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.

March 28, 2013


Last Saturday was the big season opener of the local high school rowing season.  This is my son's first year participating, and my wife and I were looking forward to the event.  It just so happens that the regatta is held at the Norfolk Botanical Garden where I work. Although this is nearly an all day event, he only raced once.  So between bouts of being the dutiful parent, I was able to spend some time weeding my vegetable plot, and when that grew old I took a stroll through the gardens.  I made my way to the visitor center, where the Virginia Camellia Society was holding their annual spring show and sale.  Despite freezing temperatures last week, there were some stunning blooms on display.  Even more stunning was the fact I did not come home with a new camellia.

'Margaret Davis'
Camellia 'Margaret Davis'

'Lasca Beauty'
Camellia 'Lasce Beauty'

This camellia was a mutant sport.
Camellia Mutant

'Royal Velvet Variegated'
Camellia 'Royal Velvet Variegated'

'Sea Foam'
Camellia 'Sea Foam'

'Royal Velvet Variegated'
Camellia 'Royal Velvet Variegated' 2

This was an unnamed seedling.
Camellia Seedling

Camellia 'Tata'

'Elegant Beauty'
Camellia 'Elegant Beauty'

This is 'Firecone'. To give you some scale, it is sitting in a small shot glass.
Camellia 'Firgone'

'Frank Houser Variegated'
Camellia 'Frank Houser Variegated'

'Guest Star'
Camellia 'Guest Star'

March 24, 2013

2013 Walk-Off Wrap-Up

By the calendar spring is here, by the senses God gave me not so much. In fact, we had snow flurries this past week, and it is sleeting as I write this, both very unusual for Tidewater in March.  Although winter came late here, after it arrived it decided to stick around, and I for one am ready for this long stretch of cold, gray and wet to be over with.

On a brighter note, this was the best year yet for my Winter Walk-Off.  I had 23 entries, significantly more than either of the two previous years. From the humid tropics to snowy corners of the States, and several place in between, I received some really diverse posts. Since I had so many this year I will list them in the order they were received.

#1 - Marian in Greenville, South Carolina
Marian takes us to Falls Park in downtown Greenville, where this Upcountry city's history is celebrated with the very graceful and modern Liberty Bridge crossing the Reedy River.

#2 - Denise in southern California
Past a cute little bungalow, street-side agaves and hanging Moroccan lanterns, Denise takes us to a community garden where sweet peas are blue and cauliflower is purple.

#3 - Carolyn in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
If you have never been to Longwood Gardens, you need to go.  Until then you will have to let Carolyn's walk through its conservatory during this year's Orchid Extravaganza suffice.

The Pavillion 

#4 - Janet in Greenwood, South Carolina
Janet, a.k.a. The Queen of Seaford, contributed the first post this year to include canines. Unfortunately, her faithful companion Monroe is walking in a differnt place this year. The Queen and her four-legged buddies have walked in all three of my Winter Walk-Offs.

A first for my Winter Walk-Off, Sarah gives us an entry on skis as she makes her way through a snowy, but very beautiful landscape with her daughter.

#6 - James in New York City
James has given us another Walk-Off first, a multi-part post linked by subway.  His entry takes us to Union Square, Wall Street, the Bowery, and gives us a chance to see the Empire State Building dressed for St. Patrick's Day.

The Pavillion (2) 

#7 - Alison in Bellvue, Washington
Killing two birds with one stone, Alison takes us on a walk through the Bellvue Botanical Garden, where she also took advantage of the Northwest Perennial Alliance's March Mania Plant Sale. I like multi-tasking, but don't linger too long, moss may start to grow on you.

#8 - Marissa in Brisbane in Queensland, Australia
Thanks to Marissa we have an entry from the other side of the globe and the other side of the equator where her post became a summer walk-off. Her sub-tropical environment includes a plant I'd like to know better,  Xanthostemon chrysanthus (Golden Penda).

#9 - The Outlaw Gardener in Tacoma, Washington
There are few things I enjoy more than looking at gardens, but one of those things is architecture. I particularly enjoy ecclesiastical architecture, and The Outlaw has given us varied samples to look at as he takes us on a walk around Tacoma.

Signs of a Flood

#10 - Michael in Vieques, Puerto Rico
Given how miserable March has been this year, I thank Michael for giving us palm trees, warm sandy beaches, bananas, breadfruit and blooming bougainvillea

#11 - Michael in Peterborough, New Hampshire
After leaving sunny Puerto Rico, Michael took us on another walk once he got back home.  This is our second stop in snowy New England, but that's OK, as Peterborough looks good in snow.

#12 - Tracy in Stirling, Scotland
In this post, Tracy walks through her city of Stirling. Along the way we see a pyramid, chimney pots, a beheading stone, a bowling green, good architecture, bad architecture and Auld Staneybreeks.


#13 - Janet in Cemaes, Wales
Janet is fortunate to live in a very beautiful part of the world. Cemaes is the most northerly village in Wales and it sits beside Cemaes Bay. The coastline is rugged here, and Janet walks along the beach, but don't expect palm trees.

#14 - Renee in the Mojave Desert of California
I don't think I have ever had a post from the Mojave on the Winter Walk-Off, but I am glad that Renee has shared. I was surprised by the diversity of the landscaping in her neighborhood, and glad to see I am not the only person suffering from zone denial.

#15 - Loree in Portland, Oregon
Loree crosses the tracks (so to speak) for us in this post, in that she walked where she does not normally go. If you know Loree, it is all about the plants, and this post in no different, but we also get to see a few other things as well.

Golden Cypress (2)

#16 - Shirley in San Antonio, Texas
Shirley lives in a unique neighborhood, and her entry shows it off nicely.  One of her neighbors has installed a railroad in the front yard, but I think the most interesting aspect of her walk are all the live oaks.  They are one of my favorite trees.

#17 - Kathy in New York State
In Kathy's part of the world she is between two seasons, icicle season and mud season. She takes us on a walk along the country lanes near her house.  If you have never visited Kathy, make sure you note the on-line list of garden blogs she has complied, which was a great help to me when I first started blogging.

#18 - Lynn in the Mountains of North Carolina
Southern Appalachia is one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet, and Lynn is lucky enough to live there.  Her walk takes us through ferny forests and past waterfalls, mind the bears though.

Duck Blind

#19 - Kaveh in Baywood-Los Osos, California
Speaking of genetic diversity, I have enjoyed following Kaveh's blog for a few years now. He shows plants very unfamiliar to me, plus he lives on a beautiful part of the California coast.

#20 - Gene in Hampton, Virginia
Like Janet, (the Queen of Seaford) Gene is a three-time participant in my Winter Walk-Off.  This year he takes us to downtown Hampton, probably the oldest English speaking city in the Country.

#21 - Ray in Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria is another Virginia city steeped in history, and unfortunately it is often overshadowed by its up-start neighbor across the Potomac.  Ray shows us why any visitor to Washington should make time for a quick subway ride under the river to the other shore.

Bronze Cypress

#22 - Sue in Wethersfield, Connecticut
Virginia is not the only place rich in American History. Between snowfalls and between tourist seasons, Sue shows us another historic community. Form an image in your mind of a picturesque New England town, and Wethersfield will likely be a good match.

#23 - Hwylo in Coastal Carolina
It is fitting that the last entry includes two of my favorite things - dogs and the beach.  The pictures of canines frolicking in the surf are supplemented with a spring update from the natural world along the Carolina coast.

I want to sincerely thank everyone who took the time to participate this year, and I also want to thank all who are just walking vicariously.  Now on to the rich swag.

As is tradition, I have a thoroughly disinterested teenager randomly draw two names from all of the walkers and send them prizes.  I don't think the prizes make anyone participate who wouldn't already, it just adds to the fun. This year's winners are:
  • Sue of Connecticut, who has won a set of handmade cards, crafted and donated by my wife.
  • Shirley of San Antonio, who has won several packs of heirloom seed varieties.
Sue and Shirley, congratulations!  I will be in touch to get your mailing addresses.


(All of the pictures in this wrap-up were from a walk I took last Sunday at my parent's house along the shore of Metompkin Bay on Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore. Being next to the chilled water, the landscape here is never quick to shed its winter cloak.)

March 17, 2013

Back to Sandy's

This past Friday several of us from the gardens took a trip to Mechanicsville, Va. for the open house at Sandy's Plants.  This is a way the people at Sandy's introduce new plants for the year, welcome spring and possibly drum up a little business.  We were also fed very well and given a free plant coupon. During the presentation we made lots of notes for possible additions at the botanical garden, afterward Sandy herself gave a tour of the display gardens surrounding her house.  We were then let loose to roam the nursery in golf carts. I have been here before, but the last time I did not buy much for my own garden. Now that I have a tour to get ready for, and since I have removed a large patch of English ivy, I now have a reason and space for new plants.  This is what followed me home:

Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance'
Carex siderosticha 'Banana Boat'
Verbascum ‘Banana Custard’
Delosperma congestum 'Gold Nugget'
Delosperma dyeri 'Red Mountain'
Hosta 'Pineapple Upsidedown Cake'
1 Helleborus hybridus 'Grape Galaxy'
Helleborus hybridus 'Golden Lotus'

Although Mechanicsville is not terribly far away, it is in a different climate zone and things were not as far along there as they are here. Still, the gardens looked good, and for this flatlander, it is always nice to see a hill or two.

Top of the Steps (3)

Top of the Steps (2)

Three Green Chairs

Front Garden

Stepable Logo with Yellow Twig Dogwood

Euphorbia wulfenii
Euphorbia wulfenii

Hellebores were everywhere on display, and for sale as well.
Helleborus (2)

Zantedeschia aethiopica 'White Giant'
Zantedeschia aethiopica 'White Giant'

Cyclamen coum
Cyclamen coum (3)

Cyclamen coum

I think this is Euphorbia rigida.

Office Gate


Sandy's is primarily a wholesale nursery, and the open house was only for people in the business, but you can find their plants at many garden centers throughout the mid-Atlantic.  However, they also sell retail and encourage visitors, you just need to check the website for details and hours.

Although I haven't had to say it in a while, the usual disclaimer is in place.  I have not been compensated in anyway for this post, I just enjoy what I do.

(One more thing - this will be the last reminder that my Winter Walk-Off ends on Tuesday at midnight, and I will take entries until then.  You can look for my wrap-up sometime towards the end of the week once I pull it all together.)

March 15, 2013

Bloom Day - A Video Tour

I got a new smart phone this week, and decided to test its capabilities by making this month's Bloom Day a video tour.  My test told me several things; I do like the phone, I say the word "nice" too much, and I gave the wrong name for a camellia. I said "Nuccio's Pearl" instead "Nuccio's Gem", but that's only because I think it would be a more logical name for my favorite white camellia.

Now without further ado, let's get on with the show.

I doubt you will see many more videos here, as the virtual world already has enough shaky, poorly produced ones. Speaking of worlds, if you want to see what other gardeners around the globe are growing this month, then you should pay a visit to Carol at May Dreams Gardens. On the 15th of each month she hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

Finally, I want to remind you that there are still a few days to enter my 2013 Winter Walk-Off.  I am keeping the files open until midnight on the 19th. Hopefully you will join in, and if you can't, at least stop by next week for my wrap-up.  It promises to be the most diverse in three years.

March 12, 2013

Still Life with Asarum

I was able to spend both days this past weekend working in enjoying my garden and getting it ready for spring. While down on my knees pulling out fallen leaves, I noticed the Asarum splendens was in bloom, and on one's knees is the only way to see them. Hidden below the foliage, their bizarre waxy flowers seem to be something pushed out from the underworld.  I am assuming ants or beetles must be the pollinators, or perhaps the dark lord himself.

Asaum splendens

Asaum splendens 4

The plant's common name is Chinese wild ginger, and I bought it not for the flowers, but for its splendid dark green, mottled with silver, foliage.  Only getting about 6" high, A. splendens acts as a groundcover in shady areas, and in my climate it remains evergreen. It is hardy in zones (5)6 to 9, spreads quickly and is very easy to grow, but during times of drought you will want to throw a little extra water on it.

(BTW, it is not too late to enter this year's Winter Walk-Off.  I am taking entries until midnight March 19th.)