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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ah, Glorious Winter!


Tawes Hall is on the left and the Benjamin Building is on the right in this view of Tawes Plaza during a snow storm on Monday, March 3, 2014.  It is not often that we see such a pristine snow without footprints on our campus.

The first snow of the season is often a magical event for many, especially for those that grew up in tropical areas of the world and are experiencing their first winter storm.  This frozen water coming down in tiny, unique, beautiful flakes is absolutely amazing!  Even for the many of us that have grown up and lived for many years in temperate zones where that snow is common, there is still often something magical about the transformative experience of that first blanket of purest white snow as it settles over the landscape and covers everything in sight.  There is something exhilarating about that first snow that is captured well in this video by Vitas Bumac, the famous Russian counter tenor singer.  In the video, check out that amazing evergreen coniferous Russian forest that the superhighway cuts through in the distant background.


View of Tawes Plaza on Monday, March 3, 2014 with the Art / Sociology Building in the background and Tawes Hall on the right.


View of Tawes Plaza on Monday, March 3, 2014 with the Art / Sociology Building in the background and Tawes Hall on the right.

However, as winter progresses and you are buffeted by storm after unending storm such as in this extreme winter, the magic goes out the window for many of us and the reality of winter hazards sets in.  By March, we are weary of dealing with those winter hazards and we are more than ready for spring.  The phrase 'ah, glorious winter' becomes a phrase that is viewed with suspicion or sarcasm.  Except of course for those few truly hardcore snow bunnies, like my friend Dr. Laura Deeter from The Ohio State University, that post their excitement of impending snow storms and then their disappointment when the snowstorm does not reach the weather forecaster's prediction.  There is nothing as exhilarating as being able to teach a Woody Plant Material Lab when there is heavy snow cover on the ground in the invigorating cold of an Ohio winter.  While the rest of us might not be quite as excited about deep snow as Dr. Deeter, plant materials selected for their winter beauty do give us a good reason to go outdoors in the winter, as viewing nature at its best, does seem to lift ones spirit.


'Fire Power' Heavenly Bamboo has lost far more leaves this winter than they have in previous winters as the minimum temperatures this winter have been much lower than in the previous winters.  Picture taken on March 3, 2014.

'Alta' Columnar Southern Magnolia covered with snow on March 3, 2014.


The brick walls enclosing a space behind the Benjamin Building make a great feature in this winter scene with Knight Hall in the background.  Picture taken during a snow storm on Monday, March 3, 2014.


Daffodils and Siberian Squill are starting to emerge through the snow between the bench and the boxwood hedge in this picture of the Benjamin Building courtyard garden taken during a snow storm on Monday, March 3, 2014.


Leatherleaf Mahonia leaves are weighted down with snow in this picture taken on Monday, March 3, 2014 after a snowstorm.



A light winter snow emphasizes the textural difference in this planting of semi-evergreen Creeping Raspberries and Broom Sedge that has been recently cut back in preparation for the emergence of new growth in the late spring.  Picture taken at the Architecture Building on Monday, February 10, 2014.


Steam billows up behind the plume like seed heads of  'Pumila' Fountain Grass on Tawes Plaza on Monday, February 10, 2014.


Native Broom Sedge is the coppery colored grass that has stood up so nicely this winter in spite of repeated snows this winter in this planting of native plants that was inspired by North American prairies.  This pyramid shaped sculpture and plantings are located near the Architecture Building.  Picture taken on Monday, February 10, 2014.

Close up view of Broom Sedge.  Picture taken on Monday, February 10, 2014.



The intensely red colored fruit of 'Winter Red' Winterberry Hollies contrast nicely with white snow.  While we enjoy the fruit for their beauty in late winter, fruit eating birds such as Northern Nightingales and Cedar Waxwings enjoy them for a late winter snack when food is scarce.  Picture taken on Monday, February 10, 2014 east of the Architecture Building on Mayer Mall.


'Cato' Dwarf Redtwig Dogwood available under the trademarked name Artic Sun has a color change on the twigs similar to the change in color on a flame.  This planting is located to the northwest of the north wing of Van Munching Hall.  Picture taken on Monday, February 10, 2014.


The above two pictures show the dried fruits of 'Donald Wyman' Crabapple, one of the most consistently highly rated crabapples for disease resistance.  It is also one of the most beautiful crabapples in my opinion.  Pictures taken on Monday, February 10, 2014 just west of the Architecture Building.

Those tantalizing views of spring shown on warm days between late winter or early spring snowstorms by the early blooms of Witch Hazels, Crocus, Siberian Squill and Snowdrops serve to give us a small taste of the real spring soon to come.  For some of us, that is not soon enough!  Having to use snow plows to clear the baseball field for practice in March just isn't right.  Spring break in less than two weeks will be warmly embraced!


'Lilac Beauty' Tommasini's Crocus is starting to poke its flowers up through the Variegated Liriope groundcover in a planting in the Benjamin Building courtyard garden on February 24, 2014 on a warm day between snow storms. 


An unknown cultivar of Witch Hazel, located near Rudy's Cafe at Van Munching Hall, was blooming on a warm afternoon on February 24, 2014.  These tiny flowers have a very slight fragrance.  The dried seed pods visible in this picture, when mature, can eject their seeds with such explosive force that the sound is sometimes mistaken for a gun shot. 


This unknown cultivar of Witch Hazel located in the northeast corner of the Van Munching Hall courtyard was blooming on a warm afternoon on February 24, 2014.  The fragrance of this unknown cultivar is outstanding!

This last picture taken yesterday, March 4, 2014 shows the flower of an 'Intrigue' Canna growing in the research greenhouses on campus.  The pastel reddish orange flowers contrast nicely with the grayish purple flower stalk and the mostly maroon attractive foliage.  It was a welcome sight to see this colorful flower after operating a skid steer loader two days this week to remove snow.
We are looking forward to trying these 'Intrigue' Cannas in a number of locations on campus this summer to see if that they may have good cold hardiness for us in protected locations on campus as the rhizomes are about about 6-8 inches deep in good soils which is deeper than most that I have seen.  'Intrigue' has good rust resistance and is so vigorous that it may be able to tolerate future potential virus infections better than less vigorous cultivars.

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Contact Information

UMD Arboretum and Botanical Garden
Landscape Services/Building 050
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742-7215
Phone: 301-405-3320
Fax: 301-314-9943
umdarboretumandbotanicalgarden@yahoo.com




Butterfly feeding on the nectar of Russian Sage blossoms

UMD Arboretum and Botanical Garden

The University of Maryland, the state’s flagship campus, is located in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. The American Association of Public Gardens, by designating the university as an arboretum and botanical garden in 2008, recognized former President C.D. Mote, Jr.’s commitment to becoming a green campus. Maryland is also the first university in the state to be honored as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

The Campus inventory of over 8,000 trees, garden plantings and nearly 400 acres of undeveloped urban forest is a beautiful reminder of Maryland’s history and a harbinger of Maryland’s future. The university looks at the campus’ green space as a major resource for its educational, research and service missions.

Hornbake Plaza

Hornbake Plaza
Honeylocust fall foliage color

Tawes Plaza

Tawes Plaza
Kim's Knee High Purple Coneflower, Russian Sage, White Out Rose and Dwarf Pampas Grass are featured in this planting.