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.

April 15, 2016

Bloom Day - Bright Spring Sun

     I am feeling rich right now, at least when I am in my garden. Ample rains, cool air, and bright sunshine have conspired to create lots of flowers and lush foliage. Weather is always up in the air, so to speak, that you can never be sure how long a pattern will last, so I am enjoying this one while I can.

     (Hovering over the photos should give you the plant names. Some browsers don't support the Flickr titles when you hover, so I have added the plant names.)

     Cross Vine (Bignonia capreolata)
Bignonia capreolata

Front Porch

     Frisia Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia')
Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia' (2)

Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia' (1)

          Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica)
Front Garden (3)

     Front Garden
Front Garden (2)

     Unknown, or more acurately unrecorded pansies (Viola x wittrockiana)
Viola (Pansy) (1)

Viola (Pansy) (2)

          Golden Ornamental Raspberry (Rubus cockburianus 'Aurea')
Rubus cockburianus 'Aurea'

     Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica)
Hyacinthoides hispanica (3)

      Tradescantia x 'Blue and Gold'
Tradescantia x 'Blue and Gold' (2)
     Ajuga reptans 'Chocolate Chip'
Ajuga reptans 'Chocolate Chip'

     Corydalis heterocarpa var. japonica
Corydalis heterocarpa var. japonica

     Robin's Plantain (Erigeron pulchellus)
Erigeron pulchellus

     Royal Purple Smokebush (Continus coggygria 'Royal Purple)
Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'

     Weigela coraeensis
Weigela coraeensis

     Stachyurus praecox ''Mitsuzaki'
Stachyurus praecox ''Mitsuzaki'

     Hardy Impatiens (Impatiens omeiana)
Impatiens omeiana
     Spanish Bluebells - pink form (Hyacinthoides hispanica)
Hyacinthoides hispanica (4)

     George Tabor Azalea (Rhododendron x 'George Tabor')
Rhododendron x 'George L. Taber' (2)

     Mrs. G. G. Gerbing Azalea (Rhododendron x 'Mrs. G. G. Gerbing')
Rhododendron x 'Mrs. G. G. Gerbing' (2)

     Nuccio's Gem Camellia (Camellia japonica 'Nuccio's Gem')
Camellia japonica 'Nuccio's Gem' (2)

     To see what is growing for other gardeners, please visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens who hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of each month - rain or shine. 

April 10, 2016


     This past weekend we headed over to my parent's place on the Eastern Shore to celebrate a couple of birthdays. Spring arrives there a few weeks after it arrives here in Norfolk, especially where my parents live so close to the still cold Atlantic. This morning the low was 32.5, but the skies were a clear blue, and many of the trees and shrubs in their yard, and in the surrounding landscape, were tentatively pushing out new growth. Though largely still brown, even the marsh was beginning to show the first blush of green.

     Golden Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Ogon')
Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Ogon' (2)

     Fruitless Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua 'Rotundiloba')
Liquidambar styraciflua 'Rotundiloba' (2)

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Rotundiloba' (1)

     Ginkgo biloba 
Ginkgo biloba (2)

Ginkgo biloba (1)

     Contorted Filbert (Corylus avellana 'Contorta')
Corylus avellana 'Contorta'

     Rabbiteye Blueberry (Vaccinium ashei)
Vaccinium ashei (1)

     River Birch (Betula nigra)
Betula nigra

     Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Taxodium distichum (1)

Taxodium distichum (2)

     Edible Asian Pear (Pyrus pyrifolia)
Pyrus pyrifolia (2)

     Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)
Pinus taeda

     Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Prunus serotina

     Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Robinia pseudoacacia (2)

     I don't know which species of hackberry this is, Celtis laevigata or C. occidentalis, but I do know the genus is underappreciated. They will grow practically anywhere (in this case with roots in the salt marsh), they have a handsome winter silhouette, sport unusual bark, provide food for wildlife, and the translucent green of their new spring leaves is something I have come to treasure.
Celtis (1)

Celtis (3)

Celtis (2)

April 7, 2016

Zuni Pine Barrens

     Back in March (which already feels like so long ago) most of the Hort. Dept. at work piled into rental vans and drove westward to reach the Zuni Pine Barrens along the Blackwater River in Isle of Wight Co. There we were met by Dr. Lytton Musselman and Peter Schafran of Old Dominion University (ODU), both of whom are experts in several subjects, including Zuni and its longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystem. The pine is the keystone species at Zuni, and this spot is the last vestige of its northern-most limit. This type of ecosystem once covered close to 100 million acres, from southeastern Virginia to Texas; 3 million acres remain today. Longleaf pine was so important to the settlement of this part of the state, that it is sometimes referred to as "The Tree That Built Tidewater". Its hard wood was preferred for ship's masts, and more importantly, it resins were harvested for the tar, pitch, and turpentine necessary for building wooden ships. Today shipbuilding remains a key component to the area's economy, and it all started with the longleaf pine. Over-harvesting, feral pigs, and fire suppression have all played a role this tree's near disappearance locally, but at Zuni, ODU and the State of Virginia are increasing the acreage of this ecosystem, one of Virginia's rarest. 
Musselman Teaches (2)

Zuni Pine Barrens (10)

Zuni Pine Barrens (9)

Zuni Pine Barrens (6)

Zuni Pine Barrens (12)

Musselman Teaches (4)

Pinus palustris

     Fire is a key component in the life cycle of the longleaf pine, and regular slow burning is needed to restore and maintain this ecosystem. While we were there drifts of smoke blew across the refuge from some still smoldering hot spots leftover from a recent burn.
Controlled Burn (2)

     Despite how it may appear, and what the word "barren" brings to mind, Zuni is home to one of the most diverse array of plant species in the state, some of them quite rare. One that we were all excited to see bloom during our visit was pyxie moss (Pyxidanthera barbulata), and Zuni is the only place in the state where it naturally occurs. It is not really a moss, but a subshrub that thrives in the sandy soil, and withstands the occasional fire.

Pyxidanthera barbulata- Pyxie Moss (2)

Pyxidanthera barbulata- Pyxie Moss (1)

     Towards the end our time at Zuni, Dr. Musselman ascended a 300 year old longleaf pulpit. It still bears the scars from being "boxed", which was one way resin was harvested, not too dissimilar from tapping a maple to make syrup.
Musselman Preaches (7)