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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

California Dreamin!

The large, bold, red leaves of 'Siam Ruby' Banana rise above a sea of 'Shenandoah' Switch Grass like the sails on a tall ship.  These Bananas were grown this spring in the research greenhouses from small tissue culture plants received in late March.  They are located in a planting bed along the front lawn at Oakland Hall.  Picture taken on August 28, 2013

This past February, Ken Ingram, one of our horticulture teachers on campus mentioned to me the possibility of allowing us (the University of Maryland Arboretum and Botanical Garden) to use some of the greenhouse bench space that he had access to for the laboratory training of his greenhouse and herbaceous plant materials classes.  As we do not have a greenhouse of our own, Ken immediately had my full attention and had unknowingly started a thought process in my brain that I will refer to as 'California Dreamin.'

While I have never had the opportunity to visit California, it is easy for a horticulturist to pick up on and notice the unusual and often lush tropical and subtropical plant materials in Facebook posts to plant groups by California gardeners or in the pictures taken in or movies filmed in southern and coastal California.  What, that movie actually had actors?  It is difficult for a plant nerd like myself not to lust after these tropical and subtropical beauties and experience plant envy, especially during the cold days of January and February in Maryland!

California Dreamin has been part of the American experience for a far longer time than when John and Michelle Phillips first created their popular hit with that name. There was a gold rush among many other dreams of striking it rich in the exotic state of California; however, for many inhabitants of the southern Great Plains (Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas) of the United States, in the 1930's during the Dust Bowl years, making it to California represented hope, the hope of survival and the hope of escaping a miserable situation. PBS created an excellent special feature on the American Experience called 'Surviving the Dust Bowl' that documents this sad time. The concept of California Dreamin has meant different things to many people over the years.  However, those different dreams had one thing in common, they created excitement about new possibilities!

While growing up many years ago in Kansas, a state located in the heartland of the United States, I became very familiar with California Dreamin, as it was a wonderful tune that our talented high school band instructor, Mr. Michael Salaway, a native of another exotic state named New Jersey, located on the opposite coast from California, picked out for us to play.  This song expresses the creators, John and Michelle Phillips, longing for the warmth of California during a cold winter according to Wikipedia.  At our tiny school, Gridley Rural High School, since combined into Southern Coffey County High School, about 3/4 of the students were enrolled in the combined junior high and senior high school band.  Fortunately, we got to play this song a lot as many of us including myself needed a lot of practise.  I was not a talented musician, but I enjoyed playing anyway, especially the trombone part for 'California Dreamin.'  I can still hum my favorite portion of the trombone part some 36 years later.  It isn't very often that trombone players get to play the melody, let alone such a wonderful melody as in this tune.  While the voice version is nice, I like the big band version even better.  Could not find the same version on You Tube that we played in band; however, this version by the OGO Big Band has some outstanding trombone playing as well as a great flute solo that create a magical experience for me.

My hope was that the use of the greenhouse space would allow us to do something different, to use some plants that we might not ordinarily have access to that might provide a magical moment or experience for people that work on or visit our campus.  When you create landscapes with magical moments, they are uplifting to the human spirit.  To me, a magical moment might be seeing the large, boldly textured and colored leaves of 'Siam Ruby' Bananas rising above a sea of 'Shenandoah' Switch Grass.  Or someone smelling the wonderful fragrance of 'Zephirine Droughin' Rose, 'Summer Nocturne' Crinum Lily or Common Jasmine.  Or someone seeing a tiny iridescent green ruby-throated hummingbird for the first time, hovering in midair and feeding on the incredible intense blue flowers of 'Blue Ensign' Anise-Scented Sage or Salvia, before it disappears in a flash.  Many spectacular Salvias are not commonly used in our area because that they are annuals in our climate and do not bloom until late summer or early fall.  It is very hard for a greenhouse or nursery to sell plants that are not in bloom when the customer buys them in the spring.  Color sells!  Magical moments are not just about the use of unique plant materials, they are also about carefully placing plants and other materials together in a way that a landscape sings and is uplifting.  Thank you Ann Petrone!  Some people refer to uplifting landscapes as sacred places.


The above three pictures are of Common Jasmine (Jasminum officinale var. grandiflorum).  These plants were installed on Tawes Plaza and Southwest of Tawes Hall on a trellis/screen built to hide electrical utility boxes.  Common Jasmine has a wonderful fragrance very early in the morning that quickly fades as the day progresses.  It bloomed continually until heavy frosts arrived in early November.

Many people plant out tropical and subtropical plants for the summer in the colder temperate zones.  Usually the plants die come winter in colder temperates zones, unless special precautions are taken.  These precautions may include cutting back to the ground after frost kills the tops and applying an extra thick layer of mulch to insulate the rhizomes or crown area from the winter cold.  Some plants do well in an unheated basement over the winter as long as it stays cool (40-50 degrees F), but does not freeze.  Many plants can be simply dug up from the garden and placed in a cool basement without a need for potting them up.  Very little to no watering is usually best for most of these plants when that they are dormant in a basement.  Some can be cut back before placing in a basement and others it is better not to cut back.  A few lucky gardeners may have a greenhouse to overwinter tropical plants.  However, often insect pests can be a big problem when overwintering plants in a greenhouse.  Some tropical and subtropical plants such as Crinum Lilies do not reach their full potential for flowering and/or beauty in one year from tissue culture or small mail order plants.  Crinum Lilies may not bloom at all the first year from tiny mail order plants like those that we purchased.  However, the size and number of shoots did increase dramatically.  We will need to overwinter them in a greenhouse before we get a good return on investment in blooms from them.

No, I was not content to limit my vision of California Dreamin to tropical and subtropical plants, I expanded my vision to include some hardy and marginally hardy plants that were not available from our local vendors.  I wanted to trial some plants that I felt had good ornamental potential.  Plants such as Hardy Ground Orchid (Bletilla ochracea and Bletilla striata), 'Pink China' elephant Ear (Colocasia 'Pink China'), Carolina Jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens), Japanese or Hardy Banana (Musa basjoo), 'Thai Black' Banana (Musa 'Thai Black'), 'Mekong Giant' Hardy Banana (Musa xishuangbannaensi), Hardy Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis tuberosa), 'Belinda's Dream' Rose, 'Carefree Beauty' Rose, 'Ducher' Rose, 'Zephirine Drouhin' Rose, Arizona Blue Sage, Blue Turkish Sage and Romanian Sage.

The above two pictures of 'Pink China' Elephant Ear (Colocasia 'Pink China') were taken on August 28, 2013. 'Pink China' is not a large Elephant Ear; however, our source claims that it is the most cold hardy Elephant Ear and should come back next year for us with protective mulching over the winter.  We will find out next summer if that it lives up to this claim.  'Pink China' seems to quickly send out runners that develope into new plants, so these widely spaced plants may be a solid mass at the end of next summer.   These plants are in a planting bed along the front lawn at Oakland Hall.

'Carefree Beauty' is a rose that I have been wanting to try for a number of years.  It is a rose that is very highly rated by a number of different rose society's located in some of our nations harshest climates where that it is difficult to grow many plants.  'Carefree Beauty' is one of a number of lovely and very cold hardy roses bred by the late Dr. Griffith Buck, a plant breeder at Iowa State University.  This website maintained by Iowa State University has a listing with pictures of a number of the Buck Roses.  Disease resistance was built in to Dr. Buck's breeding program as he did not have the budget to spray the plants in his program.  Those roses that were disease prone died and were no longer a part of the breeding program.  Dr. Buck was breeding and growing disease resistant roses, long before that the concept occurred to others.  A horticulture friend from the Kansas City area has tried a number of the Buck roses and gave them a thumbs up as being great, durable roses. 

So far, the 'Carefree Beauty' Roses that we received by mail order and grew in the Research Greenhouses and then planted out on campus have far out performed a highly touted English Rose that I attempted to grow years ago and a couple of over publicized Flower Carpet roses that we removed from the Benjamin Garden because of their poor performance.  My disappointment in the over rated English Rose was so great that I never grew roses for many years after that until I saw how amazing that the Knock Out series of roses were.  'Carefree Beauty' is one of the parents of the original 'Knock Out' Rose.  The pink color of the 'Carefree Beauty' Roses contrasts beautifully with the electric blue color of 'Blue Ensign' Anise-Scented Sage or Salvia planted in the Benjamin Courtyard Garden.

The above two photos are of 'Carefree Beauty' Rose (Rosa x 'Carefree Beauty'). 'Carefree Beauty has a noticeable, attractive fragrance. 'Carefree Beauty' Roses are located in a front foundation planting at the Tawes Hall. Picture taken on August 27, 2013.

My 'California Dreamin' started to become a reality when that administrators approved the mail order purchase of the plants that I had selected.  Ken Ingram helped my pot up newly arrived mail order plants during sping break while others were in Florida or some other exotic location.  Someone else has always grown the plants that I have used over the years, rather than me being the greenhouse grower, so I received quite an education this spring.  Luckily, Ken and the talented folks at the Research Greenhouses helped me along the way.  It was a great learning experience that provided some unusual plants for us to trial.  I am still learning about these plants and hope to be able to share more information about them in the future.  It won't be until next Spring that I will know if that the plants that are supposed to be winter hardy, turn out to be winter hardy as we were told etc.

Below is a scene that is far more exciting to a plant nerd like myself than when I was a kid opening presents at a family gathering.  This was the largest of three different orders that we placed.  It was also the most carefully wrapped.  No damage in transit with this order!  Clear plastic tape was used everywhere, and I do mean everywhere.  It took longer to extricate the plants from all of this packing than that it took to replant them into larger pots.     

Carolina Jasmine or Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) came with a single bloom!
'Double Purple' Angel's Trumpet (Datura fastuosa 'Douple Purple' or Datura metel 'Double Purple')

The above two pictures are of 'Zephirine Drouhin' Rose (Rosa x 'Zephirine Drouhin').  I knew that I was going to love this rose as soon as I unwrapped it and the wonderful scent escaped.  It seems to have a slight clean citrus scent rather than the heavy scent of other fragrant roses.  The lack of thorns is another big plus.

Unpacked plants ready to go into the greenhouse to be planted in larger size pots over the next few days.


The above three pictures of 'Cypress Gardens' White Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia x 'Cypress Gardens') were taken on August 28, 2013.  The flowers quickly change to white once that they have opened and last for about 2-3 days.


The above four pictures are of 'Thai Black' Bananas (Musa 'Thai Black') that are located in the small courtyard on the east side of the Architecture Building.  This is supposed to be a hardy banana for us .  These pictures were taken on August 6, 2013.

Red Abyssinian Banana (Ensete maurelii) planted northwest of the West Chapel on August 19, 2013.

'Zebrina' Blood Banana (Musa acuminata 'Zebrina') planted northwest of the West Chapel on August 19, 2013.

'Blue Ensign' Salvia or Sage (Salvia guaranitica 'Blue Ensign') in the Benjamin Building courtyard garden on August 27, 2013
Blue Taro or Elephant Ear (Xanthosoma violaceum) in a front foundation planting at Tawes Hall on August 27, 2013

Japanese Hardy Banana (Musa basjoo) in a front foundation planting at Tawes Hall on August 27, 2013.
This is what we hope that our clump of Japanese Hardy Bananas (Musa basjoo) at Tawes Hall will look like at the end of their third summer.  It will take about three years to reach the size of this beautiful clump of Japanese Hardy Bananas at the Hahn Horticulture Garden on the campus of Virginia Tech.  They have the potential to get even larger with a few additional years.  Unfortunately, our growing season is too short for them to bear fruit.  The small Elephant Ear plants at the base of the Bananas are 'Pink China,' the same cultivar that we grew in the greenhouse this spring that is located in one of the front lawn plantings at Oakland Hall.  Picture taken on August 23, 2013.

Carolina Jasmine and Common Jasmine in the back of the pickup truck waiting to be planted on July 16, 2013.

Newly installed Carolina Jasmine and Common Jasmine planted on a trellis southwest of Tawes Hall on July 16, 2013.  Existing 'Dropmore Scarlet' Honeysuckle vines were cut back to just a few inches.

Common Jasmine (Jasminum officinale var. grandiflorum)  Common Jasmine has a wonderful fragrance first thing in the morning.  It is planted by the front door to many residences in India because of its fragrance.  Most years we are expecting this plant to die back to the ground, but come back like a perennial from the crown or roots and still bloom in late summer.  One of the things that I have learned about Common Jasmine is that the new growth is very brittle and breaks off easily when you try to bend it to weave it into the wire trellis.  The 'Amethyst Falls' Wisteria, Carolina Jasmine and 'Dropmore Scarlet' Honeysuckle that are also planted on this trellis have proven to be much more flexible   Picture taken on August 27, 2013

Carolina Jasmine or Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is on the right.  This plant can survive a right angled crimped stem and still keep on growing past the point of the crimp, I am not sure that I know of any other plant that can do that.  'Dropmore Scarlet' Honeysuckle is the vine on the left with the rounded leaves.  Picture taken on August 27, 2013

'Java White' Copper Plant (Acalypha wilkesiana 'Java White') on July 16, 2013.  While not winter hardy for us, I have seen Acalypa wilkesiana in the Miami, Florida area get to be 15 feet by 15 feet.  They are very tolerant of South Florida's dry, almost desert like 6 months during the winter as well as the high pH in Miami-Dade County.  Unfortunately, they seem to be very susceptible to mealybugs in the greenhouse for us.

Hardy Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis tuberosa)  This one is supposed to be hardy for us!  It has certainly done well for us during this recent dry spell this year.  Picture taken on August 28, 2013.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Redbuds, Adaptable and Resilient Beauties

'Forest Pansy' Redbuds add a welcome splash of spring color to the northwest corner of the Mitchell Building.

Eastern Redbuds (Cercis canadensis) are native to a far larger portion of the eastern United States than the much better known Flowering Dogwood tree.  While the USDA map shows both being present in Kansas, there may be all of fifteen native Flowering Dogwoods trees growing in natural populations in Eastern Kansas (fifteen may be generous as I have never seen one growing in the wild myself in that area) while there are millions of Redbuds in Eastern Kansas that are impossible to miss.  To see the vast numbers of purplish pink flowered Redbuds of Eastern Kansas come into bloom alongside of the fragrant white flowers of Sandplum thickets is to witness one of North America's most spectacular large scale floral displays.  Redbuds usually grow at the edge of woods where that they receive a lot of sun and are very visible.

The above six pictures are of an Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) located East of Worcester Hall.

Being able to thrive in extreme climates such as in Kansas means that Redbuds are much more adaptabile and resilient trees than Flowering Dogwoods.  Redbuds are also able to thrive in poorer and drier soils than Flowering Dogwoods.  Redbuds have the most flowers when planted in full sun; however, will grow in partial shade also.  They seem to reach their maximum growth potential and maximum longevity if planted on the north side of a building, far enough out that they get full sun, but do not get reflected heat.

Have seen extreme natural variation in tree size and density of foliage within very small areas in natural populations.  A few of the smaller forms are almost shrub like.  Some trees can get an attractive reddish brown exfoliating bark on their trunks as they mature.  Redbuds are often multi-stemmed trees in the wild and are sometimes sold in nurseries as multi-stemmed specimens.  I once saw a magnificent old multi-stemmed tree in Kansas City, Kansas that had beautiful reddish brown exfoliating bark on its 15 inch plus branches.  The form was very much like as if you chopped off the entire single stemmed trunk in the first picture below, leaving a broad spreading multi-stemmed tree.

There are white flowered forms of the Eastern Redbud; however, the older and more common ones that I am aware of that are usually available in the nursery industry are from southern sources and do not have good winter hardiness in northern areas.  Hoping that someone will start propagating some of the white forms from more northern sources such as the small native population of white flowered Eastern Redbuds that I saw along I-70 in Eastern Ohio a number of years ago as selections from northern sources should be more cold hardy.

There are a number of different cultivars now of Eastern Redbud that were selected for different attributes such as weeping habits, variegated foliage, bright pink flowers etc.  The multi-colored newly emerged foliage of 'Forest Pansy' Redbud is magnificent.  When viewing from the under side of the leaf with the sun shining through, the leaves are primarily a beautiful intense dark red color with some bronzy yellow-green color near where that the leaf attaches to the petiole.  When viewing the upper side of the leaf with sunlight being reflected from the leaf, the leaf surface appears to be a purplish red color.

The above five photos are of a 'Forest Pansy' Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy') located Northwest of the Mitchell Building.

Mexican Redbud and Texas Redbud are varieties of the Eastern Redbud.  'Oklahoma,' is a very thick, large leaved plant that is a cultivar of the Texas Redbud.  There are four 'Oklahoma' Redbuds in the Chemistry Courtyard and one Eastern Redbud in the same location which makes comparison easy.

There are Redbuds of different species in many parts of the world.  One of the more commonly available non-native redbuds in our area is the Chinese Redbud (Cercis chinensis).  We have a cultivar of Chinese Redbud named 'Avondale' on the East side of LeFrak Hall.  Chinese Redbud is a smaller tree than the Eastern Redbud and is usually much more shrub like in appearance than are Eastern Redbuds.

The above ten pictures are of 'Avondale' Chinese Redbuds (Cercis canadensis 'Avondale') located on the East side of Lefrak Hall.

Additional information on Redbuds including different cultivars can be found by clicking on the links below to recent blog posts by horticulturists from Indiana and Ohio:

Les Belles Redbud Fleurs 

Continous Interest: A Cercis Sampler

Sam Bahr, author and photographer

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Contact Information for the University of Maryland Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Mailing and Shipping address (This is the location of our partner, UMD Landscape Services, and the office of our Assistant Director, Karen Petroff):
University of Maryland
Wye Oak Building (428)
4201 Landscape Ln.
College Park, MD 20742-7215
phone: 301-405-3320
fax: 301-314-9943
hours: 6 am to 2:30 pm, M-F

Horticulturist's Offices and Meeting Room (No mail delivery or shipping to this location):
University of Maryland
Arboretum Outreach Center (156)
3931 Stadium Dr.
College Park, MD 20742
phone: 301-405-3320
fax: 301-314-9943
hours: 7 am to 3:30 pm, M-F, by appointment or prescheduled times only, as sometimes everyone is out on campus and the building will be locked

When using the UMD Campus Map, you can click on a building name and the street address of that building and other information about that building should come up in a pop up window.

blog administrator, Sam Bahr, 301-405-7926 or 301-405-3320
e-mail: sbahr@umd.edu

updated 1/30/20


Our gardens are free and open to the public. There are some parking lots (read the signs for that parking lot carefully) that are free to park in after 4 pm and before 7 am and on weekends, except on game days and during other special events. There is public parking in four large parking garages at the rate of $3 per hour with a daily maximum of $15. On weekends in the garages, the rate is $3 per hour with a daily maximum rate of $5 per hour. There is a small amount of additional pay parking along some streets.

Navigation around campus is much easier with this interactive campus map. You can look up parking locations and building locations using this map. Use the search tab to bring up the page to search for campus building names, locations and addresses. If you click on a building name on this interactive campus map, a popup window should appear with the address and other details about the building.

updated 10/6/2015

Butterfly feeding on the nectar of Russian Sage blossoms

General Information about the 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 Arboretum and Botanical Garden consists of our entire 1,250 acre College Park, Maryland campus. The Campus collection 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

University of Maryland Arboretum Explorer or UMD ABG Explorer (Tree and Shrub Inventory)

You can look up the identity of many trees and shrubs using this interactive campus map: https://maps.umd.edu/abg/. Herbaceous plants and even some small woody plants are not a part of this inventory. It is still a work in progress and we do not consider it a complete or entirely up to date inventory.

Our plant inventory or plant collections database can also be considered a plant database, plant search, plant locator, plant finder, plant collection database, living collections management system, plant records system or plant mapping system for campus plantings.

updated 1/30/20

Image and Link to the Interactive Campus Map Showing the Campus Plant Inventory

Tawes Plaza Gardens

Tawes Plaza Gardens
Kim's Knee High Purple Coneflower, Russian Sage, White Out Rose and Dwarf Pampas Grass are featured in this planting in 2010.