Saturday, January 24, 2015

MANTS, part 2

Plantworks Nursery

[Second of two parts.  For part one see: Beating the winter blahs at MANTS.]

After the morning media reception, I braced myself to go out on the show floor.  Have I used the word "overwhelming" too many times already?  "Intense" might be more accurate: it's a lot to take in all at once but how often do I find myself surrounded by an entire convention center full of plants, plant-related stuff, and best of all, people who can (and will) talk about plants all day long?  But I was only in Baltimore for the day, so I had to see everything.  Everything.  Where to start?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Beating the winter blahs at MANTS

Coconut palm
Coconut palm, MANTS show floor

[For my coverage of MANTS 2014, see "The Masterpiece of Trade Shows™"]

[Update: In response to my comment about an apparent lack of recycling bins, I received this comment from Kelly Finney, Event Manager for MANTS: "The Baltimore Convention Center has a single stream trash program, so they have a combination of containers for mixed use and also for separating.  At the end of the show on Friday, I actually met a couple of the guys who sort the trash... talk about a thankless job.  The convention center has compactor, baler, compost program, pallet recycling and the disposable utensils are primarily corn plastic.  Here is more from their website about their green initiatives: Green Matters"  Many thanks to Kelly for the additional information!]

"Overwhelming" was the word I found myself using more than once to describe MANTS, the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show held last week in Baltimore, Maryland.   Now in its 45th year, MANTS occupies the Baltimore Convention Center for 3 days every January.  Drawing nearly 1,000 exhibitors and more than 10,000 attendees, and filling the entire convention center floor, this is one of the biggest trade shows of its kind, attended by a huge cross-section of the horticulture industry, and a major event on the horticultural calendar.  I spent all day Thursday at MANTS and was only able to scratch the surface.  By the end of the day I was exhausted, but in the best possible way.  This was exactly what I needed in mid-winter: coming just when my gardening spirits are at their lowest, the event was like a euphoric and exhilarating drug that really helped pull me out of the winter blahs!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Throwback Thursday: January 2014

January sunset
Sunset, January 2014

This is how I'd like to remember January a year ago: a month of breathtaking winter sunsets.  Instead, it was a month of breathtaking cold: a disaster for my garden, and for anybody growing hardy palms or any other marginally hardy plants.  Meteorologists had been making dire forecasts for several days, prompting me to ask in early January "Is this the apocalypse?"  I wrote then, "The weather forecasters are starting to talk in apocalyptic terms, telling us that this event is likely to give us our lowest temperatures in 20 or maybe even 30 years."  Two days later, when I posted "It was @!#$% cold last night!", we had recorded DC's coldest temperatures since 1994.

Trachycarpus wagnerianus
Trachycarpus wagnerianus at 5° F (-15° C), January 7, 2014

The low that morning in my own back yard was about 5° F (-15° C).  My Trachycarpus wagnerianus, which I had grown from seed in 2001 and had been in the ground since 2003, was the first casualty.  The damage was immediate and irreversible, with the leaves appearing freeze-dried and never recovering.  My other two windmill palms looked almost as bad, but when the weather went above freezing again, they sprang back and showed little damage.   I think they would have made it, and maybe the waggie too, if we hadn't gotten several more visits from the "polar vortex" later that month.  Although the subsequent lows were several degrees warmer, some of them were more extended and the cumulative damage proved too much for two of my palms.  I wasn't surprised to lose my waggie but my T. fortunei "Nainital" was a more surprising casualty.  Even the sole surviving windmill palm, T. fortunei "Bulgarian", lost all its foliage--even the ones with a bit of green left in them ended up dying completely--but began to push out new leaves come April, and in May it even bloomed.

Fried palm
Trachycarpus fortunei "Bulgarian", March 2014

Since then it has recovered a bit, but not nearly as much as I'd like going into another cold winter.  Normally, I wouldn't be worried about windmill palms until lows drop below 10° (-12° C) but in its weakened state, I fear that it won't take temperatures nearly as cold as last winter's to kill it.  But I'm as determined as I was last year to forgo any protection, to see just how hardy this plant really is. 

Windmill palm, early January
Trachycarpus fortunei "Bulgarian", early January 2015

Last winter killed about half of the windmill palms in the Washington, DC area.   2015 got off to a mild enough start, with a high of 65° (18° C) just 3 days ago.  I was hoping this hinted at a warm winter but no such luck.  A year later, almost to the day, we're having a near-rerun of January 2014: the low temperature last night was 12° (-11° C).  That was at the upper range of the range that was forecast, so not as bad as it could have been, but I'm just not ready for temperatures like that again.  What will the rest of this winter bring?  I don't even want to think about it; better to dream about the warm weather, just a few weeks away.

Edgeworthia chrysantha
Edgeworthia chrysantha, dreaming of spring

I'll end as I began, with a January sunset, this one from just a few days ago.

Sunset
Sunset, January 2015

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Holidays + winter blahs = no blogging

Garden, early January
Garden, early January

Happy New Year!  It's hard to believe it's January already, when my last blog post was in November, shortly before Thanksgiving.  Blame the crazy holiday schedule, blame traveling to visit family, blame lack of time or inspiration, but mostly blame the winter blahs.  Now that I finally have a free weekend, the weather is just cold and rainy and miserable.  I did snap a few shots of the garden yesterday, but that just reinforces the blah-ness.  There's still a bit of green here and there, and if it stops raining long enough maybe I'll get out and take a few photos, but it's just as likely that I'll just crawl back into bed and wish for spring.  Let's just hope this winter isn't as bad as the last one!  My one remaining windmill palm has recovered a bit, but not as much as I'd like going into winter.

Garden
Garden, August 2014

Thank you to everybody who is still reading and commenting on my blog, and I hope to get back to it in a few days (or a few weeks).  In the meantime, how do other gardeners (and bloggers!) make it through the winter blahs?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hardy begonias: the next generation

Begonias and ferns

In a previous post (Beyond Begonia grandis: new hardy begonias), I discussed several begonia species and hybrids that have been around for a few years and were already known (or purported) to be fairly hardy.  In this post, I'll discuss a new generation of begonias I've discovered to be hardy in my zone 7a/b garden in just the last few years, even though some of them have been around much longer than that!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The mystery maidenhair fern

Adiantum sp.Adiantum sp., still green after 20° F

Winter has come a bit early this year, with a low temperature of 20° F (-6.6° C) a few nights ago, and several more nights in the low 20's.  It's very unusual to have temperatures this cold before mid-December.  Yet among all the brown and crispy frozen foliage, one bit of bright green still stands out: a maidenhair fern (Adiantum sp.).

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Garden bloggers bloom day: November 2014

Washington Monument

Despite a few evening clouds, it was cold and clear last night in Washington, DC and we finally got our first good freeze of the season.  I've had a couple of very light frosts already, when overnight lows were in the 30's, but without any damage to my plants.  Last night was the first time it went down to the freezing point, 32 degrees F (0 C), or perhaps slightly lower.  When I went out this morning to survey the damage the first thing I noticed was the sickly sweet smell of frostbitten vegetation.  That's the part I always forget.