Category Archives: trees

Blue poppies and tiny coffins

botanic gardenThis morning we looked out the window at blue skies and decided to go to the Royal Botanic Garden while the weather held.  We walked over to the North Bridge and picked up the bus, with a bit of help from the kilt-clad man at the door of the Balmoral Hotel.  When the ticket taker told us the blue poppies were in bloom, that was all I needed to hear. They have a reputation for being extremely difficult to grow, and because they come from Nepal or China or somewhere I did not expect ever to see them.  They were amazing, so blue and so many of them. blue poppiesThey were even more enchanting close poppies 2

I’m not actually sure that I like that shade of blue, but no matter- we saw them in abundance and that was enough.  (Note that I have since seen them at Kildrummy Gardens among others, so they must not be so rare on this side of the Atlantic.)

As usual, I was struck by the perfect edging and the low-cut grass with tiny daisies, quintessentially British to my American eye.  In addition, we saw the glass houses with lots of begonias and orchids. I could become a begonia collector without too much difficulty… begoniabegonia2begonia3A few more images that took my fancy:

These beautiful water lilieswater lilies

A monkey puzzle tree, just like in books!monkey puzzle

And a Seussian primula.  I wish I could grow these, but they prefer more water than Virginia usually provides.primula

Had a sandwich lunch outside at the cafe with three of my favorite things,  lunch

and walked to the bus stop.  A very nice young woman with her young daughter helped us to find the right stop to get off at the National Museum of Scotland.  

Here, fading just a bit, we wanted to see the early people (Neolithics), the Lewis chessmen, and the strange coffins of dolls found on Arthur’s seat in the nineteenth century and never fully explained.  We saw them all.  The Neolithic stuff was organized by topic so was a bit hard to follow, but we looked for items found on Orkney and found quite a bit.  Here, for example, is a comb from the Brough of Birsay, combthough the majority of items were made of stone.  Those who are interested can find more images of objects here by searching for Orkney.  The Lewis chessmen were as charming as ever, and the strange little coffins  were just as mysterious as ever (though you can find details on what we do know in this article).  coffins A quick tea and cake in the cafe and back home again.  Dinner was next door at Badger, named in honor of the Wind in the WIllows because Kenneth Grahame was born next door at our B&B  and they are both capitalizing on this fact.  It was nice to come downstairs and just have dinner next door – game pie for me (watch out for pieces of shot!) and cheese plate for dessert – while surrounded by charming badger memorabilia.  badgerThen home to pack in prep for leaving tomorrow.

All yellow, all the time


Maple in the cemetery

That seems to be the theme with this year’s fall colors, which have been slow to develop.  Though I miss the brilliant reds we usually get, the golden, cheddar, bright, and light yellows are lovely, too.


Dawn redwood

These two images above are from a walk through the Fredericksburg National Cemetery (Union) with Ann, Shelley and Tena the day after the election.  Here’s a yellow maple that was carpeting the sidewalk below the college.


Maple below the college

On today’s morning walk I saw lovely yellowy apricot maples.



Closer to home, the always reliable bottlebrush buckeye.fall-bottlebrush

The fothergilla has gotten quite big.fall-fothergilla

And somewhere is a picture of the Solomon’s Seal that, like the hostas, turned yellow as it ripens and fades away.

The Goldilocks tree

For the last couple of years, I’ve planned to take out the butterfly bush that anchors the northern end of the sunny border and replace it with the perfect small tree or shrub.  It can be tall but can’t be too wide lest it impinge on the neighbors’ driveway, which they are very proud of and guard jealously. Ideally, it would be a native that supports lots of wildlife AND has at least two-season interest.

Well, perfect is the enemy of the good, as we all know, and I’ve been paralyzed.  Here are just a few of the possibilities.

The first is probably too big:

yaupon_hollyIlex vomitoria commonly known as Yaupon is native to a variety of areas including sandy woods, dunes, open fields, forest edges and wet swamps, often along the coastal plain and maritime forests, from Virginia to Florida, Arkansas and Texas. This is a thicket-forming, broadleaf evergreen shrub or small tree that typically grows in an upright, irregularly branched form to 10-20’ tall and to 10’ wide, but may grow taller in optimum conditions. Elliptic to ovate-oblong, leathery, glossy, evergreen, dark green leaves (to 1.5” long) have toothed margins. Small greenish-white flowers appear on male and female plants in spring (April). Flowers are fragrant but generally inconspicuous. Pollinated flowers on female plants give way to berry-like red (infrequently yellow) fruits 1/4” diameter) which ripen in fall and persist into winter. Birds are attracted to the fruit.  -Missouri Botanical Garden

The second is one that Anne Little had recommended for the back garden:


Magnolia virginiana, commonly called sweet bay magnolia, is native to the southeastern United States north along the Atlantic coast to New York. In the northern part of its cultivated growing range, it typically grows as either a 15-20′ tall tree with a spreading, rounded crown or as a shorter, suckering, open, multi-stemmed shrub. In the deep South, it is apt to be more tree-like, sometimes growing to 60′ tall. Features cup-shaped, sweetly fragrant (lemony), 9-12 petaled, creamy white, waxy flowers (2-3″ diameter) which appear in mid-spring and sometimes continue sporadically throughout the summer. Oblong-lanceolate shiny green foliage is silvery beneath. Foliage is evergreen to semi-evergreen in the South, but generally deciduous in the St. Louis area. Cone-like fruits with bright red seeds mature in fall and can be showy. See also Magnolia virginiana var. australis which primarily differs from the species by being somewhat taller, having more fragrant flowers and being more likely to be evergreen. -Missouri Botanical Garden

It’s said to prefer moist soils but everyone claims that once it’s established it would be fine through a Virginia summer.  But does it have more than spring interest?  And, 60 feet tall??  Though I’ve also read that it’s easily pruned.

Doug Tallamy recommends the native black cherry because it is a host plant for so much “vertebrate and invertebrate wildlife.”  However, a Dave’s Garden poster says:

In the garden or small property, I give this thumbs-down. It does not make an ornamental specimen, even in full bloom. The flowers are tiny and I don’t find them at all showy. I also find them mildly malodorous. The foliage is consistently troubled by tent caterpillars and webworms, and the twigs are commonly disfigured by black knot.

Like most cherries, it has thirsty, competitive roots. It self-sows weedily and aggressively. The wood is brittle and presents a hazard when it breaks. And the cherries stain everything black when they fall, those that the birds leave. Read more:

Too bad…

Tallamy also recommends a river  birch,  but they suck up all the water and get too big for my space.

Now, I do love crabapples, and he says that the non-native species seem to attract just as many creatures as the natives do, so maybe that’s the way to go.  Maybe Michael Dirr can recommend a small variety.

At least I have a silver (?) maple and a white oak, which both host myriad species.  I have yet to see a moth on the oak tree, but on the other hand I’ve only just started looking.




Cherry Tree Festival in Fredericksburg

The cherry blossoms were late this year, at least, later than the poor organizers of the DC festival predicted.  Here at home, you just walk around and eventually the blossoms pop.  Here’s the Fredericksburg festival, which lasted from  April 8 through the 12th.  It wasn’t helped by the typical April week in the 80s, followed by a strong morning rain.IMG_20130408_082622_929The cherry trees lining Lewis Street, looking back towards Caroline Street.

Next come cherries and weeping cherries in the neighborhood, snapped during an early morning walk.

IMG_20130410_071502_853 IMG_20130410_071529_531 IMG_20130410_071549_594 IMG_20130410_071615_466 Finally, the blossoms on Lewis Street plastered on the windshield during the rain, and the last blossoms stuck to my car that afternoon.