Friday, July 17, 2015

July Bloom Day (I'm late to the party!)

I have so enjoyed seeing what's blooming in others' gardens on Bloom Day.  It's a series of inspiring armchair garden tours, seeing what everyone grows that I do, or don't and wish I did, how they combine plants, and what they choose to highlight.  I'm finally participating with images from my own garden, though I'm several days late. For more Bloom Day coverage go to May Dreams Garden   So here goes:

Begonia 'Bepared' Dragon Wing Red

Clethra barbinervis,  Japanese  Clethra

Begonia (If anyone knows which one, I'd love to know)
Spirea, maybe 'Magic Carpet' ,  in a trough 

Astilbe chinensis 'Pumila' with Osmunda regalis to the left and Carex pensylvanica below

Alternanthera 'Purple Knight' with unknown Begonia 

Aesculus parviflora, Bottlebrush Buckeye

Rudeeckia volunteer 
Thalictrum rochebruneanum, Meadow rue

Agastache 'Summer Sunset' and  A. 'Tango' 
Eutrochium maculatum 'Gateway', Joe Pye Weed

Echinacea 'Ruby Star'
Hosta 'Sum and Substance' with Hakonekloa macra  'Aureola '  
Callirhoe involucrata, Wine cups

Eryngium yuccifolium, Rattlesnake master
Portulaca 'Pazazz' series ? 
Hydrangea quercifolia, (could be 'Snow Queen' ) Oakleaf Hydrangea
Veronicastrum virginicum 'Lavendar Towers', Culvers Root

Ligularia 'Desdemona' (I think)  in bud with Dryopteris goldiana 

Liatris spicata 'Alba',  Blazing Star, through the inflorescence of Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' 

The fruit on Rhus  'Laciniata' , Cutleaf  Sumac 

Rehmannia angulata  'Rufus', Chinese Foxglove 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cuckoo for Keukenhof: The Garden of Dutch Bulb Growers

I wasn't sure I wanted to visit what I thought might be a kind of "Disney Bulb Land" at the famous Dutch public garden of Keukenhof, but I'm glad I did.  After all, the story of bulb flora culture, especially tulips, is inextricably linked to the history of the Netherlands.  Most of Keukenhof's displays are designed by bulb companies.  Massing a single bulb variety seems to predominate, but they also demonstrate less rigid planting schemes.  Impressive mature shrubs and trees grow throughout the almost 80 acres of about 7 million bulbs and help to moderate what otherwise could be bulb over-stimulation. Several indoor pavilions were stuffed with extravagant displays of orchids and lilies, and a rather wimpy exhibit told the history of Tulipmania. 

Two connecting buses, about an hour ride total from Amsterdam, got me to Keukenhof.  (You can also take the train.) I visited in early May when there was still plenty in bloom and took these pictures with my cell phone, as I had filled the card on my camera and forgotten to bring an extra one.

This planting combination included single and double hybrids and species tulips, muscari, and anemone.  As one of the gardeners I spoke to told me, they can get about 9 weeks  of bloom out of some of the mixed plantings, which are so dense you need to get close to notice everything that is there.   

It's not just the bulbs, but the "window dressing" is pretty spectacular as well.  I love the geometry of these clipped trees and hedges, which set off displays of older varieties and species bulbs in this section.
An allee of Chestnut trees

A couple favorite old bulb varieties: Tulipa saxatilis, which produced the cultivar 'Lilac Wonder.' The straight species is native to Crete and western Turkey.  Below it is Narcissus triandrus, native to France, Spain and Portugal, a dainty daffodil producing multiple flowers on a single stem and commonly known as Angel's Tears because of the drooping flowers.  'Thalia' is commonly known cultivar.  

A staute of 16th century botanist Carolus Clusius (aka Charles de l'Ecluse) sits in the historic section of Keukenhof.   He established one of the earliest botanical gardens in Leyden and is credited with laying the foundation for the Dutch bulb trade. (More about him here.)  Tulipa clusiana 'Cynthia' is cultivar worth trying.    

At the edge of Kuekenhof is a classic Dutch view of the surrounding bulb fields -- here a swath of tomato-red--and the very flat, open terrain.

This was an amusing bit of fakery.  Don the hat, pick up the brush and palette, dab at the canvas provided and you can appear to be an artiste en plein air!   Pretty convincing, eh?  

A variety of containers

Not my favorite color combination, but I appreciate the variety of plants -- Euphorbia (polychroma?), Heuchera, Geranium 'Samabor', and Alchemila mollis.

Accompanying succulents!

And here too. 
Building the Lily display

Our native Cypripedium was represented in the Orchid display 

Those dark figures are women in burqas

A rain storm didn't keep this intrepid gardener from his work slicing off stems of spent flowers to keep things tidy.  Two gardeners (both men) told me that 50 gardeners plant all the bulbs starting the first of October and finishing by the end of December.  It is now done by machine, but not that long ago was done by hand.  Both of them have been at Keukenhof for about 20 years.  Once finished, all the bulbs are ripped out and discarded.  

The effects of botrytis, a common tulip fungus, is why hybrid tulip plantings in many public spaces and gardens are dug up and thrown out after blooming.  (It is done here in the Washington, DC.) The fungus is difficult to control and prevents many of the hybrids from re-blooming reliably from year to year.  For regular bloom, the smaller species tulips are a better choice, though, as Keukenhof demonstrates, you can't beat the showiness of a hybrid tulips.  

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Seals are Back! Who Loves them, Who Doesn't?

I've been spending time on Cape Cod in the summer since the mid-1980s and my husband started going there as a kid in the mid 50's.  Neither of us remembers seeing gray seals in the water or on the beaches until about six or seven years ago.  (Well, my husband claims he saw them on rare occasions, sailing in Provincetown Harbor when he was very young.)

It's quite a different story now.  We see them every summer, almost every day we are there.

At first, it was just a head popping up in the surf off of  the Atlantic-side beaches of  Wellfleet and Truro. Was that really a seal?  It was thrilling to see them. Not surprisingly, Cape fisherman were aware of the seals' return for far longer.

Then we started reading in the local (and national) news about the large colonies that would congregate on sandbars at low-tide , places like the Chatham sandbar, and at Truro's Head of the Meadow beach.  Here they are last September on Wellfleet's Coast Guard Beach -- hundreds of them lounging on the sand and swimming in the shallow water between the bar and the beach.

They have drawn fans who, like us, were cheered to see that the species has rebounded since the killing of seals was outlawed in the early 1970's.

This was a blustery day and no longer peak tourist season, so a relatively small crowd is trekking down the beach to get a closer look.

Along with the seals have come greater numbers of  Great White sharks, which prey on the seal's fatty meat.  Beaches have been closed due to shark sightings.  Swimmers are advised to stay out of the water if seals are present (common sense, no?)  as well as in the late afternoon when sharks tend to feed.  But some Cape Codders have tried to embrace the sharks; Chatham launched a campaign too attract visitors with shark tourism.   The resurgence of seals and sharks has also provided new opportunities for research by scientists at places such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Northeast Fisheries Services Center (NEFSC)

Cape Cod's fishermen are not so excited to see the seals returning by the thousands, as this news report explains.  They view the seals as competitors, consuming ever greater numbers of the fish they depend on for their livelihood.

The situation is a bit reminiscent of the return of wolves to western states, where ranchers complain that their livestock are being preyed upon by wolves.  Since wolves have been removed from the endangered list, ranchers, scientists and animal rights activists often struggle to find ways to satisfy each others interests.  Some advocate for culling the herds, others fight for better livestock management practices.

For now, the seals of Cape Cod remain a protected species.  But, as the populations increase so will the pressure to deal with similar competing interests.