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 27, 2015

Making Friends at Church

     A couple of Sundays ago, I had the chance to meet a fellow blogger, Marilyn Kircus. I've been following her blog, Adventures of a Vagabond Volunteer, for some time now, as she documents her travels and volunteer work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I've enjoyed reading about Marilyn's encounters with wildlife, her hikes, her canoe trips, and even the more mundane work she has had to do. Many of the photos she has shared on her blog had me ready to throw the tent and sleeping bag into the back of the truck, lace up my boots, and head out west. Her stint at each refuge lasts several months, and when I heard she was going to be working this winter at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge just south of here in North Carolina, I suggested a watery meet up at Merchant's Millpond State Park. I have been this place several times before, and hoped that she would find it as special as I do.

     I got there a little early, and the park was not open yet. Riding further down the road, I saw someone, camera in-hand, and knew it had to be Marilyn. We caught up with each other as mist rose over the pond's dam, and is as often the case with kindred spirits, we didn't stop talking until it was time to go, which is likely the reason Marilyn reported seeing so few birds in her account of the trip.
Merchants Millpond (2)
The Dam

Merchants Millpond (5)
This structure is a fish ladder that enables river herring to continue upstream.

     Just as was the case during my last visit to Merchants Millpond, the dark, tannin-rich water transformed its surface into a mirror. In these parts it has not been the most spectacular fall color-wise, but what little we did see was made twice as nice by the watery reflection.
Merchants Millpond (8)



Merchants Millpond (27)

Merchants Millpond (24)

Merchants Millpond (41)

Merchants Millpond (11)

Merchants Millpond (6)

Spanish Moss
Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) has an affinity for bald cypress (Taxodium distichum).
Merchants Millpond (16)

Merchants Millpond with Rosa palustris
Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris)
Merchants Millpond (Myriophyllum aquaticum)
Parrot's feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum) might have a nice texture, but it is an exotic invasive.
Merchants Millpond (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Merchants Millpond (37)

Merchants Millpond (9)

Merchants Millpond (13)

November 21, 2015

Longwood in Mid-October

     As part of our itinerary for the Perennial Plant Conference in October, we scheduled a stop at Longwood Gardens on the way back home to Virginia. Though I have been there several times before, this was my first visit in the fall. Since I now work in public horticulture, my time at Longwood is seen with a different set of eyes. I marvel at the seemingly spare-no-expense attitude, and speculate at what needs to take place behind the scenes to make it look as it does. I am not envious; I am actually glad there is a place where people who do what I do are seemingly unhindered by lack of money, personnel, or facilities (even if it only appears that way), and where the public is shown the potential of horticulture.

     Outside the visitors center we were greeted with a display of bananas, Crinum, variegated Manihot, bright yellow mums, and a new-to-me Cassia (C. didymobotrya), seeds of which I have already sourced.
Visitor Center Entrance (2)

Cassia didymobotrya (1)

    We first headed towards the Flower Garden Walk, where several Salvia species and cultivars (especially S. leucantha), dahlias, mums, and ornamental peppers were vying for center stage. Along the way there were containers to admire.
Silver Containers (1)

Open Air Theatre (2)

Flower Garden Walk - Salvia leucantha (2)

Flower Garden Walk (5)

Flower Garden Walk (8)

Flower Garden Walk (10)

Flower Garden Walk (18)

Flower Garden Walk (16)

Flower Garden Walk (24)

     Entering Pierce's Woods, plants more typical of the eastern woodland were showing their fall colors.
Peirce’s Woods (3)

Peirce’s Woods (4)

Peirce’s Woods (5)

Peirce’s Woods (6)

Peirce’s Woods (7)

     At the Conservatory the Chrysanthemum Festival was just getting started, though most were not yet open. However, there were many other things to look at.

Conservatory (11)

Conservatory (8)

Conservatory (13)

Conservatory - Silver Garden (3)

Conservatory - Silver Garden - Agave parryi (2)

     While we were in Philly the local weather forecasters were calling for the first freeze of the season for the next night. With that different set of eyes earlier mentioned, I kept seeing many plants throughout Longwood that would need to be brought indoors for protection, and it looked like it was going to take a Herculean effort to get it all done. The three of us were happy this wasn't going to be our job, and that we could still enjoy all of the tropicals in the garden, including those in their famous waterlily display at the Conservatory.
Nymphaea 'Red Flare'

Nymphaea (1)

Nymphaea 'Director George T. Moore'

     The last stop we made at Longwood was the restroom. Each one of the doors in the green wall leads to an individual, single seat, very private, spacious, unisex restroom. 
Conservatory - Livining Wall -Restroom Pods

     The thing I was most looking forward to seeing at Longwood was the new Meadow Garden, and it did not disappoint. We got lost there, but not directionally. I will need to show you in another post.

November 15, 2015

Bloom Day - Normal Can Be Nice Too

     This Bloom Day finds just about everything in its place where it belongs. There have been no recent bouts of severe weather; we haven't even had a frost yet, with the lows dipping no further than the low 40's. Some of what I have to show this month was shown in October, and looking back over previous November Bloom Days, I really don't have much new to offer. As the tired phrase goes, it is what it is.

     I brought this variegated Plectranthus home from work, it was a leftover from our summer plantings, and what a trouble-free plant it has been. Recently the powers that be concluded coleus is really Plectranthus, and you can see the family resemblance in the flower.
Plectranthus amboinicus 'Variegatus'

Odontonema cuspidatum

      Ricin 'New Zealand Purple' was yet another leftover, and I love the backlit afternoon light coming through the foliage. The pink azaleas are my neighbor's, but I don't mind borrowing the color, which also looks good with Salvia 'Wendy's Wish'. 
Ricinus communis 'New Zealand Purple'

Salvia x 'Wendy's Wish'

Tagetes lucida

Ajania pacifica

     Late last spring it was hard for me to settle on plain old wax leaf begonias for my three porch planters, but I could not think of anything that could handle three different light situations and still look good. Here it is mid-November, and they are blooming their heads off. 
Begonia semperflorens

Callicarpa americana

     The camellia below is 'Autumn Rocket', which was developed locally by the late Dr. Habel in Suffolk. He bred many camellias and kept them straight by numbering them, but he did allow a few to be developed, named, and sold commercially, and this is one of those. It is a narrow camellia, only growing about 3' wide but 10' tall. Interesting story: on our last trip home from Colorado, we had stopped at a rest area in Nowheresville, Missouri. While I was walking the dogs, a man seeing our license plate asked what part of Virginia we were from. As we were talking I found out he was Dr. Habel's son, and he and his wife were also heading home to Virginia from Colorado. Of course I had to tell him how much I liked his father's camellia. 
Camellia sasanqua 'Autumn Rocket' (1)

Camellia sasanqua 'Autumn Rocket' (2)

     Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is held on the 15th of each month and is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.