21 May 2019

Integrate Art and Landscape

Saturday, our Master Gardeners had an opportunity to visit the new Glenstone museum in Maryland outside Washington, DC. New is a relative term since it officially opened in 2006 with its first building. Others followed over the past few years, and the landscaping continues today. It occupies 300 acres (120 hactacres) of land in the uber-weathly, semi-rural suburb of Potomac, MD and its buildings display 20th century art.

"Glenstone is a place that seamlessly integrates art, architecture, and landscape into a serene and contemplative environment ...Guided by the personal vision of its founders, it assembles post-World War II artworks of the highest quality that trace the greatest historical shifts in the way we experience and understand art of the 20th and 21st centuries. These works are presented in a series of refined indoor and outdoor spaced designed to facilitate meaningful encounters for our visitors."

An urban museum cannot create a rural setting. Landscaping the property began in 2010. On the visit, we recognize sustainability as a major objective through the building materials, permeable pavements, native planting, reforestation, stream rehabilitation, and even the cafe consumables.

These photos give a glimpse of the trails, paths, and landscape. The next post will present some of the spaces around the buildings.


Contour by Richard Serra
All rolling meadows are landscaped with native wildflowers, grasses, and sedges that support the native wildlife and "nurture a native ecosystem."


Split-Rocker -- Jeff Koons
All museums need a little whimsy. This sits atop a hill and is probably the most photographed.



Close-up with its irrigated geraniums, marigolds, begonias, few of which were blooming.

Fallen trees lay where they naturally fell or were cut to support the ecosystem. Lush, green, super-invasive Japanese stiltgrass forms a problematic forest carpet.

Restored stream bed along the woodland trail.

Natural sculpture identification. The "sculpture" was two partially buried sinks.



Native blue flag (Iris virginica)

Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

Native paper bark birch (Betula papyrifera)

Careful little buddy. Don't get run over on the path.

14 May 2019

Iris Experiment Disappointment

Several more crossed iris bloomed throughout the past two weeks. The results were a little disappointing. Of the seven or so flower stalks that were produced from the various plant combinations, all but two seemed like spitting images of one of their parents -- either Fantasyland or Frank Adams (from the previous post). There seemed to be no sharing of color combination of the cultivars I was mixing.

This was one of the crosses that appeared a little differently. I see traits of the iris 'Quaker Lady' in the falls of the flower -- they are more horizontal than falling or pointing down. The color is also similar to Quaker Lady. The falls are a lighter purple than the Fantasyland, and the top petals are more lavender than white or the bland color of Quaker Lady.

A conclusion I can draw from this year's results is that crossing the different cultivars I did produced only slight shifts in the bloom colors if at all. And, two of the cultivars either dominated the genetic traits, or the resulting offspring from the other cultivars produced sterile seed that never germinated from the batch that was planted.

For the next experiment, this year I crossed pollen from the black iris with 'Clarence'. Both have ruffled petals, but the pollinator has dark almost black coloration, and the recipient has white tops and light blue falls. I see two seed pods that have developed. Check back in a few years.
Black IrisClarenceQuaker Lady

30 April 2019

Great Bearded Iris Experiment

It's a good time to step into the blog posts again after a year off from blogging, as opposed to stepping into the gifts left by dog walkers passing my hell strip garden. As the webmaster and a contributing author of our Master Gardeners public web site, I have had the pleasure(?) of running the monthly time-consuming updates. This year, I hope to return to blogging about my wonderful plants and gaffes as others abandon blogging and turn to Instagram (blogging without narrative).

This is the third year of the Great Bearded Iris Experiment, and the results are beginning to bloom. I crossed several of the six different bearded iris in my gardens with their various sizes, petal form, and colors. I wanted to see what might come of this and just to see if I could do it. I did not record or track which plants were crossed and eventually produced seedlings.

For the past two years, the seven or eight seedlings that actually developed continued to grow and mature. Today, one of those plants is blooming and a few others are sending up stalks with buds. How exciting. From looking at the results of this one, I can deduce it came from Fantasyland and Frank Adams. The petal falls are rounded and flat, similar to the burgundy color of Frank Adams, but with a distinct purple tint of Fantasyland around the edge of the petal. The top petals are non-ruffled beige like Frank Adams but with a little pink -- what one would expect when crossing a beige top and a mostly light colored top.

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FantasylandFrank Adams

I can't say the first result will end up as an expensive new introduction in garden catalogs, but I am proud that I accomplished this task successfully. The combination of burgundy with violet is not to my liking, but I will keep an eye on the others that should bloom in the coming weeks.

Next year, I might be sharing results of the Daylily Experiment started last year.

03 June 2018

Garden Bloggers Fling Prize

So here we are another year later, and I am reading the posts from other gardeners on their fling expeditions in Austin Texas. Although not attending, I want to add a contribution to their excitement by introducing the results of one of last year's Bloggers Fling prizes. The yellow tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa).

Fling Host Tammy had several prizes at the table which we could take our chances on. We were all given something like 25 tickets, and could put them all into one prize's pot for the drawing (increasing your chances of winning that one) or spread them around in other prizes' pots. I did drop a bunch into the peony pot, and won. Good for me because I lived in town and did not need to pack up the large potted plant (no blooms at the time) and ship it home as many of the others would have.

Tammy, I must confess to being rather lazy -- the peony stayed in your pot for most of the summer, and only got planted into the ground around September. At first I did not know what it was, other than a peony. I was not familiar with tree peonies. But, its leaves were differently shaped than other peonies, and it was developing a woody stem. With the help of the internet, I learned that it was a shrub (meaning I have to get it out of the place I planted it) and that tree peonies are expensive.

The tag that came with it cannot be found, so sorry I can't remember the name. I thought is was something like "American Garden Beauty" but cannot find that anywhere online. If Tammy remembers where the donation came from, we can track it down. The flower is really exquisite -- a soft pale yellow tinged with some rose in the central area. The fragrance is, ...well, I prefer the regular sweet peonies. This was more subtle, with some "talc powder" smell mixed in.

Also note: for the first time, I placed a support ring around the regular peony plant this year, but it was only about 10-inches high (25 cm) above the ground. But, it worked wonders to keep things on the straight and up.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with organic amendments
  • Mostly full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • On a slope so well-drained soil
  • A little munching on leaves from some insect

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: peony, rose, daylily, yarrow, coreopsis, phlox, poppy
  • Harvested: snap peas, cilantro

27 May 2018

Leaning Tower of Cabbage

I run many experiments on the garden, (plants, techniques, timing, breeding), only to find out what happens if ... Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised, and other times I am just surprised. The results of this experiment is the latter.

Cabbage is a cool weather crop not bothered by frost, so I wondered what would happen if cabbage was left in the ground over the winter. Would it continue to grow and produce a bigger cabbage next year? Would I be able to harvest it in January? Would it die back?

A cabbage in the front flower garden was left in, being about the size of a baseball -- 3 inches in diameter (75 mm). You see the results. A loose head remained intact throughout the winter, but disappeared in early spring as a rosette of new leaves began to emerge from the core. I thought I was going to get a big head, in more than one way.

But then, it began shooting up. It stopped at 6-feet high (1.5 m). Flowers happened, which is only logical since cabbage seeds must come from somewhere. It leaned to one side when the flowers appeared -- that's why they are growing in one direction. I straightened the plant for the photo.

22 May 2018

That Supposed to Be Red

This is one of those perennials that I started from seed, and this is the year they are supposed to leap (you know - sleep … creep … leap). Now in their third spring, I might sense a little hop, but no leaping. I read they are also called Painted Daisy, although I always considered another plant as that name.

Seeds for pyrethrum, (Tanacetum coccineum), a native to southeast Asia, were purchased and planted in the spring 2016. I was drawn to 'Jame Kellwway' pyrethrum for its deep red petals and yellow button centers. No blooms that year. Last year, they produced about 3 blooms on 5 plants. This year, three plants have survived and thrived, and are producing a few more blooms, although I would not consider their numbers excessive.

Stems are strong (thank heaven because of the spring storms), upright, and flowers are about 2 inches across at most (5 cm). Thus far, blooms have lasted four days and show their age by fading when older. Leaves are lacey fern-like. Last year, the plants all about disappeared toward the end of summer and I thought I lost them.

The garden catalog photos lied - are you surprised? The color is actually a deep magenta -- not red. it's very appropriate if you have a darker colored background, but I see them getting lost because of their size and low density when placed in a vibrant field of other plants.

Directions for growing pyrethrum call for deadheading in order to produce more blooms. We will see. They also make good cut flowers, so let's try that to help encourage more blossoms. They are in mostly full sun, on a slope, and seem to love the conditions. Because of their light thin foliage, it's easy to lose them as they are emerging in the spring. Maybe I lost a plant or two when I was taking out weeds this spring. New plants take some time for me to become familiar with their leaf structure.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with organic amendments & mulch
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease

05 May 2018

And Into Adulthood

From season to season, year to year, I wish some of my garden inhabitants would pick up the pace and grow a little faster. I often imagine what they would look like when fully grown after initially placing them in their 'permanent' new homes. In reality, I only imagine the feeling or ambience each would create, and not the actual visual.


Some of those plants are now in their adulthood. Consider the phlox divaricata or woodland phlox. This was a plant sale purchase at a local botanic garden. It is now in its year five and as vibrant as ever. I wrote about its three-year birthday in 2016. [posted 29.04.2016] In fact, it is now getting to a point where I don't want it to spread any more. Some pieces have ended up in neighbor's yards and at the local plant swap.

As another example, take my 'dwarf' Snow azaleas. Please. They are beautiful, but I cannot label them dwarf any longer. They are part of the first attempt at landscaping after purchasing my abode in late 1980s. I killed one trying to move it. It was too close to the magnolia tree, and extracting its roots intertwined with the tree roots was like pulling a tooth - I dare not repeat with the other four plants so I left them and they seem to be happy for it.


Oh that red one - the one that looks like something from your LSD trip? That was in the yard when I bought this place. I just moved it down to the end of the yard with the new white azaleas so they all had some company and could get to know each other. Red has remained somewhat dwarf because I trim it back every so often. I hate those unnatural sickening colors.

Now I wait for the bearded iris and the daylilies that I have bred to bloom some year. I thought one or two of the seven iris would flower out this year, but looks like another year's wait.

24 March 2018

Hellebores Ain't Not Bores

After a few years of organizing plant swaps in my neighborhood where six or seven people would show up with typical plants, my master gardener group began hosting a swap in the spring with attendance of 30 or so. One of the plants I picked up last year was a hellebores.

I did not have any hellebores, but I had shade. The plant went into a nice mucky clay shady spot and did not grow for the entire year. The leaves stayed green -- that's always a good sign. I had some high hopes this spring, and am happy to report some blooms.

However, there appear to be two different plants growing together, producing different blooms. It's not unlike one of those grafted novelties like the half pink and half white dogwood in the yard a few houses down the street, or a good friends half-breed crape myrtle -- half pink and half purple. Novelties? Maybe man-made freaks is a better word. I must have two plants intertwined.

During the spring, some new foliage shoots popped up above the half baked dark green leaves of yesteryear. Blooming began two weeks ago, and I am rewarded with some hellebores surprises. These are are probably not surprises to anyone that grows them.

First, all the blooms do not pop out at the same time. It's nice to see a succession of blooms from a spring perennial, unlike a daffodil's or tulip's "Here I am and then I'm gone." Today there are two more new buds coming out.

Second, the blooms actually change color as they age. The magenta blossoms get more dull and darker and the creamy ones go green.

Third, the magenta blossoms are more upright while the cream colored ones face more downward making them difficult to appreciate (and photograph.) No worries -- the neighbors are now used to seeing my on my stomach and back with my camera. They hardly take notice any more.

I am pleased with my new additions, even though I do not know their cultivar names. I will need to separate them after blooming, and look forward to two patches of low evergreen ground cover in the shady back.