11 July 2017

2017 Garden Bloggers Fling - Day 2

The second day took us to some private gardens in Maryland and to a public garden where lunch was served. All but one garden in the entire weekend contained shade and a water feature or two, or three, or more that allowed us to tolerate the summer. Weather was typical hot and humid the first two days but not overly oppressive as it can be.

Private Garden 1, Bethesda
The house at the end of a cul du sac, and featured gardens sculptured with uses of materials in ways unexpected.
Very inviting front porch.

Foundation plantings along the front included very few evergreens, but a lot of perennials.

Unusual use of wood for stepping stones, and twig branches forming large balls as lawn ornament in the background.

Now that's one use for bamboo that you cut down.

Water feature on the terrace. Another notice of most gardens: outdoor entertaining spaces were often broken into several areas, not on the same level, not of the same materials. This lower terrace held seating and the water feature, while the upper deck the dining table.

Among the hydrangeas.

Some weird seed pods held small succulents for the table centerpiece.

Private Garden 2, Bethesda
This was the backyard (I hate to call it 'yard') of a landscape designer. It was without a doubt, the most impressive residential landscaping of a yard steeply sloping down to the house that I have seen. Photos could not capture the entire feeling of a landscaped hillside.
Steps at the back terrace beckons one to begin an ascent to enter the landscape instead of merely observing it on the terrace.

The bottom of the hillside and the stream is a fish pond. THe sound of water is a relaxer.

Shady path between the front and back around the side of the house.


The stream starts at the top of the hillside and tumbles down into the pond filled with fish and water lilies. The gazebo at the top of the hill invites one to climb, and provides a visual point to draw your eyes up.

Inviting shady path to the other side of the house.

And close where we started -- on the front porch.

02 July 2017

Day 1 Continued

2017 Garden Bloggers Fling • Washington DC
More public gardens were on the itinerary for the second half of Day 1 in Washington DC. A very warm sticky day exposed us to the normal summer weather Washington is noted for. Stops included the Smithsonian gardens along the National Mall, the U.S. Botanic Garden, and the Franciscan Monastery.

Smithsonian Gardens
I have written about the Smithsonian gardens in spring [posted 10.04.2009], but have never seen them in summer. I don't venture near the Mall in the summer due to the hoards of tourists taking over. I did not document with many photos on this trip.

One of the themed garden of the Smithsonian - the butterfly garden walk.

Big one

U.S. Botanic Garden
I have not been to the U.S. Botanic Garden in about a decade. A large greenhouse with several rooms of differing climates and locations were complimented by an outdoor garden and walk. I don't remember it as big as it is.
The Botanic Garden has this garden among the office buildings and near the capitol. A native planted stream and garden that looks like it was plucked out of the countryside.

A rest under the arbor, out of the sun. Love details like the vine as part of the step railings (or are they snakes?)

Love little delights that are surprises like the logo of the Botanic Garden on the gate doors.

Interior of one of the greenhouses.

Tropicals were very large.

Indoor papayas.

A daylily I have wanted. This one is called 'Red Ribbons'. I am fond of 'Radiation Biohazard' from another botanical garden.

Franciscan Monastery
A quick end of the day visit to some gardens and grotto. The best parts were the courtyard cloisters - very peaceful and contemplative. The grotto was filled with azaleas, and probably shines best in spring.





27 June 2017

2017 Garden Bloggers Fling - Day 1

2017 Garden Bloggers Fling • Washington DC
This was the first year I flung. It was held in my Capital Region, Washington DC, so why not? Most of the public gardens were places I had previously visited, although maybe not at this time of year, nor recently. The private gardens were places I would never have the opportunity to experience and am very appreciative.

I took some some photos -- not many -- of things I found interesting. My posts will include mostly photos and few words. I used the cell phone camera and left the SLR at home, not looking forward to lugging it around all day. None of the trips took us into Alexandria, so I hope some of the attendees had the opportunity so venture down into Old Town if they stayed a bit longer and dared to immerse themselves in something besides gardens.

First stop was Hillwood Museum and Gardens. I have never visited a men's room with so many fresh cut flowers (sorry - there are no photos.) I previously visited here (not the men's room) in 2010 and posted photos of the orchids [posted 2010.05.13].

There were a handful of formal gardens around the formal estate house.

Rose garden

Many decorative arts like the zodiac around the light globe.

I spied a tacky lamp post along the paths -- shame.

The Japanese hillside garden was my favorite with running water, lily pond, statuary, bridge and stepping stones. You can tell since I took more photos of it than anywhere else at Hillwood.







Platycodon never looked this good and neat in my garden.

Extensive cutting garden (for the men's room?)

Orchids in the greenhouse were grouped at the entrance to be seen from the outside as an enticement.

Replica of a Russian dacha with loose interpretations like onion domes on the roof chimney, and American eagle snow guards (or are those vultures?)

14 June 2017

Chocolate Flower

This is the second year for my perennial Chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata), planted from seed last year. It survived the winter, but hey, that's not saying much. I had nicotiana survive this past mild winter.

I think I dumped half the seed pack into one container in early spring 2016, and had so-so luck with germination. I transplanted four seedlings into a harsh area, since I read they are native to the southwest (United States) and are not fond of the good soils here in the east. They survived full sun at the intersection of the concrete driveway and wood deck steps.

One plant did produce about 3 blooms last summer; the others were too small. This year, I planted a few more from seed and when large enough, transplanted to the same spot, hoping they would grow into those wonderful pictures in the seed catalogs. Note: transplanting seems to stop their growth. They were doing fine in the yogurt cups, but once hardened off and bedded into the ground, they put on the brakes.

Today, the older plants are blooming - one in particular took off leaving the rest behind. Almost daily, one or two flowers greet me in the morning on the way from porch to car. They last about 2-3 days. The other plants from last year have yet to really wake up.

The flowers are small and lemony yellow, about 1-inch (2.5 cm) diameter, and not abundant. Plants are spindly, untidy, and a short 12-inches (30 cm) high, making neighbors wonder what's up (or down) when I am on my hands and knees to get a hit of their fragrance. And, the fragrance comes though in the morning. In the evening, the flowers have no scent. I would never grow these as an accent or as a visual specimen plant.

And an answer for the final question: yes! They really do smell like chocolate. Not a little like chocolate, but 100% like chocolate. I can't believe enough of these would ever make Willie Wonka happy and "perfume the entire garden", but if you are good at occasionally bending over to get your nose close to the ground, you could enjoy the novelty.

For The Record:
  • Dry, well-drained soil, some organic material added
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of slow-release fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease


Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: nasturtium, coneflower, rudbeckia, daylily, hydrangea, marigold, phlox, geranium, yarrow, nicotiana
  • Harvested: garlic

28 May 2017

Blue Collar

This is the first year the penstemon is blooming with any kind of presence. Say hello to Rocky Mountain Blue -- and I am proud to say that I started this perennial from seed in 2015. Again, this was one of the seeds I obtained from the annual February seed exchange that I have been attending but will skip in the future.

I took loving care of the beadtongue (who thought up that name) and placed it in a prime spot that was regularly mulched, and was in full sun. During the first summer, the 5 plants stayed healthy and vigorous, although no flowers appeared. No pests appeared on them, either.

Last year, the five plants produced one flower spike -- a very electric blue. The slight shades of purple around the edges of the more mature petals gave it an iridescent appearance in the sun. But only one flower spike? The blooms also are clustered along one side of the stalk.

I researched my western U.S. native to find that it prefers western conditions. This means rather dry, sandy,well-drained soils without a lot of rich organic material. Sort of a tough, blue collar kinda of plant. I have it in mulch in rather rich soils. That is probably why the leaves were so healthy I thought.

I stopped fertilizing, and let it be. This year, about 20 spikes showed up on what now looks like one plant clump. It certainly does not look like the full dense photos in the garden catalogs. Time to divide already? Most blooms are gone now, but a few remain in time for me to finally get a new post up. One note: after the stalks are finished blooming, they tend to fall over.

The plant has an interesting history. It first appeared in the 1700s in publications, and was named pentstemon from "pent" and "stamen" for the unusual 5th stamen. Penstemon, native to North America and Asia, became very popular in Europe where many hybrids were bred. Sounds very similar to the history of the sunflower -- another North American native -- that was taken to Europe, hybridized, and made its way back to North American gardens. The name of this one, Rock Mountain, suggests it is a cultivar developed here.

I think this may be a candidate for the hell strip garden - dry, rather poor soils, and in need of blooms at this time before the coneflowers and rudbeckia. Do you think it would grow there?

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


Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: nasturtium, phlox, poppies, rose, kniphophia, nicotiana,
    coreopsis, peony, geranium, marigold
  • Harvested: cilantro

18 April 2017

Now That You Mention It

I recently read that the Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a legume like beans and peas -- it manufactures it own nitrogen, adding it to the soil. Well, it actually uses its nitrogen-producing bacteria in the root zone that provide a beneficial relationship with the plants.

This is my second redbud. I wrote about my first one, a Chinese Redbud [posted 02.05.2014]. It grew from seed I received from the National Arboretum -- all volunteers received some. After fifteen years, never becoming large or blooming, it bit the dust.

The second was a single shoot seedling about a foot tall (30 cm) that I purchased from a local botanical garden plant sale from a local "native plant" group. I thought the Eastern US redbud would grow better than the non-native, and it did. After two years, it was 7 feet tall (2 m), but still produced no blooms in spring. After a 17 year wait, a redbud is finally blooming in my yard. Although flowers are found on old wood and are sparse, being such a young tree, any blooms are welcome after the long wait.

Beans, peas, lentils, clover, and peanuts are what come to mind when we talk of legumes. I just learned that the redbud goes on that list. But now that you mention it, redbuds do have some common characteristics of well-know legumes. Look are the leaves. The heart-shape looks very much like those of a bean plant. Look at the flowers closely. Don't the shapes look like blooms from peas, beans, or sweet peas? And the native redbud produces seed pods not unlike those of a string bean or pea.

For The Record:
  • Damp heavy clay soil with several years of rganic amendments -
    bottom of a slope
  • Light shade understory with partial sun
  • No fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease yet


Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: woodland phlox, ajuga, anemone, azalea, spirea, dogwood,
    virburnum, columbine, redbud

17 March 2017

Sugar and Ice

The late spring storm produced 2 inches (5 cm) of sleet and ice that accumulated into a heavy frozen sugary coating. Then the freezing rain solidified everything. The hyacinth showed the most damage by changing strange colors. The white blooms showed yellow, and the blue began showing purple (much like we do when we get too cold).





10 February 2017

Dreaming of Summer

It's the middle of February and Virginia was teased with two sunny days at 71 degrees (21 C). The next day brought snow showers and cold winter winds. Reviewing photos, I came across last year's Memorial Day (May 29) hike in the Catoctin Mountains outside Thurmont, Maryland.

The falls are within the Cunningham Falls State Park. I took the 'difficult' trail to the falls from the parking lot. No kidding! Several sections were as vertical as the falls themselves.
It was rumored that this was the spot along the trail that was home to a hibernating furry animal over the winter. Most said a bear. Looks quite cozy.
The trail continued back to the parking lot -- but this leg was an "easy" hike through the woods.
A closeup of the bark of a fast-growing Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda), native to the southeastern US. The bark is normal to look like it was charred in a fire.
Who would have thought there was a lake on top of a mountain? It was a small reservoir. I couldn't help but take a paddle since they were available, but these strange kayaks let in water. My shorts got wet on the seat. Many stares from hikers on the next hike.
Smack next door (right across the road) is the Cotoctin Mountain Park, a National Park. Why is there a state park adjacent to a national park? Who knows. But there was free admission on Memorial Day. The green canopy tinted the light an incredible color -- nice to look at in February.
The area was the premier spot for alcohol production during Prohibition. The Blue Blazes Still was home to the largest illegal commercial production in the state. The remote, well-hidden location, close to the corn ingredients and wood for fuel, and sympathetic locals financially benefiting all contributed to its success.


This small display was rebuilt from spare parts found in the park.

"On July 31, 1929, Deputy Sheriff Clyde L. Hauver was fatally wounded in a raid on the Blue Blazes Still. It was a large commercial 'steamer' still operation. More than 25,000 gallons of mash were found in 13 vats of 2,000 gallon capacity each. Police eventually tracked down several suspects, and some moonshiners were convicted in connection with the murder after several days of conflicting testimony. Tales of a double-crossing informant, a love triangle, arson, and other rumors spread throughout central Maryland."