Thursday, December 31, 2015

Storeria dekayi Northern brown snake: not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse - but this snake was!

This northern brown snake was up and about in Wayne's garden on Christmas Day. His garden is home to a stable population of ringneck snakes, but he sees the northern brown snake less frequently. He released the snake after the video was made.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Schlumbergera Christmas cactus blooming right on schedule

I was given this Christmas cactus in 2014. It bloomed well last year, and as you can see it's blooming well this year, too. This little video was made on December 30, 2015. The winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum, in the background is in full bloom.
Schlumbergera × Buckleyi Group

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Winter jasmine and Santa Claus

It got cold last night, as cold as it’s gotten so far this season. I got up at about 4:15 and checked the thermometer: ours read 31̊° F. When I talked to Wayne later this morning, he told me his read 24° F. The readings here are generally higher than down there (he’s downstream from here,  at a lower level and south of here,  so it’s down in at least three senses). We had been getting such disparate readings for months, so we decided to use a third thermometer to check out our readings. It turns out that the differences are real and our thermometers are accurate.
It was brisk when I walked Biscuit this morning, but the sun was out and warm; at about 11 A.M. I let her out again, and this time I sat outside to keep an eye on her. The winter jasmine has over a hundred flowers open near the front door, so I moved my chair so that I could enjoy this view. Every time I go out or come in through the front door I pass this plant, and it’s had flowers for me for the last month. It is sheltered by the house wall and the huge fastigiate (but now with a much expanded waistline) Cephalotaxus, so the house entrance is in a little protected nook and its own microclimate. As I sat there, the sun quickly warmed my jacket, and I comfortably settled down into this cozy little niche.
Soon I heard the sirens at the end of our street, and I remembered that this must be the day that Santa Clause comes through the neighborhood on a fire truck – he is accompanied by helpers who distribute candy canes. This has probably happened every year since we moved here – over a half century ago! Mom loved Christmas, and she probably never missed Santa’s annual visit and the candy cane distribution.  So I decided to wait and greet Santa and get a candy cane.
I can remember from long ago seeing groups of people, family groups, lining the street awaiting Santa’s arrival. Today I was the only one out there on our block. At the far end of the street I saw what might have been two other people waiting at the curbside; otherwise the street was deserted. As Santa went by on his fire truck I got some pictures and a candy cane. I got the pictures because I could not help but wonder how much longer this tradition will continue.

I brought the candy cane in and put it beside mom’s picture. I could still hear the sirens off in the distance, and then nearby I heard the voices of excited children. I peeked out the door and saw my neighbor with her two children at the curbside. She was peering down the street, evidently trying to decide which way Santa was going. I went out and let them know that Santa had already passed. At that, her daughter piped up and said that she wanted a candy cane. So at that I went in and got “mom’s” candy cane and gave it to them. That’s something mom would have done!   

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A mid-December bouquet

Mid-December gleanings 
I made a quick tour of the garden yesterday afternoon to look for things in bloom. I was not disappointed; the things collected were quickly arranged on the platter seen above. Then I took it to a meeting of our rock garden club that evening. By the time I got around to photographing it, things had shifted around a bit. If you are patient, you can make out Helleborus niger, Helleborus foetidus, Jasminum nudiflorum, Camellia sasanqua, Iris unguicularis and I. cretensis and a leaf of Arum italicum. The Camellia sasanqua is one home-grown from seed (the seed was planted on October 16, 1973!).

Bignonia capreolata

Bignonia capreolata 

As a boy I knew this plant as Bignonia capreolata. Then, for much of the last half of the twentieth century, it was Anisostichus capreolatus. It's apparently now back to Bignonia.
In October, 1980, when I drove down to Clemmons North Carolina to meet Wayne's parents, I climbed up into a tree to collect seeds of this plant. Plants raised from those seeds now cover the facade of the house.
While working in the garden today I noticed something interesting. Some of the usually evergreen foliage of this plant is coloring up, and the colors are very close to the color of the blossoms.
Half of December has passed, and we have yet to have prolonged freezes. One result of this is that many woody plants are ripening their foliage much later than usual - and in the process are showing unusual leaf colors. Some seedling oaks which in the past were never notable for autumn color have been very attractive this year. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Camellia japonica 'Morris Mercury'

Camellia japonica 'Morris Mercury' 

This is a new arrival here, from Camellia Forest earlier this year. It has the potential to be an important part of the garden in the long run. For one thing, it will probably prove to be cold hardy here. It was named at the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia: if it can take the winters there, it should have no trouble here. For another, it's got red flowers. Red-flowered camellias blooming in the snow are one of my favorite camellia effects. For another, it's a fall-blooming cultivar of Korean stock Camellia japonica. There are red-flowered Camellia sasanqua - 'Yuletide' is the one usually seen locally; 'Yuletide' has good flower color, but it seems to lack hardiness. I've never seen a big one locally. 'Morris Mercury' has bright red flowers which are larger than those of 'Yuletide', and if it proves to be hardier than 'Yuletide' it should eventually make a large shrub. A large, hardy, evergreen shrub with red flowers in late November and December: what's not to like?
I hope if I'm writing about this one five years from now all of my expectations have been fulfilled!
The flower in the image was taken today - I expect later blooms to have better form; it's from a plant still in the pot in which it was shipped.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tulipa doerfleri

Tulipa doerfleri

Doerfler's tulip is a Cretan endemic, and so far as I am aware it has not appeared in the trade. Mine came from a friend (thanks, Alice!) It's a handsome addition to the expanding list of small wild tulips suitable for our gardens. All these plants need is sun and moisture during the growing season and a reasonably dry summer. 

Wayne and Jim get married!

Wayne on the left, Jim on the right 
It took long enough: we met thirty-eight years ago, but it took the law nearly that long to catch up with our intentions. Earlier this year we took care of a lot of legal stuff - our wills, domestic partnership stuff and so on. From the beginning we wanted the wedding to be small; as it turned out, it was very small indeed. We opted for a self-officiated wedding (look it up - it's the opposite of Bridezilla's wedding). We went down to the wedding licence office in the District of Columbia on Monday, November 16, and after about twenty minutes with the clerk we had our wedding licence. We didn't expect that to happen so fast. The wedding had to take place in Washington, D.C. so we quickly considered several possibilities. Wayne suggested we go to the place we met: 1724 20th Street NW. Those of you who know the history of the local gay community and other activist groups should recognize that address: many organizations had temporary quarters there "back in the day".
So, here we are thirty-eight years later, a married couple: it's like getting an honorary degree!

Wayne photos Jim making strudel