica Nursery sells this plant and seems to be the only source of information about it. But they don't mention that it's fragrant.

Actias luna, Luna moth caterpillar

Pat found this guy on a paved surface. I took him into Fern Valley, stuck him on this Hickory, and took a few pictures. This is likely our second generation this year. Farther north there's only one, farther south once in a while even three! This is a very impressive caterpillar, but I guess that makes sense since the moth itself is so beautiful and large, <5 inches.

Monday, October 12, 2009

You have to give people their props when they get it right

There are new brochures being produced and boxes going up in all? the collections at the National Arboretum; I'm very pleased with the style (same as this) and location of our boxes in the Asian Collection, but Wow! You really couldn't do any better than this. That's the Friendship Garden at Arbor House.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

This one caught my eye among the larger deeper colored pumpkins

One of the wonderful things about the internet is how easily obscure things can be identified. Google the noun, in this case pumpkin, and a few adjectives, I started with pale and warty, hit images and there's your, actually my, pumpkin! It works with insects, reptiles, plants, whatever. Of course just seeing a picture that looks like what you're trying to identify is no guarantee that you've got it, but more research is easy; a few keystrokes, a few clicks, and you can confirm or reject your tentative identification.

It's not a perfect system; sometimes you find an exact irrefutable match for your unknown posted without a name. I find this happens a lot with particularly beautiful or interesting objects. Sometimes I have to try a few descriptors before I get there. Still, it's a good system, or a least a place to start.

Cucurbita maxima 'Brodé D'Galeux Eysines' is a heck of a name for a pumpkin. From the French for "embroidered with pebbles from Eysines”. Cucurbita maxima is a taxa of Winter Squash, a few of whose selections are often referred to as pumpkins. This seems to be a universally admired fruit, obviously a French heirloom variety, and tasty too!