An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

March 31, 2008

Not a Huge Fan

I am not a big fan of Tulips. Don't get me wrong, when they are blooming in the garden or in a vase they are spectacular. However, in our area they should be considered annuals or expensive squirrel food. Here are a few that I saw at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens on Friday. They were planted in the All American Selections test garden. If you need to know the names, I am sorry I did not note any of them.

March 29, 2008

Norfolk Botanical Gardens - Early Spring 08

The temperatures today never made it out of the 40's, and it was overcast and very windy -- not a good day for people running a garden center. However, yesterday it got over 80 and it was sunny and warm, and fortunately I had the day off and opted to see the Norfolk Botanical Gardens. I rarely get to see the gardens in spring, so this was a real treat.

The Narcissus were mostly finished except for a few varieties near the administration building.

It is still in the early stages of the Azalea season, but there were several varieties opening at the gardens. Azaleas are the signature plant of the gardens and were indeed the first shrubs planted in the 1930's by a hard working corp of African American women as part of a WPA program.

There were a few perennials blooming including Creeping Phlox,
and Pulmonaria 'Trevi Fountains'.
The Crabapples were also in full bloom.

I thought that the most spectacular trees were the Yoshino Cherries. I am not huge fan of ornamental cherries, but when they are at their peak, their beauty can not be denied.

There were lots of other things blooming yesterday, and I think I spent as much time looking at the camera screen, as I did looking at plants. I will try to share more of these as time permits.

March 28, 2008

A Case of Mistaken Identity

We have this large compost pile at work -- but it is not really a compost pile because we don't use the compost. It is just a place where we dump all of the clippings, prunings, leaves, pulled weeds, out of season annuals, etc... It is also the place were we toss dead plants that customers return, or that died in the nursery. Often things get taken there that are not quite dead yet, and it can be like Stephen King's Pet Cemetery; sometimes things come back to life. Each spring lots of things pop up and the employees will go through the pile looking for found treasure. I have pulled out Day Lilies, Columbines, Ferns, Jasmines, lots of Narcissus and other things. Once a year I have to hop on the Bobcat and push it back to the limits of the property, and the whole process starts over again.

About ten years ago, I pulled out what I was told was our native Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) from the compost pile at work. I have enjoyed it each spring as it came up with its glossy green foliage in February, and it usually begins blooming in early to mid March with very cheery, shiny, bright yellow, daisy-like flowers. Over the years it has spread here and there to all parts of my yard. I probably would have worried about it spreading so much, but for the fact that it disappears when the heat gets here.

Recently I began doing some reading on C. palustris and realized that what I had was not our desired native, but an invasive European import, Ranunculus ficaria or Lesser Celandine aka Fig Buttercup. The National Park Service has it on its Least Wanted list, and suggests several ways to destroy it. Additional reading said that it was once known as Pilewort and was used to treat hemorrhoids (piles) because its tubers resembled hemorrhoids. I guess that kind of medicine would be preferable to blood letting.

Now that you have read through all that blather, here are some pictures of my invasive, hemorrhoid-easing, misidentified plant.

Here is your gratuitous pet shot of Loretta and Patsy enjoying the sun and the Ranunculus ficaria.
Once this plant dies down, it will be replaced by one of my other invasives -- Houttuynia, Corydalis or Crocosmia. I will let you know when this happens.

March 22, 2008

Zoo Tour - Part II (Yes they do have animals)

Bongos --
-- and their beautiful coat.
The girls anxiously await the opening of the gate.
This Giraffe was trying to prune a Wax Myrtle.
These are some of the newest arrivals and their mother, sunning on faux rock.
Could this Meerkat be one of Flower's kin?
This male Ostrich did not let a crowd of pre-schoolers slow his pursuit of the female. I sure that when the "dance" was over, some explaining had to be done by the chaperons. I never saw the tail feathers open on this Peacock, but it was handsome nonetheless.
These were my son's favorites - the Prairie Dogs.
Lastly, the Box Elder Bugs needed no cage.

Zoo Tour - Part I (I go for the plants)

I started my spring schedule this week, which includes a six-day work week and working both Saturdays and Sundays. Since my son started his spring break on Friday we decided to spend part of our last full day together (until May), at the Virginia Zoo. Although I love animals, I really enjoy the flora at the zoo as much as I love the fauna.

Even though the first day of spring was this week, the zoo is still in winter mode as far as the beds were concerned. Below is the main entrance planting. The flowers and their colors are a welcome sight, but I think the green Kale ties it all together.

Here are a couple more beds with lots of Violas, Pansies, Mustard and Kale.

One of my favorite trees in the park, or in general is the Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria araucana). It is a close relative of the Norfolk Island Pine, but is narrowly more hardy. This native of Chile was once more widespread and was a favorite for the Brontosaur and its ilk to dine on.
It would not be a fun tree to climb.
This is supposedly the largest of these in Virginia, and it has been here a long time. However I saw several of these in England that would make this one a sapling.
Below is a large planting of Hellebores under an ancient Oak.
It was a clear blue sky that showed off this Eastern Redbud.
This blossom was on one of the largest Viburnums of this type (Burkwood?) that I have ever seen. It was close to 10-12' tall by nearly 20' across, and covered with fragrant blossoms.
I met up with Marie Butler who is the Landscape Coordinator for the zoo. She is a professional acquaintance of mine, a good customer, and a very entertaining lecturer. One of her lectures is titled "I've Got Tigers in my Garden, so What is Your Problem". While we were there, she showed me what was growing in their greenhouses to be put out when it warms up. Lots of Coleus --

-- this variegated Abutilon --
and Crotons. I am intrigued by the thread-leaf one in the bottom of the frame.
Mark Schnieder, the chief Horticulturist, and Marie Butler along with a very hard working staff, are responsible for the zoos plantings and their upkeep -- all organic of course. I hope people (beyond plant geeks like me) can appreciate and notice what is involved in keeping the green part of the zoo looking so good.