Camellia sasanqua 'Setsugekka' at Woodland Cottage

Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’ at Woodland Cottage

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays! Here is a link to my Holiday 2015 Newsletter, full of garden tips and information on our travels this year. Enjoy!

Posted under Garden maintenance, Garden Tours, Garden Travel, Holidays, Newletters, Random garden thoughts, Southern Gardens, The Fall Garden, The Winter Garden, Travel

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on November 28, 2015

The Winter That [Seems Like It] Will Never End…

…but we know it will, of course–eventually.

From this (Bluffton, SC, February 2014)...

From this (Bluffton, SC, February 2014)…

...to this (Arlington,  VA, March 6, 2014)

…to this (Arlington, VA, March 6, 2014)

It’s good to be back home in Arlington, though not to this cold and snow! Except for the ice storm that occurred when I first arrived in North Carolina last month, the Winter weather down South this year was gorgeous.

Winter Damage

The lowest temperature got to 5F in my garden this Winter. Plus, there were several stretches of below-freezing temperatures for several days at a time (including this past week).

Almost all broadleaf evergreens have, at least, some leaf burn on them, as we head into late Winter and early Spring. Some have severe burn. Some leaf burn is very obvious; some not so obvious, yet.

In my travels this Winter, I have seen damage as far south as South Georgia. It has been a cold Winter in the eastern part of the U.S.

Winter damage, Bonaventure Cemetary, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

Winter damage, Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

Ice storm, Wilmington, NC, early February, 2014

Ice storm, Wilmington, NC, early February, 2014

In my own garden, I grow some things that I would not plant in clients’ gardens (before years of testing in local conditions) because their true hardiness in the metro D.C. area is still uncertain. Believe it or not, I welcome a Winter like this one–at least in terms of testing the limits of hardiness for some of the plants in my garden.

The usual suspects have moderate to severe leaf burn: nandinas, loquats, cast iron plants, windmill palms, chindo viburnums, ligustrum, Carolina jessamine, fatsias, loropetalums, camellias, gardenias, mondo grass, liriope, etc.–even aucubas. With the exception of loquat (which is a hardiness zone 8 plant), all are listed in hardiness zone 7 (the predominant hardiness zone in the D.C. area, which covers average lowest temperatures 0F-10F), or lower/able to  take even colder temperatures. I’m even expecting some bud loss on my beloved camellias which, since I’ve had my garden here at Woodland Cottage, have always put on a spectacular late Winter/early Spring show.

Crapemyrtles can be adversely affective by severe cold, too, though we’ll have to wait until they leaf out (often not until May) before we know if they were damaged or not.

Winter damage on Sago Palm, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

Winter damage on Sago Palm, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

The difference this year, I think, is a combination of very cold temperatures and long stretches of below-freezing temperatures. Plants’ leaves dried out and burned because they could not get water into their systems to help prevent the dessication.

I’m expecting most, if not all, of these plants to drop/lose all their burned leaves before putting out new growth when the weather is, finally, reliably warm. They may have some stem/branch loss, as well, from the tips back.

Frozen pond/waterfall, Woodland Cottage, Winter 2014

Frozen pond/waterfall, Woodland Cottage, Winter 2014

The best thing to do–as I say every year–is nothing, now–WAIT. It would be a shame to cut back or remove a plant when it appears dead when, actually, its wood is still very much alive. Even if part of the top of the plant is lost, the roots may still be alive and strong, able to push out lush, new growth when the weather warms.

The other reason to wait, from a cost perspective, is that loss from Winter damage is not covered under the plant guarantee.

Spring can be fickle after a very cold Winter (and Easter is not until April 20th this year), so we may have to wait awhile until the weather settles down and balmy weather returns.

Please wait, and please try to be patient. Allow Mother Nature to work her magic. In most cases, it will be well worth the wait.

Here’s hoping for real Spring–soon!!

Camellia japonica, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

Camellia japonica, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

 

 

 

Posted under Southern Gardens, The Winter Garden, Water in the Garden

A Tale of Two Seasons

Woke up to this:

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Every twig, every leaf, every surface has snow on it.

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When I look up into the trees, the first thing that pops into my head is “reindeer antlers”, for some reason.  What do you think?

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Soon, I hope, the temperature will rise above freezing so the snow will begin to drop off the plants.  It’s heavy and wet, and many of the shrubs are arching over a bit too much for comfort…I am praying for no breakage.

Checking my notes, I see we had a dusting of snow on March 27, 2011.  The photos show the flowers much more advanced than this year.  It’s been a cold, cold March–many days more like January.  While snow is not uncommon this late in the season (and even a dusting on the flowers in early April is fairly common), I can’t remember having this much so late.  I measure 3″-4″, and it’s still snowing.

The cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin are due to peak in a week–really?  Hard to believe on a day like today, yet it will come to pass.  My hillside of blooming daffodils is hidden under the snow this morning.

Can’t wait for shorts, flip-flops, and flowers!

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Posted under The Spring Garden, The Winter Garden, Weather vagaries

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on March 25, 2013

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Greetings from Wilmington, NC

Loropetalum beginning to bloom in our front yard

Loropetalum beginning to bloom in our front yard

After what always seems like an eternity (in other words, getting through January), I made it down here to Steve’s in Wilmington.  I’ve been here a week and, already, I feel the relaxation and calm streaming into my body and the stress and tension slowly draining out.  The air is not all that much warmer down here–though I don’t sense the chill that emanates from the ground in Arlington at this time of year–yet the sun is much, much brighter, warmer, and intense.  It’s done wonders for my outlook!

We’ve had lots of rain.  That’s a good thing since there have been many years of drought and heat down here and the soil is practically all sand.  Great for digging (compared to the rocky clay in Arlington); not so great for holding moisture or nutrients.

With the rain and warmer sun, the plants are responding with bloom.

Carolina Jessamine around our front porch

Carolina Jessamine around our front porch

Camellia 'Taylor's Perfection'

Camellia 'Taylor's Perfection'

Cheerful Daffodils in the bright sunlight

Cheerful Daffodils in the bright sunlight

Carrying over from Winter, Tea Olives powerfully fill the garden with a deep, sweet fragrance

Carrying over from Winter, Tea Olives powerfully fill the garden with a deep, sweet fragrance

One of Wilmington’s crown jewels is the annual Azalea Festival.  This year, it’s happening April 10th-14th.  The entire town is filled with blooming Azaleas, gorgeous gardens (there’s a big fundraising tour) and glamorous belles–yes, in hoop skirts.  I was asked to write an article on a couple of the featured gardens for the April issue of Wrightsville Beach Magazine. Today, I met my charming contact and she took me by two of the gardens.  They are all that and some change, and I can’t wait for you to see them…but for that you’ll have to wait.  Meantime, I did snap some close-ups of flowers in these two gardens, and I’m sharing those here.

Camellias...

Camellias...

Forsythia...

Forsythia...

Variegated Winter Daphne

Variegated Winter Daphne...

And a lovely, canopied street here in Wilmington--appropriately called Live Oak Drive

And a lovely, canopied street here in Wilmington--appropriately called Live Oak Drive

Tomorrow, we are heading South for a week in the Low Country:  Charleston and Beaufort, SC, and Savannah, GA.  We can’t wait to get to our beloved Low Country and savor the gardens, history, architecture, and surprises along the way.  We want to explore the Sea Islands and see as many plantations and gardens as we can.

Photos by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

Posted under Fragrance in the garden, Garden Tours, Garden Travel, Gardeners, Southern Gardens, Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden, The Winter Garden, Travel

Imagining Spring

Now that we’re about at the halfway point of Winter, I start to imagine Springtime.  The days are just starting to lengthen, and the sun is just beginning to feel a bit stronger.  By Valentine’s Day, the sun begins to heat up the car again.

I’ve been AWOL for awhile, so may I wish you a Happy New Year, belatedly.  My desktop computer is on its last leg (a new laptop has been ordered); my camera bit the dust (I got a new one); and we’re working on a new website and blog design.  Those will debut this Spring.   So I’ve been busy with the help of my trusty computer guy, Jason; my brilliant web/blog designer, Peter; and my smart partner, Steve, who chose my new camera for me (it’s the bomb!).  We’ve got to update this blog–the spam is absolutely awful, frustrating and a pain in the you-know-what.

I’ve been on lots of fun trips this Winter already:  the Chihuly exhibit in Richmond, VA, as well as a visit to the holiday-lit Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden; and yesterday, a trip over to a bald cypress swamp in Southern Maryland.  I love swamps.  I guess it’s that liminal space between land and water, and I love the mysterious blur between the two.

Last week, we got down to a low of about 15F, the lowest so far this Winter.  We had a couple of light snow events, and an icy morning yesterday, followed by the Spring-like weather today.  A couple more days of this nice weather and then it’s back to cold, as I’d expect this time of year.

I let the water run over the waterfall until just a trickle was flowing, then I turned it off so the pump wouldn’t burn up.  Here’s what it looked like, frozen.  It’s thawed out amazingly today.  [you can enlarge the photos by double-clicking on them, I think.]

Frozen waterfall at Woodland Cottage

Frozen waterfall at Woodland Cottage

And a few palms in the snow…these are Windmill Palms (Trachycarpus fortunei) and yes, they are hardy–down to about OF, or the bottom of zone 7A.  I have some Needle Palms, too–they’ll survive even lower temps–down to about -5F or -10F, or zone 6a/b.

I walked around the yard today and, so far, it seems like most everything has escaped Winter damage.

Last week, just before the snow, I had two young red foxes bound into the back yard, a male and female.  Happily, I was able to grab the camera and get a few shots.  They hung around much of the day.  They are beautiful and healthy.

Just before the freeze, I went out in the yard and picked the few Camellias still in bloom.  I’m glad I picked them because I’ve been enjoying them inside for over a week.  They help me imagine Spring!  I float them in shallow saucers and bowls–“Camellia bowls”.  Many of the bowls are very old and were made for just this purpose.

I’m leaving in a few days for my annual time in Wilmington, NC, and I’m really looking forward to spending time with Steve.  We’ll be touring lots of gardens in the Lowcountry this year, so I’ll have lots to share with you.

Photos by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.  Thanks.

Posted under Animals in the Garden, Flowers in the House, Garden Travel, Random garden thoughts, Southern Gardens, The Winter Garden, Water in the Garden

Rash of Spring, Fever or Freeze?

Here’s an article I wrote last week, Rash of Spring, Fever or Freeze?  It was published in Lumina News of Wrightsville Beach/Wilmington, NC, on February 16th.  Enjoy!

Posted under Climate Change, Southern Gardens, Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden, The Winter Garden, Weather vagaries

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on February 20, 2012

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Early Spring in Savannah

Forsyth Park, Savannah

Forsyth Park, Savannah

We just got back to Wilmington, NC, from four days in the Savannah, GA, area.  Lawsy, it was nice.  Most of the time, it was cloudy and cool, but Thursday the sun popped out and the temperature went up to 75F.  We threw on some shorts and a t-shirt and headed into the historic district for a nice walk.

Peeking into a lush courtyard...

Peeking into a lush courtyard...that's Fig Vine or Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila) on the walls. I've seen it in the warmest parts of zone 7b, very protected, but it's probably best grown in zones 8 and higher, where it might still experience winter burn.

Rest easy, my Northern friends:  Spring is headed your way–it’s beginning already in the Deepest South.

Iris

Iris

Like most of the rest of the Deep South, Savannah had a freeze last weekend.  It happens most years–something in bloom gets fried.  This year, it was the Camellias and Tulip (or Saucer) and Star Magnolias, and even some of the early Azalea blooms.  Full bloom and frozen to mush.  That’ll be it for those Magnolias this year–darn–yet the Camellias still have lots of undamaged buds, and they will open as the warmth returns.

Frost damage, Tulip/Saucer Magnolia

Frost damage, Tulip/Saucer Magnolia

Frost damage, Azalea

Frost damage, Azalea

In South Carolina, the wild Carolina Jessamine is in bloom, climbing the trees everywhere you look.  Here in Wilmington it is just beginning.  Even in the mildest parts of the country, Spring is coming earlier this year.  The blooms are headed North soon!

Early Azaleas coming into bloom

Early Azaleas coming into bloom

Photos by the author and his mate.  If you copy, please link back.

Posted under Climate Change, Garden Travel, Southern Gardens, Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden, The Winter Garden, Travel, Weather vagaries

It’s a Japonica Kind of Day

JaponicaCamellia.  Some say it like this:  Kuh-MAYL-yuh.  Here in the South, “Japonica” is a catch-all term for so many plants:  Winter/Spring-blooming Camellias, Pieris…any plant whose species name is japonica is fair game down here.  Whatever you call them, they’re all the same and they’re all Camellias.

I just took a turn around my woodland garden, and the early Camellia japonicas are blooming away.  Of the varieties I have, these aren’t my favorites (those will bloom later); yet any flower at this time of year is welcome, both indoors and out.  Indoors, I love to float them in shallow dishes.  I have my eye out always for vessels in which I can float Camellias.

Camellia dishes/bowls are an old stand-by, Southern style.  Actually, I got this flat dish in Murano, the island off Venice where the beautiful Venetian glass is made.  It’s perfect for floating Camellias.  I bought it for this use.  This one will hold several blossoms:

Here’s an old one I got at the gift shop of the Mercer House in Savannah, GA.  Steve and I get down there several times a year–we love it–and a stop at the Mercer House shop is a must.  (Remember the book/movie, ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’?  This is the house of Jim Williams.  Check it out here).  A clue that it’s a Camellia dish, and not a cigarette ashtray (though, yes, you could use it as an ashtray), is that it doesn’t have the notches in the rim where you’d rest a cigarette.  I love the cut glass and gold rim:

Many Camellia dishes are passed down through Southern families.  Many shallow dishes did double duty as condiment dishes and Camellia dishes, like these, which were passed down to me by my maternal grandmother, “Miss Lill”:

Sometimes, a Camellia may be blooming at the tip of a branch and have tight buds adjacent.  Every bud means a precious flower, so I’ve found that twisting off the flower, carefully, is the best way to pick them.  Just plop them in a shallow dish, Camellia or otherwise, face up, and there you have it.  They last many days in my house–probably because I’m cheap and keep the house so cool!

What a Winter!  To be able to walk around the yard daily–in JANUARY–and see what’s happening (because, yes, it is changing daily–hard to believe) is a treat beyond treats.  Good for the soul and what ails you.  The days are getting longer and the sun is getting warmer, too, here in the magical Mid-Atlantic.

I never thought I’d ever say this, and I may never say it again–and it may be a first:  Just for now, I’m loving Winter.  How about you?  Do you have any Camellia traditions?

Photos by the author.  If you copy, please link back.

Posted under Flowers in the House, The Winter Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on January 28, 2012

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Winter Tree Work

January.

Blah.

This year, at least, has been warm enough to accomplish a few things in advance of Spring.  Friday, my excellent landscape crew came by and mulched my entire garden, from front to rear.  Our county collects leaves in the Fall and shreds them, then lets them compost.  They do the same with all the tree branches they collect throughout the year, shredding the pieces into a wonderful shredded hardwood mulch which they stockpile and allow to age.  They deliver it to county residents for a song.  I got my mulch from them this year–15 cubic yards–and the guys spread it patiently for me.  A little tricky to coordinate deliveries with the pace of the landscape crew, yet it worked out very efficiently this time.  It’s nice to have it finished early, especially since perennials and bulbs are already emerging.  We’ve had a mild Winter here.

Likewise, the tree guys (arborists) are here right now.  I was surprised to see them this morning, frankly–we had some snow and ice over the weekend, just a bit, and the temperature has hovered right around 32 so it has stayed wintry.  Plus, it’s foggy and drizzly today.  Nevertheless, the doorbell rang this morning and the crew is in the trees, pruning away.

Winter is a great time for tree work.  The structures of  the trees are apparent.  The underlying garden is dormant, reducing the chances of damage.  After all, the tree guys need to stand below the trees and maneuver those big branches they’ve cut, then cut them up and haul them out.  That’s a lot of footwork on the ground.  They don’t have to step as gingerly in the Winter, one less thing to worry about with an already stressful job that requires intense concentration.  Plus, the leaves are off the trees, lessening the weight and increasing the visibility both in the trees and from trees to ground.  One of the trees I’m having pruned is a big Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), and the backs of its leaves are tomentose (there’s your word for the day–it means “hairy”).  Those tomentose leaves can stick to clothes, I’m told, which can be a hassle.  Something I had never thought about, actually.  The biggest bonus of Winter tree work:  demand is down, so you get the work accomplished quickly at a time of year when you are not usually in your garden, anyway.  Another bonus for me:  I can be focused and engaged because this is my slow time of year.

Preparing to climb...

Preparing to climb...

Today, I’m having the big Sycamore trimmed and attending to two other trees, as well.  One is an ancient Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera).  Last summer, we had a bad thunderstorm come through (normal around here) and about a 40-foot piece from the top got broken.  Some of it fell to the ground; the rest has been resting in the top of the tree (maybe 100 feet up–I have some big trees).  Time to clear that top out and cleanly cut the tears.

Attending to the top of the Tulip Poplar

Attending to the top of the Tulip Poplar

The other tree is a Chestnut Oak (Quercus prinus).  They are native on my steep hillside, and I’ve watched them slowly deteriorate over the years–from climate change?   Pollution?  Weather vagaries?  Who knows, but it is happening.  I lost three magnificent Chestnut Oaks in 2003 when Hurricane Isabel blew through.  I’ve been babying two more in my front garden.  One is an ancient, two-trunker and it has been slowly weakening.  Last year, after several years of trying to halt the decline, I threw in the towel and decided to let it die an honorable death.  Very sad for me because this tree sets the tone for my magical woodland garden.  Yet, life goes on and I’ve come to accept the inevitable outcome.  So I’m enjoying the time I have left with this magnificent tree.  When it goes, the adjacent, young Live Oak (Quercus virginiana, an evergreen Oak) will finally have some breathing room and a chance to expand and shine.  I planted it many years ago, anticipating the loss of the larger tree.

Back to the other Chestnut Oak in the back garden:  the arborists are pruning out the dead top, back to the thick, green branches lower down the trunk.  A note here:  I **HATE** topping trees (see more about ‘crape murder’ here).  But removing this tree completely will wipe out a significant portion of summer leaf coverage/privacy in my back garden, so I’m choosing this option vs. removing the tree outright at this time.

Arborist in the top of the Chestnut Oak

Arborist in the top of the Chestnut Oak

To watch excellent arborists at work is mesmerizing.  It’s like watching acrobats.  Ropes, pulleys, people going up and down–what a talent and art it is.  Just amazing.  My hat is off to them for their knowledge, professionalism, care and courage.  What a joy to hear their calls and laughter, even on such a crummy day.  It is obvious they love their work.

Big Chestnut Oak branch coming down...

Big Chestnut Oak branch coming down...

...and on the ground, ready to cut up.

...and on the ground, ready to cut up.

Meantime, one of my neighbors just came around, asking for some of the wood from the Chestnut Oak.  He says it makes excellent firewood, so yes, have at it!

Here is the crew of seasoned professionals!

Here is the crew of seasoned professionals!

Taking care of your trees is an investment–trees are beneficial to us in so many ways:  they cool our environment; provide screening and habitat for our wildlife friends.  And the beauty they provide softens the surrounding landscape, relaxes our eyes, and adds value to our home investment.  I love, love, love my trees.

Are you taking proper care of your trees?  Do you need to invest in some tree work?

Photos by the author.  If you copy, please link back.

Posted under Garden maintenance, Pruning, The Winter Garden, Tree work

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on January 23, 2012

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