Friday, March 26, 2010

Plant Pic of the Day

Chaenomeles is commonly known as a flowering quince. (horticultural info to follow shortly....for now, sleep.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Garden Pics of the Day: Corylopsis

Corylopsis pauciflora! (aka buttercup winterhazel)
The flowers are really more chartreuse but I still like how these came out. A great woodland shrub.
Corylopsis pauciflora
--commonly called buttercup winterhazel
--native to Japan and Taiwan, introduced in 1862
--hardy in USDA Zones 6-8
--dainty 4-6' shrub with equal or larger spread
--fragrant flower inflorescences in early spring
--interesting leaf and texture in summer
--great yellow fall color in late October
--place in full sun in high pH soil with plenty of organics
--to ensure best bloom large fragile buds must be protected from wind and late winter storms
Talk about spring, right!?!?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wedding update

For those of you that know Krissy and me personally feel free to catch the latest wedding news over at The Felunkles! where I recently posted an update. Cheers, ...we're going to the beach. ;-)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hamamelis vernalis: the last days of winter

The Hamamelis vernalis (vernal witchhazel) and Galanthus (snowdrops) have been in flower for a little while now. Thanks to the return of the sunlight little clumps of Crocus have opened to show off their bright yellow stamens amidst delicate cups of white edged in lavender. I cleaned up the ratty leaves of the Helleborus (Hellebores, Lenten Rose) and their blooms are opening rich purple, brilliant white, and green throughout the woodland slope. At last the Iris reticulata are bursting forth, their perfectly proportioned miniature bodies appearing through the debris only a few inches tall. The first shots of color in the late winter landscape are reminding us of the magical season to come. The Narcissus (daffodils) are pushing their foliage, like the little Muscari (grape hyacinth) in front of them. The Tulipa will take more time, but still the green tips of spring life are exhilarating.

Hamamelis vernalis:
--commonly called vernal Witchhazel
--member of the Hamamelidaceae family
--Grows to 6-10' high and greater in spread
--Hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8
--Medium growth rate
--When in leaf provides nice medium texture to a landscape
--Durable woodland plant but is not a big fan of being transplanted once established

Thanks to Michael Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses for factoid conformation. And if you are at all serious about woody plants and/or landscaping, this is a book you must own. -aef

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Parking Award of the Day!

That's right! Parking Award of the Day goes to this fyackin' guy.
...and yes, you're right, not only is he a foot over the curb, but also halfway in a driveway. Dare I say, award winning!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ode to the Slow Cooker: Navy Bean Bacon Chowder

So, for those of you that don't know us personally, Krissy and I are major devotees of the slow cooker. Braving this urban lifestyle and enduring physically demanding jobs, the ability to know that we can still come home to a warm place and smells of home cooking is like a dream come true. Not to mention it has been our pleasure to preach the good word of the slow cooker to our dearest friends and get them on board as well. So this entry is for Jody and Bob.

Today we are testing out a new recipe. Navy bean bacon chowder. Need I say more?

This comes from a book my future mother-in-law hooked us up with some Christmases ago. I don't know where she got it, likely a good ol' fashion country yard sale, but we haven't been let down yet. Thanks "Fix It Quick Favorite Brand Name Slow Cooker" recipe book courtesy of Publications International, Limited, 2004! (and new awesome Dell scanner!)

Pictures of the yum to be posted later I hope.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"High Road Low Road"

collage on paper
6.5" x 10"
(c) aef09

The Sad Black Oak: Q&A

Above and below is a massive black oak (Quercus velutina) that towers over crabapple and corylopsis along a woodland slope in Central Park.
Thanks for your help Alex.
I really appreciate you giving it some thought. Basically my attitude has been to let nature take its course and maybe the tree will be fine, maybe not.

A brief history:
It was fine looking two years ago. Then last spring it barely flushed out and just had these puffs or pom poms of leaves at the tips of some of the branches. Other parts of the tree were bare all year. Fall came and the leaves that were on the tree died back normally.

The tree is too tall to see what the buds are looking like yet, if there even are any in the first place. Plus I can't reach up and grab a branch to see if it's dead or not because I am just five and half feet tall and the tree is more like sixty feet tall.

Hi Cassady,

It’s been fun researching Quercus velutina and trying to figure out what might be going on. Not to mention I might be able to repost this to my blog and see if other people have feedback. So I know this is going to be pretty wordy but I want to be sure and cover all the basics. As I said, there is a beautiful black oak I know of in Central Park and it too is close to 60’ if not taller. Someone asked me to identify it for them one day and I was stumped because obviously the foliage was well out of reach and all I had to go on was the bark. Ultimately it would be a combination of the leaf and the heavy gray pubescence on the buds of fallen twigs that would allow me to confirm my hunch for certain. But I love the tree because it’s a giant statement in the landscape.

But I love the tree because it’s a giant statement in the landscape.

So they are a native tree of course and their range is huge. It appears that they are happiest in a humus-rich woodland soil but thanks to the development of a serious tap root they also do fine situated in poorer conditions, whether dry and sandy or heavy clay. Since we have always grown up with oaks I share your same sentiment that we don’t typically think of them as being problematic trees or requiring much fuss. Most references don’t even mention common pests or diseases and I couldn’t figure that out so I dug a little deeper. I realized that might be the case because once you get into it different species in the red oak group are susceptible to a slew of fungal diseases and pests. Authors probably figure it’s easier not to go there. And in part they are right because most of the fungal issues that affect oaks are not going to become serious enough to kill a whole tree. The list typically reads as follows: Anthracnose, canker, leaf blister, oak wilt, smooth patch, wood rots and decays.

Luckily I think most things you can rule out right away. Canker you usually find more among woodland trees and those big bulgy symptoms would be obvious. The same goes for major rot issues, you would see some signs of fungal conks or mushrooms near the tree. Not to mention I assume it is probably pretty dry where the tree is, right? Given the fact that it’s the island and in a front yard and not a more woody setting. If it was leaf blister or a gall forming pest that too I would think you would have seen signs of in the leaf litter last the fall when the tree defoliated. That leaves me thinking about Anthracnose and oak wilt.

Oak wilt is a disease that can kill a tree quite rapidly once infected. It is a big scare among nurserymen because it can spread quickly between root systems and take out whole monoculture plantings in no time. But I don’t get the feeling that this is a disease homeowners deal with very much, and most people that write about it are more in the Midwest so I don’t know how prevalent it is here in the northeast. Just the same the University of Illinois Extension has some good info on Quercus velutina and associated issues and you should check them out: ( To rule out oak wilt try and find some downed twigs after the next storm and whittle away the bark with a knife. Oak wilt causes a brown vascular streaking in the active layer of the cambium and is supposedly pretty easy to spot. The other reason I am not sure about oak wilt is that they say the tree dies quickly from the top down and it sounds like you are dealing with the older foliage going first leaving just the new growth.

Lastly there is Anthracnose. Anthracnose usually affects foliage on big shade trees and again is rarely bad enough to kill a tree. Usually you see irregular patches of foliage affected and though ugly the tree still looks decent overall. That being said, if enough of the foliage becomes affected and the tree can’t properly photosynthesize because it is big and old and on a slower schedule compared to the fast spreading fungus then it can become quite the issue. I have seen anthracnose attack a ton of different trees, and usually they can re-foliate and make it through. But anthracnose thrives in uncommonly wet and rainy conditions and with that I can’t help but remember how brutally wet it was the beginning of last summer. And to make matters worse late summer last year went to the other extreme and things were very dry and heat stressed as a result. So I wonder if the anthracnose was there but not such an issue for a few years and then irregular wet and dry helped to feed the fungus and put the tree into a bit of a tail spin.

Either way it sounds like you are not left with much active living wood compared to how big the tree is. Personally I would wait and see what foliage is produced this spring but maybe not hold your breath. If the foliage is less than half of the entire tree then I would guess it looks pretty terrible and would not be able to rebound before dying completely, though that could take a few years still. And then of course you have to think about the non-cultural conditions, where it is in the front yard and the kids and the house and all that. Even though we know oaks to be a tough hardwood tree if all you are getting is the new growth and the rest looks like a skeleton I’d be tempted to have it taken down before some freak storm does it for you.

The one that is near me has a pretty serious lean after some of these major windstorms and winter damage and years of abuse and we often wonder how long it will hold on. But in my situation the tree is in a very soil-rich and wet spot with lots of protected plantings around it so I think the vascular system is still chugging along and giving the tree the water and nutrients it needs to hold on.

So sorry I am not giving a definite diagnosis but I hope I was able to give some thoughts and points that help you in the decision process. If I can help any further feel free to let me know and we’ll take another stab at it.

Best of luck and keep me posted!

Alex Feleppa