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 25, 2012

Quercus phellos, Bad Landscaping and Eminent Domain

Willow oak (Quercus phellos) is my second favorite oak, live oak (Q. virginiana) being my first.  I like the tree for several reasons, primarily because they do so very well here, thriving in our heat, humidity and too-much-too-little rainfall, plus they are salt tolerant.  Willow oaks grow faster than other oaks and are often listed as reaching 60-80' tall by half that in width, with a trunk that can get 3-6' wide. However, I have seen more than a few that are every bit of 100' or taller, and that would take several long-limbed men to encircle.  When young they have the kind of uniform upright pyramidal shape that landscape architects dream of.  Around here they are widely planted, often in rows and are a popular street tree, which given their ultimate size may not be a wise choice (more on that later). 

One of the best places to see willow oaks locally is on the campus of Old Dominion University, which is a frequent biking destination for my son and I.
Quercus phellos (10)

Quercus phellos (9)

Quercus phellos (11)

Quercus phellos (5)

Quercus phellos (8)

Quercus phellos (7)

There is one specific tree on the edge of campus that prompted me to write this post.  For all the years I have lived here, I have just noticed this tree recently, because all the buildings (but one) around it have been razed.  Looking at its fat round crown, you can tell it grew up without any competition.  Once the hodgepodge of strip clubs, storefront churches, bungalows, and workshops that made up this neighborhood were gone, this magnificent tree could be seen.

Quercus phellos (3)

Quercus phellos (2)

Quercus phellos (4)

Quercus phellos

The reason all the surrounding buildings were razed, was to make room for the expansion of Old Dominion through public/private partnerships.  Many of the former property owners were simply bought out, while others had to have theirs taken through eminent domain.  While I am all for a greater university community, surrounded by attractive public spaces, I am sure I would sing a different tune if it was my property being taken, whether the compensation offered was fair or not.  The tree I have become so smitten with abuts one of the few remaining hold-outs, solidly opposed to having their property taken.

Eminent Domain

Just behind the Central Radio Co., on land already bought, a new apartment community has been built specifically to house students of the university.  It stands in marked contrast to the older homes and businesses that are just across the street and outside of the university's plans.  Now here comes the bad landscaping part from the title (I'll bet you thought I would never get there).  The landscaping was installed by one of the area's largest, oldest and most well-known firms.  You would think that someone at a company of that stature would know how big Quercus phellos can get.  If not, they could have easily seen the one growing next to Central Radio.  And don't you think the landscape architect would have bothered look up before he chose to plant a dozen willow oaks underneath substantial power lines?
Quercus phellos (6)

Maybe the landscaping company holds the pruning contract also.  Either way, it will be guaranteed work for someone.

May 18, 2012

24 Hour Garden

This morning several of us from work set up a temporary garden for the Suffolk Relay for Life.  We did the same thing last year in memory of our friend and co-worker JoEllen.  The folks at the relay even named it "JoEllen's Garden of Hope" and are doing the same again this year.  Last year it became a place for people to rest and contemplate, and when we came the next morning to break it down, we found that people had attached pictures of lost loved ones to many of the plants.  The garden is under a tent, and since this is a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. event it is lit for night viewing, and lots of variegated foliage and light colored flowers were used. This year's theme was "Wipe Out Cancer", and I could not think of anything to tie the theme to the garden beyond something to do with the beach and surfing, so that is what I went with.

Tommorow morning it all has to be taken down.

May 15, 2012

Bloom Day - Maychance

Like last month's Bloom Day, this one finds me with little free time.  However, I can see light at the end of the tunnel.  Two days off per week, kayaking, day trips, vacation time and summer are coming into view.  The little bit of time I have spent in the garden has shown me what a mild winter and recent rains can do.  Things that have languished for years have taken on new vigor, to the point I see some serious editing in my future. Until then let's see what May has to offer.

Will start with a given for May, roses.  This is a little groundcover called 'Sun Runner'.

Rosa 'Sun Runner'

'Hot Cocoa'

Rosa 'Hot Cocoa'

'Red Cascade' is being overrun with a wild passion vine.
Rosa 'Red Cascade'

Another given for May is Confederate or Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides).

Trachelospermum jasminoides

It may be heard to tell from the picture, but this oak is cloaked in the jasmine, one I brought home from work that a customer returned claiming it was dead.  I told her it wasn't dead and planted it out of spite.  The vine is now close to three stories tall and perfumes a good part of the neighborhood.
Trachelospermum jasminoides (2)

I have a different jasmine growing by the front porch, this is a gold version of common jasmine, (Jasminum officinale 'Aureum').

Jasminum officinale 'Aureum'

Competing with the jasmines for nasal attention is Ligustrum.  Personally, I think they stink, but my wife loves the fragrance.  We differ on boxwood too.


One of my favorite May blooms is Allium christophii, Star of Persia.

Allium christophii

The blooms on elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum) are not as showy, but I still enjoy them.
Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum

My Tradescantia x 'Blue and Gold' shown in April is still going strong.

Tradescantia x 'Blue and Gold'

Ice plant (Delosperma cooperii) has been a great addition to my garden.  It blooms its short little head off and laughs at heat and drought.

Delosperma cooperii

This French hollyhock's days are numbered, as my corner garden is about to be torn up.  They are replacing my neighborhood's 100 year old granite curbing with ADA mandated ramps.  I am sorry, but of all the things this city needs to spend money on, ramps at the end of perfectly good sidewalks are at the top of the list?
Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina'

This spiral ginger (Costus barbatus) is a recent addition to the garden given to me from a friend.  I will either have to dig it up in the fall or say good bye.  It is only hardy to zone 9.
Costus barbatus

This year is the first one in several that I am going to have blooms on Acanthus mollis.
Acanthus mollis

Creeping raspberry (Rubus calycinoides) is also blooming more than in previous years.

Rubus calycinoides

I bought this little Japanese maple (Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum') over 10 years ago, and it was about 15" tall then.  Now it has reached a staggering height of 24".  They are not supposed to like conditions in zone 8, so maybe its slow growth is a form of passive/aggressive behavior.

Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum'

Another plant I don't necessarily grow for the flowers is plume poppy (Macleaya cordata).

Macleaya cordata

We will leave with a hint of Bloom Day future.  This is my first hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla 'Kiyosumi') to bloom, and there will be more to come.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Kiyosumi'

If you would like to see what other gardeners are offering for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, please visit Carol at May Dreams Garden, after all, this is her month.

May 5, 2012

Fog and Roses

Friday morning found me once again in Portsmouth for another TV segment, outdoors in the fog.  It was probably not the best weather to televise the "after" part of a garden renovation we did for the station, but sometimes you have got to go with what you have been given.  However, the weather was good for photography, unless you were wanting to get a picture across the river of the Norfolk skyline.

Foggy Elizabeth

Foggy Elizabeth (4)

Foggy Elizabeth (5)

One bright spot on the otherwise gray waterfront were these Knockout Roses, which seem to be everywhere these days.
Foggy Elizabeth (3)

I came across lots of other roses away from the river in Olde Towne (I hate this spelling).  The ones below are more Knockouts and what I think are Graham Thomas, one of the David Austin roses. These were growing behind the Pass House where 150 years ago citizens in Union occupied Portsmouth obtained a pass to travel across the river to Confederate Norfolk.
Pass House Roses

Pass House Roses (2)

Pass House Roses (3)

This is likely Blaze blooming in front of the B.P.O.E hall, a.k.a. Madblood's mansion.
North St. B.P.O.E.

Peace maybe?
North St. Peace Rose

I am not sure which one this is, but notice how it matches the window trim.
North St. Roses (2)

Here are two more unknown-to-me varieties.
Court St. Rose

Middle St (4)

While I was taking the photo below, the homeowner came out and told me they have lived in the house for 40 years, and the white rose has been blooming and climbing into the mulberry tree each of those years.
Middle St (3)

Roses were not the only blooms in Olde Towne on Friday.  One of my favorite houses had a pomegranate (Punica granatum) in full bloom.
Punica granatum

Oenothera speciosa, Pink Evening Primrose
Oenothera speciosa

Passiflora caerulea, Passion Vine
Passiflora caerulea

North St. Porch Pots

Philadelphus coronarius, Mockorange
Middle St (5)

(You can see the entire set of pictures here on my Flickr page.)