Thursday, October 30, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Halloween 2003

Throwback Thursday: Halloween 2003
Halloween, 2003

Not much to say today, just going through some old photos, looking for inspiration for carving this year's jack-o-lanterns and came across these guys I did in 2003.  Below is a jack-o-lantern I carved in an uncharacteristically patriotic mood for Halloween 2001, a rather somber time when nobody felt like celebrating and we only got 3 or 4 trick-or-treaters all night.

Happy Halloween!

Throwback Thursday: Halloween 2001
Halloween, 2001

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Smithsonian Gardens, part 3: Enid A. Haupt Garden

Smithsonian Castle
Parterre garden in front of the Smithsonian Castle

[Third in a series on Smithsonian Gardens; introduction here, part 1 here, part 2 here]

I took a walk through the Smithsonian's Enid A. Haupt Garden a few days ago and found it still going strong in mid-October.  That stroll reminded me that I still had a set of photos from July to upload that I took for a series of blog posts on Smithsonian Gardens.  I wrote up the Butterfly Habitat and Urban Bird Habitat Gardens, and the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, but I kept putting off the Haupt Garden.  Nestled between Independence Avenue, the Smithsonian "Castle", the Freer Gallery and the Arts and Industries Building, this is the largest of the Smithsonian's gardens on the National Mall, and I'll admit I felt a bit intimidated!  The Haupt Garden is actually a series of connected gardens that contrast strongly in character, altogether covering 4 acres.  Most of this is planted over the Smithsonian Quadrangle or "Quad", a large underground complex of office and museum space.  The Haupt Garden is thus a giant roof garden, and although it was installed only after the Quad was completed in 1985, it looks like it's been there since the Castle itself was built.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Ithaca, 1987


Who on earth are these kids?  That's me on the left playing the piano, my partner (now husband) Dan standing on the right, and our friend Andrew between us.  Even knowing full well who these people are, I still have to ask: who are these kids?  27 years ago, 3 years out of college, we finally had our first house--okay, rented--but with its own yard and off-street parking, the first place where we stayed for more than one year, the first yard I mowed since graduating from high school, and the first time we had an unfurnished rental so we hit a lot of garage sales during that first year.  Even though we both had full-time jobs by this point, new furniture was a foreign concept because we were paying off student loans and had virtually no money.  Yet when I spotted this old piano at a sale one Sunday, I had to have it; we borrowed a friend's pickup truck, enlisted a couple of other friends, and went back to get it.  $700 was a huge amount of money at the time but I loved playing piano, and since we didn't even have a television I needed something to occupy my time!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hardy palms of Rehoboth Beach


My husband and I spent a pleasant long weekend in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware earlier this month.  We love going to the beach during the off-season, not only because it's cheaper, but because it's a whole lot less crowded; we love being able to find parking and not having to wait for a table at a restaurant.  Rehoboth Beach is beautiful in early October and if the weather cooperates, the water is still warm enough to swim.

Because of its proximity to the ocean, the climate is much more moderate than my own in Washington, DC; the summers tend to be a bit cooler and the winters a bit warmer, making the climate ideal for growing hardy palms like Trachycarpus fortunei.  A few adventurous Rehoboth Beach gardeners have been trying windmill palms and I've been following some of these for several years.  But the beach is by no means immune to cold weather and this past winter the palms of Rehoboth Beach were put to the test by the east coast's coldest winter in 20 years.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What is it about jack-in-the-pulpit?

Arisaema triphylla
Fruiting jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphylla)

When I in was in western New York last month, visiting my parents, I took a walk in the woods behind their house--the house where I grew up, another lifetime ago--and spotted something brilliant red in the distance.  It turned out to be a jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphylla) bearing its fruits among the poison ivy and detritus of decades of neglect.  Not far away I spotted a patch of them, and near those, another even larger.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Schefflera delavayi, one year later

Schefflera delavayi
Schefflera delavayi, October 2014

I wrote about Schefflera delavayi, one of the hardiest species of this primarily tropical and subtropical genus of the family Araliaceae, a year ago. For more information about this species and its background, please see my earlier article: Schefflera delavayi. (Interestingly, that article is now one of the top search results for this species name on Google.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A year of blogging

Garden one year ago

Today marks one year since I started this blog and published my first post.  The most immediate reason for blogging was the shutdown of the federal government last year: being stuck at home for an indefinite period of time, I decided to use my time productively rather than watch TV and surf the web!  I had been thinking about blogging for a while, and in fact had tried my hand at blogging once before (I was particularly proud of Transitional Species in Insect Evolution, about the evolution of termites from social, wood-eating cockroaches); but before I get too self-congratulatory I should also note that my previous attempt at blogging lasted just over a year!  Finally, after years of posting commentary and photos on several plant and gardening-related websites and discussion lists, I realized that in a very real sense I was already blogging; I might as well pull it all together on one site, attached to my own name.  Plants and gardening have always been a passion for me, and I hoped to direct and focus that passion.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Last September sunset

Last September sunset
The last sunset of September, seen from our roof deck

The sun set on September last night.  Maybe not as spectacularly as the equinox sunset but in some ways, this one felt more final.  Where has September gone?  Where has the summer gone?  Where has all the warm weather gone!   Lazy summer days are behind us, and it's that time of year when nights get chilly, the garden starts winding down, and many plants prepare to go dormant for the winter.  The nice thing about many of the subtropical plants I grow is that they'll look good right up until the first hard freeze, which in my area is usually sometime well into November (and sometimes not until early December).

Tetrapanax papyrifer 'Steroidal Giant'
Tetrapanax papyrifer 'Steroidal Giant' will look good until Thanksgiving

This has been an interesting growing season, one that saw the death of two of my palm trees after a cold winter that devastated many gardens in my area.  My garden was also neglected because of my frequent trips to Buffalo after my father suffered a major stroke last fall (see The Roots of a Gardener).  But this year also gave me many surprises.  In particular, I had many begonias, both species and hybrids (including some of my own), survive the winter with minimal protection.  After my area's coldest winter in 20 years, this gives me some hope that my begonia breeding may actually pay off with some fairly hardy hybrids.

Begonia hybrid
Begonia unnamed hybrid, one of this year's surprises

Garden, mid-September
Garden in September

October brings another milestone: in a week I'll celebrate the one-year anniversary of my DC Tropics blog.  When I began this blog, just to occupy my time during last year's government shutdown, I had no idea how long I would keep it up; I truly feared I would run out of material in no time at all.  I needn't have feared; I had intended to write primarily about my own garden and my own plants, but in the last year I've taken several thousand photos and I've ended up writing about a variety of topics, including hardy palm survivors, Smithsonian Gardens, a Palm Society meeting, plant nurseries and botanical gardens, nursery trade shows, and plant diseases.  So who knows, I might have another year of blogging in me!  Thanks for reading; as always I appreciate any and all comments, and if you like my blog or any of my individual posts, please do share them on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media!

Hibiscus margarita
I've even enjoyed a drink or two (Hibiscus margarita, Tico restaurant)