A few days ago it looked we were finally overcoming the 40 inches of snow that absolutely clobbered us at the end of January. You could see finally see little spring delights like the Winter Aconite peeking through. The first daffodil was unhappy but it was at least about to open up.
But such was not to be for very long. We got more snow this weekend and once again the flowers are pretty much hidden. Even the redoubtable Hellebores are looking pretty shopworn for this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.
Some things look pretty good in the snow like the holly and the witch hazels.
But I can see lots of damage from the volume of snow. Several small shrubs (camellias and daphnes) have badly broken branches just from the weight of that snowfall.
You can imagine flowers like this snow covered Clematis seedhead.
But once again we turn to pots in the greenhouse for more colorful flowers. The potted daffodils are continuing to flower and the lachenalias are all coming into bloom right now.
There is a very pretty little star flower that blooms right now.
And a wurmbea that I think is flowering for the first time for me.
And a Tritonia that flowered in February last year as well.
Dubia for those who wonder about such things means ‘doubtful’ as in not conforming to standard. Anyway, it looks pretty nice to me. It’s another South African native that looks like a miniature glad.
Lastly, another plant flowering for the first time for us is a little Scilla from Turkey that has the most marvelous dark purple stamens. It is said to be hardy in Michigan so it will probably go outdoors this year.
All of these five plants from the greenhouse came from seed distributed by the Pacific Bulb Society in 2013. They constitute a pretty good example of what you can obtain by joining the Pacific Bulb Society. Despite the name, the society is inhabited by bulb experts from around the world and they are most generous in sharing their seeds, bulbs, and expertise.
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.
The Jelly Ear Mushroom is said to be good to eat, but we limit ourselves to puffballs (which we have eaten many times).
And then there was this very phallic white mushroom which I’ve not been able to identify.
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.
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.
And the Eastern Wahoo is another small native tree that has what seem like packages of pink candy hanging from its branches.
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.
We just spent a marvelous weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina in an escape from the last snowstorm (I hope) to hit Maryland this year. We had planned this weekend for a visit to the North Carolina nurseries but when a significant snowstorm threatened for last Thursday, we decided to skip town on Wednesday and I’m glad we did. It gave us an extra day to visit nurseries and gardens in the ‘Triangle’ area. Even four days is not sufficient to see all that this area offers to plant lovers. There are three major gardens in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill and we went to each.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University in Durham is what I would characterize as a display garden. It’s well funded and beautiful and has lots of examples of how to make a dramatic landscape.
It had many lovely individual plants including this daphne which illustrated how daphnes want to look in the wintertime as opposed to the burned leaves on ours.
The North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill also appears to have a lot of financial backing and it’s focus seems to be well-coupled to the University’s effort to encourage the use of native plants.
It’s set next to woodland trails and seems to get a lot of visitors for that reason.
But our favorite was the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. This is a plantsman’s paradise. Many examples of exotic and unusual plants from all over the world including this dwarf Dawn Redwood.
It was still a little early in the season for any of these gardens but the Ralston captured our hearts.
One of the ulterior motives for this particular weekend was to attend an An Evening with the Plant Explorers at the JC Ralston. This was a wonderful event with 4 1/2 hours of tales of plant exploring mixed in with socializing and plant auctions. Anyone who thinks Latin is a dead language needs to attend one of these events. The plant auction was particularly interesting because it was often for plants that had been part of the explorers’ talks.
In particular we were taken by a marvelous Einkianthus, the likes of which we had never encountered.
Well, in the end this was our take-home plant from the auction…
The other main component of the weekend was visiting nurseries. First and foremost was Plant Delights (which has a bonus of a very nice garden as well). As usual we found many wonderful plants that jumped into our car.
There were three crates like this one that we brought home including many new hellebores.
And then we went out to Pine Knot Farms where the focus is hellebores.
And we came away with even more hellebores as well as multiple cyclamen from John Lonsdale and a Mahonia confuse ‘Narihira’ (which we had seen at Raulson) and Edgeworthia chrysantha from Superior Plants.
John Lonsdale says that Edgeworthia survives for him in Pennsylvania so I have high hopes for it in Maryland.
Lastly we stopped at Camellia Forest and picked up four new camellias and two exquisite miniature Rhododendrons.
Altogether a wonderful weekend, and by the time we arrived back home the spring was waiting for us…
Let me close with one more shot of that Einkianthus which I hope will be with us for a long time…
I was surprised to see a glint of color in the Alpine bed yesterday. Indeed it was actually a first flower from the exquisite little Primula allionii ‘Wharfdale Ling’. This tiny little primula species is relatively rare in the wild but has been widely propagated and hybridized because of the size and beauty of the flowers for such a small plant. Jim Jermyn has a great write-up on this species and its natural growing conditions. I’ve just finished my seed order for the Scottish Rock Garden Society seed exchange and I’ve included a different Primula allionii selection on my list. This one has the honor of being the first plant to flower in the new alpine bed — months ahead of time.
It’s been generally a great week for gardening. Crisp mornings but sunny afternoons. I spent this afternoon cleaning the moss off of pots in the greenhouse. But not before noting that yet another oxalis species had come into flower.
Notice the little hairy leaves. The oxalis are all so different. The buds on these are yet another distinctive image — I need to get a picture. Back to the moss, it had really built up on some of the small bulb pots. As it turns out when you use a gravel top dressing the moss just lifts out taking the some of the old gravel with it and doesn’t disturb the underlying bulbs. And then you just replace the gravel.
We took off one day on an excursion looking at garden art at Alden Farms and the unusual plants at Susanna Farms. Many of the items at Susanna Farms were landscaping specimens beyond our price range, but we did come back with two very nice additions.
The fall coloring is just great on this prostrate rhodie. It will be interesting to see how it flowers out in the spring. It’s said the flowers appear at nearly the end of the rhododendron season which would make them very late indeed.
We have always liked Cryptomeria. Our biggest one is 30-40 feet high at the back of the yard. This one should stay within the 2-3 ft range.
The garden art visit was equally fun. We met David Therriault, stone designer and walked through his sculptures. He works mostly with salvaged materials and repurposes them into artwork. We saw several pieces that we liked (it’s Beth’s birthday present), but the one which was our favorite seemed to large for the new garden that we’ve built this fall. However, when we came home it seemed like it could fit after all. To check our perceptions I photoshopped a copy of the sculpture into place, and indeed, we think it fits.
This is all part of our growing love for stone of all sorts. We went to the local stone dealer yesterday and came home with some very pretty pieces from their loose rubble. It’s like buying plants except you don’t have to water them…
Every garden has a beginning. In this case the garden can be traced to a storm — Sandy, to be specific. A very large Pine Tree came down on our neighbor’s fence line. Leaving a channel of sunshine and a lot of dead roots in the ground. We had also opened space in this area last year when we took out an old and dying Cherry tree (with a stump still remaining). We took the new site as an opportunity and have been considering all year how best to use it. Watching the sunlight in this area it looks like it’s a mix of sun and shade, in other words, part-sun or part-shade depending on the time of day and time of year. But the ground was very hard and covered with roots from the cherry and pine. And I’m pretty sure that the remaining pine and surrounding maple and holly will be sending exploring roots before long. So we decided to make a raised bed, or berm, to guarantee a fertile and friable garden area.
What started out as a small project got larger each day as we brought pickup truckload after truckload of topsoil and mushroom soil from our special store of said components in the far pasture. Because we were concerned about driving truck or tractor over the walkway in the backyard it all had to be hauled from truck to the new garden by garden cart. In the end we decided to tie this new garden into the Peony bed on the one side and the pathway in back of the big American Holly on the other. We added some rocks hauled in from the leftovers at our local rock dealer to build structure and character into the bed. Actually I just like rocks. No other explanation is needed. I thought hard about how to add a burbling brook in the middle but no matter how I conceived it there is no way that a burbling brook looks natural in our yard (and I would have to decimate too many tree roots to bring water and electricity to that spot. So in the end we now have a pretty large new garden space just waiting for plants. This is so unlike me to have the garden space before the plants.
Well, there are a few plants waiting in the wings. There’s a Hydrangea serrata ‘Blue Billow’ that is already outgrowing it’s pot and is needing a home. There are two camellias, one fall and one spring, that are perfect for this lighting situation. When we could see the outlines of this garden begining to take shape we went to the local nursery to see what might still be around. We came away with some real finds. Most especially a Mahonia without spiny foliage.
It’s called Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ and unlike any other Mahonia I’ve seen. The leaves are more like a bamboo though the flowers immediately look like classic Mahonia flowers. Others were a tiny Rhododendron, R. Yakushimanum ‘Crete’, a Toad lily still in flower, and a bush Salvia.
And I now foresee a lot of opportunities for planting bulbs this fall …
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.
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.
Speaking of eye-popping, the new Echinacea variety that Beth planted in the front garden is stunning and floriferous.
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.
The Front yard also has the Stewartia in bloom.
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.
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.
The hillside along the drive has it’s normal abundance of wild pea and crown vetch blooming in gay profusion.
Weeds struggle to invade their private battleground. We also have a very nice sedum that has taken hold nicely behind the garage.
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.
In the greenhouse I found a cute little South African native with many small yellow flowers.
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.
Well, I’m one day late on celebrating Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day. But the flowers were there in any case. Let us begin by celebrating the little white crocus that are splashed about the lawn. I normally take February 21 as my first crocus date and also when catchers and pitchers report for baseball’s spring training in Florida. But the baseball is beginning early this year and so are the crocus. It’s appropriate that this very early crocus is the first of the year. It’s namesake was one of Holland’s great speed skaters.
I really have to return to one of the standards for this time of year in citing the Witch Hazels. It seems to me that they are having a great spring. The long straps seem to be impervious to cold snaps and shine yellow against the blue sky on sunny day.
There’s also the spectacular strong red in Diane, a Witch Hazel hybrid. This is a small shrub at the moment but it’s growing strongly and I think it will qualify as a tree before long…
Out in the front yard our winter aconite continues to thrive. Since I’ve observed they have spread to the other side of the yard I think I’m going to grab some seeds this year and see if I can aid the process. Everyone should grow these little droplets of sunshine.
I was pleased to see that even the Primrose is getting into the act. The first blossom has come forth from our collection of common English Primrose.
And of course snowdrops are popping up everywhere. What’s not to like about a plant that can flower for more than a month at this most unseasonable of times.
Oh, and it multiplies too…
Finally the Adonis continue in bloom. Think of Buttercups on steroids with much prettier foliage to boot…
And then there are the Hellebores, but they are worthy of a post all by themselves. Now what’s blooming in your garden?
It has been almost 2 weeks since Hurricane Sandy ripped through a good part of the east coast, including our little hillside. Given the difficulties that many have faced with loss of homes and struggles for power and services our own difficulties pale in comparison. Nonetheless there has been an impact. Not the least of which was the loss of internet for 5 days, which slowed my abilities to report on the storm, but it was compounded by viral bronchial infection that hit both of us — hard — for about 10 days. Fortunately the good folks at Comcast came through in the end and a local contractor repaired the roof damage very quickly. Also, thanks to Chris and Kevin, the same young guys that installed our deer fence, we have the deer fence intact again.
We were without power for only about 4 1/2 hours when the storm first hit. And given the way the trees were uprooted along our street it could have been much worse.
We live about 1 mile from the Monocacy River and the state highway bridge across the river was really not far above the water.
In addition to the 50 year-old pine in our neighbor’s yard that came down in the storm without hitting either house, we lost the 35 year-old sugar maple that has regularly been a feature of our comments on fall color.
Numerous white pines in the forest and pasture were felled or broken off halfway up by the storm.
Losing these trees along the windbreak gives one a whole different impression about what the descriptor ‘windbreak’ might really mean. All the white pines were planted back in 1976 from seedling trees from the Maryland Forest Service.
On the good side of the ledger the greenhouse, newly constructed, withstood the storm with flying colors. We are beginning to feel healthy again. The repairs have been made. We have a new semi-shade garden spot where the neighboring pine used to starve other plants for light and water.
And some more firewood…
The fall, despite the storm, remains remarkably mild. I have seen viburnum and azaleas beginning to flower. Even the spring blooming camellias are beginning to put out blossoms.
And the Geranium hybrid ‘Rozanne’ is just a non-stop flowering wonder…
And with that I will close just counting our blessings, including four more years with president who doesn’t believe that 47% of the population can be dismissed just because they weren’t born into wealth…