31 December 2012

December 2012 Flowers In The House

Indoor flowers on the last Monday of the month

There are no indoor bloomers in the December house. I will join in the holiday spirit with some indoor plant material.

My Nandina berries played a big part in transforming the basic greens into something seasonal. Boughs and berries were stuffed into the Red Star Beverage box. Berries and cones adorn the usual door wreath with a few red baubles. And simple berries contrast in the mostly white bathroom - (those are not black tiles - green and blue.) That's holly and ivy above the windows with the small but charming tree.

Add your indoor holiday flora to other garden bloggers' Flowers In The House at Jane's blog Small But Charming.

27 December 2012

Beavers Go Sustainable

Huntley Meadows Park replaced the boardwalk with a 'Trex'walk a while back. The pressure-treated boards on the walking surface were not holding up, so synthetic boards were installed to take their place. The beavers thought this was an upgrade to their neighborhood, and took advantage of the high tech materials by incorporating the boardwalk into their new lodge.

The beavers smartly used local traditional materials such as renewable mud and sustainable natural wood, resulting in construction that achieved a 'silver' LEED rating.

Other photos of the scenes at Huntley Meadows show that even in late November, color is still found: in the berries, the late autumn leaves, and the dead swamp grasses.

02 December 2012

On The Road From Asheville

You probably notice I am still writing about my September trip to North Carolina here in December. I am trying to stretch out the posts to cover the winter months. In my rental car from Ashville back to Greensboro for the start of my convention, I stopped off in a small botanical garden in Kernersville. A speaker at one of my Master Gardener classes recommended the place after I told her of my garden trips around my convention trips.

On a sunny day I pulled into the Paul J Ciener Botanical Garden parking lot. There was a large planting along the edge of the parking lot and a new building on the other end. I learned after talking with the attendant in the building that the planting was the botanical garden. There is a master plan and nice map of the five acres planned for development, but at this time, the parking lot garden was it.

The site had been a car dealership. The owner of the business left it with some money to start a botanical garden, so the entire place is relatively new. I thought this was a fitting use for the land after its run as a paved lot selling cars.

These are a few of the items that captured my attention, as alien life form never seen before. Excuse my photography in harsh direct sunlight.

Around the building was a walk with annuals and vegetables, and along the path was this pepper plant never seen or heard of before. Yes, one plant had purple, red, yellow, orange, and cream color peppers growing on it like multi-colored candies. I must know what this was.

Colocasia in extra large - not elephant ears, but I would say dinosaur ears is a more appropriate term.

Bananas in variegated leaves are new to me, or were these diseased?

And finally, what in the world is this egg growing out from each cluster of orange star flowers?

13 November 2012

Asheville McMansion

Three days in Asheville, North Caroline. The blue isle in a sea of red is what I saw on the local television news analyzing the upcoming the election. I drove out from Greensboro while there for a convention in September. One full day was spent at the Biltmore.

The landmark home held my interest for an entire day. After the architect's tour, the butler's tour, and a lunch with fried green tomatoes (for only the second time in this native New Yorker's life) it was time to head to the gardens and greenhouse. This is a garden blog after all. So enjoy lots of pictures with some little comment and thoughts.

There were no suburban foundation plantings at the front entrance. But MY! Look at the size and contents of some of the planters along the front!

A staff member explained that there were planters at the front originally, but they did not contain the same plants we see there now.

The front lawn was, well, expansive - before riding mowers came along. The original rows of linden trees died out from disease and were replanted with a stronger variety. Notice the small one on the end - the new replacements continue to die in this one location. It's cursed. (By a gargoyle's evil eye?)

Water Gardens
The first stop was at the sunken garden. It featured three water gardens.

Notice the formal plan and shapes of the ponds: Informally arranged plants within the formal outline of the ponds.

Some large tall non-water plants were sneekily planted above the water (bananas for example), looking like they were growing in the ponds, too. I did not know that (what looks like) canna could grow in standing water. They might look better than the ratty cattails in the highly visible stormwater management basins plopped around here after the roads and Potomac River's Wilson Bridge was widened.

Annuals Garden
A path from the sunken garden to the greenhouse crossed what I call the annuals gardens - right down the middle.

Each side of a pleasant trellis-covered walk looked onto a large expanse of grass and beds of mundane annuals. Quantity (of some of my least favorite annuals) rather than quality inspired admiration. Where could one find the largest grasshopper in American but at the largest house in America.

But wait, look at some of the beds along the perimeter walk: Bananas, canna, and castor bean.


The greenhouse was stuffed with plants - maybe a little overstuffed? --Every cactus and succulent under the sun (or glass.) It's larger than a lot of botanical gardens and commercial greenhouses.

Guarding an entrance was a harmonious combination of purple castor bean plants (Ricinus communis) and elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) I believe were Mojito. Yellow Brugmansia were in bloom outside on a terrace.

04 November 2012

Gone With The Wind

I ventured out in middle of hurricane Sandy to pick fresh herbs for minestrone soup. I must have been nuts, but the oregano, cutting celery, and basil did the soup well. The gardens did not do as well though.

The 8-foot tall (2.5 m) castor bean plants were flattened. These annuals were going to go when we get our first frost, so it's no loss. They were staked up a bit after a thunderstorm in August bent them over.

The Tuscany basil was blown to one side, like someone combs their hair to one side. Zinnias, another annual, were smacked down. The lonely second season sunflower was flattened. The sunflowers were picked and brought indoors for late flowers in the house - along with a few tomatoes still going.

But Sandy left a little new autumn gift in the deck. Some type of fungal growth appeared along the seams in the wood platform steps, probably where dirt and gunk accumulated. In two days (after the rain stopped) it all vanished.

Fortunately, there were no power outages beyond a few minutes. No one in my neighborhood was flooded, although the low lying areas were evacuated because of flooding in the past five years. We await more surprises climate change may bring in the future.

27 October 2012

Fall Tower of Sunflower

Dwarf sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are always found in my summer garden, because, well, I have a very small house on a very small property. In addition, tall sunflowers are too overwhelming and gangly for my taste (although I have admired a tight grouping of them.)

Just about every winter, I comb through the garden catalogs searching out the shorties to try during the upcoming summer. Altogether I have tried about a half dozen varieties [posted 2009.08.25]. Last year, I never ordered any and can't remember what the reason was.

With no seed for the summer, I made a panic purchase at the local home improvement store when the tulips were blooming. Burpee's Big Blush came home and a spot was reserved along the front driveway. But, I could not find the seed when it came time to plant. "Did I really purchase them?" I wondered. I instead planted the same variety as before that I found in my tin of leftover seed, Waooh [posted 2010.09.02].

I eventually stumbled across the seeds I bought earlier in spring. The summer sunflowers were done blooming for the season in August. After they were ripped out, I thought, "Why not plant some more? Time to start another experiment." So a second crop of dwarf sunflowers (actually 3 seeds) were planted in the same spot; one came up.

I have good results to report from last week. With the frost holding off, one tower began its run. One could guess the dwarf varieties could do this since their growing season is a little shorter than the tall ones. A 40-inch high (1 m) stalk with all sorts of side flowers is blooming. Big Blush flowers are not unique, but the size of the side flowers and their associated stems is, resulting in great cut flowers from one plant.

Was this an anomaly? If not, this could become a habit from now on - something to replace the old sunflowers once they finish their summer blooming. On a second note, the Waooh sunflower seeds were harvested and are most appreciated by chickadees.

For The Record:
  • Fertile soil & organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • No fertilizer
  • Chomping pests during summer germination

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Mexican zinnia, zinnia, sunflower, echinacea, pineapple sage
  • Harvested: 1 pepper, 1 tomato

15 October 2012

October 2012 Bloom Day

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
What's blooming in the garden on the 15th of the month

Gosh, everything seems to be red, yellow, orange this time of year (or brown.) And gosh, I haven't participated in a Gardnen Bloggers Bloom Day since April. So, here are a few noteworthy stragglers hanging on as fall is teetering on the first frost.

Note the sunflower beginning to bloom. There is a story here that I will tell in a future post. You can find other garden bloggers' bloom days at the blog May Dreams Gardens.

AcidantheraZinnia elegans 'Canary Bird'

Castor Plant (Ricinus communis) Zinnia elegans 'Canary Bird'

Zinnia augustifolia

Zinnia agustifolia with dwarf sunflower

Salvia elegans 'Pineapple Sage'

14 October 2012

Radishes Forever

Why is there another post about my radishes?
  a. There is a radish fetish
  b. These are special radishes
  c. Getting old and senile, forgetting radishes were
      previously posted
  d. All of the above

Here's the story. You may have previously read about my problems with radishes [posted 2012.05.29], and my good fortune this year. I had the best radish crop yet this past spring.

However, some of the plants did not produce anything, so I let them grow and flower. The blooms attracted a small army of bees over a long period into summer.

I thought these scrawny plants would never die. They formed an ugly border for months in the front yard cottage garden for all the neighborhood to notice. Cool weather radishes appear to be rather tough and hold up to droughts and summer heat. Finally the flowers turned to plump seed pods in the middle of July.

I harvested the seeds and planted them in early September for a fall harvest - first time I planted for a fall crop of anything. Only about half the seeds germinated, either because I went on vacation just as they needed water to sprout, or many of the seeds were not pollinated. My new fall crop was pulled up (30 days just like on seed packets) just as the first frost is predicted. View one, along with some of their Hungarian buddies.