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 30, 2015

Magazine Worthy

     Late last summer I had a chance to visit the garden of a co-worker. Hearing others talk about how nice it was, and knowing the garden had been on a tour sponsored by the Norfolk Botanical Garden, I pestered her into letting me come see for myself, camera in hand. As much as I love seeing what other gardeners have created, I also had been on the lookout for an opportunity to write another garden profile article for Virginia Gardener magazine. Knowing this, my co-worker still said yes. What I found was a very unique and personal creation, and despite the threat of storms, I was able to get some great photos. I worked on the article this winter, submitted it in January, and it just came out in the April issue.





     One of the striking things about this garden (other than the adept use of color) is the choice of plant material, in that it thankfully makes a very wide departure from the typical Norfolk garden of azaleas, nandina and Japanese hollies. The gardener originally set out to create something with a more tropical feel to it, and although that element is still present, in recent years she has steered it a little more southwesterly. After her son got bitten by the succulent bug, they began amending soil, improving drainage, and experimenting with what might survive in a wet zone 8a garden. Those things too tender for a typical winter here are kept in a very crowded sun room during the cold months. The beautiful agave below is 'Arizona Star' and punctures and blindness are risked to bringing it in for the winter.



     Before heading to the back garden I want to share my favorite photo of the day, which unfortunately the magazine did not use. Maybe they didn't know how much of a thing I have for crows.

LS GARDEN - Musa basjoo






     The foliage below belongs to Manihot grahamii (hardy tapioca). My co-worker says she pulls its seedlings up frequently. I hope one can find its way to my garden.
LS GARDEN - Manihot grahamii










LS GARDEN - Rhipsalis capilliformis

     If I could, I would provide a link to the article, but the magazine doesn't provide that. You will just have to buy a copy for yourself.

March 22, 2015

2015 Winter Walk-Off Wrap-Up

     So finally it is spring. I know in some more northerly places that just means a new mark on the calendar, and real change in the landscape may be weeks away, but around here there is every indication that the seasons are changing. Yesterday I took a much needed bike ride, and my route took me downtown to the harbor and back home again. Along the way strollers were being pushed, couples were holding hands, joggers were jogging, sailboats were sailing, and blooms were blooming. It was therapeutic to be outside, and it was great to see that so many others were enjoying the day as well.

Berkley Shipyards (1)

Sailboats and Aircraft Carrier

Victory Rover (2)

     This year's Winter Walk-Off was not the best attended, but I was grateful for each entry nonetheless. It was also the least international, with every Walk-Off taking place within the States, making it the first all-American Walk-Off (USA!, USA!, USA,!). This year's patriotic tally was 11, and here they are in the order in which they were received.

#1 - Tina in Tennessee
Tina and her husband, Mr. Fix-it, have built themselves a home in rural Tennessee, and she has her priorities straight. She began to garden there before the house was built. Like many of us in the eastern U.S., Tennessee has had its share of snow this year. One nice thing about snow is that it lets you see all kinds of animal tracks you wouldn't see otherwise, and these are what Tina and her husband discovered on their walk.

#2 - Beth in Wisconsin Florida
Last year, Beth took her Walk-Off in the frozen wilds of Wisconsin. This year she spent part of the winter along the Gulf Coast of Florida, where the flora and fauna are quite different, and considerably more active than what she normally sees at this time of year. I am glad she played along; it was the only near-tropical entry, and there were many days I wish I could have joined her in person.

Freemason Harbor

#3 - Sarah in Maine
It has become tradition for Sarah to take her Winter Walk-Off on skis, but that is not a special occasion for her; she skis a lot in snowy Maine. Sarah also brought her dog along (I love dogs), and of course her camera, with which she captured some of winter's beauty.

#4 - Peter in Tacoma, Washington 
Peter's entry was the first of several from the Pacific northwest, where that part of the country has enjoyed a relatively mild winter and a much earlier spring than we have had in the east. There are many spring blooms to be seen in Peter's post, as well as architecture (I am a fan of both).

Salix  at the Pagoda Garden) (1)

Salix  at the Pagoda Garden) (3) 

#5 - Hoover Boo in California
Some gardeners waste time complaining about the weather, often without considering what others somewhere else may have to endure. I know I am guilty. Although I've lately been thinking about California, specifically its dreadful water crisis, which is likely to get even worse. Hoover Boo shows how some are taking the lead by replacing water intensive landscape plants with more water-wise (and fire-wise) native plants.

#6 - Alison at Lake Tapps, Washington
Lake Tapps was once a working lake used to generate hydroelectric power, but it is now retired and is a lovely place to fish, boat, swim, or to take a Winter Walk-Off. The lake has been temporarily drained for some maintenance work, which provides for some of Alison's interesting photos, but she also shows photos of what it looks like when full.

Prunus cerasifera (1)

#7 - Annie in New Hampshire
It is still cold in New Hampshire, and Annie did not feel like walking outside, so she took her walk inside Phillips Exeter Academy’s library, the largest secondary school library in the world. The building is very modern with its materials being celebrated in the architecture. Despite living where she does, you can tell Annie is still very much a Virginian, as Mr. Jefferson occupied her thoughts while walking.

#8 - Laura in Vancouver, Washington
Laura and her sweet baby dog Barnaby head to the local dog park in her entry, and I do love dogs and trips to the dog park. A word of warning; if you go with Laura and Barnaby, brace yourself if Barnaby tries to sit in your lap.

Magnoia stellata

#9 - Loree in Portland, Oregon
Portland seems like an incredibly hip place to live with a very active gardening scene, and I am so sorry I couldn't make it to last year's Fling to see for myself. Loree's Walk-Off took place in her neighborhood, and it was filled with lots of interesting residential architecture. Of course, if you follow Loree's blog, you know her post was also filled with lots of plants. What can't they grow in Portland?

#10 - Janet in South Carolina
Janet has joined my Winter Walk-Off every year that I have had one, and she is also the only participant I have met in person (I hope I can meet the rest of you, somewhere, somehow, sometime). Janet also takes her dogs along (have I mention how much I like dogs?), and like some of us humans, her dogs are slowing down a bit, but that just makes it easier to enjoy the sights at a more leisurely pace.

#11 - Ray in Alexandria, Virginia
The final entry was submitted by Ray. He took his Walk-Off around Old Town Alexandria, which is just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. It is one of Virginia's most charming cities, just ask George Washington. A word of warning: Ray's post shows some scenes of arboreal neglect that some gardeners may find difficult to view.

Don't Please

I want to sincerely thank all of this year's participants for walking with me, and those of you may have only walked in spirit, thank you also.

Now onto the prize portion of today's broadcast where the swag will rain down on two lucky walkers. Regular participants may recall that the reliable method for picking winners is to have a thoroughly disinterested teenager pick the names out of a hat, but a clean Martini glass was closer than a hat, so that's what was used.

The fist name drawn was Tina of Tennessee (In the Garden) and she has won a 4 million year old fossil (give or take a few millenia) of Chesapecten jeffersonius, a large scallop that is also the state fossil of Virginia.

The second name drawn was Janet of South Carolina (The Queen of Seaford) and she has either won a framed photo print, or a small frame, depending on what she thinks of the photo.

Thanks again everyone!

(All of the photos in this post were taken during my bike ride yesterday.)

March 15, 2015

Bloom Day - Delayed Development

     My garden is retarded, and I only mean that in the original sense of the word. Since February's Bloom Day it has snowed three times with the last one being heavy and wet, flattening many of my emerging plants. We also had a night where temperatures dropped to the single digits (thank goodness for an insulating layer of snow), giving us a zone 7b winter instead of our designated zone 8a. For the first time since I started participating in March Bloom Days, I can't show you one blooming daffodil, no Forsythia, no Veronica 'Georgia Blue', no Corydalis, and even the promiscuously invasive Ranunculus ficaria has yet to bloom. Much is delayed, and will likely come out all at once, but not this morning.

     I do have a few things blooming, and hopefully you have already forgotten what I offered for last month's GBBD, because there are several repeats. Hover over the pictures if you need an ID.
Viola (3)

Viola (2)

Viola (1)

Euphorbia myrsinites (Donkey Tail Spurge) (1)

Edgeworthia chrysantha (2)

Edgeworthia chrysantha (1)

Euphorbia helioscopia (Mad Woman's Milk)

Camellia japonica 'Crimson Candles'

Camellia japonica 'Crimson Candles' (2)

Helleborus x hybridus 'Spring Promise Sally'  (1)

Helleborus x hybridus 'Spring Promise Sally'  (2)

Helleborus orientalis (seedling)

Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon'

Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon' (2)

Euphorbia characias wulfenii

Daphne odora 'Aureo-Marginata'

Chaenomeles x 'Hime'

     The scene below is repeated a hundred fold around my garden. I expect that in a week's time it will be daffodil city. I will not complain about the delayed spring; I am always thankful for it, no matter when it arrives. Please be sure to visit Carol at May Dreams Garden, where she hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of each month.
Narcissus 'Ice Follies'

On more thing - there are just a few days left to participate in Winter Walk-Off 2015. I will be accepting entries until midnight, Thursday, March 19th. I do hope you will join in.