Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What Big Hips You Have...

The ONLY time it's safe to say that and not get slugged is when one is referring to a Rose...
Here's our Rosa rugosa doing its winter thing.

Please note this was taken November 21 - we received a couple of inches of snow PRIOR to Thanksgiving. The high yesterday (Dec. 22) was 20 F. Looking like it's going to be a cold winter here in the 'burg. So keep warm out there, and Happy Holidays to all!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Whoooo did you see in the garden?

The other day as I was heading out to do some work in the garden, I heard the incessant cackling of a large group of crows. They seemed to be going after something, so I set my stuff down and started to follow the ruckus. Turns out, the crows were chasing a solitary owl. A large, beautiful owl, that we later identified as a Barred Owl. So, I called Stephanie Huckestein, our Education and Outreach Coordinator, to come out to watch this sight with me. I figured it was too good of a wildlife sighting to not share with anyone. We ran around, from tree to tree, following this whole winged drama. Finally, the owl made its way to a large Norway Spruce, Picea abies. Poor thing was getting mauled by the crows, so we started to make what we decided were owl sounds, and lo and behold, the crows left. We stood guard of the owl for a while, hooting, whenever the crows made an attempt to return. He stayed there in the spruce for a spell, probably enjoying the quiet, until I tried to get in a little too close for a picture. Ooops. Still got a pretty good one. Anyways, a pretty exciting afternoon, I must say!

Later, we came to find out that owls prey on baby crows and so perhaps the crows were just protecting their young. Oh well, the owl was so outnumbered it was hard not to take his side!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


That I May Serve...

A motto I am proud to be associated with and words I strive to live up to. Part of a public garden's mission is to serve its visitors as a place providing respite, education, and many other wonderful things. I am proud to say that our asphalt pathway is just about finished! It is already creating much wonderful traffic through the garden, and allowing for new traffic that we previously have not been able to host, like wheelchairs, walkers, and strollers.

I 've heard a number of people express their dismay over the choice of asphalt as the material for the path. To be honest, I used to feel similarly. But, as I have had time to reflect on the purpose of the pathway and its ability to open the garden for so many new visitors, I have become its largest fan. So, to the asphalt haters, take a moment to think of this new pathway system with Virginia Tech's motto in mind and you too will see the beauty of it all.

P.S. Ut Prosim aside, on a purely aesthetic level, I think the pathway is looking quite nice! Come check it out!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Titan Arum Blooms in Milwaukee

An Amorphophallus titanum is about to bloom! Just follow the media frenzy and associated hyperbole "...a terrible stench that can be smelled for miles." Oh please.
But the webcam is cool...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Garden Seminar

This is a "must see" seminar! Dr. Olsen is extremely knowledgeable and a total woody plant guru.

Thursday, February 12 6:00-8:00pm at Fralin Auditorium

"Great Woody Plants for Blue Ridge Gardens: New Favorites and Old Friends"

Dr. Richard Olsen, Research Geneticist, US National Arboretum "New plant introductions, whether as novel species or new forms of old favorites, continue to fuel the excitement of gardening in the twenty-first century. Dr. Olsen will share his new favorites as well as old friends from travels around the U.S., Europe, and Japan that are deserving of greater attention. Including many that have gone unnoticed in the collections of the U.S. National Arboretum, where he directs the urban tree breeding program."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

‘The Forgotten Annuals….. what happened to growing plants from Seed?’

This blog is a great way to keep you informed of garden events! I will post events as they are scheduled and any special notices regarding events. Check out our website to see a complete listing of Garden Walks and educational seminars and workshops. Our monthly Garden Walks are a one hour walk through the garden with various experts discussing seasonal topics. And they are FREE to all, so join us! We also have great workshops and seminars coming up to keep you in that gardening spirit throughout the winter months.

To register for events, download a form from our website www.hort.vt.edu/hhg, send me an email vtgarden@vt.edu or call me 540-231-5970.

Information on the most recently scheduled seminar is below. We can't wait for Janet to visit! She is full of energy and horticultural knowledge!

Thursday, February 26, 2009 6:00pm Location: Fralin Auditorium

Janet Draper, Horticulturist, Smithsonian Institution, will give an entertaining presentation on “The Forgotten Annuals” which will remind us that annuals are wonderful and easy plants to include in our garden and encourage us to rethink how we can incorporate these amazing beauties in our landscapes. Ms. Draper earned a degree in Horticulture from Purdue University and went on to several internships including Mt. Cuba Center for Native Piedmont Plants in Newark, Delaware; Staudengartnerei Grafin von Stein-Zeppelin (Perennial Nursery of Countess von Stein), Laufen, Germany; and Beth Chatto Gardens, Elmstead Market, England. Ms. Draper has been a horticulturist with the Smithsonian Institution for the past eleven years and is currently in charge of the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

Hope you can join us!


Monday, October 20, 2008

Fascism in the Garden?

So...there is all this buzz in the industry about creating naturalistic gardens. To some it may be a novel idea. To others, a resounding DUH! would be spoken upon the suggestion of such an idea. Nevertheless, many professional designers are declaring that mimicking nature is THE way to create a successful garden. In my humble opinion, I say, maybe it is just A way to create a successful garden. Think about how boring it would be to go to the National Gallery of Art and only see landscape paintings by Claude Lorrain. ZZZZZZZ...What about the works of Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Paul Cezanne, and all the other wonderful artists I failed to mention? We may not get it, or personally choose to create in that fashion, but the fact of the matter is, that piece of work was lovingly, probably painstakingly, created by someone who interpreted their inspiration in that manner. And it is beautiful. The freedom to exercise one's creative spirit in whatever way it manifests is a beautiful thing.

CAUTION! Very obscure reference to follow...

Kevyn Aucoin, a very famous makeup artist who painted some of the most famous faces to grace the catwalk, offered this response to someone touting the "correct" way to pluck an eyebrow (or something...) he said, " Makeup should be fun, not fascist." I think the same is true for gardens. It should be fun. It should be what speaks to our own sensibilities, and we should have the freedom to interpret what we see without having to follow some prescribed, stringent path to success. Whether we want to plant 500 Sporobolus heterolepis, Prairie Dropseed, or just one, we should do so without fear of breaking some gardening law.

All that being said, if I decided to throw out a bunch of that orange mulch and plant only Japanese hollies in the name of artistic freedom, I might be looking for a new job very soon. But hopefully, you readers catch my drift...

"You have to break a few eggs..."

[If Paul says that one more time I'm gonna...]

But it's true. Growing pains can be, well, painful. Bulldozer noises are stressful. Broken irrigation lines are upsetting. But all for a good cause.

Our latest adventure is the installation of a perimeter pathway in the older part of the garden. Part of the Master Plan created way back in 2001, accessible pathways will provide a smooth, safe surface for foot traffic, wheelchairs, walkers, strollers, crutches; all the ways people get around in our garden. Having attempted to push my own mother through the garden in a wheelchair, I can vouch for how challenging it can be. The trident maple allee has closed up to the point we cannot sustain grass in that level of shade, so it's been hardpan for most of this season (or mud on the three days it actually rained). We had the opportunity to piggyback this project on another - VT Facilities and Parking Services are paving the little pavilion parking lot, so for minimal additional cost, the same company will do the path paving.

Estimated completion date for both projects is the end of October.
Progress!!! [ouch]

Monday, October 13, 2008

David Pippin - Floral Design Celebrity (and Friend of the Garden)

David does the Mansion!

Richmond floral designer and educator, creator of beautiful gala arrangements, AND long-time Friend of the Garden, Mr. David Pippin is in charge of Christmas decor for the Governor's Mansion! According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch article by Julie Young:

"Betty Moore didn't know she would be doing homework for Gov. Timothy M. Kaine when she enrolled in a horticulture class at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

Moore and nine fellow students in David Pippin's Christmas florals class are working with horticulturist Shannon Smith at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden to create natural holiday ornaments and arrangements for the Executive Mansion.

Virginia first lady Anne Holton wanted this year's official tree to replicate one Smith did last year for the Ginter library as part of the GardenFest of Lights celebration. The tree was covered with botanical ornaments Smith made out of materials gleaned from Ginter gardens and dried by the staff.

"I saw their all-natural tree at the botanical garden last year and was wowed by its beauty and creativity," Holton said. "The natural materials were extraordinary and highlighted so well."

Amy Bridge, director of the Executive Mansion, told Pippin that Holton's only directive was "no artificial flowers." "But other than that," Pippin said, "we could do whatever we wanted. We did laugh and talk about inflatables on the lawn."

Inflatables...we're so proud!! Read more about David's project here.