PVC Bulletin January 2007



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Potomac Valley Chapter

North American Rock Garden Society



Volume 9, Number 1


January 2007


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

President                         Paul Botting                   pmbotting@comcast.net

 Vice President                Jim Dronenburg             rutlands@adelphia.net

Secretary                        Sandra Carlson               

Treasurer                       Margot Ellis                    margotellis1@yahoo.com

Editor                            Jim  McKenney                jimmckenney@jimmckenney.com             301-770-1867

Next deadline: February 15, 2007



Calendar 2007

It's time to pay dues for 2007! Send your check for $15  to Margot Ellis, 2417 N. Taylor St., Arlington, VA 22207

January 27 - 9:30 to 12:30 - Chris Wiesinger, Southern Bulb Company, talking on bulb rustling.  

The Meeting on January 27 features Chris Wiesinger from Southern Bulb Company and is being held at the U. S. Botanic Garden Production Greenhouses from 9 to 12:30. 


Directions are as follows:
From Wilson Bridge going to MD, take 295 north to Wash DC, get off at Exit #1 (DC Village). At stop after ramp, make left (Shepherd ParkwaySW), proceed to first gate entrance (US Botanic Garden), park in front of green building.  [The first building on left at Shepherd Parkway is the DC Fire Training Academy, we are not there.]

From elsewhere:  take 395 or whatever to get to 295 going south from DC, get off at exit #1 (same as above), BUT go three traffic lights, make left on to Shepherd Parkway SW and park in front of green building after entering the fenced area.  [The first building on left on Shepherd Pkway is the DC Fire Training Academy, proceed past that to the next left.]



January 19-21, 2007 Eastern Winter Study Weekend “The Evolution of a Rock Gardener” Rochester, N.Y. Hyatt Regency Hotel; hosted by the Genesee Valley Chapter; Registrar: Kate Van Scott, 555 Log Cabin Rd., Fishers, NY 14453; kpvansco@rochester.rr.com or check the chapter web site gvcnargs.org on the NARGS site.

February 10 Dick and Judy Tyler on Hellebores (seedlings for sale), at Brookside Gardens,
Board Meeting at 9 A.M., Judith Tyler's presentation at 9:30 to 1:00 PM. A brief introduction to the Tylers is given below with some images Judith has provided as a  preview to her presentation. 


March 18, Sunday, 1:30-3:00 Green Spring Gardens A "Blast from the Past"  Don Humphrey
Don will share his latest garden design; a mixed border of tall perennials, a wildlife garden filled with fruit for the birds, a vegetable garden for the humans, a garden for the hummingbirds, a berm with shrubs and shade plants and...whew, a peaceful patio to rest!  Don't miss a chance to see this garden and our forever friend.  $11.

March 31 -Dave Demers, writer and itinerant plant collector. Time, place TBA

April 7 Bobby Ward returns, speaking on rare and unusual southeastern natives suitable for us, followed by a walk through the National Garden with Bill McLaughlin and Bobby discussing what's out there.  U. S. Botanic Garden Conservatory new classroom. 

May Our plant sale, time and place TBA

June 14-17, 2007 Canaan Valley Resort State Park, West Virginia, 2007 NARGS Annual General Meeting, Chairperson  Martha Oliver, 921 Scottsdale-Dawson Rd., Scottsdale  PA 15683

October 7, 2007 Janis Ruksans will be here on October 7 (Sunday) at 9:30, place TBD. 



Dixie Hougen

The New Year was preceded by several days of balmy temperatures.  Christmas week was warm enough to provide a lot of unexpected color in the Washington area.  There were several sightings of Chaenomeles, Chimonanthus praecoxLutea’, Corydalis ochroleuca, Erica cultivars, Forsythia, Hamamelis, Helleborus × hybridus, H. niger, H. foetidus, Jasminium nudiflorum, Lonicera fragrantissima, Mahonia bealei, Phlox subulata, Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis', daffodils, dandelions and pansies from members living on all points of the compass—not just those of us south of I-95.  In order to conserve space, I have not repeated plant names but have repeated the genus when a species or cultivar name was furnished.  In the several years that I have been compiling a census, never has the distribution of identical blooming plants been so wide.  In most previous censuses, the largest list of blooms was in Bob and Audrey Faden’s warm, sunny, and large garden.  The Faden garden still had an enormous number of blooms, but many of those plants were sighted in other gardens the week before.  It is interesting that the Faden garden added did not add many new blooms.  Surely they cannot have maximized their winter gardens! 

Jim Dronenburg, in almost West Virginia, with a brick courtyard garden that creates a much warmer environment and a sun-drenched three-acre garden, was the first to report.  Other gardeners, listed below, have planted to enhance the local environment.  And some people are just plain lucky—they have deciduous shade on the south side of their house, but they were clever enough to plant to that strength.  In spite of my fondness for Jim’s warm courtyard garden, the list below only includes one courtyard resident—the rose.


Jim Dronenburg lists these plants as blooming 1/1/07:

Chaenomeles 'Crimson and Gold'

Annual Dianthus

Elaeagnus pungens

Hamamelis 'Rochester'

Hamamelis 'Girard's Purple'

Hamamelis virginiana, last stragglers

Helleborus foetidus—Jim had a bloom near Thanksgiving.

Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'

Prunus mume-- pink single, tag missing.

Rosa 'Tausendschoen'-- two little also-ran blooms (in Jim’s enclosed courtyard garden)

Salix- Japanese tree pussy willow

Sarcococca confusa

Viola odorata prob. 'Queen Charlotte'


Warren Schor, who has a most interesting bulb collection, added:

Crocus laevigatus

Daphne odora

Erica carnea

Galanthus caucasicus ' hiemale’ (and other variants)

Galanthus elwesii

Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Jelena’

Iris unguicularis

Narcissus as ‘bulbocodium romieuxii mesatlanticus


I asked Warren about the placement of the Daphne odora. It was not blooming in the Faden garden nor in mine, both warmer gardens. Clever Warren had planted the Daphne next to a south facing wall, protected in the summer by a deciduous tree.


Alice Nicolson’s list was sent on January 2. She has provided some description of the local environment, helpful to those who might want to increase their own winter garden. Alice seems to have the largest collection of Galanthus in the survey. Simplifying a mystical grouping of plants, Bob and Audrey Faden said their fall, winter and spring blooming Galanthus were in bloom – a first for them. As they got all of the plants from Alice, they suggested I use Alice’s listing.


Aster carolinianus – part shade

Aster laevis ‘Blue Bird’ – still with several blooms, full sun

Camellia japonica ‘Mrs. Tingley’

Camellia japonica pink & white cultivar, barely survived a bad freeze in the mid-‘80s

Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ – since early November

Crocus imperati – just starting, north face of rock garden

Crocus sieberi ‘Firefly’ – earliest ever

Daphne × transatlantica ‘Summer Ice’

Erica ‘Springwood Pink’ – part shade

Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ – one tuft, full sun

Galanthus elwesii v. monostictus – full bloom

Galanthus elwesii subsp elwesii – also full bloom, many patterns, no named cultivars

Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Jelena’

Loropetalum chinense ‘Blush’ –continuous for about 2 months

Mahonia bealei – in full bloom, shade but out of wind

Phlox subulata ‘Nettleton’s Variation’ – a few blooms for a month, rock garden

Prunus mume ‘Kobai’

Spiraea prunifolia – a few flowers

Viola odorata pink – increased shade


It was raining and just plain wet and nasty in Alexandria on 1/1, so Bob, Audrey and I postponed the trip through their garden until the next day. In between the rain drops, Bob had made a good list:


Antennaria plantaginifolia

Camellia japonica ‘Spring Promise’

Camellia ‘Winter's Star’

Camellia ‘Winter’s Beauty’

Euphorbia nicaeensis ‘Dolce Vita’ Audrey states that the plant was received as listed but is probably not that.

Galanthus elwesii v. monostictus

Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Feuerzauber’

Iris unguicularis ex ‘Mary Bernard’

Nepeta × faassenii

Phlox subulata ‘Laura’

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Arp’ and another cultivar

Viburnum farreri ‘Nanum’


Bobbie Diebold added:


Helleborus × sternii

Helleborus torquatus

Helleborus multifidus 

Bobbie writes “Many of the hellebore species that are in bloom are on a west facing slope”.


Jim McKenney reported blooms on:


Ambrosina bassii

Colchicum kesselringii

Crocus laevigatus

Lonicera × heckrottii ‘Goldflame”

Viola ‘Feline’ (this is a Parma violet sport); I can smell Viola odorata in the garden but I can’t find the flowers.


Anne Mazaitis made a list 1/1 but was unable to post until 1/7. In spite of a census by several gardeners, she had blooms not duplicated in other gardens:


Daphne × burkwoodii

Daphne  × transatlantica 'Jim's Pride'

Erica × darleyensis


Verbena canadensis


At the end of this list, I have little to add but I do have something.  Cheiranthus ‘Charity Scarlet’ and Erysimum ‘Yellow Bird’ provided nice color in the garden.  For the first time I spotted New Year’s Day blooms on  Helleborus odorus and double maroon H. × hybridus ‘Party Dress Hybrid’ but the most important discovery is the re-appearance of a plant that has not yet bloomed during the  six years it has been in my garden—Helleborus vesicarius.  I do no know that it will ever bloom as it misses its Mediterranean climate and spends so little time above ground that it is astonishing that it has doubled in size.  It now has two stems. This is not a giant leap forward but winter gardening provides small pleasures – not the great, gaudy, exuberant blooms of spring, summer and fall.                  Dixie Hougen

 res – not the great, gaudy, exuberant blooms of spring, summer and fall.                  Dixie Hougen

Jim Dronenburg and Dan Weil provided some images of plants blooming in their Knoxville, Maryland garden; photos by Dan Weil.



Helleborus foetidus on November 10, 2006 photographed by Dan Weil

Helleborus foetidus on November 10, 2006 photographed by Dan Weil



Minutes November 2006 Potomac Valley Chapter –NARGS



When Fall Meets Spring


            On Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006 the first spring crocus opened in the sand bed on the YMCA that is dominated by exuberant yuccas.  This is by far the earliest that any spring blooming crocus has opened for us.  What also made it so unusual was that only a few feet away from the tiny yellow blossoms of Crocus korolkowii ‘Lucky Number’ were the much larger lilac flowers of the fall flowering C. laevigatus, which had never flowered so well or so long before.  How much longer the very early spring and late fall flowering will continue to overlap remains to be seen, but it has just carried on into 2007.

            Other fall-flowering plants also have lingered longer than usual.  The climbing aster, A. carolinianus, had some open flowers on January 1, as did one plant of New England aster (A. novae-angliae).  The camellia hybrids, C. ‘Winter’s Star’, C. ‘Snow Flurry’ and C. ‘Winter’s Beauty’ also continued into the New Year, with the last – probably wrongly named, according to the book Growing Camellias in Cold Climates, by William Ackerman, because our plant has snow-white, instead of shell-pink, double flowers – only recently peaking.  On Jan. 1 these camellias were joined by C. ‘Spring Promise,’ a spring-flowering C. japonica that often has its first, large, double, red flowers as early as November and reblooms during warm spells in the winter.  Why it failed to flower this past fall is a mystery.

            The earliest flowering daffodils, 'Rijnveld’s Early Sensation', started blooming before the New Year, which is a first for us.  The bulbs are surrounded by numerous plants of Viola rupestris ‘Rosea’, with small, rose-purple flowers.  Many other daffodils have leaves coming up, but none has buds.  The only other bulbous plants blooming before the New Year were the fall-flowering clones of Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus, which we were originally given by Alice Nicolson.  On Jan. 1, spring-flowering Galanthus elwesii subsp. elwesii opened, which is the first time that the fall- and spring-flowering forms of this species have bloomed together.

            We always look forward to the winter-flowering shrubs.  Some of them, like odorless, winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) and fragrant Lonicera fragrantissima and Viburnum farreri ‘Nanum,’ started weeks ago and are in full flower.  Some others, such as the Lonicera ×purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’, Mahonia bealei and M. japonica had barely started before the New Year.  We were especially pleased to get flowers on M. japonica for the first time.  The plant very closely resembles M. bealei in foliage and habit, so even though we purchased it as ‘real M. japonica’ at a winter study weekend several years ago, we remained skeptical about its true identity.  In flower M. japonica is reported to have longer, looser inflorescences with flowers on longer stalks than in M. bealei.  Our plant really does show those features, so I am more of a believer.  M. japonica is supposed to seldom set fruit, which would set it apart from M. bealei.  Time will tell.

            Another new bloomer for us is the hybrid witch hazel Hamamelis ×intermedia ‘Feuerzauber’, which we purchased last year.  The coppery red flowers on this one-foot high plant were unfortunately a bit too low to the ground for us to report on their fragrance.

            Sadly two plants are missing from our usual early blooming list.  Our large wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) outside the YMCA pool died in 2005.  Its replacement is growing on the north, instead of the west, side of the YMCA building, so it gets no winter sun, and even the unusually warm December temperatures have left its buds only swollen, perhaps still a week or two away from opening.   Even sadder, the death last summer of the Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) in Simpson Park has deprived us and the neighborhood of my favorite winter-flowering tree, with its double-pink, very fragrant flowers.  A seedling of it, which we kept way too long in a pot and only planted out in fall 2005, now grows on the YMCA, but it is still a few years away from flowering.  A sister seedling, directly planted in the ground outside the Smithsonian’s research greenhouses in Suitland, MD a few years ago by greenhouse manager Mike Bordelon, was blooming on Dec. 28 with flowers very similar to those of its deceased parent, so we are hopeful that our plant will have the same kind of blossoms. 

            In all we had about 40 species, varieties and cultivars in flower on January 1.  Certainly that exceeds any other year for which we have records or recollections.  Is it global warming or just part of a short term cycle?  Who can say?  But from now on, Zone 8 plants will not be automatically excluded from consideration; they will just be thought of as special challenges.

Robert Faden    3 January 2007





Dick and Judith Knott Tyler have owned and operated Pine Knot Farms since 1982, two years after they returned to the US after living in Canada for eight years. The land where the nursery is located is part of a farm that has been in Judith’s family for six generations. When the Tylers returned to Virginia they were severely garden deprived and began producing plants to fill the borders that were being created before they finished building their house. Since their gardens are located in an eastern mixed deciduous forest, the primary focus soon became plants that would thrive in shade. Hellebores soon became a focus and after a few years the collection became an obsession.


            Dick, who was a building contractor for twenty years, is primarily responsible for the hardscapes and soil preparation. He has created several garden structures and is planning a gazebo/summerhouse in the newest area under construction. Being gifted with a natural talent to see the underlying structures he is the chief electrician cum plumber cum carpenter, mechanic and whatever else needs attention. A university course in Geology may have sparked his interest in stone, which is visible at the garden in the form of walls, steps and pathways. Dick began studying photography in the mid 1970’s and is responsible for all the slides and photographs used for talks, website, and publications.


            Judith studied art and was interested constructing mixed media collage/sculpture before their children were born. She feels that some of this energy has been channeled into creating gardens, since the forms and textures of plants can be layered to create a living sculpture that changes with the seasons. She is also responsible for the metal accessories that adorn several of the borders. Her early love of words and former literary aspirations has found an outlet in writing the Pine Knot Farms catalogue, articles and editing the website.


            Both partners fell under the intoxicating influence of the genus Helleborus, began breeding the plants and their lives have never been the same. Each winter is devoted to travel and study of the genus. Travels have taken them throughout the US, UK, Europe and The Balkans searching for hellebores to add to their collection which includes all the species and innumerable hybrids. Their breeding work with the double forms has sparked national interest.  


            The Tylers are co-curators of the Garden of Winter Delights at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh NC.  Their gardens have been featured in Southern Living, Virginia Gardener, Carolina Gardener, Heritage and Washingtonian magazines, As well as numerous newspaper articles and on Martha Stewart’s television program and magazine.  Judith is the author, with C. Coleston Burrell, of the new Timber Press publication entitled Hellebores; A Comprehensive Guide which features Dick’s remarkable photographs.








Galanthus reginae-olgae grown and photographed by Alice Nicolson

Galanthus reginae-olgae grown and photographed by Alice Nicolson