Friday, March 5, 2010

Windrows of debris line the roads at the we just need to figure out how to get them chipped

Camelliia x williamsii 'Ballet in Pink', Neomarica x, Pelargonium ' Dean's Delight'

Spring is coming more quickly to the Polyhouses than it is to the garden.

Aroids, aroids, aroids....Colocasia, Alocasia, Xanthasoma, et. al. .....we stored them all winter now they're coming to life

Aroids of various taxa have become very popular over the last few years. Their spectacular forms, wonderfully large leaves, and variously textured leaf surfaces make them striking accents for the open garden or container. It hasn't been so long since Elephant Ears, Colocasia esculenta, and the common bedding Caladium, Caladium bicolor were about the extent of it. Now there are dozens of selections of a range of genera. Plant Delights Nursery is one of countless on-line nurseries that offer a ridiculously wide selection; PDN has selected and introduced their own cultivars while offering a wide selection of established and new varieties. Here in Washington the tropical aroids work particularly well because of our hot humid summers. A few, notably Colocasia e. are root hardy to some degree, but generally it's better to dig and store the rhizomes.

Brad has hundreds and stores them in various places depending on their needs. Many just spend the winter in open baskets in a coolish dark basement. He's engaged in reviving them now and they're all over in various stages of revivification. I was a bit surprised to see one horizontal in a greenhouse window, but hey, they're tough and it'll no doubt be planted by tomorrow!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dragon Agro Products is the vendor that serious plant addicts can't miss in Philadelphia (Perla with fan)

Perla and Tito Wee have, every year, unquestionably the rarest, oddest, and (in my opinion) the most desirable plants at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Look for them on the back wall in the vendor area. I though of George Waters this year as I declined to pay $400.00 for a Blue Amaryllis, Worsleya raynerii. I have read about this plant and darned if they didn't have one in bloom. Still that was a bit too much for me. I also passed, for $85.00 on  Synsepalum dulcificum, The Miracle Fruit, an African native with curious chemical and gustatory properties,andt in retrospect, regret that decision. I bought an interesting  fragrant floriferous orchid, Dendrobium kingianum from Australia. Past years have yielded Nipplefruit, Solanum mammosum; Joy Magnolia, Michelia champaca, an odd yellow Clivia, various queer carnivores, and other things I don't even remember. I do remember that one year Pat Lynch spent a ridiculous amount of money for a variegated  Clivia and I know Brad bought the Hawaiian Brighamia there. It is definitely a can't miss stop.

Their web site, Dragon Agro Products, is both a source of the choice and peculiar, and an interesting read.  For crying out loud, they list seeds of Welwitschia mirabilis, an exotic primitive gymnosperm endemic to one region of the Namib Desert.  Only growing two strap leaves that coil curiously, it is really the Holy Grail of rare plants. I remember, I think from the 1970's seeing an advertisement for small seedling plants for $5,000.00 each in, of all places, The Wall Street Journal???

I've known Martha and Hugh Meehan going on 30 years

They're serious plant people and the principals of Meehan's Miniatures, in Rohersville Maryland, a retail nursery specializing in Bonsai starter material and whatever rare, choice, and unusual plant material they're currently infatuated with. This is one of the vendors that I make a point of checking out because they are sure to have something for the fanatical plant geek (me). I was happy they had a minute to talk yesterday in Philadelphia; I expect I'll see them at the Arboretum this spring for the Potomac Bonsai Festival Mayday weekend.

The 2010 Philadelphia Flower Show is the best I've seen in either 15 years or ever

Someone will no doubt disagree with me about this but so far all I've heard are raves. Every year I consider breaking my 20? year streak of attending the show. It's always crowded, it's 2 hours away, and spring is almost here anyway.....this wouldn't have been a good year to skip. "Islands in the Sun" 15 years ago was my previous favorite show but this year's has displaced it. Somethings different.

There is more creativity, originality, imagination in the individual exhibits. More of them are interactive; in one you borrow flashlights before walking through an unlit bamboo grove filled with cool things. The next exhibit has surreal arrangements of color in blindingly well lit cargo containers. And so on. I have never seen any evidence, in past shows, that consideration was given to the juxtaposition of exhibits. I like it. It make the individual exhibits part of a coherent and unified whole.

There are always some exciting and original exhibits and there are always some "standard flower show exhibits": some grass, a path,  a water feature, some trees, azaleas, fothergillas, miscellaneous shrubs, pastel flowers, maybe a bridge. Beautiful, serene, pleasant enough in the context of our winters but less than thrilling. Even these seem to have been spiced up, given focal points of brighter colors. I hesitate to suggest activities, but if you could get to this show, you might want to go for it. It's open through Sunday the 7th and inexplicably, attendance was down, so moving around is easier!

African masks at the Philadelphia Flower Show

The masks are only an element of a wonderful exhibit; one of three or four that I consider to be among the top exhibts I've seen in my 20-odd shows. I show them because I did a better job photographing them then I did with the larger parts of the exhibit!

Click on one or two of them to see the details of construction. The subtle shading in the Lion Mask is very cool.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Helleborus thibetanus is the earliest Hellebore; it's been flowering since the beginning of February

This is an interesting, and a beautiful little plant. Ours are the progeny of a NACPEC collection; I dont know the source of the Barry's germplasm, but it is available at Asiatica. It seeds so readily, I expect that if it isn't there now it'll appear quickly at Plant Delights, Lazy S'S, and other cutting edge places. There's a good site, that has a scientific but interesting treatment of it.This plant is located under the Davida in the Asian Collections.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Nathan gets low to make the necessary cuts on this specimen Maple

Nate has done a lot of chainsawing since last Friday, and we've removed tons of storm generated debris...still sometimes you can't make the cuts standing up; sometimes you have to lie on your stomach in wet leaves in early March.

Red-tailed Hawk with a piece of crow in his mouth....Installment 2: Blurry predator week

Another bad picture, but it was fun to watch the pair of Red-tails eating a crow in the Cedar just beyond the Headhouse parking lot. Sounds gruesome. Michael spotted them, then a number of us watched them. This one is the male; they both ate for a while before the female flew across the road and sat in a Hemlock for a while before taking off for parts unknown. Violence and courtship. Sue says they ought to be already nested and brooding, but this felt like a mating scenario, even before we noticed a third Red-tail circling overhead?!? We'll pay attention and update details.

Nice orange fungus

Amanda and Pat both spotted it. I appreciate their telling me about it.

Photinia glabra.....okay, I give up. It is Sapsucker damage

Sue Greeley convinced me. She watched Sapcukers do this to Viburnums.

Monday, March 1, 2010

We've been seeing this large healthy Red Fox this year

Foxes are one of the only things that I see better now than I did 30 years ago. There may be recluses, but it seems like Foxes in general are a lot less wary of people than they used to be. I worked for a well-driller in the late 1970's and often found myself arriving on new homesites early in the morning before anyone else arrived. I'd park the truck, and temperature allowing, sit in the cab and watch what was going on. If the house was in an isolated wooded area, and they often were, it wasn't unusual to see a fox walk into the clearing. As soon as they detected my resence they dematerialized and that was that. I wouldn't see that fox again, though we often spent a week or more at a site.

Not that long ago I gardened on a large estate in the District of Columbia and the foxes there behaved quite differently. They regularly denned in the same place and the mother fox, vixen?, routinely dragged her kits out into the driveway showing them off like a proud mother cat. I like to talk and visit various people in regard to their gardens so we talk. Their stories parallel my own observations. Foxes just seem like they're becoming domesticated. Genenerationally speaking, 30 years isn't too long in human terms but it's a lot longer for Foxes. I know I would welcome foxes into my garden for vole control even if they weren't beautiful.

Odd damage on Ilex x wandoensis from Korea

We were pruning the Hollies on Korean Hill today that were damaged during the snowstorms of February. Branches falling from the tall pine trees onto the understory Hollies snapped off a few trunks. Amanda noticed that they weren't broken high up where the trunks were thin, but mostly within 3-4 feet of the ground. Closer examination revealed these odd patterns, presumably the result of some animal action??. The wood behind was weakened and so that's where the trunks broke. One particularly enterprising Holly had, in response to the injury, sent up a flurry of watersprouts from the healthy wood below the damaged area. It was providing new leaders to replace the doomed leader. The world, being the perverse place that it is, of course that tree didn't suffer any storm damage. It will be ready though, when the time comes.