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.

May 10, 2011

A Day in the Gardens

As I mentioned in my last post, this past Friday was National Public Garden Day, and you could download a voucher that would grant free entry to hundreds of gardens nationwide.  Since my membership has lapsed, I used my voucher to get into the Norfolk Botanical Gardens.  I was not alone - there were many nursing home activity buses, legions of home schoolers, plus regular garden visitors and those who were drawn to the garden's annual plant sale.  Having just bought more plants from work than I should have, and not knowing about the plant sale before I got there - I felt some degree of immunity entering the sales area.  However, my protection was not complete and I came home with a Cuphea 'David Verity' and an Aucuba japonica 'Sulpherea', which looks more like a houseplant than a hardy shrub.  One of the garden's signature plants, Camellia japonica 'Mrs. Lyman Clarke', was in abundance and reasonably priced as well.  This local favorite was first discovered by none other than Mrs. Lyman Clarke at a hardware store.  At the time it was an unnamed seedling, but it has long since proved to be one of the area's best performers.  The coolest thing I saw offered was Yellow Blossom Caladium, which has yellow leaves with bright magenta veining, but at $12 each one did not follow me home.

Plant Sale (3)

The Norfolk Botanical Gardens is one of  23 nationwide AARS (All-America Rose Selection) test gardens, where roses are grown, evaluated and rated, and Norfolk's climate is a good test at how they tolerate heat and humidity.  At the main rose garden none of the plants were having to deal with that yet, and the beds were near their seasonal peak.

Rose Garden

Cherry Sunblaze, Tree-Style
Rose Cherry Sunblaze copy

Eden Climber
Rose Eden Climber

At the Baker Perennial Garden there was much to look at, including Pink Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa)...
Oenothera speciosa (2)

... Phlomis tuberosa fronting Baptisia...
Phlomis tuberosa

... another Baptisia combo, this time 'Purple Smoke'  in front of Weigela florida 'Rubidor'...
Baptisia x 'Purple Smoke' and Weigela florida 'Rubidor'

... and Paeonia 'Myrtle Gentry'.
Paeonia 'Myrtle Gentry'

Elsewhere in the gardens other plants caught my eye like this False Agave (Beschorneria septentrionalis).
 Agave beschornaria septemtrionalis

Variegated Kiwi (Actinidia kolomikta)
Actinidia kolomikta

Hardy Chinese Ground Orchid (Bletilla striata)
Bletilla striata

Azalea season is now over here, but these deciduous members of the family were in full bloom.  I think these are Flame Azaleas (Rhododendron calendulaceum).
Rhododendron calendulaceum - maybe (5)

Speaking of Rhododendrons, I have planted six in my life and killed all six.  As much as my head turns when I see them bloom, I have vowed never to pick one up again.
Rhododendron (2)


Of all the flowers I saw on Friday, my favorite were the two I saw dancing along the fountain's edge (I am conscientiously trying to include more people in my landscape photos, but without looking like that creepy dude with a camera).
Little Flowers copy

You can see all of my photos from Friday's trip to the gardens here.


  1. Soooo...that Beschorneria septentrionalis, is it actually a year 'round plant in the garden or is it planted out only for the summer?

  2. Les,
    That last photograph of the dancing girls is priceless. I love the colors throughout the composition. Dude, yes. Creepy, no. Keep it up.

  3. Les, The last photo is magical--the essence of spring. I also love the green benches with evergreen rhododendrons. I am excited to learn that there is another experienced gardener who can't grow them. I would be embarrassed to tell you how many I have killed--way more than six. I currently have zero in my garden. I do have two deciduous rhodos that are limping along. What is that big shiny leaf plant, an Asian mayapple, and was the next photo of its flowers? Carolyn

  4. Creepy dude? hahaha not you. I too like that one at the end with the little girls.
    I like the pink Phlomis, very nice against the baptista. I do miss NBG.

  5. Beautiful pictures Les. The two little girls look like fairies dancing.

  6. Looks like the place is on fire with fantastic color this time of year. I have not been to this botanical garden but it is on the list. Great pics.

  7. Loree,
    It is hardy here. We are in the most northerly reaches of zone 8 on the east coast. However, because of our unpredictable rainfall and crazy soils, careful site selection is important.

    I did saturate some of the photo's colors. Thanks for the non-creepy validation.

    I would have thought that Rhodos would do well in your climate. The plant you asked about is some species of Podophyllum, but I could not get a positive ID, and yes the next pictures are the flowers.

    That Phlomis was new to be. I have the yellow one with silvery foliage.

    Thanks! I do not normally do "cute", but the shot begged to be taken.

    You should make a trip. It is one of the the mid-Atlantic's great public gardens.


  8. Beautiful rhodo shots - probably better to just have visiting rights.

  9. Hi Les, what a nice photo report! Wonderful, in my imagination this place looks like the Garden of Eden, what a beauty!

  10. Les, It’s another wonderful rainy Spring day, so I’m taking time to look over the Blogs I follow. Wanted to see what you have been up to. I joined the Chicago Botanical Garden the week before the "open house" for public gardens. That place is fantastic. Wow how beautiful. I don't know about you but when I leave a place like that I just want to get home and redo the who place - thought a little impractical I will admit. They have the most beautiful Japanese Garden, check it out. Will check in with your postings again soon. Jack

  11. Les,
    Some of the best photos I have seen you posting. Great job and nice gardens.

  12. Beautiful garden, and the shots are absolutely stunning!