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Los Angeles to Ventura Beach

April 13, 2018

With the two hour time difference, I was awake quite early this morning. Since we were not meeting up with the rest of our crew until 11:30 when their flights got in, Julie and I did a driving tour of Los Angeles to see the sights.  Traffic was appalling at early morning rush hour at 7:30 a.m. but we had a great driver.  driver finally made it up to the Griffith conservatory los angeles.apr13 (3)and got a great view of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign.

Then we drove back into town and saw some of the sights including the Chinese theater and all the walk of fame stars.

We didn’t have time for much else, so we headed back to meet up with 4 more of our team.  It took time to drive out of LA.  Our first stop was lunch right on the beach in Malibu.

The rest of our folks are from Texas except for Wayne from Fayetteville.  They all got up at the crack of dawn to make it into LA by 11 a.m.

After lunch we went to a Driscoll Berry farm operation.  We could not take pictures, but it was quite impressive.  We saw row after row of high tunnel production of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.  They are trying some new cutting edge technology like producing the strawberries on narrow chambers about 4 feet off the ground, to make planting and picking easier, but also keep the fruits off the soil.  They are trialing a commercial automated harvester.  It was a wonderful private tour which ended with some really great fresh raspberries.  driscolls.apr13 (4)

It was really hard to see so many great photo opportunities, and not be able to take a picture.  The honeybees were really working inside the high tunnels, and the quality and quantity of the fruit was impressive.  It will make me appreciate those little clam shells of fruit I buy at the grocery store.

Then it was on to our hotels.  We have 3 different locations, so we are a bit spread out.  We met up for dinner on the pier, with a beautiful sunset.

It was a very full day, but Julie and I at least had a bit more rest than the rest of our group.  Tomorrow we meet before 7 a.m. so another full day, this time going from flower field to flower field.  I can’t wait!

Los Angeles – Plant Trial trip

April 12, 2018

Julie and I left Little Rock this morning and had a very uneventful day flying to Los Angeles.  Our first stop was Houston and we experienced a wonderful and quick dining experience.  All throughout the airport there were iPads set up where you could sit down and order your food and pay.  It was easy, fast and quite entertaining. No waiting in lines and the service was great.  There are over 8,000 iPads in use in Houston airport.  Newark airport also has the service.  What a great concept.

We landed in Los Angeles to sunny skies and warm temperatures with palm trees swayingpalm.jcapr.12 (65).  By late afternoon, it got windier and much colder.  We did walk the area around our hotel and found such a wealth of plants already blooming.  We saw their version of statice- Sea lavander

and so many succulents from agave,

ice plant, ice plant jcapr.12 (44)1echeverias and aeoniums.

We also saw agapanthus beginning to bloom, agapanthus jc apr12.18 cal.foxglove, foxglove jcapr.12 (19)calla lilies, calla lily cal.jcapr.12 (35)sanseveria (mother-in-law tongue) as an outside plant, sanseveria cal.jcapr.12 (28)along with many common annuals. Their New Guinea hybrid impatiens new guinea impatiens calo.jcapr.12 (37)were thriving along with osteospermum osteosperumu.lajcapr.12 (33)which does much better in their climate than our hot, humid one.

We also saw the cape honeysuckle (Tecoma) in bloom along with confederate jasmine.

Just think, we saw this many flowering plants around the airport hotels.  Just imagine what we will see when we actually start on our official horticulture plant trial journey.  We are so excited!

Kudos to those of you who knew the mystery plant from our plant challenge earlier this week.

mystery plant april5.18


It is Symplocos tinctoria, a native shrub or small tree commonly called Sweet Leaf or Horse Sugar. The leaves have a pleasant sweet smell when bruised. I had never heard of it before. It is the only plant in the genus.


Arkadelphia, planning and party

April 10, 2018

It was another gorgeous day with bright sun and mild temperatures.  More and more people are taking a look at their plants and finding damage.  I got questions/comments today from across the state on burned figs, azaleas, blueberries, hosta, bleeding heart, pecans, peaches, apples, tomatoes (and shame on you for already having them planted), tulip magnolias, and trumpet creeper.  With the exception of a few lost blooms, there are some serious losses in some of the fruiting crops.  That isn’t to say we will have a wash.  When I was in college, Dr. Moore always said you could have a 90% freeze loss and still harvest a good crop, so keep your fingers crossed.

I have also heard a few folks bemoaning the loss of their big leaf hydrangea.  Mine still look good, so I think I have made it through so far.  If your plants are burned back, let’s hope it didn’t kill them to the ground, or there will be few if any blooms this year.  I am lucky that I live on a hill so the air flows down and freezes less than low areas, or in outlying areas away from the city. I have heard lows in the upper teens to low 20’s for long periods of time. Even though we are having a late spring, many plants have broken dormancy and are at their most susceptible now.  Keep watching your gardens. I heard tales that another round of cold is coming this weekend. LR is expected to be at 34 so what does that say for the northern tier?! Let’s hope they are wrong.

I worked on columns and PowerPoints today because I leave town on Thursday for California.  I am crossing off an item on my bucket list. For years they called them the Pack Trials, and now it is the spring trials.  Flower breeders open their fields once a year for a week in the spring to invite horticulturists to come and see what they are offering for next season. I have been invited before but never had the time to go, and this year I am doing it. Julie and I leave Thursday for Los Angeles. It will be a packed 6 days traveling up the coast to Carmel by the Sea until we catch a plane out of Monterey on April 18 to head home. We have to miss a couple of the open dates because I speak in Wynne on Friday, Apr.20, and in Melbourne on Apr.21.  I am trying to get everything ready for those talks before I go.  Stay tuned to our adventures. We will all be drooling over the plants we see, and cannot buy!

I also drove to Arkadelphia today to do a program at the educational co-op. I forgot to take any pictures!  We had a nice crowd and it was a pretty day for a drive. I saw some of the best plantings of pansies in Arkadelphia that I have seen.  I also saw some burned tips on some dogwoods from the cold.   Tonight I stopped in to celebrate with friends, on the recovery of Eldon from a recent illness.  I think it is important to celebrate life’s journey.  It was good to see him doing so well.    But then again, he has had a great caregiver!

I am going to reinstate a mystery plant.  Let’s see who can guess this correctly. It was a new plant for me.


April freeze damage

April 9, 2018

As gardeners, we are more concerned with the weather than the average person, but I think everyone has been talking about our weather this year.  Too bad our garden tours weren’t today since it is downright balmy outside. From a low in the low 30’s at my house over the weekend, where I went from wearing winter gear with gloves and hat to using the air conditioner in my car today with a high in the upper 60’s–go figure!  While it would have been good weather to be touring outside, there have been reports of plant damage from across the state from our extremely low temperatures, so some of the plants we saw in peak bloom, may not look as good today.  So far in my yard I only see damage on fig leaves  (you can see the before and after in these shots) and a few burned leaves on the harlequin Clerodendron.   A few of my azalea blooms showed some burn,    but overall they look pretty good.    My rhododendron was untouched   as were the kerria, roses, and blueberry flowers. 

Yesterday I did get to at least walk my garden, but it was still cold.  I did go to book club where we discussed News of the World.  Everyone really liked the book and we had some great discussion.   I love to read and getting others perspective is what makes a book club interesting, sometimes even more so when some like the book and others don’t (our last read).  I am looking for a book for my next pick.  Any great suggestions?  I prefer fiction.  Since you have asked, here is what we have read so far:

Ghost of the Ozarks: Murder and memory in the upland south by Brooks Blevins; Wonder by R. J. Palacio; Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo; Between Them by Richard Ford; News of the World by Paulette Jules and up next: Single Drop of Ink by Carla Ramsay Weeks.  This last book is by a local Arkansas author, and I have finished it and it is excellent.


The frigid spring garden tour with snow and sleet!

April 7, 2018

Today was day 2 of the national azalea conference and it was gloomy and overcast as we left the hotel at 8 a.m. and COLD! We had gardeners from all across the country, including Canada and Michigan–so we told them they brought the cold.  People bundled up as much as possible, but it was still cold outside, and outside we were.  Our first stop was at the beautiful and well-maintained garden of Ann Wood in Searcy.  It was in pristine shape with so many lovely and unusual shrubs, trees, and perennials.  People were so impressed.  There was one plant that stumped us all–Ann, you can’t guess, but here is a mystery challenge for the rest of you.    The big leaves are a rhododendron overlapping. The plant in question is the strap-foliaged one with the clusters of red tubular blooms.  Good Luck!

The epimediums and bleeding hearts were in full bloom and wowed us all. They had a roaring fire in the barn and people huddled around it to warm up and see what they had inside.    They also spent plenty of time looking at the gardens.    While we were touring the gardens it began to sleet and lightly snow.  This increased as we drove further north to Batesville for lunch and our second garden.  From the rooftops and cars that we  passed, it had snowed quite a bit. 

Instead of a lovely spring picnic, we went inside for a lovely lunch at their new aquatic center.     This is a first-class facility in Batesville which was built by the citizens when they passed a 1 cent sales tax to build it.  Way to go Batesville.  We were all duly impressed by both the facility and your civic-minded spirit. What a boon for your community.

It had stopped snowing and we even saw a bit of sun as we made it to Larry Coleman’s garden.  His terraced back yard is beautiful and loaded with azaleas and rhododendrons, along with Japanese maples and other plants.  In my 38 years of garden tours, I don’t think I have ever had snow on a spring tour!  It was a first for many others as well.    In spite of the snow and cold, a bumblebee was working the rhodies.   In spite of the weather, this hardy group of gardeners did not stop at any stop, but kept going and talking plants.    Larry even dressed up for the occasion. 

Then we headed to our final stop at the Old Mill in NLR.  The sun was shining which was deceiving, because it was still cold.  I figured there wouldn’t be a crowd because of the cold, but I was wrong. There were many prom people taking pictures and those poor girls had to be freezing!     After that it was back to the hotel for the final banquet and program. 

It was a full three days of events, but I met a lot of nice azalea gardeners from across the country and Canada and got to show off our great state, which I love to do.  Gardeners are just good people and we want them to come back to Arkansas!

A great day for ducks!

April 6, 2018

Today was an all day tour for the azalea society’s national meeting.  It was pouring rain as we left the hotel, and it was only lightly raining when we returned.  We did get a brief break at Garvan, but it didn’t last long enough.  The temperatures also dropped a good deal from morning to evening, and tomorrow is supposed to be bitterly cold as we start our day.  So much for a spring-like April day!  But the weather did not stop these gardeners.  Young and old were out of the bus; most with umbrellas and rain jackets, some with rain boots, and some totally unprepared but still out there.  The first stop was Azalea Hill gardens and nursery in White Hall.   I found one I must find and plant– Cannon’s double.

I really enjoy the deciduous plants, and only have one in my garden already which is highly fragrant, but I think I might need some more.    We loaded back on the buses and then drove to Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs.  First on the agenda was lunch and then walking the gardens.      We had almost an hour rain free.  In addition to the azaleas, there were still a few tulips left, and other spring plants such as hawthorn and Prague viburnum to add to the show.

We made it back to the hotel by 4 and the dinner program began at 6.  Plant sale was open in between and again after dinner.  One can never have enough azaleas.  We heard two interesting talks from fabulous plantsmen Stan Brown and Gerald Klingaman.  All in all a very full day, which will be repeated tomorrow.

Azalea education

April 5, 2018

The National Azalea Conference is in Little Rock from today through Saturday.  With so much azalea knowledge in one place, their board decided to host an Azalea 101 conference today at our state office.  We had great attendance with mainly Master Gardeners, but from Washington County to the north to Columbia County to the south.  We learned about varieties, planting, care, propagation, insects and diseases and native azaleas.  It was a full day of education, with a great lunch thrown in.  Thanks to Holly and Julie for their help in setting it up and handling registration.     We had a little excitement this morning when I saw a baby snake on the windowsill in the education wing.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) it was already dead.  The question is, who killed it and placed in on the windowsill and why?  A brave MG picked it up to move it outdoors even when we thought it was alive. 

We had some powerhouse speakers from the inventor of the Encore azalea (Buddy Lee) to Louisiana horticulturist extraordinaire Allen Owings, and Margie Jenkins, the Grand Dame of Azaleas from Louisiana.  

After we wrapped up Azalea 101, most attendees headed home while the teachers and a few participants headed to the Airport Holiday Inn where the National Conference was getting underway.  Registration was by our very own Penny and crew from the Statehouse Convention Center.   The opening event was their annual plant sale.  These folks do love them some azaleas!  The plants were flying out of there with many of the Azalea 101 crew coming to get in the fun with new plants. 

I decided I have enough plants that I don’t have time to plant, so I did not buy any (yet!).  We have two more evenings of possible purchasing when we get back from the tours each day.  Speaking of tours, we leave bright and early both mornings for a full day outside.  If you look at the forecast neither day is promising. Tomorrow is a likely chance of rain and maybe storms, while Saturday should be clear but COLD!  I heard a wind chill factor of well below freezing.  This is April!  What happened to spring?   I am planning my clothing options and rain gear now.

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