Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Waiting for my orchid to bloom is like...

...being a kid again, waiting for Christmas morning to arrive. It takes FOREVER! Finally, it happened. I returned home to Blacksburg to find my Brassavola x 'Little Stars' at full tilt boogie. The past few years, I wasn't giving it enough sunlight, so no blooms. However, I happen to have some sunnier windows in my current apartment and, TADA, three flower stalks this year! It is so exciting! And, the the blooms are night fragrant so in the evening when I get home from work I am greeted by a sweet, sweet smell.

Unfortunately, one of the three flower stalks up and died on me, but hey, I'll take what I can get. After a few years of no blooms, this is great. If anyone knows why this happens, please share!

P.S This is where I got this little guy: http://www.floradise.com/
P.P.S. For all you geeks out there, I believe this is a hybrid of B. nodosa, a Central and South American native and B. cordata, a Jamaican native.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More ID!

Well, I still haven't identified the plants from the previous post but was able to identify some others from the vault:

This one on the left is Chimaphila maculata, spotted 0r striped pipsissewa. According to Alan Armitage, the leaves are quite refreshing when chewed! Interesting. That is probably why it has another common name of striped wintergreen (not to be confused with the other wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens).

The other photo is of a terrestrial orchid, Goodyera pubescens or downy rattlesnake-plantain. Some folks thought the beautiful white venation on its leaves was reminiscent of markings on rattlesnake skin and the persistent flower structure reminiscent of a rattler's tail. There is evidence indicating its past use as a remedy for snakebites yet my cursory research suggests
G. pubescens
was most likely given this indication based on its appearance solely.

For more info on these plants, check out the links below:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Walk in the Woods

Every time I go hiking in the woods, I realize just how much I don't know. My camera is loaded with pictures of plants I cannot identify. So, maybe you readers out there can help me. I am going to start posting more images of mystery pants and if you know what they are, feel free to share.

Let's start with these two images. They must be fairly common as I have encountered them almost every time I have ventured into the woods. Looking forward to getting to know them! Happy Hunting!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


So, as it turns out, the mystery plant previously posted is Ambrosia trifida, giant ragweed. Many thanks to Tom Wieboldt, Curator at Virginia Tech's Massey Herbarium, for help on the ID! To all of you allergy and hay fever sufferers out there, this plant is your worst nightmare!

Check out the links below for some additional infomation:


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Holy Smokes!

Check out the double rainbow that appeared through the clouds at the garden's first "Music in the Garden" concert. A spectacular event made truly unforgettable. Thanks Mother Nature.

P.S. After this photo was taken, the crowd quickly dispersed to find the four pots of gold at the ends of the rainbows.

P.P.S. No word on the booty.

Garden Thievery

To my horror, I discovered that someone lifted some Sempervivum out of one of the garden's hypertufa planters. Two different kinds are missing; I am particularly sad about the disappearance of a 'Cobweb' -y looking cultivar called 'Forest Frost'. Shame on you, thief.

We don't really have a big problem with disappearing plants. The last plant I can remember disappearing was a Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost', back when it had just come out on the market. Hopefully, we won't have any more sticky fingers in the garden for a long while!

Stroke That Plant, Part Deux ... Finally!

If you are still wondering about those stroke-able leaves and did not check out the "comment" section where Dan Benarcik, horticulturist/plantsman extraordinaire at Chanticleer garden in Wayne, PA, solved the mystery, those leaves belong to (drum roll please.............) Veratrum viride!

Totally strokeable leaves, but will most likely make you vomit (or worse!) Check out this abstract from the FDA 's Poisonous Plant Database:

AUTHOR(S): Crummett, D.; Bronstein, D.; Weaver, Z. III
TITLE: Accidental Veratrum viride poisoning in three "ramp" foragers.
YEAR: 1985 CITATION: N C Med J, 46(9), 469-471 [English]
FDA #: F05735
ABSTRACT: Conclusion and Summary: As with all foraged foods, ramps must be carefully identified, preferably by an experienced person, prior to ingestion. Identification will be aided by the strong odor of leeks. Mistaken ingestion of Veratrum viride can have serious conmplications including first and second degree atrioventricular block, significant hypotension, respiratory depression and even death. With "ramps" gaining increasing popularity, western North Carolina physicians should be suspicious of accidental Veratrum viride poisoning in patients appearing toxic after the ingestion of "ramps". GRIN #: 41142 Exit Disclaimer
STANDARD COMMON NAME: American hellebore
FAMILY: Melanthiaceae
LATIN NAME: Veratrum viride
STANDARD PLANT NAME: Veratrum viride Aiton

Don't think I'll nibble on this!

Some more links:
http://www.delawarewildflowers.org/bucktoe.php (scroll down to see another image)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stroke That Plant! Part One

While taking the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway home to Richmond a few weekends ago, I stopped along the side of the road to check out this little woodland wetland. This is what I saw...

Wowsers! I only wish I could identify this for you right now. Alas, it is past 9:30 p.m. I am tired and do not want to go digging for the answer this very moment. Tune in later for the scoop on this sexy plant.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mr. Frost Nailed It

In honor of springtime in Blacksburg...sleet, temperatures in low 40s, winds at 15 mph with gusts to 30 mph... but we'll all forget how miserable it was today as we frolic in the sun on Saturday...

“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.”

- Robert Frost
Excerpt from “Two Tramps in Mudtime"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Muscari latifolium - no fuss, no muss.

The more common Muscari armeniacum (Grape Hyacinth) has delightful wee grape-cluster flowers, but all that FOLIAGE...it's like a green mop (physiologically speaking, that's an awful lot of leaves to produce such a little flower).

May I introduce you to Muscari latifolium - cute two-tone flower, and just one leaf per flower stem. Now that's efficient. You can get 500 of them for $140 at Brent and Becky's Bulbs. Or 10 for $4.30. Eh, go for the 500.

Stephanie at work helping get kid's butts off the sofa

Badly worded title, but you get my drift. By working with teachers-to-be through the national Project Learning Tree program, she's influencing future educators, who will in turn make a difference in how a child perceives and interacts with the environment.
Program's motto "Helps you learn how to think, not what to think, about the environment."
Good stuff.

Long time no post!

Our posting drought endeth NOW. Sorry for interruption. Spring's been a bit busy around here, but we don't want to lose our loyal blog readers (all five of them!)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spring is coming, dang it!

Just a quick post to let you know what's blooming in the Garden:

Some Helleborus foetidus located along the Trident Maple Allee...

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane'
located near the small pond...

and some more Witchhazel, located under the pines in the Meadow Garden.

Check back for more soon!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ripley Garden at Smithsonian Sustains Damage from Inauguration Crowds

Some unfortunate news from the good folks at Garden Rant regarding the Ripley Garden in D.C. - the lovely domain of upcoming Hahn Horticulture Garden Winter Seminar speaker Janet Draper (Feb. 26).
Follow this link to the Garden Rant blog.

Below: spiny Solanum quitoense at the Ripley, one of Janet's favorite "annuals from seed".
photo h. scoggins

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Myriad Benefits of Gardening

A cross-post from my favorite gardening blog "Garden Rant"...
They came across an article in the U.K. Telegraph referencing a study that found "Gardening Boosts Men's Sex Lives..."
Well, duh! Here's Joel helping me build YET ANOTHER bed at our place (note his golf clubs leaned optimistically against the truck). I am, of course, very grateful for his assistance. VoilĂ !

The article further states "Some people have become so obsessed about their garden that there are worries that people are getting addicted to the pursuit just like they would to gambling or drugs." Yes, but the outcome is soooo much better, don't you think?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Trade Show Tidbits

Green industry trade shows feature acres of hot new plants and products from all around the world. This is a B2B environment - wholesalers selling to retailers, landscapers, garden centers, etc. Lots of orders are placed; much wining and dining occurs between client and vendor. Many gardeners would give their eye teeth to walk the floor of these behemoths to see the latest and greatest; it's actually not that hard to get in - I've given tips on this before in various seminars and talks. The bummer is you can't "shop" the show per se; nothing can leave the floor until the trade show closes. But if you're willing to hang around, you can buy an entire booth of product at wholesale prices - trees, shrubs, perennial plugs, etc., because the vendor's really not interested in lugging it back to wherever.

Here's a few cool things I saw last week at MANTS - the Mid Atlantic Nursery Trade Show, held in the Baltimore convention center (not to be confused with PANTS - the Pennsylvania show). Virginia Tech always has a great presence there - tons of our alumni exhibit at the show, and we always represent with some faculty and staff from Horticulture and CALS.

A flock of Aloe, all in perfectly synchronized bloom just for the tradeshow. From the fabulous Carolina Nurseries, way down near Charleston.

A whacky little thing called Synogonanthus chrysanthus 'Mikado'. Cute but apparently fussy - moderate temperatures, lots of moisture but not water-logged = certain death on my windowsill.

A gorgeous new coleus from the Ball Seed empire - this one's 'Henna'. The darned sales guy would not move away from it long enough for me to brush up against it and...well, never mind.

Friday, January 2, 2009


This past Tuesday night, a powerful windstorm swept through Blacksburg and wreaked a bit of havoc in the garden. Two trees went down: our Picea glauca in the front corner of the garden and some kind of fir ( I think!) bordering the food science parking lot, which took out the tree-form Euonymous directly in front of it...so I guess that makes three down!

Check out some pictures of the carnage...

Ancient Plants of Pandapas Pond

On a recent trip to Pandapas Pond, I strayed off the beaten path and found a little colony of this plant, what I have amateurishly identified as Lycopodium digitatum in the family of Lycopodiaceae, one of the three families occuring within the group, the Lycophytes (The other two are Selaginellaceae and Isoetaceae).

What is so interesting about these little, easy-to-miss plants, you may be asking yourselves... Well, I think of these little plants as time-travel plants. More specifically, whenever I encounter a plant like this, I feel like I just traveled WAY, WAY back in time. The Lycophytes emerged approximately 400 MILLION years ago, although it is thought that most of the extant species within Lycopodiaceae emerged about 80-90 million years ago...still pretty old to me! These ancient plants impart the same profound feeling as when I see an old, beautiful tree; its history and spirit are impossible to ignore!

Other interesting facts about the Lycopodiaceae family per Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach:

[The] oily, highly flammable compounds in the spore wall ignite rapidly into a flash of light and were used by magicians and sorcerers in the Middle Ages, as a flash in early photography, and in the first (experimental) photocopying machines. The spores have been used as industrial lubricants and formerly were used to prevent rubber cohesion in condoms and surgical gloves.

P.S. I wasn't sure whether my old Plant Systematics textbook would ever come in handy, but it sure enough did! Interesting stuff!