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 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Roll (Camera Roll, not Dinner Roll)

     Here are some of the photos I took over the Thanksgiving Day holiday, which as usual, we spent on Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore.

     The first photo was taken from my parent's front porch Thanksgiving morning. Unfortunately my camera did not adequately capture the pink glow happening in the sky, but some things can only be experienced and not explained, nor photographed. Weather-wise, this was the best part of the day, but that was that was fine by me, as I always think of Thanksgiving as in inward, indoorsy sort of holiday.
  Day of Thanks

     On Black Friday, I opted to keep far from the orgy of consumerism going in some places. Instead we visited the quiet town Onancock and Ker Place, home of the Eastern Shore Historical Society. Several artisans had set up shop in the old mansion, which I quickly breezed through, preferring instead to get closer to the 200-year-old sycamores out front. In winter this species always reminds of bleached whale bones.
Ker Place

Platanus occidentalis (1)

Platanus occidentalis (2)

     My son is almost a man now. This fall has been the season that chickens have come home to roost, so to speak, and I have a whole new appreciation (and regret) for what I put my own parents through when I was his age. Like the trees, I think we will both survive.
Young Man and Old Tree

     Later in the afternoon, I had a nice walk with the dogs along the shores of Metompkin Bay, though it was quite cold and very windy. It gave me chance to tinker with my new phone.

     This morning before we left, another beautiful sunrise revealed itself
Saturday Sunrise

Sunrise with Geese

Frosted Marsh (2)

Frosted Spatina

Frosted Solidago

Frosted Marsh (1)

      I hope all of you had a chance to spend the holiday with family and friends, and that you were able to take a few moments to remember what really matters in this world. I'm thinking we need to do it more often than the one Thursday each November.

November 21, 2014

Another Visit to Federal Twist

     After attending the Perennial Plant Conference back in October, I was able to enjoy some of what fall offered in the Delaware River Valley. One of the things I did was to visit James Golden's garden as part of The Garden Conservancy's Open Days Program. On my first visit to Federal Twist the white glare of a blazingly hot summer afternoon made photography nearly impossible. On this trip the light conditions were much friendlier, however, word has spread about this remarkable garden, and I often had to wait for people to walk out of my viewfinder to get a good shot. James' garden is one of the most unique private spaces I have ever seen. The architecture, carefully chosen pieces of art, a blend of native and exotic plants - all seem to arise naturally from the surrounding landscape. I could attempt to describe it further, but the gardener is much better at that then am I.
Entrance Path (1)

The Terrace

Rhus glabra 'Lanciniata' and Hakonechloa  (2)

Rhus glabra 'Lanciniata' and Chasmanthium latifolium

     On the day of the tour, the look-at-me plant of the day was Viburnum plicatum sporting its red autumn blazer, and I heard more than one visitor inquire to its identification. The viburnum looks over the reflecting pool, which is one of the few bits of rectilinear formality in an otherwise naturalistic informal garden. The contrast elevates both.
Viburnum plicatum with Miscanthus

Viburnum plicatum Overlooking the Reflection Pool

Reflecting Pool

Cotinus with Grasses (1)

Cotinus with Grasses (2)

Sanguisorba fronts Viburnum

Sanguisorba with Miscanthus

Sedum'Autumn Joy'

Aster tartaricus ‘Jin Dai’

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' (1)

Lindera glauca 'Angustifolia', Miscanthus and Rhus

Lindera glauca 'Angustifolia' with Hosta

Fern Light (1)

Boxwood Path

Arborvitae and Sculpture

Albizia 'Summer Chocolate' with Grasses and Arborvitae

     I was surprised by how much I admired the dormant form and structure of Inula racemosa 'Sonnenspeer', which was all over James' garden, weeks past its prime.
Inula racemosa 'Sonnenspeer' (3)

Inula racemosa 'Sonnenspeer' (4)

     I also admire my mother and brother for many reasons, but on this day for putting up with my photo-snapping, garden-obsessed self. BTW, don't you love these Wave Hill chairs? I think we may have to see some of these a little further south.
Mater et Frater

     Speaking of photo-obsessed, if you would like to see all of my photos from my visit, my complete set can be found here.

November 15, 2014

Bloom Day - A Peck on the Cheek

     Winter tried to pay a little visit last night. It was the first time this season that temperatures dipped to freezing, fortunately they did not stay there long, and we had enough wind to put off our first frost for some other day. Honestly I am never ready for cold weather, and if weren't for colorful fall foliage and a big feast, the month of November would be tied with February as my least favorite. A co-worker and I were discussing weather preferences this week. She is from Yorkshire, and I remarked that this week's wind and cold must have reminded her of home, to which she agreed. She also added that cold weather does a body good, but I suspect that's just something people living in cold dank places tell each other.

    Anyhow, let's get on with this month's entry. My first plant is also my newest, Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Golden Arrow' (mountain fleece). I found it on sale at Linden Hill Gardens in Pennsylvania when I was visiting last month. My head turns at the sight of chartreuse foliage, and I liked the strong raspberry-red flowers. As usual, I had nowhere in mind to put this moisture lover, so it was repotted and relegated to the front steps where I can keep an eye on it.
Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Golden Arrow' (2)

Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Golden Arrow' (1)

     Down by the sidewalk, my Ajania pacifica (silver and gold chrysanthemum) is coming into bloom. I am sure I have said it before, but I love this drought tolerant, ├╝ber easy perennial. Close by are two more favorite fall perennials, Amsonia hubrichtii (Hubricht's blue star) and Salvia leucantha (Mexican bush sage). Cuphea ignea 'David Verity', has been blooming here since May.
Ajania pacifica

Ajania pacifica, Salvia leucantha and Amsonia hubrictii

Cuphea ignea 'David Verity'

     My Leonoitis leonurus (lion's tail, wild dagga) was sacrificed during last winter's Arctic vortex. I love its unusual form, and I love orange in the garden, so I replanted one in May. It spent all summer getting established and bloomed late in the season. With Salvia leucantha 'All Purple' in front, a party broke out.
Leonoitis leonurus

Leonoitis leonurus and Salvia leucantha 'All Purple'

     Despite the mockingbirds, berries still persist on my Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry). Even though they are no longer fresh, I like the color against Cotinus and Euphorbia.
Callicarpa americana (1)

Callicarpa americana (2)

     One great big disappointment for me has been Abelia x grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope', mainly due to its lack of vigor, and grow-anyway-I-damn-well-please attitude. I know other gardeners have had no such problems, so I cut it way down this summer and was more attentive as to watering to see if that might help. Time will tell.
Abelia x grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope'

     In my rant against November, I forgot the other thing that makes the month bearable; it marks the beginning of camellia season. All of the sasanquas in my side garden are budded and blooming. In the backyard my favorite, 'Yuletide', has many buds but few flowers, mainly due to a pesky squirrel who has taken to eaten the about-to-open buds. The situation has me questioning my commitment to veganism.
Camellia sasanqua 'Autumn Rocket'

Camellia sasanqua 'Showa-no-saki'

Camellia sasanqua 'Kanjiro'

      Most gardeners only think of Fatsia japonica as a foliage plant for shaded areas, but the flowers are fun and remind me of Sputnik.
Fatsia japonica

     The biggest star of my November garden is Tagetes lucida (Mexican marigold, Mexican tarragon). For two years it languished in the side garden never getting enough light. I moved it to a sunnier spot this spring, and in gratitude, it has been covered with flowers since mid-October. According to, the Aztecs "...would sprinkle a powder of the plant into the faces of prisoners of war who were to be burned as sacrifices so that they would be sedated during the ordeal." This makes me ponder how squirrels might react.
Tagetes lucida (2)

Tagetes lucida (1)

     Later this week winter is supposed to make another visit, and this time she will not be here for a quick peck on the cheek. Overnight lows are predicted into the mid-twenties. I shouldn't complain, because I know she has already put her big fat lips all over many parts of the country, but I will complain anyway. It makes me feel better. If you want to see how the early arrival of winter has treated other gardeners, then visit Carol at May Dreams Garden, who hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of each month.