28 December 2015

October At Powell Gardens

The annual convention I have been attending took me to Kansas City, Missouri this past October. A sunny afternoon drive lead me to Powell Gardens just outside the city - (well, a long ways outside the city.) This land has a history that goes back a century, but its life as a botanical garden began fairly recently in 1988. Photos follow.

The main building was in a compelling prairie style, right off Frank Lloyd Wright's drafting board it seemed. Informal details, lighting, and materials were very familiar. Low slung roofs with wide overhangs, natural stone, skylights, and clean flush details where materials met were employed.

Container plantings were full at the end of summer.

Coleus were also full and the size of shrubs.

It was time for Colchicum.

I am not a big fan of succulents, but this pumpkin-colored guy was something I could live with.

A prairie style chapel sits at the edge of a meadow overlooking the lake.

The stone podium continues past the glass back wall toward the lake.

The wall detail where the glass slides into the stone and wood without a frame.

I missed the colorful Jatropha podagrica blooming but not by much.

Powell Gardens had several extensive water gardens, but wading out into the water to read the plant tags was not encouraged.

The lake is a central element with themed gardens arranged around it, and on islands in it.

18 December 2015

Christmas Wreaths of Old Town

The row houses in Old Town Alexandria do not have much front area to decorate. As a result, attention is paid to what decorations there are. They can be quite unique with beautiful details, since they are viewed by pedestrians up close from the brick sidewalks. These are some of my favorite creative door wreaths found this year. Four of them, I have heard, are from a former White House floral decorator. Leave a comment at the end and guess which ones.

Mmmm. Delicious. Red delicious. Fruit are a popular material.

Red, green, gold and white make a nice contrast on a dark colored door.

New meaning to the term "box"wood. Square wreaths are more and more popular each year.

And even fruit is boxed. Love the red against the navy blue. What are those leaves?

Who thought sweet potatoes and nandina were companions.

Staying with the root crops theme, red potatoes, nandina, pachysandra, and who knows what else all tied together with purple ribbon.

Berry Christmas. Using nothing but all kinds of berries for the wreath instead of just for accents.

Not enough holly forces some into using brussels sprouts.

Magnolia leaves with the brown undersides combined alongside the more popular green top sides.

How does the song go ... "Marshmallows roasting on an open fire..." A very sweet design for a black door. I did a triple take when I saw this one, needing to verify that these were real marshmallows.

Show us your favorite wreath creativity.

25 November 2015

Colorado Wildflowers In August

An early August trip to Colorado featured biking, kayaking, a drive through a mountaintop snow squall, and some hiking. In a day hike along the mountain full of trails, the camera caught the blooming meadows that come alive at that time of year. This is the vegetation that I found along the trail hike. Many of these are not familiar to me, so these are without many labels.

Something familiar along the trail.

And these are probably asters

I don't know why these were here.

Yes, that is snow in the distant mountains.

04 November 2015

Boozing Up The Indoor Bulbs

My paperwhites tied to the stake
When it's cold and snowing outside, some of us appreciate a nip of rum or Irish Whiskey added to our drink, providing warmth and comfort. It has been found that paperwhite narcissus also would respond favorably to this libation.

It is common for amaryllis and paperwhites to need support or stakes to keep them from flopping over. I usually used the green wire (that everyone has for wreaths during the holidays) to form a ring that kept the paperwhites together. Each plant leaned on each other for support. This usually worked for a while until one decided it had enough and flopped over, pulling down the entire brood with it.

Cornell University found that giving them alcohol after they began growing tended to reduce this long, leggy growth and prevented the need for stakes and supports. This has worked (so far) on amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus, according to the researchers.

Cornell's results
There was no effect on the blooms -- only the leaves and stems were affected. The belief is that a 5-8% solution of alcohol in water (rubbing alcohol also works) reduces uptake of water, limiting the green growth. Alcohols with sugars like cordials, rums, and wines are not advised, as the sugars negatively affect the plants. Something with more pure alcohol probably works best, like gin or vodka. An alcohol concentration over 10% is also not advised -- everything in moderation applies to paperwhites, too.

I have heard about this, but never tried it. Giving it a go this year with tequila and vodka, and will post the results next month.

So in the cold winter months, take a little hooch, and share some with your indoor bulbs, too. You will both be happy.

The Cornell University report: Pickling Your Paperwhites

15 October 2015

October Bloom Day

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

This is the first October version of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. There is usually nothing in the garden worthy of a post, but I scraped together some scraps of blooms still hanging on before the frost. It is predicted to come this Sunday night.

Mexican zinnias (zinnia agustifolia) always come back from seed each year. Slowly starting, never blooming before July, these quarter-sized dudes really take off in August and increase until the frost.

The zinnia mix recently fell over some time while I was away. I heard there was a hurricane offshore and heavy rains. They were never staked back upright or cleaned up since the season was getting on.

I never mentioned the coleus in the containers on the deck. They are worthy of a post by themselves, and do have stories to tell. Maybe next week is appropriate. This one looks like the foliage edges have been stitched.

This waist-high, ruffled lime-green leaf wonder completely engulfed the three-year-old cordyline. And, it has yet to produce a flower spike. Definitely a keeper.

The Irish Eyes rudbeckia reseeded itself after spring blooms, but none the resulting offspring (blooming now) have their mother's green eyes.

My herd of elephant ears (Colocasia) were impressive this year after I moved them to a new location with more sun. A donation from a fellow gardener, the plain green color now makes me want to try some of the more interesting cultivars. (Those little Cleome and acidanthera scatter themselves all over the garden.)

For other garden bloggers' bloom day photos, check out our host at blog May Dreams Gardens.

28 September 2015

Lemon Rod

This is the year of the great move. Several plants were languishing in their original locations, so I thought a move would do them good. One of them was a gift plant of Goldenrod (solidago) Little Lemon. I read the tag. I trusted it: Full sun to partial shade. So partial shade is where it went last spring. I never asked it where it wanted to go, but just placed it there. It got full sun in the morning, but Little Lemon was turning out to be a big lemon. A few flower spikes and only about 9 inches tall (30 cm) was all it could muster.

Early spring, and a new set of hollies replacing the overgrown ones out front left a lot of space to fill in. I moved Little Lemon to a sunnier spot there, and she took off running. Many stems and many blooms later, I find some of the results of the first year are traits of this cultivar, and traits that I do not care for.

The height is about 10-inches (25 cm) which is normal for this patented cultivar, but that's fine by me. Flowers are bushy and full. Their color is not the deep rich gold of the species, but a lemon yellow that gets lighter as a bloom matures. That adds richness and variation, but the blossoms are blooming at different times, giving a look that is not uniform. The flower heads remind me of Sideshow Bob's (of The Simpsons cartoon) hair.

Rudbeckia grows anywhere it wants to like in
the middle of solidago.
Finally, the plant does not stand up. This is the most annoying characteristic. Being so short and with the species tall and sturdy, I did not expect this. I wonder if the plant would be better by getting fuller and using itself for support.

So, after researching information about Little Lemon for this post, I read that it really prefers full sun. No kidding. Don't trust the tags

For The Record:
  • Loose clay soil with organic amendments and mulch
  • Good drainage
  • Full sun
  • No fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease

07 September 2015

Goldfinches: Messy Little Piggies

Burpee'e Elf sunflowers were planted for the second year, using up leftover seed. These dwarf sunflowers were placed near the front steps leading to the house -- a happy accident I will describe later. I find that Elf blooms earlier than Sunspot [posted 22.08.2015] -- and are more appetizing to the goldfinches.

Elf produced one main bloom, and numerous side blooms on stems that were of a substantial size for cutting. The blooms had yellow petals with black seed cluster centers. As the seed clusters matured, the goldfinches discovered this tasty treat. And they told their friends, who told their friends. It was not uncommon to see a half dozen goldfinches fluttering in and out of the sunflowers for breakfast.

The little acrobats could balance on top of a bloom, and bend down 180 degrees to the seeds. If some seed dropped, so what. No problem that the seeds fell all over the lower leaves and walks. There was always more. Until they found these this year, only my echinacea seeds were their favorite food source in the yard.

The plants were a maximum of 4-feet tall (1.2 m), although the seed packet states that these are the shortest dwarfs reaching only 30-inches (75 cm). My experience proves otherwise, but they were planted on the west side of the house, so the only sunlight was from noon on. Planting them next to the front steps was right. They all face west toward the front yard and the street, as opposed to the others on the side garden that face my neighbor's yard instead of mine. And being so close to the front door made for some easy bird watching.

Now, after the seeds are picked out and the heads are left, the plants are producing even more blooms, although small and without stems. They are only about 3-inches in diameter (5 cm), but are popping out between the side shoots and the main stalk.

I would highly recommend these as one of the best dwarf sunflowers, for their habit of producing many side shoots worthy of cutting themselves, for their uniformity, for their proportion of seed head to petals, for their reblooming, and for their ability to attract the messy little piggies.
"Let me rip one of these off to get to the seeds easily. Sorry for the mess."
"Did I do that?"
For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with gypsum & organic amendments
  • Mostly sun, west side of house
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease

30 August 2015

Water Lily & Lotus

In early August I visited the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens along the Anacostia river here in Washington DC. This is one of those hometown attractions that I have never seen. You know the type of place -- the one attraction in your home town that you have never visited but everyone else in the country has. (Now if I can only get to the Washington Monument some day, my life here will be complete.)

I heard it was the lotus blossom time, and after reading the post by John at DC Tropics, I decided to stop by.

It was an extremely hot humid Sunday. As I arrived upon opening time, a large bus of tourists from China just got dropped off, each with cameras setting up to get their prized shots. I meandered through the acres of lotus blossoms, trying to get photos without tourists in them. I soon learned there is no such thing as a bad shot of a lotus bloom.

There were three types of lotus, distinguished by size and shades of color. This was a difficult day to photograph. The sun was harsh and direct at noon. Here is what caught my eye (without the tourists.)

Looking down onto a darker pink species of lotus.

The darker pink lotus seems to open up more than the other.

The lighter pink lotus blossom.

Seed pods resemble showerheads.

Beautiful red cannas near the entry. (No, those are not the Chinese tourists on the left.)

There were three small ponds with several displays of water lilies.

I admired the variegated leaves on this water lily.