Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sometimes, your hybrid just plain sucks

Begonia hybrids (cropped)

This photo shows a group of begonias from a cross that I thought would be interesting.   I made the cross in 2012, and planted the seedlings in the ground last year.  Despite our coldest winter in 20 years, all 3 seedlings have come back after protection with only a light mulch.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Help me choose a new blog header!

The black-and-white background just wasn't doing it for me so I've been experimenting with new headers for my blog.

Header 1:

Header 1

Header 2:

Header 2

Header 3:

Header 3

Header 1 is the same as I'm currently using for my Flickr album.  It shows some of the begonias I was growing last year (including some of my own hybrids).   Header 2 shows some elephant ears I grew a few years ago.  And if header 3 looks familiar, it's because it's a cropped-down version of the old background (which is an "artified" section of the same photo as in header 2).  It's also currently on my Facebook page. I love the image, but when I tried it as the header, it just seemed like it needed some color.

So... any preferences for one of the above?  Or should I scrap all of these and keep trying?  Please give your opinion in the comments section!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Smithsonian Gardens, part 1: National Museum of Natural History

Monarda fistulosa
Monarda fistulosa, Butterfly Habitat Garden

[This is the first in a series of posts about Smithsonian Gardens.  Please see my introductory post here.]

The National Museum of Natural History is one of the Smithsonian Institution's largest and most popular museums, vying with the National Air and Space Museum as the most-visited Smithsonian museum.  But many visitors overlook the gardens around the building, including the Butterfly Habitat Garden and Urban Bird Habitat Garden.  These gardens deserve more attention; not only are they beautiful, but they are AAM (American Alliance of Museums) accredited and have been designated as wildlife sanctuaries by the National Audubon Society.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lazy summer days

Pink mojito

Temperatures cooled down a bit this evening--meaning around 80 degrees (27 C)--so I thought I would do some light garden work after dinner.  There's a reason why this is such an uncharacteristic thing for me to do.  The temperature was deceptive and an hour later I was drenched in sweat, but at least I got some begonias planted (yes, I'm still planting begonias, and still have a few more to go!) and Vitex agnus-castus deadheaded.  The plant was just about finished blooming and trimming it back now will give me a good second bloom in a few weeks.  I'm already seeing a second bloom on my butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), which I deadheaded just two weeks ago.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Smithsonian Gardens

Smithsonian Castle
Smithsonian "Castle", the original Smithsonian Institution building

Many tourists who visit the city where I live are completely unaware of the many gardens that can be found in Washington, DC or the work that goes into them.  Several different government agencies are responsible for the various gardens, many of which deserve to be tourist attractions in their own right.  Among these are the gardens on the grounds of the Smithsonian Institution's museums on the National Mall.  The Smithsonian has its own horticultural division, Smithsonian Gardens, and the gardens staff do a wonderful job planning, planting and maintaining these gardens for the public  to enjoy.*

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: July 2014

Lagerstroemia (unknown crape myrtle cultivar)

It's the middle of July in Washington, that hot, steamy time of year that prompted me to dub it the "DC Tropics".  It doesn't help that we've had several days of rain, cranking up the humidity to decidedly tropical levels!  But this is when my garden starts reaching its peak, and the tropical, subtropical, and other heat-loving plants start looking their best.  Below are some of the plants that are blooming today.  For the full set of photos click here.  For more Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posts from all around the blogosphere, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Two very different gardens

Lily, Pine Ridge Gardens

While visiting my family in Buffalo last weekend, I had the privilege of visiting two very different private gardens: Pine Ridge Gardens in Orchard Park and Smug Creek Gardens in Hamburg.  Both are participants in Garden Walk Buffalo but since I was in town for such a short time, the owners were gracious enough to accommodate me on a weekend day when they were not normally open to the public.  I wish that my photos could do justice to these gardens; it was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for garden touring, but not ideal for photography.  I had to adjust the contrast in some of the photos but I hope they give some idea of how wonderful these gardens are!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Manihot grahamii

Manihot grahamii
Manihot grahamii

For reasons unknown to me, my most popular photo on Flickr today was Manihot grahamii (Euphorbiaceae).  This is an old photo, showing a group of seedlings that popped up in 2010 from a plant that had gone to seed in 2008, 2 years earlier.   The seeds can clearly remain dormant for a long time before germinating because just yesterday I found another seedling coming up, although it has now been 6 years since this species went to seed in my garden.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hemerocallis 'Kindly Light'

 Hemerocallis 'Kindly Light'
Hemerocallis 'Kindly Light'

When I first saw daylily 'Kindly Light' in a botanical garden several years ago, I was immediately smitten.  The long, narrow tepals gave it an exotic and almost tropical look that was unlike any other daylily I had seen.  In 2005 I found it at a local garden center and brought one home.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Eat your weeds

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea), "companion planted" with elephant ear

A couple of years ago I was at a nice restaurant, eating a fancy salad, when I realized that I was eating weeds.  Yes, there was purslane in my salad and it was the exact same weed I'd been pulling out of my garden beds and potted plants for years.  That's when I realized that if they can put it in a fancy salad, I can eat the damn thing from my own back yard.  And that's exactly what I've been doing.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Throwback Thursday: ghosts of July past

Lilium Citronella

For Throwback Thursday I'm going through my photo albums, looking at plants that I photographed in early July in past years but are in my garden no longer.  Some of these were lost just recently, after our coldest winter in 20 years, but some of them died from poor growing conditions, neglect, or simply because I lost interest and removed them to try something new.  As I like to tell people, the secret to being a successful gardener is to keep killing plants.