Cathy called me today from Home Depot asking if I wanted her to buy this Exbury azalea. I’ve been meaning to get a few of these for the yard and this one was reasonably priced and it good shape, so I said yes. What is an Exbury azalea, you might ask? They have a fairly complicated makeup and many of the early records don’t exist. But in the late 18th century, hybrids were made between North American azalea species Rhododendron calendulaceum, nudiflorum, arborescens, and viscosum, and the bright yellow flowered, European R. luteum, producing what are generally referred to as Ghent azaleas. The addition of R. molle and japonicum took the azaleas to the next stage, the Mollis and then R. occidentale was added, giving us the Knaphill azaleas. Starting in the 1920s Lionel de Rothschild made hundreds of thousands of hybrids and brought us the Exbury azalea. Well, that’s a rather simplified history. You can read more here: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JARS/v40n1/v40n1-cash1.htm.
Tagged With: Flowering Shrub
The Exbury azalea that Cathy bought for me last year is getting ready to bloom. I planted it near the top of our driveway, to the right where there used to be an awful holly shrub. The deer did some damage to it late last summer but what’s left of it is beginning to come to life. The flower and leaf buds are swelling and there should be some blooms in a few days. The Exbury azaleas are among the deciduous azaleas. In fact, most azalea species are deciduous but since most of us are familiar with azaleas through the proliferation of the Glenn Dale cultivars (developed by Benjamin Morrison from 1935 through 1952), which are evergreen. The Exbury hybrids were made in the 1920s by Lionel de Rothschild and their genetic makeup contains some or all of the following: R. arborescens, R. calendulaceum, R. japonicum, R. luteum, R. molle, R. nudiflorum, R. occidentale, and R. viscosum.
This Exbury azalea is starting to bloom. It’s been eaten back by the deer, so it’s not clear that it will ever get really big unless we are able to protect it. The flowers are quite striking, especially compared to the ubiquitous Glenn Dale azaleas that everyone has. I’ve got nothing against the Glenn Dales, mind you. But you have to admit, they have a certain sameness to them. I suppose if everyone grew Exbury or Mollis azaleas, I’d fell the same way. Or not. They really are spectacular and if you want yellows an oranges, they’re your best bet this time of year. They are deciduous, of course, so if you want leaves year round, they won’t do. But they sure make up for it in bloom.
Ages ago I got some seeds of Syringa meyeri, the Meyer or Korean lilac, and they grew in a wooden box for years. Then we moved here in 2006 and they remained in the box, never getting more than about a foot tall. I finally planted them in the garden and for a few years they grew larger but didn’t bloom. Last year they bloomed and this year they are larger and blooming better still. They have large leaves and the flowers are at the top in fairly large terminal clusters (panicles).
We have a pair of Hydrangea shrubs growing along the back of our garden. one of them is fairly large and growing strongly. The other, this Hydrangea macrophylla, is not so big but it’s blooming, at least. The deer seem to like it, so we’ve allowed the Forsythia to grow in front of it a little, to help protect it from them. Of course, that makes it harder for us to see, as well. You can’t have everything. The sterile florets, which have large petals, are a very pale pinkish with touches of blue. The much smaller fertile florets are quite blue, and the combination is quite nice.
We’re getting a second flush of roses on the ‘Perle d’Or’ outside our front door. This small polyantha rose has a nice, apricot-yellow color with perfect, if tiny buds, opening to somewhat less perfect blossoms that are, nonetheless, quite lovely. The fragrance alone is enough to make me want this rose and putting it right outside our front door was a good choice. It has been killed back in parts in some particularly cold winters but generally it does pretty well and so far has not suffered any irreversible damage.
I’ve mentioned the beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) we have in our back garden so I thought it deserved a photo. Its berries are just about at the height of their beauty right now, so it seemed like the best time. As you can see, the berries are both beautiful and plentiful. Because this shrub blooms (and therefore sets berries) on new growth, it can be cut back fairly hard each autumn or early spring and it will still produce a good display. The flowers are not particularly significant, being tiny and very pale pink. The berries, as the name implies, are the reason to grow this native. It attracts birds, who eat the berries, which is also nice.
Cathy and I took Darius to Meadowside Nature Center late this morning and into the afternoon. We enjoyed the exhibits inside for a while, particularly the cave that Darius enjoyed crawling through. We also liked seeing the albino corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus) and the large, black eastern rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis). We also enjoyed seeing the raptors out back, including a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and turkey vulture (Cathartes aura). We walked down and around a pond and then I had fun driving off an leaving Cathy and Darius to run after me. Darius thought that was hilarious. While I waited for them to find me, I took this photo of the dried petals on a hydrangea shrub.
I went over to my mom’s this morning to see her and to do a few things around her apartment. After the minor chores, we took a walk around the loop she walks most days, about a third of a mile. We started by taking a slight detour to see the two Camellia japonica bushes that are in bloom outside the enclosed walkway just past the dining hall. They are absolutely covered with pink and white flowers, both varying somewhat from almost all pink to mostly white with pink lines. I have three plants in my yard, all small (and one is very small). One of them has buds but none are blooming yet. Looking forward to that.
I currently have three camellia plants in the yard. This one it the largest and has the most flowers. It’s called ‘Dad’s Pink’ and though it isn’t a variety that my dad grew, it reminds me of him. I also have ‘Pink Perfection’, which he did have. That one ws quite small when I got it and has taken a little while to get established but it looks like it’s doing pretty well finally (and after I lowered the pH around it a bit). The third is called ‘Mrs. Lyman Clarke’ and dad had that one, as well, out back beside the chimney. It’s barely alive and only time will tell if it’s going to survive. It has six leaves and one flower bud.
Our spiraea is in bloom and it’s really pretty as a background plant. It’s flowers are small but borne in a profusion of white. There are little bits of green in the flowers, but that can really only be seen close up. Spiraea prunifolia, bridal wreath spiraea, is a native of China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan and has been introduced in much of eastern North America. Interestingly, this double-flowered plant has the species name while the single-flowered variety, discovered later, is classified as a variety or form of the species. The name of the genus Spiraea comes from the Greek word speira meaning wreath.
There is a pink flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) growing up against the front of our house. I’m almost certain it’s a seedling, because it’s much too close to the house to have been planted and I want to take it out. Before I do, I’d like something growing that will take its place but I may just need to do the deed. A few years ago I planted a camellia called ‘Mrs. Lyman Clarke’ but the two very cold spells we had in the next two winters did that one in. In 2017 I bought a variety called ‘Kumasaka’, which is fairly hardy, as camellias go. It nearly died the first year but there is a small stem with about 8 leaves on it and this spring it bloomed. I’m not entirely sure this is ‘Kumasaka’ and not the root stock, but it’s a big, beautiful, pink flower so I’ll live with it. Hopefully it will live with us. And hopefully it will start to put on a little growth because right now, it’s barely taller than the pachysandra.
One thing Cathy and I are thankful for is walks in our neighborhood. It’s a relatively quiet neighborhood, especially now, as traffic in the area is considerably lighter than normal. Foot traffic has always been high with a lot of dog walkers and people out for a stroll but that’s increased significantly during the covidian interval. This shrub, Viburnum carlesii, is scattered through the area and right now, you can often smell it before you see it. The fragrance it strong, spicy, and sweet with a hint to me of vanilla. This and Viburnum × burkwoodii, which is cross with V. utile, are among the best viburnums for fragrance (and it’s possible that the one in this photo is the hybrid rather than the species). In fact, Cathy has requested that I plant one in our yard when we’re able to browse the garden centers once more.
The plant this gooseberry flower is on was one that Albert had growing in his yard. Brady left me dig it up before she moved out of that house and it’s done very well against our back fence. Dorothy made little tarts with gooseberries from it last year and it looks to have a pretty good crop again this year, if the number of flowers tells us anything. The flowers are generally considered insignificant, at least from an ornamental standpoint. They are quite small and not particularly showy except from very close but they are actually pretty little things. The gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa) is native to Europe, N. Africa, and the Caucasus and is, as you’d guess, primarily grown for it’s wonderfully tart fruit. The leaves of gooseberries contain hydrogen cyanide, a toxin that, in sufficient quantities, is pretty bad for you.
Cathy and I took a break in the early afternoon and took a walk in the neighborhood. We got mail for someone else delivered to us (same house number, different street, happens fairly often) and we wanted to take it to the correct address. I carried my camera, as I usually do on walks, and took pictures of a few azaleas starting to bloom in the neighborhood. There are quite a lot around here, although most are just starting to come out. Soon the neighborhood will be full of color. Actually, it’s already full of color, but there will be more and different colors.
After work today I sat out in the yard. It was quite warm and I was enjoying the birds singing in the early evening. There is a family of house wrens (Troglodytes aedon) that have nested in a small, ceramic bird house hanging from our cherry tree and they make themselves known. I got a few photos of the wren but they’re small birds and I wasn’t really that close to it. I also surprised a rabbit (an eastern cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus), who came around the corner and found himself much closer to me that he would have liked. He froze long enough for me to get a pretty good close up. But I decided to post this photo of the Exbury azalea that’s just finishing up a really nice blooming season.
Many years ago my dad gave me a subscription to a thing called The Seed Guild. The idea was that this guy had relationships with botanical gardens and arboreta around the world and had worked out an arrangement where he collected seeds from them and distributed them to Seed Guild members. I don’t remember the details but I do know the seeds for this lilac came from there. The catalogs I have (from the late 1990s) list three species, Syringa amurensis, S. josikaea, and S. wolfii, so I assume it’s one of those three. I’m leaning towards the last of them, which may more properly be known now as Syringa villosa subsp. wolfii (C.K.Schneid.). I had it growing in a container for many years and it never got very big. When we moved here in 2006 I planted it in the back garden and now it’s about 8 feet tall and obviously doing well.
Although it will bloom off and on throughout the summer, there really is nothing to compare with the first flush of blooms on even the best repeat flowering (or remontant) roses. This rose will have at least a few blossoms on it from now until well into the fall but right now, it’s so covered with buds that by this weekend we’ll be hit with their heady fragrance as we come out the front door. We really couldn’t ask much more from a plant. The flowers are small and delicate but really pack a punch in terms of their small, which is wonderful.
I really do try not to have pictures that are very much alike, especially near each other. However, I’m a few days behind in posting things and I often take pictures forgetting what I’ve photographed in previous days. Or, I take pictures of a variety of things and then pick one that I like, forgetting that a few days later I took a similar photo and have less to choose from. It’s that sort of thing the brings you the second photo of Rose ‘Perle d’Or’ in four days. Sorry about that. But you have to admit this is a really pretty flower.
Last year my second cousin, Lyn, gave me a cutting of a climbing rose he has growing behind his house in North Carolina. It’s been in a pot since then but I finally got it planted this weekend.
Lyn said that the rose this came from was it turn taken from a rose that was given to his mother by Virginia, the wife of my grandfather’s (and Lyn’s grandmother’s) first cousin, Archie.
I’m pretty sure this is the rose ‘Dr. W. Van Fleet’, a repeat flowering sport of which became ‘New Dawn’ and was the first plant to receive a patent (i.e. plant patent ID #1). Interestingly, another rose on his property, one which has been there since it was his grandparents’ house, is almost certainly ‘American Pillar’, a rambling rose bred in the first years of the twentieth century by Dr. William Van Fleet (in Glendale, Maryland).
The gooseberries (Ribes uva-crispa) are just about ripe. The squerrals are eating them as they ripen up and I don’t think we’re actually going to get much of a harvest. That’s our own fault, because we haven’t protected them and aren’t going out each morning to pick them as they ripen up. I don’t mind, terribly, although I have been picking and eating them when I do go out. They are just the right combination of sweet and tart. If I had a bit of land and used some of it for vegetable gardening, I think I’d plant a row of these and put a net over them. I might put a net over this one next year, although it’s against the fence and that might make it tricky.
In April I ordered three David Austin Roses. They arrived on May 3 and because they were bare root, I put them in a pot until I could get around to planting them in the ground. I planted them two weeks later on May 17. This is the first of them to bloom. It’s called ‘The Poet’s Wife’ and it’s not clear for whom it is named. As you can see, it’s a yellow rose and along with the other two, I’m hoping it will do well in our garden. It’s supposed to grow to about four feet tall, although measurements like that are generally very specific but in practice fall within a very broad range. We’ll see.