Sunday, May 17, 2015

Spring waits for no man

Peony
Herbaceous peony (unknown cultivar)

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the three days of glory (rarely four, often two, sometimes as little as one) my tree peony gives me.  It's always one of the first plants to bloom in my garden, in fact one of the first to stir at all, showing new growth long before the threat of frost is past (although oddly enough, the flowers have never been nipped by a late frost).  Tree peonies aren't really trees; they are hybrids derived from Paeonia suffruticosa (whose Latin name means "kinda shrubby") and related species with persistent woody stems that might grow a few feet tall at most.  Now it's time for the more familiar herbaceous peonies, the perennial kind that dies to the ground every winter, and tend to bloom a bit later.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Iris time

Irises
Iris 'Buckwheat'

Spring in Washington, DC is a delightful season but all too short.   We've just had 10 days in a row with temperatures above 80 (a new record for May), reminding me that heat and humidity often arrive early and that it's best to get most gardening chores out of the way by mid-May, before that window closes.  But spring-blooming plants like my bearded irises look so nice this time of year with no care at all, whispering we don't need anything, look how well we're blooming, just sit back and enjoy us for a while.  It's positively hypnotic.  By the time I snap out of it, June has arrived with its muggy summer heat and perhaps worst of all, bugs.  I was bitten by my first mosquito of the year just yesterday, marking spring as effectively over.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!

1984
High school graduation, 1980

[Note: I originally wrote this for my mom's birthday last year, and I hope she'll forgive me for re-running it for Mother's Day!]

I was going through some old photos last night and came across this one from my high school graduation in 1980.  I really like this photo because we all look so happy, and I especially love my mom's smile.  It's hard to believe that in this photo from 34 years ago, my parents are both younger than I am now.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Three days of glory

Tree peony

After a long, cold winter and a late, chilly spring--followed by a week in Buffalo--I finally enjoyed a perfect spring weekend, feeling a bit guilty about not working in the garden but happy to just enjoy the warm weather and appreciate the flowers.  Stealing the show today is my tree peony, an unknown cultivar that is one of the very few plants I've kept from the previous owner.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

No-name begonias

Begonia 'Helen Teupel'
Begonia 'Helen Teupel', sold unlabeled

In an online begonia group that I frequent, not a day goes by that somebody doesn't post one or more photos of begonias they got from a friend, or purchased without any label, asking "what is it?"  These are often rex hybrids, one of the groups I most often see offered without any names in garden centers.  There's something about rex begonias that seduces people into buying them, but there's apparently also something about them that makes people lose their names.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pollarding, or just plain murder?

Pollarded crape myrtle
Pollarded crape myrtles, National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

It's that time of year again, when southern homeowners and landscape crews look at crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia species and cultivars) with murder in their hearts. "Crape murder", as the brutal pruning of crape myrtles is often dubbed, is also becoming depressingly common here in Washington, DC with many mature, beautiful specimens being hacked to bits. Who on earth thinks this looks good? Who on earth thinks this is the right thing to do?  Enough "professionals" do this that my biggest question is, who on earth is TRAINING people to do this?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Washington, DC: more than just cherry blossoms

Smithsonian Castle
Smithsonian Castle and Enid A. Haupt Garden, July 2014

If you asked almost anybody what Washington, DC is known for, cherry blossoms would probably be in the top five things they list.  This time of year, tourists start taking picture of pretty much any tree with pink flowers, thinking they're cherry blossoms.  In reality, these are often flowering plums or magnolias, both of which bloom a bit earlier than the cherries.  There are a few early cherries blooming here and there, but this has been a late spring and it will be another week or so before the cherries reach their peak.