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 24, 2014

2014 Winter Walk-Off Wrap-Up

     Until early last week I was worried that few bloggers would join in my Winter Walk-Off, but a parade of last minute entries came in at the deadline. These late posts reminded me of my college days, staying up all night to finish a term paper. I remember boarding the city bus once, bleary eyed, to hand deliver a particularly onerous paper to a professor's house in a vain effort at beating a late penalty, but I digress. This year I ended up with 17 entries, and many of them had common features, snow, snow and snow. Here they are in the order received.

#1 - Beth in Wisconsin
God bless people who live in northern climates, where the first sign of spring is ice thawing and water flowing. Beth shows us around McFarland, Wisconsin where the snow is deep and lakes are frozen, but buds are swelling and the cedar waxwings are whistling.

#2 - Emily in Seattle
Ever wish you lived in a neighborhood full of free spirits, where neighbors lend books from street-side libraries, and garden art is a high form of personal expression? My neighborhood has its funky moments, but I wish it were more like Emily's.

#3 - Sarah in Maine
In this year's first Walk-Off to include a canine and our second with lots of snow, wise Sarah says "You need to embrace winter, not hide from it." And embrace it she does, on skis along a snowy wooded trail near Bowdoin College.

Lamium amplexicaule (1)

#4 - Alison in Seattle
Alison's Walk-Off shows us a bit of downtown Seattle, a place were chewing gum is used as wall covering, where the restrooms are fresh, and a pig named Rachel has survived 25 years in a market without once being eyed for bacon by the butcher.

#5 - Denise in Long Beach
Who'd have thought that in traffic-clogged, car-obsessed southern California that precious parking spaces would ever be converted into even more precious parks, or more precisely, parklets? Is it just me, or do you smell change coming too?

#6 - Sybil in Nova Scotia
Sybil shares this year's first international entry, though not some balmy tropical isle, but cold Halifax, where she reluctantly braved the weather to show us some of the provincial capital. It may be cold now, but it must have been hot there this summer, because some of the streetlamps appear to have melted.


#7 - Jan in Northern Virginia
Virginia is a very diverse state, and the northern part of the commonwealth is one its most densely populated areas, although from Jan's entry you wouldn't think it so. Like Sarah she has embraced the season and takes us on a snowy trip around her neighborhood.

#8 - Annie in New Hampshire
I am grateful that Annie tempted fate and walked with us. Though it was through a cold and snowy New England landscape, there was a warm break by the wood stove in a carpenter's shop, plus there were dogs.

#9 - Loree in Salem, Oregon
If all you know of Salem, Oregon is how it prevented you from getting a perfect score and a red ink smiley face on Miss Greene's 5th grade state capital quiz, then I didn't realize that you and I were ever classmates. Loree shows us that Salem is also home to some really unique architecture, monumental sculptures, an intriguing garden store that needs better hours, and some really bad municipal landscaping.

Metompkin March (3)

#10 - Janet in South Carolina
It wouldn't be the same Walk-Off without Janet and her dogs. She has participated in every one I have ever hosted, and I really appreciate that. Make sure you pause long enough to hear the frogs.

#11 - Lynn in North Carolina
In her entry, Lynn takes us to High Hampton Inn and Country Club in the magical mountains of western North Carolina. Not that I am ungrateful for all of the other entrant's efforts, but Lynn was the only one to invite me for a visit which will include libations. I am sure that was just an innocent oversight on everyone else's part, and I promise it will have no bearing on the prize drawings - honest.

#12 - Peter in Tacoma
Spring has come to Tacoma, Washington and Peter shows us a few things blooming in his neighborhood. However, what he shows more of is some eclectic residential architecture. He must have remembered from last year that I like looking at buildings as much as I do gardens.

Metompkin March (12)

#13 - Sweetbay in North Carolina
Sweetbay's entry includes pictures of blooming quince, cherries, narcissus, hellebores and magnolias in Chapel Hill, all sure signs that winter is over. Hopefully the blooms and warming weather will soothe and distract Carolinians from March Madness sadness.

#14 - Gene in Hampton, Virginia
Like Janet, Gene has participated in everyone of my Winter Walk-Offs, and it just wouldn't be the same event without him. This year he takes us on a walk around his church, showing that people out west aren't the only ones who can grow spiky things, and that homelessness knows no geographical boundaries either (look in his comment section for the link to an interesting sculpture).

#15 - Jennifer in Ontario
In another post from snow covered Canada, Jennifer risks bodily injury exploring a copse of trees with a hidden pond at its center. She could have used skates this month, maybe this summer all she will need a bathing suit.

Metompkin March (19)

#16 - Lynn in Chicago
Some American cities have suffered more than others in this long winter, one of them is Chicago, but I want to think they are probably bettered prepared for it than some, though that doesn't mean they necessarily like it. Lynn takes a break between snow storms to walk through the park and to Lake Michigan. Visible bare ground between patches of snow must surely mean that spring is on its way.

#17 - Ray in Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria is one of Virginia's most historic cities, and it is full of interesting architectural details, some of which are captured in Ray's Walk-Off entry. Those of you who have ever contemplated downsizing, maybe a spite house might work for you.

Metompkin March (6)

     And now for the rich swag. As is tradition here, all entries are put into a hat (or in this year's case, a bowl), and a thoroughly disinterested teenager randomly drew 2 names.

  • The first winner is Sybil in Nova Scotia, and she has won a can of Crab House Crunch, a local delicacy with addictive properties. 
  • Peter in Tacoma won the next prize, a collection of seashells I personally pulled from the Atlantic during a trip to Metompkin Island. In this case I think most of them are Knobbed Whelks. 
Sybil and Peter, I will contact you for a mailing address, and the prizes should follow shortly thereafter, more or less.

     I thank everyone who took the time to contribute a post this year, I really appreciate the efforts. We will have to do it again next year.

Isabel (2)

(All of the photos in this post were taken during a walk the dogs and I took this past weekend at my parent's house on the Eastern Shore. It was beautiful day with temps in the 70's, it might snow here tomorrow. Two steps forward, one step back.)

March 15, 2014

Bloom Day - A Little More Light and a Little Less Cold

     I am not prepared to say we have turned a corner yet on the weather front, but we are almost at the end of the block. Just this past week crocus and daffodils came out to play, the camellias are opening, albeit slightly bruised, and the ever-resilient hellebores are fully open, late, but unphased by the hateful winter. I think I will make it, and you?

Narcissus 'Ice Follies' (1)

Narcissus 'Ice Follies' (2)


Camellia japonica 'Crimson Candles'

Camellia japonica 'Nuccio's Gem'

Helleborus (seedlings) (1)

Helleborus (seedlings) (2)

Helleborus (seedlings) (4)

Helleborus x hybridus 'Spring Promise Sally'

Helleborus (seedlings) (5)

Edgeworthia chrysantha (1)

     There is also a lot of scenes like this going on around here. Fortunately, I have several plantings of Confederate jasmine and this is the only one sporting a brown jacket.
Trachelospermum jasminoides

     My last photo was not taken in my garden, but at Sandy's Plants in Richmond yesterday. I was up there once again with my co-workers for her open house. I have been recently admiring Iris reticulata blooming at work, and Sandy likes to see this dwarf species bloom underneath the bare stems of her hardy hibiscus. I think next fall we are going to try this at work, only we are going to plant it underneath red-twig dogwoods, or flame willows instead.
Iris reticulata

     If you would like to see how the winter season is finishing in other gardens, then join Carol at May Dreams Gardens as she hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. And speaking of winter, there are still a few days left to get your Winter Walk-Off posted, and I am taking submissions until midnight on Wednesday the 19th.  I am sure you would like to show the rest of us something of your world and have a chance to score some rich swag at the same time, not that you are they type to be swayed so easily.

March 12, 2014

Longwood Gardens' Orchid Extravaganza

"Nothing succeeds like excess." - Oscar Wilde (and the Lady Violet)

     Before heading to the Philadelphia Flower Show I found myself in a dark place. I was travelling the length of Delaware while listening to moody prog rock from the 70's, fighting a week-long cold, and watching the bleak winter landscape roll past. Until you near Wilmington, most of Delaware is fairly flat with the most notable landmarks being Dover Downs Speedway, the refinery complex in Delaware City, and the massive cooling tower of Hope Creek nuclear power station looming from the Jersey side of the Delaware River. It got me to thinking how precious few pieces of land remain in this country that have never once been either felled, farmed, mined, burnt, logged, scraped, paved, graded or drained. I'm not picking on Delaware or saying these conditions are unique to the state, indeed I am sure it is true for the country as whole and much of the world beyond. But Delaware is small, and it easy to see how every acre seems to have a designated purpose and is managed in some way or another, even those areas designated as natural.

     So what does this have to do with an orchid show? Well, probably very little - but as soon as I opened those conservatory doors my spirits brightened, and that dark cloud was replaced by the sights and smells of one of the most well executed, spectacular, and over-the-top horticultural displays I have ever seen. It was just what the doctor ordered.

Main Conservatory (1)

Main Conservatory (5)

Hanging Orchid Balls (Exhibition Hall)

Main Conservatory (6)

Main Conservatory

Veltheimia bracteata (yellow form) (2)

Veltheimia bracteata (yellow form) (1)

East Conservatory with Bismarckia, Plectranthus, Orchids and Hydrangea (2)

East Conservatory with Bismarckia, Plectranthus, Orchids and Hydrangea (4)

East Conservatory (Woodland Orchid Display) (1)

Cymbidium Edith McDade 'New Horizon' (2)

Phalaenopsis 'Fuller's Sunset'

x Sophrolaeliocattleya 'Orglade's Early Harvest'

Schomburgkia undulata (1)

Phalaenopsis Beauty Shenna 'Rin Rin'

Antirrhinum majus 'Potmac Appleblossom' (1)

Kalanchoe (maybe) (2)

Veltheimia bracteata (pink form) (2)

Estate Fruit House (Espaliered Nectarines) (2)

Aloe with Snowbank

East Conservatory (Woodland Orchid Display) (5)

Paphiopedilum (1)

Miltonia Orchid


       These are but a few of the pictures I took at Longwood, and if you want to see more, you can click here for my Flickr set. For those you who need names, I included them in the title if I knew them.

(Not to sound like a broken record, but there is still time to enter my Winter Walk-Off meme. Come on, you know you want to.)

March 5, 2014

2014 Philadelphia Flower Show

     For years now I have wanted to see the Philadelphia Flower Show. It is one of the few flower and garden shows left where creative horticulture takes precedence over the selling of seamless gutters, non-stick cookware and outdoor kitchens. I had planned to attend Sunday, and possibly make a return visit on Monday before leaving for home, but I ended up going on Saturday (opening day) to beat the impending snow. I knew it would be busy, but the throngs of people were the only thing that distracted from an incredible show. This year's theme was Articulture and most of the landscapes and floral displays drew inspiration from a wide range of art works and artists. All of it was creative, and much of it was over-the-top, in a good way. It was a fantastic distraction from the gray, the cold and the small mountains of dirty snow outside.

Main Stage (6)

Main Stage

My Monet, Norristown Garden Club

A Speculation, Andy Sturgeon Landscape and Garden Design  (2)

Avant-Garden, J. Downend Landscaping

Avant-Garden, J. Downend Landscaping (1)

Floral Display, Philladelphia Flower Show 2014 (3)

Hither Cottage, Men's Garden Club of Philadelphia, Inc., The Wayne Art Center  (1)

Floral Display, Philladelphia Flower Show 2014 (5)

Leaves in the Landscape, Michael Petrie's Handmade Gardens, The Barnes Foundation (1)

Flowers by David

Netherlands American Business Assc (1)

Potted Bulbs (1)

Potted Iris

Treasures from Korea (5)

Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades

     I normally gravitate to the landscape displays at flower and garden shows, but one of the most intriguing things I saw in Philly was a floral display. It was in a section titled Treasures from Korea, and the piece was called The King's Table.

Treasures from Korea, The Kings Table (1)

Treasures from Korea, The Kings Table

Treasures from Korea, The Kings Table (4)

Treasures from Korea, The Kings Table (2)

     The Philadelphia Flower Show runs through March 9th, but if you can't make it in person, you can see more photos on my Flickr page. The pics are definitely no substitute, but you might get an inkling.

     Also, this is your friendly reminder that my Winter Walk-Off is still going on. I hope you will join in, it just wouldn't be the same without you.