Bulletins PVC NARGS



Potomac Valley Chapter

North American Rock Garden Society



Volume 9, Number 4


July 2007


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

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


Calendar 2007 & 2008

July 14, 2007 our annual picnic , home of Bob and Bobbie Diebold, 505 Foxhill Road, Front Royal, VA, 540-635-9635 Bobbie invites us to arrive anytime after noon to allow time to enjoy the garden; we’ll start eating at 2 P.M.; Board Meeting to follow.

Directions: From the metro area take I- 66 west to exit 13 A to Linden & Front Royal.  Turn left at the end of the ramp and go underneath I-66 a short distance to the traffic light at Route 55.  Turn right (west) on Rt 55 to Front Royal.  After about 5 miles on Rt 55 you will be in the south part of Front Royal going west.  At the fourth traffic light in Front Royal, make a left turn on to Route 340, south.  You will pass the entrance to Skyline Drive and the Crystal Caverns.

At approximately 3 1/2 to 4 miles on R 340, you will see a former small country store, now closed, with some orange barrel/traffic cones in front. Just barely past the building, turn right on Fox Hill Road.  Our house is 1/2 mile on Fox Hill Rd at the end of the dead end road.  It has 505 on the mail box and is the only contemporary house on the street.  Turn in the drive that goes past the barn and to the house.  There is parking for about 6 cars up by the house, for older members or handicapped, and a bit of space to park along one side of the drive. Others can also park down by the barn area after dropping off chairs, food and passengers.

Bring your own chairs for sitting and a dish to share with the other PVC members.  The club will provide plastic plates and glasses and juice and soft drinks. BYO wine and beer. Bring plants for exchange, if you wish - Bobbie will also have some.


Bobbie and Bob Diebold

505 Fox Hill Road

Front Royal, VA 22630



October 7, 2007 Janis Ruksans will be here on October 7 (Sunday) at 9:30, place TBD.  January 12, 2008 Allen Bush of Jelitto Seeds, USBG, time TBA February 2008 Sasha Borkovec, Brookside Gardens, time TBA March 15, 2008 Roy Klehm, USBG, time TBA

Next deadline: August 15, 2007 


Renee Fiedler

Falls Church, VA.  22044


Janine Trudeau

Chevy Chase, MD. 20815

Carol Allen

Germantown, Maryland

The 2007 NARGS Annual Meeting, June 14-17


How is it that one can live for 43 years in the Washington area and never have visited Dolly Sods? Such is indeed the case for me - while Dan has made trips there from time to time, I have never chanced to accompany him. This omission has now been remedied, thanks to a handful of intrepid members of NARGS who decided that the wonderful glacial relict should be better-known to all intrepid rock gardeners. Members of several different chapters put together a splendid Annual Meeting Weekend for those of us who braved the three hours of winding mountain roads to West Virginia’s Canaan Valley (pronounced cuh-NANE). Thirteen of our members attended!


Canaan Valley State Park (and Resort) is at a pleasantly cool 3300 ft, and the contrast with Washington was delightful. Surprisingly to me, there seemed to be NO mosquitoes - again, a nice contrast. The motel rooms were basic but adequate, (Linda Keenan and husband stayed in the campground) and the meeting rooms satisfactory, with wonderful views down the valley. Food was basic country fare, satisfactory but heavy on the starch and light on the fresh fruits or veggies; the exception was a very tasty banquet meal.


The first evening we were greeted by Martha Oliver, chair of the meeting, who gave a brief overview of how Dolly Sods came to be; she was followed by Bill Grafton, longtime naturalist and forester with WVU and a major player with the WV Native Plant Society. Bill discussed the ecology and plant communities of the region and gave us a taste of what we would be seeing on our trips.


The next day there was a fog which had burned off in the Valley but not on the mountain top, where some of us were guided on the first day. The elderly bus groaned its way up the winding road to the heights of the Dolly Sods ridge, which was bathed in fog at 4000’. . Four stops at various points of interest exposed us not only to the magnificent displays of Kalmia latifolia in a range of bright pinks but also to a variety of relict species hanging on at higher elevations after the last ice age glaciers retreated and the warmer, drier climate took hold at lower elevations. Several group leaders familiar with the local flora were somewhat helpful, although when moving down a narrow trail it was difficult for all but a few to hear them.


Red spruce forests prevailed, interspersed with a variety of Ericaceae. Vaccinium oxycoccos, the small cranberry, was found in every boggy mossy spot, just opening its tiny little shooting-star flowers - and intermingled in the sphagnum of the bogs was the round-leaf sundew, Drosera rotundifolia. There were also two blueberries and the similar black huckleberry, two azaleas (the beautiful scented pink flowers of Rhododendron prinophyllum were still around here and there, but R. calendulaceum was past) and foliage of an old favorite, trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens), as well as teaberry (Gaultheria procumbens) with its wintergreen flavor. Another family well-represented here, and also at lower elevations, was the clubmosses, Lycopodiums; I believe I identified and photographed five or perhaps six species.


Unusual plant occurrences were also notable; Dicentra eximia, growing amongst the boulders along the ridge in full sun (although apparently bathed in frequent fog), and Heuchera alba, also  in full sun but more localized and apparently threatened by increasing invasive knapweed populations.  A plant apparently doomed to extinction by global warming is Potentilla (Sibbaldiopsis) tridentata, a pretty white-flowered glossy-leaved cinquefoil; it is apparently found only on a few thin-soiled dry ‘balds’ at high elevations. We did spot fruiting plants of painted trillium, T. undulatum, and one last flower of pink lady’s-slipper, Cypripedium. acaule. Although there were overlooks boasting spectacular views over the surrounding ridges and valleys, we were not to enjoy them except through a hazy sky in the afternoon.


Friday evening we enjoyed a presentation by Bonnie Isaac of the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh; she expanded on the earlier presentations and showed how global warming is likely to doom certain plant communities to extinction as well as drastically change the nature and distribution of others. There were also a few after-hours slide presentations, one mind-boggler about exploring in trillium populations near Ottawa (a dozen doubles and other variants!) I’m really thinking seriously of attending next year’s annual meeting in Ottawa!

The following day our group went to a couple of stops in Blackwater Falls State Park, at lower levels and with a less diverse flora, from what I saw; mature eastern hemlock forests provided comfortable walking but not much  under story. Scenic overlooks showed a well-forested area, much of the view being private lands that are threatened with logging and development; I did see a whopping big Magnolia fraseri and but missed the equally big sourwoods (Oxydendrum arboreum) with their persimmon-like bark.

Around the lodge, there are many marked walking paths, and in our spare (hah!) time we found a nice number of meadow flowers beginning bloom - buttercups, hawkweeds, daisies, and cinquefoils - and in shadier areas a number of ferns and, in one spot, the two less common sspp. of jack-in-the-pulpit; Arisaema triphyllum stewardsonii and A. t .pusillum (actually different!).


The salesroom was well-filled with offerings from Pine Knott Farms, DJ’s Greenhouse, Enchanter’s Garden, Hyla Brook Farm, and Sunshine Farms. Additionally, Jan Slater displayed the abundant offerings from the NARGS bookstore, with its attendant good prices, and Dick and Ann Rosenberg staffed a splendid selection of used books, sponsored by the Delaware Valley Chapter (some great buys there!)

The Raffle had a great number of plants as well as gift certificates and memberships to a number of nurseries and plant groups - the largest such raffle offering I have seen! There was a silent auction with a number of treasures that were bid on vigorously. Table favors were also abundant; we all went home with at least three plants - and of course most of us took much more!


Saturday night’s Banquet lecture was a presentation by Bill Cullina from Garden in the Woods on several approaches to saving endangered plant populations, followed by a great presentation on Sunday morning about propagation  of woodland plants which was so practical and down-to-earth about seed collecting and sowing and soil mixes that I’m inspired to do it more.


All in all, we owe Martha, Mike Slater, Dick Rosenberg, the Zabkars, the Ullmans and Barbara Wetzel a great debt of thanks for pulling off a very good Annual Meeting, with the help of another great bunch of folks who helped.

Alice Nicolson

Some Perfect Days

Other than a courtesy mention of rock gardens, this piece has nothing to do with rock gardening. Rock gardening is for me a September to May thing. Are any of you actually out there in this weather rock gardening?

I’m writing this in my bedroom; just outside the window grows a group of lilies now in full, potently fragrant bloom. The dozen or so six-to-eight-foot high stems are full of flowers. The house wall under the window supports a lush growth of maypop, Passiflora incarnata. The occasional breeze brings in the commingled scents of the lilies, the maypop and ten nearby boxwood. The windows remain open until the inside of the house becomes unbearable – then we retreat into the closed world of air conditioning.

In late June my niece and her hubby left for two weeks in Provence. They dropped off their van at our place, and that was the occasion for a pre-departure party. I photographed her with a quickly improvised bouquet of home-grown lavender and corn poppies, and then they were off for the airport. After they left, I tried to get into the Provence mood myself. I went down to the book room and searched for something likely; for some of you, that would mean Peter Mayle. I hit on something else: a sort of cook book translated from French: Michel Biehn’s Recipes from a Provençal Kitchen (originally Le Cahier de Recettes Provençales) The author rounded up about a dozen friends with notable homes in Provence, searched out a number of traditional recipes, then prepared the food and had it photographed in those homes. The homes ranged the gamut from what appear to be mansions to huts on rocky hillsides. One photograph in particular caught my attention: it shows a kitchen one wall of which is decorated with big ceramic or papier-mâché cicadas. I announced to anyone who would listen that I was going to make some of these for our kitchen; this, of course, elicited the usual scoffing and nay saying. Maybe they were right: I haven’t made one yet. But read on…

June and July are the months for the lily shows, and this year I did my usual three: the Garden Club of Virginia show, our local Potomac show and the Longwood show sponsored by the Mid Atlantic Lily Society. Modern lilies are hardly rock garden plants: they tower over the gardener and are a presence to be reckoned with in the garden. They are also surprisingly easy to grow. The modern oriental-trumpet or OT hybrids are sensational garden plants, and evidently well adapted to local conditions. There were plenty of these to be seen at the shows this year, and I’ve come away with a head full of lily ideas.

I was in western Virginia last week, in a small town just south of Harrisonburg; Wayne and I were making one of our now more or less every-six-weeks-or-so trips to check in on his 89-year-old mother. Several of my lily-growing friends also live in the Harrisonburg area, so I took the opportunity to visit and photograph them in their natural habitat. The local soils are rich in limestone and have in general a higher pH than soils here in the Washington area. Those lime-rich soils grow magnificent trumpet and OT lilies. In one of the photos, the grower is looking up into the inflorescence of a superb OT hybrid.

This is farming country, and depending on which way the wind blows, you’ll be keenly aware of the local dairy farms, the chicken processing plants and the corn, soybean and wheat fields. Oddly – to me anyway – although the local communities are surrounded by evidence of food production, the local grocery stores don’t seem to do much to celebrate this. I had seen something called Amish roll butter on a previous visit, and this time I bought some to bring home with me. But after I had it in my hands, I was disappointed to see that it was brought in from Ohio and was not locally produced. On the other hand, I was glad to see that it was made from pasteurized cream. It’s also delicious. This is Mennonite country, country where fruit and vegetable stands pop up along the roadside like mushrooms during the summer. Wayne’s mom had gotten a tip from some other friends (word of mouth is still the Blackberry of choice here) that a certain fruit stand had blueberries – and that they were going fast. So off we went to see if any were left. We drove up to a rather nondescript shed along the road and went in to find a similarly nondescript and very plain interior: a few tables, a cash register, a few people and that was it. On the tables were quart and gallon quantities of blueberries and quarts of sour cherries. This trip was part of a more extensive and then still largely unrealized shopping trip, and we were in a hurry. I quickly decided to get a gallon of blueberries and a quart of the cherries. The sour cherries were perfect: ripe enough to have just a bit of sweetness to take the edge off the prevailing, delicious sour cherry pucker.

Back in the car, as we were pulling out on our way to the next stop, I notice a huge truck trailer near the fruit shed. Suddenly I had a doubt. Where in that part of Virginia are blueberries grown? Those same limestone soils which make for great lilies would be a death sentence for blueberries. The blueberries had been packed in a box, and sure enough, the answer was on the box: the blueberries had been trucked in from New Jersey! Throughout this area, one sees stands like this fruit stand but selling crabs and oysters, too. No need to tell people that they aren’t local.

We timed our return to the D.C. area to coincide with the return of my niece and hubby from France. They would be picking up their van before heading on to their own home. It just worked out that as we drove eastward on Route 66 and approached Centerville/Manassas, it was close to the arrival time of their inbound flight. We began to intently scan the sky ahead for signs of approaching planes, and soon Wayne spotted a huge white one with a blue blaze on the tail fin. Amazingly, what was almost certainly their Air France plane passed right over us!

We beat them home by about two hours. When they finally arrived there was the expected excitement and high spirits as we heard about the flight, the food, the visit, the food, the French, the food, Provence, the food, lavender fields, the food, olive groves, the food, the Mediterranean, the food, the casinos, the food, the wines, the food…evidently they had a wonderful time. They were there for a family wedding, and the locals honored their party by providing sanglier, wild boar, two of them in fact, roasted.

The blueberries and cherries were out in plain view all this time, and before long I put out a scoop and some zip-lock bags and invited everyone to help themselves. The cherries I tried to hide, but they were discovered and merrily ravaged. And of course I had to blab about the Amish roll butter, so that quickly diminished, too. When the dust settled, there were enough blueberries left for a nice fat pie and a skimpy tart. The cherries raised some doubts: not enough for a pie, maybe enough for a cobbler. Finally, I decided I would pack them in vodka and put them away for the holidays.

Souvenirs and presents were then distributed. My niece handed me a heavy object wrapped in tissue paper. As I unfolded the paper, I couldn’t believe my eyes: she had brought me one of those ceramic cicadas to hang on our kitchen wall! She had no idea how close I came to e-mailing her in France to ask her to look for one for me. She had no way of knowing that I even knew about these things. I know we are a close family, but this was uncanny, moving and delightful.

After everyone else left or went to bed, I listened to Rosa Ponselle’s recording of "A Perfect Day", a song popular in the early twentieth century. And I didn’t have to remind myself that I had just been lucky enough to enjoy several of them. Editor

PVC Bulletin

Jim McKenney, Editor

11127 Schuylkill Road

Rockville, Maryland 20852