Sunday, August 30, 2015

Testing the limits... and finding them: 2014-2015 losers

Garden, late August
August 2015: no more windmill palms

I've always been interested in testing the limits of marginally hardy plants, plants that are new to cultivation, and plants whose hardiness is otherwise unknown.  For better or for worse, my last two winters have been very good ones for testing hardiness!  The low temperature in my back yard in Washington, DC (zone 7a) during both winters was about 5 degrees (-15° C), my area's coldest temperatures in 20 years.  Despite the similar low temperatures, the two winters were very different in terms of wind, snow cover, and timing and duration of the cold.  Several plants that survived the first of the two winters didn't make it through the second; in some cases I think they were weakened going into the second winter, but I also think the ground froze more deeply, doing more damage to otherwise healthy plants.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Green roof surprise in Allentown

Green roof
Renaissance Allentown Hotel, view from hotel room window

I was in Allentown, Pennsylvania last weekend for a niece's wedding reception.  As my husband and I checked into the Renaissance Allentown Hotel, I was looking forward to a view of the city from our room's fifth floor windows.  When we got to the room and I opened the curtains, I was disappointed to find only a view of walls and rooftop.  My disappointment turned to surprise as I realized there was a thick carpet of plants on the roof: it was a green roof.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A perfect August weekend or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the summer

Capitol columns
Capitol columns, United States National Arboretum

This past weekend was about as good as summer gets in Washington, DC: sunny with relatively low humidity, not too hot and cooling down nicely at night.  I spent Saturday morning touring the United States National Arboretum's gardens (more on that later), and on Sunday I spent the morning watering my garden, took an afternoon nap, and did a little light pruning and weeding in the afternoon.  I relaxed in the evening on my roof deck with a gin and tonic in my hand, enjoying a light breeze.  Rain is the only thing that would have made the weekend better, because my garden is getting awfully dry and many of my plants start to look stressed after just a few days without rain.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Backlighting makes all the difference

Ornamental millet
Ornamental millet, backlit by the morning sun

Too many gardens, too many photos, too little time!  I'm still trying to catch up with the 500+ photos I took during the Perennial Plant Association symposium two weeks ago in Baltimore; since then I've been to Buffalo and back for a family visit (150 more photos), and just this morning I was treated to a tour of some of the gardens of the United States National Arboretum by one of the gardeners, Bradley Evans.  250 new photos to sort through!  How will I ever catch up?  (Does anybody remember the days when you had a couple of rolls of film and had to make sure every one of those 48 or 72 frames really counted?)  So for now, just a couple of photos from this morning, showing an ornamental millet that was catching the light just right.  This plant has never really excited me, until I saw it with the morning light behind it, imparting it with an almost mammalian mystery.  Below, the same plant photographed from the other side.  It definitely loses something.  If I ever have this plant in my garden, it will have to be in a spot where the sun is always behind it!

Ornamental millet
Ornamental millet

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tooting my own horn: Seemannia 'Little Red'

Seemannia 'Little Red'
Seemannia 'Little Red' in my Washington, DC garden

I haven't worked with gesneriads for a couple of years so I got a bit of a thrill this morning when I found one of my own hybrids, Seemannia 'Little Red', listed for sale in the Fall 2015 catalog of Plant Delights Nursery.  Plant Delights is considered one of the premier nurseries for rare and unusual plants, so having one of my plants listed is a pretty big deal.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Big Begonia grandis

Begonia grandisBegonia grandis in a private garden near Baltimore, Maryland

I'm just back from attending the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) national symposium in Baltimore, Maryland.  I've only recently joined this organization, having been talked into it by my friend Janet Draper.  And I'm so glad she did!  I just spent an amazing, exhausting, energizing 5 days of talks, garden tours, trade show, and best of all, spending time with several hundred fellow plant geeks, including at least a dozen people I already knew from Facebook but had never before met in person.  I took over 500 photos, and it's going to take a while to get them processed and uploaded to my Flickr account.  For now I'll just quickly share some photos of the first plant (of many!) that blew me away: Begonia grandis, a.k.a. "hardy begonia".