Tangled Branches: Cultivated
happenings in and around my zone 6b gardens in northern Virginia and in central Virginia
Monday, May 30, 2005
Peonies and Memorial Day
Peonies were the Memorial Day flower in northern Illinois when I was young. I think I must have been in college before I learned that there were other kinds besides the double white, pink, or red ones that were a standard feature in almost every yard, especially if the house was older. And it was well after college that I learned of the fern-leaf types, when I saw one growing in a cemetery in Watertown, Wisconsin, where I was doing genealogical research.
Here in northern Viriginia, they're usually finished blooming by now (at least mine usually are), but not this year. We took a walk at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens yesterday afternoon and the peonies were in full bloom. I especially admired one named 'Tom Eckhardt', but having neither camera nor paper, I had to remember the name. Which, of course, I didn't. Well, I remembered part of it - Eckhardt - and so Googled for Eckhardt and peony, and I turned up a very interesting site. HelpMeFind.com is a database of rose, clematis and peony information. I can't vouch for the quality of the information, but it lists Song Sparrow as a source for 'Tom Eckhardt' and I don't see that variety currently listed in the Song Sparrow online catalog.
No new photos today, but here are some links to beautiful pictures of peonies:
- Rare Books from the MBG Library
- NYPL Digital Gallery (check out the urinal decorated with a peony design)
- Library of Congress: Japanese Print
- Library of Congress: Sam Garner's Peony Garden (who was Sam Garner?)
- Smithsonian Institution: Freer & Sackler Galleries (when did they combine these?)
- The British Museum
Saturday, May 28, 2005
More Photos, May 27
Forgot to mention that I posted more photos than just the daylilies.
My favorite daylily is in bloom. Hemerocallis flava (now lilioasphodelus?) is a small, graceful daylily with clear soft yellow flowers. To me, the relationship between them and modern hybrid daylilies, is like that between Siberian irises and bearded irises. The smaller size and narrower foliage makes them more elegant. And it means you need more of them to make a good display, unless you are very clever making "drifts of one".
I just noticed a couple of days ago that these "daylilies" open in the evening. They've been blooming for several days now, and every time I wanted to take a picture of them, it was pouring down rain (bad for the camera and unpleasant for the photographer). Then on the day the sun came out, no flowers were open. But we were outside grilling dinner that evening, and - voila! - open flowers. Somewhere around 7 pm, I would guess. So maybe we should call them nightlilies?
BTW, the photos I've posted were taken the morning after the flowers opened.
First hummingbird of the year! Yesterday morning, it was investigating the 'Easy Wave Red' Petunias I planted next to the Cuphea purpurea. The Cuphea isn't blooming much yet, so it moved on to a pineapple sage, which is. Then it flew off in the direction of the hummingbird feeder. The feeder is too far away from the house for me to see clearly without binoculars, and by the time I found those, the bird had either moved on or never stopped there in the first place. Now I can spend the rest of the summer trying to get good pictures.
Friday, May 27, 2005
A Day of Firsts
Yesterday was a day of firsts. I saw my first dragonfly of the year, first swallowtail butterflies of the year (both tiger and some type of black one), and I tried Mike McGrath's 7-step poison ivy eradication program for the first time. I first read of his technique in the now-defunct Mid-Atlantic edition of People Places & Plants, a magazine I really miss. I didn't do all of the seven steps, but I did pull out the vines using plastic bags as shields and then immediately showered and washed my clothes. That way worked fine for me, but the poison ivy plants growing on our lot were mostly very small. I used to just dig them up by getting a trowel under their roots and then flipping them into a garbage bag without touching them. This year, there were a few that had grown beyond the stage where the trowel method would be practical. We took a walk in the woods behind the house this morning, and I noticed the poison ivy seems much more abundant than in past years. I assume the birds are bringing me the seeds - that's the thanks I get for feeding them. ;-)
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Still the Weather
Bleak. Dark. Drizzly. Looks like winter, except with green leaves and flowers. But they say tomorrow will be better. And the trees and shrubs are very happy with all the rain.
Weather, n. The climate of an hour. A permanent topic of conversation among persons whom it does not interest, but who have inherited the tendency to chatter about it from naked arboreal ancestors whom it keenly concerned. ...
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary.
Don't know if I agree with that, but it's a diversion for a rainy day.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Another dark damp day. We had about 2 inches of rain last Friday, and I've got to think we must be approaching that today. Saturday was nice, until it rained in the evening. I think Sunday was mostly dry too. Yesterday, it rained early and late with a brief sunny interval in the middle of the day.
The National Weather Service does a nice job of summarizing our spring so far:
PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON DC
915 AM EDT SUN MAY 22 2005
...IT HAS BEEN A COOL AND WET RAMP UP TOWARDS SUMMER...
IN WASHINGTON...THE PAST MONTH HAS BEEN DECIDEDLY COOL AND RAINY.
THE PERIOD OF APRIL 22ND THROUGH MAY 21ST THIS YEAR RANKS IN THE TOP
10 FOR BOTH COOLEST AND WETTEST IN THE PAST CENTURY.
DURING THAT STRETCH OF THE PAST THIRTY DAYS...THERE WERE TWO DAYS
THAT REACHED THE LOWER 80S...AND ANOTHER TEN THAT REACHED THE 70S...
LEAVING THE MAJORITY OF THE DAYS WITH BELOW NORMAL HIGHS IN THE 50S
AND 60S. MOSTLY DUE TO OUR LACK OF SUMMERLIKE DAYS...THE PAST MONTH
RANKS AS THE SEVENTH COOLEST IN THE PAST 100 YEARS. IT WAS THE
COOLEST IN NEARLY FORTY YEARS...AS 1967 WAS THE MOST RECENT YEAR
WITH A SIMILAR PERIOD OF TIME THAT WAS COOLER.
OUR RAINFALL IN THE PAST MONTH...WHILE MORE CONCENTRATED ON FEWER
DAYS THAN THE GENERALLY RAINY SPRING OF 2003...HAS BEEN GREATER
THAN THE SAME PERIOD OF 2003. WITH JUST OVER FIVE AND THREE QUARTERS
OF AN INCH OF RAIN...THE PAST MONTH RANKS AS THE EIGHTH WETTEST IN
THE PAST 100 YEARS...WITH ONLY 1989 WETTER IN RECENT TIMES. DURING
THE PAST MONTH...THERE WAS ONE NEARLY THREE INCH RAINFALL AT THE END
OF LAST WEEK...AND TWO ADDITIONAL ONE INCH PLUS RAIN EVENTS.
WITH A NEARLY STATIONARY LOW FORECAST TO WOBBLE NEAR THE AREA FOR
THE NEXT SEVERAL DAYS...THE COOL AND WET TREND CERTAINLY SEEMS
LIKELY TO CONTINUE AS WE HEAD TOWARDS THE UPCOMING MEMORIAL DAY
WEEKEND...AND THE UNOFFICIAL START OF THE SUMMER SEASON.
So the Washington Post's front page article yesterday about stormwater runoff was timely. A new housing development in Gainesville incorporates "rain gardens", shorter driveways, narrower streets, and drainage ditches to minimize stormwater runoff. I like to think of my little suburban lot as more eco-friendly than many, but the article about stormwater runoff made me look again at the places where the rainwater runs across the grass and out into the street. Maybe I should do more to prevent this. Some Googling turns up many websites with good suggestions, the following among them:
Sunday, May 22, 2005
My favorite peony is finally blooming and DH took a superb picture of it early this afternoon.
BTW, I only have 2 varieties of peony - 'Karen Gray' and 'Krinkled White'. Before I planted 'Karen Gray', 'Krinkled White' was my favorite.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Spring Planting, Completed
It's pouring down rain today, and I'm glad, because I finished my spring planting yesterday. For the rest of the summer (assuming we ever get summer), it's all maintenance.
I put up some new photos this morning, and I'm thinking of starting a weed gallery.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
32 Hour Vacation
We visited Charlottesville and environs Sunday into Monday. DH had some business nearby on Monday morning, so we drove down Sunday morning and returned Monday afternoon. Ordinarily, I like to walk through the gardens behind the Pavilions on the UVA campus, but the weather was showery so we skipped it this time.
We took our lunch from the Blue Ridge Pig in Nellysford up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to a particular picnic table we like, and munched on BBQ pork sandwiches and Mama Zuma's potato chips while (freezing and) admiring the view of the valley below. There were lots of wildflowers blooming up there, but the only photos I took were of this azalea.
Before we left Sunday morning, I snapped some pictures in the garden here at home. We had thunderstorms with heavy rain Saturday afternoon and evening, and the flowers and foliage were still quite wet. The flower lull in the garden is ending, but the cool weather sure isn't hurrying things along any. The 'Krinkled White' peonies are now in full bloom, but the 'Karen Gray' haven't opened at all yet. Siberian irises are just starting, and the Hemerocallis flava should be blooming any day now.
And lastly, I finally uploaded one photo of the Garden Fair at Blandy on May 7.
Friday, May 13, 2005
Cuphea llavea: Help!
I need help. My usual source (Cox Farms) for Cuphea llavea 'Tiny Mice' doesn't have it this year. Merrifield Garden Center doesn't have it either. Of all the plants I've ever grown that are attractive to hummingbirds, this was by far the best. I should take the trouble to overwinter really good non-hardy plants that I'd like to keep, but I didn't, and now I can't find it. Last year I bought a Cuphea llavea which appeared to be the species, and not a cultivar, at what used to be the Reston Farm Market (7 & Baron Cameron). I think there is a new plant business at that location this year, but I haven't stopped to check it out yet. Anyhow, I could drive to every plant seller in the DC metro area and look, or I could pick up the phone and call every plant seller in the area, or I could just ask here (and on GardenWeb) and maybe someone will know of a source somewhere close to northern Virginia.
Any help appreciated. I remember reading of another Cuphea variety that's a hummingbird magnet too, but now can't remember the name.
-----Update: May 14-----
I found a similar plant this morning at the Arlington Farmer's Market (arlingtonfarmersmarket.com, but the link isn't working at present). It's labeled Cuphea purpurea 'Firecracker'. The stems are much lankier, but the flowers look very much the same. I see from my archives that I bought one with the same label at Cox Farms in 2003. Googling, I turned up this page which states that Cuphea x purpurea and Cuphea llavea are the same plant. So.....I'll plant the 2 that I picked up this morning and wait for the hummingbirds to tell me if they're the same or not.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Summer Bulbs' Progress
I had a garden disappointment a couple of days ago. The red-orange crocosmia that's been with me for years (mostly in a non-blooming state) has disintegrated. Last year, I dug it out of its too shady, too clayey home and moved it to a container full of new potting soil. It bloomed beautifully. I wondered about cold hardiness, overwintering outdoors in the container, but earlier this spring I dug around in the soil until I found the bulbs (corms? rhizomes? whatever) and they were intact and ready to grow. So I started thinking about them again a few days ago and wondered why I hadn't seen any growth yet. I again dug around in the soil, but this time I came up with a handful of mush, and another handful of mush, and more handfuls of mush. So disappointing to think that after it had survived years of neglect in the ground it was now done in by a cold spring in soggy potting soil.
Well, it's some consolation that most of the other summer bulbs I bought this spring finally seem to be growing. They've all been sulking in the cold weather to some degree, but I now see growth on all but the tuberose, and those aren't rotted but just waiting patiently for warmer weather I suppose.
There's still nothing new in bloom, and I still haven't fixed my Web photo album problems, so no new pictures yet.
Monday, May 09, 2005
Blandy Farm, Worth It!
We headed out to Blandy Farm for the Garden Fair just after 9 AM Saturday. Got caught up in some traffic on I-66 that was headed to the Gold Cup (didn't even know it was taking place), but we weren't delayed too much. The weather was cool when we got there, but warmed up to shirtsleeves-comfortable by lunch time. I thought there was a great selection of plants at reasonable prices (some more reasonable than others). We plan to go back next year. I have a photo of one row of booths, but I mangled the latest Web photo album I created. Long story, but if I upload a new picture to my May album, I'm going to lose all the pictures from May 5 unless I recreate the whole album. No time to do that just now, so no picture from the plant show.
Here's what I bought, and what I intend to do with it:
- Sedum sieboldii mediovariegatum: room for one more in front of the house
- Aquilegia 'Lime Frost': for the woods
- French Tarragon: lost mine over the winter this year
- Bougainvillea (orangish-pinkish color): experiment, not sure where it's going yet
- Fuchsia 'Gartenmeister': basket or container in the shade
- Pepper 'Thai Hot': yum!
- Lantana 'Goldsonne': container, somewhere
- Tomato 'Plum Lemon': yum!
- Tomato 'Striped Roman': more yum!
- Tomato 'Black Zebra': even more yum!
- Stylophorum diphyllum: for the woods
- Pineapple Sage: container or maybe in the ground where I had it last year
- Salvia discolor: new to me, probably going into a container
- Salvia vanhoutii: ditto
- Brunnera 'Jack Dawson' (that's how it was labeled, but I think it's Dawson's White): woods
- Polemonium reptans: woods
- Corydalis elata: woods (supposed to be the best Corydalis for hot climates, but I think I've already killed one of these)
Planted the tomatoes today, in a way that's really wild and crazy (for the suburbs, that is). They're in containers on the front steps. That's right, the front steps to the house. I got tired of not having home-grown tomatoes, so I'm reclaiming some space that the homeowners' association has declared off-limits for vegetables (i.e. anywhere except behind the house). The front steps are one of very few places I have with any sun. I planted them in nice, trendy fiberglass containers, and my "tomato cages" are black metal obelisks. I think I'll cluster some containers of flowers around then, and hope nobody will notice the vegetables.....
Friday, May 06, 2005
Blandy Farm Garden Fair
I postponed today's local plant shopping trip when I learned (through Chile Man's e-mail newsletter) that Blandy Experimental Farm is having a Garden Fair this weekend. I don't know how I've missed this one up until now. Blandy Farm is a place I've always wanted to go anyway, so this is a two-fer. Plant shopping, nature trails, and kettlecorn - what a combination!
Annuals and Animals
First, the animals. The red fox was back yesterday, same time as the previous visits, around noon. I'm pretty sure this has been the same animal each time. Yesterday, long before I could see it, I knew it was coming because the crows were making such a fuss, cawing and circling around it. So I waited and sure enough, it came to do its now customary tour through the backyard/woods. It seems the hunting was not good yesteday though. It pawed through the mulch in a couple of places and then gave up, going back the way it came.
Second, the warblers. For the last couple of days, the yellow-rumped warblers have been working the trees for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I'm used to seeing them in their off-season feathers, but now they're in courting plumage. The black and white are crisply defined, and the yellow is bright, bright, bright. I tried to get a photo yesterday, but no luck. I saw a few other birds yesterday that I couldn't identify - didn't get good enough looks either time - but I'm putting them in the warbler column for now. I bought a warbler book, which is going to be very helpful, except that I should have had it several weeks ago and started studying before the birds showed up. But I'll be ready for them in the fall.
And lastly, the annuals. The frosting on the cake, the maraschino cherry on the sundae. The fun stuff. No commitments. If it doesn't work out, get rid of it and plant something else. I feel like I'm late in buying these this year, and yesteday was my first trip to one of my favorite local plant purveyors - Cox Farms. I'm hoping to get to another place today, either Merrifield Garden Center or Betty's Azalea Ranch. Yesterday I bought Petunias, three different Salvias, a Calibrachoa, an Angelonia, an Ageratum, a Helichrysum, and a Cuphea. I've finally reconciled myself to the fact that most of the ones I want are only available in 3 or 4 inch pots, and they're not all that cheap. And I've pretty much given up on trying to overwinter them in the garage and basement - too much work for too little reward. These are going to be sprinkled around in containers and in bare spots in the ground, and then repeat the whole process next spring.
PS: Forgot to mention the photos. I thought I didn't have anything photogenic in the garden presently, but I took some photos yesterday anyhow.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
The fox (same one as yesterday, I think) was back again today, about the same time as yesterday. This time I only saw it briefly, as it was leaving.
I had a visit from a very bold rabbit while I was working outside in the wooded area this afternoon. I heard something rustle the leaves near by, and first thought it was a squirrel, but they don't usually come close to me if they can help it. So I actually looked, and found a rabbit about 2 feet away from me, calmly eating. I said "What are you eating?", and it gave me a bored look and said, "Weeds. What's your problem?" OK, so it didn't really say that, but that was the facial expression exactly. And it was eating weeds, so I left it alone, and we went our separate ways each at our own speed.
We're in a sort of flower lull here, nothing new in bloom, so I didn't take any pictures today. Peonies and irises should be along in a week or so if the weather ever warms up.
Monday, May 02, 2005
No gardening today, but around noon I looked out the patio door to see a red fox fairly close to the house. A camera happened to be on the kitchen table, so I got a few pictures. This camera doesn't take good quality pictures at a distance, but these didn't turn out too bad. This is not the same critter I saw last week, by the way.
Sunday, May 01, 2005
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
We decided to renew our membership at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens after letting it lapse for a year. It's a nice place for a walk, for a change from our usual trodden paths. And there's lots of garden ideas to be had, both practical and impractical. (.....I wonder if I should try to dig a lake on our lot? The swallows swooping over it look so pretty.....And then hire a master carpenter to build a curved bridge out of native hardwoods... Would I get sued by the homeowner's association?.... just daydreaming here....)
The gardens there are still young. When they were just getting started 15 or so years ago, I used to walk there for free. They've come a long way in that time, but they're still planting and improving. I took a few pictures today, mostly tulips, but also a few things I could consider planting here - Polemonium, for example.
Does anybody celebrate May Day with flowery rituals any more? May Baskets? May Poles? I recall making May Baskets when I was a kid, but don't know whether anybody makes them nowadays.
There's a very interesting account of May Day customs (and I'm not talking about labor union parades) at Hillman's Hyperlinked and Searchable version of Chambers' Book of Days. Go get a snack and a beverage before you click on those links, because you'll be there for a while.
Apparently May Day celebrations were still popular in the early 1900s in the US, as you can see from these antique postcards.
Even though we had cold, gray, drizzly weather early this morning, I cut a few flowers to bring inside as a tiny little May Day observance.