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 26, 2008

Busch Gardens -- The Plants Are Nice, But We Go For The Rides

Since I work every Saturday and Sunday during the spring, my son and I do not get to spend any days together for a couple of months, so I had no problem pulling him from school for a day of bonding. Our activity of choice is to spend the day at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, and thanks to my parents we each have a season pass. We thought that going on a pre-season Friday would let us have the park to ourselves, but it was full of high school and middle school field trippers (as if I didn't feel old enough already). Busch Gardens has won "The Most Beautiful" park award by the members National Amusement Park Historical Association for 18 consecutive years. It is easy to see why, from its setting in the woods, to its lush landscaping. This year they offered two weekends of programs geared toward the gardening public under the title of "Ready, Set, Grow". There were tours of some of the garden areas, the greenhouses, demonstrations and classes. I noticed too that there was a new emphasis on plant labeling that also included the Latin names.
They use a wide variety of plant material throughout the park. I particularly like the fact that they plant the perimeters of the public areas with unusual trees and shrubs. They also plant the more public beds with items most people would not consider because of the plant's ultimate size, but I know they have the resources to move things around when they out grow the space. The staff is particularly adept at containers, and they are used widely throughout the park. Their annual beds are extensively planted in a Victorian or traditional European style, and while the colors and the tidiness are not to my liking, I can appreciate the effort. I wonder if little gartenelfin come out at night to get it all looking good for the next day.

I am going to send this to my Monrovia sales rep. it's good product placement.
There were several other species in the park Friday besides those that fall into the flora category.

Here are a couple of cuckoos.
Finally, here are some shots of why we really go to the park. It is a great place to experience a variety of G forces (or lack thereof), speed, and simulated near death experiences.

April 18, 2008

With Colors Like These, Who Needs Flowers?

When most people think of Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum) and color, their thoughts think of the autumn foliage, for which they are well known. However, their spring colors are just as intense, and in a few cultivars more so. Perhaps the glare from Azaleas and other spring flowers distract us from the Acer foliage.

I shot the following photos earlier in the month at the Pinkham Garden , at work and a couple at home. This is Acer palmatum 'In the Pink'.
'Mikawa Yatsuba' underplanted with Juniperus 'Mother Lode'
'Orange Dream'
Two shots of 'Ueno Homare'

'Koto No Ito'
Two shots of 'Peaches and Cream'

'Beni Schichihenge'
Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum', Golden Full Moon Maple
Acer shirasawanum 'Autumn Moon'
'Kamagata' aka 'Eagle Claw'
'Ukon' and 'Burgundy Lace'
'Villa Taranto'
This 'Butterfly' was another customer return that was half dead and I put it in a pot to see what would happen.
Finally, this unknown burgundy leafed variety was one of three I got for $5.00 when I worked for the now defunct big box store, Home Quarters. My supervisor said that since it no longer had leaves, he wanted them marked way down. However, I paid full dollar for the Sun Goddess Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla 'Sun Goddess') that sits in front of it. I don't think the two would look half as good without being paired with the other.

April 16, 2008

We're Number 4, We're Number 4, We're....

This area of Virginia collectively goes by the name of Hampton Roads, which is the body of water that is formed where several local rivers meet the Chesapeake. Besides being the name of a great harbor, Hampton Roads also refers to a region that includes seven independent cities, several counties, a handful of towns and a small corner of northeastern North Carolina. All of these varying municipalities act more like squabbling fiefdoms or competing Greek city-states. It seems they would prefer fighting with each other for a few scraps of national recognition or any federal dollars that might fall from Washington, rather than to band together for the good of all. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, we are the 31st largest metropolitan region in the country, but the area seems to suffer under the cloud of a Metropolitan Inferiority Complex. Varying local leaders often lament that there are several areas ranked below Hampton Roads that have major league sports teams. Also for a region this large, one might expect more than a couple of Fortune 500 companies to call the area home.

However, there is a new study out that puts us very close to the top of a national ranking. The Virginian Pilot reported this past Sunday that the region is NUMBER 4 --in vulnerability to terrorist attacks among U.S. urban areas, according to a study sponsored by the Dept. of Homeland Security. Why are we so vulnerable? We are home to the largest navy base in the world; we have many tunnels and bridges; Hampton Roads is the east coast's third biggest port; and chronic traffic problems combined with geography would make evacuation extremely problematic. Maybe the many voices in this region can get together and do something to change our ranking, or if not, maybe in a few years we can be Number 1.

Here are the current top 10 most vulnerable urban areas according to the study.

  1. New Orleans
  2. Baton Rouge
  3. Charleston, SC
  4. Hampton Roads
  5. New York/Newark
  6. Washington, D.C.
  7. Richmond, VA
  8. Houston
  9. Philadelphia
  10. Boise, ID (why Boise?)

I have got to go now, violets are taking over my beds, I think I may have thrips and the koi are hungry.

April 14, 2008

April Bloom Days

My time is always short in April, and tomorrow is my longest day of the week, among many at work, so I am posting my blooms a day early. You can see what other gardeners are posting by going to Carol's May Dreams Gardens.

This is one of my longest living perennials, Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa). It has unusually structured flowers, attractive felty foliage and is extremely drought tolerant. It behaves more like a semi-evergreen shrub, though it is most often listed as a perennial.
Cherries Jubilee (Camellia japonica 'Cherries Jubilee) is always the last of my Camellias to bloom. It has been over two months since my earliest C. Japonica began blooming and there are a few blossoms still lingering around the yard on other varieties, but this one is in full, blood-red flower.

I have planted Chocolate Chip Ajuga (Ajuga reptans 'Chocolate Chip') between some pieces of bluestone and I like the way it looks next to Ursula's Red Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium nipponicum var. 'Ursula's Red').
There are not many plants left in the yard from former owners, but here are two. I believe the Spirea is Spiraea x vanhouttei. Although I really enjoy them, I can't keep up with all the minor spring bulbs. Can someone tell me which this one is?

April 12, 2008

The Pinkham Garden, April 08

I had the opportunity to visit the garden of Bill and Linda Pinkham this week. The Pinkhams are the former owners and founders of the company I work for. Although I am not terribly well-traveled, I know of no other garden quite like theirs. Bill had been asking me to visit so I could see some things in their spring best that I may want to find for my customers. We only saw the sun this week for about 4 or 5 hours, and unfortunately it was not the day I visited, but at least the rain held off and I was able to take some shots.

This Azalea variety is Don's Variegated (Rhododendron austrinum 'Don's Variegated'), although I have found the variegation weak, the flower color is anything but.
Appalachian Red Redbud (Cercis canadensis 'Appalachian Red')
The colors on this Corydalis 'Berry Exciting' have not been electronically altered. Five Leaf Akebia (Akebia quinata)Here is Ueno Homare Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum 'Ueno Homare') with Columbine in front. The Maples were extraordinarily beautiful, so much so, that I will do a separate post later on.
I think the foliage on Epimediums is more attractive than the flowers.

Cedar Lane Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens 'Cedar Lane') with variegated Box
Spotted Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) with Ajuga
Sophora davidii Popcorn Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum 'Popcorn')
The rest of the shots are just some broader pictures of the garden. You can see the garden is in its spring fullness, the woods away from the water are coming to life, but the marsh and the water's edge are still wearing their winter colors.