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.

September 30, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For

Since Sunday we have gotten about 10" of rain, 6 of those inches have fallen today and more is predicted for tonight. All day long we have been laying on the tracks of a Caribbean rain freight train. Getting to work this morning was a real adventure with so many flooded intersections and underpasses, even without mentioning the overturned vegetable oil truck blocking I-64. The whole region is a wet mess. We did indeed need the rain, but that wish was granted earlier in the week. Even though we have had a few minor roof leaks, I am pleased the basement has remained dry. Outside there were a couple of garden casualties, but nothing serious.

Here is the obligatory beads of water on foliage photo (Plume Poppy - Macleaya cordata).

Macleaya cordata

This past spring I planted 3 Salvia leucanthas. One of them really took off well and above the rest. I would laud its superior size and number of blooms over the others. Because of my pride it was taken by the storm. All that extra growth could not handle the weight of the rain. So here is a picture of the middle child.

Salvia leucantha

Another storm casualty was the Amorphophallus konjac, though it will be fine. With the foliage bent over you can really see the Vitiligo-like stalk.

Beaten Amorphophallus

Beaten Dahlia

Beaten Dahlia

Though likely due to the drought, the foliage of my Baptisia x 'Purple Smoke' has begun to fall prematurely. I do like its slate color which has mixed well on the sidewalk with some Crape Myrtle leaves and Sedum.


A temporary casualty of the weather has been Loretta's peace of mind. She has been on edge and reluctant to go out since Sunday. I should probably poke around the house some to see if maybe she hasn't held everything in the past few days.

Loretta Considers the Weather 2

Loretta Considers the Weather

September 26, 2010

Castles Made of Sand

These photos were taken at the 2010 North American Sandsculpting Championship, part of the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival which celebrates the return of the beach to the locals, while also trying to wring out a few more dollars from the season. I must say it was nice to have the beach less crowded and being after Labor Day to legally take dogs there as well. Anyway, the sandsculpting was amazing, with artists from all over the world entering in either the solo or doubles category. I am still not sure how it is done, and I marvel at the work involved, especially when you consider its impermanence.

Sand Sculptors (3)

Poor Planning by Walter McDonald (Texas)

Poor Planning

Love Never Grows Old by John Gowdy (Italy)

Love Never Grows Old

This was one of several Neptunes, but I did not record the title of the piece, but it was created by Sudarsan Pattnaik of India

Neptune 2

Glory Lost by Ilya Filimonstev (Russia)

Glory Lost

This was not the solo winner, but was my favorite, Migrations by Lucinda Wierenga of Texas.



Flamenco by Thomas Koet and Jill Harris (USA)

Flamenco (2)

Don't Worry Mum, It's Only a Jet Fighter by Joris Kivits and Michela Ciappini (Netherlands)
If you have ever been to Va. Beach, you know where the title comes from.

Don't Worry Mum, It's Only a Jet Fighter

Old Navy by Meredith Corson and Dan Doubleday (USA)

Old Navy

Neptune Saves the Day by Sandis Kondrats and Uldis Zarins (Latvia)

Neptune Saves the Day

Celtic Sisters by Karen Fralich (Canada) and Eva "Sue" McGrew (USA)

Celtic Sisters

The Path of Life Dan Belcher (USA) and Benjamin Probanza (Mexico)

The Path of Life

Together Forever by Jacinthe Trudel and Jonathan Bouchard (Canada)
This is a close up of my favorite double.

Together Forever

You can see the rest of my set here, and some night time shots from fellow local blogger David here and here.

September 24, 2010

To An Estate Sale

Today I headed to an estate sale at Talbot Hall, which is one of Norfolk's more historic homes and one of only a few antebellum plantation homes to survive time and tide. We need more stuff for our own house like a hole in the head, but I was lured by the kayaks mentioned in the classifieds, plus I wanted to see the inside of this home. The original house was completed in 1803 and was added onto several times by the Talbot family, which owned the home until the 1950's when it was gifted to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. The diocese is currently thinking they may no longer like to own the property, and it might be put up for sale. Unfortunately the house has never been listed on the National Registry, nor is it under any other kind of protection. In a city where a good amount of our history has been "redeveloped", I hope a similar fate does not befall this house and its beautiful grounds.

Talbot Hall (12)

Like most historic Tidewater homes, the money side of the house always faced the water, because that is how guests came and went. The house is flanked by a pair of Magnolia grandiflora that were planted when the house was built, which would make them over 200 years old. They tower over the 3 story house and have seen their share of nor'easters and hurricanes, named or otherwise.

Talbot Hall (2)

Talbot Hall (3)

Talbot Hall (16)

Talbot Hall (13)

Talbot Hall (4)

Talbot Hall (14)

Once inside the house, you can easily see that it was built as a classic, two rooms up and two down, center hall colonial. The large back to front hall, big windows and one room depth of the house took advantage of any available breeze in an age before air conditioning.

Talbot Hall (11)

Talbot Hall (10)

Talbot Hall (8)

Talbot Hall (7)

Local legend has it that the house survives because it was one of the few not burned by the Yankees. When the Union made their way towards Norfolk, the Talbot family fled into the city entrusting the property to their slaves who pleaded with the soldiers to spare the home. When they entered the house and spotted a plaster seal of the United States over the parlor fireplace, they figured Confederate sympathizers did not live there. The seal is original to the house and shows 17 stars, the number of states when the house was built.

Talbot Hall (6)

To balance the parlor, one resident had the seal of Virginia installed in the dining room. Our state's current (and prudish) Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli would aprove of the seal as it has both of Virtus' breasts covered. Normally the left breast is bare as she steps on a figure of tyranny (Great Britain) with his broken chains and fallen crown. Ironic isn't it, for a state that went to war to defend one's right to own another human being?

Talbot Hall (9)

Other than these photos, I left the estate sale empty handed. The used kayaks were ridiculously expensive and even though they will be half price tomorrow, they still cost more money than many a new one.

September 20, 2010

To the County Fair

Saturday we headed west to enjoy a day of stellar weather at the Isle of Wight County Fair. We were able to see prized produce and poultry, watch tractor pulls and lawn mower races, get in a lot of people watching, consider questionable rides, eat some really good BBQ, study a vast array of tattoos and have others worry about our salvation. I also got take a few photos.

Lemonade and Funnel Cakes

Contemplative Chicken

Wary Chicken

Complacent Chicken

Don't Skid on the Kids

Brown and White Bunny

Bunny Eye

Compensatin' F350


Jr. Pilot

Elephant Wash

Cattle 2

Caged Animals

Honarable Mention

Some might think that events like this no longer have much of a place in the America of 2010, but I am very glad they persist.

September 17, 2010

Into the Swamp

No, I did not go to Washington D.C. today, but rather to The Great Dismal Swamp, where I explored, by bike, The Dismal Swamp Canal Trail. This relatively new trail is actually the old Rte. 17 that runs through here into North Carolina and other points south. When a new, safer 17 was built, people with vision decided to turn the old tree-lined road into a recreational trail, straight and flat for easy biking. It parallels an older route opened in 1805, that of the canal, which was hand dug by slaves through the eastern edge of the swamp. The Dismal Swamp Canal connected the port of Norfolk with northeastern North Carolina, facilitated decades of lumber extraction, and offered an inland alternative to the unpredictable Atlantic.

The Dismal Swamp Canal

Even though I was in a swamp, it was evident that the area is in the midst of a severe drought. However, the edge of the trail offered a surprising number of late summer blooms. There were huge blue swaths of Wild Ageratum (Conoclinium coelestinum), some of it mixed with Goldenrod (Solidago).

Conoclinium coelestinum

Conoclinium coelestinum (5)

Wild Ageratum also offered a nice background to the bolder color of American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana).

Callicarpa americana and Conoclinium coelestinum (2)

Callicarpa americana and Conoclinium coelestinum

There were a couple of wildflowers I did not immediately recognize. I think this is Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) ...

Oenothera biennis (2)

... and this may be Slenderleaf False Foxglove (Agalinis tenuifolia). I hope someone will let me know if my ID is wrong.

Agalinis tenuifolia

I posted a picture of Passiflora lutea for this month's Bloom Day post and noted its weediness. I have also grown Passiflora incarnata (pictured below), which while showier, is just as weedy, but more difficult to pull up.

Passiflora incarnata

The Great Dismal Swamp is perhaps better known for its animal communities. There is a sizable population of black bears, as well as over 20 snake species, including all three of Virginia's venomous ones. Fortunately all I saw were birds and a disinterested rabbit.

Bear Sign

There are still a few reminders of busier times on the canal. The building below is the house where the toll taker lived. It is right on the edge of the water and the back half will likely be in the water given a strong enough wind. Hopefully some funding will be secured to preserve it, but it is fairly far gone.

Toll Taker's House

Toll Taker's House (7)

These days the canal is used mostly by pleasure boats travelling between the Chesapeake Bay and the sounds of North Carolina.

The Dismal Swamp Canal 3

Sailors in another age would put this swamp's water in barrels to drink on ocean voyages. The acids and tannins from tree bark inhibited the growth of bacteria making it safe to drink long after it was put on board. Even though too many of its trees have been felled, and much of the land that was once part of The Great Dismal Swamp has been ditched and drained for soybeans and tract houses - the water still retains its characteristic strong tea color.

Maple in Canal Water