Tag Archives: tree

Flowers Above

27 Mar

Recently, when walking to and from work or through my garden or around my neighborhood, I have tended to keep my eyes at ground level, on the alert for early blooms and signs of spring. But this evening, in the magical hour before sunset, I looked up… and was immediately rewarded by the sight of emerging flowers on local trees, a glorious sight indeed–and a reminder that good things also come from above.


Red Maple flowers


Emerging Cornelian Cherry Dogwood flower cluster


Red Maple flower cluster, photographed on black table

The Remains of the Season

22 Mar

Last weekend, a stroll around the National Arboretum revealed that, yes, spring has arrived and may soon work its way a few miles north and visit my garden, too:


Dwarf Dutch Iris


Crocus

While I am waiting for Spring 2014 to put in an appearance in my garden and usher in the new , I wanted to give a shout out to the some of the remains of 2013, all beautiful in their own way:

  
Dried Pomegranates, US Botanic Garden


Rose of Sharon seed pod, my garden


Azalea seed pod, my garden


Dried Fruit of the Sweetgum tree, US National Arboretum

Cypress Knees

14 Dec

I’d heard of a bee’s knees, but not a tree’s knees. Turns out cypress trees have knees, as we discovered when walking through the gardens at Historic London Town last weekend. We rounded a corner and stumbled upon an eerie landscape: a tall Bald Cypress tree surrounded by what looked like little stumps or treelets poking up from a blanket of leaves.  It was almost as if we had been transported to the Island of Misfit Trees.

Turns out these little* woody projections are called cypress knees, and they are a bit of a mystery. The knees grow vertically from the tree’s roots, but no one quite agrees on what function they serve. Normally, they are found in swampy areas. This Bald Cypress and its knees were in Historic London Town’s Bog Garden–a very moist area, but not one that was under water (or at least not when we were there).  One theory is that the knees may help get oxygen to the tree’s roots, especially in the case of trees that are growing in several feet of water. But scientists who tested this theory found that the knees aren’t very good conveyors of oxygen, as one might expect from what is essentially a very woody stump. Another theory is that the knees provide the tree with stability. But no one really knows for sure; there is another school of thought suggesting that perhaps these knees serve no purpose at all…. Except to keep us wondering.


*These knees are still relatively little — but they can actually get quite tall.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected

27 Nov

This photo is of something I was not expecting. During my recent trip to Rwanda, this gorgeous leaf formation caught my eye. I had never seen anything quite like it. It was a striking burst of color on an otherwise fairly bare branch. When I asked someone what it was, I was surprised to discover that it was a poinsettia, and that poinsettias can grow into small trees up to about 10 feet in height. I had no idea, because to my untrained eye this looks nothing like the potted poinsettias that abound at Christmastime (except perhaps for the red leaves). I’ll take the tree!

So an unexpected encounter led to an unexpected discovery — and I couldn’t be more delighted. The red leaves are called brachts; the actual poinsettia flowers are tiny and yellow.

Birth of an Azalea ‘Gibraltar’

16 May

One of the joys of spring is seeing the transformation from bud to bloom. Last year, I planted two tree azaleas (they are more upright than bushy) just after peak blooming time and so caught only a brief glimpse of the sole remaining flower on one of the plants. Azalea ‘Gibraltar’ is a deep orange color, but I was not able to appreciate it in all its glory — though I had high hopes for Spring 2013.

But as summer progressed, the azaleas’ foliage turned brown and shriveled up. It was clear I had planted them where it was too sunny, and they were not at all happy. In fact, they were dying. So we took emergency measures and dug them out, relocating them into large whisky barrels in a shadier part of the garden. And then there was nothing to do but wait and hope they survived the experience.

Luckily, they did; here are some photos showing the birth of a glorious, ruffled, orange Azalea ‘Gibraltar’ bloom.

Japanese Flowering Apricot

16 Mar

Washington DC is gearing up for this year’s Cherry Blossom festival from March 20 to April 14. It is not only an annual celebration of the capital’s famous cherry trees, but also a key indicator that spring might finally be here. The peak bloom period is expected to be March 26-30.

As gorgeous as the cherry blossoms are, there is an equally gorgeous ornamental tree that is in bloom earlier, from January through March, and that can be seen in the relative calm of Maryland’s Brookside Gardens. It is the Japanese Flowering Apricot (Prunus mume), which puts on a quite a show at a fairly monochromatic time of year in the Northern Hemisphere–a time of year when we are all becoming a bit desperate for some color.

Despite its striking beauty, this tree is not as well known in the United States as other ornamental trees, though more nurseries are now stocking it. Aside from the wonderful attribute of being in bloom when almost nothing else is, the tree is also ideal for smaller gardens, since it only gets to about 20-25 feet. I am now sorely tempted to re-evaluate my garden plan.

Witch Hazel

9 Mar

Until today, I knew next to nothing about Witch Hazel. I had a vague idea it could be found in a bottle at the pharmacy, but thought of it as something from a bygone era, like cod liver oil. Not that it didn’t have its uses –I just wasn’t sure what those uses were….

But an absolutely glorious day propelled me to nearby Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland to see what might be of interest there. Turns out, there was a great deal of interest, not the least of which was Witch Hazel (Hamamelis). As I came around a bend I noticed a tree (ok, technically a very large shrub) with the most delicate, spidery looking flowers on it. It was striking not only because it was in bloom, but because the flowers were almost ethereal. I bent to read the sign beneath and learned it was a Witch Hazel, something I had not see before. But once I saw that one, I noticed many others, in different colors, all equally stunning. I immediately experienced garden envy. Or perhaps garden regret–there is only so much I can pack into my own small garden, and Witch Hazel will just have to be admired from afar.

Below are a few photos of a remarkable plant, the extract of which helps control blemishes, soothe burns (including sunburns and razor burns) and cuts and bruises, relieve insect bites and itchy poison ivy/poison oak, and relieve tired eyes. Now that I know this, I will certainly get some extract from the pharmacy in the near future, but for now I will feast my eyes on the lovely Witch Hazel flowers and feel glad that I learned something new today.


‘Diane’


‘Diane’


‘Orange Peel’


‘Moonlight’

Ready for Spring

3 Mar

It is cold, windy, and grey here in the Mid-Atlantic United States, and I am ready for color and warmth. Where is spring? In my own yard, there a few small signs: tender shoots emerging from the ground, buds on trees, and increased bird activity. And though nothing has yet bloomed, I was encouraged today when I saw a few promising indicators from around the neighborhood, including a lone daffodil in flower. Here’s hoping my garden will not be too far behind.


Daffodils


Maple Buds


Magnolia Buds

Photo of the Month: February 2013 (Bark)

28 Feb

I love how flowers and foliage — and tree trunks and bark — look after it rains. The colors pop, and any beads of water that linger add nice visual interest. I recently walked around our neighborhood just after a rainy spell, and came across this very colorful, wet tree trunk with speckled bark. I’m not certain what kind of tree it is (any clarification on that is welcome), but the mossy green of the bark that remained on the trunk and the contrasting yellow-orange layer underneath really caught my eye.

Update 3-3-13: I think this may be either a Chinese or Lacebark Elm.

Happy Halloween

31 Oct

Happy Halloween! In honor of the day, I am sharing a tinted photo of the extremely tall tulip poplar tree that I see out of my window when writing blog posts. The tree very fortunately survived Hurricane Sandy and did not wobble in the direction of our house. As a token of my gratitude (and after realizing that the photo looked quite eerie), I decided the tree deserved a spot in the Halloween line up.

Later this evening–a perfect Halloween recipe: Pumpkin Brownies. Stay tuned.