Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hamamelis 'Jelena' and Galanthus who knows what

I'm sure somebody does, but I don't. I have a handle on a number of our taxa but not this one.

It's interesting what happens when time passes. This clump, one of many, derived originally from one bulb. We were given a handful of snowdrops shortly after moving into this house (~26 years ago) and I planted them in half a dozen clumps in the front garden because there were no back gardens to speak of. The topography of the back yard, or 80% of it is different than it was when we moved in. Anyway at some point I dug a couple of the clumps in the front beds, divided them, and planted individual bulbs around the back garden. Maybe that was 15 years ago. Over the years the bulbs have reproduced so that in late winter or early spring there they are. I don't imagine I'll divide them again. Not sure if it's because I really don't need any more clumps or because I'm lazy.

The winter continues to be disturbingly warm; the temperature today almost reached 60F. Missed it by a degree. It felt like summer in the sun and I worked in the garden for short periods most of the day. Did a lot of cutbacks, some pruning, some musing. I've never seen lamb's ears foliage persist through the winter, our Acanthus mollis (20? years old) has never had foliage last to spring, Tetrapanax has green leaves at its apex, and on and on. Despite having had a few short shots of cold weather, a day or two or three, this has been, functionally, the warmest winter I can remember. I'm tired of writing it so you must be tired of reading it, but I can't help myself.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Heavy fog this a.m. Styrax japonica 'Carillon', Metasequoia glyptostroboides, Quercus phellos

Something was different this morning and it wasn't just the fog. It was obvious when I went outside. George noticed it and Scott. It was a quantum leaf towards spring. There were more birds singing at dawn. Carolina wrens have been singing for a month; chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers are breeding so they've been making noise, but today cardinals, robins, and sparrows were singing just like it was April. Buds that had been idling all winter cracked and showed color. Bulb foliage shot up, and I smelled that earthy smell that you smell on humid wet days. I've heard it identified variously as earthworms, nematodes, and I don't remember what else. It embodies the fecundity of the spring. Close your eyes and you can feel growth.

There is talk of snow on Sunday and temperatures dipping towards 20F. By the middle of next week it's supposed to be 60 again. Schizophrenia.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It was a dry, er, gentle rain and it didn't stop this tree planting

I walked outside the headhouse after lunch and found these three guys, Chris, Brad, and David, planting a lovely specimen of our latest flowering Cherry introduction. It's the first of a triangle of three that will eventually beautify this island. I find nothing on line in reference to this cultivar so I'm probably not supposed to identify it by name. I do know it's a cross between Prunus campanulata and P. x yedoensis (I think) and the flowers are soft pink and huge (I know). I'd probably have to kill you if I told you the name and then someone would have to kill me....

I suppose I can say, re the history of the Tidal Basin Cherries, that in 1909 Helen Taft, the first lady, applied her attention and influence to a, heretofore private, scheme to bring Japanese Cherries to Washington. Eventually, after a few setbacks, these machinations led to a large donation of trees from the city of Tokyo to the United States. The survivors from this donation constitute the bulk of the famous Tidal Basin Cherry display. p.s. our last cherry release was "First Lady" and the tree is not named Tokyo

Daphne odora is flowering in DC....this is a big one along the path to the Pagoda

The plants in the Asian Collections and here in Adelphi. Every winter/spring? when I smell it for the first time I'm sure it's the most wonderful fragrance in the world. Throughout the year other perfumes seduce my allegiance but for a few weeks.....

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I love this machine

Pat borrowed this "Brush Cat" from the research unit. He's been using it on the slopes of Hickey Hill. It's enabled him to level stands of Smilax like the one in the top picture and create clear areas. It can take down large shrubs and small trees too. The bottom picture shows bare space that was totally overgrown minutes before. Of course we'll have to come in and treat the undesirables as they resprout. At least we can walk the area now. That means we can cut the ivy off the canopy trees. It looks like it'll be possible to reclaim this area within the next year or so. Wow.

We've been working at spaces like this and making progress, but it's slow going with chainsaws, brush cutters, and handsaws. Now we've got an edge. We can get the overgrown sites back to native vegetation and maintain them that way or use them to expand our germplasm collections.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I had a hellebory morning

After two winter days, the warm weather has resumed. I took the opportunity to shuffle some Hellebores around. All I did with the top plants was admire them. They're Amy's and will be planted somewhere in the Bonsai compound. I really like them. The flowers point up which isn't typical. And the color is good. It's Helleborus x ballardiae 'Pink Frost' out of Germany from Josef Heuger. It's another H. niger x lividus cross. That seems to be a good combination.

Anyway, after admiring them in the lath house, I moved down a little to check out 6 plants of USNA 59554 H that Scott saved from a renovation of part of the Herb Garden. They were acquired by Skip March in 1987 as part of the UK Elite Plants Program. Scott moved them to the lath house and I snatched them up today and planted them near the sign for the Camellia Collection. We've already got some hellebores going in that collection. They seem to work with the camellias.

Finally, to finish off the morning, I dug some small divisions of Helleborus thibetanus from one bed in the Japanese Woodland and moved them across the path where they are more visible and less likely to be eaten by pachysandra. When I logged the changes into our database, I noticed that Joe had already mapped them to our new more accurate coordinates. I didn't work with him and neither did Carole, so he must have done it on his own. Wow. I'm impressed. A couple of years and they won't even need me anymore!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Phyllostachys edulis

They were only planted a bit over three weeks ago. I cleaned the seed and "top sowed" it as per various references. In the top picture you can see the seed; it looks much like a grain of rice. Some of them are 3" tall. I potted up a number of them though I'm still uncertain what we're going to do with them. They grow 30m high and 20cm in diameter and they spread.

Tropical growing greenhouse US National Arboretum

I went to the propagation house to pick up the seed flat of Phyllostachys edulis for transplanting. I wandered across the hall into #7 just to look around; there was a lot of good stuff to see.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Euphorbia x martinii 'Ascot Rainbow'....the flowering shoots are initiating already

They do bloom early.

Over the past twenty years or so I have developed a fondness, not an obsession!, with the hardy garden Euphorbias: E. martinii,wulfenii, dulcis, griffithi, amygdaloides and the rest. They love the sandy soil here, tolerate the cold of winter, the heat and humidity of summer, and never need supplemental watering. I always worry that there's some point at which vibrant variegation veers shamelessly into blatant vulgarity. Not in my garden. Hey, I grow Canna 'Pretoria' next to this and sometimes bed orange Hibiscus rosa-sinensis with them.