Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Irrigation is my new responsibility in the Friendship Garden.  That and 'Team Leader' of the Summer Intern Group Project (more on that later).  Irrigation is a funny thing...When you turn on the irrigation, you shouldn't hear or see anything. There is a sweet little drip that should come out the bottom of the tubing to saturate the ground around it without you ever knowing what is happening.  But, you end up nicking the irrigation tubing with tools as you weed.  When you hear hissing or see a big fountain of water, apparently it's time for an irrigation repair...who knew?!  So-- we have what we call 'double male' connectors (use your imagination) and we are instructed to cut the tubing where the leak is and then (while the water is flowing) shove this plastic connector into the tubing.  Hmmmm, so far, this is a recipe for getting soaked.  I 'repaired' about 4 of these things today, and I am still not sure that I didn't make the problem worse.  What I am sure of is that I got all wet this morning.  Maybe 'irrigation repair' should be left for the steaming hot 90 degree afternoons. In other news, it's about 7-0 me against the poison ivy.  (I have to say it's a much better record than the Orioles this season.)  I am now in charge of marking the perilous little plant with florescent orange markers whenever I come across it.  Here is a list of skills I've acquired so far working at the Arboretum (in order of skill level)  avoiding sun burn, weeding, digging, weed recognition, poison ivy i.d. in the friendship garden, driving the pick-up/dump truck, working the walkie talkie, avoiding bug bites, plant i.d. in the friendship garden, leaf blowing, working the USDA computer system, irrigation repair...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Poison Ivy

I've recently spotted Poison Ivy in the Friendship Garden.  The fact that I've been able to avoid it so far has inspired a new goal.  "Avoid Poison Ivy for the entirety of my internship"

So far I've seen seven patches of it over a three day period.  I'll count each day as one for either me or one for the poison ivy.  Score so far is:  Laurie : 3 Poison Ivy : 0.  Other pests: rain, sunburn, mosquitoes and spiders have all gotten at least one over me already, but so far I'm in the lead over that pretty looking three leaved little menace.  Speaking of which, while on the look out for the sinister vine, I've spotted some other plants that force me to do a double take before I realize I'm safe:  Wild strawberry has three leaves, but they are rounded, so you can breath a sigh of relief and maybe find a sweet little snack there too.  Mulberry weed reminds me of it.  There is a five leaved vining weed that sometimes loses a leaf or two and scares scares me.  When the Poison Ivy is in a deeply shaded area, it doesn't have the red or the tell-tale shine to it, so sometimes you can think you are about to pull out a little acorn sprout and then realize you are about to grab the stem of the itchyest stuff on earth.  Poison Ivy apparently thrives on carbon dioxide.  Since the amount of CO2 in the air is increasing the poison ivy is running rampant around here.  I've seen it wrapping around trees with leaves as big as six inches long.  It's extremely invasive and nasty.  Round-Up will kill it, and lucky for me, Ed, the professional gardener sprays the Round - Up for me whenever I point out a new sneaky batch of it!  So which one of these photos is poison ivy? but I put a photo of the real thing a few blogs ago. I proud to report that I helped Nicole and Mark start the war with it at their house just last night!  Anyway, for those of you who are worried, I'm wearing gloves and trying not to get too confident....cross your fingers.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


The Porter Street Garden is well on its way!  First yellow squash blooms, then tomato blossoms, now little purple flowers on the beans.  And look out for the first little green Roma Tomatoes.  Luckily, so far, the beans are growing faster than any of the weeds.  I have noticed that something is eating my Basil and my Zinnia leaves at night, but only a few little bites, hmmmm. Any thoughts on who is eating these leaves?

I've recently acquired a lilac tree, (this is USNA introduction "Declaration" and it will grow about 8.5 feet tall and 6.5 feet wide in 25 years.)  a viburnum, (USNA in"Shasta" will grow to be 6.5 feet tall and 11.5 feet wide.) and some wild ginger.  I planted the wild ginger in the shade, and it is loving it's new home.  I'm waiting to plant the other two, but I would love to have your thoughts about the best way to prepare the soil for both.
It will take some time to clear the English Ivy and the other weeds in the yard.
I got to ride in a cherry picker last week at the Arboretum, (Cheers to my Uncle Johnny who is a professional at riding in the cherry picker!) I learned to identify two different types of miscanthus, and a few different Rudbeckias.  Apparently Rudbeckias are Asters but for now almost all Asters look alike to me.  Wearing bugspray and sunscreen is helping, but I swear the bugs find the one spot on my skin where the OFF isn't and they dig right in!  Assignment:  Find out the difference between a Rhizome and a Stolon and the scientific difference between trees and shrubs-- Interesting fact, Viburnum and Crepe Myrtles are both shrubs.

Friday, June 4, 2010


Here is the run down of my 'war wounds' from my first two weeks as a gardener.  Bug bites...I guess these are  par for the course.  One of the bug bites though isn't acting like a mosquito bite and has developed a little red line, which I suspect is the bug's venom racing towards my heart.  (If I end up in cardiac arrest, you'll know why.)  I've now had to resort to using OFF (even though it contains Deet, which I claim to be against).  A bruise on the palm of my hand where I've been bumping the asparagus fork unto the ground to uproot the weeds.  A big ugly scrape on my shin bone where I accidentally tripped over a metal plant marker.  I'm sure you can imagine how cute and tough I am ...but in other news, so far I've avoided a farmer's tan!  I'm so dirty at the end of the day, even my socks are filthy!  Yesterday I decided to wear shorts since they were calling for 90 degree heat.  I won't make this mistake again.  Kneeling in the dirt in shorts is a lot less fun than kneeling in the dirt in pants and shorts are like a welcoming sign to the mosquitoes (who i was SURE would get sick of biting me after a while...boy was I wrong!)  Anyway, it's long pants from now on for me at the Arboretum. I will say that I LOVE my overpriced trail running shoes.  I guessed right in that department about what was needed.  They are lightweight and dry quickly and don't make my feet hot! I found a big patch of poison ivy in the Friendship Garden. (Proud to say I still recognize its three little loathsome leaves after our showdown in the 3rd grade, which I lost.)  This week I weeded a bed of Blood Grass that had other similar looking grasses taking over.  Turns out you can recognize the 'wrong' grasses in this case by their triangular shaped stem.  I learned that Sea Oat's do not let go of the earth easily and neither do most of the other weeds- like dandelions.   I am learning to recognize specific sneaky little (and big) weeds that mimic the real plants so that it's harder to notice them.  Turns out the flower we saw on the on the Mother's Day Hike was a Wild orchid.  Funny enough we treat them like weeds at the Arboretum and pull them out! I dug up some really pretty Ligularia dentata and some wild ginger because it had migrated away from it's rightful spot. Got to go on a boat ride down the poor, sad, polluted Anacostia River. There are serious clean-up efforts in effect. But for now, you can't eat the fish or swim in the water.  We did get to see a Bald Eagle pair and it was a beautiful day for a boat ride.  I realized that the Interim Director of the National Arboretum MARRIED my brother and sister-in-law last June!  What a crazy coincidence. Got to go to a luncheon with the staff of the Bonsai Collection, the Friendship and Youth gardens.  What a lovely group of people.  Their hearts are in their work; and they route for eachother.  All  around it's a refreshing experience. What an eventful two weeks.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Quick Change

In performances sometimes you have to make a quick change.  Any time you have to change your hair, costume, character, shoes, etc. in under three minutes or so,  it's considered a 'quick change.' It's an achievement to seamlessly navigate a change like that during a performance.  So, Sunday evening, I looked like this (with my friend and housemate, Shannon before Push Comes to Shove.) Monday morning I looked like this (in the little cushman pick-up/dump truck at the National Arboretum.)  It was exactly 12 hours from when came off stage and when I had to be at my first day orientation at the USDA headquarters in Maryland.  This was definitely a 'quick change.'