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 30, 2010

Three Mornings, Three Skies

Over Thanksgiving weekend we headed to my parents house on Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore. In the mornings I was able to get up early enough to see the sun rise. I would have liked to have slept longer, but the dogs have not gotten adjusted to the time change yet, and once I am up, I'm up, so a walk to the edge of Metompkin Bay seemed like a good way to start the day.

The skies on Thanksgiving morning were what is often termed leaden. However there was a little sliver of pink peeking out from the eastern horizon. The water was calm and the air still, making it easy to hear the snow geese starting their day on the barrier islands.

To The Oysters

Metompkin Skies (2)

This morning the sky seemed unstable and was mixed with several different cloud types. The scenery changed rapidly, it was much windier, almost balmy and my walk was cut short due to rain. About the time we made it to the water, the hunters came out in force. I did not see any of them, but their presence was made known by loud gunfire, causing Loretta to disappear for a while. She made it home, but was anxious to get in the house.

The Pavillion

Metompkin Skies

Dock Sunrise

I awoke to cooler and more seasonable temperatures. Apparently the hunters chose Saturday to sleep in and things were quiet. Though the skies were cloudless, the morning light was crisp, clear and uplifting.
Lang Farm (2)

Metompkin Skies (8)

To The Oysters (2)

Red Grass

Solidago sempervirens

November 24, 2010

Old Friends and Unexpected Guests

The past week has been an especially busy and long one for me with work. On Thursday we got in our Christmas trees and spent the next four days getting them cut, put in stands, sprayed with Wilt Pruf, graded, priced and tagged. Our trees come from the mountains of North Carolina where the grower told me they had an ideal summer for Fraser Firs (it was good to here that at least someplace in this country had a nice summer). Monday our wreaths and roping came in, which all had to be sorted as well. Everything is ready now, and all we have to do is sell them, which judging by this past weekend's activity should be no problem (I say with crossed fingers). Though I am feeling every week of my 50 years, I can at least take a breath for a few days.

Since I have been so focused on the upcoming season, I guess it only appropriate that our beautiful fall is starting to morph into "the big drop" when color is shed from the trees. While not completely gone it is definitely on its way out. Fortunately my garden is offering other distractions right now. I got my pansies in about a month ago, and so far none have been stolen. I will spare you pictures until the cold time when I have nothing else to show. One of my favorite companions for the pansies is Giant Red Mustard (Brassica juncea var. rugosa), and I am at the point now that I could not garden in the winter without this plant. I love its color, crinkled foliage and resilience.

Brassica juncea var. rugosa

Brassica juncea var. rugosa (2)

The only perennial I have ever planted for its fall foliage is Amsonia hubrichtii or Bluestar. In fact I do not really care for its flowers which are skim milk blue, one of my least favorite garden colors. But the foliage texture and fall show make me forget the flowers.

Amsonia hubrichtii

Yesterday I also noted that my Hime Quince (Chaenomeles) had its first bloom of the season, prompting me to make note this year of just how long it will bloom.

Chaenomeles 'Hime'

We have yet to have a frost which is fine with me, so I can still enjoy the foliage combo of my Golden Jasmine (Jasminum officinale 'Aureum') and Big Red Judy Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Big Red Judy'). I have already made a date with Judy for next summer.

Jasminum officinale 'Aureum'

I was also surprised to see one of my new additions blooming so early. I was under the impression that Algerian Iris (Iris unguicularis) would bloom in late winter, but I will not deny this blossom.

Iris unguicularis

You would think that with its lush tropical foliage that Tetrapanax (T. papyrifer 'Steroidal Giant') would have suffered through this summer's drought, but it grew every bit of 10' and a few weeks ago it started to flower. Never having seen it bloom, I was surprised by the flowers, though I am not ready to declare them beautiful.

Tetrapanax papyrifer 'Steroidal Giant'

I hope each of you has a chance in the next few days to reconnect with friends and family and perhaps meet someone new as well.

Please have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

November 20, 2010

Back to the Swamp

Last Saturday I returned to the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail with my son and our bikes. As I have mentioned in other posts, the fall colors here have been unusually spectacular so I was hoping we would see some on our ride. We did, but I had forgotten that the predominant tree species on this trail was Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) whose fall color is strikingly similar to its spring, summer and winter color. However, there were enough Red Maples (Acer rubrum) and Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) to punctuate the green.
Dismal Swamp Canal Nov. 2010

Red Maple

Toll Taker's House (2)

In my previous post I spoke about how the water from the Great Dismal Swamp was valued by sailors for its long shelf life. I valued the mirror-like reflections coming from the black surface.

Canal Reflections (6)

Canal Reflections (8)

Canal Reflections

Canal Reflections (10)

Canal Reflections (7)

Canal Reflections (9)

November 15, 2010

Bloom Day - Frost Free, For Now

It has been a delightful fall here, which is especially appreciated after this summer's horrid weather and after what we went through last fall at this time. I have given up on trying to determine what factors influence good fall foliage, because just when you hear some plausible explanation along comes a fall show that defies prediction. Yesterday on the way to work I marveled at the colors that were on display, wondering if anyone else speeding down the road appreciated what I was seeing and how special it was, even if it was just from trees that grow wild along the interstate. The other factor making this fall delightful has been the fact that we have yet to have a frost here in the city, although outlying areas have. So my garden is still full of color from those things that do not know any better and are blithely ignorant of what will surely come soon, and I have blooms from what ought to be in flower now as well.

Although I have already planted annuals to get me through the winter, I hadn't the heart to pull out my Zinnias (Zinnia marlandica 'Zahara Fire'), which have not stopped blooming since I planted them way back in May.

Zinnia marlandica 'Zahara Fire'

Like the Zinnias, my Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) have similarly been spared, but I know they will be the first casualty of frost.

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Alabama Sunset'

What few Roses I have are all enjoying a second wind. This is the ubiquitous Knock Out.

Rosa x 'Flower Carpet '(2)

Miss Huff (Lantana camara 'Miss Huff') has become quite pushy with her neighbors, nudging everyone else around her out of the way, but her comeuppance should be soon enough.

Lantana camara 'Miss Huff'

A very recent addition to the garden surprised me by blooming just a few weeks after planting. I was intrigued with Sternbergia lutea after seeing it at Stratford Hall last year, and so I nagged my fellow manager to stock the bulbs this fall.

Sternbergia lutea

My Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) and Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious') have waited all summer to bloom, despite being nearly trampled to death by an agent of the United States Postal Service.

Salvia leucantha (2)

Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious'

Ajania pacificum

Ajania pacificum

Parthenocissus tricuspidata’Fenway Park’

Parthenocissus tricuspidata’Fenway Park’

Perhaps the most welcome sign of the changing seasons are the blooms from Camellia sasanqua - they help make cold weather bearable here. The pink one is 'Kanjiro', and the white is 'Autumn Rocket'.

Camellia hiemalis 'Kanjiro'

Camellia sasanqua 'Autumn Rocket' (2)

I came across this sign of fall last week and took it as strong reminder that I was overdue for bringing my houseplants in. This onerous chore was finally finished on Friday and once again our house is greener, but seems much smaller.

Timely Advice

If you would like to see how fall has been in other people's gardens, you can visit Carol at May Dreams Garden where she hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of each month. While you are there, please thank her for me.

November 7, 2010

Williamsburg Walkabout

Yesterday the three of us, plus the two dogs headed to Colonial Williamsburg for our semi-annual (we missed last year) fall foliage pilgrimage. Most of the trees were still very colorful and as no frost has yet occurred, there were a few flowers blooming as well. We never buy a ticket, but just wander the streets, shop a little and have lunch. It is a great place to people-watch, but we were able to people-meet too. So many came up to us because of the dogs, especially about Penny. Everyone wanted to know what she was and then immediately told us what kind of dog they had, how they wished him or her was with them, where they lived and some tidbit about their life that had nothing to do with dogs.

Enough about canines, let's get on with the walk. Perhaps the most stunning foliage was from the various Maples.

Duke of Gloucester Maple (2)

Courthouse Maple

Peyton Randolph House

I also enjoy the Catalpas, though they are not usually listed as having good fall foliage, they were a nice clear yellow and the pods are fun.

Wythe House


The Dogwoods are usually one of the first trees to color-up in the fall, but many were still looking good, including this one in the Bruton Parrish churchyard. Other plants also did a fine job of decorating the venerable church.

Bruton Parrish Dogwood

Bruton Parrish Steeple

There were several plantings of Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) that were offering nice color.

Hydrangea quercifolia (2)

Hydrangea quercifolia

Growing on the fence of the St. George Tucker house was this little red Morning Glory. I think it is Ipomea coccinea. This is one of my favorite houses in the historic area, mainly for its unusual colors, but also for the architecture which reminds me of the houses on the Eastern Shore.

Ipomea coccinea

The St. George-Tucker House

Next door to this house is one of many large Boxwood plantings seen around Williamsburg.

Nichols St.

Just on the edge of the historic area is the William and Mary campus, and the picture below is of an area known as the Sunken Garden. Patrick Henry set up a camp on this spot during the revolution to fight the British, but on Saturday the only confrontation occurred between co-ed flag football teams.

The Sunken Garden

Close by was a fence supporting Purple Hyacinth Beans (Dolichos lablab).

Dolichos lablab

Across the street is the Adams Garden which this blog has visited before. I really like the fact that many of the plants are more exotic compared with what is typically grown in the historic area, and that I did not notice any boxwood either.

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)

The Adams Garden - Salvia elegans (2)

Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)

The Adams Garden - Eriobotrya japonica

Ginger Lily (Hedychium coronarium)

The Adams Garden - Hedychium coronarium

After the Adams Garden it was time to eat and time for a dog incident. While waiting outside for our lunch to arrive, I saw a couple eating with greyhounds leashed to their chairs. When the woman got up her metal chair either fell over or was pulled over by her dog. The noise startled the dog who ran off down the street still leashed to the chair clanging loudly behind. The woman followed the speeding hound and chair for blocks until it was eventually stopped. After that I double checked how my own dogs were tied, but with food arriving Penny and Loretta weren't about to go anywhere.

(You can see my whole Williamsburg photo set here.)