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.

December 31, 2010

The Last Sunset of 2010

Well here we are once again upon another New Year's Eve. If you know me, or remember my post from the first day of this year, then you may recall how I feel about tonight. Normally I do not get all excited just because one year is over and another begins, it's usually just another day to me. However, tonight finds me glad to be saying goodbye to 2010, though I know it has left unfinished business for 2011 to deal with. There are several things on my mind, like my place in the economy, my wife's stressful job, my son's rush to adulthood or my needy house. Though these are all important, what worries me more is what is going to happen to two other people I love. One is facing a complicated surgery involving a long recovery, but the outcome should lead to a better life. The other is likely facing the end of her days, leaving behind a small universe of friends and family who love her and depend on her, all of them are better people for having known her, including me. Few issues are solved with a new calender.

Knitting Mill Creek, Norfolk Va. 12/31/10

Last Sunset of the Year

Though it's obvious to me that unfinished items are being carried into 2011, I need to remind myself that the opportunities awaiting all of us in a new year are not so obvious. So I have resolved to keep one eye on what already is, and the other on what could be.

I wish all of you a new year of few troubles, outweighed by opportunities.

December 29, 2010

Snow Falling On Spartina and Loblollies, As Well As Cedars

Like much of the East Coast, we had a white Christmas. Fortunately, we had already arrived where we wanted to be at my parents house on Virginia's Eastern Shore (beautiful in any season). What started out as a gentle snowfall providing nice backdrop to the day's festivities, gradually morphed into blizzard conditions by Sunday, keeping everyone housebound (except for the camera-clad foolhardy). By the time it stopped falling on Monday, there were 14-15" of snow on the ground. However the winds continued and sculpted the fallen snow, picking it up from some spots and depositing it into deep drifts elsewhere. Though it made for good photo ops, I would have preferred something a little less severe and a little less persistent.

Metompkin Marsh (4)

The Next Day

Cold Marsh

Lone Pine (2)

Penny Joins

Snow on Cedars (2)

Snow on Cedars (4)

Loblolly Woods

Norway Spruce and River Birch

Icy Fingers

On Tuesday the sun rose revealing itself for the first time in days, and we were able to make it home, but only because of the efforts of a cousin and his bladed backhoe. Back in Norfolk, the third largest snowfall in the city's recorded history had fallen. Waiting for us at home was a garden full of plants bowing to the ground, and as it warms today I will be attempting to right them and save what I can.


(You can see the complete set here.)

December 15, 2010

Bloom Day - Too Cold, Too Early

In an area known for relatively mild winters and only occasional snowfall, we have already had temperatures in the low 20's, and we have had two snows, with more forecasted for Thursday and the weekend. While this weather is not uncommon in January or February, it's a bit extreme for us in December. I certainly hope it is no indication of what the next few months will be like.

However, I am thankful I live somewhere the garden can be seen and enjoyed even in the winter, and is not covered by a thick white blanket until spring. Despite our early onset, the garden still offered up some color for today's event.

One of the most resilient and reliable winter blooms can be found on Mahonia x 'Winter Sun'.

Mahonia x 'Winter Sun'

Another surprisingly tough plant is relatively new to the garden. Compact Arbutus (Arbutus unedo 'Compacta') has the interesting habit of blooming and fruiting at the same time.

Arbutus unedo 'Compactus'

Still surviving from last month's Bloom Day is Ajania pacificum.

Ajania pacificum

The season of the Sasanqua Camellias was cut short by the cold, but perhaps some of the tighter blooms will yet bloom. The Camellia below is Kanjiro (Camellia sasanqua 'Kanjiro')...

Camellia sasanqua 'Kanjiro'

and this is Yuletide (C. sasanqua 'Yuletide').

Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'

Planted especially for the winter, Pansies and Violas should be in full bloom now making gray days more colorful. It is hard to do when encrusted by winter, but I know they will survive to bloom another day.

Viola × wittrockiana 'Delta Tapestry'


If you would like to see how December is treating other gardens, please pay a visit to Carol at May Dreams Garden, as she hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of each month. While there please give her my thanks.

December 12, 2010

Sometimes a Parade Is Needed

Over the years the holiday season has lost much of the luster it once had for me. Perhaps a career in retail where Christmas begins in October and the emphasis on acquisition over all else, can be blamed. This year there are also other events keeping the holiday lights a little less bright for me. Several people I care about are going through life changing events with uncertain outcomes. Combining all of this with seasonal logistics and hustle can make it difficult to step back and actually enjoy this time of year and what it has to offer.

In an effort to help lift the brewing holiday funk, a parade was in order. On Saturday Penny and I walked with the Isle of Wight Humane Society in the town of Smithfield's Christmas parade. My son and his buddy also came along and were enlisted to walk available dogs. All four of us had a great time enjoying a big event for a small town. Penny especially had a good time seeing old friends and meeting new dogs, plus she really liked working the crowds and soaking up their attentions. We had to leave poor Loretta at home, as she is not fond of loud noises, strange situations or crowds which kind of keeps parades off of her to-do list.

Here are a good number of the participants taking one last trip to the fire hydrant before the parade started.

The Humane Society

Penny did not like the jingles on her costume and kept trying in vain to remove them.

Penny Did Not Like Her Jingles

While we were waiting for the parade to start, I had time to fall in love with Teegan...


... and this lovely hound.

A Lovely Hound

Everyone was glad when the things finally got underway.

Dogs on Main St

As much as I would disagree, most people want a little more out of a parade than seeing a few dogs walk by, and the viewers were not disappointed.


Grinch in a Vette

There's No Place Like Home

Sheriff Taylor

Ring Girls



Stay on the Curb

Girls Like Trucks

Smile and wave to the judges.

Make Nice for the Judges

Being able to participate in the Christmas parade did me a lot of good and should be part of what keeps me grounded during the holidays. I urge each of you to steal a moment (or several) away from what can be a stressful time of year and enjoy the things that seek to make it otherwise.

December 5, 2010

Early Inevitability

Here in Tidewater we got our first taste of winter weather this weekend. Until last week I hadn't even had a killing frost, but this weekend it got below freezing cold at night with highs in the 40's during the day, and this pattern is expected to remain through the early week. Last night we even got snow, albeit a very light dusting. This type of weather is not uncommon here, but it did arrive earlier than we normally see. I do apologize to my northern, western and European friends if I sound like I'm whining about it.

So to mark the occasion of winter, here are the obligatory shots of foliage and flowers with snow, I believe it is a garden blogging requirment to do so. All of these were taken at work this morning before we opened and before the sun melted everything.

Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)

Trachycarpus fortunei (2)

Camellia sasanqua (unknown cv.)

Camellia sasanqua (unknown cv.)

Black and Blue Salvia (Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue')

Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue

The exact species name of this Agave has been lost to the bad record keeping annals of history.

Agave (Unidentified species) (2)

Santa Rita Tubac Prickly Pear (Opuntia santa-rita 'Tubac')

Opuntia santa-rita 'Tubac'

And finally a more seaonally appropriate shot of one our Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri) Christmas trees. I am pleased to say that this species appears to have grown wings as they were flying off the lot this weekend.

Abies fraseri