PVC Bulletin March 2006






Potomac Valley Chapter

North American Rock Garden Society



Volume 8, Number 2


March  2006



This bulletin is a bimonthly publication of the Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS

Jim  McKenney, Editor jimmckenney@starpower.net 301-770-1867


Calendar, 2006  

 March 3-5, Western Study Weekend, Rounding the Rim, Plants From the Pacific Rim, Sydney-by-the-Sea (near Victoria, BC), Hosted by VIRAGS;


March 12, Sunday, our scheduled speaker, Janis Ruksans,  has cancelled. On short notice, Betty has come up with a splendid replacement: John Lonsdale "Pushing the Limits" Don't miss this one! Note the change of venue: we'll be meeting at 10AM at the USBG Conservatory.      John's garden west of Philadelphia is a treasure trove of Crocus, Colchicum, Paeonia, Cyclamen, Fritillaria, Iris, Daphne, Lewisia, Tulipa, Helleborus, Cypripedium, Trillium - and those are just some of the highlights.  And for those who show up, John will bring some choice cyclamen for sale!

April 1, Meadowlark Gardens, Fairfax VA. at 9:30 for coffee  Marion Jarvie from Toronto speaking on Rock Garden Goodies.

May 20, Green Spring Park, our Plant Sale Merry Bruns, Dixie Hougen and Jim Dronenburg have volunteered to organize this. Now it's up to the rest of us to provide some good plants. Check this website periodically during the upcoming weeks for more details.

May 27, place to be determined, our Plant Exchange

Next Deadline April 15, 2006


2006 Spring Garden Tour


Once again, Potomac Valley Chapter is sponsoring an all-day bus trip, this time northwards into Pennsylvania, to visit two gardens and a nursery.

 On Saturday, April 29, we will travel north of York to Asiatica Nursery, run by Barry Yinger, grower and introducer of wonderful gardenworthy plants, mostly from Asia. If you wish to buy plants we ask that you order them in advance, to be picked up at the nursery that day.  Dixie Hougen has a small supply of catalogs available for trip-goers, or you can order online at www.asiaticanursery.com.

 With our purchases safely tucked away, we’ll go south through York to visit the spectacular private estate of Louis and Jody Appell.  Their beautifully manicured gardens cover 50 acres and should abound in spring bulbs. We will eat our lunches there or on the bus.

 Our last stop will be outside Red Lion, at the garden of two very enthusiastic and knowledgeable gardeners, Morris West and Nicholas Kline. Longtime members of the Delaware Valley chapter of NARGS, they have opened their remarkable gardens to other rock gardeners for many years.

 We plan to leave Tysons Corner parking at 7.30 am SHARP and will return by 6.30 pm.

 The cost will be $40 per person for members and $50 per person non-members (the extra $10 will be applied to a one year membership if desired). Bring your own lunch and water or other drinks.

 Space is limited; send your check payable to PVC-NARGS to Alice Nicolson, 3435 8th Street S, Arlington, VA 22204.




Potomac Valley Chapter of NARGS

January 7, 2006

The Board of Directors of the Potomac Valley Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS) was called to order by the president, Alma Kasulaitis, at 11:30 A.M. on Saturday, January 7, 2006, at the U.S. Botanic Garden, following the slide lecture by Carlo Balistrieri.

Board members present were: Sandra Carlson, Margot Ellis, Dixie Hougen, Alma Kasulaitis, Jim McKenney, Alice Nicolson and Betty Spar. Jo Banfield, Paul Botting and Sue Hodapp were unable to attend.

The purpose of the meeting was to plan a bus trip to Pennsylvania on Saturday, April 29, 2006, to visit two gardens and a nursery. Highlights of the discussion include:

-Visit Rocky Hollow Garden of Morris West and Nicholas Kline in Red Lion, PA (York County) for 2 hours and the fifty acre garden of Mrs Jodi Appel, which is nearby, for another two hours.

-Stop at Asiatica Nursery in Lewinsberry, PA

-Leave parking lot at Tyson's Corner at 7:30 A.M. with a stop in Maryland (exact location to be determined) to pick up additional passengers.

-Everyone will bring their own lunch and beverage.

-Give a $100 gift certificate to the garden owners or to a charity of their choice and a $75 tip for the bus driver.

-Paul Botting is arranging for a bus to accommodate 40 people. The charge will be $40 per person. He will talk to the bus company regarding the best location to pick up passengers in Maryland, In Paul's absence, the exact cost of the bus was not available.


Following a brief discussion regarding dues, it was moved, and duly seconded, to increase dues to $15 per household effective January 1, 2007.

The Board agreed that if both persons in a household wanted to participate in the  plant exchange in 2006, the dues would be $10 per person instead of $10 per household.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 12 Noon.

Respectively submitted,

Sandra Carlson



Growing Rohdea japonica from Seed

Last year brought a bumper crop of seeds on our Rohdea japonica plants, many of which we have grown from seed, so I thought that I would share our experience in growing the plants. The general pattern that works very well is to collect the fruits just after they turn red in the fall and remove the seeds (there can be up to 4 per fruit). Wash the seeds thoroughly to remove any trace of a germination inhibitor, then plant them in a pot of soil, cover them with soil, and place the pot in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for 2 months. We always put a note on the refrigerator as to which seeds are inside and when they need to come out.

After two months we put the pot on a heating pad set for 70F under lights in our basement, removing the pot from the plastic bag but covering it with a piece of glass, leaving a gap so there is some air circulation.

Germination usually begins in a couple of weeks, but it will be spread out over a considerable period of time. The seeds don't require light for germination, but we often have something else growing under the lights at the same time.

We generally plant about 16 seeds in a 4" square pot, but no more than nine would probably be a better number because we keep the seedlings in the pot for a year, and then, if we have the space and time grow them on in individual pots for another year, so the plants are quite strong when they are planted out. That period also gives you a chance to select individuals that show any particular traits you might be looking for, such as unusually narrow or broad leaves.

The variegated patterns you see on leaves for the most part will not be inherited from seed propagation, but leaf size and shape generally are.

Heavily variegated-leafed plants often do produce variegated seedlings with variable patterns. Because of their reduced chlorophyll, raising them to maturity is a slow process, and often the plants do not look nearly as good in the garden as the did indoors in a pot, which is also a way to grow Rohdea.

A final caution, raising Rohdea from seed to mature plant is a slow process, taking at least five years, but those of us who buy small hostas are not unfamiliar with that time frame. In the process you can produce many extra plants for the plant sale.

If you have left the fruits on your plants all winter and wonder whether that is sufficient cold for them, the answer is probably yes, but you would have gotten better and faster germination had you given them a uniform cold treatment. In all of our years of growing Rohdeas we have only had a single seedling volunteer in the garden, so don't count on mother nature to do the work for you.

Bob Faden




 Eastern Study Weekend

The opportunity to visit New York City and attend rock gardening lectures for a weekend was irresistible. Traveling with two other gardeners and a dear friend, formerly a resident of the city, we found the trip carefree and inspirational. The event was hosted by the Manhattan Chapter of the American Rock Garden Society, and the hotel's rate was considerably less than usual. Located in Manhattan, it offered the perfect place for quick trips throughout the city.
Arriving half a day early, we polled the group and decided to visit the B and H Camera Store. With 35,000 square feet of electronic equipment, it's considered their super store and possibly the biggest of its kind in the country. Macy's was next, two floors of shoes, one floor for comfort shoes, the other for fashionable shoes. The escalators were made of wood; they clacked and clicked away, worn smooth after continuous use since 1902. The Marriott Hotel had been nice enough to give us early access to our rooms, so we headed back and joined other rock gardeners as we registered for the weekend of lectures. That first night we heard Robert Rolfe talk about judging plants shown at competitions for the Alpine Garden Society. Robert is from Nottingham, England and is an Alpine Society judge. His encyclopedic knowledge and superb photography affected me profoundly. Plants grown to such a level of perfection gave me insight into the horticultural prowess that exists within the boundaries of England. There were many plants we would be unable to grow yet a few we could, including natives such as trilliums, tiarellas and jeffersonias. Dinner followed in a small Italian restaurant on a side street beside the hotel. As luck would have it, we sat with Nickolas Nickou and Carol Hanby of Branford, CT. They own a fabulous garden and a discussion of rare trees and shrubs kept us entertained through the evening, often pressing us to the edge of our chairs. Nickolas has explored in China and India, he is especially keen on species rhododendron.

Early mornings always involved a brisk walk to Ess A Bagel for NYC bagels before lectures started. It was two blocks away, and the bagels were great, but the black and white cookies were my favorite! On Saturday the first lecture was given by Rick Lupp of Mt. Tahoma Nursery in Graham, WA. It was just campanulas, 49 species and hybrids of campanula. We skipped the saxifrage talk since we can't grow them well in Virginia and cabbed over to the Soho flower district. I have never seen such an array of cut flowers including bouquets of sweet peas in different colors. Hawaii, Australia and South America were all well represented. Street sidewalks were filled with buckets of forced branches and potted flowering plants. Orchids were available cut or live. This went on for 2 city blocks.
After lunch at a corner pizza shop we made it back to hear John Lonsdale of Exton, PA. He covered his favorite daphnes, fritillarias,  oncocyclus and juno irises. He has mastered these in his garden which is on my "must see" list. Abbie Zabar gave an enlightening presentation. She has authored the books The Potted Herb and A Growing Garden. Her lecture included a little history of roof top gardening in NYC and a discussion of the liability issues that have arisen due to pedestrians being hit by objects falling from above. The city's new restrictions led to the shoring up and rebuilding of her roof top. We watched as she recounted the reconstruction of her beautiful garden. Work crews tore down old walls and planters with big equipment and then hoisted and realigned new ones. Abbie added "Don't tell me about deer" as we saw large power tools dwarf her troughs and containers.
Saturday night's dinner was followed with Robert Rolfe, this time showing ninety slides of beautiful plants, all grown perfectly. Robert could give each plant's history, grower and year of medal; it was amazing. The Sunday morning lectures were given by Beryl and Peter Bland of England. This husband/wife team is hilarious. She loves saxifrages, he is a shrubman particularly fond of rhododendron. They have separate gardens... obviously.
The lectures came to an end at lunch time on Sunday, and we still had half a day before our flight home. Off to Chinatown we hurried:  the Chinese New Year would be well underway, dragons on the street, masses of people and great food. The cab driver was brave (or maybe crazy): he delivered us right to the heart of the activity. Confetti was so deep in the streets that sometimes you couldn't see the curbs.
As we toured the city we were keenly aware of the light. Always shadowed by big buildings, I imagined canyon lighting is like this. The sky is just a wedge of light, a slice between buildings. Our last stop was Ground Zero, a great opening in the sky. The sunlight streams in.

Our weekend would be over soon. Our plants, bought from vendors in the hotel, were wrapped for the flight home: Primula sieboldii, daphne and various goodies. The vendors did a great job delivering their plants into the heart of the city. The Manhattan Chapter should be given a big pat on the back. They called it "A Master Class in Rock Gardening". but it was so much more.
I concluded that I really admired the artistry of downtown New York, the architecture, the elevators, every building and lobby. Manhattan was a blast!
Karen Rexrode


Callas for sale in a sidewalk display

Another view of a sidewalk vendor

These guys didn't get all dressed up for the year of the cat!                         Photos by Karen Rexrode



Carlo Balistrieri


Notes on Our  January Speaker – Carlo Balistrieri

Jim Dronenburg


The speaker for the January meeting was Carlo Balistrieri, curator of the Rock Garden of the New York Botanic Garden (at the time the engagement was agreed on).  By the time January was here, however, he had moved to being the person in charge of the Gardens at Turtle Pointe, with the mission statement of creating a garden there and a budget that enabled him to do it.


Since Dan and I were hosting him the night before, we used him as an excuse to have a dinner that night, and invited anyone from PVC NARGS who wanted to come.  The  Diebolds came, Marge Talt, Harry Dewey, and Mary Ann Ford, and one or two others who (am away from my guest list) I cannot remember, they came with Harry, forgive me when you read this!  As this made a small table for me—I can cook for two, and cook for an army, and nothing in between—I salted the evening with non-NARGS people who were good company—Carol Allen from the USBG,  Tom Mirenda from the Smithsonian, Chris Upton from the Arboretum.  The evening was lively.  Talk ranged from the NYBG to Carlo’s job at Turtle Pointe—essentially building from scratch—and his and other peoples’ growing experiences.  Esoteric bulbs came in at one point…orchids at another. 


On Saturday morning, Dan and I went in our car and Carlo followed in his.  He could not have known the route we were going to take, had not mentioned being in the area before… so when he mentioned Turkey Run and Dead Run in his speech, we had to admire his polish…and his observational ability. 


Carlo’s speech was “Rock Gardening With A Twist”, and showed all the things you could do to put rock gardens in places other than the usual hillside-with-boulders.  There were the Czechs stacking thin rock pieces vertically, people building a rock garden in the middle of (and on top of) a parking lot, rock gardens straight up the side of a wall, and a pillar rock garden.  The stress of the talk was less on plant material than on the ways it could be presented, and the fact that it COULD be presented in never-so-small-a-space. 


The classroom was essentially full, most of the empty chairs being from people leaving them early on in the talk to stand along the sides and back because they could see more of the screen.  After the talk and a valiant effort to finish off the coffee and snacks, quite a few people toured the USBG.  Afterwards, Carlo and three or four others left the USBG to see the Fadens’ gardens.



New Year’s Day Bloom 2006

Dixie Hougen


New Year’s Day was chilly, but not as cold as the weeks preceding the New Year, when night temperatures in the mid-twenties did not warm much above freezing during the day. This long and early cold wave persisted for over a week. We are never ready for the first frost when our late autumn is warm and bright, but the change was particularly brutal this year. I hope our plants will have survived the abrupt change and unrelenting cold, although the January 1 plant list must surely have been shortened by it.


My harbinger of spring, Camellia japonica ‘Lady Clare’, known to have thrown out bright pink blooms near Thanksgiving, couldn’t even muster a swelling bud. My garden produced a single bloom, and an ugly one at that, from an early blooming hybrid Helleborus.


Bob and Audrey Faden found blooms on the following:

Aster carolinianus

Camellia ‘Snow Flurry’

Camellia ‘Winter Star’

Camellia ‘Winter’s Beauty’

Crocus pulchellus

Crocus laevigatus

Crocus longiflorus (planted late – might not make this list again, but who knows?)

Crocus biflorus subsp. melantherus

Draba rigida

Galanthus elwesii

Galanthus reginae-olgae

Lonicera fragrantissima

Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Variegatus’

Viburnum rhytidophyllum

When I visited the Faden garden to make this list,  I brought the lists from previous years, but Audrey and I  couldn’t find anything else with blooms.


Alice Nicolson added:

Camellia ‘Yuletide’

Camellia sinensis – the pink-flowered form, more or less open

Chaenomeles speciosa

Chimonanthus nitens

Chimonanthus praecox 'Luteus'

Daphne ×  transatlantica ‘Summer Ice’

Galanthus elwesii

Galanthus elwesii ‘Monostictus group’

Hamamelis virginiana

Jasminum nudiflorum


 The Mazaitis garden offered:

 Crocus speciosus

Osmanthus heterophyllus

Galanthus caucasicus ‘Hiemalis’

Daphne ×  burkwoodii

Erica ×  darleyensis

Viola sororia

A chrysanthemum, the yellow late-blooming one from Bobbie Diebold


Jim Dronenburg, in Zone 6B, added some interesting plants that were not seen in warmer gardens. For those who missed the picnic at the Dronenburg/Weil garden west of Frederick, they have managed to create a small, warm garden area in some of their 3 acre lot. They saw blooms on:

 Sarcococca confusa

Chimonanthus praecox

Helleborus foetidus

Elaeagnus pungens

Hamamelis virginiana

Daphne × transatlantica ‘Summer Ice’

Hamamelis vernalis ‘New Year’s Gold’



Potomac Valley Chapter of NARGS

November 12, 2005


The Annual Meeting of the Membership of the Potomac Valley Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society ( NARGS) convened at 10 A.M. on Saturday, November 12, 2005, at Meadowlark Gardens in Vienna, VA. Paul Botting, vice-president, presided.


Treasurer’s Report


Margot Ellis reported that the beginning balance as of January 1, 2005 was $12,718.62, the ending balance, as of November 11, 2005 was $10, 242.81 and that $5,000 of that amount was in a CD due March 11, 2006. See the full report below.


Following a discussion of income and expenditures for the past couple of years, it was moved and seconded that the Board revisit the decision to give Green Spring $1000 as a tribute to George Phair. The motion carried.


Paul announced that the dues for 2006 will be $10. It was suggested that the Board consider raising dues for 2007.


Election of Officers


It was moved and seconded that the slate of officers as presented in the PVC Bulletin be elected. They are:

President                 Alma Kasulaitis

Vice-President         Paul Botting

Secretary                 Sandra Carlson

Treasurer                 Margot Ellis


The motion carried.


Paul Botting appointed Sue Hodapp to act as parliamentarian for this meeting.


Communications Committee

Alice Nicolson reported that the committee now includes both the newsletter and the website. Jim McKenney said that the new website is up and running, that it is no longer password controlled, anyone can access it. He encouraged the members to agree to receive the newsletter electronically as an economy measure.



Paul thanked Sue Hodapp for providing the coffee and donuts for this meeting.


Bus Trio

There was a general discussion of a possible bus trip to Red Lion, PA to visit the garden of Marris West and Nocolas Klise at the end of April or early May of 2006.


Linda Keenan shared slides of her trip to the NARGS Annual Meeting in St. Johns, Newfoundland in July of 2005.


The meeting adjourned at 11:15 A.M.


Respectfully submitted,


Sandra Carlson



Treasurer’s Report


Suntrust Checking Account

Beginning Balance 1/1/05                        $12,718.62


Dues                                        850.00

Book Sales                              99.80

Green Spring Plant Sales       973.05

Interest                                     10.19           1,933.04

Expenses*                           (4,408.85)

Bank CD**                         (5,000.00)        (9,408.85)


Balance 11/11/05                                          $5,242.81



Accounting supplies               41.69

Green Spring                           401.96

Gifts                                        200.00

       (Dallas Peck Memorial; Sue Hodapp Appreciation)

Hospitality                             135.63

Newsletter                              376.67

Postage                                      34.20

Projector Rental                      105.75

Speakers                                  900.00

Website                                 2,212.95   

**9 month Certificate of Deposit @ Suntrust Bank rate 3.5% due 03/11/2006                    $5,000.00


Total Assets                                          $10,242.81


Green Spring plant sale proceeds $571.09



From the Robin

The members of the Robin have given their cameras a real workout this year. The mild winter has provided a wonderful bouquet of unusual flowers, many of them no-doubt "life-list" plants. Most of the images below appeared in the Robin, a few are last minute additions. If you have been taking pictures of your plants and would like to see those pictures in future PVC Bulletins, contact the Editor.



 Membership Renewal for 2006 is now due - if your mailing address says “2005” you need to bring a check for $10, made out to “PVC-NARGS”, to our next meeting, or mail it to: Margot Ellis, 2417 N. Taylor St., Arlington VA 22207

This is your last PVC Bulletin unless you renew!