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."

23 January 2017

Solomon's Gold

This is the second autumn for the Solomon's Seal, polygonatum. I believe there is only one variegated leaf type, P. odoratum var. pluriflorum, and I got it. I write about it because of the color. I did not remember this intense yellow color last fall.
This is a native of Europe and Asia, but pluriforum is native to East Asia and China. My Solomon was picked up on the cheap at an annual spring plant sale held by a local church. It is growing happily in its mostly light shade and is very well behaved. I was blessed with blossoms last spring and this past spring, although I notice no fragrance with them.

The white margins on the leaves are even more unique when paired with the yellow leaves. I am thinking the autumn color might vary year to year just as it does for deciduous trees.

I always make this mistake: plant on top of others already planted. Last summer I noticed some acanthus leaves poking through around the soil level of the Solomons Seal. That acanthus planted years before apparently did not die. This summer the acanthus came back. I need to extract it from the Solomon Seal and plant it in a more appropriate sunnier spot. Unfortunately there isn't one that is vacant.

For The Record:
  • Clay soil with organic amendments being added yearly
  • Fairly moist site at bottom of slope
  • Mostly light shade
  • No fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease

15 January 2017

Bring Out Your Red

It started in October, a little later than normal this year. The 2016 poinsettia began its journey to red for 2017. The poinsettia holiday blooms are not really blooms but red leaves and flower bracts.

This one was purchased last Christmas and was not repotted.

The color change began a little late this year. It begins when the leaf petioles begin turning red. After seeing this, we expect the red coloring to continue moving up to the leaves to change them, but that's not how the process works.

After the petioles, the new leaves that are not yet fully grown begin changing. A little chartreuse at first, then a little light beige, then some red tinge begin to appear in them as they continue to mature.


At this time, I give it some regular low doses of nitrogen fertilizer. I want those leaves to grow big, since they will be the red 'petals'.

The light green leaves have matured. All new leaves the plant produces are now solid red. Over time, these mature into the poinsettia in time for the holiday.

The journey to red is not easy. It means coming home from work, fumbling in the dark to find the plant on the east window, taking it to the basement in the dark and putting it to bed until the next morning. Darkness for 12-14 hours is necessary in order for the poinsettia to bloom again.


Somewhat smallish blooms this winter are telling me to repot the plant for next year's holiday season.