PVC Bulletin November 2005






Potomac Valley Chapter

North American Rock Garden Society



Volume 7, Number 6


November 2005



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

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




Calendar, 2005 & 2006 

November 12- Our Annual Meeting, Elections, and Membersí Slide Show, Meadowlark Gardens, Beulah Road, Vienna, Virginia. . 9 A.M. to 1 P.M. Coffee at 9:30 A.M

Please contact Betty Spar if you wish to show slides. Betty will need to know about AV needs well before meeting time.

Betty Spar, United States Botanic Garden

245 First Street SW, Washington, DC 20024

202-225-5002, Fax 202-225-1561


January 7, Carlo Balistrieri, Curator of the T.H. Everett Rock Garden at the NY Botanical Garden,  9:30 A.M USBG Conservatory.  Note: this event was announced in error for 10 A.M. in the paper version of the PVC Bulletin


January 27-29, Eastern Study Weekend sponsored by the Manhattan Chapter, NARGS. Speakers include Beryl Bland, Peter Bland, John Lonsdale, Rick Lupp, Robert Rolfe and Abbie Zabar.  


 February 11 Brookside Gardens, 9:30A.M-1 P.M.

John Scott, founder of the Rockland Botanical Garden in Berks Co., PA.and a student of Dr. Wherry. Feast for the East, an account of the tour he led in June with the Hardy Fern Foundation and the British Pteridological Society.


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 TBD, but Betty has two things in mind


April 1, place TBA  Marion Jarvie from the Ontario Chapter NARGS, Rock Garden Goodies.



Next Deadline December 15, 2005



Annual Meeting, Elections, and Membersí Slide Show,

November 12- Our Annual Meeting, Elections, and Membersí Slide Show, Meadowlark Gardens, Beulah Road, Vienna, Virginia. . 9 A.M. to 1 P.M. Coffee at 9:30 A.M

The Nominating Committee has submitted the following slate:

Alma Kasulaitis - President

Paul Botting - Vice President

Margot Ellis - Treasurer

Sandra Carlson - Secretary

Sue Hodapp - Parliamentarian

Meadowlark has graciously agreed to provide a digital set up for the Iris Meeting Room. Plan to take advantage of this opportunity to show your digital images. 


Directions to MEADOWLARK BOTANICAL GARDENS. located on Beulah Road between Rte. 7 and Rte. 123 in Vienna Virginia.:


From the beltway: Take the Tysons Corner 7 West exit. Go 5 miles on Rte 7 to the intersection of Beulah Road on the left. Turn left. Meadowlark is two miles on your right.


From 66: Take the Nutley Street exit toward Vienna. At the intersection of 123, turn right onto 123 and continue for 2 miles to the intersection of Beulah Road on your left. Turn left on Beulah. At the 4-way stop. Turn left. This keeps you on Beulah Road . Continue one mile to Meadowlark on your left.


From points west: Take US 7 east to Beulah Road on your right. Turn right two miles to Meadowlark on your right.


Some images from the Robin

Here are some images of plants discussed on the Robin recently. If you would like to participate in the Robin, even as a "lurker", let Jim McKenney know at jimmckenney@starpower.net



                                  Cyclamen hederifolium                                                                                Dixie Hougen


Biarum davisii marmariense    Alice Nicolson

       Biarum tenuifolium    Alice Nicolson                Gentiana gracilipes Alice Nicolson
Rhodophiala bifida          A Nicolson Tricyrtis macrantha        A Nicolson Paeonia japonica            A Nicolson
Crocus speciosus        J. McKenney Kaempferia rotunda, Tinantia pringlei

J McKenney

Sibine stimulea, the saddleback caterpillar: ouch!                                                 J. McKenney


Who says you can't grow gentians?


Decades ago I stumbled on a copy of Doretta Klaber's Gentians for your garden in a used book store. Two things about the book immediately made a good impression: it was based on experience gained in Pennsylvania, and it was full of practical advice. It was probably the chapter How to Grow Gentians which really caught my eye: there were drawings of cold frames, seedlings, nursery beds and a cold frame corner. The advice was down to earth, and for once the text was not the raving of some arm-chair gardener hired to write text to accompany tarted-up photography. Gentians belong to that ill-defined group of garden plants - lilies are another - for which the good news always seems to be accompanied sooner or later by bad news. Yes, they're beautiful, but aren't they impossible to grow? That is to say, aren't the really worthwhile ones impossible to grow? I'm not sure gentian growers are always much help here: it does seem that some are all too willing to drop the name of some ineffably beautiful one which is of course so much more desirable than the one you happen to be growing.

Many of us, maybe most of us in this part of the world, have never even seen, except in books, the  gentians which take the breath of even the most jaded growers. But maybe that is an advantage: not having seen the exalted ones, perhaps it is easier to truly appreciate the very good ones we do have. And we do have some very good gentians which, as it turns out, are not difficult to grow. Gentiana septemfida is so easy that it briefly made it into the mass distribution nursery trade. While visiting Alice Nicolson earlier this year, she showed me a handsome summer blooming gentian for which no apologies were necessary (see the image of Gentiana gracilipes above). Many of us grow the various bottle gentians, and I for one think they are greatly undervalued. In my bog trays Gentiana makinoi has also flourished. And in the recent past, the Boones brought nice plants of Gentiana scabra to the exchanges.

Gentiana scabra: I've known about this plant for decades, yet the beginning of my real understanding of this plant is much more recent. Most books simply don't do this plant justice, but Doretta Klaber went so far as to say "  you look at it [Gentiana scabra saxatilis] with the feeling that nothing, not even the Himalayans, could be lovelier." It's not only lovely, it's easy. And I don't mean comparatively easy, I mean easy. It's not fussy about soil, and it's easy (easy, not fast) from fresh seed. My current plants derive from seedlings from one of the plants the Boones brought to the exchange years ago. The seed was scattered in one of the bog trays, and two years later there were flowers. That's easy.

Earlier this year many of us visited Sasha's garden and saw the last of the spring gentians in bloom. Sasha mentioned that there were plenty of fall gentians, too. When my Gentiana scabra began to bloom, I was reminded of Sasha's plants. But by then the rains had started, and gentians close up during cold, wet weather. I contacted Sasha to set up a date, and luckily the sun cooperated. I wasn't ready for what I saw in Sasha's garden. The Gentiana scabra were scattered throughout the garden. Some were even growing out of the paths. Some were tall ( up to about two feet tall), some were only a few inches high. Some were bolt upright, some trailed along the ground. Some were that wonderful blue which we call gentian blue, some had a bit more  purple or violet in the color, some were pale sky blue and one was even white.  Some had broad leaves, some narrow. Some had profuse bloom lined up along the length of the stem, some had clusters of bloom at the tips of the stems. It was this delightful variation which caught me by surprise: this was all so much richer than the books had led me to expect.

So there you have it: there is a gentian for our gardens which can provide the breathtaking excitement of the great ones. And it's not a difficult plant to grow. Take a look at the accompanying images of the gentians in Sasha's garden and then give yourself the affirmative answer to the question "Why not in mine, too?".

Jim McKenney


Sasha's Gentina scabra

Photographed October 27, 2005

Click on the images to see the enlarged version


Gentiana scabra photos by Jim McKenney