Ready or Not, Spring is Coming

tulip garden in the snow

     We did get the forecasted three inches of snow on Tuesday.  And the bitter cold.  On Wednesday morning, my husband asked what was wrong after hearing me shout, "Are you kidding me?"  Our thermometer read 19 degrees!  I almost felt like crying.

     But spring isn't waiting any longer.  I finally noticed that some tree buds are swelling.  My tulips, hyacinths, and other perennials keep growing through the snow and bitter cold.  After three days the snow was gone.  Here are a few photos from my gardens.

tulip garden after the snow melted

primrose trying to bloom in the snow

primrose after the snow melted

a brunnera macrophylla leaf just starting to poke its way through the soil

my first helleborus bloom


     The temperature forecast is for the mid 60's the rest of the week, so that should prompt a lot of quick growth.

Ficus Trees

Ficus drupacea commonly called Mysore or brown wooly fig

     I wanted to share with you some photos of two ficus trees that grow on the Edison and Ford winter estates.  I am not very familiar with ficus trees, and these two ficus trees were very large and impressive.

     Fig trees are part of the mulberry family.  There are 13 types of ficus trees throughout the estates.  The following four photos are different views of a ficus tree growing on Henry Ford's estate

root structure of the brown wooly fig
     Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone, all friends with one another, worked on research at Edison's botanical research lab in Ft. Myer's, Florida  for a source of natural rubber that could be grown in the US in the event of a shortage in the foreign supply.  I am guessing that Firestone and Ford had an interest in this, not only for other industrial enterprises, but also because rubber was needed for the Firestone tires that went on Henry Ford's cars.

a closer view of the roots

     Although ficus trees, which produce latex for rubber, were part of the research he conducted, Edison tested 17,000 plants and eventually discovered a source for latex in the plant goldenrod.  Through his plant hybridization, Edison was able to develop a 14-foot goldenrod!  This could be grown much more quickly.

This close up of the roots shows how tall they are, about two feet

There is a hole in this trunk which is used as shelter by various animals

Ficus benghalensis

     This is the Ficus benghalensis, commonly called a banyan tree, that Thomas Edison planted in 1925.  The tree, originally four feet tall, now covers an acre of land on the estate.  It is considered the largest in the continental United States.  The word "Banyan" often refers specifically to the Indian Banyan Ficus benghalensis, which is the national tree of the Republic of India.

Ficus benghalensis, closer view of same tree as above

     This banyan tree shows the aerial prop roots that grow into thick, woody trunks.  Older banyan trees spread out laterally using prop roots.

same tree, closer view

     The effect is like a forest covering a large area, every trunk connected directly or indirectly to the central trunk.  According to Wikipedia, this structure of interconnection inspired the name of the hierarchical computer network operating system Banyan VINES.

last week's snowfall

     We got slammed again with eight inches of snow last Monday, the sixth snowfall in six weeks.  And now we are facing another snowstorm Tuesday.  Another week, another snowstorm.  The weather forecasters promise that this upcoming storm is the end of the snow.  With April on the calendar next week,  I believe them.  Finally.

Signs of Spring

crocus near the edge of my property under my neighbor's tree

      We had three days in the 60's this week that melted the six inches of snow we had last weekend.  An explosion of birdsong, bulbs emerging, and longer days (almost 12 hours of daylight) tell me its spring.

     But the weather refuses to fully cooperate.  We had wind chills in  the single digits last night with wind gusts up to 60 mph.  Luckily we did not lose power as a lot of others in northern Virginia did. We thankfully had no snow, just a little rain.  Every weekend it seems we have a snowstorm, and this weekend another one is to arrive on Sunday night.  I took a few photos that shows signs of spring around the house and yard.

my Christmas poinsettia with new growth

     About ten days before daylight savings time went into effect, my Christmas poinsettia suddenly sent up a new leaf that would stand upright during the day, reaching for the increased amount of light. It also sprouted a tiny, second leaf that can just be made out at the bottom of the large leaf.  The six inches of snow we had is visible out the window.

 The leaf would lie back horizontally when night fell.

The tiny, second leaf was full size about six days later.

Tulips emerging in my backyard garden.

The first helleborus bud on one of the plants that went into the backyard garden last fall.

This primrose that came from a gardening friend last spring is coming to life in the backyard garden.

Even the dog is enjoying the increased sunlight when it shines through this window in the afternoon.
     I hope we don't get much snow with this next storm, but already the forecasters are saying four plus inches.  I wouldn't mind if they were wrong this time.  I would like to get out in the yard and do so many things like cut back my oriental fountain grass,  pull the ornamental cabbage I planted last fall, and plant some pansies!

Edison and Ford Estates Part Two

palm tree

     This is where I'd like to be.  In Florida under a palm tree.  Unfortunately, I am still deep in winter in northern Virginia.  After three days of 60 degree temperatures, most of the seventeen inches of snow on the ground melted, and we could see the grass again.  The dog was happy about that.  Then we had two days of minor snowfall this week which covered the grass again, but it melted away.  Now we are in another arctic deep freeze (it was 11 degees last night) and facing another round of ice and snow starting tomorrow night. Get me outta here!  This palm tree on the Edison estate in Ft. Myers, Florida is in the back yard area of the house where many of the plantings are and faces the Caloosahatchee River.

back yard area

     This is another view of part of the back yard area.  The entire back yards of both Edison and Fords winter estates faced the Caloosahatchee River.  Edison built the stone seawall that lines the edge of the yard.

Royal palms

     These Royal palms (Roystonia regia) line the back of the Edison house.

botanical research laboratory

     This is a photo of the inside of the laboratory where Edison carried out his botanical research on many plants.  One of the many plants he grew on the estate was bamboo because bamboo fiber was a material he researched as a filament for the light bulb.  Here are some photos of the different bamboos he grew on the estate.

Alphonse Kaar bamboo (Bambusa multiplex)

Common bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris)

Oldham bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii)

rose garden

     This is Edison's wife Mina's rose garden.  There wasn't much in bloom in January when we were there.  Most of the bushes were very old rose species.  I like the layout of the garden.

moonlight garden

     This is Mina's moonlight garden, designed in 1929 by renowned landscape architect Ellen Biddle-Shipman.  The building in the background was Edison's office.  The pool and bright flowers were meant to reflect the moonlight.  Most of the flowers planted here have white blossoms, but many were not in bloom. 


     But this luscious, fragrant gardenia was in bloom in the moonlight garden.