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.

November 29, 2009

An Early Morning Walk

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.

- Henry David Thoreau

Like many Americans, we were away for the Thanksgiving holiday. Fortunately our road is not long to Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore where my parents live, as well as many other members of my family. Seeing fog out the window when I woke up on Thursday, I grabbed my camera and 2 of 3 hounds and headed out for a walk. It was a good thing I went on Thursday, for Friday was wet, windy and stormy - while Saturday morning was just plain cold with our second dip into the 30's this season.

Most of my walk took me to the shores of Metompkin Bay where a few of the Spartina grasses were hanging onto to their summer greens, but most had on their fall golds waiting for their winter color. The air was still, the bay dead calm, and the crashing waves on the distant islands could easily be heard, even over the din of the geese. The morning was similar to the day after last Christmas that resulted in one of my favorite blog postings.

From the Dam (3.1)

From the Dam (5)

From the Dam (6)

From the Dock  (1)

From the Dock  (2)

From the Dock  (4)

Lang Farm Rd. Wetland 2.2

The dogs mostly had a great time. Penny stays busy and has a full agenda, and it did her a world of good to be able to run at top speed, off-leash and without fence.

Penny and the Geese

Loretta and Penny (5)

Near the end of the walk Loretta was anxious to return home as the sound of gunfire was echoing through the woods. It is prime hunting season for deer and geese, and to her phobic self it all sounds like thunder.

(I have decided to come back and use this photo for the June 2010 Picture This contest sponsored by Gardening Gone Wild.)

Loretta 1.1

You are welcome to view the rest of my morning walk pictures here.

November 22, 2009

My Blue Heaven

Ipomoea tricolor 'Heavenly Blue'

The picture above is of Heavenly Blue Morning Glories (Ipomoea tricolor 'Heavenly Blue') and is my entry for Garden Gone Wild's Picture This Photo Contest for the month of November, whose theme is "The End of the Line". These were the last of the flowers to bloom on this plant, as shortly after this picture was taken we dipped into lower, but not freezing temperatures that were enough to stunt this plant's vigor. This cold spell was shortly followed by almost 8" of swamping rain during last week's Nor'easter, effectively relegating the plant to just a pleasant fall memory. I like this picture for more than the obviously beautiful flowers, I also like the contrast between the supple vine and the the rigid line of barbwire (with all its connotations). Since today is the last day to submit photos for the contest, my procrastination fits with the theme as well.

November 20, 2009

Coming To A Living Room Near You

Christmas Tree Truck

Yesterday at work we got in our Christmas tree truck. These are all Fraser Firs grown deep in the mountains of North Carolina. It took us about 2 hours to unload the truck (by hand) and the rest of the day to get them set up, and I'll be back at today and tomorrow. We re-cut each tree, drill a hole in the bottom, put them in water filled stands and spray them with Wilt-Pruf. Even though I had excellent young, and not so young help, my body is feeling every day of its age this morning.

November 17, 2009

Be Careful Where You Park The Car

The former owner of the company I work for forbade us to ever sell two plants - Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia cordata) and Porcelain Vine (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata - now that's a Latin name). He was well founded in his prejudice, as he had seen more than one landscape overrun with these plants. I myself have the Houttuynia, but have not found it invasive and enjoy the colorful foliage and citrusy scent in my garden.

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata 4

Porcelain Vine has been placed onto many invasive plant lists, primarily in the New England and the Mid-Atlantic areas. The plant is native to the more temperate parts of eastern Asia and was first brought to this country in the 1870's. It was used for quick cover on arbors and trellises and as a groundcover. Quick it is - where the plant is happy, it will grow up to 15' in one season. Porcelain vine grows almost anywhere in zones 4-8, as long as the site is not too shady or stays too wet. The foliage resembles that of grapes, and in fact it is in the same family - Vitaceae. The green flowers are not that showy and bloom in mid to late summer. The fruits are very attractive and do little to shake the family resemblance. The berries ripen in early fall and go through a color change as they mature from pale yellow to lilac and finally to a fine Delft porcelain blue. It is these beautiful berries that are primarily responsible for Porcelain Vine's original popularity, and their high fertility rate is responsible for the plant's invasivness. However, the plant will also spread vegetatively, and has a strong tap root that allows the plant to quickly regrow if cut to the ground.

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata 3

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata 1

If you would like to learn more about this plant, it is listed on the National Park Service's Plant Conservation Alliance website of Least Wanted plants. While you are at the site you may want to see if anything planted near your driveway is on the list.

November 15, 2009

Bloom Day - After The Beat Down

This was the Bloom Day post that almost wasn't. The three day Nor'easter finally ended Saturday, and I just got my electricity back last night after being out for two days. My neighborhood, the city and a good part of Hampton Roads were left a real mess after the storm. There are trees down, lots of waterfront property damage, debris in the streets, newly leaking roofs and many flooded basements, including my own. Thursday night was the peak of the storm, but Friday was not much better. The worst problem with this particular storm was the tidal flooding. The official high tide mark was 7.7', only 2 inches below that of Hurricane Isabel, but the official mark was not recorded here on the recently expanded banks of the Lafayette River. Talking with several of my neighbors, the consensus is that the tides were at least half a foot higher than Isabel.

With no electricity, we had to keep ourselves entertained the old-fashioned way with conversation, board games, reading by candlelight and going to bed early to the sounds of howling winds and the distant (and not so distant) wail of sirens. Even without the howling and wailing I could not have slept Thursday night - I had very real visions of the water rising into the brand new, never been fired furnace. However, a good friend helped me sleep easier on Friday by reminding me that our combined troubles are minor compared to what far too many less fortunate people endure when these events occur.

After we got the basement emptied, I was able to assess the garden, rake a few leaves and find a few things to proffer for Bloom Day.

Ajania pacifica (Green and Gold Chrysanthemum)

Ajania pacifica 1

Amsonia hubrichtii (Thread Leaf Blue Star)

Amsonia hubrichtii 1

Iris - Unknown Rebloomer

Iris - Unknown Rebloomer 1

Fatsia Japonica

Fatsia japonica 1

Arbutus unedo 'Compactus' (Compact Strawberry Shrub)

Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' 1

Arbutus Fruit

Arbutus Fruit

Rosa x 'Caramba'

Rosa x 'Caramba'

Camellia sasanqua 'Kanjiro'

Camellia sasanqua 'Kanjiro' 1

Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'

Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide' 1

Back Gate View

My temporary water feature

My New Water Feature

My new compost pile


I hope the rest of you have a less eventful Bloom Day. If you would like to see what other gardeners are posting, please visit Carol at May Dreams Garden.

November 12, 2009

Island Living

Things are a little wet and windy here today. We are in the grips of a powerful Nor'easter with lots of wind, rain and tidal flooding. Many of the areas roads, bridges and tunnels are closed effectively turning Hampton Roads into a collection of islands. Because of the strong northeasterly winds, the waters back up into the area creeks and rivers and don't get an opportunity to empty at low tide, and consquently high tide is magnified. These pictures are from my neighborhood at the end of this morning's high tide - the worst flooding is predicted this afternoon.

New Hampshire Ave. 1

Mayflower and Newport 1

Mayflower and Newport 2

Knitting Mill Creek 5

Knitting Mill Creek 1

Knitting Mill Creek 4

November 8, 2009

Season Opener

Living here in the upper reaches of zone 8, one of the great consolations to the impending winter is the beginning of Camellia season. The first to bloom are C. sasanqua, C. hiemalis and the hybrids, with November being their peak month. Depending on the weather, these fall bloomers will continue flowering well into December and sometimes even into January if it stays mild enough. The majority of these Camellias are hardy to zone 7b or 8, but there are quite a few newer hybrids that can carry Camellia season into zone 6. Most of these cold hardy varieties were developed by Dr. William Ackerman from research done at the U. S. National Arboretum in Maryland. If you want to try one of these more cold tolerant selections, look for Camellias with the words Winter, Ice, or Snow in the name, but check the zones on the tag to be sure.

This past Saturday I went to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens to visit the Hofhiemer Camellia Garden and to look at the fall bloomers. This was also the day the Virginia Camellia Society held their fall show and sale. The show was judged, and like similar events, there are very particular rules and categories as to what and how the blooms are exhibited. After I toured the gardens I went inside to see the show, but was able to restrain myself from making any purchases.

Here are just a small portion of the blooms in the garden and some shots from the show. If you want more you can go here.

Camellia x hiemalis 'Bonanza'
Camellia x hiemalis 'Bonanza' 1

Camellia sasanqua 'Midnight Lover'
Camellia sasanqua 'Midnight Lover' 2

Camellia sasanqua 'Pink Butterfly'
Camellia sasanqua 'Pink Butterfly' 2

Camellia x hiemalis 'Pink Goddess'
Camellia x hiemalis 'Pink Goddess' 4

Camellia hiemalis 'Shishigashira'
Camellia hiemalis 'Shishigashira' 4

Camellia sasanqua 'Showa-no-sake'
Camellia sasanqua 'Showa-no-sake' 1

Camellia sasanqua 'Sparkling Burgundy'
Camellia sasanqua 'Sparkling Burgundy' 2

Camellia x 'Winter's Hope'
Camellia x 'Winter's Hope' 1

Camellia Show 4

Camellia Show 5

Camellia Show 11

Camellia Show 9

Camellia Show 10

November 6, 2009

'Simmon Trees

Racoon up in de 'simmon tree
Possum on de ground

Possum says to racoon
Please shake some 'simmons down

The American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is one of our underappreciated native trees. They range up and down the Eastern Seaboard and into the Mid-West. These trees are tough, growing in the poorest of soils where they withstand the occasional drought, as well as the occasional dose of salt in coastal areas. Though they have fairly good fall color, this time of year it is the fruits that are of interest, which fall off the tree when ripe, creating a feast for wildlife. They are also quite edible to humans, provided you don't eat them prematurely. The astringent tannins in an unripe Persimmon will turn your mouth inside-out for a small eternity. Without the foliage or fruits on the tree, it is easily identified by its distinctive bark.

American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) 1

American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) 2

Although I promote native trees whenever possible, when it comes to Persimmons I prefer to eat the Asian varieties (Diospyros kaki). There are many cultivars, but they can be put into two basic groups: astringent or non-astringent. The astringent varieties can only be eaten after they are fully ripe, otherwise they will do that same nasty trick in your mouth as an unripened native. The ripe fruit from the astringent group is achingly sweet and has a gooey, almost gelatin-like texture. I prefer the non-astringent varieties, which can be eaten while the flesh is still firm and crisp like an apple. They are also not so cloyingly sweet. Even if the fruit is not eaten, these trees are worth growing just for their color - both from the fall foliage and from the fruit, which hangs on the tree like so many orange ornaments.

Asian Persimmon (Diospyros kaki) 10

Asian Persimmon (Diospyros kaki) 44

Asian Persimmon (Diospyros kaki) 66

Asian Persimmon (Diospyros kaki) 2.1

Asian Persimmon (Diospyros kaki) 3