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March Bank Awakening

Whatever illusion I had about understanding the weather has been dashed in the past year.  Between the recent temperature swings and the “need to build an ark” with our record-breaking rainfall has set my confidence in my weather predicting out the window.  Weather has never been predictable but our norms and trends now seem to be setting their own norms and trends and will make this year’s flower predictions very challenging.  Perhaps this is Mother Nature’s gentle reminder to us all to live a little more in the moment rather than in what is to be. 

That being said, I can report to you some flowering activity that I saw on Tuesday before the drop in temperatures.  The warmer than normal winter has set the March Bank in motion.  We are not saturated in color by any means but it is very heartening when dormancy is broken by burgeoning life.  With temperatures increasing by nearly 50 degrees on Tuesday, (there I go, predicting again; old habits die hard) we should see even more white and yellow color added to the brown of the forest floor.

                                         Underneath the leaves, winter aconite begin to emerge.
                                                           A single winter aconite almost in flower.
                                                              Adonis… on the verge.
                                                             Snowdrops in flower.

This winter, while Winterthur is closed, we are trying something new. We are offering a class, taught by our beekeeper Chris Biondi that will finish in time for participants to start their own hives. The details are below and we hope that a host of members, staff, volunteers, and the general public will be interested!

Beekeeping Basics
Saturdays – February 2, 9, and 16 9:30 am to 11:30 am, Brown Center
Package installation demonstration will take place on April 7 or 14 in the field

This introduction to beekeeping will teach you the basics of starting, maintaining, and caring for your honeybees. Winterthur beekeeper Chris Biondi and Charles Karat will present the history of beekeeping, provide information on where to purchase honeybees and equipment, discuss hive placement and site selection, describe basic honeybee biology including life cycle and diseases, and introduce Integrated Pest Management schemes. The class will culminate with a demonstration of how to install a “package” of honeybees at the Winterthur Apiary (proper beekeeping attire required–not provided). $85 members, $100 non-members.

To register, please call Winterthur’s Information and Tours office at 302.888.4600 or toll free at 1.800.448.3883.

Below is a flyer you can download and share – please help us fill this fun class!

Galanthus Gift

This post was contributed by Eileen Scheck, Assistant Curator of Garden Education. Here she describes a walk in the Winterthur Garden a couple days after Christmas.

A much-needed break from the frantic frenzy of the holiday season led me out into the garden. Along the March Walk I spotted dabs of bright white standing out in a sea of brown leaf mulch.  Snowdrops! Spotting these tiny flowers is a horticultural treasure hunt enjoyed by many — including H.F. du Pont.  

In a Dec. 10, 1932 letter to his sister Louise, Mr. du Pont wrote, “I am glad to say I found my first Galanthus […] in bloom yesterday.”

I was glad, too, when I found my first Galanthus in bloom.  (P.S. Galanthus is the genus name for snowdrops.)  I had to admire this tough-as-nails little plant emerging from the cold ground.  It gave me pause. And that was the best part of my walk — stopping. The act of searching for tiny blooms on the ground slowed me down and forced me to focus.  A reminder to enjoy the moment was the perfect present to give myself this holiday season.  

Save the date! March 9, 2019 is “Bank to Bend,” a celebration of the early bulb display at Winterthur. For more details, see the garden events page on the Winterthur website.

DelaWild Tomorrow!

For a preview of tomorrow’s jam-packed schedule, check out the Delawild 2018 Day Sheet!

This Saturday, at the debut of a new Winterthur event called DelaWild, we have the great pleasure of featuring Charlie Engelman, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and television host for National Geographic and former Winterthur Garden intern. Charlie and one of his television shows, Nature Boom Time, were introduced on this blog in an earlier post. Check it out here and link to his highly entertaining episode about the Washington, D.C. cherry blossom festival!

Charlie will be making two presentations at Winterthur this Saturday. At a special member preview, to be introduced by Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long, Charlie will share about his work with National Geographic and the significance of his time as a Winterthur Garden & Estate Intern (9:00 am in Copeland Lecture Hall). Later in the day, there will be a premier showing from his new television series, Nature Parade, followed by an informal Q&A with Charlie (12:15 pm in Copeland Lecture Hall).

During the last four years of writing, producing, and hosting educational television shows that inspire viewers to become curious observers of their world, Charlie has found himself diving with sharks, sleeping at the top of giant sequoias, and hunting invasive camens under the cover of darkness in the Everglades. However, while his television work has taken him far and wide, it all started at Winterthur when he filmed his first video about frogs in Enchanted Woods.

Learn more this Saturday about how this rising science filmmaker teaches viewers by wearing fake mustaches, dressing up as pitcher plants, and officiating funerals for garbage!

Saturday, August 25, 2018, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm
Member Preview, 9:00 am to 10:00 am

Join us in celebrating nature at this family-friendly event! 

The day will include walks, lectures, and demonstrations for nature-lovers of all ages offered by a wide range of environmental and conservation organizations. Watch the premier of a new television show, Nature Parade, with its host Charlie Engelman. Learn about Delaware fossils and see live exotic animals in the Brown Horticulture Center with the Delaware Museum of Natural History. Go on a vegetable garden discovery walk and taste a variety of fresh veggies with Healthy Food for Healthy Kids. And much more! Click here for more information about the event.

Despite scorching heat and humidity so thick you could cut it with a knife, the late summer garden and estate continue to delight the senses of those who sojourn into them. Early-turning leaves of sour gum trees, for instance, are fun to spot — like bright red cardinals speckling otherwise green branches. Woodlands and meadows, while mostly swaths of green and brown, are also bejeweled in choice places. Leadwort sends sapphire-blue sprays across the feet of post-bloom azaleas, while patches of glistening goldenrod punctuate the amethyst haze of purple-top grasses. Sometimes it is a fragrance, not a color, that dazzles — like the sweet perfume of white-flowering hostas. All of these vivid highlights seem to proclaim the end of summer in the manner of a grand fireworks finale.

After the spring ephemerals in the woodlands fade, I like to turn my attention to the meadows for native seasonal blooms.  While the striking goldenrod and lush warm-season grasses won’t bolt and bloom until late summer, delicate flowers litter the cool-season grass sea.  The wet areas are especially colorful this time of year.  Time to put my botany degree to work!

The Pale-Spiked Lobelia (Lobelia spicata) forms spike-like racemes of petite, pale blue flowers.  The specific name, spicata, refers to the unbranched “spike” that rises from the ground.

 

Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) bears white flowers tinged with hints of lavender near its base.  This flower displays a resemblance to the popular garden Foxglove flower, hence the specific name of this plant (digitalis) is the same as the generic name of garden Foxglove.  Both genera, Penstemon and Digitalis, are in the Plantain family (Plataginaceae).

 

 

Contrary to its common name, Meadow Evening Primrose (Oenothera pilosella) is a day-flowering species of evening primrose.  Its specific name, pilosella, refers to the downy hair that covers the stem and leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.) is a cute perennial which is scattered throughout wet meadows and wetlands.  While not a true grass, it is in the iris family (Iridaceae).

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), as many people know, is a wonderful host plant for the monarch butterfly caterpillar, and also is a wonderful pollinator plant.

 

Fringed Loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata) presents bowed flowers which bloom from the axils of the plant.  This lower growing plant only reaches about a foot or two, so keep your eyes peeled in the tall grass!

 

Winterthur boasts almost 900 acres of natural areas including several hundred acres of meadow.  If you feel up to a light hike, be sure to follow the yellow arrows through natural meadow, woodland, and wetland habitat!

 

Poison Ivy Leaves

Leaves of three! Poison ivy is growing very rapidly with all this rain.

This is the time of year when I see evidence of gardening injuries among my friends and colleagues. One gardener I know broke her wrist and asked the doctor for a Gore-Tex cast so that she could wash the soil off after gardening. I once asked a visiting garden club from Virginia how many of them had ever been treated for Lyme disease and to my surprise every one of the 38 women raised their hands. Last summer I watched my neighbor hobble around his garden with his leg in a boot. He broke it after a fall – he was pruning from a ladder at the time. One gardener I knew in Virginia insisted on gardening with a patch over his eye – I really enjoyed giving him the nickname the “pirate gardener” (I think he enjoyed it too). These are hard-core gardeners, they are the kind of gardeners who are happy to go to plants sales in a downpour or to wake up at dawn on a Saturday to get outside. You know who you are!

I support this enthusiasm, but would like to temper it with a reminder to protect yourself. The basics of ‘PPE’ are pretty simple – PPE is short in our industry for ‘Personal Protective Equipment’ and includes recommendations for proper equipment you’d use for spraying pesticides and for using power equipment. When I say ‘simple’ just think of it this way, you ought to wear hearing protection, gloves, and eye protection whenever there is a risk of injury. You should also follow the label of any chemical you are applying and its recommendations for protective clothing. Put another way, if you have to raise your voice to be heard you should be wearing hearing protection; if something can get in your eye or strike your eyeball, you should be wearing eye protection; and use situation-specific gloves whenever there is risk of blisters or abrasion. It is all pretty common sense and you probably already do this to some extent. Here are some additional things I have learned over time.

Ticks

I spray my boots and gardening pants with Permethrin. Once the spray has dried it will last for a couple of washes and it is an effective deterrent to ticks. I use Picaridin on my skin to repel mosquitoes and ticks – I don’t use DEET any longer – that’s my personal preference. If you wear light colored clothing it is easier to see the ticks crawling on you.

Hands & Gloves

For cuts and blisters I use lanolin and band aids. If you buy the pharmaceutical grade lanolin that is sold in the maternity/baby section of the drugstore you can use it over bad blisters or cuts and it makes an almost waterproof barrier. Add a band aid and you are all set to get back to gardening. I have a bucket of different kinds of gloves such as rubber coated cloth gloves and leather gloves that I am constantly rummaging through to find the right glove for the job. For cleaning up after gardening I use surgical scrub brushes and old-fashioned bar soap. You can scratch the soap with your fingernails and then scrub with a surgical brush to get rid of your green fingernails.

Ears

I mentioned hearing protection above but it is worth re-emphasizing. You will almost always see our garden staff at Winterthur wearing hearing protection, even when they are just driving their utility vehicles, because there is a growing awareness of the cumulative damage that noise can cause to your hearing. The earplug-type protection is easy to carry, and so they have the convenience factor going for them, but I find that people often don’t use them correctly. Personally, I like the earmuff type of protection because it is much easier to get it right and be properly protected. I have the kind I can plug my iPod into and can listen to music while I am mowing, string trimming, or using a leaf blower.

Poison Ivy

I am not allergic to poison ivy but I really don’t want to develop the allergy, so I am careful about handling the plants. Yes, I do hand-pull poison ivy seedlings in my garden. Here is my process in a nutshell. I wear disposable gloves, I put several plastic bags out before I start, I have soap (like Dawn liquid) and cold water setup so I can wash, and I also set up my shower so that I can rinse off without touching too many surfaces when I am done. The active ingredient in poison ivy is an oil called urushiol. Chemically, urushiol is a hapten, a molecule that only causes an allergic reaction after it is bound to the proteins in our skin. This means that if you wash the oil away, you eliminate the potential allergic reaction. Cold water and soap are effective at washing away urushiol, but you can also use more powerful commercial products like Tecnu. I double bag the pulled up poison ivy after I have pulled it and I am cleaning up. Then I carefully remove the gloves I’ve used and throw those away too. I kick off my shoes and wash them with car wash detergent and cold water. I wash my clothes in cold water with detergent and I double rinse them to try ensure I leave no traces of urushiol in the washer. With the right planning, and if you are careful about secondary exposure to poison ivy, you can minimize your chances of an exposure that will result in a rash.

These are just a few of the steps I take to minimize my gardening down time. I am sure you have your own tricks and insights. If you do, please include them in a comment and I would be happy to share them. Happy gardening!

Come take a walk in the Winterthur Garden! This ramble takes in late May highlights beginning with the Peony Garden, continuing through the Pinetum, and ending in the Quarry Garden — with a couple detours along the way. Colors, forms, and fragrances abound as the pace of spring quickens towards summer. ~Photos by E. Anderson.

It’s that time! Come take a walk through the Peony Garden and enjoy the large collection of A.P. Saunders hybrids, which flaunt colors as diverse as yellow, red, white, lavender, and fabulous pink.

This Wednesday, May 16, Garden Horticulturist Michelle Stapleford takes you inside the garden with her Garden Insider walk, “A Passion for Peonies.” See the spectacle and learn more about the care and maintenance of herbaceous and tree peonies. 11:00 am. Walk leaves from the Brown Horticulture Learning Center. About 1 hour. Members free. Included with admission.

Hot pink herbaceous peony by E. Anderson

Golden yellow tree peony by E. Anderson