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Thursday
Sep102015

Flight 93 Memorial

 

The Visitor's Center at the Flight 93 Memorial will officially be dedicated tomorrow.  I remember that morning hearing that one of the planes had crashed in Pittsburgh.  Of course no one knew what was happening - it was all unfolding in terrifying real time.  The plane crashed near Shanksville, PA, not too far from the PA turnpike.  Since I travelled the PA turnpike quite often in those years, I figured out with Dad where Shanksville was and on one trip I went to see the site, though the park had not been developed at that point.  Western PA is the place that feels like home to me.  It's peaceful and beautiful and vast, with rolling hills and farmland and spectacular fall foliage.  Hopefully a peaceful resting place.  

Here's what Paul Murdoch, the architect of the memorial said about it:

In its raw severity, we acknowledge their sacrifice. In its solemn darkness, we acknowledge their loss. In its calm serenity, we offer solace at their final resting place. And in its monumental scale, we praise their heroic deeds.”

 

'Soaring Spirit' climbing rose planted in the 'Remember Me' memorial rose gardens and also in my backyard in remembrance of those who lost their lives on 9/11

Wednesday
Aug122015

Some Plants you should try 

Try these plants in your garden - you will be rewarded with long-lasting and beautiful flowers.  And we all know there can never be enough flowers!

Hydrangea macrophylla Everlasting Revolution - Many different colors of blooms on the same plant

Hydrangea Everlasting Revolution with green tinge as blooms age The plant grows to about 3 ft X 3 ft with sturdy stems and deeply-toothed leaves

Hydrangea macrophylla Everlasting Revolution™
Cultivar name: 'Hokomarevo'
The color changes on a single Revolution shrub are incredible.  You will see combinations of deep pink, maroon and blue blooms, all with green highlights as the flowers mature.  Every color can be present at once on this heavily re-blooming shrub.  It's as if all the colors and combinations possible in the Hydrangea family have come together in a single shrub.
  • Everlasting™ is a Dutch series, and it was originally bred for the cut-flower market, so the emphasis is entirely on the blooms. The flower stems are stronger and straighter than those of many other Hydrangeas, ensuring that the blooms won't flop or twist.  The flowers are ultra long-lasting and quite large, especially when seen on the plant, which is just 3 to 4 feet high and wide.
It needs consistently moist soil and a bit of shade. Do not allow it to dry out completely, but make sure the soil drainage is good.  Zones 5-9.

 

Rosa X 'Citrus Burst' 

Rosa X 'Citrus Burst'

This climbing rose has flowers with soft pink and yellow stripes that repeat steadily all summer.  It has a light green apple fragrance and a vigorious grower, reaching up to 12 feet.  It has excellent disease resistance and with dark green, very glossy foliage.  Bloom Season: spring to fall. 

 

Clematis Still Waters

Clematis Still Waters™ - "Dependable performance and soothing lavender tones." Cultivar Name: 'Zostiwa'.

Still Waters™ produces pale lavender-blue 4-inch blooms with maroon centers.  It starts blooming in June and flowers freely, reblooming all summer.  The pale blooms hold their color beautifully - a long-lasting play of light against warmer colors.  It is a Group 3 Clematis, meaning that it blooms primarily on new wood (making it "easy" to grow because you can cut it back each year).  Every spring you should prune it back to about 2 feet from the ground.  

 

  • Bred in the Netherlands, Still Waters™ is a Proven Winners® ColorChoice® plant chosen for its exceptional beauty and performance.  To be selected for this group, it was thoroughly tested in trial gardens all around the world, and found to have superb health, vigor, and color.

 

You commonly read that Clematis prefer light shade, especially on their roots.  But I've also learned from experts that this "preference" is because many people don't plant Clematis correctly.  Just like tomato plants, they should be planted with their crowns 2 – 3 inches deeper in the ground compared to the pot-dirt-level to encourage robust root growth.  The first set of true leaves should be under the soil surface.  This allows the plant to grow a strong root system – critical for a vigorous vine.

I know, I know.  This goes against everything we’ve ever heard about “don’t plant too deeply or you’ll kill the plant.”  Tomatoes and Clematis break that rule.  They sprout roots from nodes along the buried stem, and these extra roots strengthen the plants so that they can support more fruit (tomato) or climb more vigorously and produce more flowers (clematis).  With proper planting, watering until establishment (and during periods of drought) and mulch to conserve soil moisture, Clematis should do just fine without "cool" or "shaded" roots.  Remember to keep the mulch several inches away from the crown, where the vines emerge from the soil.

Old habits die hard, but I've tried it a number of times and it really does work work.  Clematis is "finnicky" no longer!  You can get Clematis Still Waters™ and a great selection of other Clematis and other types of vines and climbers mail-order from Brushwood Nursery.  They propagate from cuttings, and ship again starting Sept through Nov (although last I checked they are out of stock for Still Waters™).  I've been very pleased with their quality and I've tried small-flowered Clematis and non-vining Clematis varieties as well – both turn out to be unusual and beautiful (and low-maintenance as well).  It’s a cheap and easy way to add flowers to your landscape, especially if you have trellises, gazebos, garden arches or stone walls for the vines to grow on.

Zones 5 to 9.

 

Wednesday
Jul152015

The food web - what is the role of fungi?  

Disclaimer:  Before you read further, this may be the product of a science nerd.  I learned several new terms during the research for this entry, including my new favorite "phyllosphere" - which I will be using in sentences as much as possible from now on!
Someone asked me recently what powdery mildew was and if it harmed the tree.
Before I could answer the question, I had to understand the role of fungus in the food web, since powdery mildew is caused by a fungus.  It turns out that it's all about the disposition of energy and nutrients in the food web.
  • A food web is a graphic concept describing "who eats whom" in an ecosystem.  Every living thing—from single-celled algae to giant blue whales—needs food to survive.  How that living thing gets its food is part of a complex pathway that energy and nutrients follow through the ecosystem.
Organisms within an ecosystem are generally divided into categories called "trophic levels" – referring to whether they produce their own food ("producers"), eat other organic matter that is living or recently killed ("consumers") or eat non-living plant and animal remains ("detritivores, saprotrophs, decomposers").
  • Producers, also known as "autotrophs", make their own food.  Autotrophs are usually plants or single-celled organisms.  Nearly all autotrophs use a process called photosynthesis to create “food” (glucose) from sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. 
Primary consumers, or herbivores, eat plants.  Secondary consumers eat the herbivores.  Tertiary consumers eat the secondary consumers.  Consumers can be carnivores (animals that eat other animals) or omnivores (animals that eat both plants and animals).  
  • Detritivores feed on any dead or organic biomass including animals, plants, and feces.  They ingest the decomposing biological matter, digest it internally, and shed nutrients in simple forms that plants can easily absorb from the soil.  The earthworm is a classic example of a terrestrial detritivore, but slugs, woodlice, dung flies, millipedes, and most of the worms are some of the other examples. 
  • Saprotrophs feed on decaying or dead plant matter.  Fungi species predominate among saprotrophs due to their ability to digest lignin in the xylem tissues of plants.  Saprotrophs don't have an internal digestive system.  Instead, they secrete digestive enzymes such as proteases, lipases, or amylases onto the substrates.  This type of extracellular digestion transforms lipids into fatty acids and glycerol; proteins into amino acids, and polysaccharides (e.g. lignin, starch) into glucose and fructose.  These simplified nutrients are absorbed into the fungi through an active transport means called endocytosis – this is how they get their nutrition.  
The ecological role of the saprotrophs is vital for nutrient cycling and energy flow since they consume matter that is difficult for others to break down.
  • Detritivores are mostly animals while saprotrophs are mostly fungi.
  • Detritivores consume lumps of dead organic matter separately, while saprotrophs absorb chemically digested food.
  • Saprotrophs digest their food externally, whereas detritivores do it internally in the digestive system.
  • Detritivores shed most of the digested matter unabsorbed, whereas saprotrophs absorb the entire digested matter to use for their own growth, repair, and reproduction.
Decomposers - fungi and bacteria - turn organic wastes into inorganic materials, such as nutrient-rich soil.  
Detritivores, saprotrophs and decomposers function to complete the cycle of life, returning nutrients to the soil or oceans for use by autotrophs.
  • Different habitats and ecosystems provide many possible food chains that make up a food web.  As an example, a grazing food web has plants or other photosynthetic organisms at its base, followed by herbivores and various carnivores.  A detrital food web, mostly bacteria or fungi, recycles organic material back into the biotic part of the ecosystem.  Since all ecosystems require a method to recycle material from dead organisms, most grazing food webs have an associated detrital food web.  For example, in a meadow ecosystem, plants may support a grazing food web of different consumers, while at the same time supporting a detrital food web of bacteria, fungi, and detrivorous invertebrates feeding off dead plants and animals.
  • Producers receive their energy from light by means of photosynthesis.  After this, the energy in organic matter flows from producers to the different levels of consumers.  However, at each trophic level, energy is always lost.  All of the trophic levels lose energy as heat through cell respiration.  Also, as the organic matter passes from one trophic level to the next, not all of it is digested and energy from organic matter is lost through feces.  This energy then passes on to the detritivores and saprotrophs.  Another energy loss occurs through tissue loss and death which can happen at any trophic level.  Once again, this energy would be passed on to detritivores and saprotrophs as they digest these.  Detritivores and saprotrophs, in turn, lose energy as heat through cell respiration. 
Energy is not recycled.  Since the energy in organic matter is continually being lost as it flows through the ecosystem, energy in the form of sunlight must be constantly re-supplied.  Nutrients on the other hand have to be recycled.  There is only a finite supply of them - they are absorbed from the environment, used by living organisms and then returned to the environment.
  • Fungi that act as decomposers are essential recyclers of nutrients in an ecosystem.  Without these fungi, forest floors would be covered in plant debris and animal carcasses; similarly other ecosystems would have a vast amount of waste piled up.  Without fungal decomposition, nutrients in the soil would be used up, and plants would not have food and couldn’t survive.  If plants don’t survive, the animals that depend on plants for food would also suffer, and the whole food chain would collapse. 
Since transferring nutrients from fungi to the soil is such an integral part of the food chain, some organisms team up with fungi to form symbiotic relationships.  Mycorrhizal fungi, for example, form a symbiotic relationship with plant roots; the plant provides the fungi with carbohydrates, and the fungi in return transfer nutrients like phosphorus to the plant.
  • Endophytic fungus lives within a plant for at least part of its life without causing apparent disease.‪   Endophytes are ubiquitous and have been found in all the species of plants studied to date, but most of these endophyte/plant relationships are not well understood.  Many economically important grasses (e.g., Festuca spp. [Fescue], Lolium spp. [Ryegrass], Zea [Maize]) carry fungal endophytes that are believed to enhance host growth‪ and improve the plant's ability to tolerate abiotic stresses, such as drought, and resistance to insects and mammalian herbivores.‬‬‬‬   For example, endophyte-containing tall fescue is now being planted in areas where people want to deter geese from eating the grass, since it seems to be unpalatable to them.‬‬
While most fungi aid the function of the ecosystem and contribute positively to the food chain, some fungi are harmful to and can even destroy plant life.  An epiphytic fungus is a fungus that grows upon, or attached to, a living plant.  Ephiphytic fungi are part of the mycobiota infesting the plant's phyllosphere, or leaf surface, along with other species of fungus and other organisms.  If cultural conditions (temperature, humidity, soil moisture etc ) result in a disturbance of the equilibrium between "good" and "pathogenic" organisms in the phyllospere, a pathogenic epiphyte like the fungus causing powdery mildew can precipitate plant disease.
  • Powdery mildew fungi are obligate, biotrophic parasites.  Infection by the fungus is favored by high humidity but not by free water.  During the growing season, hyphae are produced on leaf surfaces and specialized absorption cells, termed "haustoria", extend into the plant epidermal cells to obtain nutrition - this can eventually kill a heavily infected leaf.  "Conidia" (asexual spores) are also produced on plant surfaces during the growing season.  They develop on specialized hyphae called conidiophores that are frost-resistant and can overwinter in leaf litter. 
Certain fungal species that cause wood rot are also epiphytic and gain access to wood at a wound site where the bark is breached.  Although trees have mechanisms to compartmentalize the spread of fungi, if large areas of dead tissue spread through the tree, its nutrient supply is cut off and its structural integrity is compromised.  
  • But even as pathogens, the role of fungi can be seen as beneficial to the ecosystem as a whole.  Tree death is a natural and necessary aspect of the forest ecosystem.  The death of large old trees is necessary for the regeneration of new trees and the continuation of the forest.  Death is necessary for life.  Tree diseases that attack especially weak trees can improve the overall vigor of a stand.  In addition, the death of a large tree in the forest creates a gap in the canopy, letting sunlight reach the forest floor and allowing the regeneration of species that would not otherwise grow in the shade of the tree.  Therefore, tree death can improve the diversity of the forest.  This is important because diversity confers resilience to a system.  Pathogens often have some degree of host specificity, meaning they only attack certain species of trees.  A forest that contains only one type of tree is in danger of being completely obliterated by a single pathogen, whereas the damage would be more confined in a forest with greater species diversity.

 

 

Monday
May042015

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond VA

My smart and sweet niece is going to start at the University of Richmond this fall, and it just so happens that Richmond has a Botanical Garden - can't wait to see it!  There are some stunning pictures on line - I've added a few below - including a treehouse that is part of the children's garden.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden overviewThe water feature in the sunken gardenAutumn colors surround the treehouseIt looks like a lovely place to take a walk if you need a break.  

 

Tuesday
Apr072015

US National Arboretum Tree and Shrub Introductions

I ran across the US National Arboretum website again recently, and my attention was caught by the information on introductions to the Nursery trade that have come from there.  There are some we all use and might be surprised came from the National Arboretum (like 'Green Giant' arborvitae, who knew?!), and others that are worth looking out for this coming season, like 'Sun Valley' red maple.  Here are the descriptions of a few of them.

Malus 'Adirondack' (Crabapple)
Five hundred open-pollinated seedlings of Malus halliana were artificially inoculated with fire blight under controlled conditions.  Of the sixty surviving seedlings, several showed field resistance to scab, cedar-apple rust, and powdery mildew when exposed to natural inoculum from heavily infected, susceptible plants during eleven years of field trial.  'Adirondack' was selected from this seedling population in 1974 by Donald R. Egolf and released in 1987.  'Adirondack' has a narrow, upright-branched growth habit, abundant, small, persistent fruit, a slow to moderate growth rate, and multiple disease tolerance. This is one for confined spaces, an allee, or next to a walkway.  Even the front border if there's anough space.
  • Height and Width: 18 feet tall and 16 feet crown width at 20 years.
  • Habit: Narrow obovate, upright-branched small tree. Maintains upright form with age.
  • Foliage: Leathery dark green leaves. The foliage is highly tolerant to cedar apple rust, apple scab, and powdery mildew.
  • Flowers: Dark carmine buds mature to a lighter red and open to white, waxy, heavy-textured, wide-spreading flowers with traces of red; slightly fragrant.
  • Fruit: Abundant, bright orange-red, hard, small (1/2-inch) fruit persist until early winter. Relished by birds after softened by freezing.
  • Adaptable to diverse soil, moisture, and climatic conditions. Requires virtually no pruning to maintain its shape nor chemical controls for the common crabapple diseases.

 

 

Viburnum X burkwoodii 'Conoy'

U.S.D.A. Zones 5b - 8; reliably evergreen in U.S.D.A. Zones 7 - 8.

'Conoy' is a selection from the cross of V. utile with V. x burkwoodii 'Park Farm Hybrid' made in 1968 by Dr. Donald Egolf at the U.S. National Arboretum. Selected for field trial and propagation in 1976, 'Conoy' was named and released in 1988.

'Conoy' is distinguished from other Burkwood viburnum cultivars by its compact growth habit, fine-textured, evergreen foliage, and persistent, abundant, glossy red fruit for approximately 6-8 weeks in the fall.

  • Height and width: 4-5 feet tall and 7-8 feet wide.
  • Habit: Spreading, dense-branched, evergreen shrub.
  • Foliage: Extremely glossy, small, dark green leaves in summer with dark maroon tinge in winter.
  • Flowers: Dark pink buds open to slightly fragrant, cream-white flowers in late April.
  • Fruit: Slightly pendulous clusters of fruit ripen in mid-August to bright red before turning black in October.
  • Grows best in full sun to partial shade in a heavy loam with an adequate moisture supply. Tolerates drought and drier soils extremely well.

 

 

Thuja 'Green Giant'

Thuja (standishii x plicata) 'Green Giant'

U.S.D.A. Zones 5–7

In 1967, a single plant reputed to be Thuja (standishii x plicata)
was received from D.T. Poulsen, Kvistgaard, Denmark, and planted at the U.S. National Arboretum. This plant exhibited exceptional landscape quality and propagations were distributed. In the distribution process, the name and identity of this clone became confused with that of another arborvitae from the same source,
 T. occidentalis 'Giganteoides'. The identity of the exceptional clone as the T. (standishii x plicata) hybrid was resolved by Susan Martin, USNA, Kim Trip, New York Botanic Garden, and Robert Marquard, Holden Arboretum, through extensive records searches, nursery inspections, and isozyme analysis. The name Thuja 'Green Giant' was selected to identify and promote this clone.

'Green Giant' is a vigorously growing, pyramidal evergreen with rich green color that remains outstanding throughout hardiness range. It has no serious pest or disease problems and has been widely grown and tested in commercial nursery production. 

  • Height and width: To 60 feet tall with a 12–20 foot spread at maturity; 30 feet at 30 years.
  • Growth rate: Rapid.
  • Habit: Tightly pyramidal to conical evergreen tree; uniform appearance.
  • Foliage: Dense, rich green, scalelike foliage in flattened sprays borne on horizontal to ascending branches; good winter color.
  • Fruit: Persistent, oblong cones, approximately 1/2 inch length. Cones emerge green and mature to brown.
  • Adaptable; grows in soil types from sandy loams to heavy clays. Requires little to no pruning.

 

 

The "Girl" Magnolias

  • Magnolia (liliflora 'Nigra' x stellata 'Rosea') 'Ann', 
'Betty', 
'Judy', 'Randy', 
'Ricki', 'Susan'
  • Magnolia (liliflora 'Reflorescens' x stellata 'Waterlily') 'Jane' 
  • Magnolia (liliflora 'Reflorescens' x stellata 'Rosea') 'Pinkie' 

U.S.D.A. Zones 3 - 8

''The Girl Magnolias'' are selections resulting from controlled pollinations of Magnolia liliflora 'Nigra' by M. stellata 'Rosea'; M. liliflora 'Reflorescens' by M. stellata 'Rosea'; and M. liliflora 'Reflorescens' by M. stellata 'Waterlily'.  The crosses were made at the U.S. National Arboretum in 1955 and 1956 by William F. Kosar and Dr. Francis de Vos. All are F1 hybrids and reported to be sterile triploid selections.

These magnolia selections bloom two to four weeks later than M. stellata and M. x soulangiana, reducing the possibility of late spring frost damage. Plants produce flowers with a variety of colors from reddish-purple to pink on white. The unexpected sporadic summer bloom adds landscape interest.  Plants grow best in full sun to light shade; prefer loam soil with adequate moisture; tolerate poorly drained, heavy clay soils or dry areas.

 Magnolia 'Jane'Magnolia 'Ann'

Viburnum X burkwoodii 'Mohawk'

U.S.D.A. Zones 5b - 8

A backcross of Viburnum x burkwoodii to V. carlesii was made in 1953 by Dr. Donald Egolf.  Seed produced from this cross was embryo-cultured to expedite seedling production.  The cultivar 'Mohawk' was selected from this population in 1960 and released in 1966.

'Mohawk' is distinguished from related cultivars by abundant clusters of glossy, dark red flower buds that are ornamental for several weeks prior to full bloom.  The waxy white flowers with red blotches on the reverse side of the petals have a strong, spicy, clove fragrance.  'Mohawk' has a fairly compact growth habit and foliage resistant to bacterial leaf spot and powdery mildew.  Definitely choose this as your fragrant viburnum if you see it in the Nursery!

  • Height and width: 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide.
  • Habit: Deciduous shrub with spreading branches.
  • Foliage: Glossy, dark green leaves turn a brilliant orange-red in autumn. The foliage is highly tolerant to bacterial leaf spot and powdery mildew.
  • Flowers: Brilliant, glossy red flower buds appear several weeks before the flowers begin to open in late April, extending the effective ornamental period by several weeks. The red of the flower buds contrasts well with the white of the opened flowers and is retained on the reverse of the flower. Flowers have a strong, spicy, clove fragrance. 
  • Fruit: A black drupe.
  • 'Mohawk' grows well in many exposures and soils, but performs best in sun with moderate moisture and well-drained soils.

 

 

Acer rubrum 'Sun Valley'

U.S.D.A. Zones 4–7

'Sun Valley' resulted from a controlled cross made in 1982 by A.M. Townsend as part of a tree genetics research project examining the inheritance of fall color and leafhopper resistance.  'Sun Valley' is a cross of A.rubrum 'Red Sunset' and A.rubrum 'Autumn Flame'. Released December, 1994.  I saw a whole row of these about 2 years ago at Prospero Nursery in full color, and they were so beautiful.  Completely symmetrical shape and some hints of orange in their red color.  They really looked like a sunset.  Unfortunately, at the time I didn't know anything about this hybrid, so we didn't end up buying one, to my eternal regret!

  • Height and Width: 21 feet tall, 10 feet wide at 10 years.
  • Habit: Medium-sized deciduous tree.  Symmetrical ovate crown.
  • Foliage: Brilliant red, exceptionally long- lasting (2 weeks or more) with peak color in the 3rd to 4th week of October, about 1 week before 'October Glory'.  Medium green leaves in summer. 
  • Bark: Light grey and smooth when young; turning dark grey with age. 
  • Flowers: Male, early spring.
  • Adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions. Prefer slightly acid, moist soils.