Bulbs Can’t Freeze

Freezing seem like as good enough topic as anything because that’s all we seem to have in the forecast.  This is like the third week of real winter temperatures and after a bunch of warm years it seems so…. endless.  Realistically three or four months of winter wouldn’t be anything surprising in this zone, so with two more months to go there is no reason to complain.  It’s just the warmer years of late had me kind of enjoying witch hazel in January and snowdrops throughout.  Toughen up I say!  Truthfully I should be grateful for the nice solid cold, and the way it freezes up the soil and tells the bulbs to hold on, don’t be fooled, February and March will be early enough to start your growing plans.

frozen colchicum bulb

Colchicum x byzantinum bulbs are big, and my soil is shallow, and often they just push themselves up and practically sit on top of the soil.  Obviously in this position and with temperatures down to 0F (-18C) the bulb and new growth will freeze

Some of the top spring disasters (off a quite lengthy list) have been the result of warm winters which bring things up way before their time.  Hellebores in particular must be an unusually optimistic plant which falls for this fake spring followed by a hard freeze every time, but snowdrops can be fooled as well.  Often I’m surprised by how well tender growth can survive brutal freezes but it’s not always a happy ending.  Right now a better gardener would be covering some of these goodies to keep the worst of the weather off of them.

snowdrops in the snow

We will see how well ‘Godfrey Owen’ tolerates the rest of winter after having already come nearly into bloom.  Tonight will be cold, next week looks colder.

I guess that brings me around to the title of this post.  I often see claims that hardy bulbs need to be protected from freezing, especially those in pots.  I disagree.  I used to pot up bulbs and throw them into an unheated shed where they would freeze solid for months without ill effect.  I’ve dropped bulbs in the fall and had them root into the surface, survive winter exposed and also do just fine.  There’s more to it of course but without exposing my own ignorance I’ll just point out a few ‘excepts’ which I’ve come across.  Bulbs need to begin rooting before they freeze.  Potted bulbs should be on the dry side before freezing.  Exposed pots which freeze and thaw repeatedly will suffer.  -and the one which I can’t figure out is that potted bulbs will rot when snow melts and then re-freezes on the surface of a pot of bulbs, especially later in the year.  My balcony gardening year was always off to a tragic start when a big pot full of tulip and crocus sprouts would all just stop growing after a cold spell hit with snow or rain freezing on top of the pot.  Weeks later I would finally give up and pull the still green and solid sprouts out, leaving a rotted bulb behind. 😦

Well that ended on a sad note.  If anyone has some thoughts on this let me know.  I find the easiest way around this is to just cover planted pots with autumn leaves and then uncover them as soon as temperatures warm, but you know how greedy I am with my autumn leaves!  Maybe a board on top to keep the snow and rain off would be good enough, I just have to remember to try that (again) and make a note of how it works out.

In the meantime stay warm and consider that (here at least) the daylength is getting longer by about two minutes each day and we’ve added about 30 minutes since the shortest day of the year.  I’m sure we’ll be in flip flops before you know it 😉

The Winter Garden 2022

Monday morning was one of the coldest days of the year and this weekend is also set to drop as low as 1F (-17C), and although we are only 14 days into the year that’s about as cold as Sorta Suburbia has been in a while.  The temperatures only last about a night or two and the ground is still barely frozen, but only time will tell how these surprisingly normal lows will work with my new, optimistically mild, global warming planting plan full of autumn blooming snowdrops and zone 7 Crinum lilies.

cyclamen under lights

Happier plantings are sheltered in the garage under fluorescent shoplights.  They’re experiencing a few ‘chilly’ nights, but nothing even close to the freezing cold outside.

A better gardener would put this cold-induced break to good use, planning seed orders and organizing planting plans, safe in the knowledge that borderline plantings are well protected, but all this gardener wants to do is eat.  Not just hearty stews and roasted potatoes, but more so late night bags of chips and “one more” handful of m&ms followed by a big glass of milk.  Then some ice cream. Then maybe another look in the fridge, just in case.  Outside just a few witch hazels are fenced, and not a single snowdrop is bucketed, but inside there’s been a lot of attention to sitting around and… eating….

overwintering tropicals

Also safe inside are the plants too precious and too tender to abandon outside.  They don’t do much all winter, but they’re something nice to look at while nibbling pretzels.

I can think of no better place to sit (while snacking) than the winter garden.  When it’s dark out I can almost convince myself that this array of shoplights in the just-above-freezing back of the garage is actually a greenhouse or uber fancy conservatory.  When the weather is cold it’s a room filled with green to hang out in, watering, puttering, pruning, plucking… doing all the stuff that the cold makes uncomfortable outdoors.

indoor garden room

My official coffee drinking, seed cleaning, label writing, phone browsing, beer sampling, winter patio seat in the winter garden.  I heard a crack last weekend and that’s got me slightly concerned about all the m&m’s, but that’s something to worry about in May.

There have been a few watershed moments in this year’s slightly excessive winter garden adventure.  Ooops.  I admitted that the winter garden is a little “extravagant”, but I blame it on last winter when I killed off a shameful amount of potted cyclamen.  Cyclamen have been the stars of my winter garden for a few years, but then suddenly a winter of lazy, careless watering did in a bunch of them.  This fall I needed backup plants.  A visit to an open garden and a cutting swap started me off.  The Amish country and various nurseries added a few more.  Friends helped.  Cuttings for overwintering added to it all.  It’s all reaching a quite pleasant crescendo in my opinion.

streptocarpella

Blue streptocarpella and flower buds on a red salvia.  The salvia is being overwintered, and the buds should probably be clipped off… but I do like flowers 😉

Recently on Facebook a friend shared an article about the “dark side” of plant collecting.  The home time and isolation of the pandemic had set unprepared gardeners off on a vicious binge of buying and collecting, and people were amassing hoards that amounted to hundreds of plants.  “amateurs” my friend commented, and we laughed.  I read the article myself and to be honest it made me smile to read about these plant collections and see the smiling faces of such happy gardeners.  I think I might have missed the dark in it all.

aloe white fox

A cool aloe which I couldn’t resist.  ‘Snow Fox’ will join my other potted succulents next summer but for now just sits dry and mostly dormant on the dimmer end of the bench.

Just out of curiosity I counted pots in the winter garden.  Normally anything under 6 inches doesn’t count, but this time I just went ahead and easily reached 150 pots back there.  Hmmm.  Then I took a few more cuttings and made it 152, just to slip a little further into the dark side.

flowering succulent

This succulent comes in off the deck and spends the next three months flowering.  I love it.  Every little bit of leaf off the flower stems will try to root, so of course I made another pot of cuttings with those.

At least taking cuttings keeps my hands busy and out of the chip bag.  I joke about not having the garden prepared, but at least my hoarding skills have me ‘winter gardening’ prepared.  You can never have too many saved pots, and emergency bags of potting soil on hand.  It’s awkward sneaking out into the frigid outdoor lot of the box store to try and wrestle a frozen bag of potting soil into your cart, so have it on hand in August so that you don’t have to make up some lame lie about ‘I don’t know, my wife told me she needed potting soil tonight’ when the cashier asks you what in the heck you’re doing.  At least I can plan ahead in one area.

cane begonias

I’m quite pleased with how the cane begonia cuttings are doing.  They’ll need bigger pots soon enough, but of course I’m prepared for that when the time comes.  

Sometimes a rare ray of good fortune may shine upon you.  A friend shocked me last year when she informed me they were officially downsizing and leaving their mature garden behind. “I think there will be a few things you’ll want” she said, and of course I agreed, but it was really all the accumulated trash like leftover pots and soil, bits of twine, scraps of fencing, pottery shards, opened bags of soil conditioners that I really wanted.  Of course she knew that already.  Only another gardener would want this stuff, and when I picked up a carload a few weeks ago I had to agree that I did want it.

Oxalis triangularis fanny

More begonias and a cool Oxalis triangularis (maybe ‘Fanny’) which I was given a couple rhizomes of.  I’m halfway tempted to pull out and plant a few of the purple leaved ones stored dormant under the shelf as companions to this one. 

She gave me a box of terracotta pots which she may have never used.  They’re small and there are a bunch of them and they’re much more trouble to move than lightweight plastic but I’m far more scared of them than I am of hundreds of hoarded houseplants because I really love them.  What the *heck* is wrong with me that I’m staring at a box of clay pots thinking they’re so nice.  I could understand if they were antique cloches for protecting delicate snowdrops during an ice storm, intricate wire topiary forms, but they’re stupid clay pots.  I’m worried about what might happen if I start cruising garage and estate sales.  I think I might buy every one I come across.

variegated pelargonium

Clay pots and grandma’s geraniums.  Cool people don’t seem to like pelargoniums but such a nice edging of variegation on the leaf, and the flowers are so delicate. 

At least clay pots don’t have any calories… that I know of…. and so that must make a few too many of them a harmless distraction.  As of today I only use them for succulents and a few potted bulbs, so even these are too many, but I really need more.  A birthday is coming up.  I wonder if putting ‘old, dirty terracotta pots’ on the birthday list could replace the usual underwear and socks?

aloe blue elf

Another aloe (‘Blue Elf’) with a few flower buds forming.  I hope a lack of water and cool temps can keep them from developing too fast.  Although I love winter blooms, I’d rather see them come up strong outside rather than spindly and weak in here.

So as usual I don’t really know how this post ended up where it has with underwear and socks.  Let me try and re-focus with African violets.  My mother used to grow them and so did my aunt.  My grandmother grew them.  They used to be Saintpaulia, but now I see they’re Streptocarpus sect. Saintpaulia and I’m not sure how that changed anything but I also know that about a year or so ago I needed to grow them again.  I know these urges, I resisted.  I almost made it but then cracked last fall and bought one and then I asked a friend for cuttings.  I found online sources but only looked.  I found one marked down.  I guilted a spouse into buying me one at the grocery store after a few ‘admit it, you’re never going to wear that, I can’t buy you anything’ Christmas returns.  I now have three violets plus two cuttings and I think I’m ok but then realized this afternoon I volunteered to stop at the store just because I thought they might have more.  Hmmmm.

african violet

An African violet.  This weekend will be cold and maybe I’ll take a cutting.  I don’t need more but whatever.

African violets don’t have calories either.  As far as I know adding another would be a  victimless crime even if I’m lying to myself about picking up milk for the kids when I stumble across it.  So what if I end up in a grocery store that’s 35 minutes away, it’s always good to shop around.

Have an excellent weekend, stay warm, and fuel that furnace responsibly… even if some of the fuel is chocolate, beer, and cheese 😉

Happy 2022

Last year’s resolution was quantity over quality and I may have failed in both departments when it came to this blog so why not just recycle the idea for 2022?  That was easy!  I don’t even have to move on to other topics like losing weight, exercise, eating healthy… I can just reach for the Nutella and grab a spoon and be done with it.  Wow, January second and I’m already checking things off the to-do list 🙂

Galanthus Mrs Macnamara

With each December milder than the last, ‘Mrs Macnamara’ has finally found my garden to her liking.  Usually the cold cuts her down and beats her up, but now she’s pristine, multiplying, and maybe ready for dividing and spreading around. 

Now that we’re through resolutions let me open up on what the rest of the winter will look like.  Snowdrops and construction.  Maybe more of the former and less of the later but I won’t even try and tone down the snowdrop obsession this year, apologies in advance.

fall snowdrop

Just a few years ago these bulk buy Galanthus elwesii would come up early but always on the spring end of winter.  The last two years they’ve been surprising me in January.

Here’s all I really want to say about construction.  Mud.  That and the hunt for perfect rocks continues.  Given long enough I think I’d have stone walls surrounding the garden, but as fill is moved back into position I’m not as tempted to actually dig rocks back up.

stones for the garden

The stoneyard, or snake condo as my friend Kimberly would likely call it.

Temperatures are dropping today and things will freeze up, and maybe the mud won’t be as depressing if you can actually walk over it rather than through it, so to prepare for ‘maybe winter’ here’s a photo from my ‘maybe greenhouse’ aka ‘winter garden’ in the back of the garage.

forcing primula

I knew I killed almost all my cyclamen, so last spring I started a few primula for winter blooms.  January first they came inside and under lights and I hope will soon amaze me with fantastic color.

So you’re aware, snowdrops and construction will be dropped as soon as it gets really cold outside.  These primrose coming into the garage are only the tip of the winter garden iceberg, and I may be guilty of a few too many cuttings and containers this winter and it’s only barely January.  Oh well.  It’s not like I’ve started any seeds… yet…

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2022.  We could all use it 🙂

Nonwinter Continues

A few days this month have been average, but nearly every other day has been warmer.  From what the forecast shows, early January looks about the same and I guess that’s great if you’re digging foundations and pouring concrete this winter, but I guess it’s also great for fall snowdrops.  Surely one of those should make this gardener happy.

galanthus potters prelude

Galanthus ‘Potter’s Prelude’ looking as if it’s growing in North Carolina or Virginia or anywhere else where winters are more sweatshirts and sneakers rather than parkas and boots.

I guess foundations and snowdrops both make people happy, but I would like to take a moment and note that none of the construction crews have commented on the wonder of December blooming flowers.  Maybe they’re too distracted by the other wonders of the “winter” garden.

garden construction

The gardener continues to forage the construction site for more and more wonderful stones.  Some of the fill has also been moved, but the gardener waits until everyone is gone before using the embarrassingly tiny wheelbarrow and labor-intensive shovel to move ridiculously small amounts of fill.

Other than a group of snowdrops which looks remarkably similar to other groups of snowdrops, the rest of the garden is significantly less inspiring.

garden construction

The foundation rises.  Mortar runoff can only improve the quality of my lawn.

I suspect the bulk of the foundation work will be finished today.  Then it sits for a week curing before even more building goes on top.  I suspect it will take a while before I’m comfortable with this new massiveness rising in the garden but maybe more closet space is really what’s been missing from my life.  All this time I thought it was more snowdrops, so silly me.

fall pasque flower

A surprise pasque flower rising amongst the trash must mean something.  

Who am I kidding?  We are entering Temple Nursery snowdrop catalog season and I can absolutely guarantee that I will again try to fill that void in my life with new snowdrops.  I already called the bank to make sure our line of credit will be available in time.

Have a great week!

That Escalated Quickly

You might say escalated, you also might say excavated… Weather permitting turned into actual permission and now there’s a somewhat big hole just out the backside of our house.  And a pile of dirt.  And bulldozer ruts.  And fortunately not a concrete truck stuck in the ruts, but from what I hear it was close.  Let’s look at snowdrops first just because it’s a much better place to start.

fall snowdrops montrose

A fall blooming snowdrop in full flower this week, and enjoying the mild December we have been having. These beauties originate from Nancy Goodwin’s Garden in North Carolina and I’m forever grateful for the friend who made the trip and brought them back.

The fall snowdrops have been putting on a good show this year, and are enjoying the mostly above and sometimes below freezing temperatures we have been having.  I like the weather as well.  I don’t like how it brings up other snowdrops and bulbs and teases them out of the ground way too early, but… whatever… This year there are bigger fish to fry.

excavator in the garden

Earlier in the week, excavation for the bedroom addition began.  I didn’t expect the hole to look so big… or contain so much dirt.  

The bad news is we quickly hit bedrock.  Considering how poorly drained the whole yard is and how shallowly I am forced to plant nearly everything, this was no surprise, but the shock was that our foundation guy was able to pry and angle, crack and lift, slab by slab of rock out of the hole.  We didn’t have to drill, and that’s a saving of thousands of dollars which sadly I will not be able to put towards plant purchases.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to tally up the numbers differently but right now the checkbook is so bloody and punished even I cannot massage magic out of it.

potager in winter

It looks worse than it is… really… Believe it or not I think just a rake and some grass seed will fix almost all of this, and 98% of the real parts of the garden are still safe.

The mess does look considerable though.  At first I hoped topsoil could be saved and everything else used as fill somewhere, but it’s all a mess now and it is what it is.  Surprisingly the rock had a good amount of sand mixed in so I hope that helps it some day weather down into decent soil, but for now it’s a bit rocky and sterile and might just weather down into stone-filled concrete for all I know.

excavator in the garden

Mount Suburbia.  After the main excavation I raked the rocks out of the lawn and gave it a trim to clean up all the last leaves.  I suspect ‘what the heck is he doing, there’s a gaping hole and a mountain of fill, and he’s mowing the lawn?’ was on the minds of some, but again… whatever.

Once the foundation is finished and backfilled, the leftovers will be moved to level off the back of the lot.  I’m excited about that, and I’m also overly excited about all the rock.  Whenever I get the chance (and enough Tylenol into me) I spend some time hauling rocks and stones away into piles and walls.  It’s awesome.  I have stepping stones galore and enough big rocks to make my North American Rock Garden Society membership legitimate.  I’ve even been pushing for the foundation guy to leave his skidsteer here over the Christmas break so I can move dirt around on my own and find even more excellent rocks.  I doubt it will happen though, and it’s probably for the best.  He mentioned to my contractor something about ‘what the *heck* is up with the rocks?’, but apparently the reply was ‘you’ve seen the rest of the yard, right?’, so I think that makes it ok…

Regardless I think I’m more excited about the rocks than the actual addition.  I’ll try to remember that when I’m writing the next check out.

Black Friday

Around here Black Friday is a retail extravaganza where stores surge into profitability and rabid consumerism launches the ship that is called holiday shopping.  Personally I’m not much of a shopper. Instead of hitting the stores I stayed home to investigate the white lines and marks which have appeared on specific parts of the property.

garden construction

A line comes in from the street. to the left is the front border, to the right is about ten feet until the edge of our property…

Staying home sounds peaceful.  Black Friday sounds harmless.  Unfortunately on this black Friday I was the grim reaper of plantings which needed to leave the path of construction to come.

garden construction

Trucks will need to come up on this side of the yard.  A hydrangea, witch hazel, and clematis still need to come out as I’d like to save them.

It happens.  Someone here is very excited about this all and keeps talking about the joys of having a full countertop, walk in closet, room to sit in a bedroom… but someone else is less excited.

garden construction

The writing says ‘Dig Area’.  For years I’ve tried to empty out the dig area and avoid any ‘just for a few months’ plantings.  

The lack of excitement is more for the bills to come rather than the plants to go.  Only a few things will be really missed, and although it seems ruthless to slash and burn so viciously I just keep reminding myself of things like ‘it was just a free packet of seeds which sprouted’ or ‘I found it on clearance for five dollars, rather than ‘that was 13 years ago, 13 years is a lot of growing’.

garden construction

The fothergilla is still hanging on to a few brilliant leaves, and the stewartia always has a beautiful hue to its trunk this time of year.

The stewartia had a bumper crop of seedlings this spring.  I still have some time left.  The new bathroom will be a nice change.

Enjoy your weekend.

Heading into the Holidays

If pushed I think some people would consider it to be early winter around here, but with my newfound ‘fondness’ for the autumn season I’m going to consider it late fall.  Normally even a hard frost is enough to declare the onset of winter, but as of 5:45 pm today I’m still thinking fall is an ok season and not the usual dark, wallowing in self pity, miserable, death to all growing things, slightly depressing time of year that it normal goes by.

fall garden cleanup

The wild enthusiasm of the potager has once again been tamed by cold, and a good portion of the shredded leaves have gone to mulching the cleared out beds.

Even with a good number of chilly mornings and cold nights, there’s still been a lot of gardening going on… well a lot considering how short the days are and how often an employer expects you to be at work each week… the potager took quite some time to rip up tree-like annuals, dig forgotten potatoes, and do all the put-away stuff that growing vegetables requires.  We all know that the amount of vegetables here really isn’t an excuse to make a full workload, but I did plant half a bed of garlic this fall and finally put the diseased, frozen tomato vines out of their misery so that’s kind of legitimate.  Less legitimate are how many beds were then planted with tulips.  They did well last year and I thought I threw away a good amount of smaller bulbs, but I also know I have a weak spot for tulips so if it looked big enough to bloom who am I to deny a plant its destiny?

planting fall bulbs

Only a few tulips were purchased but apparently a few daffodils were purchased as well.  As far as I can recall they were not purchased by myself, so I’m not sure how they got here, but they’re here now so I suppose I should plant them.

I gave away a bunch of daffodils two summers ago, so based on that and the promise to give away even more this summer, I allowed a few new ones to be purchased.  Only about a dozen, and I swear they were interesting things which sell by the single bulb and never (or only a few times) did I ask for multiple bulbs.  Surely you can imagine my disgust when months later a heavy box shows up, filled with bags of three or more bulbs each plus multiple bags of free bulbs.  Unconscionable.  Then a second box shows up.  Ugh.  Those bulbs were so big I was downright intimidated, and of course I never cleared out the spots where these new goodies were supposed to go.  Nearly 100 new bulbs to plant when I was figuring only maybe two dozen, and then inspiration struck.  A sand bed where you only put summer pots can easily take in a few spring bulbs, and they’ll practically disappear by July especially if you plant them along the far edge.  It’s brilliant if you ask me and it almost makes me regret not ordering more.  What if I really did dig up the overcrowded ones?  I shudder to think about the potential gaps in the spring bulb garden which may have been.

galanthus barnes

The fall blooming Galanthus elwesii ‘Barnes’ seems to be doing well in spite of the beating its foliage takes once winter settles in.  Two years ago it was moved around to the East side of the house and he appears to like the spot.   

Ok so there’s a snowdrop photo.  To be honest I’m not always as thrilled to see snowdrops in the fall as I am in spring, so on a scale of 1 to 10 this might only register an 8.5, but considering the historical average of November hovers in the 2 range that’s pretty friggin exciting.  Maybe I need to compliment these fall drops with some late cyclamen, that would probably boost the thrill-meter to 9.0, or come up with another road trip idea.  Word is Nancy Goodwin is opening Montrose Gardens this Sunday for tours of her nearly famous fall snowdrop walk, and the idea of seeing rivers of thousands of snowdrops in full bloom is enough to have me mapping the eight hour drive South to Hillsborough North Carolina.  That’s crazy though.  I’d have to turn off my cell phone tracking and lie about my destination and I suspect that’s a bad sign when you start lying about your plant addictions.  Definitely bad, so no.  And I’m not even considering it any more…. Not at all…

So look at that, I just cancelled a 986 mile round trip drive to go look at snowdrops, and to distract myself from actually taking the trip anyway I’m going to calculate fuel costs.  Giddy-up I just saved $144, plus at least another 20 dollars in tolls and suddenly I have $164 that I can spend elsewhere.  Genius, and when I spend it at a small business that happens to sell snowdrops, I’m also supporting the local economy and am practically a social engineer.

Amazing.  I hope your week is starting off just as productively 😉

A Roadtrip

Obviously with a million things to do in the garden, a roadtrip to see other gardens and meet with other gardeners and talk about gardening does not get anything done in my own garden, but who cares, it’s a lot more fun!

Unplanted daffodils and yet to be stored dahlias be darned because last Saturday a few obsessive fall-snowdroppers made plans to meet up at Edgewood gardens to talk snowdrops and of course “pick up a few things”while we’re at it.  Some picked up more things than others and that happens.  Actually it’s harder to not have that happen when faced with the hundreds of hardy cyclamen in perfect fall foliage, and pot after pot of full-bloom autumn snowdrops.

fall snowdrops

Autumn blooming snowdrops on the greenhouse benches of John Lonsdale’s Edgewood Gardens.

I don’t mean to sound holier than thou, but I was actually less excited about the amazing plants than I was about meeting up with friends.  It’s been a while and this die-hard group hasn’t been gathering as much as it should, so hopefully I didn’t come across as too needy or desperate when I grilled people on secret soil mixes, perfect winter microclimates, and how does your Galanthus bursanus tolerate sudden lows below 10F…  Somehow these questions only seem possible amongst this group 😉

hardy cyclamen hederifolium

An amazing range of potted hardy cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium).  John may not have a sand plunge (like I do btw) but he does well enough growing these in cold frames and the open garden.

It was excellent, even if the time does fly by when we’re there.

fall camellia

Hardy camellias in full bloom on the shaded hillside.  Even in November there’s plenty to see outside.

There would have been more time, but I foolishly tried to wedge in a side trip on the way down.  Ott’s Exotic Plants of Schwenksville, PA has been on my bucket list for a few years and for some reason this trip was the time when it became “on the way”, so I finally stopped in.

Otts exotic plants

Otts exotic plants.  Multiple greenhouses filled with… exotic plants!  This centerpiece conservatory was big enough to house a waterfall, observation bridge, and 40 year old fiddleleaf fig, which reached for the sky and has a trunk wider than I could ever hug!

I was 100% happy with the stop.  I found the multiple greenhouses to be amazing, and the lush, mature tropical plants were cool, but the thought of heating them all was a little scary.  Many of the greenhouses were filled with sales benches, but some were just filled with plants, and it felt more like visiting a botanical garden rather than some tropical plant clearinghouse.

Otts exotic plants

A little late in the season for the famous mums-mountain, but you can still get a sense for the fall extravaganza which likely takes place here each autumn weekend.  Even on a gloomy, drizzly Saturday in November there were still plenty of people out and about.

One excellent thing about this stop were the free plants.  Since it felt like a botanical garden I didn’t think a $25 admission fee was out of the question, but rather than pay it, I put it towards a plant purchase and ended up paying nothing for the aloe and African violet which followed me out.  Wow, do I have a flair for accounting!

Let’s just not mention the other stop.  Even with an admission voucher, I still went a bit over.  Obviously it’s not my fault, but who would ever suspect I’d need to take home an entire flat of hardy cyclamen in addition to the other stuff?  It was Edgewood Garden’s first and only (hopefully) ‘a tree fell on my greenhouse’ cyclamen clearance sale, and there are still flats left if you’re interested.

Obviously nothing was planted Sunday… or since… oh well, it happens, and just like I’m still having a good week I hope you are as well.

The Fall of Autumn

Supposedly autumn began weeks ago and summer is a distant memory, and in theory I understand that, but with shorts weather popping in here and there and with a sweaty lawn mowing afternoon it was easy to pretend we’re closer to July than we are to Christmas.  That is until the last week and a half.  Frosts have arrived and even a good freeze on a few nights, and it’s become hard to keep thinking autumn will be here forever and winter’s not creeping up on the horizon.  Usually that in itself will spin me into despair over the loss of summer and the slow decay of annual life and the death of almost everything green… but I’m still kind of ok this year.  The chrysanthemums were rained out but the snowdrops are starting, the fall foliage was kind of drab but the tulips are going in, and between houseplants under lights and amaryllis bulbs filled with promise it’s only the occasional dreary day which gives me the blahs.

glass gem corn

I picked the last of the glass gem corn as the potager beds begin to clear out.  The surprise of unhusking is something I never tire of and for next year I wonder if planting only pink or green or lavender seed would be a thing to try. 

Trust me we’ve had a good share of dreary days, but sun as well, and if the sun can just keep trying for a few more weeks I think I’ll be able to get the bulbs in and the garden put to bed before the snow starts flying…. Assuming that happens…  Lately winters have become North Carolina mild and I’m already planning things like pruning in December and mulching in January rather than shoveling snow.

conifer pruning

A freshly pruned Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris, probably ‘nana on a high graft) looking neater, if not better, than it did before.

As the post-Covid schedule revs back up weekends are becoming more gymnastics and basketball and less sit in the garden all day thinking about what kind-of really-should ought-to-be done, rather than what comes first.  Of course I know what I should do, and of course I don’t always do it.  Case in point is the overly shaded, kind of overgrown, dwarf Scotch Pine along the porch.  It’s been that way for years and could be pruned pretty much anytime other than last Sunday, but after finishing a coffee and looking at it for one minute too long I started with that.  45 minuted spent crawling around underneath pruning out dead-wood and sawing down stubs and making the tree look arguably neater was probably not even on a to-do list but now it’s done.  Tulips are not planted, but this tree that I don’t even like all that much looks neater which is also probably good.

fall perennial border

Other things did happen last weekend.  A bunch of frozen mess was pruned down and thrown onto the lawn.  The it was all mowed up.  I think it looks very well kept and there’s also a nice pile of mulch which will be used elsewhere.

I often get into the mood where nothing’s good enough and everything’s an overgrown mess.  Sunday that happened again and now there’s one less clump of variegated maiden grass (Miscanthus ‘Dixieland’) in the garden.  I loved it but two wet years had it spending October and November as a floppy mess and instead of pruning the top I just pruned the roots instead.  Maybe it will be missed… but to be honest I’ve already got a few other things planted around it which could use more room so there’s a good chance whatever hole is left is already filled.  Such is the curse of the shoehorn/wedge-it-in planter.

fall perennial border

A five foot tall, five foot wide, white and green grass is missing.  I don’t even think anyone noticed.

In case you’re wondering, all the pots are accounted for and all the last tender tropicals are safely under cover for the winter, and for one of the first times ever this gardener didn’t have to jump up out of bed when he realized a freezing forecast was coming and there were still pots to drag in.  He can now think about all the cannas in need of digging and daffodils in need of a new home.  I guess that at least keeps him out of the bars.

autumn snowdrop galanthus

A fall snowdrop.  Galanthus reginae-olgae always blooms in the autumn as we head for winter and the new snowdrop season begins.  You could maybe say I’m excited about that…

So there it is.  The first snowdrop photo of the 2021/22 season and before anyone complains I want to add they’ve been blooming for weeks and I haven’t even mentioned them more than once or twice.  That will change of course, so fair warning 😉

planting tulips

I finally ripped out those disgusting dahlias.  Good riddance.  Tulips (probably way too many for a vegetable garden) are going in and a good mulch from the front lawn with chopped annuals and frosted perennials included is going on top.  

I think snowdrops in bloom are a big part of my rehabilitated views on autumn.  The fall season still doesn’t break into the top three of the favorite seasons list, but with colchicums and then chrysanthemums, and asters and cyclamen, and now snowdrops, things are much less gloomy and gray than they used to be.

Hope your autumn is more snowdrops and less gloomy as well, have a great week!

Down to 48

The ten day forecast looks miserable.  All I see is rain and clouds and more rain, and at the moment rain predictions are between three and four inches for the week.  But… this weekend was supposed to be a washout, and it kinda was but there was enough dry in between to get a few fall jobs done… if not entirely the ones I should have done 😉

berm plantings

I stumbled across some 50% off ‘Green Giants’ and now the backbone of my berm plantings is mostly complete.  Over the last three years I’ve planted about 30 and I don’t think I’ve spent more than $300 which I think compares well to the $550 each Norway spruces the Industrial park planted.  We will see what happens as things grow… 

One thing which I did need to get done was the planting of the ‘Green Giant’ arbovitaes which followed me home.  They were an excellent deal at about $15 a piece and I think they’ll just take off along the berm.  Maybe in a few years they’ll completely cover the bare lower branches of the crappy spruce which are there now, and hopefully I won’t even know there’s an industrial park back there anymore… assuming I also lose my sense of hearing and miss the endless vroom… crash… beep… beep… beep… which goes on all day.

overwintering tropicals

Most of the caladiums were thrown into the garage to finish dying back and drying off.  New containers from elsewhere in the yard have taken their places.  A rough count left me at 48 more pots which still need attention…

For some reason I love ‘Green Giants’.  I love arborvitaes in general, but the common and I’m sure soon to be overplanted ‘Green Giant’ is just perfect in my opinion.  They’re fast growing and the ‘giant’ part of their name should raise alarms, but just about everything I plant is part of some poorly thought out, regret it later, “plan”, so at least I have friends with chainsaws is all I’ll add.

overwintering tropicals

A second bank of lights is up and running in the winter garden, and a third will be tomorrow.  I of course went ahead and made more cuttings, hence the third light, and my wish that you realize this is already the ‘before’ photo.

I probably could have pulled a bunch more containers into winter storage, and cleared myself of any threat of dragging the last stuff in the night before a big freeze, but… suddenly I was convinced I needed to make my coldframe into a sand plunge.  The “cold frame” is really just an old shower door set onto a wood frame, and making it into a sand plunge was really just filling it with sand and taking mostly hardy things and sinking their pots into the sand, but they’re cool things.  Things which would probably be just fine in the open garden but just wouldn’t be as easy to fuss over.  I’m thrilled with the change.  They’re so much nicer to fuss over now and I can sit on the edge and just pick leaves out and turn the pots around slightly, just so they look even more special.  Obviously it was super important that I got this done today.

hardy cyclamen

Hardy cyclamen, hardy camellias, hardy agaves, and my most recent treasure, a pot full of hopefully-hardy dwarf palmetto palm seedlings (Sabal minor ‘McCurtain’).

So my sand plunge is filled with things which would probably do just as well planted out and just covered or mulched a little.  The cyclamen for sure do just fine planted out, but I really like my sand plunge.  Maybe next year I can repot everything into the same sized pot and have it all neat and super organized like some garden that pays gardeners to be all neat and super organized.  As usual I’m sure that would be the most necessary thing this garden needs.  That and a lawn mowing.  Who has time to cut grass when there are sand plunges to build?

hardy cyclamen

Hardy cyclamen doing just fine without sand or any kind of cold frame protection.  I love seeing the new foliage sprouting up as the temps drop 🙂

So anyway… this long, stretched out autumn is obviously getting me into trouble.  Too many cuttings, too much time to drag things in, too many shenanigans in general and on top of all that I bought tulips in a clear violation of my ‘no-new-tulips-this-year’ rule.  Just forty.  That’s nothing considering a couple hundred are sitting in the garage awaiting replanting, but it was a clearance sale.  I’m sure I saved at least five dollars and knowing I won’t be starved for tulips in May is practically priceless.

Have a great week.