Friday, April 23, 2010

The Herb Garden: anther place I don't go

What with being excited about the FONA Plant Sale and visiting the Florida Garden, I woke up a bit early this am, left the house a bit early, and so found myself with a half huur window before the day began.....I walked through the Herb Garden, or at least the front part. I forget always, what a wonderful garden this is. Bulbs, Rosemarys, Edible lettuce in an attractive design, the newly redone Rose Garden, and on and on.

I tried t tell GrayC how much I liked it; she, of course, explained all the problems and issues and about the weeds and I realized why the garden was so wonderful. It's not good to be a perfectionist, but it is good to have them in charge of things you care about. I guess....except it seems selfish and unfair to them. I mean, I want emotional balance in my family and friends, but as far as the Redskins and Capitols are concerned I want those players single-minded and driven. I don't want them to have balance in their lives. I want losing to be like death. Except I don't really. When I begin to feel like that I always picture my sons in place of the players and relent.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Metasequoias in the Triangle between Gotelli and the Dogwood Collections: big and beautiful

Paeonea obovata alba.....I can't help myself, I'm obsessed

We collected the Shortia seed in the summer of 2008; it germinated quickly, grew slowly, and a few have now been planted out in Fern Valley

If you search this Blog for Shortia posts, you better find a comfortable chair. I just looked and; this will be the 20th post. I felt like a proud parent when Joan showed me the sites and the small plants. The bottom picture represents the exact physical location in which we found many colonies of Shortia: within feet of a small stream on the slightly elevated terraces but still within frog-splashing distance. In the top picture, where Joan is topdressing the bed with leaf compost, the Shortia are growing directly under low-hanging Rhododendrons. We saw lots of wild Shortia in this same circumstance. I have high hopes for both planting, but feel most optimistic about the streamside plants.

I'll keep close watch on the plants. I'm almost sorry to be going away tomorrow and have to miss a whole week, but maybe the "uncle effect" will happen and it'll be easier to see changes. That is the deepening coloration and the explosive growth that I'm sure will occur. Hey, we saw weedy colonies in the wild and I feel good about this site.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pat showed me this excellent moth posing on the greenhouse door

It's on the outside looking into the corridor of our new greenhouse, it's still new isn't it? Sure it is; my 10 year old "new stove" isn't new anymore, but the greenhouse is still new. The camera's image is visible reflected in the glass in the ventral view. I like it anyway!

Look at all the volunteers getting ready for this weekend's 19th Annual FONA Garden Fair and Plant Sale

And look at the plants! I stopped by the Sales Area on my way back from dumping a load of weeds at the brickyard and Wow. There were plenty of volunteers, including Board Members, moving plants from trucks to tents. Good plants too. The Lithodora 'Grace Ward' has, I think, the bluest flowers on any plant hardy in this area. It's not the easiest to grow, but if you give it sun and good drainage...  The Saxifrages are pretty and unusual and the Ajugas, though common, are beautiful. Sago Palms are a stretch, no, actually they're nowhere near hardy here, but they're great container plants. And we know the Needle Palms, Rhapidophyllum, are hardy.       FONA SPRING FAIR
Cyclamen coum and native Trilliums (they're almost all native), and native Cypripediums (they aren't), two kinds. It only took me 5 minutes to find these plants and take these pictures so there's lots more and this doesn't even include the specialty vendors. It makes me wish I had more room in the gardens.

theAzaleas around the Morrison Garden are peaking right now, or at least they're still really close

I'm getting worn down by spring. There's never enough time to do what you want, or even feel you must, do. I try to get to other collections before or after work but it doesn't happen enough. I woke up in the middle of the night, got to work way early, and did stop at the Morrison Garden this morning. It was beautiful, the whole collection is beautiful. I took a few pictures, walked back to the car, and found it locked with my keys laughing at me from the ignition. It was still early so I walked to the headhouse and rigged a jimmy that actually worked pretty well. There was a lot of room between the top of the window and the gasket around the door. All's well that ends well I always say. Well, I don't, but I was able to rescue myself from my own folly this morning.

The Azaleas seem to have responded to the last twelvemonth of weather much as the Magnolias and Cherries did; they're having a great spring. I'm only sorry it took me this long to get into the Collection.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mostly Phlox by the Fern Valley Pond

Paeonea obovata alba in the Asian Collections

Single white cupped flowers come early but don't last long. This is about the least impressive Peony that I can call to mind. It's surely the least impressive we have in the Asian Collections. I like it though, with it's furry maroon petioles and its curved glossy red stigmas (ae?). The fruits in the fall are fantastic red follicles enclosing blue-black fertile seeds and red sterile seeds. I guess I like flashy fruit!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fred Hooks delivered a truckful of uncommon and choice Japanese Maple cultivars along with some Stewartias and Native Azaleas from Don Shadow

And a crazy variegated Illicium, I. floridanum 'Shady Lady'. Fred drove a truckload of plants from Tennessee to the Arboretum today, walked through the Asian Collections, then turned around and headed for Atlanta. I hear he's heading for the Pacific northwest tomorrow.  Ed unloaded the shipment and insisted that I come out and see it. Pretty incredible plants.

I don't quite understand the dynamics of the partnership, but Fred has been doing this "All Things Acer" deal with Don Shadow. Both are remarkable plantsmen and both are quite generous. Many of their special offering are destined for the FONA Plant Sale this weekend. These are plants truly to be coveted. Some of the Maples haven't even made it inot the catalogue yet.

There are flowers blooming in Fern Valley

From the top it's Phlox stolonifera, Packera aurea, Phacelia bipinnatifida, and Geranium macrorrhizum. You can find the Phlox in many places; I took this picture right at the edge of the FV parking lot. Golden Ragwort, whose genus changed from Senecio to Packera a few years back, likes low ground that's wet in late winter and early spring. This patch is alongside the main FV trail just past the bog. There are large stands of it by the larger FV pond as well. Phacelia also likes low ground though not necessarily so wet. This stand is in the Shady Cultivar Area though it too, is widely distributed throughout FV. Finally the Geranium. It's everywhere: alongside the road, the paths, and here and there throught the collection.

Unlikely survivors: these are not Zone 7 plants, they're not pretty, and they've got no business being alive, but here they are

Vernicia fordii, the Tung Oil Tree, has been grown by southern gardeners for a century.  Mike Dirr rates it Zone 8-10 and it came through last winter without missing a beat. Coincidentally, one of the framed prints for sale at the Arboretum "garage sale" last weekend was of this plant. I was sorely tempted for 15 dollars, but passed. I am looking forward to seeing this one flower some day though.

Hardiness is not a simple issue defined by low temperatures. There are factors and factors involved; soil type, soil moisture, slope, the sequences of warm and cold and wet and dry.... and on and on. Some years plants on the "edge" sail through only to succumb to what might appear to be similar conditions the next year. It's not unusual for many borderline plants to last a few years or 10 or more, but eventually be killed by some peculiar combination of meteorological phenomena. Bearing all that in mind I have to think that this Vernicia is good in our zone. Last winter wasn't extremely cold but it was a legitimate Zone 7 winter which is uncommon enough here of late. We had a couple of days under 10 F, we had 40+ inches of snow, and something more than the top two inches of soil were frozen for weeks. This plant looked as good coming out of winter, actually better, than it did going in and it hasn't missed a beat. We've already got 6 leaves on a plant that, as I recall, had only 18 total last year.(Yes, I did count. Not every plant, but this one)
Rosa clinophylla, on the other hand may well be taking advantage of a winter without any extreme temperature swings; I wouldn't be surprised not to see it next spring, but who knows? It could outlast me. Nobody rates this above a 9a. It's a swamp rose ?!?! from tropical Asia: India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand. And  it looked miserable all summer. It's supposed to like heat and humidity. Go figure.
Buddleja colvilei 'kewensis'  is a nice Himalayan Buddleja with cool large flowers. We put this one in the ground last year and caged it with leaves last winter. The snowstorms broke down the cage but it seems to have survived, though it has the look of a plant that's cannibalizing itself to feed that one bud. We'll soon see if it has a functioning root system.
This last one is the real shocker. It's Brazilian Plume, Jacobinia sp., a 9b plant for sure. I somehow got confused about what it was and put it in the ground thinking it was a Shrimp Plant, Justicia Brandegeeana, which is more likely candidate for survival in Zone 7, being itself, only a Zone 8. I planted it in the courtyard of the Beltsville Library where it is a little protected and hoped for the best. Well, the leaves kept getting bigger and bigger and I realized it wasn't a Shrimp Plant and then it flowered, that distinctive pink mop of  florets and I figured, whatdayouknow? I fed it and watered it thoughout the summer and figured people would be impressed with the flowers because, well, they're impressive. And it was well received but I had no hopes whatsoever of seeing it this spring, but there it is. It looks vigorous, as though it's ready to put up multiple shoots and become a very showy plant. I'm psyched.

The wind dropped off considerably overnight and Monday morning was lovely

The top picture is of backlit Camassias in the Administration Building parking lot, the middle, an anonymous Azalea, and the bottom is a view down the Central Valley in the Asian Collections. The small tree in the foreground is Cercidiphyllum, the Katsura tree.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I had weekend watering duty today; that's always a good excuse to poke around in the greenhouses looking for cool stuff

Actually it's more like a directive to methodically travel all the greenhouses, polyhouses, and lath beds and to water the plants as necessary. But it is a good opportunity to look at things I'd likely have missed otherwise. So I found that Yellow Water Tulip/Orchid, Cypella aquatica (a Brazilian irid) that I remember seeing last year and then losing track of. And that odd Pink Passionflower, Passiflora sanguinolenta, from Ecuador, and who knew the huge Coffea arabica had set and ripened fruit? In winter when the garden is slow I would've found them but this time of year there isn't really any spare time to steal from the Collection. So, as much as I complain about weekend watering, I'm glad to do it.

And all those tropicals remind me that this weekend I'm going to Florida to see what ravages the "coldest winter in the history of Central Florida" has wrought. I expect that it'll be a lot like last winter. The low temperatures weren't much different, it just stayed cooler longer this year. I watch the NOAA weather data for Wildwood and Leesburg Florida and while there was considerable rain a month ago, not so much lately. No rain and a cold winter suggest that the garden will be an ugly mess, but the world being the ironically contrary place that it is I'm sure the garden will be lovely for the first time in  4 springs. And I'm only half kidding.

This is another driving trip so that many of those inexpensive Florida tropicals can come north for summer bedding out.  Karen and the Boys supply many Gingers, Brugmansias, Palms, etc to their customers that come north on  this return trip. I like this season because I'm reasonably comfortable planting now since the regular rains of summer are just about due to begin.