Friday, May 20, 2011

The Spanish Oak was more than 100 years old and less than 200

LinkToday the tree contractors took out the last of the two fallen oaks in the Japanese Woodland.

I took some closeups of the rings and will study them later. Even from this view there are some standout issues. What's with that red ring 25? years ago? And look how big the rings inside that are for a few years.....rainfall or irrigation? I'm betting irrigation. In my next life I'm going to be a dendrochronologist!

Jasminum parkeri

Pat Lynch planted this Jasmine between the base of the tree and the Bog Iron wall. I like the plant a lot though it isn't fragrant, I say with some trepidation; there's always someone who gets fragrance from every plant (e.g. Lonicera heckrottii, Jasminum nudiflorum, ...). Anyway it works well as a fine textured evergreen and the flowers are pleasantly attractive. Plus, I love the Bog Iron wall: local materials. Bog iron ore deposits are widespread in the Coastal Plain and adjoining areas of the Piedmont. It forms in palustrine environments and as our river wandered, it doubtlessly contributed to the formation of much Bog Iron.

You always hope the stump will fall back into the hole....and it did this time!

which is good because we can cut it off at ground level and grind the roots. Then we'll just start over and pretend this magnificent Spanish Oak never existed. It sounds so heartless. The older I get though, the more I understand, viscerally, that change is a part of gardening. We can respect the dead and still relish the opportunity.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace'.....Elderberry at the Beltsville Library Garden

This is not a native Elderberry, it's a selection of a European species. I know I'm repeating myself by saying I like it against the Library wall, but look at it!

Now I must admit that I've been trying to kill a native elderberry, Sambucus canadensis, in Florida for the past four years....unsuccessfully. We're going back next Wednesday and the elderberry will be there as big as life. It isn't that I don't like it; it's just in the wrong place. I just don't want a huge shrub growing out from under the side of the workshop. I moved a piece during the initial round of rearranging; it died but the parent plant lived....lives. I've dug it, cut it, painted the stumps with concentrated glyphosate, and sprayed resprouts. Nothing seems even to slow it down. I know it'll be seven feet tall again when we get there next week. Maybe it's time to relent and adjust the garden to the elderberry. Possibly we have reached the stalemate of admiring adversaries who must agree to live together despite our differences.

Okay, there's hardy and there's hardy.....Alpinia japonica

We have stands of this plant growing within 10 feet of this stump but none of those plants ever flower. The only plant that flowers is this one sunk down below ground level in this rotten stump. It flowers every year. In its evergreen form, this ginger is generally considered a zone 8a plant, though it can go a bit cooler, obviously, as a die back perennial.

Today the Asian staff and Betty went to the Azalea Collection to see the Satsukis

starting below Betty and Amanda. from the top: 'Shiko no Tsuki', 'Hoshun', 'Robin Hill Gillie', 'Chojuho'

We were looking for varieties to propagate and add to our collection and we found....probably too many. Carole and Barbara were testing the irrigation when we arrived and they chased us through about 5 zones without every getting us really wet. When they finished, Barbara, with her dependable enthusiasm, showed us her favorite selections and gave us a bit of history and anecdote. She also showed us the North Tisbury hybrids, selections of Rhododendron nakaharai made by Polly Hill. We saw plants grown from cutting the Polly sent to Barbara when she was 95 years old (I think she lived to be 100....horticulture is a good field for so many reasons). I love the North Tisbury's for their excellent foliage, low stature, and the warmish colors of their flowers.

There are some beautiful Satsukis and some peculiar ones; of course I like both equally! The Azalea Society of America declares that the Japanese have been hybridizing Satsuki Azaleas for at least half a millenium. Wow. I like Satsuki's because they have interesting flowers, they bloom after the initial and secondary flushes of azaleas are finishing up, and they tend to be compact plants on the smallish side.

I have no idea what Betty and Amanda are looking at way up in the air. None of the azaleas we looked at were more than a few feet tall.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New Dawn if just beginning to flower on the east (and south) side of the house

I remember a New Dawn rose climbing 50+ feet into a pine tree in the backyard of a house that we moved out of when I was in first grade. It's really a great climber; no diseases and it reblooms a bit, a lot if you deadhead it but when the vine is 50+ feet in the air that's an issue. The flowers in the picture are actually abut 30 feet from where the plant is growing; I trained it up and across the back of the house, around the corner and up the chimney.

Magnolia/Manglietia fordiana....I've been waiting all winter, and most of the spring, for these buds to open

I'm not disappointed, but I'm good with interesting; this is an interesting, obscure, and handsome, if not beautiful, evergreen Magnolia. I like the glossy leaves and the grace with which the tree carries them. It's certainly an interesting addition to the palette of evergreen small trees for deciduous shade in USDA Zones 7 and up. Say that three times fast! The petals, oops tepals, are oddly thick; I would guess on the order of two mm! The fragrance is....well reminiscent of very ripe fruit, though not unpleasant. An interesting plant. This one is located on the south side of the path to the Pagoda.

Pterostyrax hispida.....Fragrant Epaulette Tree

A pleasant small tree/large shrub, Stefan tells me that this plant had died to the ground in recent years. This individual is in China Valley below the top section of path. It isn't a plant with tremendous form so it works well tucked in as it is here. The flowers are fragrant and fall delightfully in the pendant inflorescences ; the foliage not so exciting in the fall.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Holy Cross Hospital Healing Garden

I have admired this garden for some time without really looking at it, but today I stopped on my way to the garage, took the top picture, then went back into the lobby and walked through the garden. I'd just left my father who'd had a combination pacemaker defibrillator implanted. He handled the operation well. He's hanging in there at 81 and was up, talking, and ordering dinner within half an hour of returning to his room. So I left him to my two sisters.

It seems like all hospitals have healing/ meditation gardens and they seem, on the whole, to be pleasant spaces. I imagine it isn't easy to design a tranquil space in the shadow of huge multistoried modern buildings. I really do like this one. I love the plant palette, really love it; it's mostly, but not all native. There are a lot of grasses, Panicums and Prairie Dropseed. And large masses of native shrubs: Calycanthus, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Leucothoe, ... There are a few very choice small trees: Chionanthus in bloom, Stewartias waiting to flower, and a beautiful Styrax (I think the native one). I love Lady's Mantle massed, as it was here; of course it's best feature is the way the leaves catch raindrops and since it was pouring this evening I saw it at its best.

The fountain runs the length of the garden and provides some of the structure that helps relate the organic component of the garden to the massive structure of the Hospital buildings. The huge trellises work to this end as well; the roses and clematis are wonderfully grown and this was the perfect time of year to see them though there is a Sweet Autumn Clematis that must be spectacular in late August.

If this weren't such a wonderful garden I wouldn't offer any criticism but because it is I'll observe that some of the shrub groupings are planted a bit thickly and the resulting masses feel formless and heavy. Still, the plants are beautiful so perhaps all is good. It is certainly a very good design that has resulted in a very successful garden.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Weigela sinica and Bletilla striata along the China Valley path

This view looks towards the entrance which is just barely out of the picture.

There are a lot of nice gardens in NW Washington, DC; this is one of them

Peter had a grilling gig Saturday night so I went down to help him move his equipment motivated both by the urge to be helpful and a desire to see how Mary's garden was doing. Well, her garden was spectacular. The vegetable garden was tidy and producing; plenty of lettuce. There were a few leftover winter veggies and the beds were ready for hot weather crops. Te rest of the garden is ornamental and it was surely that last night. A long row of Rhododendrons ran inside the fence on the south end of the property. The other long fence (it's a corner lot) along the west side has roses and vines inside and on it, and a narrow perennial planting on the outside. A long row of peonies is visible in the mid-ground of the middle picture, their buds just beginning to open.

Philadelphus brachybotrys (with Cornus kousa in the background)

P. su
Last week the overpowering fragrance in the Asian Collections was Styrax japonicus, this week it's Mock Orange, Philadelphus. The Flora of China lists 22 species as occurring in China. A handful of those are represented in the Asian Collections. They are fragrant, which is a good thing because they are messy, perennially unhappy plants that have a significant amount of dead wood on them at any given time no matter how assiduously you attend to them. But they smell so good you don't even care.