Sunday, December 31, 2006

An amazing sight!

I know, I know, I wrote that two blogs ago was the last blog of the year but we came upon an amazing sight so I have to blog about it.

We were driving through another township in Central NJ and my wife exclaimed, 'did you see that tree that's blooming?' We were stopped by the traffic light so I turned my head around and saw the tree which looked like a plum, covered with pink flowers. My wife who had a better look as we drove by said some of the buds looked red so I'm guessing this was a plum and the shape of the tree also seem to confirm this. Unfortunately we did not have a camera with us.

I have never seen this happen before in my life and I fear this does not bode well for us. The climate may be changing more rapidly than anyone expected.

The local TV weatherman was showing the satellite photo of the world and he was saying that nowhere in the northern hemisphere was there any cold air. Hudsons Bay was 10 degrees above normal and Russia was 8 degrees above normal. The only place where they were having normal temps was in China.

Well so much for Happy New Year.

Just being my paranoid self.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Troubles with Blogger and Garden Voices/Forums

I guess the orchid post won't be the last one for the year after all. I was disturbed and dismayed to see that all my links to other blogs has disappeared! Now I'll have to dig around to see what became of the links. Has this happened to anyone else?

I haven't been able to post any questions or comments on the GardenForum website in about a month. Sent them an email several weeks ago about this but have not gotten a response.

The GardenVoices website was slow to load earlier in the week and now I get a timed out notice when trying to bring up the website. I wonder if the GardenWeb site is having major problems?

Friday, December 29, 2006

Phalaenopsis (moth) orchid

I'll end 2006 with this blog.

This white orchid was sold at a 70% reduced price so we couldn't pass it up. It didn't have the name tag on it so I don't know what it is other than Phalaenopsis or commonly know as the moth orchid because it rather obviously looks like a swarm of moths hovering over the plant. Orchids are starting to bloom now so they are wonderful plants to have, giving long lasting color and light, momentarily banishing the dark bleak months of winter.

It is a good orchid for the beginner as it is rather hardy and tolerant of conditions that would kill other least we haven't killed one yet. It has become ubiquitous probably because of its toughness and can be found in all sorts of stores including supermarket flower sections. Phalaenopsis comes in various colors, purple red, white, yellow, some with a mottling of contrasting colors and of various sizes with some the size of an orange and others only an inch in diameter. I especially like the form of the flower for its sculptural quality with its large overlapping petals and contrasting protruding throat. I prefer the white ones for the subtle tonal shifts as the light rakes over the petals. The flowers are very long lived lasting two months or longer. We have a tiny flowered one that has kept blooming for over 6 months. Now that's what I call a good flower.

I called it a butterfly orchid when I first wrote this but read later that it is actually called a moth orchid. I made the necessary correction in the title and the body of the post.

Happy new year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Aquilegia canadensis, wild columbine

Columbines continued...

The wild or red columbine. Native to eastern North America. Hummingbirds are purported to love the nectar rich flowers but we typically see one hummer per year so I can't confirm that statment. Tolerates full sun and the flowers are plentiful but set widely apart not in clusters so it seems there are fewer flowers than other 'bines. It grows fairly tall about 2 feet or more and the flowers are dainty and down facing. A great addition where airyness and color are needed.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Aquilegia atrata, dark columbine

columbines continued...

The aptly named dark columbine displaying it's deep almost black purple color. An interesting flower for the collector but too brooding and foreboding for my taste.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Aquilegia caerula, blue or rocky mountain columbine

Columbines continued...

The state flower of Colorado. A short lived native from the Rocky Mountains. A beautiful powder blue colored columbine with large flowers.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Viagra keeps cut flowers erect!

'Tis the season to be jolly.

Lordy, lordy, plants have erectile dysfunction.

In an article by Valerie Sudol - Newhouse News Service- Israeli researcher Yaacov Leshem and Australian food technology professor Ron Willis tested Viagra on fruits, vegetables and cut flowers to see if they could prolong shelf life. 1 milligram of Viagra was found to keep the flowers stiff for much longer than expected, 3-4 weeks rather than the usual 10-12 days. One standard dose pill is 50 mg so you only need a small part of one pill. But the pill costs about $15 so it's still pretty cheap @ 30 cents per vase fix.

The Viagra treatment was tested on the website They tested Viagra against vodka and sprite and found the blue pill was "far and away the winner"

The only problem is trying to convince your doc to prescribe you Viagra to keep your plants from wilting...yeah right.

What else is this stuff good for?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Honeybees in December ... is this New Jersey?

I previously wrote about seeing honeybees in November. I thought it was an uncommon sighting so late in the season. Well, the honeybees were out again getting the last of the nectar from our still blooming camellia yesterday, Monday December 18. This is mid-December for goodness sake! I guess the temps in the 60's keep them from going into dormancy. Now this has got to be the last time no?

A time for orchids

We have had this Paphiopedilum callosum lady slipper orchid for several years now and it blooms reliably at this time of year. Only one flower per year but the beauty and sculptural quality of the bloom is more than enough. The hood is horizontal when it first opens and very slowly starts to tilt up revealing the inner parts so the flower changes form during it's long life of about 2 months. It's difficult to read the label but I think it reads (Holden 1 x A :--i wll) x Shadow Magic. -- indicates missing letters.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Black Christmas trees the new chic color

'Tis the season to be edgy...uh, jolly

In an article for the MCT News Service Michael E. Young writes that black is the new "in" color for Christmas trees. Black clothes are all you see in NYC, this is just a continuation of the noir look so this should be a big seller too.

The Brits were a step ahead on this one and it was a hot seller in 2005 across the pond.
Here's a link.

Black trees for 2006 are sold out so I guess the edgy designer tree is becoming hot here too. Goth trees, nah, I'll pass.

Alcoholic paperwhites

'Tis the season to be jolly.

Get rid of those ugly support rings and other device to hold up your leggy paperwhites.

Valerie Sudol of the Newhouse News Service writes that giving forced paperwhites alcohol, distilled spirits not wine or beer, will keep the paperwhites from growing leggy and flopping over. Apparently William Miller, director at Cornell's flowerbulb research program did some studies using alcohol on bulbs. Aha, so this is what they study at Cornell. The result, paperwhites that were 1/3 to 1/2 shorter and retaining the flower size, fragrance and longevity.

To do this start the paperwhites like you normally do in water and pebbles. Wait until the roots start growing and the shoots are and inch or two tall. Pour off the water and give the plant a 4 to 6 % solution of alcohol. How much is 4-6 percent? Buy some vodka, whiskey, gin, rum etc. name your poison which is usually 80 proof or 40 % alcohol. Mix one cup with 7 cups of water and you will have a 5% solution. Apparently if you don't have spirits in your home, you can use rubbing alcohol cut with 10-11 parts water.

Apparently the alcohol inhibits the uptake of water by its roots, stunting the plant's growth. Who knew? I wonder if this treatment would work to keep shrubs a certain size?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Aquilegia, Columbines

This is a good time for digging up pictures taken during spring and summer. So many things were blooming and much work to be done so I neglected blogging about the plants thinking it would be a good project for the winter. So here it is.

I was going through some photos I took earlier this year and I was astounded that we had acquired so many kinds of columbines since we moved to our new home 5 years ago. They grow like weeds here, often self seed and don't seem to mind the hard clay under 3-4 inches of topsoil.

The name comes from the Latin for dove, apparently people naming the plant thought they looked like a flock of doves? At least that's the description in my 'Botanica' book. I thought Aquilla was an eagle, at least that's what I remembered from my High School Latin class which I almost flunked. I looked it up and Aquila with one l is Latin for eagle (the ole noggin is apparently still working). Aha, this website gives this meaning:'Aquilegia, from the Latin, aquilinum, "eagle like", because the spurs suggested the talons of an eagle to Linnaeus'. And from this website: 'Aquilegia: from the Latin aquila, "an eagle," referring to the shape of the petals which is said to be like an eagle's claw (ref. genus Aquilegia)'. I wonder what Linnaeus really wrote in his description of columbines? One begins to think there is much mis-information on the web.

The advice is to cut them to the ground in winter but we don't do that and the plants seem to be fine without this treatment.

The photo is of probably A. vulgaris the common or European columbine, double form,looks like pink bonnets amongst rhododendrons. Many were bought without names so I'll post pictures with no ID.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

An under appreciated ornamental?

We planted blueberries as much for it's beauty as an ornamental as for it's fruit. The delicate lily of the valley flowers ( I was sure I took some photos of the blueberry in bloom but I can't seem to find it- not an uncommon occurrence these days) some with a pink blush others pure white in masses are beautiful. The shrub itself is very nice looking with a layered effect and in the fall the leaves take on a multicolored hue of purple, yellow, orange and red. Yet I see no blueberries as I walk through the neighborhood . I guess I've overcompensated for the whole immediate neighborhood by planting about 20 plants scattered throughout the yard but I'm puzzled as to why they aren't planted more. I guess they're thought of only as a fruit giving plant.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Stewartias, monodelpha, pseudocamellia & rostrata

I mentioned previously that I missed buying 3 good sized about 6-7 feet tall Stewartia pseudocamellias at a plant auction. In a moment of indecision the auctioneer slammed down his gavel and the plants were sold for $45 each. The lone bidder seemed determined to buy these small trees so I don't think I would have gotten them for the $50 max I was prepared to bid.

Oh well, I did the next best thing and mail ordered three different Stewartias from the Big Dipper Farms. The tiny trees arrived earlier in the fall all of about a foot to eighteen inches high. They were planted in a sheltered place next to the camellias so hopefully they will survive the winter. New buds have formed so I'm hoping they will do well.

The Stewartias have a flower that looks like a camellia thus the pseudocamellia name. They also have an attractive mottled bark that looks much like a small version of sycamores or guavas. They are native to North America and Eastern Asia. Malacodendron and ovata are N. Americans species and the monodelpha, pseudocamellia from Japan and Korea. Sinensis is native to China. I don't know where rostrata hales from but it's probably an E. Asia species. Found this info on rostrata apparently another name for S. sinensis: from the UBC Botanical Garden site S. sinensis purportedly has a scent too so that would make it a doubly attractive plant. They vary in hardiness from zones 7-10 and 6-10 so should be planted in a protected place in the yard.

Here's a U.Conn site that shows the beautiful bark. Click on the small thumbnails on the left.

S. rostrata/sinensis, has the dianthus in the background. S. pseudocamellia has the red fall leaves and S. monodelpha with no leaves.

I'm excited to see how they'll do in the Spring.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Pieris japonica aka Lily of the valley shrub

Now that the gardening season is almost over, I'm looking at plants more closely. The Pieris japonica is forming its buds now and I thought the buds looked interesting in its own subtle way. The coloring is not bright but deep reddish purple/pink which contrast nicely with the green leaves.

We inherited a large plant which was overgrown and diseased. The leaves seem to have some kind of scale insect chewing on it and the dis-coloration was awful to look at. I pruned back most of the heavily damaged parts as well as thinning, shaping and fertilizing the plant. It has responded to the treatment quite well producing an adundance of flowers. The pink buds are of this plant. We've since bought a few more plants scattering them to fill the part sun empty spaces.

I believe it's also called false Andromeda.

Metasequoia 'Ogon' dawn redwood in fall color

Here's an earlier photo of the dawn redwood 'Ogon' in it's fall color. The leaf shedding is rapid once it turns reddish brown. This tree is two years in ground now and grew more than 4 feet this year. It should be 10-15 feet by the end of next year.

A great fast growing tree but I wish it would retain its bright yellow needles all year. The yellow glow it casts is brighter than any of the other evergreen varieties we have in the yard. Really an outstanding color and tree.

Nandina, (nanten) fruiting profusely

I don't know why but our Nandina domestica aka Sacred Bamboo or Heavenly bamboo {not to be confused with the ubiquitous Lucky bamboo, Dracena, sold seemingly in every conceiveable store} has produced an abundance of berries this year. We have several plants scattered around our yard and they are so heavy with berries that some are falling over. A reaction to climate change?

In the most recent Sunset magazine they describe using the Nandina berries in Christmas decorations. The berries are apparently long lasting and retains its color when picked. Since I need to lighten the load on some of the brances we'll give this decorating idea a try. The birds don't seem to eat the berries so otherwise it will go to waste. I guess the berries are so hard it must not be easy to digest.

My brother in-law just sent us a evergreen wreath so I went out and clipped some nandina berries and stuck them in. Looks great.'s a holiday on primrose lane...

Due to the warm spell (temps today forecasted in the 70's) a few plants are still putting on a brave show and flowering. This primrose, Primula X polyantha must be confused, decided this must be spring already and threw out these few battered flowers. The other primroses are green but don't show any signs of blooming.

We must have bought hundreds of primroses in the past. They are such a pick me up just when you've had it with winter. It seemed such a waste to just throw them out after they bloomed so 2 years ago we stuck them in the planting beds and to our amazement they survived. This is one of the first ones planted outdoors.
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Location: Zone 6, New Jersey, United States

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