Saturday, February 27, 2010


What are you grateful for? Today is my husband's birthday. We just finished dinner, having a family favorite birthday meal. Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches and Pringles. We don't have this often, so it is a treat. I show you the lettuce because it is one of the healthiest things on the table.
In addition to enjoying dinner conversation we are listening to the stereo. Currently playing is The Grateful Dead, oh, and the TV is on, tuned to PBS which is airing Lawrence Welk's show highlights.
So, what am I grateful for? My family, good times, and tonight, I am grateful the stereo is louder than the TV.

Happy Birthday Sweetie!!

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday's Trees- Longleaf Pine

I am sorry I haven’t posted this earlier, today has been a bit of a John Prine kind of day.   If you know John Prine, you understand, if not, give a listen or here.  

On to the tree of the week---Longleaf Pine.  When I first heard of this pine, I thought ‘How am I going to  be able to tell this one from the other pines??’  As I said a few weeks ago the Loblolly Pine is the dominate pine in my area.   Everyone kept saying that I would know it by the longleaf… yeah –thanks.  Then I finally saw one.  My goodness!  It certainly has long needles. 
This native tree is a long-lived tree, some are reported to be over 400 years old though average age is 100- 150 years.  It grows straight and tall, ranging 80 –100 feet.   It is the state tree of North Carolina and Alabama (maybe others).   It once covered 60 million acres of land prior to European settlement began.  In 1985 it was estimated to only  cover 4 million acres. 
According to the book “Trees of the Carolinas”  old growth colonies of the Longleaf Pine is the preferred habitat for the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker.  Many of the old growth pines are gone, making this a major cause of their decline.    Longleaf Pine, Pinus palustris, is a tree that is fire-adapted.  When the wildfires occurred more often,  the trees that were more adapted to fire survived/ thrived.  If there were no forest fires, hardwood trees would crowd out the pines.  According to the National Interagency Fire Center the balance of an ecosystem can be dependent upon fire.  Some trees don’t release their seed until a fire, some seeds needed scarification which happens during fire.  Other pines have such a waxy coating on the cones that a high heat from a fire is needed for the seeds to be dropped.   The longleaf needs mineral soil for seed germination.  Fire removes ground cover and releases soil nutrients.  Interesting.   So, like I said, without fire, the Longleaf Pine does not grow in such large numbers.

The needles are in clusters of three.  They are 8- 18 inches long.  This is quite a bit longer than the Loblolly threesome clustered needles that are 6-9 inches.  This is the key feature to make your identification of this pine.  Three needles and LONG!  The sheath that holds the threesome is said to be ragged.  The bark is orange to brown, thin with scaly plates.  The cone is about 6- 10 inches long.  Each scale on the cone has a stout spine on the tip…in other words, they are spiny! 
Uses for this tree has long been a part of our history.  It was once used for pitch, tar and resins as well as turpentine.  The lumber is long and straight.  The heart of the pine is especially hard, strong and durable.  Today the trees are used for poles, pilings,and plywood.   The seeds are a food source for turkeys, squirrels and other wildlife.  
This tree is known by many other common names- Southern Yellow Pine, Georgia Pine, Yellow Pine, or the Longstraw Pine.  Whatever the name, it is a  great tree.

Next week’s tree is Loblolly Pine, since I have been referencing it lately.

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Winter Light, Seaford Style

This month the Gardening Gone Wild photo theme is "Winter Light". I know I have shared this photo before, but after sorting through my recent photos, this seemed to best depict winter light.

I was so glad this weekend gave us a couple warmer days. Today I spent a bit of time outside transplanting a Gardenia bush. One of the storms we had earlier this year uprooted this poor bush.  It now has a new home in the garden.

We have been busy painting, readying our house to be put on the market. I have been trying to visit all blogs I usually read, but time has been limited. If I haven't commented on your blog lately-- rest assured I will get back to you soon!

I hope we continue to have warmer days, but since this is still February, chances are slim.
Please head over to the Gardening Gone Wild sight to see some of the other entries.
Stay warm.....spring is just around the corner, I'm sure of it.

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Four and Twenty.......

Blackbirds ......I hope everyone got their bird counting done this past weekend. I think it is fun to see exactly who your visitors are in the garden. Here is my list – my time was short to count this year, we were painting our bedroom, so there was little time for looking out the windows.  Had hoped for another time to count but when I looked there were a bazillion blackbirds again.

Observation Date: FEB 13, 2010

Start Time: 8:15 AM Snow Depth: Less than 2 in (5.1 cm)
Total Birding Time: 30 minutesLocation Type: Yard
Party Size: 1
Skill: excellent
Weather: good

deciduous woods
coniferous woods
salt water
Number of species: 14All Reported: yes
Canada Goose2
Great Blue Heron1
Mourning Dove1
Downy Woodpecker1
Northern Flicker1
Carolina Chickadee2
Brown-headed Nuthatch1
Carolina Wren2
European Starling1
Yellow-rumped Warbler1
White-throated Sparrow2
Northern Cardinal2
House Finch6

 Here are a few pictures of those I did see. (A couple of the pictures are from a day or two earlier as they are flighty little things, not willing to pose for a picture!) Be sure to go to Kylee's blog to see other postings of the bird count.


words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday's Trees- Michelia maudiae

Have you ever felt like you knew every inch of a place, a garden or a park, thought you knew every plant there?  For the last year and a half I have walked the Learning Garden, looking at every plant.  Imagine my surprise when I was walking through the tree and shrub area and found a tree I didn’t remember seeing before.  In early December I was checking out the Osmanthus fragrans and saw this tree, now where in the world did that come from??  The name was a new one for me as well.  Michelia maudriae, have you heard of it?  In order to research this I had to look far and wide.

I did find some information from Michael Dirr’s Trees and Shrubs for Warm Climates, it is a shade tolerant, 12+ Ft. shrub, with white, fragrant flowers that bloom in the April time frame on old wood.  It is an evergreen shrub or small tree.  The fragrance of its blooms is said remind one of banana oil.  One of its common names is Banana Shrub.  Makes sense right?  I think I may have seen one in the Norfolk Botanical Garden.  I remember a magnolia type tree with blooms that smelled of bananas.  As there was no name on the tree that we could find, I am only guessing.  Les?  Do you know of this tree in the NBG?

The Michelia is a member of the Magnolia family and has recently been reclassified as a Magnolia.  It does differ from Magnolias as it blooms on its leaf axis opposed to Magnolias that bloom on terminal buds.  There are multiple cultivars of the Michelia, some with purple blooms. 

It is hardy from zones 7-9 (10),  and it growing in availability.  The foliage is blue-green ovate alternate and large.   It prefers rich, moist, acidic soil and does best in a part shade setting.   According to Dirr is can withstand heavy pruning, but remember it blooms on old wood.

Some of my references online include Wikipedia-good background information, JC Raulston Arboretum-wonderful photos, University of Florida Extension-nice info, and from down under- Burke’s Backyard gives a little background information on the tree.

Next week’s tree- Long leaf Pine

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday's Trees- Virginia Pine

We have a Virginia Pine, Pinus virginiana on our street. Most of the pines are Loblolly so this one Virginia Pine stands out. This native tree occurs in a mixed hardwood/pine forest. Originally found in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is a moderately fast grower reaching its full height of about 50- 75 feet in approximately 50 years. It is a relatively short lived tree averaging 65- 90 years -- rarely seen beyond 150 years. It has a shallow root system which can pose a problem with high winds.

The bark is smooth on younger trees and developed small fissures as it matures. You can see the comparison with the Loblolly pine, the Virginia Pine plates are smaller and the ridges are not as deep. The branches are horizontal with open growth and the crown is flat on top. It is tolerant of shade and is one to fill in quickly after a fire.

Needles are small and have a twisted appearance, two per fascicle. The needles are about 1- 3 inches long –easily distinguished from the Loblolly.

Like other pines, it is monoecious. When the cones are mature, they release their seeds. The Pinus virginiana is a prolific seed producer and most seeds are dispersed within 100 feet of the parent tree. The Duke web site has great photos of the male and female cones. Empty cones can persist on the tree for as many as 15 years!!

Pests for this tree are the southern pine beetle and Virginia pine sawfly. There are some cankers and fungal problems, you can read more about them in the Silvics resource listed below.
Uses for this tree surprised me. It is listed as a preferred Christmas tree. I suppose when it is young the shape is better. It is a tall slender tree as it matures. It is a food source for many small mammals and birds. It is also a nesting area for woodpeckers as the trees age and decay.

Silvics reference and another Silvics resource --both have lots of super information and lots of details.
Virginia Tech –brief easy to read reference sheet
The USDA site with range map and photos
A Champion Tree is shown on the Remarkable Tree site.

Have not decided on next week's tree -- it will be a surprise!

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Friday, February 5, 2010

An Older Fun Guy, Diane, Holly, Hazel, and a Few of Their Friends

Yesterday was Learning Garden day. I took advantage of what snow is left on the ground to see what photo opportunities were waiting for me.
This is the Rhododendron area with a blanket of snow...very calming.

A couple weeks ago we had a major planting session. The county had done some building and as it abuts the Learning Garden and some Wetlands, a Buffer zone planting was needed. We were able to choose the plant material which was very nice. The Master Gardeners, along with the extension agent, planted a large tree, three Chionanthus virginicus, a couple Cercis canadensis, Osmanthus fragrans, a couple Amelanchier, and various shrubs. One of the shrubs is Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane'. Isn't she a beauty? We were thrilled to see her full of buds ready to pop open.

After taking tons of photos of Diane I ventured into the wooded area to see a couple of Hollies.

Ilex opaca American Holly and Ilex aquafolia variegata.

On my way from one holly to another I passed by Hazel --her fragrance on the breeze...heavenly.

Hamamelis vernalis

Some of the Camellias are blooming but unfortunately their blooms have suffered from the cold. Camellia japonica 'Mathotiana Rubra'

I like the gentle movement of the Chasmanthus.

A tour of the garden isn't complete without checking in on our fungi, Mr. Bearded Hedgehog. He is getting a little darker in color as he ages.

To see his younger portrait see my posting here.

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday's Trees- Dwarf Alberta Spruce

Used as an accent plant the Dwarf Alberta Spruce, Picea glauca 'Conica', can be seen throughout the country. This evergreen is hardy from zones 2- 8, depending on which reference material you use. Many people are confused by the word 'dwarf' in a plant's name. Dwarf means that this cultivar is smaller than the species. A Dwarf Alberta Spruce can grow to 10- 12 feet tall and about 2 to 3 feet wide. Given some of the placements for this tree, many times it is planted in the wrong place. The Dwarf Alberta Spruce is a very slow grower, so sometimes placement isn't an issue for many years. Some sights say it grows 2-4 inches per year. It is a great shaped tree, another of the pyramidal Christmas tree type specimen.

The foliage has a blue- gray coloring, with very closely spaced needles. It is a dense compact grower and gives a very full soft look to the tree. Pruning is seldom an issue with this tree making it very low maintenance. Pruning it back past green growth will not stimulate new growth from that area.

Here in Southern Virginia the biggest problem with the Spruce is spider mites. The spider mites attack an area where there is limited air circulation and moist conditions. (sounds like the south in the summer) Infestation will lead to stem and needle death. A once beautifully formed Spruce can become rather ugly if you are not proactive in getting rid of the spider mites. One of the easiest methods is a cold spray with the hose. Some references recommend an annual treatment of a pesticide preventative. Again, proper placement will be helpful in preventing insect damage. Keeping the tree away from walls to allow for good air circulation is key.

The Dwarf Alberta Spruce is not very tolerant of stresses in the environment. Those stresses include pollution, dry conditions, and heat.

I know it sounds like I am not fond of this little tree, but I am. I realize it needs to be in the correct place and monitored for insects for it to do well in my area. Given the right conditions this is a super tree especially in more formal settings.

My references this week include- Ohio State Plant fact sheet which has some cultivar information and some alternative shrubs from which to choose.

NCState fact sheet- limited information and UCONN web information for the Spruce species with a little data about the 'Conica'.

Next week's tree will be Virginia Pine. Ya'll come back now.

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.