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 30, 2010

Snowpocalypse 2010

It is not unheard of for it to snow here in Hampton Roads, but it is unusual for us to get more than the occasional dusting. It started snowing around 2 or 3 this morning and is not predicted to stop until sometime overnight. There is at least 8" or more on the ground as I write this, and the weather people are predicting around a foot when it is all over with. According to them, this is a "major snow event". Their prognostications tend to whip the populace into a frenzy, compelling them to drive at great haste, without regard for any other vehicles or pedestrians - to the grocers, filling stations and the liquor stores.

View From The Porch

The Porch 3

I love my wife. She braved the madness to get our shopping done, which needed doing anyway, the cupboards being bare. However, she failed to purchase any adult beverages. Did I mention I love my wife? So out I went last night ahead of the storm to pick up a couple of six packs. There were 30 people ahead of me in the express lane. You could have divided the line into two groups: people whose basket included white bread or people who had wine.

Knitting Mill Creek

Knitting Mill Creek 2

Since I had already spent the better part of an hour at the store, I figured I might as well see what I could find at NARO Video while I was out. The guys behind the counter were ripping on the local TV weather people and the frantic crowds stocking up at the grocery store, and it was one of them I heard refer to "Snowpocalypse 2010". I picked up a copy of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs for early and Revolutionary Road for later. Plans change and I was in bed before the family movie was 30 minutes old.

Resourceful Neighbors

Cross Country Norfolk

Fortunately the garden is still fairly sleepy, so I don't think this round of weather will harm anything. I did cut all my blooming Paperwhites to bring in, knowing they would likely get smushed. Mahonia and Camellia sasanqua are running through their final blooms, while the C. japonica are just starting to show a glimpse of color, but still tight enough I think they will be fine. I had not noticed until my morning snow patrol that the Edgeworthia was starting to bloom and it should be quite something in a couple of weeks.

Mahonia x 'Winter Sun'

Mahonia x 'Winter Sun'

Camellia japonica 'Les Marbury'

Camellia japonica 'Les Marbury'

Camellia japonica 'Magnoliaflora'

Camellia japonica 'Magnoliaflora'

Edgeworthia chrysantha

Edgeworthia chrysantha

Yucca filamentosa 'Golden Sword'

Yucca filamentosa 'Golden Sword'

Wherever you are, I hope the weather is just as you like it, or will be soon. If you want to see more of my snow day photos, click here.

January 28, 2010

This Week In Horticulture

Like I do most years at this time, I spent the better part of the week at the Mid Atlantic Horticulture Short Course. I help out a little bit, attend a few classes, catch up with previous acquaintances as well as make new contacts. You may be able to imagine what it is like to be among hundreds of landscapers, growers, turf people, designers, arborists, retailers, academics, master gardeners, specialists, extension agents, etc... When you get this many plant people together, talking about what they love, the halls are not quiet.

The classes I took varied, and several of them I entered with low expectations thinking I would learn little new, only to be made wrong. Usually I enjoy classes the most that take me places I'll likely never see. In particular I enjoyed the flora of the Capetown area of South Africa as presented by Marcia Stefani of Virginia Tech, and Mark Weathington's (of the J.C. Raulston Arboretum) tales of adventures with Tony Avent plant hunting in China and Japan. Keeping in the exotic frame of mind, I attended a talk given by Sam McCoy whose company Ozbreed Plants sells drought tolerant Australian plants to American growers. He had some way cool stuff, but I reserve judgement until I see how they handle our cold and our rains. The lushest photos I saw were shown by landscape designer and author Scott Calhoun of Zona Gardens. Perhaps the highlight of my week was seeing images of my own garden on the giant screen at the end of the room. Helen Yoest of Garden With Confidence taught several classes and included some shots of my garden taken this past summer. It was quite flattering and only added to a very satisfying week - one that always makes me want to come home and get my hands dirty.

Now for some completely unrelated, but recently taken photos.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blue Bird'

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blue Bird'

Euphorbia fulgens

Euphorbia fulgens

Agave americana

Agave americana

Ruellia macrantha

Ruellia macrantha

Euonymus japonicus 'Chollipo'

Euonymus japonicus 'Chollipo'

Just a reminder that if would like to put your name in the hat for my blogging anniversary prize and haven't done so, you still have until the 31st. Also, it goes without saying that my usual disclaimer applies to this post in that I have received no compensation for mentioning any of the above people or entities, but am as always open to persuasion.

January 23, 2010

Kaplan Orchid Conservatory

After meaning to do so for sometime, I finally got around to visiting the Phyllis and Arthur Kaplan Orchid Conservatory on Friday. I have known about this facility since before it opened last year, but have not made the time to visit. Prompted by a recent article in the Daily Press and by a post from new found blogger, GCV Horticulture - I decided to visit. I really have had no excuse as the Conservatory is within walking distance of the house, plus Friday was such a grim, gray day, perfect for a trip to the tropics.

The late Dr. Kaplan happened to be the doctor of choice for my wife's family before he retired. When he wasn't practicing medicine, he was active in philanthropy as well as enjoying his passion for roses and orchids. His orchid collection as well as large monetary donations were given to Old Dominion University to build the 2.1 million dollar facility. There are several greenhouses used for growing orchids and for botany research. The display greenhouse is open at no charge to the public weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Kaplan Orchid Conservatory (2)

Kaplan Orchid Conservatory (3)

Kaplan Orchid Conservatory (28)

Kaplan Orchid Conservatory (5)

Kaplan Orchid Conservatory (13)

Kaplan Orchid Conservatory (25)

Kaplan Orchid Conservatory (24)

Kaplan Orchid Conservatory (10)

Kaplan Orchid Conservatory (15)

I apologize that I do not have names for the orchids. My one suggestion for the facility would be to have more clearly visible labels. If you would like to see some more photos from the Conservatory, you can click here.

January 19, 2010

Toga Party At Animal House (with prizes!)

Like many parts of the country Tidewater was very cold recently, but thankfully it seems to be over for now, and we were spared much of the weather others may have been enjoying (or not). The duration of the cold wore thin to Southerners who have come to expect somewhat regular interruptions of winter by sunny warmer days. In the interest of not spending money, we choose to keep our old drafty house barely warm, and certain accommodations have been made by all occupants. If you were to have stopped by for a visit on any given night in the past two and half weeks, you would have thought we were throwing a toga party. All of the humans (and occasionally the animals) in the house could be found wrapped up in blankets as we went about our evening routines; Cesar himself would have felt right at home.

Some of the Animal House residents look as if they may have passed out from draining a keg or drinking one too many Hairy Buffaloes. However, its the cold weather and not alcohol, that creates strange bedfellows and other unlikely pairings, and at least they won't wake up hungover full of regret.


Loretta and Roscoe

Penny and Loretta

The Boy and Penny

Patsy Shut

Although not a real toga party, there is cause to celebrate. Today marks the second anniversary of A Tidewater Gardener. What started as a way to channel some frustrations brought about by a criminally insane neighbor, has now blossomed into a full blown, time consuming (but enjoyably so) obsession. As a result:
  • I have gotten to know a little about and connected to many interesting people and have benefited from their experiences and knowledge.

  • I have also gotten to view some wonderful photography, enabling me to improve my own.
  • I have read some really creative writing. Obviously much of it on the surface has to do with gardening, but many of posts dig deeper, so to speak.

  • Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect about this process has been the ability to travel vicariously to new landscapes, both natural and composed, so different from my own.

I want to thank each of you for any part you had in the above and for simply stopping by. It would be great if I could be sort of like a blogging Oprah and hand each of you a toga party favor just for being in the audience, but logistically and financially, I can't. However, if you would just say hi by leaving a comment on this post before the end of the month, I will put your names in a hat to win a set (6) of my wife's handmade cards (pictured below and botanically themed of course). On the 31st I'll have an impartial and thoroughly disinterested 12 year old draw a name, I'll announce it in a post and send the cards to the winner, no matter where they live.


Once again, thank you!

January 15, 2010

Bloom Day: Walled Gardens

Before we begin our monthly Bloom Day post, I would like to invite anyone who hasn't done so already to please make whatever donation you can to the beleaguered people of Haiti. This deforested country is home to the poorest people in the Western Hemisphere and was just now beginning to recover from multiple hurricanes in 2008. Now the people who had close to nothing have even less and the best way you can help is with financial aid. On my sidebar you will see a link to the International Committee of the Red Cross which is who I chose to donate to, but if you prefer a different organization, this link will give you 20 other choices.

Now on with the blooms. Most of what I have blooming in my own garden has either been frozen or was seen last month, or both. So I thought we would take this opportunity to visit some of Norfolk's unique walled gardens. They offer a more protected environment and offer a rare collection of plants.

At the first garden, I was amazed by this Sunflower (Helianthus annus). Though this plant is known for its great size, this particular specimen was overwhelming.

Helianthus annuus

Another substantial bloom was coming from these Crocus giganteum. Isn't it a shame that this lovely scene is ruined by some thoughtless person and their litter.

Crocus giganteum

In the next garden someone was growing some unidentified Cucurbit, and whatever it turns out to be, the gardener should be prepared to offer the fruit some sort of support.

Unknown Cucurbit

Of course even with all of the walls, some little varmint may manage to get in and chew up someone's efforts.

Garden Pest

The next walled garden had a chain-link fence on one side in hopes of keeping the little critters at bay.

Magnolia Garden Fence

I have always said that Magnolia grandiflora was one of my favorite trees - but in other people's yards where the fragrance can be enjoyed from afar, but the mess stays put.

Magnolia grandiflora

Magnolia grandiflora 2

The gardener here swore that his Magnolia produced little mess at all.

Magnolia Garden Photo 1

Do you see anything unusual about this portrait of the gardener and his family? I'll give you a hint - you may need your glasses.

Magnolia Garden Photo 2

In the next garden, measures were taken beyond a mere chain link fence, this gardener installed a security camera to watch over his tasty Grapes (Vitis vinifera).

Vitis vinifera

Vitis vinifera 2

Of course not all gardens are for fruits or flowers. This walled garden had a nice water feature that included exotic fish. My wife tells me that one of our good friends' son was the original gardener here.

Aquatics Asst.

Since walled gardens offer a little more protection from the elements, many gardeners push the zone limits to extremes, as is the case with this Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera).

Cocos nucifera 1

Also thriving in a special micro-climate was an Orchid (Phalaenopsis amboinensis) that took on tree-like proportions.

Phalaenopsis amboinensis 2

Phalaenopsis amboinensis 1

Here in the States we refer to gardeners as having green thumbs, and in England they are allowed even more digits, posessing green fingers. These days it seems as if everyone is jumping on the "go green" wagon. The walled gardener below (who wishes to only be known as Frank) was so horticulturally accomplished that his entire body was turning green.


If any part of your body is green and you would like to share it..... no, on second thought let's not. However, if you have any blooms that you would like to share, be they walled or otherwise, please join other gardeners for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day hosted exceptionally as usual by Carol of May Dream Gardens.

(BTW, Please stop back by early next week as I will be celebrating my second blogging anniversary by throwing a party - with door prizes.)

January 10, 2010

Safe Inside Our Shells

For the majority of the country the weather has been an above the fold story these past few weeks. Here we have been spared the snowfalls and ice storms, but it has been bitterly cold with night after night of temperatures in the low 20's. These degrees are not unusual for us in the winter, but the earliness and persistence is. I know to many of you in more northerly or westerly areas this may come off as whining, and you may feel I should be grateful that at least I don't have to shovel my way out of the house on a single digit day. Believe me, grateful I am.

It has been cold enough here for the creeks and rivers to begin forming ice, and you know it is cold when salt water freezes. This is not an uncommon occurrence and happens every couple of years, but not so early in the season. It usually takes the water longer to cede its autumn warmth to the cold winter air. Knitting Mill Creek is on the western side of my neighborhood and the surface has frozen from one side to the other. The tides create interesting patterns in the ice, and lacy frozen remains are left on the shoreline when they recede.

This is perhaps one of Norfolk's most stressed waterways due to of its small size, infrequent flushings, lack of filtering wetlands combined with heavy usage. There are quite a few boats kept on the creek, most are (or once were) for pleasure, but there are still a couple of watermen who keep their crabbing boats here. Pollution is a very real issue as well, but not so much from industrial sources or the boats. Most of it is due to fertilizer run-off, dog and goose feces, and whatever gets washed off of the roads when we have heavy rains. So I was surprised to see so many mussels seemingly thriving in such compromised water. Exposed at low tide and attached tightly to their perches, they were sealed shut against the cold.

Shellfish On Ice 2

Shellfish On Ice 4

Shellfish On Ice 5

Shellfish On Ice 6

Fissures 2

Fissures 3

Knitting Mill Creek 1

The first picture in this series is my entry for Gardening Gone Wild's Picture This Photo Contest, January 2010. You can go there and see how other bloggers are picturing their winter, or post your own shot and show the world what it is like outside of your shell.