PVC Bulletin November 2006






Potomac Valley Chapter

North American Rock Garden Society



Volume 8, Number 6


November  2006


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

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

Next deadline: December 15, 2006



Calendar, 2006 & 2007

November 4, 2006, Burke Library, Annual Meeting, Special Election of Officers and Members' Slide Show: see details and directions below.

December - early preview of USBG train show? 

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

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, 9:30 to 1:00 PM.  

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



Our Annual Meeting, Special Election and Members' Slide Show

We will be meeting on November 4, 2006, at the Burke Library, Arlington, Virginia at 9:30 A.M. (Officers and Directors, 9 A.M. ).



We normally have elections biennially. The election at the November meeting will be a special election to replace Alma, who is resigning. Vice President Paul Botting has accepted the Board's appointment to replace Alma, and Jim Dronenburg has accepted the Board's appointment to replace Paul as Vice President for the one year remainder of that office's term. The Membership will be asked to confirm these appointments at this meeting.

Our next regular election will be in fall of 2007, at which time new officers and a full board will be elected.  

This meeting is also the occasion of our annual members' slide show.



Driving Directions:

From Virginia, via I-95 North and 495:
Merge onto I-395, toward Washington (North) via Exit 170A/B.
Take Exit 4 onto Seminary Road.
Follow signs to Seminary Road East. Once on Seminary Road, make an immediate left at the next light onto Library Lane
Parking is on the right.

From Maryland and the District:
Take I-395, towards Richmond (South).
Take Exit 4 onto Seminary Road.
Follow signs to Seminary Road East. Once on Seminary Road, make an immediate left at the next light onto Library Lane
Parking is on the right.




Public Transit:
Metrobus: 25B, 28A
DASH Bus: AT2, AT5




I bid adieux

As my term as President of this wonderful society draws to a close, I reminisce about what a terrific three years it has been. Lots of great things have happened. We attained our 501(c)3 status. We have our own website. We have had the crème de la crème in the way of speakers. We have had exciting bus trips to gorgeous gardens. Our plant exchanges have been a super way to acquire interesting and unusual plants. And all this didn’t happen by itself. All this happened because of the dedicated and talented people we are fortunate to have, who work very hard for our society. I feel I must thank all these people. In attempting to say thank you, I fear I might forget someone.

Without the resources and ingenuity of Betty Spar, we would not have had the great programs we’d had. Because of Jim McKenney’s talent and dedication, we enjoy a beautiful website and now have our newsletter on line. Paul Botting has been a strong support. Margot Ellis keeps a close tab on our income and spending and with the input of Paul and myself has developed a Budget (the first one we’ve ever had). Without the input and work of Alice Nicolson and Dixie Hougen, we wouldn’t know where we stand in the way of membership. Sandra Carlson keeps our minutes and is tireless in keeping me on track. Because of the hard work of Bobby Lively-Diebold and Merry Bruns in organizing our Plant Sales, we are a little richer in more ways than one. Sue Hodapp, our former President, is always there to lend a hand. Bob and Audrey Faden have provided us with keen knowledge of plants and the best in the way of plants at our Plant Exchanges. And last but not least, we couldn’t have a meeting without the dedication of Elizabeth Grenfell to provide coffee for us. There are so many more that help to make the Potomac Valley Chapter the wonderful organization it is. If I have missed your contribution to help us along the way, just attribute it to my "senior moments".

To everyone, I say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. You are all so terrific.

Happy Gardening,

Alma Kasulaitis, President

2007 DUES $15.00


It has been many years since we increased our dues. In order to continue with the many luxuries we have enjoyed all these years, such as the unbeatable speakers, the fantastic plant exchanges, the exciting bus trips and so much more, we are increasing our dues to only $15.00 a year. In no other organization could you get as much for your money. Perhaps this should have been done years ago, but we held off as long as we could. DON’T FORGET: $15.00 dues are due for the year 2007. Send your dues to Dixie Hougen at 2101 Wittington Blvd., Alexandria, VA 22308.


Member Val Lorenz is moving to Minnesota. Her note below describes the house and garden briefly. Contact her for more details at  703-323-0546

We have 5.3 acres with about 2.5-3 planted with mature plants in Fairfax Station.  The house is 23 years old, yet many plants are 40 years old (we moved them from mature gardens).  Azaleas, rhodies, camellias, Japanese maples, Japanese cherries, viburnums, etc. and perennials and bulbs of all kinds.


4 bed, 4 bath, 4-story English Tudor with 3400 square feet on two floors, 6" exterior walls with big windowsills for houseplants, and average $200 electric bill for everything.


Keep in touch, Val, but please don’t brag too much about the super lilies and peonies you’ll be able to grow in Minnesota.



An irregular column by Robert Faden (24 October 2006)

It’s October, my favorite month of the year, except perhaps for April.  The respite from the summer’s heat is now assured.  Winter still seems distant, though the nights are getting colder and the days shorter.  The garden is full of flowers and butterflies are at their peak, mainly thanks to the dozens of monarchs that find the abundant tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) irresistible.  New England asters (A. novae-angliae), in a variety of shades, now dominate, their weedy tendency to seed around putting them in places we would never have considered.  The thoroughly weedy Aster pilosus, with an abundance of tiny white or very pale pink heads, is especially abundant outside the beds because we generally try to control it among the store-bought species.  Held back from flowering by the summer drought, they have surged after the recent rains, and they flaunt their presence everywhere.   Scattered among the blues, violets, pinks and whites of the asters are the heads of yellow daisies of Helianthus, Chrysopsis, Heterotheca, Coreopsis, Helenium, Gaillardia, Rudbeckia, and a variety of species of goldenrods (Solidago), some in full flower, others going over. 

A few woody plants are also calling attention to themselves at this time.  Abelia chinensis has been flowering for quite some time, but the wonderful fragrance of its tiny white flowers seems to carry better or farther at this time.  Carpenter bees are particularly attracted to them, whereas the bumblebees and the recent influx of honeybees prefer the asters.  Two shrubs or small trees have especially attractive fruits now.  The flexible branches of the tea viburnum (V. setigerum) are heavily weighed down by the abundant red fruits.  We originally obtained this species because we noted at Green Spring that the fruits seemed to last and last.  In past years our squirrels destroyed the fruits just as they ripened, chewing off the fruit clusters and leaving them on the ground, even when they didn’t eat the rather tart fruits.  This year they have left them alone.  Might the squirrels have been lured away from the tea viburnums by the fruits of the pyracantha tree (P. ‘Mojave’) near our front door?  This year I left the pyracantha more or less unpruned, resulting in an expected wild and woolly look.  The unanticipated result was an abundance of fruits, like never before.  These have attracted a number of birds -- robins, mockingbirds, and catbirds – and squirrels too.  When those berries are gone, will the tea viburnum be next?  We shall certainly find out.

This fall has been very good for bulbs.  The colchicums were diverse and showy for most of September, but only the late-opening C. ‘Waterlily’ and C. autumnale ‘Alboplenum’ were still reasonably fresh well into October.  The fall flowering crocuses, however, were yet to peak when I wrote this (Oct. 12) although at least seven species were in bloom: C. niveus, C. thomasii, C. speciosus (various forms and colors), C. pulchellus (white), C. hadriaticus var. lilacinus, C. cancellatus and C. serotinus ssp. salzmannii in the form distributed under the old name ‘Erectophyllus’. Others have opened since, including the most abundant of all, saffron crocus (C. sativus).  One of the latest flowering, C. ochroleucus, has yet to appear.

The large, white- to faintly pink-flowered Crocus niveus, which we grew from seed, is unfortunately situated in one of the most slug-infested corners of the YMCA garden.  We now have a nightly vigil and slug hunt in order to give the flowers any chance of opening before they are destroyed in bud.  Through necessity, we are also testing whether the flowers that have had their narrow floral tubes broken can be used as cut flowers indoors.  The answer: they only last for a few days at most.

Some new bulbs have made their first appearance this fall.  Undoubtedly they included some colchicums, but they mainly lacked labels, so it was hard to be certain.  Biarum tenuifolium, a small Mediterranean aroid, flowered for the third straight year, but for the first time it was followed by what we believe is B. davisii (label removed, but what else could have had such a cute pale-with-dark-spots, bottle-shaped spathe resting on the gravel?).  One of our favorite bulbs was Rhodophiala bifida, looking like a dwarf amaryllis (i.e., Hippeastrum), poking up through the white-flowered Asiatic dayflower (Commelina communis). We liked them so much that we ordered a bunch more from Odyssey Bulbs.

I thought I could get through a fall column without mentioning all of the plants still in pots as the season winds down, but that seems to be impossible.  As usual, our ambition seems to have exceeded our abilities.  Of course, it didn’t help that, instead of planting, we had to spend a lot of time cleaning up the gardens for a Master Gardeners’ program in Simpson Park on October 21 for which not a single Master Gardener turned up.   But as I think of the white-flowered form of Hibiscus coccineus, blue sage (Salvia azurea) and large, bluish, cabbage-like rosettes of yellow-flowered Rudbeckia maxima, all still in flower in the YMCA remediation ditch, I realize that this year has had its successes.



One of the local big retail nurseries is offering pots of a new series of dwarf fall blooming gentians under the name 'Alpine Success'. These were developed the German grower  Bock Bio Science GmbH  (their web site is www.bockbioscience.com/gentiana.htm  ); the plants on offer were grown in Canada by African Violet specialists Harster Greenhouses ( www.harstergreenhouses.com)  and the series is made up of five clones: three blues, one pink and one white. Bock Bio Science also has lines of clonal garden auriculas (wow!), hardy orchids (wow again), hellebores (ditto), Kalmia (same) – and other plants, too. Take a look to get an idea of what might be appearing in the garden centers of the (I hope near) future. Contact the Editor if you want the local source for  Gentiana ‘Alpine Success’.                                                                                                                                                                                                        Editor 

 Gentiana 'Alpine Success' series





A lot of different colchicums grow in this garden; one, in fact, for each year of my life and then some. For horticultural purposes, I group them into three categories: the mostly large-flowered fall blooming sorts, the small-flowered fall-blooming sorts and the small-flowered late winter blooming sorts. The small-flowered sorts are mostly collector’s plants with pinkish mauve or white flowers which from any distance suggest little crocuses.


The large-flowered fall blooming sorts divide naturally into two groups: the tessellated sorts and the non-tessellated sorts. Most of the commonly grown  non-tessellated sorts have Colchicum speciosum in their background. Most of the tessellated sorts have C. bivonae in their background.


What does tessellated mean? It refers to a sort of checker board color pattern such as is seen in Fritillaria meleagris.  For as long as colchicums have been grown in western gardens, the ones with this tessellated color pattern have been greatly esteemed. Writing in the early seventeenth century, John Parkinson, in an oft quoted passage from his Paradisus, wrote (probably of Colchicum variegatum) “...yet when it flowereth any thing early, that it may haue any comfort of a warme Sunne, it is the glorie of all these kinds."     Colchicum variegatum may well be one parent of the plant known in gardens as Colchicum × agrippinum. This is widely available, and it serves as a good introduction to these tessellated colchicums.


Until the end of the nineteenth century, little Colchicum × agrippinum was probably the only prominently tessellated colchicum likely to be seen in European gardens. Neither Colchicum variegatum nor the larger-flowered tessellated species from the Middle East grew for long in northern transalpine gardens.  A bit more than a century ago, a Dutch firm by the name of Zocher introduced a series of large-flowered tessellated colchicums, several of which are still grown and esteemed. Of the Zocher tessellated introductions, ‘Disraeli’, ‘Violet Queen’, ‘The Giant’, and ‘Glory of Hemsteed’ grow in this garden, apparently true to name. ‘Disraeli’ strikes me as the best of the lot, although getting it true to name may exasperate any but the very patient.


The Zocher firm is thought to have used the plant now known as Colchicum bivonae to produce its hybrids. This species has several well-known synonyms, among them C. bowlesianum and C. sibthorpii.   Under any of its names it’s well worth having. Two more recently selected cultivars are currently making the rounds: ‘Apollo’ and ‘Vesta’. These and the hybrid ‘Disraeli’ are among the most richly colored colchicums I know. When lit by sunlight, the flowers glow; when lit by the low sun, they take on richly saturated tints; when seen on overcast days, their colors are curiously dulled by hints of gray and parma violet.                                                                                                                                                                                                              Editor


Here are images of some of the tessellated colchicums growing in this garden: I hope they make you want to find room for these unusual and beautiful plants in your garden, too.  Use this link to see the images of tessellated colchicums:

Tessellated Colchicums 



Your Editor mentioned this last time; it turned out to be “as advertised”. When in bloom it formed a spiky dome no more than eighteen inches high. It flowered profusely but briefly. It’s no great beauty, but given its season of bloom it does not have to spend all of its free time at the cosmetics counters to make a good impression. The name is Helianthus salicifolius ‘Low Down’. Here’s an image; judge for yourself.                                                                  Editor



Helianthus salicifolius 'Low Down'



A white-flowered form of Crocus goulimyi blooming among Franklinia leaves on October 22, 2006.