An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

November 30, 2012

1 Freeze, 2 Frosts, 400 Posts

This past week my corner of Tidewater had its first below freezing weather, and my more tender plants and the hanging-on-to-the-bitter-end summer annuals are now showing the results. Unaffected by this brief dip below the 32 °F mark are the Camellia sasanqua in my garden. So I thought I would share a few photos I took of them today.  This post will be my 400th, and while you look at the pretty camellia pictures I will throw in a few statistics about my blog that the good people at Google have been kind enough to provide me.

Camellia sasanqua 'Kanjiro'
Camellia sasanqua 'Kanjiro' (3)

At the time of this writing, I have had 207,609 individual pageviews.  My top three most viewed posts are:

#1 Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste Tree)
This post has 5395 pageviews which is almost 4 times as many as the next most viewed post.  The vitex post was one I wrote just a few months after starting the blog, The writing was not stellar, and the pictures were not that great.  I attribute its popularity to people searching the internet for information about vitex's medicinal properties.

#2 Bloom Day - The Neglected Groaning Board
I am not sure why this post was so popular, but the pictures were good if I do say so myself.  It is one of two Bloom Days in the top ten.

#3 Jasminum nudiflorum:  A Yellow Signal of Change
This was my second post discussing winter jasmine.  I guess I am not the only who appreciates this plant's dead-of-winter bloom time.

Camellia sasanqua 'Mine-No-Yuki'
Camellia sasanqua 'Mine-No-Yuki'

Most of the people coming to my blog have come from searching Google, Google UK and Bing.  My top three search terms, in order, are "vitex agnus castus", "tidewater gardener" and appropriately enough "camellia sasanqua".

I also get a lot of traffic from other blogs like Danger Garden, Pardise Express, May Dreams Gardens, Dirt Therapy and Rock Rose.  All of which were in the top 10 list of referring URLs.  I will not name the URL that is responsible for my third greatest source of referrals. It is an adult movie site that specializes in things that most people don't consider very sexy.  I think the "water" part of my blogs title brings them here.  Perhaps you get the picture.

Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'
Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'

Sometimes ask myself why I keep blogging.  I think it because I like to share, not so much in a material way, but like most humans I like to share (and compare) my experiences with other people.  It is one of the ways we learn. As it has been said before by other bloggers, I have met so many like-minded people through blogging I never would have met otherwise. Most of them are virtual acquantances, but several are actual. Would I blog if no one else ever looked at what I wrote or photographed?  Maybe.  Besides sharing, I also blog as an exercise in personal journaling.  Sometimes I enjoy looking back at where my head was at some point in the past.  This may really come in handy when a future me starts losing more brain cells, or maybe by then I will be wondering why I ever bothered.  However, I want thank you for bothering to visit A Tidewater Gardener, whether its regularly, occasionally or just once.

November 23, 2012

My Black (silver, green and amber) Friday

Muhlenbergia capillaris

Agapanthus 'Ellamae'

Come Through



Great Blue

I know I can't be the only one who finds the whole business of Black Friday yet another symptom that this society's priorities are out of balance - or maybe I'm just getting more curmudgeonly in my middle age. 

November 18, 2012

Another Day in Paradise

This past Saturday my son and I volunteered to help the folks from the Elizabeth River Project (ERP) at the new Paradise Creek Nature Park in Portsmouth, Virginia.  Paradise Creek is small tributary of the Elizabeth River, and is one of the most polluted and abused creeks flowing into one of the most polluted and abused rivers in the country.  But through the efforts of ERP, and others, things have slowly been getting better for the Elizabeth and it is a healthier river than it once was, but with a long way to go to ERP's goal of a fishable, swimmable river by 2020.

Paradise Creek lies just south of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the oldest and largest industrial facility belonging to the U. S. Navy.  The area has a long history of being the dumping place for what was not needed and eventually became a significant EPA Superfund site. The land that is becoming Paradise Creek Nature Park was once a vibrant tidal marsh, but over the years became a home for various unwanted materials, including the dredge spoils created by keeping the Elizabeth deep enough for large ships to navigate. By the time the dumping ceased, the site ended up with an unusually high elevation offering a nice view of the creek, and a forest of opportunistic species, natives and invasive exotics both, began to grow.

As part of a larger effort to restore Paradise Creek and the surrounding land, the park is being created and should open to the public by the end of the year.  We were there to plant trees, or more specifically to dig holes for other people to come in behind us and plant trees, all of them native species. After we did our digging, we took a stroll around the park before we had to go.  I think what struck me the most about the park is its juxtaposition to its industrial neighbors, many of whom have cleaned up their own properties and changed the way they conduct business next to the river.  If everyone is brought on board and works together, making changes is an easier proposition.

Paradise Creek Nature Park (2)

Paradise Creek Nature Park (26)

Paradise Creek Nature Park (25)

Paradise Creek Nature Park (6)

Paradise Creek Nature Park (7)

Phytolacca americana (Pokeweed) Paradise Creek Nature Park (9)

Celastrus scandens (American bittersweet) Paradise Creek Nature Park (3)

I think this species of Ligustrum is L. lucidum. It is not as invasive as L. sinense, but close.  The park has impressive tree-like stands of it dripping with fruit.
 Paradise Creek Nature Park (8)

The two most noxious ivies were also present, the invasive Hedera helix (English Ivy) and our own native Toxicodendron radicans (Poison Ivy), an itchy surprise awaiting anyone wanting a closer look at its beautiful fall colors.
Paradise Creek Nature Park (23)

Paradise Creek Nature Park (24)

Paradise Creek Nature Park (5)

Paradise Creek Nature Park (19)

Paradise Creek Nature Park (21)

Paradise Creek Nature Park (10)

Paradise Creek Nature Park (15)

Paradise Creek Nature Park (18)

The pink flagging tape and string were strung over the top of a recreated wetland in order to keep Canada geese from eating what is likely newly planted Spartina alterniflora.  This area was part of an agreement that allowed a company to partially atone for previous environmental sins by reverting ten acres of accumulated spoil back to marsh, the site's original environmental niche.

November 15, 2012

Bloom Day - Going Through the Motions

Usually before I write my Bloom Day posts I like to see what I posted last month and what I posted last year at this time.  Having completed this exercise, I realize I do not have much to show you that has not already been seen. Hopefully your attention span is as short as mine and all will appear new.

Let's start with something I showed last month. I can not imagine a garden of mine without Ajania pacifica, but not for its flowers, which always say November to me. Rather, I grow it for its nearly evergreen foliage and tough, very tough, constitution.

  Ajania pacifica

Ajania pacifica (2)

Another plant that says November to me is Arbutus unedo (Strawberry Tree). This particular one is 'Compacta' which stays smaller than the species. I think it is unique in that it flowers and fruits at the same time, and I also love the reddish bark. Like the Ajania, it is also very tough.

  Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' (2)

Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' 

 These two flowers are the last of my toad lilies (Tricyrtis hirta) to bloom, and I am sorry to see them go.

  Tricyrtis hirta 

 My sadness at the passing lilies is tempered by the arrival of the fall blooming camellias. This is Camellia sasanqua 'Showa-No-Sake'.

  Camellia sasanqua 'Showa-no-sake' 

C. sasanqua 'Autumn Rocket' has an unusual growth habit in that it gets 8-10' tall by only about 3' wide, perfect for the shadier side of a small urban garden.

  Camellia sasanqua 'Autumn Rocket' 

I would like to thank my Cestrum aurantiaum 'Orange Zest' for blooming since May, and it now has my blessing to rest.
 Cestrum aurantiaum 'Orange Zest' 

 I will end with shot of fall foliage from my 'Fenway Park' Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata). I don't know about where you live, but the fall foliage has been spectacular here, slow to arrive, but stunning.

  Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Fenway Park'

I have a few other blooms I could show you, mainly from the pansies and violas I have planted, but I like to hold them in reserve for the colder months.  If you would like to see what other gardeners are showing for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, then you should visit the event's hostess, Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

November 12, 2012

I'm Happy Where I Work

I am happy to work where I do, because I got to be outside this morning when fall color came to town.

Cherry Light

Looking Through

Maple Light

Maple Light 2

Stained Glass

Asia Morning

I'm Happy Where I Live

I am happy to live where I do.  Sometimes when I think about retirement, I fantasize about a small home with  a big garden, in the country, on a hilltop, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge.  This part of me wants to make sure that hurricanes, nor'easters and rising sea levels are far enough away to be someone else's worry. Then the larger part of me thinks about the smells of salt and marsh, the rhythm of tide, the gathering of birds and sun coming up over water.  Living next to the sea can be risky, but oh those benefits.

Lafayette Sunrise 3

Lafayette Sunrise 2

Lafayette Sunrise

Lafayette Sunrise 4

November 4, 2012

Diascund Reservoir - Paddling Back in Time

This past Saturday I took the kayak to Diascund Creek Reservoir in Lanexa, Virginia, just a few miles west of Williamsburg. Though this was hardly my first visit, it was the first time I have been there in almost 40 years. When I was growing up my father would take us there on weekends to fish, explore the woods, ride dirt bikes, play with the dogs and sleep on bunk beds listening to whip-poor-wills. I am really grateful he gave me the opportunity, and it is a real shame that most children today do not have a chance to spend unstructured time out-of-doors. It was a different world then, and a different place as well. To get to his hunting club's cabin you had to go down a dusty dirt road where there were few if any houses.  The soils in this part of Virginia had long ago been exhausted, and the area was mostly forest with a few abandoned houses and fallow fields sprinkled in, great places for boys to run wild.

The reservoir is one of the primary water sources for the city of Newport News, and was built by cutting down the forest and damming several adjacent creeks.  40 years ago it was still very evident there had once been a forest there, as stumps covered the bottom of the lake, but I saw little of that on my recent trip.  The water is full of fish and very clean, in fact, if you have enjoyed any Anheuser-Busch products, you may have been drinking a small part of the Diascund.  I was not surprised to see homes on the lake Saturday, but I was pleased there were so few of them, and most of the shoreline was still wooded.  However, the road to the old cabin is paved now and lined with homes, all but one or two displaying a united front in their preferences for the outcome in the upcoming election. I felt very out of place, and not that I have any rights in the matter, but it felt like an intrusion on my memories.

Dawn Gathering

Diascund Sunrise (3)

Fall Mirror

November Shore

Cypress Island (3)

Cypress Island (4)

Cypress (2)

Cypress  (2)

Cypress  (4)

Despite 40 year's worth of changes, Diascund is still a haven for wildlife, perhaps more so.  I saw river otters, several bald eagles, kingfishers, herons, jumping bass and my second pileated woodpecker in less than a month.  I know they are now something slightly less than wild, but as I was leaving, wave upon wave of Canada geese descended noisily into the water.  Their numbers were in the several hundreds.

Altered memories aside, it was a very good morning.