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.

May 31, 2010

In Remembrance

Hampton National Cemetery - Memorial Day 2010 (5)

Hampton National Cemetery - Memorial Day 2010 (2)

Hampton National Cemetery - Memorial Day 2010 (4)

These photos were taken this Memorial Day at Hampton National Cemetery. The first burials took place here in 1862 and were those of Union Soldiers from nearby Fort Monroe, however there are also Confederates interred here as well, but in their own section. Although full now, it contains the remains of soldiers who served in conflicts from the Civil War to those of the late 20th century, including over 600 unknown soldiers. During World War II Italian and German POWs were buried here, as well as the crew from a German U-boat sunk off of nearby Cape Hatteras in 1942. I find it poignant that animosity was set aside among the dead, and all soldiers are honored.

In a sea of headstones, I turned around to get some closer shots and right behind me was this one, and I could not help noting the soldier's birth date.

Born on the Fourth of July

On this weekend when Americans celebrated the start of summer by thickening the waters with boats, tending the grill, or heading to the beach - I hope there was also some time to remember.

May 24, 2010


This past weekend marked my personal welcome to summer when the last of the houseplants was dragged out of the dark, dry house and into the bright, humid light of day. This winter I was particularly negligent to them with even the Agaves and Aloe beyond thirsty. I also celebrated by planting the final round of the annuals I couldn't afford to buy, but did anyway. I know there are gardeners out there who don't like annuals, but I am not one of them. Having a small yard, I don't always want to commit to nursing a new perennial to maturity or devoting precious space to another shrub - unless it's one on my exception list.

Sunday morning 1 of 3 dogs had to go out at 4:30 or there would be mess to clean. Since I was up anyway, I decided to take 2 of 3 for a walk, but just as the second shoe lace was tied, the skies opened and we had a nice rain. We have had very random weather of late never knowing what to expect. The TV weather guys leave all the forecasts very open ended with a chance of something, a percent of that and variable this. Before I had to run off to work I was able to take a few random shots of the garden, including some clichéd shots of raindrops on foliage.

Royal Purple Smoke Tree (Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple')

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'

Hot Cocoa Rose

Rosa x 'Hot Cocoa' (2)

Golden Jasmine (Jasminum officinale ‘Aureum’)

Jasminum officinale ‘Aureum’

Golden Jasmine with Alabama Sunset and Sedona Coleus

Jasmine, Alabama Sunset, Sedona

Big Red Judy Coleus

Big Red Judy Coleus

The first floats in the Hydrangea parade are just now coming down the street.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Kiyosumi'

'Penny Mac'

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Penny Mac'

An unknown member of the Halo Series

Hydrangea macrophylla (Angel Series)

I was not the only one who missed their morning walk Sunday.

Penny (2)

Loretta Wants Out

May 20, 2010

Art in the Park

This past Saturday instead of cleaning house, fixing the front porch, finishing the foyer painting or any of the other things I should have done - I opted instead to enjoy the supremely beautiful weather at the Stockley Gardens Arts Festival. This event happens in May and again in October and is a fundraiser for The Hope House Foundation. Hope House helps mentally disabled adults live in their own homes and maintain a level of independence they would never enjoy institutionally. There were about 150 artists showing and selling their work, and the range of art is always vast, with the quality high.

Beside professional art, they always leave space for high school art students, and I find it interesting seeing where their heads are. There is music throughout the day, festival foods are offered, the Norfolk Master Gardeners hold a pretty good plant sale and Hope House brings lots of treasures from their thrift store. All of this is held under the live oaks at Stockley Gardens, a park in Norfolk's Ghent neighborhood. I always come away wishing I had more money and more creativity.

Stockley Gardens Arts Festival May 2010 (11)

Stockley Gardens Arts Festival May 2010

There are other tree species in the park including this Catalpa which caught my eye. I do not know if it was Catalpa speciosa or C. bignonioides. The flowers have always reminded me of orchids.

Stockley Gardens Catalpa Tree

Stockley Gardens Catalpa Tree 3

Stockley Gardens Catalpa Tree 2

The next two pictures can be seen from a different perspective over at CIO Photo, a photo blog from David, another Hampton Roads blogger. The first picture is here...Stockley Gardens Arts Festival May 2010 (10)

... and this one is here. Sometimes paths cross.Stockley Gardens Arts Festival May 2010 (3)

Overlooking Stockley Gardens for nearly a century is Christ and St. Lukes Episcopal, and lately it has been able to overlook yet another mass planting of Knock Out Roses. Is any one else worried that this may become the new Red Tip Photinia or Bradford Pear?Stockley Gardens Knock Out Roses

After the art show I walked along the Hague and caught this Yellow Crowned Night Heron striking poses while he rests up from his recent trip from points south. This bird is listed on many state's threatened lists, but I have also read that lately it is taking a cue from the Canada Goose and adapting to urban and suburban locations. Adapt or decline, right?

Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violacea) 2

I apologize for not having any photos of the art or artist, but people can be really prickly about taking pictures of their pictures. Perhaps next time I'll take my point-and-shoot for less intrusive photography.

May 15, 2010

Bloom Day - May Gap, Not So Much

This month's Bloom Day snuck up on me. My focus has been more on the fact that as of this week I return to having two days off. I wish I could say that this spring at the garden center has been way too busy to even consider getting my Saturday's back yet, but in spite of what you hear on the news, people are still tightly clutching their purses and wallets. Anyway, the extra free time will be spent between the garden, getting some projects done around the house and spending more time with my family who always seem to suffer when I work six days.

I thought that I might have a hard time finding things to show this month, as so many things bloomed early and all at once. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the bounty. Let's start with a few Roses.

Rosa x 'Betty Boop'

Rosa x 'Betty Boop'

Rosa x 'Pat Austin'

Rosa x 'Pat Austin'

Rosa x 'Caramba'

Rosa x 'Caramba'

There is a lot of purple in the garden now. Iris x 'Impersonator' is always the last of my Iris to bloom, and this particular flower is the last flower on the last stalk.

Iris x 'Impersonator'

Salvia x 'May Night'

Salvia x 'May Night'

Allium christophii (Star of Persia)

Allium christophii

Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina' (French Hollyhock) comes up everywhere. I have it growing in the sidewalk cracks, as well as here in what passes for a lawn in the hell strip.

Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina'

Delosperma cooperi (Hardy Ice Plant)

Delosperma cooperi

Tradescantia x 'Sweet Kate' (Sweet Kate Spiderwort)

Tradescantia x 'Sweet Kate'

Over the winter, half of one of my favorite plants died. I have had this Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa) for nearly 10 years, and I hope it recovers to its former self.

Phlomis fruticosa

I took a couple of photos of things not quite yet open. The Hydrangeas are heavily budded and it looks like Penny Mac (Hydrangea macrophylla 'Penny Mac') will be the first to bloom.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Penny Mac'

Macleaya cordata (Plume Poppy)

Macleaya cordata

In the backyard you have to part the foliage to see the flowers on Rhodea japonica (Sacred Lily) and after doing so you realize it may not be worth the effort.

Rhodea japonica

However, the star of my garden in May requires no such effort to notice. The Confederate or Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is not only nice to look at, but its aroma permeates the garden entering any open window, perfuming the whole house. My neighbors should thank me.

Trachelospermum jasminoides

If you would like to see what is starring in other people's garden this month, visit Carol at May Dream Gardens for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, an on-line institution.

May 12, 2010

Not My-ris

Louisiana Iris (6)

Finally after weeks of no rain, it poured tonight, and I was glad to see it. Thankfully it was not accompanied with tornadoes or floods, although Loretta could have done without the thunder and lightening. It was getting desperate around here, especially for May. This afternoon I passed a highway crew cutting grass along the roadside, and it looked as if they were harvesting autumn wheat; there were few blades of green. Saturday night we had a bizarre storm on the west side of the city. The wind was strong and the sky was filled with this amber colored dust that looked like smoke, making you think you were in a Riyadh sandstorm or some kind of brown fog. Unfortunately I was caught without camera, but did see a woman photographing the weird color and glowing light from the railroad tracks. As quickly as it arose it was gone.

Louisiana Iris

The past weeks at work have mostly been about keeping everything watered, along with helping customers and all the other spring tasks that need to be done. We have a few things we do not need to worry about as they keep their feet wet on the banks of a stream that forms part of our irrigation system. Several years ago we planted Pickerel Weed, Horse Tail and Louisiana Iris as part of an effort to make the stream look more natural. The plants have more than thrived, especially the Horse Tail and the Iris. Right now the Iris are in full bloom, and I make a point of going by there several times a day. Even though I tried to look them up, their names are lost to us and I could not make a positive ID. Does anyone have a clue?

Louisiana Iris (3)

May 7, 2010

Rude Plant

Would you own a plant that only blooms every 3 or 4 years; is the color of raw meat; smells like July roadkill; and whose shape is... decidedly masculine in a well endowed sort of way?

Amorphophallus konjac 2

Amorphophallus konjac 1

Amorphophallus konjac is an Aroid, and its common names include Voodoo Lily, Snake Palm, Elephant Yam or Devil's Tongue (although it could just as easily be mistaken for another part of Satan's anatomy). I planted a couple of bagel-shaped corms about 10 years ago, and this is only the second or third bloom I have had. I get foliage every year, which comes up late in the season on a dark colored stem, blotched with fleshy colored spots causing it to look like it has Vitiligo. The leaves sit on top of this stalk and remind me of a Cut-leaf Philodendron in shape and have a somewhat iridescent blue-green color. Even if it doesn't bloom, the foliage alone is worth having in a partially shaded garden. Plant Delights lists this for sale and states that it is hardy in zones 6-10, and I have found it to be very drought tolerant.

Amorphophallus konjac 3 (2)

Amorphophallus konjac 3

In the years when it does flower, it sends up the bloom shaft a good month before foliage emerges. The whole thing slowly unfolds over a period of a week or so, and once it reaches its full glory, the smell begins. I know my neighbors must think that we have a dead squirrel in the backyard or that we forgot to double-bag spoiled meat before putting it in the trash. I read once that it is pollinated by flies which may explain the unusual fragrance and colors.

Amorphophallus konjac 4

In doing a little research on this Amorphophallus I learned that it is consumed as a food and as a diet aid. Apparently the corm is extremely gelatinous and very high in fiber. Various jelly candy is made from it in Asia, and according to Wikipedia, some have been responsible for 17 choking deaths in since 1995. When taken medicinally it is used to treat obesity and diabetes. The body will not digest Amorphophallus, but it makes you feel full, slows digestion and carbohydrate absorption, as well as apparently doing a little deep colon cleansing on the way out. I will just enjoy it as a garden oddity and let someone else experience its other benefits.

Amorphophallus konjac 5

When it has finished blooming, the whole thing collapses to the ground, and no little blue pill from Pfizer will revive it. I will have to wait another 3 years to see it bloom again.

Amorphophallus konjac 9