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.

January 29, 2008

Yet Another Reason...

There are many reasons Crape Myrtles are one of my favorite trees, and as you can see the bark alone makes it worth growing. They are so abundant here you would think they were native. This one is Natchez (Lagerstroemia x 'Natchez') which is one of the most common of the modern hybrids. Just think how this will look if we could get a little snow to put around the base of it.

January 28, 2008

An Odd Flower

This is Jelena Witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'), and up close it is a bizarre flower. It started blooming in the middle of the month and will probably continue well into February. When temperatures drop into the low to mid 20s, the strap-like petals curl up closer to the red calyx and then when it gets warmer, they unfold again like a birthday party horn . This one is not very fragrant, at least not that I could tell. 'Pallida' is much more fragrant, but I like this color better. The fall foliage was really nice this year, it was a warm apricot color and lasted several weeks. This plant will slowly get to about 15' tall and spread out about as much. It can take full sun to partial shade and should be hardy in zones 5 to 8.
This is the same picture only zoomed out so you can see it with Red Twig Dogwood and Gold Mop Cypress.

I am in the middle of attending the Mid Atlantic Horticultural Short Course which a mouthful of a name for what we usually shorten to just the "Hort Course". If I learn anything of interest I'll try to share. It is in Virginia Beach at the Founders Inn which was once affiliated with and adjacent to Pat Robertson's CBN. I'll try not to think about that while I am learning a thing or two.

January 25, 2008

Just Follow Your Nose

Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)
I took this picture on the 15th at the garden center, and although it is not the prettiest flower I have ever seen, the fragrance more than makes up for it. It smells exactly like a bowl full of Fruit Loops. Winter honeysuckle can be a somewhat ungainly, irregular shrub, and it has the tendency to hang on to its leaves until the bitter end. It would probably look best at the back of a border with showier stuff in front, but not too far away that you don't smell it in the winter. For us it usually blooms in January and continues into February. This Chinese native is hardy in zones 4-8, prefers full to partial sun, and can get up to 10' tall and wide.

January 23, 2008

And You Thought Deer Were a Problem

This past Monday was what I hope was the beginning of the end of a long frustrating problem in my garden. It started this summer when I began noticing that quite a number of my plants near the sidewalk were being mangled and damaged just as they were coming into bloom. Among the things destroyed were my Zowie Wowie Zinnia, all my Salvia leucantha, my tropical butterfly weed, Firecracker Cuphea and a foliage tropical I hadn't even had a chance to learn the name of. Most of them were not killed outright, but they were ruined for the rest of the season. This fall, money was real tight for me and I had a hard time justifying the purchase of pansies and some Red Giant Mustard to give the yard some winter color, but being obsessed I did it anyway. About two weeks after they were put in, I noticed that one of the pansies was gone with no signs of a struggle - just a perfect round hole where it was planted. The next night one more was taken, and this went on until all I had were taken. Once the pansies were gone my Red Mustard was taken and then recently emerged bulbs began to disappear. Next on the hit list was my Autumn Rocket Camellia which was being systematically stripped of its lower branches. I put a handmade sign on it that said "Hands Off Please", and the damage stopped.

I thought I was being singled out for some sort of punishment, and began to speculate as to who it might be. I decided to join our neighborhood's list-serve so I could see if anyone had a similar problem or if they might have suggestions. Shortly thereafter a flood of messages were posted by people with similar problems. Pansies, shrubs and planters were disappearing right and left, and I was ironically relieved that I had not been the only one. There were all kinds of theories as to motives, suspects and responses. From speaking with each other, it became apparent that it was someone on foot, and that thefts and vandalism occurred in the very early morning hours. The police were rightly busy with other issues and could not be of much help other than to make the early patrols more frequent. Frustration levels were high.

This past Sunday I was hit again, and this time it was no dainty, inexpensive annual. While walking the dogs, I discovered my Edgeworthia chrysantha had been stripped of all but 2 or 3 of its branches and the bark had been torn off down to the ground. I was livid and glad my son was not around to hear what came out of my mouth.

Lurid Crime Scene Photo

Judging by past patterns, I knew that the perp would be back to finish the job, so I decided to see if I could catch someone. I got up on Monday at 4 a.m. and sat at our dining room window which has a clear shot of what was left of the shrub. At about 4:50 I saw this pony tailed women with a fat beagle come up to the shrub and begin maniacally breaking the rest of the branches. I ran out of the house and caught up to her and demanded to know WTF she was doing to my plant. She got tongue tied and I noticed that she had an armful of camellia branches and rosemary from another yard, along with my edgeworthia. She eventually said some crap about she didn't think I would mind if she took the branches. I asked her where she got the other stuff from and she said she found them "on the ground". After a lecture from me on ethics and pruning techniques, I was able to get her name, but not where she lived. I told her I was going in to call the police, but what I really wanted was to follow her first to see where she lived. When I turned the corner she disappeared.

I was able to post her first name and description on the list-serve, and by that afternoon I had a full name and address, which I reported to the police. Ironically she lives a few houses behind me, and the week before when it was nice out, I noticed her in her yard - planting pansies of all things. At the time I said to myself that that women was foolish to plant pansies in this neighborhood. Our community police officer said he would go and speak to the women, and suggested that I should let him see if he can put a stop to it. If not, I will be going downtown to let the courts do what they do.

Just another beautiful day in the neighborhood.

January 19, 2008

No, It Is Too Early for Forsythia

The above images are of Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) that I took within the past week. At this time of year I always get a few customers coming in looking for what they mistakenly call early blooming forsythia. In our climate this plant will usually bloom in January or February depending on the weather. Last week we were in the 70's and that caused the orange buds to swell and they began opening this week. If the TV weather guys are correct, they will be blooming in snow tomorrow. This plant is very easy to grow, drought tolerant and likes full to partial sun. If you are the kind of gardener who likes tidy well behaved shrubs, you will be disappointed. It has a very sprawling habit and does really well on slopes where it can sort of spill down. The stems will stay green year round and the plant has a wide hardiness range from zone 6 to 10. It is native to China.

The first picture was taken in downtown Norfolk in front of a typical municipal parking garage. In the past decade the city has made noticable progress in expanding their plant palette. I hope to show you more of their efforts as things come into bloom this spring, and if I am there at the right time. These have been here a long time and they survived this summer's drought with no apparent damage.


This is my first foray into the world of blogs, and I hope that what I share will be of use to someone. I played in the dirt when I was a kid and kind of grew out of it as I became distracted during my teen and early adult years, but rediscovered the joy of gardening later on. After a stressful career ended involuntarily, I decided to turn my gardening avocation into an occupation. Now, someone actually pays me to buy plants and to talk to people about them. I will try not to plug my place of business in this blog, unless of course someone wants to pay me to do so. Please enjoy and let me know what you think.