Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Signs of life

In the midst of winter, there are buds. It was sleeting this morning when I ventured out and took this photo. This is Daphne Odora, commonly known as Winter Daphne. In a few weeks, it should be in full bloom. The blooms have a wonderful lemony fragrance.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

14th Annual Urban Forestry and Horticulture Conference

I will be working with the Beautification Board at this conference - I have been assigned to photograph the speakers.

"Designing and Maintaining the Urban Landscape" - Feb. 18, 2009. The conference will be held at Cross Point Church of Christ, 1350 Cox Creek Parkway, Florence. Three track programs include "Urban Forestry", "Horticulture" and "Pesticide Application". For more details about the specific programs and for an registration form, here is the brochure.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


It may have a funny name but Possumhaw (Ilex decidua) is a dazzling addition to the winter garden.

A deciduous holly, the dark green leaves turn bright yellow in the fall and shed before brilliant red-orange berries appear in November or December. The berries persist throughout winter. They seem to be unappetizing to birds but I read that birds like them after they have frozen and thawed. Possums too are said to like the berries, so maybe that is where the name comes in.

It may be a good thing if birds don't like to eat the Possumhaw berries because they do wonders to enhance a bleak grey garden. Only the female plants produce the berries and they must be pollinated. I only have one plant so I suspect that it is pollinated by Ilex opaca (American Holly) which reside on the opposide end of our property.

Possumhaw can grow up to 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. This makes me nervous as I planted this one in the perennial/shrub border where space is at a minimum. I've seen photos of them limbed up and resembling standards (they are often referred to as trees). I've had this one planted for at least three years and growth appears to be very slow.

They are easy to grow and prefer moist, acidic soil but they tolerate alkaline soils equally well. They are also tolerant of wet conditions. There are many varieties available. I want to say that this particular variety is "Warren's Red" but I'm not certain about that.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Count for Fun, Count for the Future
February 13-16, 2009

Bird and nature fans throughout North America are invited to join tens of thousands of bird watchers for the 12th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 13-16, 2009.

A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this free event is an opportunity for families, students, and people of all ages to discover the wonders of nature in backyards, schoolyards, and local parks, and, at the same time, make an important contribution to conservation.

“Anyone who can identify even a few species can contribute to the body of knowledge that is used to inform conservation efforts to protect birds and biodiversity,” said Audubon Education Vice-President, Judy Braus.

Volunteers take part by counting birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the event and reporting their sightings online at The data help researchers understand bird population trends across the continent, information that is critical for effective conservation. In 2008, participants submitted more than 85,000 checklists, a new record.

“The GBBC has become a vital link in the arsenal of continent wide bird-monitoring projects,” said Cornell Lab of Ornithology director John Fitzpatrick. “With more than a decade of data now in hand, the GBBC has documented striking changes in late-winter bird distributions.”

Participants submit thousands of digital images for the GBBC photo contest each year. Last year’s winners have been chosen and are now posted on the web site. Participants are also invited to upload their bird videos to YouTube tagged “GBBC.” Some of them will also be featured on the GBBC web site. All participants will be entered in a drawing to win dozens of birding items, including stuffed birds, clocks, books, feeders, and more.

Businesses, schools, nature clubs, Scout troops, and other community organizations interested in the GBBC can contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 (outside the U.S., call (607) 254-2473), or Audubon at or (215) 355-9588, Ext 16.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible, in part, by support from Wild Birds Unlimited.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Garden scenes

The bloggers at Gardening Gone Wild ask the question "What movies have inspired your garden making?"

I had to think about this for some time. I've seen a lot of movies in my lifetime. These days I find my movie watching to be tapering off a little. Maybe I'm getting older and my tastes for current movies is waning (it seems that the only movies out nowadays are either animated or based on a comic book). I also find that the older I get, I don't want to see a depressing film. In my college days, I was crazy about the film "Tess". I saw it four times at the theater. Granted, I did write a research paper on the novel and that probably enhanced my interest but the movie enchanted me and yes, there are some nice landscapes to gaze upon. Recently, I started to watch this film again, and just could not go there again. The subject matter and outcome is is just too depressing!

As far as movies about gardening go though, there's just not a lot to choose from. The obvious ones have been mentioned by other bloggers. I too adored "Enchanted April", "Saving Grace", "Green Card" and "Greenfingers".

Ditto for the Merchant/Ivory films. Like many other movie watchers, "A Room With A View" introduced me to these wonderful filmmakers whose works are like a sumptuous dessert that you want to savor. My other favorites are "Maurice" and "Howard's End". I purchased a new Blue-Ray dvd player recently and plopped in "A Room With A View" to test it and was just blown away by the scene where they take a buggy ride in the Italian countryside. Art in motion!

And of course there is "The Secret Garden". I collect editions of this book but it is a book that I didn't discover until I was an adult. I've seen all the film versions as well and my favorite is the most recent, made in 1993. It is a gorgeous film to look at and has a haunting score. It also features the great Maggie Smith as Mrs. Medlock!

I was thinking about movies that are not necessarily about gardening or English period pieces but movies that had displayed memorable gardens. Oddly enough, the one that comes to my mind first, is in "Bram Stoker's Dracula", released in 1992. I think this is one of the most artistic movies ever made. It features my ideal garden. You step outside your bedroom (or in this case, Lucy Westenra's bedroom) onto a large stone terrace and the garden lies spread out below you, a sumptuous English sunken garden enclosed with green hedges, a large fountain and reflecting pool in the center and bowers of roses dripping from archways around the perimeter.

Of course this garden was created on a movie set. In fact, I recently learned that it was filmed on a set that once housed the large pool where the Esther Williams movies were made. Ah, the magic of Hollywood!

My absolute favorite though is not a movie at all but a television series from the UK. "Rosemary & Thyme", starring Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris, is about two professional gardeners and amateur sleuths who get involved in a murder mystery with every job they take. The gardens in this series were actually filmed on location and are not sets. Some of the locations include manor houses in the English countryside, London's Kew Gardens and Regent's Park, the French Riviera and Italy's Ligurian coast, a Surrey vineyard and the hills of Málaga, Spain. If you haven't seen the series, the complete dvd set is available from Amazon or you can rent it from Netflix.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

She's blooming

The amaryllis 'Floris Hecker' started blooming on New Years Day and now has 3 gorgeous blooms. I've moved it to the living room where we can enjoy it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Winter planting

I posted last week about transplanting. Winter is also a great time to plant hardy trees and shrubs. The weather was mild this past weekend and I knew that heavy rain was on the way, so I wanted to get some new plants in the ground.

First, out with the old. It really kills me to discard a plant but this juniper is too big for this spot (it totally blocks and crowds the beautiful Japanese Maple behind it) and it keeps encroaching on the driveway. I decided to replace it with a low growing camellia.

This looks rather sad but the new camellia ('Chansonette') is in place. The Japanese Maple can now be seen and the balance of this planting area should be more pleasing to the eye once the camellia takes off. This still leaves a large hole on the left side so I'll be looking for something to put there. Low growing shrub under a dogwood tree - any suggestions?

Here is another new camellia that I bought - this one is "Showa No Sakae"

This is Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Gulftide' also known as "False Holly." Sweet Olive (Osmanthus fragrans) is my favorite fragrant plant in the garden but I had never seen this variety.

The leaves are totally different from the regular sweet olive and they do indeed look like holly. I'm excited about this shrub and I'm curious to see if it blooms as well as the Osmanthus fragrans.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

May your new year be full of blue skies, ample rain, good health and cheer. Happy New Year to you and yours!