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.

August 30, 2008

Norfolk Botanic Gardens - Late Summer

I renewed my membership in the Norfolk Botanic Garden back in April, but have only taken advantage of it once since then. So I had an afternoon free and drove over. The gardens looked great, despite the lack of rain here. Fay turned out to be a big tease. We had several days of overcast skies that would occasionally part with a few showers. We kept wondering when the real rain would start, but it never did.

There is a canal that runs through the garden and connects to Lake Whitehurst where some of the city's municipal water is stored. I remember coming here as a child with my grandparents before I lived here. We were on a bus tour and my two favorite parts were the canal boat ride through the gardens, and when the bus driver took us through a bad part of town retelling stories of being shot at. Currently the canals walls are being rebuilt so there were no rides yesterday.
The view from NATO tower.

This built in planter was by the cafe, and I although don't usually like this color combo, I thought this was very nice.

The signage is very good at the gardens, but I could not find one on this plant. The leaves were about 8-10" across and the flower is the 3-4" white spike in the middle. It was very tropical looking and had jointed canes like bamboo. At places it was over 6' tall and it looked herbaceous. Does anyone know what this is?
I had never seen this Paper Mulberry (Broussonettia papyifera 'Golden Shadow').
Also new to me was Hibiscuss sabdariffa. The flowers were not nearly as showy as the buds and stems.
A lot of the grasses were at their peak as was reliable Joe Pye.
Magnolia x 'Pink Goblet'
Black Pearl Ornamental Pepper (Capsicum annuum 'Black Pearl') was developed at the National Arboretum is was an All-America Selection winner.
This summer the gardens are exhibiting "Mutambo", sculptures from Zimbabwe. They were placed all throughout the garden and seemed to fit in perfectly with their surroundings.

Finally, NBG have placed a Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) in its own cage. I guess they fear its theft or they think it would be a good gimmick. They are very scarce in the wild, but there is a huge propagation effort going on so they should be in a garden center near you, or will be available through mail order. I don't know what I think about this effort, there is something fishy about it. I am all about saving species, but does it need such a commercial marketing effort.


  1. Beautiful gardens! What is special about that pine?

  2. Good morning Les,

    Weird and Wonderful!

    and all very pretty. Lovely browse. I wish the Oxford botanical garden was as interesting. Nice to have something like that within driving distance.

    Looking forward to the next day out ;-)

  3. Thanks for reminding me about Norfolk Botanical--I haven't been in a couple of years. I'm going to take the Curmudgeon and see if he can identify the mystery plant--I looked it up and couldn't find it. BTW, I found another local blog on Tina's site--it's called Perennial Garden Lover and she's in Newport News.

  4. Hi Les! I found your garden through Cosmo so I thought I would stop by. I live in Newport News. I didn't even know you other VA bloggers were out there. lol Anyhow, great tour of the Gardens. We went earlier this summer.

  5. Les, what a beautiful botanic garden, and your photos are gorgeous. I especially love the Black Pearl berries against the black leaves, and I’m always a fan of sunflowers. Thanks for taking us on the tour.

  6. What a great garden! I love that hibiscus with the red buds. I'm sorry to hear that you didn't get any rain from Fay. Gustav is teasing us at the moment.

  7. The Norfolk Botanic Gardens look quite enticing.

    Your mystery plant is either Piper auritum or Piper methysticum. P. auritum has a very strong root beer odor when you crush the leaves, otherwise they are very hard to tell apart.

  8. Tina,
    I put in a link about the pine if you are interested, but it is a living fosil relic found in Australia where only 100 mature specimens still live.

    I'll gladly swap a trip to Oxford's garden with one to Norfolk's.

    Thanks for stopping by and for pointing me to another local blogger.

    Thanks and please stop by anytime,

    The Black Pearl Peppers are lovely, but they are very hot if eaten. I was particularly pleased witht the sunflower shots.

    Hanna has left us nicely saturated.

    Christopher C.,
    Thank you for the lead on my mystery plant. The way it was growing led me to want to search it out and see if I may have a place for it.


  9. Sorry for the late comment. I'm growing Hibiscus sabdariffa this year. The red bud-looking structures are the calyces left behind after the petals fall. They're used to make beverages both hot and cold and also used in cooking. I plan to do a long post on this plant in the next few weeks, whenever I dry the next batch of calyces.

  10. What interesting plants! I need to come back and look at some of these. Thanks for this - for plant-obsessed folks, this was a real treat.