Tangled Branches: Cultivated
happenings in and around my zone 6b gardens in northern Virginia and in central Virginia
Saturday, April 22, 2006
The Beer Garden
Well, I thought I was just soooo clever when I found ornamental barley seed on the Nichols Garden Nursery web site and had the absolutely brilliant idea of planting it next to a Golden Hops vine. Barley + hops = beer. A beer garden. Except that, of course, as soon as I Googled it, I found somebody else thought of it first, and developed it further.
I'm not going to do anything that elaborate, I'm afraid. My very simple plan is to plant a Golden Hops vine to cover the new trellis on our not-yet-under-construction deck, with a sweep of Black Heart Barley at its feet. We're going to need a screen of some sort on one side of the deck, and I was thinking of the kind of trellis you used to see on front porches of houses. Then, having made an effort to get an interesting trellis, I'll completely cover it with a thick, rampant vine. Maybe not such a good idea. The plan probably won't come together this year though. I have the hops vine, but right now it's approximately 2 inches tall. Just as well, since I don't have the trellis or the deck yet. I planted some barley seed several weeks ago, and then realized that the tiny amount I planted wasn't going to make much of a show. I planted more about a week or so ago, which is now just sprouting. So then, the newest version of the plan has me putting the hops vine into a container with some kind of support for it to climb, and placing another container of barley next to it. More like a beer shrine than a beer garden.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
We had a nice soaking rain yesterday, all morning and into early afternoon. The plants and I are grateful. Just look.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Lunch, Gardens, Art
We had a diversionary kind of day yesterday; did some things we haven't done for a while.
Lunch was in Chinatown at Lei Garden. Nothing very garden-like here, but we like the dim sum. We tend to focus on the dumplings and yesterday's "steamed" cart offered up a couple that we never had before - one with a spinach filling and one with a mushroom filling. Both very good. In fact when they came around again, we got another order of the spinach ones.
After lunch, we walked down to the mall area. I'd been meaning to go look at the outside of the newish National Museum of the American Indian ever since it opened. There was a newspaper article or two at the time about the innovative and symbolic landscape design surrounding the building. Sounded interesting, and I wanted to see it. Well, we saw it. It is interesting, but this looks to me like one of those things for which landscape architects get their names in the paper, but nobody ever writes about whether the installation is being maintained or was maintainable in the first place. The pond looked stagnant; when the shrubbery and grass planted around it begin to grow, you won't be able to see it at all except maybe from inside the building on one of the upper floors. The meadow area has been invaded by urban weeds. The Native agriculture area looks like they may plant some crops there or have in the past, but right now is just a muddy space between the sidewalk and the building. But maybe I'm being too hard on them; they packed many ideas into a small space and it couldn't have been easy. And the waterfall and stream on the mall side of the building are attractive and perfectly complementary to the building. The museum doesn't seem particularly interested in telling the public anything about what's outside, at least not on their web site. And the landscape architect's site has very little about it.
The Mary Livingston Ripley Garden on the east side of the Arts & Industries Building was very floriferous yesterday. I was surprised to see so many plants there which I have at home - perhaps the garden designer there and I think alike. Or maybe I just have a bunch of plants which are more common than I think. I noticed we both have: Euphorbia robbiae, Ipheion uniflorum, various Epimediums, and some others which don't come to mind now that I want to write about them. One plant that made a big impression on me was Tulipa acuminata (so I believe). I read Anna Pavord's The Tulip late last summer, and was intrigued by her description of the tulips of the Turkish Tulipomania (before the Dutch did it) with their long, pointed petals. I assumed we could no longer obtain such things, but then yesterday I saw some growing right before my eyes. If there was a label near them, I didn't see it, but when I got home I Googled and found Tulipa acuminata. I'll put those on my list of things to plant this fall, and hope the rodents let me have them for one season.
Our real destination for the day was the Hokusai exhibit at the Sackler Gallery. We really enjoyed this - the prints and paintings were fascinating and beautiful. The exhibit is so large it's easy to get overwhelmed (I did). I wish I had studied the entire online exhibit before going there in person, but going through it afterwards refreshed my memory. Nature lovers could even just concentrate on the landscapes and plant and animal studies, and still have plenty to look at.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Plants, and More Plants
The plant orders I swore I wasn't going to make have started arriving. You may have heard that we're having work done on the house. A couple of the projects are going to be on the outside of the house, and I really didn't want to plant anything new in any place where it might get trampled. So, absolutely, positively, no permanent plants are going in this year - I'll just start a few annuals from seed and that's it. Well. Maybe just a few new plants, not anywhere close to the house. And I really would like a forest understory of Japanese maples, and if I don't put them in this year...well, I'm not getting any younger. And what about those paw-paws I forgot to get last year? So you see where this leads.
The first order to come in was from Niche Gardens. I was fairly disciplined here. Just 2 paw-paws (apparently they aren't self-fruitful) and a couple of Iris cristata. The irises were fine, but I was disappointed in the paw-paws. They clearly were bareroot stock that had just been stuck into nursery pots a few days before shipping. They had a few newly-sprouted fresh white roots on them, so I stuck them in the ground anyway, but sheesh, why not just sell bareroot stock and save on the shipping?
Yesterday, Bluestone Perennials' order arrived. I actually placed this order before making my resolution, so it doesn't count. For the woods, I got Aquilegia canadensis and Aruncus dioicus. I used to have columbine, but it died out and I didn't replace it. Now I'm replacing it. And I've had very good results from the Aruncus I planted several years ago in a large container and then basically neglected, so I thought I'd try some directly in the ground this year. (I'm disinclined to dig up the ones in the container - they've been performing so well there.) For the front of the house, I went heavy on Dianthus. 'Bath's Pink' has been such a workhorse there, that I thought I'd try some other of the gratianopolitanus varieties - 'Fire Witch' and 'ItSaul White'. Except that this last one, I just now learned, is not a gratianopolitanus variety but instead D. plumarius. Well the foliage looks the same to me. For good measure, I picked up a couple of D. deltoides varieties - 'Arctic Fire' and 'Cherry Red'. The plan for all these was to put them up close to the house, but the plan has been revised. They're now going to be near the 'Karen Gray' peonies or thereabouts.
And today, I received my order from Mulberry Creek Herb Farm. This is my first order from them, and I'm well pleased. I got some, um, herbs. The real reason I placed an order there was because they were selling Golden Hops Vine, and I've been wanting one for years, and I just had a New Idea what to do with it. But I had to fill out the rest of the order with something, and so decided to add to my thyme collection. The thymes seem to need replacing every so often anyway. The variegated ones lose their variegation, for one thing, and they just get less vigorous over time (for me anyway). And then I had been reading about Verbena bonariensis as a wonderful butterfly plant. And the year before last, I had a Salvia elegans, or pineapple sage, which bloomed all summer, not just the day before frost as did all the other ones I've had. Mulberry Creek is selling one which sounds similar to the one I had 2 years ago. Oh, and the Golden Hops New Idea? A Beer Garden. More later.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Early Morning Stargazing
I happened to be outside around 5 this morning. The sky was clear and the nearly-full moon was low, so I looked up to see.........summer stars. The Summer Triangle was high in the sky to the east. The Big Dipper was in the northwest, with the handle pointing clearly to Arcturus. Venus, by the way, is still very bright in the southeast in the morning.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Bluebells: Longer Version
I don't know how I missed this before. I've lived here 20 years, and this is the first year I've gone to see the Virginia Bluebells at Bull Run Regional Park. I only just learned of this natural wonder a couple of years ago. I was reading Seasonal Guide to the Natural Year by Scott Weidensaul - a sort of travel guide for naturalists - and I wasn't expecting to read about anything in my neighborhood worth traveling to, but surprise, surprise. In Chapter 16 - Bluebells and Early Spring Wildflowers - he first mentions Shenk's Ferry Glen Wildflower Reserve in Pennsylvania, and then goes on to say:
Bull Run Regional Park...has bluebells in numbers that exceed those at Shenk's Ferry...
This information percolated throught my mind a while, then about a year ago, it was in the news that VDOT might build a road through the bluebells. Still I didn't go to see them. They selected a different route for the road, by the way.
So yesterday was a beautiful day here after a full day of rain on Saturday. My two or three bluebell plants are in bloom, so I guess that it might be a good day to go take a look at Bull Run. Wow - was it ever! This is well worth seeing. It appears that peak bloom is right now.
The trail is a loop from one spot near the parking lot to another spot a bit further away from the parking lot. The part with the most bluebells is actually part of the Bull Run-Occoquan Trail. After Saturday's rain, this was a muddy rut, but there was enough dry ground on the sides that we could walk it without too much trouble. The trail is also used by horseback riders, and you can guess what that means. The Bull Run-Occoquan Trail connects with the official Bluebell Trail, but there are fewer bluebells on the official trail. Walking the loop in the direction we did, the first part of it went through a boggy-type area to Cub Run. On that part of the trail, there were everywhere Spring Beauties. These seemed much larger to me than the ones I normally see, but perhaps they were a different species - Claytonia caroliniana. As we approached Cub Run, the bluebells began to appear and then were more or less continuous along the length of the trail. It took us about an hour to walk the loop at a leisurely pace, with plenty of pauses for photography. Of the pictures I posted, no two were taken in the same spot along the trail. And there were other wildflowers in bloom too. I was intrigued by the yellow violets; I don't recall seeing them around here before.
Here at home, I'm now not nearly as happy with my few bluebells as I was the day before yesterday.
Bluebells: Executive Summary
I'm planning a longer post on this later today, but the short version is this:
If you like wildflowers and the color blue, and don't mind muddy trails, go immediately to Bull Run Regional Park to see thousands of Virginia Bluebells at peak bloom. I've posted some pictures from our visit there yesterday.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Sapsucker at Work
Well, I showed you the sapsucker wells, and here I have for you the sapsucker. Now I know these are not very good pictures, but let me explain the circumstances. The holly tree on which the sapsucker has decided to dine is outside my bedroom window. I was closing the shades on Monday morning, and noticed a bird in the tree. The sapsucker. So I hurried to get the camera before it flew away. But it flew away anyway. So I waited, very still, and eventually it came back. The wells are below the level of the window, and I didn't think the sapsucker would stay around if I opened the window, so the pictures were taken through 2 panes of glass and at a downward angle, and relatively in the dark because these are the main branches of an evergreen. So that's why these are not high-quality photos. But the bird is clearly identifiable as a yellow-bellied sapsucker (which has not yet gone north to nest as of April 3).
And if you're not into grainy, poorly-focused pictures of birds, try the nice flower pictures. This year's flowers appear to be about 10 days ahead of last year's. I would have thought the drought might hold them back, but that doesn't seem to be the case. We got a little surprise thundershower this morning, and a somewhat heavier thundershower on Monday evening, but no drought-busters. Capital Weather has some really cool pictures of lightning, cherry blossoms, and monuments around the Tidal Basin in DC - all at the same time.