C&O Canal at Noland’s Ferry

Trail along the C&O canal

Trail along the C&O canal

We’ve had a wonderful extended Autumn with many clear sunny days.  On one of them last week we took a morning walk along the C&O canal.  This national park is only 15-20 minutes from our house.  The overall park is essentially a biking-hiking-running trail that extends 185 miles from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD.  Noland’s Ferry is at the 45 mile point along the trail and is a broad leaf-strewn walkway in this season.  There are other parts of Frederick County that are lit up with color this time of year, but along the canal it’s mostly greens turning to yellow.  Nonetheless one of the joys of walking is noticing that which is not visible from car or bike.  We walked about 2 miles down the trail towards Washington and then returned, moving at a pace that encouraged observation.  Even at that pace we noticed things on the return part of the trail that we had missed on the outgoing trip.

Some of the most striking elements were fungi.  The Bear’s Head Tooth Fungus looks like a waterfall frozen in time.

Bear's Head Tooth Fungus (Hericium americanum)

Bear’s Head Tooth Fungus (Hericium americanum)

The Jelly Ear Mushroom is said to be good to eat, but we limit ourselves to puffballs (which we have eaten many times).

Jelly Ear Mushroom (Auricularia auricula-judae)

Jelly Ear Mushroom (Auricularia auricula-judae)

And then there was this very phallic white mushroom which I’ve not been able to identify.

Pure White Mushroom

Pure White Mushroom

Along the trail was a very tiny snake, about the size of a worm.  It seems likely this this is an Eastern Smooth Earthsnake.  They do have babies in the fall but they are not very big in any case.  It eats earthworms, slugs, snails, and soft-bodied insects.  On balance that’s the kind of diet I can  appreciate.

Eastern Smooth Earthsnake (Virginia valeriae )

Eastern Smooth Earthsnake (Virginia valeriae )

There were two interesting fruiting plants that we noticed.  Spicebush is a smallish native shrubby tree that is found in wooded lowlands.  It has plants of both the male and female persuasion so it will be interesting to return in spring to see if we can identify them.

Spicebush (Lindera Benzoin)

Spicebush (Lindera Benzoin)

And the Eastern Wahoo is another small native tree that has what seem like packages of pink candy hanging from its branches.

Eastern Wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus)

Eastern Wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus)

The leaves had not yet turned but like its relative, the Euonymus alatus, the Eastern Wahoo should have strongly colored red leaves.

At one point we looked up and noticed a tree with remarkable orange foliage.  At first I thought sugar maple, but that is not common with us at all.  When I got home and did a little research, it was pretty clear to me that what we saw was Black Maple.  This is a close cousin to the Sugar Maple and as many of the same positive attributes.  It would be worth trying to propagate in our forest.

Black Maple (Acer nigrum)

Black Maple (Acer nigrum)

Black Maple leaf (note the typical 3 lobes)

Black Maple leaf (note the typical 3 lobes)

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day September 2015

Japanese Anemone 'Whirwind'

Japanese Anemone ‘Whirwind’

It is Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day and I am late in posting once again.  I found myself on the road once more but these are photos from the garden reflecting the state of affairs before I left. One of the standout flowers for this time of year is the lovely double flowered Japanese anemone pictured above.  It is both floriferous and singularly beautiful over a long period in the fall.

Another set of flowers that can be counted on for September are the Toad Lilies.

Tricyrtis 'Tojen'

Tricyrtis ‘Tojen’

There are several in the yard now but they are all characterized by orchid like blossoms and delightful green foliage with rampant growth.

One of our favorite dahlias for use in the perennial gardens is Bishop of Llandalf.

Bishop of Llandalf

Bishop of Llandalf

It’s dark foliage contrasts nicely with the other plants and the red flowers are outstanding.

We have several patches of Garlic Chives that are expanding.

Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum)

Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum)

They are especially nice when many other perennial flowers have faded.

In the annual cutting bed the Tithonia continue to dominate.



They are constantly visited by butterflies and bees.

Butterfly on Tithonia

Butterfly on Tithonia

In the wildflower patch in the lawn we have some Colchicum established.

Colchicum 'Byzantium'

Colchicum ‘Byzantium’

One of the nice aspects of species peonies is the rather striking seed pods they can have in the fall.

Peony Seeds

Peony Seeds

This one is Paonia obovata I believe.  The red seeds are not viable but the black ones could easily be harvested.

It’s also worth noting that this year promises a very nice apple crop, probably more than we can eat….

Mutsu Apples

Mutsu Apples

A Very Late Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for June 2013

Blackout Asiatic Lily

Blackout Asiatic Lily

Ok, so it’s way too late for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, but my excuse was traveling for over two weeks in Scotland (which should be the subject of another post).  But I use these monthly postings as a way of tracking what is happening in the garden not only from month to month but from year to year.  It helps me track how the garden evolves.  We were lucky for this trip that the weather included ample rainfall so that with the sprinklers I had set up there was none of the loss of plants that can happen with a vacation that lasts that long.  I had been most concerned about the new troughs (see last post) but they seem to have done very well, including the centerpiece Lewisia tweedyi which is notoriously difficult in our climate.  Even the new plants that I started this year in the Tufa rock in the front garden are looking healthy.

Replanting of Tufa with Gentian, Arabis, and Campanula

Replanting of Tufa with Gentian, Arabis, and Campanula

On the other hand the Meconopsis that I planted earlier this spring is showing no real growth in what has been perhaps the best possible Meconopsis (cool and wet) spring for a Maryland garden.  I totally missed the rest of the Spuria Iris (note to self, order more Spuria Iris) and the blooming of the Formosan Lily which I had ordered in from Far Reaches this year before discovering how easy they are from seed (I have lots of seedlings growing in the greenhouse).

The most impressive plants in the yard right now are probably the large stands of Blackout Asiatic Lilies.  They are spreading abundantly and the color is an eye-popping very dark red.

Cluster of Blackout Lilies

Cluster of Blackout Lilies

Another patch of Blackout Lilies with Rozanne Geraniums

Another patch of Blackout Lilies with Rozanne Geraniums

Speaking of eye-popping, the new Echinacea variety that Beth planted in the front garden is stunning and floriferous.

Echinacea purpurea 'PowWow Wild Berry'

Echinacea purpurea ‘PowWow Wild Berry’

But then again it did win the AAS award in 2010.  Also in that front bed the Calandrina that I had order in from California continues have many bright red-pink flowers opening daily.

Calandrinia spectabilis

Calandrinia spectabilis

The Front yard also has the Stewartia in bloom.

Stewartia japonica flower

Stewartia japonica flower

The many flowers open up over an extended period.

Two Iris’s were vying for attention as well.  One is a Japanese Iris that I purchased several years ago from Plant Delights (Agripinella) and the other has no identifying tag but is lovely nonetheless.

Iris ensata 'Agripinella'

Iris ensata ‘Agripinella’

Yellow Iris (unknown)

Yellow Iris (unknown)

I was pleased to see that, although very late to the party, two more Arisaemas had appeared.  One is Arisaema fargesii which has great big glossy green leaves to go with the brown-red pitcher and the other is Arisaema candidissimum, this one with a very white pitcher.

Arisaema candidissimum (White form)

Arisaema candidissimum (White form)

Arisaema candidissimum (White form) front

Arisaema candidissimum (White form) front

The hillside along the drive has it’s normal abundance of wild pea and crown vetch blooming in gay profusion.

Wild Pea (Lathyrus latifolia) and Crownvetch (Coronilla varia L.)

Wild Pea (Lathyrus latifolia) and Crownvetch (Coronilla varia L.)

Weeds struggle to invade their private battleground.  We also have a very nice sedum that has taken hold nicely behind the garage.

Sedum floriferum 'Weihenstephaner Gold'

Sedum floriferum ‘Weihenstephaner Gold’

Nearby is an alternate version of Butterfly Weed that has a matching yellow color going with the sedum and a huge St. John’s Wort.

Asclepias tuberosa 'Hello Yellow'

Asclepias tuberosa ‘Hello Yellow’

In the greenhouse I found a cute little South African native with many small yellow flowers.

Albuca aurea flower detail

Albuca aurea flower detail

The growth habit is similar to Ornithogalums.   I need to move this pot out into the herb garden for the summer.

The vegetable garden had done well in our absence.  There are a boatload of peas to pick and the beans are just starting.  And especially relevant the blueberries are just coming into picking time, so we didn’t miss any of those.

Blueberries starting up

Blueberries starting up


The Exquisite Spuria Iris

Spuria Iris 'Hocka Hoona'

Last year, inspired by several visits to Chanticleer, I decided to give Spuria Iris a try.  The Spurias are the result of hybridizing a number of species, including Iris spuria, mostly found around the Mediterranean region.  They are strikingly tall (3-4′) with flowers that look a bit like Dutch Iris on steroids and they have graceful foliage that looks much nicer in a garden bed than the bearded types.  They also flower after the bearded types thereby extending the iris season.  They eventually form a fair sized clump which offers the opportunity to bring them inside where they make good cut flowers.  An excellent background and description on the Spurias can be found at Herbs.com.

For someone who has grown bearded Iris for years the tubers were not impressive when they arrived last September.  There was barely a patch of green showing on each.  The website for the Spuria Iris society says not to expect flowers the first year after transplanting (they don’t like to be moved).  But two of ours did bloom and we are very glad we made room for the Spurias.

Spuria Iris 'Cinnebar Red'

In fact, I think we will be ordering more…

Another new flower for us is Astrantia.

Astrantia 'Sunningdale variegated'

I ordered Astrantia after reading an enthusiastic post on Garden Shoots and I am not disappointed.  An interesting flower, in this case variegated, that plays well with the other plants in our Camellia garden.

We are otherwise looking at the lilies budding up like mad and in some cases already overflowing with flowers.  Especially the Blackout lilies that have dozens of blooms.

Blackout Lilies in quantity

There is a also a push for yellow flowers in other parts of the garden.  The St. John’s Wort is putting on an impressive show now that we have given it some sunlight.

St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

The Troillus ‘Golden Queen’ is ruling over a portion of the side yard.

Trollius chinensis ‘Golden Queen’

And finally a new one for us is the Horned Poppy with bright yellow flowers against gray-green foliage.

Horned Poppy (Glaucium flavum)

However, all is not just flowers on our hilly kingdom.  We have had a record crop of strawberries where the plants are so thick as to exclude most of the weeds.  We just had a wonderful memorial day weekend where we cooked up the rhubarb and strawberries into a luscious cobbler.

Strawberry & Rhubarb ingredients

Strawberry & Rhubarb cobbler

More strawberries and rhubarb have been planted for next year.  Can’t have too much of a really good thing…

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for Sept 2011

Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora)

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been a whole month since I last posted.  I could say that we’ve been on vacation (multiple times) and otherwise traveling (multiple times), that there have been earthquakes, tropical storms, droughts, and deluges, and that the garden has required tending — and all would be true.  Nonetheless, suffice it to say that there were numerous posts that never got to the typed version but only danced around in my head.  If I stand back and take stock now I am grateful that anything has made it through the gardening year that we’ve had.  After terrible lack of rain in the heat of the summer we got 6.5 inches of rain in the first 8 days of September (the usual average for the month is 3.5 inches).  Think of wet sponge as you walk about the back yard.

One flower that is remarkable for its presence at the moment is the Sweet Autumn Clematis.  It has taken advantage of the caterpillars that decimated the White Double-flowering Cherries this spring and has used the branches as a platform for the most amazing show of white fragrant flowers.

Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) closer up

I’m torn between wanting to celebrate this gaudy show and a desire to try for one last save of the cherries (though probably a lost hope at this point).

Elsewhere in the yard the Japanese Anemone ‘September Charm’ is reliably  coming into bloom.

Japanese anemone 'September Charm'

And the Alstroemeria in the front bed have continued to bloom off and on since springtime.

Alstroemeria 'Sweet Laura'

Also in the front yard is a combination of small dahlias with the hybrid euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ that has turned out to be a good lead-in to the front porch.

Small dahlias and hybrid Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'

As you walk to the back it’s hard not to notice the pyracantha that are fruiting as though there were no tomorrow and growing ever skyward onto and above the deck.

Pyracantha 'Mojave'

Back beside the garage is my comeback plant of the year.  The Loropetalum, which looked dead in early spring (it’s only marginally hardy here), is now looking robust and even tentatively putting forth color at the end of the branches.  Credit to Les at Tidewater Gardener for introducing me to this plant.


Even further back on the hillside as we come to the plants that we expect to do a lot of self-care, the goldenrod is coming into its yellow glory.  And to think that some people in this household think it’s a weed.

Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’

So I’ll close by suggesting you visit May Dreams Gardens and check out what’s growing other gardens for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  And I’ll try to be a little more consistent in reflecting on what is happening on this hill…

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for July 2011

Abundant Lilies

It is Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day again and time to share what is happening around the garden.  I think there are two themes to note in the garden right now.  The lilies have been absolutely spectacular.  The wonderful scent of the big orientals is evident both inside and outside the house at the moment.  You can’t help but notice them as you walk by.  A few years ago we had our best lilies disappear, apparently to some vole-like critter.  We tried to fight back by establishing lilies in other parts of the yard.  And now left-over pieces of those original plantings are coming back and all the other new ones are flourishing as well.  Some of the lilies would be 7 or 8 feet tall if we had managed to stake them and instead they are leaning and interwoven with other plants.  Some of my favorites are these.

Lilium oriental 'Casa Blanca' plant


Lilium Oriental Hybrid 'Casa Blanca'


Lilium Oriental-Triumph hybrid 'Scheherazade' with Joe Pye Weed


Scheherazade backlit


Lilium Oriental Hybrid 'Salmon Star'


Lilium Oriental Hybrid 'Muscadet'


The other gardening element that just shines this time of year is the front rock garden where the mix of perennials is in constant flux but seems to be especially floriferous right now.

Front Rock Garden

It’s hard not to share it from different angles

Front Rock Garden 2nd view

Or to want to point out the different elements that make up this garden like the Shasta Daisies

Shasta Daisies 'Becky'

or the Agastache ‘Tutti-Frutti’ returning for it’s 4th season.

Agastache 'Tutti-frutti'

The color of this agastache is very close to the persian cornflower that is so happy that I’ve now given it a place in the sunshine instead of the semi-shade where it persisted but hardly flowered.

Persian Cornflower 'Centaurea dealbata'

Another piece of that front bed is the yarrow surrounded by ponytail grass.

Yarrow surrounded by ponytail grass (Nassella tenuissima)

And rising in the midst of the yarrow and ponytail grass is a nice stand of alstroemeria ‘Sweet Laura’ which is taller than almost anything else in the bed.

Alstroemeria 'Sweet Laura'

In the back camellia garden there is a nice combination of echinacea and geranium.

Echinacea purpea 'White Swan' and Geranium 'Rozanne'

This is right next to what I thought was some 3 foot high late iris.  It turns out that it is blackberry lily that has self-seeded to a very inappropriate place at the front of the bed.

Blackberry Lily (Belamcanda chinensis)

Let me close with a view of the peaches out in the orchard (life is not about flowers alone, though one can make a good argument for that proposition).

Red Haven Peaches




A Moving Experience

Dusk on the Hill

The latest Gardening Gone Wild Photo Challenge involves motion of various sorts in the garden.  The specific theme “Show the Motion” discusses how you can set out to use motion to enhance your normal photos in the garden.  Following the judge’s suggestions I set out at dusk one evening to see if the camera, tripod and I could capture the fireflies that dance around the garden in the evening.  One of the by-products of wandering around the hillside in the evening with a tripod is that you get a wonderful light on the flowers just as the sun is going down.  The colors are exceptionally strong without being blown out as they would be in mid-day.

Rock Garden at Dusk

Rose Garden at Dusk with Luxor Lilies

It turns out that the time period during which you can shoot with a long exposure, still get the garden elements, and let the fireflies dance is fairly limited — about 1/2 an hour.  I tried various exposures, zoom levels, ISO’s, etc. but the difficulty is you can’t really see and appreciate the arcing tracks of the fireflies until you return to the computer.  In the end it’s a very random thing as to whether the fireflies will actually choose to light up in sync with your camera, but it’s fun to try!  For example here is a shot from the front rock garden in which you can see three streaks of golden light.

Fireflies in Rock Garden

Another was on the hillside with clear arcs of color.

Fireflies above Coreopsis

In the end my favorite shot of the night came on the side of the hill with the pasture as backdrop and the False Sunflowers  in the foreground.  This picture was taken in the near-dark and it’s only by the magic of digital photography that fireflies appear as golden streaks of fairy dust in what looks like daylight.   This will be my submission for the GGW photo contest.

Fireflies and Hillside Garden

I also need to give some praise to the Luxor lilies which are flowering on six foot stems right now.

Asiatic Lily 'Luxor'

And I’m becoming a fan of the Walcroy Crocosmia which is an outstanding gold color to match the daylillies in the front yard.

Crocosmia 'Walcroy'

I should mention in passing that this is harvest time for the garlic.  I’ve strung several large bundles from the rafters in the garage.

Garlic (Kettle River Giant) hung to dry

And the blueberries are doing their annual thing.  I always look at them in the spring thinking that there really aren’t very many blossoms and maybe it will be an off year.  Then, come harvest time, the bushes yield abundantly and there are more to pick than we really have time for.  Beth has made a couple of full-size blueberry tarts that have been delicious.  It looks like we will be freezing berries again…

Blueberries picked last night from one of seven bushes

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day May 2011

Tree Peony deluxe...

It’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for May and what could be better to lead off this posting than a Peony that has never flowered for me before.  I’ve had the above Tree Peony for a number of years but it’s in a sort of shady spot and has never yielded a blossom before.  And I’ve no idea what variety but I was entranced to see how pretty it is.  I’ve cut off some overhanging branches and I hope to see further blossoms in the future.  It’s been a particularly good year for the peonies.  All of our Tree Peonies have bloomed at this point – purple, pink, white and yellow.  It’s been a feast for the eyes…

Purple Tree Peony

Light Pink Tree Peony

White Tree Peony

Even without flowering the Tree Peonies are special with their elegant foliage that is a multi-month pleasure.  In between the Tree Peonies and the normal Herbaceous Hybrids are the Itoh Hybrids.  I bought several a few years ago in small size (I’ve seen blooming sized versions priced at $100, although the prices are coming down).  Anyway they never bloomed before and we had to make do with their lovely foliage.  But this year they are all coming in with flowers.  The first two are shown below.  Beth has put one in the downstairs bath so that we give it full appreciation.

Itoh Peony 'Julie Rose'

Itoh Peony 'Singing in the Rain'

Singing in the rain is so appropos.

I can see that I’m not going to have time to mention all the flowers in bloom right now but a few special ones of note include the Lady Slipper Orchid ‘Gisela Pastel’ and a few others that are first time bloomers for us.

Cypripedium 'Gisela Pastel'

Welsh Poppy (Meconopsis cambrica)

Exbury Hybrid Azalea 'Klondyke'

And then there are a few of the favorites for this time of year.

Flax (Linum usitatissimum)

Japanese Roof Iris (Iris tectorum)

Clematis 'Waterfall'

Alliums, Centaurea, and Salvia with a backdrop of Buttercups

Bearded Iris 'Fatal Attraction'

And in one final note, even though the vegetable garden is hopelessly delayed by the frequent rainfall, the strawberries have had a field day and we are harvest beauties right now…

First strawberry 'Earliglow'