Monday, June 20, 2016

Vacation Musings

Last week, Jack and I took our 12-year old grandson on a trip to Washington, DC, with a side trip to the nearby mountains of West Virginia, where Jack's brother has a cabin. We also took a detour through the countryside of southern Pennsylvania. Those of us who are interested in gardening and garden design are always on the lookout for horticultural interest: unfamiliar plants, interesting garden designs, or something that inspires us. Here are a few things from our trip that interested or inspired me. 

First, a beautiful stream near Franklin, WV, near the spot where the stream joins the Potomac River (which looks like a shallow, rocky stream in this area).  This stream caught my eye because, like many gardeners,  I love water features. One of the things that attracted me to the house that Jack and I bought was that it had a water feature (small waterfall, stream, and pond) with a lot of promise. I say "promise" because when we moved in, the area surrounding the stream looked unnatural to me. It was planted with a random assortment of wildflowers (echinacea, rudbeckia, ox-eye daisies, etc.), herbs, and grasses. It looked something like a stream running through a prairie. Not the look I was going for. I wanted something more like this stream we came across near Franklin, WV. So I took this picture for inspiration as I continue to work on our stream.

And speaking of natural water features, we also toured the famous Falling Water home near Mill Run, PA, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. A water feature can't be any more natural-looking than this. It is an actual spring-fed stream.
Falling Water
Photo by Sam McCormick

Back to the West Virginia part of this story. My brother-in-laws's cabin is in the woods near the top of a mountain. In May, his hillside is covered with wild lady slippers (Cypripedium acaule). When we were there last week, the blooms were gone, but the mounds of green foliage were still attractive, looking a bit like small hostas. This is what the lady slippers look like in bloom.

Photo by Harold Edwards

Mountain laurel are abundant in this area, but, unfortunately, we also missed those by a few weeks. Here and there a few blossoms were hanging on.
Kalmai latifolia
Photo by Sam McCormick

The final plant I want to share with you from the mountains of West Virginia is a strange one, indeed-- a completely white plant commonly called Indian Pipe. 
Monotropa uniflora
Photo by Harold Edwards
 Looking something like a strange mushroom, Indian Pipe is actually not a fungus, but a flowering plant that lacks chorophyll, and thus cannot make its own food. It is a parasite that depends on fungi to provide its nutrients. Click here for more information on this fascinating plant.

Next post: horticultural information from our nation's captial.

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