garden

Posted by Ellen

The gnarled little trees called wallum banksia thrive in the sandy heathlands along Australia's east coast, from Queensland down into northern New South Wales around Sydney. Tall spikes of yellow-green flowers linger for months on the branches, drying out and turning brown and then gray; the knobby fruits–seed follicles–may hang on the plant indefinitely, at least until a brush fire sweeps across the countryside, which is something that happens there about every seven to twelve years.

Wallum banksia are not harmed by fire, nor by salt spray or nutrient-starved sandy soil or extended drought. The species has evolved to thrive in extremely harsh conditions, in a habitat which, like the species itself, is known as wallum.

Fire may burn up the leaves and branches, but it also pops open the seed follicles, allowing new little wallum banksia to sprout up all around the old ones. Also, the roots often push up new growth after a fire, helping the species reclaim the territory from other opportunistic seeds that might be trying to spread thereabouts.

The specimen pictured here is not in Australia at all, but in the Australian garden area of Wellington Botanic Gardens in New Zealand. The climate in almost all of New Zealand is cooler and far moister than in most parts of Australia, and wallum banksia does not grow naturally in New Zealand. In fact, it is said that the healthiest, largest, fastest-growing specimens are in dry, sunny, fire-prone locations with poor soil comprised mostly of sand.

Posted by Ellen

'Tis not the season yet for Philly's New Years Day Mummery on parade, but mums of spectacular colors and colorful spectacle are already among us, at the Longwood Gardens Chrysanthemum Festival.

Above, the Longwood horticulturists grafted more than a hundred varieties of mums onto a single stem and somehow got them all blooming at the same time.

Below is a single bloom of the 'Nijin Bigo' cultivar, which we are told translates as 'Irregular incurve' Chrysanthemum morifolium.

And below that is the festival scene, in Longwood's main conservatory in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

Posted by Ellen

In back of the parking garage at 1700 South Street is a block-long garden on Kater Street, where nobody picked the artichokes in the edible-bud stage. They're flowers now.

Posted by Ellen

It's springtime, and the cactus flowers are seriously blooming in San Antonio, but don't even think about trying to sneak into the Alamo by climbing through the little window visible here. 

Posted by Ellen

We shot this picture at night because well-mannered hibiscus flowers fold up and die at night, after just a single day of wide-open gorgeousness. This bloom's behavior is out of line; it has glowed like this for four or five days and nights now, and it shows no sign of giving up.

We should note that it's cold outside, downright frosty at night. And well-mannered hibiscus plants don't bloom at all in November in Pennsylvania. They give up and die.

There are no more buds on this plant, and many of the leaves have dropped now, or curled up, or turned brown and crunchy. So when this flower goes, that's it; the show's over. But what a show.

In richness and boldness of color as well as in longevity, this last swan song of a flower really outdid the pale, delicate blooms of summer. But oddly, perhaps, if we carefully compare the hibiscus flower of November with a flower from the same plant back in July, it becomes apparent that this new all-night, all-weather blossom is missing its male parts. And that's all there is to say about that.

Posted by Ellen

Icelandic sculptor Steinunn Thorarinsdottir  populated this garden just south of the Art Institute with aluminum and cast iron people.

Posted by Ellen

We're told the egg may hatch soon. Watch this space for updates.

Posted by Ellen

In my humble opinion, in my humble backyard, even the hibiscus is not completely happy with life when the mercury hits 94 and the heat index is over 100.

You'd think something tropical and well-watered that only had to hold it together for a single day could bloom right through the scorching. And you'd be almost right. These flowers are still beyond awesome, at least a 20 on a scale of 1 to 10. But the heat's in charge these days, not the petals.

Air conditioning is my friend.

Posted by Ellen

If this is the first week of March in Philadelphia, then it must be time for the Flower Show. Here in the Urban Gardens exhibition, we see a green wall of collards and kale, growing in dirt packed into a latticework on the wall.

Both kale and collards are tough enough to last well into the wintertime in Pennsylvania, so something like this could theoretically eke a little green wonderfulness out of a tiny little yard like mine during the season after the tomatoes are all tuckered out. I'm sure that a green wall is way too demanding, both green-thumb-wise and carpentry-wise, for a wishful sort of lazy gardener like me, but I can already taste that pot liquor.

Meanwhile, needless to say, they're finally predicting a little snow for our city.

Posted by Ellen

A camera hanging from a kite flew over the neighborhood a couple of weeks ago and snapped this view of the community garden in Schuylkill River Park.

The garden, which contains 70 plots that rotate every six years to area gardeners on a lengthy waiting list, was started about thirty years ago in an abandoned brickyard at a railroad siding. In the early years, plants were watered from 55-gallon drums filled at a nearby fire hydrant.

Since 2009, gardeners have participated in Philadelphia's City Harvest Program, which provides produce to city food cupboards. The seedlings set out into the garden for City Harvest were started from seed by inmates in Philadelphia prisons. Through this program, the annual contribution to food cupboards from Schuylkill River Park is about 500 pounds of fruit and vegetables.

Looks like this year's winter weather hasn't been much of a challenge to the plantings here, at least not yet.