Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day June 2017

Anemone multifida ‘Rubra’

I will lead off this very late Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day post with a lovely little anemone that came from the NARGS seed exchange three years ago.  It’s not spreading but seems to be holding its own in the Monument bed.

I am always surprised that two of Arisaemas hold off until June.  Their colleagues begin back in April.  But just when you think that winter has finished them off, the Arisaema candidissimum and Arisaema fargesii come popping up through the ground.

Arisaema candidissimum

Arisaema fargesii

It is also surprising to see the Freesia laxa return every year.

Freesia laxa

According to the books this little corm is not viable in our climate.  Not only has it returned but it’s jumped the tracks and moved to another garden bed as well.

I have it growing now next to the reliable Brodiaea ‘Queen Fabiola’.

Brodiaea Queen Fabiola

That’s a white Callirhoe in the front of the image.

Callirhoe involucrata var. lineariloba ‘Logan Calhoun’

And they all mix together like this.

Star flowers, wine cups and Fressia.

In the same garden bed we have a bright yellow Butterfly Weed.

Asclepias tuberosa ‘Hello Yellow’

This is very popular with all the butterflies and bees.  For example this swallowtail was cruising around the yard.

Zebra Swallowtail

Nearby we find a lovely clematis growing up a trellis.

Clematis ‘Krakowiak’

Also by the garage there is a marvelous foxtail lily that came from Far Reaches.

Eremurus stenophyllus

Back in the monument bed there is the first of the Asiatic lillies coming out.

Asiatic Lily ‘Netty’s Pride’

And a chinese ground orchid that is a little taller than our other ground orchids.

Bletilla ‘Brigantes’

Back in the Camellia bed, emerging through the rapidly growing Japanese Anemones is a very pretty Astrantia.

Astrantia ‘Sunningdale variegated’

If we go back to the Alpine bed, as I do several times a day, a very nice dwarf plant in the Campanulaceae is just finishing.  I cannot read the label but I suspect it’s an Edraianthus.

Edraianthus sp?

Just finished now is also another pasque flower.

Pulsatilla campanella

Also in the alpine bed is a new gentian that we found at Oliver Nursery this spring.

Gentiana cachemirica

In the greenhouse there are a few picture-worthy objects as well.

Ornithogalum fimbrimarginatum

This is a two-foot tall Ornithogalum that came from the PBS bulb exchange.

Another PBS acquisition is this Pine Woods Lily.

Alophia drummondi (Pine Woods Lily)

I almost forgot to mention the Stewartia.  It has been a consistent flowering tree for June 15th.  This year it is loaded with flowers but only one is actually open now.

Stewartia japonica

However, life is not flowers alone.  It is the peak time for our berries, especially the blueberries.

Blueberries at their peak

It’s a joy picking blueberries.  We brought in gallons last night.  I’m convinced the only reason we can do so is that just behind the garden we have a very large mulberry tree and an equally large Bird Cherry that provide even greater interest for the birds.

Wild Cherry (Prunus avium)

Speaking of birds I’ve seen some really nice ones on my early morning bird watching including this Baltimore Oriole yesterday.

Baltimore Oriole eating cherries

Well, that’s a glimpse of our garden right now.  What’s happening in your garden?

A Link to Nepal

View of the mountains from the road between Pokhara and Kathmandu

View of the mountains from the road between Pokhara and Kathmandu

Nepal is an incredibly rich and diverse country with a landscape that ranges from the jungles of Chitwan on the Indian border to the highest mountains in the world.  In between are all stages of beautiful rivers and terraced hillsides.  There are 6000 species of flowering plants, 900 species of birds, and over 600 species of butterflies.  But even with all of that diversity it was the wonderfully friendly people that left us with indelible memories.  Their small land accommodates a great many cultures and traditions but seems to rank tolerance very high on their scale of values.  I’ve put on SmugMug a set of our images from 3 weeks in Nepal.  Here are a few samples.

A young mother who was happy to have me photograph her child

A young mother who was happy to have me photograph her child

Little girl at Boudhanath Stupa

Little girl at Boudhanath Stupa

Green Sapphire, Heliophorus androcles, wings closed

Green Sapphire, Heliophorus androcles, wings closed

Baby Elephant in elephant grass

Baby Elephant in elephant grass

Asian Pied Starlings

Asian Pied Starlings

Osbeckia stellata

Osbeckia stellata

Annapurna South reflection

Annapurna South reflection

Beginning the New Year

Mardi Gras Apricot Hellebore showing first gorgeous buds

And so the year begins — with a flush of color and many green things poking up through the winter landscape.  Our New Years day was in the fifties, following a pretty warm December.  The Daffodils are waking up all over the yard and presenting their promise of blooms.

Daffodils on the rise

And Trout Lilies have begun to show their tips in the leaves.

Trout lilies rising up

The Japanese Quince is covered in blossoms and buds.

Japanese Quince in early spring attire

The Camellias (both Fall and Spring bloomers) have never really ceased blooming.  Our double Flowered Pink is a japonica but seems to be intent on finishing its spring bloom early.

Double Pink Camellia

There’s even an Anemone coronaria that is proving why they don’t seem to last here on Ball Rd.  It’s way early for this plant.

Anemone coronaria in bud

By the end of New Years Day the sun set in glorious fashion against the horizon leaving a promise of interesting things to come.

Sunset for 1st Day 2012

But all of this growth seems not to have paid much attention to the weatherman.  As I sit today, there have been snow flurries, the daytime max is going to be around 31 degrees with a prediction of 16 degrees for tonight.  It’s like a quick slap across the face for the plants that have forgotten about winter and then like a tease the temps should go up to the fifties again by the end of the week.

In a post script I should mention that we had a curious visitor last week.  A small Cooper’s Hawk was in the garden sitting on the ground.

Cooper's Hawk all fluffed out

When we approached him he was very loath to be disturbed by us.  We wondered whether he was sick.  Then after posing in very hawk-like fashion he lifted off into the air with all his capabilities seemingly in place.

Cooper's Hawk (immature)

It did give me a chance to try out my new camera… 🙂



A Little Drop of Rain

Rainbow at Busch stadium on July 4th

It rained yesterday.  It wasn’t as dramatic as the rainbow we saw on July 4th in St. Louis where we basking the afterglow of a wonderful marriage celebration for our ‘third’ son.  Nor did it have the news impact of the flash flood that hit Frederick with an inch and a half of rain in 30 minutes on July 8th.  Nope.  This was just a gentle rain that fell in the morning for long enough for us to notice that it was really raining and to actually penetrate the dry ground and begin to help the plants.  And it was particularly satisfying because I had only just finally gotten the peppers, eggplants, squash, cukes, and annual flowers planted.  Since this is about 2 months late for them and for the corn that finally got into the ground this morning we shall have to wait and see what the outcome is likely to be.

Once again we have been dealing with really dry weather where it seems like every summer thunderstorm drops its rain on somebody else.  However, the constant hand watering has finally caused me to reconsider our approach to watering.  For many years (let’s say nearly 40) I have acted under the mistaken impression that on the East Coast it was up to Nature to water my garden.  I gave the weather gods the chief responsibility for making certain that all the plants had enough water.  This was probably because, compared  to California where I was raised, the water seemed abundant here and it actually did fall from the skies a fair amount.  When the water didn’t come down however, I complained about dead plants and only reluctantly pulled out the hoses when plants were drooping.  We also have the problem that too much watering will dry up our well and that has implications for washing, showering, and drinking.

This year I came to the brilliant conclusion that if I water during the middle of the night in small amounts it should (a) help the plants, (b) not drain the well, and (c) reduce my daytime labor.  To this end I’ve rigged up 7 watering stations around the yard and garden with timers set to go off for 15 mins on the hour all night long.

Hose manifold leading to timers

Even though we’ve only been doing this for a short while I can already see that this is going to improve my time and attention to other parts of the gardening process if I don’t have to spend 2 hrs every other day dragging the hose around the yard.  Now your may well ask what took me so long to come to this solution and for the life of me I don’t really know.  But running a water pipe out to the garden certainly made this easier to do.

As far as brilliant insights go, I am batting two for two this week.  We normally keep our compost bucket underneath the kitchen sink.  For some reason we let it get pretty full and found that fruit flies were having a sexual orgy down there.  At least they produced a lot of babies that were rapidly spreading to the fruit bowl, the wine bottles, the glad and lily flower vases, and any place with sweet or fragrant substances.  In the past this kind of infestation has been really hard to eliminate.  Basically it involved getting rid of all the attractive things and spraying rooms on a regular basis.  However, when I found them on the beautiful gladiolus and lily displays I knew we needed another solution.  So here is what I did (and I want full patent rights on this solution).  I sprayed the inside of the vacuum cleaner and then vacuumed the little buggers off every surface where they had settled.  The vacuum wand can actually pick them right out the air.  It took about two days of going back over the same areas and sucking them out of the air until there were no more to be found.  I did put a plug on the end of the vacuum while it was not in use to make sure they didn’t appear again from inside the machine.  The process worked so well that I didn’t even have any left to take a picture of for this posting.

Speaking of bugs, has anyone noticed that the population of stinkbugs is dramatically decreased from last year.  I don’t know of any reason why that would happen but the reduction is most welcome.  Last year we would find multiple stinkbugs sitting on the door waiting for it to slide open and this year nary a one.  Let’s hope that a natural solution is evolving.

I suppose that one explanation for reduction of all bugs in the area is the little flock of guinea fowl that walked through our yard the other morning.

Guinea fowl

We had never seen them before but apparently Guinea fowl are widely raised because of their appetite for ticks and other insects.  They are welcome to come walking here anytime they like.

I had one major loss when we returned from St. Louis and two successes to report.  This year my kids had given me a rare Chinese tree, Emmenopterys henryi, as a gift.  I had potted it up and it seemed to be doing well.  When I returned it had just up and died.  I inspected the corpse and could see no reason – the soil was moist and everything around it was doing fine.  I’ll have to give it another try I guess.  On the positive side of the ledger, the Oconee Bells (Shortia galacifolia) planted this spring all have developed new leaves and seem to be growing just fine, something I did not see with last year’s attempt at the Shortias.

Oconee Bells (Shortia galacifolia)

In somewhat the same vein, I have planted Gloriosa Lilies many times and never managed to get a growing plant, let alone a flower.  This time, along with all the other much delayed plantings, I put the Gloriosa in the ground just before we went to St. Louis.  This time the effort was rewarded with a little plant that seems to be coming on nicely.

Gloriosa Lily (Gloriosa superba)

The Birds are Coming

Yellow-rumped Warbler

We’ve reached that time of the year when one can start to look for new and different birds to show up in the garden.  Even knowing that I was very surprised to see a Wild Turkey in the pasture last week.  It flew off so fast that I only got a blurry picture as it headed for the trees.  I had seen him in the woods just a few days earlier so maybe we have a new resident.  It is a big bird when you see it take off.  However, it’s not as big as the Great Blue Heron that flew across the garden just a about 15 feet off the ground and maybe 25 feet away from me.  Think of someone you know turned sideways and slowly moving across your view.  It was startling as the bird gained momentum in front of me.

Later in the same day a little Ruby-crowned Kinglet came by to announce that spring was officially well under way.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet female

I also saw a female Twohee which was a first for me.

Eastern Towhee female

Today we took a little hike at Worthington Farm in the Monocacy Battlefield National Park to look at the fading Bluebells.  My ulterior motive was to see what birds might be out as well. I was rewarded by two Warblers down near the river.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Palm Warbler

There may be more warblers in that area so I need to return.

The bluebells were pretty much done but we did see Star of Bethlehem and Spring Beauties to extend the hike to the horticultural side as well.

Ornithagalum nutans

Pink Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica)

Back from the Tropics

Cattleya skinneri, the National Flower of Costa Rica

We are just returned from a week in Costa Rica where we sought warmth and refuge from the winter cold.  We went through multiple climate zones in Costa Rica and sought out as many of the country’s birds, flowers and other wildlife as we could in such a short time.  All told our guide counted 117 birds species in our various explorations.

Slaty-tailed Trogon

But more about Costa Rica in subsequent posts.

Meanwhile, back in Maryland, the weather gods reacted by providing a serious warm spell while we were gone.  When I looked around this morning it was still cold and dreary but almost all the snow had melted and things were starting to grow.  The Winter Aconite were among the first to show color, which is usually the case.

Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) popping out

The first two Crocus have popped up in the lawn.  I don’t know the variety but it’s like a white and purple species type.

First Crocus of Spring

This is appropriate to see because my first son was born 35 years ago today (Happy Birthday Jonathan!) and I remember seeing the first crocus on that day 35 years ago.

The snowdrops have been having a field day.  They are multiplying in the woodsy little area that I put them in.

Snowdrops multiplying

However, now that I see them fully open, it’s clear from the petal markings that they are the Giant Snowdrop type rather than the nivalis as I have them labeled.

Giant Snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii)

Or maybe the rest will be nivalis — we’ll have wait and see.  We can’t lose in either case.

The plants that went from barely visible to fully out were the Witch Hazels.  Once they start to unfold the petals it happens really fast.

Chinese Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis) at full bloom

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) 'Diane'

Even with all this growth starting the fickle weather people have given us snow again this evening.  It’s calling for 8 inches and I’m voting for much less.  We are right on the edge of the snowstorm and it could go either way…

Wanna Get Away?

Aoife's Bench in the Snow

Last weeks snow was one of the heaviest I’ve ever seen.  All the tree branches were dragging on the ground creating eerie sights the next morning.  We lost a few branches, but it could have been a lot worse.  Many people were without power for 2 to 3 days and, while we had a brief interruption that forced us to watch a movie on the iPad, the power folks pretty much kept the juice flowing for our road.   As it happened, I was on my way to California, and, with only a slight delay, I spent the weekend in the Riverside area.

It was nice to walk around without my heavy coat and while I can’t quite say I was basking in the sun it was at least an opportunity to see flowers growing outside again.  The camellias that my dad planted at the side of the house are a reliable a long term performer every year.

Camellias at the side of the house

There are two varieties, both japonicas with names long ago lost to history, and they are almost intermingled.  One a pure single fuschia red and the other, nearly identical in color is fully double.

Camellia #1

Camellia #2

These plants were part of my inspiration in planting Camellias here in Maryland.  Suffice it to say, if you can plant Camellias you should.  And if your climate zone says you shouldn’t plant them, you should probably give it a try anyway.

In the back garden I noticed that calendulas have self-seeded and are springing up like wildflowers.

Calendulas self-seeding

It’s not quite the California springtime, but getting really close.  I saw a few poppies by the roadside.

In Riverside the classic plant is the Washington Navel Orange.  The parent tree for the whole navel orange industry is still growing on Magnolia Avenue in a place of honor.  Prior to the explosion of suburbs around Riverside the surrounding countryside was all citrus groves.  At one time you could not drive on the backroads without encountering orange or lemon trees dropping their fruit on the roadways.  Consistent with all this history and because they grow pretty easily in the area, I planted a dwarf Washington Navel in my mother’s back yard and it now fruits pretty regularly.

Washington Navel

I also have one of these in the basement in Maryland waiting for a greenhouse to show what it can do…

Around in the front yard is a lovely large Rosemary that is flowering at this time of year.

Rosemary in SoCal Winter

Although we can get them to survive outside in Maryland we haven’t managed flowering yet.

When I returned this week the snow was hanging in there with more sleet and ice in the offing.  Despite this I saw several Robins downtown who apparently know something about the weather that the forecasters haven’t foreseen.  Or maybe not…

The December Drearies

Flowering Coleus

It has been a dreary start to December with temperatures 12 degrees below normal on average and a number of cloudy days.  It even snowed briefly last Friday with just enough slickness to it that cars careened off the road all over the city.  We live on a hill so that getting down or up on such days can be a dicey proposition.  In such conditions it’s nice to see flowers wherever you can and the coleus that Beth took a cutting from more than a month ago has obliged by putting up lovely lilac flowers.  If coleus were difficult to grow or expensive to acquire I’m sure we would go overboard trying to acquire it from exotic nurseries.  However, it is ridiculously easy to grow from seed and widely available in nurseries so I confess we often fail to give it full coverage in describing its impact in the house and garden.

Coleus was one of the first plants we ever intentionally grew back in our student housing days at UC Riverside.  We were fascinated by the different variations in leaf color and propagated a great many of them.  As time went on, we moved to more challenging plants and neglected the coleus as too common.  The last few years, however, we’ve been rediscovering the impact of coleus in the garden.  As an annual it grows quickly to 2 – 3 feet tall and can be kept thick and bushy in containers or in the soil.  The cut leaves last a very long time in indoor arrangements, sometimes to spectacular effect.  Perhaps if we thought of them in terms of their new botanical moniker, Solenostemon hybrids, we would give them more respect.

As I was working at the computer on a particularly rainy afternoon yesterday, I looked out to see a good-sized hawk sitting on the fence outside my window.

Worm-eating Hawk

I apologize for the poor quality image which was taken in poor light and through a rain spattered window, but what I found remarkable as I followed this hawk about the yard is that the hawk had no interest in the hundred or so birds and many squirrels that were flitting about our feeders.  Instead, he was actively harvesting the worms that were surfacing because of the water in ground.  It was very much like a robin on steroids.  Perhaps worms are seen as epicurial delights in the world of raptor dining.  Note to self — the camera should be kept in bird picture ready mode at all times, not left as though one had just taken multi-second timed exposures of coleus flowers in the house.

December is when we tend to review our donations for the year and, like Santa Claus, decide which charities have been naughty and nice.  Sometimes charities, the Nature Conservancy comes to mind, get tangled up in their own misplaced executive extravagances, and we have to punish them by withholding our giving for a while.  One place that we have never felt the slightest reservation about recommending is Able and Willing International Education Foundation.  We know the founders, Puma Mbuyu Wa Mbuyu and Ruth Snyder, who began this effort in the Congo with their own time and money in 1995.  Beginning from scratch they have built schools in two villages that now serve 661 students over all grades.


In the process they’ve brought electricity and an ethic of self-reliance to the area.  In Puma’s words, “More than simply constructing the buildings, AWIEF helps to establish the programs that enable schools to support to themselves.  In doing so, the organization seeks to model a healthy process of development that promotes self-reliance and helps to break the cycle of dependency on foreign aid.”  Nowhere else have we seen such a dramatic impact of our contributions put to effective use.