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.

February 25, 2018

Three Magnolias

     This week the weather door creaked open, and we experienced glimpses of early summer, with  several days in the 70's, all the way to 80 yesterday. Open windows in late February is not the norm. Friday was an exception. It barely made to 50 with cold, dank air. It never really rained, but a mist fell all day, and I never could seem to get warm. However, it made for some good photo ops on the early blooming magnolias at work. Deciduous magnolias are lovely trees, but not every year is a good one. Often they open early, only to have winter make a comeback, turning their delicate petals brown. I wish I had a garden large enough to allow space for tree that big that only blooms for a long week under the best of circumstances.

Magnolia x 'Todd Gresham'
Magnolia x 'Todd Gresham' (6)

Magnolia x 'Todd Gresham' (7)

Magnolia x 'Todd Gresham' (4)

Magnolia x 'Todd Gresham' (1)

Magnolia denudata
Magnolia denudata (5)

Magnolia denudata (8)

Magnolia denudata (7)

Magnolia denudata (6)

Magnolia denudata (2)

Magnolia denudata (4)

Magnolia × loebneri 'Leonard Messel'
Magnolia × loebneri 'Leonard Messel'  (3)

Magnolia × loebneri 'Leonard Messel'  (1)

Magnolia × loebneri 'Leonard Messel'  (2)

     No matter the weather you may be experiencing, I do hope you will consider participating in my 2018 Winter Walk-Off

February 19, 2018

Winter Walk-Off 2018

      Since 2011 I have held my Winter Walk-Off, and though I don't blog like I once did (real life taking away from on-line life), I still wanted to continue with this meme. This has been a mixed winter here. We had extreme cold, kissing the single digits, in January with a good amount of snow. We have also had temperatures in the 70's, and the forecast for Wednesday of this week is calling for 80. The only real constant this winter has been the wet, everything is soggy, including my attitude. So I take advantage of what dry days we have, and try to spend them outside; it is good for the soul. I hope you will do the same thing.

     As always, the rules are simple, the rules are flexible:

     On your own two feet, leave the house, and share what can be seen within walking (or biking) distance of your home (if you want to drive to your walk destination that's OK too). Your post does not have to be about gardening or a travelogue (though I do like both), unless you want it to be. Maybe instead you will find some unusual patterns, interesting shadows, signs of spring, a favorite restaurant or shop, questionable landscaping, or local eyesores. Whatever, just keep your eyes and mind open, be creative, and have fun, but don't show anything from your own garden.

     Post your own Winter Walk-Off on your blog, and link it back to this post. Also, please leave me a link and comment here when your post is up. If you have recently written something similar, you are welcome to recycle.

     I will keep the challenge open until midnight on March 19th, the last day of winter (or summer for those of you below the equator, who are welcome to join in).

     Normally everyone who participates has a chance to win one of two prizes. Last year, one of the winners graciously declined the prize, so instead I donated $25 to her state's chapter of the Nature Conservancy, an organization I believe in. They have done great work here in coastal Virginia. For 2018 I am going to randomly draw one name from all the participants, and I will donate $50 to their state's chapter of the Nature Conservancy. If for some reason they live somewhere without a chapter, I will find a similarly worthy organization. The winner's name will be announced in my wrap-up.

     I hope these guidelines are simple enough to sway you to join in, because the more the merrier.


     For my on walk-off, I actually walked this year, instead of participating on my bike. I am now armed with a $600 knee brace (or should that be legged?), which has made getting around much less painful. I headed to Sarah Constant Beach Park in Norfolk's Ocean View neighborhood. Ocean View is sort of a misnomer, as it actually faces the Chesapeake Bay. I suppose if you crooked your head to the right, and it was a very clear day, you could indeed glimpse the Atlantic. Regardless, Ocean View is one of Norfolk's most colorful neighborhoods. It was once home to shingle-clad vacation cottages, a famous amusement park, and affordable hotels, all a pleasant trolley ride from downtown. Times change as they are wont to do, and Ocean View fell on hard times. Today it is making a comeback with new houses, condos, restaurants, and retail, while still keeping its color.

     One casualty of all this development are many of the area's live oaks (Quercus virginiana). When I was a child we would regularly travel from our home in Richmond to the Eastern Shore, and before the interstate was finished we had to take Ocean View Ave. to get through Norfolk. We didn't have live oaks in Richmond, and there were very few on the Eastern Shore. Even as a kid I marveled at their massive trunks, and at the way those in Ocean View all grew facing away from the shore and its north winds. Those old cottages were built up to the edge of the dunes on long skinny lots, with live oaks growing between the house and Ocean View Ave. With many of the cottages gone, and lots split up or consolidated, the oaks have not fared well. However, there is still a nice grove of them at Sarah Constant Beach Park.

Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) (1)

Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) (4)

Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) (2)

Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) (3)

     This is a harsh environment for anything to grow, but Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii) actually does better here in the sandy soil, than it would in something richer.
Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii)

     No problem for our native yucca (Yucca filamentosa) either.
Adam's Needle (Yucca filamentosa)

     The Ocean View Fishing Pier is very popular in-season. I enjoy having beverages there, watching the sunset, and spotting for dolphins when the weather is warm. Good people watching too.
Ocean View Fishing Pier (1)

Ocean View Fishing Pier (2)

Ocean View Fishing Pier (3)

Ocean View Beach (2)

Ocean View Beach (1)

     Right next to the pier is another Ocean View institution, the Thirsty Camel. January was hard on the palmettos (Sabal palmetto) next door. With rare exceptions, and despite no lack of trying, I think these palms are just really expensive annuals here.
The Thirsty Camel (1)

The Thirsty Camel (2)

The Thirsty Camel (3)

     Thanks for walking with me. I hope I will be able to look over your shoulder when you take your own Winter Walk-Off.

February 3, 2018

T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge

     Back in October, my wife, a friend, and I traveled to Richmond for the day to celebrate my son's birthday. After a delightful lunch we headed down to the James, as I wanted to see the relatively new Potterfield Bridge. The pedestrian and bike only bridge is built atop the stone piers of an old hydroelectric structure, allowing visitors cross the river 20' above the quick waters. The bridge is named after T. Tyler Potterfield who was passionate about his adopted city, and before he died at a young age, was the project manager for the bridge that now bears his name. The north entrance commemorates the fall of Richmond in 1865, over the falls of Richmond. Embedded into the bridge deck are quotes from various people, famous and not, who were present then. The south entrance in Manchester is marked by Joshua Wiener's The Path Untraveled, a series of 8 17' tall large coreten steel rings that seem to roll across the landscape.

Potterfield Bridge (1)

Potterfield Bridge (2)

Potterfield Bridge (3)

Potterfield Bridge (5)

Potterfield Bridge (4)

Potterfield Bridge (6)

Potterfield Bridge (7)

Potterfield Bridge (8)

Potterfield Bridge (9)

Potterfield Bridge (10)

Potterfield Bridge (13)

Potterfield Bridge (14)

Potterfield Bridge (15)

CSX Trellis (3)

CSX Trellis (2)

Populus deltoides

CSX Trellis (1)