Friday, October 11, 2013

Marie Selby Botanical Garden

Orchids in a shadehouse at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
I decided to recycle some photos that I never got around to turning into a blog.  Last October (2012), AJ and I visited the wonderful Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, FL.  Selby specializes in epiphytes - orchids, air plants, bromeliads - so I visited to gather information when we were thinking about bring our orchid collection from an outsourced grower back to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  We had a wonderful tour by Greenhouse Manager, Angel Lara.  He showed us the many different growing zones and gave me great tips about orchid culture, virus control, and curation.  It was a fun walk down memory lane for AJ because he was an intern at Selby about 10 years ago while he was studying Agriculture at Virginia Tech.
Angel and AJ at the koi pond
Flowering Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis
Sculpture in the garden surrounded by tropical foliage
A specimen in the fig (Ficus) collection
Bat plant (Tacca integrifolia)
The lush tropical vegetation in the conservatory
Garden house with bromeliads and Spanish moss dripping from a tree at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Small bromeliads on a series of horizontal wreaths hanging from the trees

Friday, October 4, 2013

Peaks of Otter

The view of Sharp Top Mountain from our hotel room at Peaks of Otter
A few weeks ago, we took advantage of the beautiful early Fall weather and spent the weekend at Peaks of Otter lodge.  The lodge is in the shadow of Sharp Top Mountain.  This was considered to be the highest point in Virginia until GPS was developed.  It is a short, but very steep climb to the top.  In addition to the gorgeous views, there were many native plants blooming.
Peaks of Otter Lodge from the top of Sharp Top Mountain
Boneset (Eupatorium)

Golden Rod (Solidago)
Witchhazel (Hamamelis)
White Wood Aster (Aster divaricatus)
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) Check out this great LGBG blog post about uses of jewelweed.
Lichens on a boulder

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Garden Fest Animals

The Conservatory model train display is a visitor favorite at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden's Dominion Garden Festival of Lights.  What makes our display unique is that the horticulture staff create miniature "fairy houses" out of dried botanical materials.  The detail on the houses is amazing. Ginkgo leaves turn into wallpaper, an acorn cap will be a porch light, and a small seed might be a tiny door knocker. 
Asian-style house from the 2012 display.  Pine needle thatched roof and colorful pressed leaves look like clothing drying on the clothes line.
This year, the houses will replicate the animals' homes in the book, The Wind in the Willows.  To highlight the theme, we also decided to replicate the actual animals.  Debbie, one of our great volunteers, made the animals heads out of clay which she painted.  Then, I created bodies out of foam, wire, bubble rap, and pipe cleaners and made clothing. 
Mr. Toad, Ratty, and Mole

I was also tasked with making a row boat for Ratty and Mr. Toad.  I started with a foam core frame and I covered it with river birch bark.  I then added details of bright green dried cattail leaves and deep red Japanese maple leaves.  The oars were made from twigs and river birch bark.
Ratty and Mr. Toad in their row boat

Monday, June 24, 2013

Eden Woods- Adventures in Moss Gardening

Peaceful mossy path bordered by shade perennials and accented by garden ornaments such as this sundial.
A couple of weeks ago, the Horticulture staff from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden went on a wonderful field trip to Norie Burnet's moss garden, Eden Woods.  After finding that her 4-acre wooded lot in Bon Air was too shady to grow grass, Norie decided to nurture the moss that was naturally occurring, and she has been doing so for almost 25 years.

Norie is definitely a gardener with an artist's eye.  She creates interest with sweeps of varying textures and endless shades of green.  She spoke to us about balancing textures, colors, and shapes in the garden.  She also adds whimsy to the garden by tucking fairy houses into shady corners.
Sweeps of perennials show the artist-gardener's attention to balance, texture, color, and mass.
Whimsical fairy houses can be found tucked in shady corners of this peaceful garden.
Norie has identified 14 different types of moss in her garden, but she has much more than just moss.  We were delighted to find a very diverse collection of woodland perennials and we were surprised that some tender perennials proved to be hardy in her garden.
A diverse collection of shade-loving perennials complement the mossy paths.

We learned that moss gardens are NOT zero-maintenance gardens, but that they require a different type of maintenance than a traditional garden.  Norie taught us that "with grass you mow, with moss you blow."  Moss cannot survive under a thick layer of leaf litter, so keeping the debris cleared with a leaf blower is essential.  Moss also likes to be damp.  If it dries out too much, it will turn brown, so watering with sprinklers is necessary in times of drought.  As with any garden, weeding is also necessary.  Norie told us that the beauty of moss gardens is that you can selectively leave "volunteers" that are growing up through the moss.  If it were a lawn, some of her favorite volunteer perennials such a Aquilegia (columbine) and ferns would have been mown down.  In her garden, they can live in happy harmony with the moss.

Norie Burnet explains maintenance tasks in a moss garden with LGBG horticulture staff.
Norie Burnet selectively allows "volunteers" such as this patch of ferns to live amongst the mossy "lawns."
While a few of the shady corners of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden have moss naturally occurring, Norie definitely gave us all the inspiration to go a step further.  Now that we know some of the essential maintenance tasks required to keep a moss garden healthy, we look forward to nurturing our native mosses.  Keep an eye out in the future areas that might be transformed into mossy oases!
Moss creeps between the slate stepping stones.
Shades of green and varying textures create beauty and interest in the garden.
A shady path in Norie Burnet's moss garden, Eden Woods.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Turtle Island

A few weeks ago, we installed a floating island at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  Funded by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, this island is made of a recycled plastic mesh and will float in Lake Sydnor.  With the help of volunteers, we planted plugs of different pollinator-supporting plants in holes drilled in the plastic fiber mesh.  The idea is that the roots of the plants will grow through the mesh, into the water below, and absorb excess nutrients from the water.  Many of the waterways in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed are polluted with fertilizer runoff.

Floating island loaded and ready to move to the planting/launch site
Island ready for planting
Ann Jurczyk, Environmental Protection and Restoration, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, leading volunteers to plant the floating island
Volunteers and staff carrying the island into the lake
Launching the island
Moving the island into position with a kayak
About 3 hours after we launched the island, the turtles found it, so we have nicknamed it "Turtle Island."  The turtles are smashing down the plants on one corner of the island, so I'm not sure what I'll do about that long term.  I love that wildlife is using it as a refuge and the visitors are thrilled to see the turtles up-close, so we might just have to deal with no plants on one corner of the island.
Three weeks after planting, the turtles have claimed a corner of the island, but the other plants are filling in nicely

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bottling Day

In April, I made my first home brew and promised a post about bottling day.  After a busy spring, I'm just getting back to telling the story about bottling day.  Whoops!  The second fermentation took about a week and then we bottled the IPA.  I was advised to get a fancy bottling tree to dry the bottles after I sanitized them.  I'm not sure if this was absolutely necessary, but it made things very easy.
Washing reused bottles with soapy water before sanitizing them
Letting reused bottles dry on the bottle tree after sanitizing
 The beer was siphoned from a glass carboy into a bottling bucket and we used a bottle filler to fill the bottles with beer.  
Siphoning the beer from the carboy into the bottling bucket
Using a bottle filler

A bottle capper was used to secure new caps on the bottles and we let it sit for 2 weeks before we sampled the delicious brew!
Using a bottle capper

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