Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chimonanthus praecox, Wintersweet

Sunny and warm today but there was a big wind. I lowered the wind chimes for the season. The notes were clear but, in place of the pleasantly calming tones of the summer, was a crashing cacophony as though a cadre of super vampires were preparing to drain a nunnery while the cavalry frantically fought their way over a mountain and through a raging torrent; they had to come down. Hangng below a pulley on aircraft cable, they weigh around 40 pounds, so I just undo the cable from the huge screw-eye on the tree and they lower themselves to the ground where they live for the balance of winter and most of early spring. Usually. This year the tree grew around the cable so I had to chisel a bit of bark away. I sprinkled some sulfur powder on the wound though I don't think I even hit the cambium. It's oddly quiet now but I'll get used to it.

This is about as early as I've seen this Chimonanthus flowering heavily. We've had some cool weather but only a few nights dipped below freezing and then not much below. It must not need much vernalization. The wind was so strong that the fragrance from hundreds of flowers was barely detectable but when I brought a couple shoots into the house...It's a wonderful smell.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gardenis x 'Kleim's Hardy' with Orange fruit

I guess if you live where Gardenias are dependably hardy, seeing your plants covered with these interesting orange fruits is not anything to get excited about, but I don't. So I got pretty psyched today to see dozens of fruit on each of our 3' tall plants. I must not have been paying attention because I don't remember ever seeing fruit on a gardenia in the Asian Collections where we have a handful of hardy selections, on my own plant that I've had for at least 25 years, in a conservatory, or....anywhere. And they're pretty; orange is a fine color for late fall.

Though we do have a lot of plants, they've all been in the ground less than five years. It'll be interesting to see whether fruiting will be a regular event or this is an uncommon result of particular weather patterns. We did have an odd year weatherwise. Just yesterday, Wednesday, we set the record for daily precipitation in December, 3.4".

Okay, maybe being a small engine mechanic isn't the best part of the job....

But you've got to do what you've got to do. This is our number two string-trimmer, and it was blowing blue smoke this morning so I changed the gas; too much oil in the mix is a likely cause of that symptom. Not this time though. Some rainy, cold, or snowy day I'll check the sparkplug to see if it's fouled; odds on, that's the problem. Today I just let Nathan do all the work, er trimming. Thursday is our volunteer day and we had five volunteers to help us with the final perennial cut-backs. Nathan managed to stay ahead of them, just barely, so we didn't miss trimmer number two. Today we did mostly big drifts: anemones in China Valley, bloodgrass, and iris. It was cool and maybe not as windy as I thought it would be. We just about finished the cutbacks so next week we're going to do some pruning: watersprouts, suckers, and clearly inappropriate branches. We've never had the luxury of doing this with volunteers and it's going to make a big difference in the general appearance of the Collection. I'm psyched again!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Brookside Gardens Holiday Lights....nice flowers

Best case, today was dreary.....worst case, miserable

I got up this morning just before 5:00 am and went downstairs to the kitchen. Before I could even make a pot of coffee, the damned rain woke me up. We have almost 2" now (~8:00 pm) and it's suppose to turn to snow later tonight before ending before dawn. Sunny, breezy, and cool tomorrow.

After working inside all day editing, moving, and labeling pictures, I headed out to walk the collection and see if I could find anything cheerful outside. Ilex verticillata 'Winter Red' on the hill below Kingman Overlook fruited heavily this year. I'm not certain whether the effect is cheering but it made me feel better. I enjoy driving past the Tropical Bonsai Greenhouse on dark days when the lights are on. It always seems so...private and inviting.

There is good news on this darkness issue though; sunset, 4:46 pm EST, is as early as it gets. This time next week it'll set at 4:47 and things'll just get better from there. At least at the end of the day. Sunrise, 7:15 am EST today, is another story. It 'll not only continue to move later through the solstice, but won't reach it's nadir, 7:27 pm EST, until New Year's Eve. And it won't budge a minute for a week and a half. Oh steps.