Thursday, November 29, 2007

Japanese maples, Acer palmatum, Seiryu, Villa Taranto, Oshio beni? and Beni Otake

During the busy Thanksgiving week I noticed the 'Seiryu' Japanese maple was in it's full fall colors so I stole a few quiet moments photographing the rapidly fading chroma. This was not a good year for Japanese maple color. A few like the coral twig maples were outstanding and the Seiryu was as good as last year but many turned brown before exhibiting much color.

My lcd monitor also died last weekend and I'm using a small back up lcd. It renders the colors very differently and is much sharper so things look very differently on this screen. The background color of my blog looks black with the new lcd but I painstakingly adjusted it to be a very dark (almost black) gray on my old bigger screen. It makes me wonder how differently the photos look to anyone who happens to see them. I've used a library monitor to view the photos but that was hopelessly unadjusted with a purple-red cast to all the pictures. Some of the others were either blurred or either too dark or bright; it was a frustrating experience. I guess you put up the photos and hope people are using good lcd monitors and have calibrated them to some extent.

The above four pictures are of the 'Seiryu'. The concrete blocks were meant to be decorative, like stone lanterns but the association with building material is imprinted too firmly.

Acer palmatum 'Villa Taranto'. This Japanese maple cultivar was found on the grounds of the Italian villa.

I'm not positive but I think this is a photo of the 'Oshio-beni' Japanese maple.

'Beni-Otake' Big red bamboo Japanese maple.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More photos of the "Yellow Patches" mushrooms

Wordless Wednesday photos of Amanita flavoconia. Since we still have one guest staying with us, I'll take a break from posting the series of Anemones blogs and do a simple photo spread instead.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Anemone tomentosa 'Robustissima'

Grape leaf anemone. Tomentosa = downy, wooly.

This is the first large anemone to bloom in our garden. The flowers started to open in early August. The stems are dark purple and has whitish fuzz especially near the flower and buds, thus the name tomentosa. It is one of the hardier varieties of anemones and the abundant stamens give it an unusual look and interest.

Monday, November 19, 2007


As I'm writing this I can see very wet snowflakes falling past the window. It doesn't seem cold enough for it to snow.

I wanted to do several blogs about Anemones we grew this year but I was waiting for a month for one last Anemone to bloom but it's too cold now and it won't bloom this year. We bought several Anemones last spring to add to the ones we already had. All bloomed but this last one. So I will start my paean to the Anemone starting with the earliest blooming.

Snowdrop Windflower, Wood Anemone, Anemone Sylvestris. This is an early spring blooming anemone. It is native to the woods of Europe. It has a reputation of being a vigorous spreader so I'll have to be careful to contain it. I bought several and noticed that leaves sprouted from many distinct places around the plant leading me to believe they have already formed a cluster of new plants around each parent. The plant is quite small and the flower stalk was only about 8" high. I had only two or three flowers this year from the six plants.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bloom Day photos

Happy Bloom Day, brrrr! I'm late again but I have a good reason this time. I was busy painting several rooms in preparation for out of town guests visiting during the Thanksgiving holiday.

These photos were all taken this blustery cold morning of November 16th. I will add captions as time permits. There were more plants blooming than I thought, though there aren't very many flowers on the plants anymore. I guess I should be more observant and enjoy these last flowers of the season.

Camellia sasanqua, Marti. The tender flowers are having a terrible time with the freezing temperatures. The outer edges of the flowers turn a bluish purple from the cold...just like people do.

Yay! I've managed to not kill the Daphne x burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie'. I'll be very happy if it will survive the winter.

A new variety of Delphiniums. It re-bloomed all summer and is still blooming now. If I find the name of the variety, I'll post it here.

Variegated Azalea. I added this because I thought the leaves are quite attractive on this plant. The flowers are a pinkish red which looks a little strange with the leaf variegation but that lasts only a short time and we keep the plant mostly for the leaves.

A pink variant of the Delphinium above.

Lobelia, Crystal Palace. Sorry for the out of focus photo.

A mum we bought several years ago. Though we pulled it out, apparently we didn't get all of the roots. Since the plant is so tenacious and blooms every year it gets to stay. It's turned out to be a quite lovely plant, although it gets a bit leggy because the original sunny spot where it was planted is now semi-shaded as the taller shrubs and small trees have grown.

Penstemon, Navigator series. This is a wonderful re-bloomer too. It's a dwarf and if you deadhead the spent flowers it will re-bloom.

Unknown small flowered Salvia.

White Rhododendron. I didn't think Rhododendrons bloomed in the fall but a couple of the white ones are sparsely flowering. Our PJM Rhodie was blooming just last week but there were no flowers today.

Lollipop Echinacea.

It's amazing how tough this tropical looking Gaillardia is. There are still many flowers and buds on the plant.

Phacelia campanulata bravely trying to bloom.

I thought the yellow leaves of the Solomon's Seal, Polygonatum biflora was quite attractive so I added it.

The last flower of the Cyclamen.

Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta still fighting the cold.

I'm not positive but I think this is the Yellow Patches mushroom, Amanita flavoconia.
From the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Mushrooms "This is one of the most common eastern amanitas, and has the longest season. Its edibility has not been established and therefore it cannot be recommended." An understatement if I ever saw one.

I first saw this mushroom under some Eastern white pine trees next to a water tower 2 years ago. It had formed a huge colony and was quite impressive. Last year the mushrooms came up in the exact same location but the fruiting was much diminished. I thought the mushrooms would appear about this time of the year and looked for them daily for about a month but I didn't see them until yesterday when I looked in a different location about 25 feet away from the original colony. I wonder why it moved?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Big, huge bird!

I was reading a magazine when I was disturbed by something large passing by the window. When I looked out I could see a very large bird with long legs so I immediately thought...a stork... but we don't have storks least I haven't seen one.

I thought it flew past our house but it apparently alighted on our roof because 5 minutes later it flew down, right in front of the window again only closer and larger this time. I could see it at the edge of our small pond and thought I had better save the goldfish and Shubunkins from being eaten. But I wanted to get a good photo of the bird before I shooed it away. Well, I didn't have to shoo it, it was so wary it took off before I even got closer than 40 feet from the bird. It flew to our neighbor's roof so I took a few photos of the bird using the puny 3X telephoto and 4X digital tele. and having had my eyes dilated from an earlier eye exam, made looking up into the bright sky excruciating hence the lousy photos.

I went back in the house to identify the bird which turned out to be a Great Blue Heron and went out again to see if it flew down to the pond. It was at the pond but it was the larger pond near the house so it immediately flew off as soon as I opened the door, this time to the other neighbors' roof. So I never did get a good photo of the bird and it eventually got tired of my peeking up at it and flew off. I wish it were a selective eater and would take some of our unwanted ubiquitous comets, it looked quite skinny and could have used a nourishing meal, but I sure wouldn't want a wholesale massacre perpetuated by an unknown raccoon when it took 4 large Koi out of the big pond.

The Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias is North America's largest heron. It's length is about 48" and has a wingspread of 80"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A crummy picture of Comet Holmes

This is a photo of comet Holmes I took with my Panasonic DMC FX3 point and shoot digital camera without any telescopic attachment, this evening November 12th. You can see the comet in the left middle of the picture. It's the fuzzy, barely discernible object below and to the left of the brightest star - you can see the comet better if you enlarge the photo by clicking it. In the 15 second exposure with 3X telephoto (it seemed silly to use the telephoto when the object was so small) you can see the movement of the stars which makes stars into an elongated blobs rather than a points of light. The comet was much brighter the previous night, November 11th and seemed to be quite large, about 1/4 - 1/2 the size of the moon. This was by far the biggest and easiest comet I've seen with the naked eye. Clouds were streaming in so I wasn't able to experiment and try for a better photo.

Thanks to Entangled who mentioned that Comet Holmes was visible.

Here's a great site to see wonderful photos of the comet and how to find it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Greenup: when plants turn green in spring and why despite global warming, plants below 35 degrees latitude remain dormant longer.

From the Wired online magazine site.

Plants have begun to set forth flowers and buds earlier because of the warming climate. But in some areas of North America plants actually green up later than usual. This article explains why.
Here's my quick take on the article if you don't want to read it in it's entirety.
35 degrees latitude cuts through North Carolina. Plants north of the line receive enough chilling days (actually chilling units) to come out of dormancy quickly and are ready for an early warm up. Plants south of the line don't receive enough chilling hours so remain dormant even if the temperatures are warm enough to set forth flower and vegetative buds safely.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Acer palmatum, Sango kaku (Coral Tower) Japanese Maple fall colors

The Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku', Syn. 'Senkaki' (Coral Bark maple, Cinnabar Wood maple [Vertrees]) is the second Japanese maple to turn this fall. This is the oldest Japanese maple in the yard except for the 'Bloodgood' we inherited when we moved into the home.

Like the 'Beni kawa' mentioned in a previous blog the Sango kaku's bark is colored bright red which fades somewhat on the older wood. Like red twig dogwood it is a great plant to have for winter interest especially when contrasted by snow. Many people buy the tree for the red bark but the tree makes a wonderfully shaped small specimen tree and the yellow gold leaves with a hint of apricot makes it a great fall tree too.

I originally planted the tree in our front yard which faces NNW. The year's new vegetative growth always suffered from the winter cold, burning the tender branches so the tree barely grew. The dieback stunted the tree terribly. I finally decided to relocate the tree to a more protected southern exposure and the tree has more than doubled its original size of 4 feet in two years and is now about 10 feet in height. The tree will eventually attain a height of 25-30 feet. I had previously moved several good sized JMs and haven't lost any. The Japanese maple has proven to be a very tough and resilient tree with no evidence of transplant shock or leaf wilt so I had no fear in moving the tree.

Apparently some Japanese writers have indicated that their Sango kaku have unremarkable leaf color in fall and describe the bark color as a pink rather than red so the tree we call Sango kaku may not be the same cultivar as the Japanese trees. I wonder why the discrepancy?

Here's a quote on the UBC Botanical Gardens forum from a person known as Mr.shep who seems to be very knowledgeable about Japanese maples.

"...the old Senkaki (Coral Bark Maple) or what we called
the true Japanese form is not the same plant as Sango kaku
(Coral Tower). There are a variety of differences in these
two Maples. The bark color of your Maple is more consistent
with Sango kaku rather than Senkaki with its more coral in color,
almost a salmon pink in color. The lower trunk colors are the
same on both Maples but as Andre pointed out the branch color
in Sango kaku can indeed turn to a grayish color here later in
the year whereas Senkaki will have red colored twigs and will
have coral branch color year round. There is even a finer line
that separates Waka momiji Red Stem and Sango kaku as
opposed to Sango kaku and Senkaki. Mr. Vertrees to my
knowledge never owned a Senkaki to know this Maple well
at all. The one glaring post in the Vertrees books was that
the Japanese did not see strong Fall colors on their Sango
kaku when we could see glowing gold tones even in Fresno.
The reason is that the Maples were not the same plant.
Senkaki produces light yellow tones with some red flecks
but is not a strong Fall color producer. There has been
one so-called new Maple from Japan shown in this web
site that is nothing more than a "washed out" seedling
version of the old Senkaki Maple. People have not grown
enough seedlings from Senkaki to have seen the wash out
in bark color occur naturally."


..."What will confuse people is that the old Sango kaku that came into
the US from Japan is not the same plant more prevalently seen
in Europe. The seedling that came out of Oregon confuses the
issue even more."

Another look at the mature fall colors of the A. palmatum 'Beni kawa' which I mentioned in a previous blog. This photo was just taken a couple of days ago and the leaves are starting to turn brown at the edges. You can see that the color is a bit different than that of the Sango kaku, more peachy and less yellow. The tree in the background which is just starting to turn is a Acer palmatum 'Seiryu' the only green upright dissected leaf (split leaf) Japanese Maple. Usually the dissectums are weeping trees so the Seiryu is quite unusual because it doesn't weep.

Orchid now fully open - Paph. Supersuk "Eureka" AM/AOS x Paph. Raisin Pie "Hsinying" x Sib

This Pahphiopedilum orchid has a better pedigree than most people. :)

I had a difficult time trying to photograph this orchid. Taking the plant outdoors and shooting against some dark green foliage with a slanting morning light may yeild a better result.

Back of the hood. The hood reminds me of a cobra's. I believe the hood will eventually rise, giving the flower a more open look. At least that's what happened to a similar looking although differently named Paph. when it bloomed last year.

and... the tiny but wonderfully colored Phalaenopsis 'Earth Star' Patent Pending. This wonderful little orchid blooms almost year round.

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Location: Zone 6, New Jersey, United States

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