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, 2011

Waterfront Home and Garden Tour

Lately, Mother Nature has not cooperated with my plan to enjoy as much kayaking as I can before the weather and water turn cold.   Today, however, I was able to scratch an itch weeks in the making and was able to spend nearly three hours on the water.  I brought along my point and shoot camera, not willing to risk my good camera around the water.  The little camera has served me well, but can be frustrating to use as it has one of those screens on the back that are impossible to see in full sunlight.  So I was shooting somewhat blind and apologize for the picture quality.

Though the first home on the tour is small and is just a summer rental, it has a commanding view.  This year's occupants, the ospreys, have just recently taken a flight to South America where they winter.

The Pyracantha on this home's wall was impressive.

At the same home I was able to get my kayak right under a Natchez Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia x 'Natchez') to appreciate its superb bark.
Lagerstroemia x 'Natchez'

All the plants along the river have to be tolerant of salt flooding, and the dominant tree species, Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda), certainly is.
Under the Loblollies

I like this old-school boat.

Speaking of old, this impressive house looks as if it has been here since the early 1900's, but it was built only about ten years ago, and this is Hampton Roads, not The Hamptons.
Flicker Point

Behind this marsh, on the other side of the Loblollies is where my son went to elementary school.  I hope the teachers bring the kids out every now and then to look at the river.
Granby Elementary

Just yards away from the school's baseball field egrets can be seen.
White Egret

Another salt tolerant tree is Magnolia grandiflora, and this home had a spectacular specimen.
Magnolia grandiflora

This ranch house had the most diverse garden on the tour.
Ranch Garden

At the same home was a flood zone combo of Castor Bean (Ricinus communis), Chindo Viburnums (Viburnum awabuki 'Chindo'), Ruellia brittoniana and a large Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica).
Waterside Combo

When not frustrating me with the weather, Mother Nature has been very busy planting Saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia). The local stands of this plant are just a week or so away from being in full bloom.
Baccharis halimifolia

Here it is again with some Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana), which I think always looks best in other people's gardens.
Baccharis halimifolia and Cortadaria

Not normally thought of as shorebirds, crows can make a home anywhere.
Crow Perch

I am quite fond of crows.

I like this house, but like its natural setting and view better.
White House

Under the Loblollies 2

Comorants are funny and skittish birds.  You can usually tell which way the wind is blowing by what direction they are facing, but when approached they contort their necks side to side to get a look at you, as they can't seem to see you face on.  They can use their wings under water as flippers and are graceful swimmers and divers. This grace is not extended when they take off from their perches.
Cormorants for JoEllen

If you would like to own a home by the river, this one is for sale.  Hurricane Irene tore up the dock, and some ignorant person limbed-up the Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) to improve the view, ruining their natural beauty (and the view) in my opinion. 
For Sale

Every garden should have a piece of well-chosen sculpture.  This one is a mosaic made from broken China.
Mosaic Dolphin

This heron played statue and let me get very close.

This is one of the hardy Hibiscus and was planted...

... on the back side of this house, which I love for its over-the-river balcony and for its wonderful asymmetry.

I love this house equally as much, but for its traditional symmetry.

This garden had a massive grove of Live Oaks, not limbed-up and allowed to reach their full potential.  After Loblollies, Live Oaks are the next most dominant tree species, and quite salt tolerant as well.
Quercus virginiana

Pelicans have not always called Tidewater home, but in recent decades have expanded their range here.  His or her perch will be the last stop on our waterfront tour, and we will leave just a second before the pelican takes flight. 
Pelician Take Off

I hope you have enjoyed the tour, I know I did.

September 28, 2011

Unsettled Weather

This morning the sun shone and summer made a brief return visit.  The temperature rapidly reached the mid 80's and turned to steam all the moisture in the sodden ground.  It was July humid.  In the early afternoon a black wall of clouds rose up out of the south.  The temperatures fell, and heavy, fat-drop rain began with hail following soon.  Tornado and flash flood warnings were issued.  It calmed down for a while, but then a second round came, followed by another lull as I left work. In the direction of Norfolk the dark sky was roiling, and I was witness to a wrath-of-God kind of thunder and lightening show.  Once home, I headed to the river to watch the last act.  At sunset the clouds parted just a bit to show some color other than black or gray.  It was like cracking the door open on a wood stove in a darkened room.

Lafayette 9-28-11 (2)

September 24, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle

As I write this it is again raining, ruining a second weekend in a row for most outdoor activities.  This is not a complaint, but is more an observation.  We were blessed this summer with fairly regular rains, at least in the second half, and that fact combined with our normal heat has caused many of my plants to put on some rank growth.  Space is always an issue in my small garden, but especially in late summer as the annuals and tropicals are at peak and tend to crowd out the year-round residents.  Late September is usually when I start itching for the big fall cut back and begin reaching for a machete.

Here is the arbor leading up my front steps.  If I lived in a less laid back neighborhood, I would have long since received a visit from the city's code division with a neighbor's complaint. 

Front Arbor

Climbing the arbor is a plant I have waited two years to bloom, Millettia reticulata.  This plant goes by the common name of Evergreen Wisteria, but it is not a Wisteria, and here, it is not evergreen, but is hardy.  This vine should reach about 15' tall and is supposed to bloom in late summer.  In this picture it looks as if it is covered in frost, but that is actually a very fine dew.

Millettia reticulata

Another plant I have been waiting to bloom is Ruellia brittoniana, commonly known as Mexican Petunia.  Several of my neighbors have it, and for them it has obtained near-weed status, perhaps that will come in time for me.

Ruellia brittoniana

Salvia leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage) is another indicator of the season, and mine have just started to bloom.

Salvia leucantha

It rained so hard yesterday that my Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale) was beaten down to the point I doubt it will ever stand up.

Colchicum autumnale

Also beaten down is my unstaked Dahlia x 'Bishop of York', but Dahlias do not need much of an excuse to flop.

Dahlia 'Bishop of York'

This trio is Golden Jasmine (Jasminum officinale 'Aureum') and two varieties of Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides).  The red one is my favorite, Big Red Judy and the variegated one I think is called 'Stained Glass'.

Coleus and Jasmine Combo

Another sign of late summer in my garden is the fruit fall from my Hardy Orange (Poncirus trifoliata).   We were working on a bumper crop, but Irene culled quite a few before they had a chance to ripen.  However, there are still plenty more yet to fall, for the neighborhood kids to pick up and throw and for me to step on in the driveway. 

Poncirus trifoliata (2)

I have chosen this second Poncirus image as my entry in Gardening Gone Wild's Picture This Photo Contest.  Though not as traditionally pretty as a blooming flower, fruit falling to the ground is one of the things that says "late summer in the garden" to me.

Poncirus trifoliata

September 21, 2011

Scenes from the Ferry

Last week on the way to and from Atlantic City we took the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.  Travelling this way is not so much a short cut, but it does avoid having to fight Wilmington and Philly traffic, and if your timing's right and depending on your destination, it takes no longer.  On top of that it is a very genteel way to travel.

The day we headed up was the tenth anniversary of  9/11 and security was tight.  Sniffer dogs and officers with pole mirrors were busy inspecting cars, and the ferry had an armed Coast Guard escort heading out of the Lewes harbor.  Once away from shore, the cloudy skies and cool weather made me long for a jacket.  Despite the chill, I spent the whole trip on deck.  Some might think there was not much to see beyond sky and water, but those are things I rarely tire looking at.  Closer to Cape May I noticed two small boats with kayaks behind them and was amazed anyone would kayak across the bay.  A few minutes later my amazement grew as I realized the kayaks were actually escorting two swimmers across the bay. Two days later on the trip back it was sunny and much warmer, and the boat was full.  Many of the passengers were NYC fireman on their way to a golfing trip in Delaware.  If anybody deserved a golf outing, it would be them.

If you are interested in heading that way, I would recommend making a reservation rather than taking your chances, especially in the summer.  You will save no money taking the ferry; it is not cheap.  However, it is very relaxing, the views are great, you can get a meal on board and the non-drivers can get adult beverages; most civilized.

Armed Gaurd

6 Persons

Life Jackets


Deck Chairs (2)


Deck Chairs



Welcome to New Jersey

September 15, 2011

Bloom Day - Just the Plants Ma'am

My adventure in Atlantic City has me all discombobulated, and I thought today was the 14th.  I was nearly late for Bloom Day and probably will be late to pay the mortgage.  So for the sake of verbal brevity let's get straight to the plants to avoid any late fee.

I will start with a couple of things things we saw last month.  Have I mentioned how much I like Miss Huff Lantana (Lantana camara 'Miss Huff')?

Lantana camara 'Miss Huff'

Here she is again with my newest shrub purchase, a variegated Oleander (Nerium oleander 'Variegata').

Nerium oleander 'Variegata' and Lantana camara 'Miss Huff'

Another star from this summer that has not stopped blooming is Cuphea x 'David Verity'.

Cuphea x 'David Verity'

The Heavenly Blue Morning Glory (Ipomoea tricolor 'Heavenly Blue') pairs nicely with my River Star Home flag.

Ipomoea tricolor 'Heavenly Blue'

I do not have any luck with Hostas that I spend money on.  Those that I have not paid for seem to do much better, including this unknown variety I am going to grow in a pot as a porch plant.


For someone who does not normally like white flowers, here is another one, Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora).  On our trip north I noticed that this plant was slowing trying to smother the entire Delmarva Peninsula and parts of Jersey.

Clematis terniflora

Yet another white flower, Chinese Snowball Viburnum (Viburnum macrocephalum).

Viburnum macrocephalum

A few years ago I fell in love with Roselle Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) at the Norfolk Botanic Gardens, though it was not the flowers I liked, but the buds.  I finally got some seeds from Baker Creek and this is the result.  Hurricane Irene tried to take it out and split the plant in two, but it thrives just the same.

Hibiscus sabdariffa

Another purchase from Baker Creek was Red Malabar Spinach ( Basella rubra) which I will likely not eat, but I like the foliage and flowers.  The big green leaf in this shot is not the Spinach, but Air Potato (Dioscorea bulbifera).

Basella rubra

The next two pictures are also of D. bulbifera, before it was planted and in a pot going up the porch railing.  It gets its common name because the potato-like bulbs actually grow above ground on the super fast vine.  This plant is really a Yam and is on many warmer place's invasive species list, but our eventual cold weather will keep it strictly tender.

Dioscorea bulbifera

Dioscorea bulbifera (2)

It is Goldenrod season, and this one is Fireworks (Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks').

Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks'

We will end with some purples, a Liriope muscari that stood out in crowd of others with a stronger color than its peers, and ...

Liriope muscari

... one of my favorite native shrubs, American Beautyberry (Calicarpa americana).

Calicarpa americana

There are other bloomers in my garden right now, but there are only so many hours in a day.  If you would like to see what other bloggers have time to show, head on over to Carol at May Dreams Gardens where she is hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  She does this each month on the 15th and hopefully I won't be so rushed next time.