Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ichthyological love poem.

I read a little poetry every morning; it's an easy thing online. This is a wonderful short poem by Katrina Vandenberg posted on Poetry Daily.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Tetrapanax bud clusters in my back garden

I walked through the garden this morning and there they were, risen from nowhere. Like everything else about this plant, they're big; each one is the size of an adult's fist. They look like clonal aliens ought to hatch out of them at any minute. If they do, I hope I'm there to see them.

Our Tetrapanax flowered in the collection last year, too late in the season to set viable seeds. If I see seeds develop on this plant I'm killing it and every other one I can find. This is one scary plant. One very cool scary plant.

Musa 'Mekong Giant'....I'm not taking sides on the name

There seems to be some dispute as to the species to which this cultivar belongs: yunnanensis or itinerans. At any rate, it's a new hardy banana for the Asian Collections. This one is pushing ten feet to the top of the leaf. Brad got it last year late, grew it through the winter, then let us, the Asian Collections, plant out a couple. The other one is in the Central Valley and not as well serviced by the irrigation. It's surviving but not growing like this one. I actually bought a small plant at he Philadelphia Flower Show this year from Dragon Agro Products. It's not developed the trunk diameter this plant has, but it did start out much smaller. It's almost as tall. None of the three have pupped so far and obviously none have survived a winter in the garden yet. We'll have to see how it goes.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Lycoris radiata have been wandering

They do move about by seed. I doubt this clump was planted here, but who's going to weed them out?!. They've dispersed themselves all through the collection and flower so late that they almost  run into fall foliage. It's a brutally harsh color, but I love it.

I always say that there's nothing as beautiful as a diseasd leaf

That's not true, I don't always say that. I do sometimes happen upon diseased leaves that have a certain visual appeal. Inexpensive cameras can occasionally provide magnification beyond the range of the naked eye, my naked eye anyway. These spores, I guess cause it's powdery mildew,? are a bit too small to see. There's something there though; something round with a round center....

Red leaf amaranthus

I happened upon this plant today in the brickyard (our composting area). It had seeded at the base of a mound of compost. In addition to being tasty, it's a tough plant. And beautiful.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

This looks like a stuffed animal but, for real, it's a caterpillar

Papilio trolius, the Spicebush swallowtail. Katie found this fake snake today in the Asian Collections. We don't have any native spicebush, Lindera benzoin, but possibly they use Asian species as hosts. She found it near a Lindera obtusiloba, and that's where she returned it to after we took these pictures.

Who invents these things?! Oh yeah, evolution. Clearly mimicking a snake is a cool ploy to discourage birds from eating them. If you look at the "eyes" in the top picture, note the comma shaped white areas. Those are apparently there to suggest the reflection of light in a moist (sorry GrayC) eye. Is that crazy or what?

The turf is dead and the signs are being removed

"Power Plants"is dead; long live "Grassroots". Or at least for four years. We are replacing the biofuels exhibit with one on turfgrass. I'm on the design team and we're moving forward nicely. Turfgrass has been demonized of late. We're going to look at things from a scientific viewpoint, after all, that's what we do in the Agricultural Research Service. Many of the issues with grass are really issues with maintenance: too much fertilizer at the wrong time, unnecessary prophylactic applications of fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides. The wrong choice of mowers there is a wide range of "green" mowers that don't put out pollutants at a rate equal to an automobile. Many homeowners with small lots are opting for a manual reel mower; there is a wide selection now available. In all areas of the country, native grasses that require minimal inputs are being researched and developed. We will address these sorts of issues. Try to keep an open mind.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The non-hardy plants need to learn how to share

Here's how it is: every year I'm older, less energetic, lazier. Still I continue to accumulate plants. I try to fit them together so that they can live through the winter with their potmates. The top pot used to be occupied exclusively by the geranium which I've had five years or so and which has seen better times. Last summer I gave away a large container of echeveria but saved one rosette. It's grow to the point where it's threatening to take over the pot. If it can behave itself it'll be able to spend the winter in the west window where the geraniums always live. Both like sun and both like to dry out. I think they'll be okay together.

The plumerias in the bottom pot were rooted cutting this spring. There are three and none of them flowered this year. I chose the two smaller ones for their multicolored flowers, the larger for an intense fragrance. The orange and yellow flowering plant growing beneath them is Chrysothemis pulchella 'Black Flamingo', a sub-tropical gesneriad with a wet/dry dormancy cycle. Since the plumerias can go through the winter with a minimum of water, the whole pot can live in the bright, unheated part of the basement. The top of the chrysothemis will disappear but will come back from dormant tubers next year. The plumerias can theoretically go totally dormant but I have more luck stringing them along. I water the pot every four weeks or so and a few unexpanded leaves hang in all winter. Next Spring I'll just add water and warmth and presto, rebirth. That's what spring's about, right?