Saturday, November 7, 2009

Solanum mammosum, Nipple Fruit....was it worth it?

I bought a seedling at the Philadelphia Flower Show and this is what its grown  into. Of course you can't tell from the picture that the plant is ~5 feet high and three feet across, nor can you tell that these fruit aren't edible. They aren't. And they don't dry! They're just decorative?...for a little while.

I'm not going to go all Wilt Chamberlain and claim that I've seen? 20,000  (40,000?) nipples, but between National Geographic, the peep shows (just kidding), and my own limited experiences I've seen a few and these fruit don't bear any particular resemblance to any that I can, at present, call to mind. Still....I'm old and I've forgotten many things.

It's surely an interesting plant and I'm glad to have grown it. I'm going to save seed, and Brad tells me that he will too but I suspect neither of us will be growing it again any time soon!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bit your tongue! That's a leaf blower.

This is a view that many of us at the Arboretum see a lot at this time of year. There are pros and cons to the use of leaf blowers. Cons: they're unconscionably loud; the pollutants they expel smell awful and can't be good for any of us; the torque applied to our torsos can cause back problems; they''re addictive, it's hard to stop using them because they're so effective; they facilitate any bit of the "obsessive compulsive" we might have in our psyche by making it possible to remove EVERY leaf from an area.

Now for the positives: they are at least 10 times as fast as a rake; they can blow leaves out from places that would be destroyed by raking; because of their speed, it becomes reasonable to walk through a garden once or twice a week and quickly make it presentable (when you're raking an area because it takes so much longer there is either a temptation or a necessity to limit yourself to one or two visits a year to any particular area. Over those 2,3,4 weeks, the laws of thermodynamics work against you. The leaves gradually settle into positions of lowest potential energy. They flatten themselves against the ground, become wedged into small spaces, stuck on spines or prickles, glued together by water or fungal hyphae....and every time it rains they get heavier. Despite all the negatives it's easy to see why we choose to use blowers.

But wait!  there's hope for the future. Every year brings new models that are lighter, quieter, and less polluting. Sometimes technology does good things.

Chrysanthemum 'Lava' what can I say?

There is no flower too "over the top" for me. I love this plant!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Acer palmatum linearilobum...wonderful upright laceleaf maple

I would like this plant even if it didn't have excellent fall color. As the name suggests, the leaves do have long narrow lobes, making it another one of those plants that people hopefully mistake for marijuana. There's a "light" feel to this plant that goes beyond the airy open leaves. The branches angle upward then the tips arch a bit. They have good spacing and relate comfortably with one another. Its proportions, at least twice as tall as wide, make it a good choice under a high canopy. While shorter, wider plants seem to live their eartbound lives oblivious to the natural cathedral above them, this tree reaches up to celebrate that open space.

This plant sits alone in a triangle of pachysandra where the path to the Garden Club of America Circle branches off the main path to the Chimonanthus overlook gracefully occupying the open space created by that junction.

Joan transplants Shortia....after some growing on, they'll get planted out in Fern! they grow up so quickly!

It's been almost a year and a half since we collected the first Shortia seed in North Carolina. We cleaned it, planted it, tended it obsessively and now it's time to transplant the seedlings. In the past, this has been the problematic step. I'm not worried this time.

As a point of interest, there aren't many recorded instances of Shortia propagation by seed. Additionally, this significantly increases the amount germplasm in the ex situ populations of an endangered species.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Physalis alkekengi, Japanese Lanterns. It's not unusual for them to skeletonize like this but it's very cool

The Asian Collection staff had some help from the Creative Solutions work group today

After a two week hiatus, we resumed our campaign of peripheral reclamation; we worked in the circle at the top of Hickey Hill. All morning Nate, Amanda, Neal, and I cut down undesirable trees and shrubs, tossed them to the road and cut them to roughly 10' lengths. At 10:30 our group arrived, two counselors and 10 adults with "challenges" who are being introduced to various workplace environments. They loaded three vehicles repeatedly and so we were able to  move  lot of debris to the Brickyard wastepile before they left at 1:00 pm.

All parties were cheerful and worked unceasingly. They were wonderful people and I think that there are various types of activitie they could help with in the gardens. They certainly took suggestions better and more to heart than most of us do. One time I mentioned that loading the branches with the butt towards the cab made for a better load. From that point to the end of the job, that's how the branches went in. Except for Neal's. While I have serious doubts as to whether more than a couple of them could ever successfully "mainstream" into the job market, the bottom line is that we got a lot more work done Wednesday because they were here.

Variegated Sweet Gum (with fall color)

Because there are so many of us constantly observing things, we frequently notice unusual plants. George Waters came upon this while working on a group project and subsequently collected it, potted it up, and moved it into our growing facility. We'll monitor it and maybe someday propagate and release it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hibiscus mutabilis in Asian Valley (Zone 7)

We may only get this one flower...Still, there's no actual freezing temperatures predicted so maybe some more of the dozens of buds will open. Anyway one is better than none!

Ash in the mist

I've always had a fondness for this tree that stands alone in the meadow. Mornings are its best times and fog doesn't hurt!