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 October 2015

Oxalis hirta 'Gothenburg'

Oxalis hirta ‘Gothenburg’

Well it’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day and the flowering for October is fairly predictable.  Toad lilies, Japanese Anemone’s, annuals in the garden and the Oxalis are all coming into flower in the greenhouse.  They get planted in late August and they come into flower very rapidly.  And one of the earliest and most prolific is Oxalis hirta ‘Gothenburg’

Oxalis hirta 'Gothenburg' in quantity

Oxalis hirta ‘Gothenburg’ in quantity

Some other Oxalis examples are

Oxalis bowieii

Oxalis bowieii

Oxalis fabifolia

Oxalis fabifolia

Oxalis caprina

Oxalis caprina

Out in the yard a new Colchicum that we’ve added is ‘Dick Trotter’

Colchicum 'Dick Trotter'

Colchicum ‘Dick Trotter’

For the first time we’ve got flowers on the new Mahonia that we added this spring.

Mahonia confusa ‘Narihira’

Mahonia confusa ‘Narihira’

I’ve got high hopes that this soft foliaged Mahonia will make it over the winter.

Also in the monument bed is a lovely little Saxifrage that I received as a gift this winter.

Saxifraga fortunei 'Select'

Saxifraga fortunei ‘Select’

Also a single flower shows on the St. John’s Wort this week.

Hypericum 'Hidcote'

Hypericum ‘Hidcote’

As I mentioned the toad lilies continue to put on a show.  Especially productive is the Tricyrtis ‘Sinonome’

Tricyrtis ‘Sinonome’

Tricyrtis ‘Sinonome’

Tricyrtis ‘Sinonome’ in profile

Tricyrtis ‘Sinonome’ in profile

These are some of the highlights in our garden.  I hope yours is also filled with delights.

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.

Tithonia

Tithonia

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

Nice Note from NARGS and an Opportunity

Adonis amurensis 'Chichibu Beni'

Adonis amurensis ‘Chichibu Beni’

I got a nice note today from Malcolm McGregor who is the editor of the North American Rock Garden Society journal the ‘Rock Garden Quarterly’.  His message was that the above picture of an Adonis from last winter was selected as the the Joint Winner of Class 5 (Close up) in their annual photo contest.  At the same time he said that my photo of a Gymnospermium albertii was given a Highly Commended rating in a different class.

Gymnospermium albertii

Gymnospermium albertii

As a class winner, I am entitled to give a free annual membership to NARGS to the person of my choosing.  If you are harboring an interest in rock garden plants but have not yet taken the plunge, let me know, and if it’s not already been given away, I’ll be happy to give you this opportunity.  Personally I have found the whole NARGS experience — growing plants, exchanging seeds, and reading the excellent journal articles — to be very fulfilling.

Meanwhile, here is the latest little Zephyranthes in the greenhouse to usher in the fall season

Zephyranthes smallii

Zephyranthes smallii

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day August 2015

Gentiana paradoxa

Gentiana paradoxa

Well I have very mixed feelings for this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  There are a few flowers like the beautiful gentians in the alpine bed.  But it is also the dog days of August with over a week since the last rain and no rain in the immediate future.  On top of that we returned from vacationing on Cape Cod to find that the water pump had stopped a week ago and all the elaborate water timing I had set up was a total fail.  It was bad enough for the outdoor plants surviving the drought-like conditions, but the worst casualty was the greenhouse.  With no water the greenhouse becomes an oven.  I can’t even bear posting the picture of what the greenhouse looks like.  The bulb things will survive but the alpine seedlings that were painstakingly started this year were devastated.  Focusing on the positive, there is a splendid Cyrtanthus hybrid which found the desert-like conditions just to its liking.

Cyrtanthus elatus x montanus

Cyrtanthus elatus x montanus

Another little bulb in flower right now is a Barnardia from Japan.

Barnardia japonica

Barnardia japonica

Out in the very dry yard, the first thing that strikes you as it hangs over the porch is a lovely Limelight Hydrangea.

Hydrangea 'Limelight'

Hydrangea ‘Limelight’

In the perennial beds there are two very striking lobelias that capture one’s attention.

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

Lobelia x speciosa (Compliment Deep Red)

Lobelia x speciosa (Compliment Deep Red)

This one was brought up from Plant Delights this spring.

There is also a cute little Rosularia from Wrightman Alpines that I noticed flowering on one of the pieces of tufa.

Rosularia sedoides

Rosularia sedoides

There are lots of annuals that give us picking flowers for inside the house.  I noticed a clearwing moth hanging on one of the verbenas.

Clearwing Moth on Verbena

Clearwing Moth on Verbena

For the annual flowers in the garden the Mexican Sunflowers have totally dominated over the zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, etc.

Tithonia dominating annuals

Tithonia dominating annuals

Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)

Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)

 

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day July 2015

Anastasia en masse

Anastasia en masse

We returned from our trip to the Dolomites to find that there had been pretty constant rainfall while we were gone (and that has continued).  The temperatures have also stayed 5-10 degrees below normal.  This meant that we had a LOT of mowing a weed pulling to do, but we also didn’t have to waste a lot of time dragging hoses around the yard.  The lilies were in full bloom.  It is marvelous to walk out in the yard and get knocked over by the lily fragrance.

Orienpet Lily ‘Anastasia’

Orienpet Lily ‘Anastasia’

Oriental Lily 'Casablanca'

Oriental Lily ‘Casablanca’

Oriental lily ‘Time Out’

Oriental lily ‘Time Out’

Trumpet Lily 'Lady Alice

Trumpet Lily ‘Lady Alice

Lilium 'Pink Perfection'

Lilium ‘Pink Perfection’

Besides other lily varieties there are also the day lilies blooming in gay profusion right now.

Daylilly 'Apollodorus'

Daylilly ‘Apollodorus’

Many annuals are also happening right now but of a couple of perennial standouts are as follows:

Stachys officianalis

Stachys officianalis

Crinum powelli

Crinum powelli

Hydrangea 'Blue Billow'

Hydrangea ‘Blue Billow’

Yes, the ‘Blue Billow’ is very pink.

From the greenhouse we have a couple of little cuties.

Habranthus tubispathus

Habranthus tubispathus

Calydorea amabilis

Calydorea amabilis

And lastly though the Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day is mostly about the flowers, I think it’s worth noting a couple of beneficial insects that I saw on the flowers.

Tachynid Fly

Tachynid Fly

Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

The Tachinid fly parasitizes caterpillars, including monarch larvae, but on balance it’s a very useful contributor to the garden.  The Widow Skimmer Dragonfly grabs small flying insects out of the air and it’s like having your localized air force to guard the space over your garden.

Why Alpines Inspire

A sea of buttercups

A sea of buttercups

We’ve been back a little more than a week now from a wonderful exploration of the Dolomites with Greentours.  We spent our days walking through meadows or scrambling up rocky cliffs finding hundreds of species of wildflowers in bloom.

Botanizing in the Dolomites

Botanizing in the Dolomites

The whole experience was a reminder of why alpines are so captivating for gardeners all over the world.  Their relatively short growing season and difficult exposed conditions has produced adaptations characterized by rapid abundant flowering from compact plants that are often nestled in or on rocks where many other plants cannot grow.  Of course it doesn’t hurt that the scenery is glorious whenever you take the time to look up from the plants.

The trick is to learn where to look for the different species.  Meadows are often filled with various small ground orchids in the same way we would expect to see dandelions in Maryland.  Potentilla, Sage, Thyme, and Ranunculus are abundant.

Meadows filled with flowers

Meadows filled with flowers

Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

Dactylorhiza majalis

Dactylorhiza majalis

Bird's Nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis)

Bird’s Nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis)

Orobanche gracilis (Growing parasitically on Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculata)

Orobanche gracilis (Growing parasitically on Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculata)

The interplay with the rocks mean that you often seek out rocks in a field to see what has colonized the rocks.  Of course Saxifrages are particularly good at this.

Saxifraga paniculata

Saxifraga paniculata

Saxifraga paniculata hugs the rocks

Saxifraga paniculata hugs the rocks

But in between you find other treasures like the famous Edelweiss.

delweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) amid Bird's Foot Trefoil and other smaller flowers

delweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) amid Bird’s Foot Trefoil and other smaller flowers

The Rampions were a particular favorite of mine.  The Round-headed Rampion was found in many locations.

Round-headed Rampion (Phyteuma obiculare)

Round-headed Rampion (Phyteuma obiculare)

And on three occasions we came upon the famous Devil’s Claw in flower.  This alpine flower is found only in Italy, Austria, and Slovenia and we were fortunate to actually be there when it was flowering.

Devil's Claw (Physoplexis comosa)

Devil’s Claw (Physoplexis comosa)

The Physoplexis seemed happiest when growing on a cliff face.  It immediately produced a question in our group which apparently has been a serious question for botanists.  Namely, how does the Devil’s Claw get pollinated?

Another particularly beautiful flower, like the Rampions, is also in the Campanula family.

Bearded Bellflower (Campanula barbata)

Bearded Bellflower (Campanula barbata)

Mostly we explored the areas around the mountain passes, but we also got to higher elevations on two occasions.  One I wrote about on the previous posting and the other was on the next to the last day when we took a ski lift up to the shoulder of Marmolada at 8500 ft.  The ground at the top is all scree below the snowline and at first you would conclude there is nothing gowing there.

Barren looking landscape on Marmolada at 8500 ft.

Barren looking landscape on Marmolada at 8500 ft.

But on closer inspection you see that many things thrive in the scree.

Purple saxifrage (saxifraga oppositifolia)

Purple saxifrage (saxifraga oppositifolia)

Vitaliana primuliflora

Vitaliana primuliflora

Saxifraga androsace

Saxifraga androsace

Especially prevalent was the Round-leaved Pennycress which seemingly colonizes every spot where someone else is not…

Thlapsi rotundifolium

Thlapsi rotundifolium

 

Dolomitic Joy

King of the Alps (Eritrichium nanum)

King of the Alps (Eritrichium nanum)

We are experiencing a wonderful surplus of wildflowers this week on a tour of Dolomites with Greentours.  I hadn’t intended on reporting on this journey until we returned home but today was such a wonderful experience I just had to share some of what we have been seeing.  Every day has been a discovery of new plants that we had never seen, with hundreds of species recorded so far, but today was just over the top for anyone interested in alpines.

We spent the day walking at over 7000 feet looking over majestic scenery and crawling up crags to get close to cushions of alpine plants or walking next to meadows where flowers and butterflies were abundant.  I’m just going to share a few of the images at this point to give a sampling of what we are seeing but for anyone who is interested Greentours does a phenomenal job of giving you a rich and thorough exploration of the landscape.  We’re on the trail from about 9 to 5 every day and each day seems to exceed the last in wonderful experiences.  I expect to provide a more complete sampling of the wildflowers in the future but this is a sampling of today’s encounters.

View into Austria

View into Austria

Silene exscapa

Silene exscapa

Geum montanum

Geum montanum

Alpine Toadflax (Linaria alpina)

Alpine Toadflax (Linaria alpina)

Phyteuma hemisphaericum

Phyteuma hemisphaericum

Alpine Poppy (Papaver aurantiacum)

Alpine Poppy (Papaver aurantiacum)

Juncus jacquinii

Juncus jacquinii

Pedicularis verticillata

Pedicularis verticillata

Soldanella alpina

Soldanella minima

Ranunculus glacialis

Ranunculus glacialis

Vitaliana primuliflora

Vitaliana primuliflora

Potentilla nitida

Potentilla nitida

Potentilla nitida detail

Potentilla nitida detail (note the green stamens)

Saxifraga paniculate on rock outcropping

Saxifraga paniculata on rock outcropping

Last, but not least, we have encountered a number of Gentians and several have the stunning blue color that Gentians are famous for.  It seems appropriate to begin with the blue Eritrichium and end with a Gentian.

Gentiana brachyphylla

Gentiana brachyphylla