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.

A Taste of Autumn

Yesterday was forecast to be a gloomy day of rain, with strong winds and a good chance of thundershowers, but the morning surprised me with scattered sun and a breeze almost strong enough to blow away the swarms of blackflies and keep the mosquitos grounded.  It was nice.  It was warm.  I took some pictures and actually did a few things rather than sit inside, and then when the rain and wind did finally come through it happily matched afternoon break time, so win-win!

autumn perennial border

Thinking the weekend would be lost to rain and cold, the lawn was mowed and even edged Friday afternoon.  What a guilt-free way to greet Saturday morning.

Now I’m not going to promise I did anything important or essential, but I did do a few things which have been haunting me like moving Lycoris bulbs and repotting some plants for winter.  Now if that gets you thinking this is a good time for moving Lycoris bulbs, think twice.  It’s probably not, and summer dormancy is probably better, but they’re moved now and that’s something which didn’t happen in August.

autumn porch display

I still love the pumpkins and finally found a use for the peppers which have been sitting on the side of the house all summer.  The coleus also look perfect, but that will change quickly as nighttime temperatures begin to drop.

Beyond that I just spent the morning enjoying the autumn garden.

autumn perennial border

Some lingering annuals and autumn colors on the hydrangea.

The breeze from the approaching cold front must have been carrying a few Monarch stragglers, since every now and then I would disturb a bunch hidden amongst the flowers.  They were all hungry and focused on feeding, not like the lazy floating through the air which the earlier crew was doing a few weeks ago.

monarch garden

I’m glad I deadheaded the buddleia a few weeks ago since it’s brought on one last flush of flowers for these late Monarchs.

I think there were enough flowers for a little rest-stop but with the clock ticking all the Monarchs were gone by early afternoon, riding the winds in front of the approaching rain.  Safe travels!

autumn perennial border

It’s chrysanthemum time, and I love all of them except maybe this buff “peach?” colored one.  Is it the brown grass behind or the hot pink in front, I don’t know, but something is off with these colors. 

On another note, a few years ago a box or two of Minnesota-hardy mums came to this garden and did exceptionally well in spite of neglect and poor planting locations.  During dry summers their seedlings would spread freely and this gardener was quite pleased with some of the results.  Only about four of the original plants survive but only about two of the lost ones are missed, so in spite of the money spent this gardener feels like he made out better than he usually does.

hardy chrysanthemums

Maybe not the nicest color, but I do like the more unusual flower forms of many of the seedlings.

I guess this is where I say mums make nice porch pots and I’ve bought my share of tight pots of perfectly budded plants, and then enjoyed them completely until they dried out one time too many.  If they’re hardy enough they will also do well in the garden, making a nice lump of color for a few weeks anywhere between August and October depending on the cultivar.

hardy chrysanthemums

This orange and gold seedling is nice enough to keep for another year… maybe the pink as well, but I already have a few others which are similar.

My confession is I find them kind of boring.  They’re very neat and uniform, but I like flowers that sway in the wind.  I like to see the bees working through them and plants which keep putting up more buds with larger flowers and unusual petal types.  Once again the dream of a perfect garden with ribbons and pools of fall color falls to the wayside in favor of ‘interesting’.  Oh well 🙂

hardy chrysanthemums

‘Cheerleader’ is the last of the hardy football mums.  I might have to try one more time to get some more which will tolerate my on again off again plant care program because this one is friggin awesome!

Let me just add that ‘interesting’ isn’t always as beautiful as the perfect pots from the nursery.

hardy chrysanthemums

One of my favorite colors are the white with a pale yellow centered ones.  Awesome color, but don’t look too closely at the foliage.

I transplanted all of these in June and chopped them back to sticks and worried a little that they would recover.  They did, but then the endless rains of August brought on overly lush growth which ended up nurturing disease and killing off much of the foliage and blooms.  A note for the better gardener is that chrysanthemums appreciate good air circulation and full sun, and dislike a crowded bed with overhanging sunflowers and milkweed.

hardy chrysanthemums

By now some of the plants are completely leafless.  Some are fine.  A real ‘breeder’ would probably yank all the defective ones…

Of course there’s little chance I’ll address the disease problems.  I’m more of a thoughts and prayers kind of gardener, not one who acts on these things, so maybe next year will be better.  On the other hand I will rip out a few of the ones which don’t thrill me, since new seedlings are much more fun than seeing all the same ones returning next year 😉

hardy chrysanthemums

In another bed this ‘cafe au lait’ color is something I like.  Hopefully this one proves hardy.

Here’s just one more which I like.

hardy chrysanthemums

Pink with interesting petals, but possibly weak stems?  I’ll see today how it fared through yesterday’s rain and wind.

Hopefully no one is overly impressed with my seed-growing adventures.  To put it in perspective there are often seedlings which just show up on their own, and are often much nicer than anything I nurture.

hardy chrysanthemums

Just like that a seedling appears.  Of course I’ll keep it, but maybe move it to a spot which isn’t soaking wet all winter… 

…and don’t think I’m too good for buying and saving a few potted mums and seeing if they survive to bloom another year…

hardy chrysanthemums

Hmmm.  Has the leftover sand been sitting in the driveway since August?  Someone better move it before that same someone accidentally tries to run a snowblower through it in December.

Speaking of surviving for another year, the pots are starting to migrate closer to the garage and their winter housing.  The new bed on the side of the garage has been perfect for keeping things off the driveway… sort of… as I realize there are half a dozen fairly large pots sitting alongside the sand pile…

overwintering tropicals

I suspect this cold front will push all the caladiums into dormancy.  They’ll probably go into the garage first so they can stay out of the rain as they die down.

So that’s the mid October update.  Chrysanthemums and the wait for the first frost pretty much sum it up and given the ten day forecast both will be around until at least the end of the month.  I’m fine with that and I won’t even mention those other things which are starting to preoccupy my every other plant thought.  The first ones are starting to sprout and of course new bulbs have been planted.

Have a great week 🙂

Out Galavanting

Yes, there’s bunches of stuff to do around here.

No, next to none of it’s been done.

So two weeks ago I started complaining about all the things on the autumn to-do list which needed be done or at least considered before winter, and what shows up on the to-done list?  A garden visit.  Michael Bowell of Create-a-scene fame hosts an open garden through the HPS each autumn, and since 2014 was the last time this gardener made it, I figured it was prime time for a re-visit.  If you’re interested >here’s a link< to the first visit, which offers up just a tiny bit more info on the garden and the event.

michael bowell garden

Michael Bowell’s house with its two story attached greenhouse.  A winter paradise I’m sure!  

 

This event is promoted as a fall cutting swap, and it’s a sad commentary that I had dark intentions of leaving with a few new plants, but for once swiping cuttings was encouraged!  Following a tour through the gardens and greenhouse(s) attendees were directed to take a few cuttings and try a few new plants at home.  I still had my reservations, so just to make sure I asked if it would be ok to clip a shoot off a real tempting variegated euphorbia… and before I could even argue a bag was pushed into my hands and clippings started coming off the sides and top.  ‘Did you see this one, do you want this one as well?’  Wow.  For as much as I try to stay inside my shell in a crowd (there was quite a group attending) the garden chat and entertaining stories lured me in.  If I lived closer I would have absolutely overstayed my welcome, but sadly I also had nursery stops and another garden to visit.  Poor me 😉

autumn porch display

The Amish country was overflowing with fall produce and roadside pumpkin stands.  I was restrained and came home with just these two.  I don’t know why large squashes make me happy but they do, so gift givers take note.  

 

Long story short I was very good at the nurseries and only brought home a few essentials.  No need to ask what they were and to question how they qualify as essentials, but they were and between that and another gardener who forced even more goodies upon me it’s possible I’m headed in the wrong direction as far as lower maintenance and getting things ready for winter.  Whatever.

autumn perennial border

I might be heading toward winter with the front border.  Almost all the fennel was whacked to the ground prior to seeding all over (again) and in general it looks fairly neat.

 

So I mowed the lawn and chopped down fennel stalks.  Then I looked at the 10-day forecast and with nearly no chance of frost I decided to just walk around aimlessly and ignore nearly all the real to-do list.

iris eleanor roosevelt

The historic iris (1930) ‘Eleanor Roosevelt’ is reblooming very well this autumn and although in theory I’m against plants who rebloom out of season, I have to admit to really liking it this year.  Usually the buds are later and freeze.

 

The last colchicums are still doing well even though the weather this past week has been cloudy, rain, cloudy, partly cloudy, rain, clouds…

colchicum giganteum

Colchicum giganteum group.  These are stout flowers which last in spite of the weather… unlike some of their cousins… 

 

One colchicum celebration is the number of double white C. autumnale alboplenum which I have in flower this year.  After a trip to Amish country I shouldn’t like this overly double extravagance but I do.  Very much.  Hopefully they continue to multiply as well here as they have in the source garden of my friend Kathy.

colchicum autumnale alboplenum

Colchicum autumnale alboplenum in a bed of depressingly industrial wood chips.  Creating a blanket of low sedum should also go on the to-do list rather than just allowing the groundcover of sheep sorrel to re-invade this bed.

 

The rest of the garden continues to crumble into that colorful and seedy look of early autumn.

autumn perennial border

The hot pink of aster ‘Alma Potsche’ is about over for the season, but there’s still some lingering annuals and cannas to keep the color going.  Just yesterday I was eyeing the birch for a power-washing.  hmmmm

 

For all of ten minutes I thought of addressing the bulbs which need digging, but with highs still into the 70’s I think deadheading might be more useful.

autumn dahlias

The seed grown dahlias are nice enough but I think they’re still going to go to the compost pile rather than winter storage.

 

There are cannas to think of as well.

autumn dahlias

Maybe the tropical garden doesn’t have as many cannas and dahlias in need of digging as I think.  For some reason the cannas are all stunted this year in spite of a wet summer.  I honestly think a shortage of sunny days is the problem.

 

Bah.  I won’t even think of digging bulbs and tubers until after the first frost.  I’ll just enjoy the start of chrysanthemum season and let those distract me for the next couple weeks 🙂

mums and hydrangea

I shouldn’t even allow chrysanthemums to bloom until September.  The later flowers are so much nicer!

 

Well I guess I did do something else this week.  I potted up another dozen or two of new cuttings which followed me home.  Luckily they all went into 6 inch and smaller pots so they don’t even count as new plants.

taking cuttings to overwinter

Begonias, coleus, salvias… I was only being polite when I accepted all these little treasures.

 

So stop shaking that head.  Yesterday I did chop a few other things down for the season and now I’m considering a little more wood mulch to hopefully hold back the weeds this winter.  I moved a few containers closer to the garage.  There is a little hope.  Don’t you worry, I still have at least ten days.

Have a great week 🙂

179

179 isn’t the default setting for blog titles, it’s the harsh reality of autumn.  Saturday afternoon I made a tour of the grounds and counted up 179 pots scattered about.  All of these will require some kind of attention before autumn winds down and winter settles in, and all of them seem to have appeared out of nowhere this year.  Another frightening statistic is that I didn’t even count any pots smaller than six inches, and I also didn’t count the dozen stewartia seedling which were potted up Saturday evening… just in case, you know?  Stewartia are special little things, and now if I need a dozen potted seedlings next year, it’s reassuring to know I’m prepared.

Heterotheca(aka Chrysopsis) villosa ‘Ruth Baumgardner’

The early autumn show of Heterotheca(aka Chrysopsis) villosa ‘Ruth Baumgardner’.  I love it more each year. 

But I wish I was mentally prepared to deal with these pots.  Maybe buying a box of 100 drip emitters and more tubing for the watering system was not as good an idea as it seemed, but for the moment I’m trying to move on and I’ve started grouping some of the stuff which will get the same treatment.

amaryllis outside for the summer

You turn your back once and suddenly a dozen amaryllis (Hippeastrum) show up.  I probably don’t need a dozen, but better safe than sorry is what I said some cold December afternoon… 

I’m sure it’s just the caladiums which are making things look bad.  They make up around forty of the pots, and yesterday I shut off their water to give them a couple of weeks to dry out and come to terms with the cooler nights.  Soon they’ll collapse and go dormant and I can toss them in the furnace room, but instead of things shutting down, lets talk Colchicums!

colchicum speciosum

Some kind of Colchicum speciosum.  I don’t know if it’s a cultivar or not, but it’s a favorite regardless.

We are into the middle of Colchicum season now.  I’m loving it.

colchicum aggripinum duncecap orostachys iwarenge

A late Colchicum xaggripinum  surrounded by the flower stalks of Orostachys iwarenge.  The Orystachys really appreciated the mild winter and has never looked like it actually wanted to live let alone thrive like this.

Plenty of other colchicum are popping up here and there.  I shouldn’t want more, but I kind of do, if only for mental health reasons as they carry me through to the fall snowdrop season 😉

colchicum speciosum

Another unknown Colchicum speciosum, actually this was my very first one… also not true to the name it was purchased under…

colchicum harlekijn

My new colchicum book describes ‘Harlekijn’ as having “little appeal except to those keen to amass a full collection of cultivars”.  Oops.  I was hoping that wasn’t the direction I was going.

colchicum the giant

Colchicum ‘The Giant’.  Big, robust, floppy, and a scene stealer.

colchicum speciosum album ‘Atrorubens’

Colchicum speciosum ‘Atrorubens’ on the left, and ‘Album’ on the right.  Two of my current favorites.

colchicum pink star laetum

This one came to me as white… but most will agree it’s not, and eventually the company where I purchased it from also agreed and sent me a refund.  I believe it is Colchicum ‘Pink Star’.

colchicum lilac wonder Salvia Koyamae

‘Lilac Wonder’ has been swamped by the yellow woodland salvia, Salvia Koyamae.  Normally the salvia is half dead by the time it blooms since whoever planted it put it in a dry, full sun location, not the the moist woodland which this plant wants.

So autumn, pots, and colchicums.  Not a bad week at all.  To top it off I’ll wax poetically about the beauty in death of my beloved cardoon plants.  The seedheads are ripe, and now they’re opening up to scatter their children across the landscape.

cardoon seed heads

Cardoon seed heads.  The bottom of the stalk is quite ugly, but if you focus on the top…

Ugly dead thistles might be one poetic interpretation but I prefer to ignore the possibility of a cardoon superspreader event and think that some goldfinch might fly over and find these to be the motherload of tasty thistle seed.  Thats the hope at least, but for now I haven’t seen them give it a try.  They’re still focused on the sunflowers so maybe they’re saving these?

cardoon seed heads

I suspect that’s a lot of Cardoon seedlings…

No matter.  Cardoons sprouting all over might be just what my garden needed, and as long as they don’t crowd out the snowdrops I’m willing to give it a try!

Enjoy the last days of September 🙂

A First Day of Autumn Tour

Who says you can’t change your ways?  I know a guy who’s been passionately anti-autumn for decades, and has actually been know to get hostile and crabby, short-tempered and moody as the day length shortens and a cool crispness taints the summertime air.  That person is changing.  He might even have said “Fall isn’t all that bad”, and smiled at a dewy morning lawn and a river valley full of mist as he sat on the back deck and had already sipped through at least half his morning coffee.  Prior to the coffee he was still kind of luke-warm about the change in season, but at least he was out there enjoying it rather than mumbling about the frigid ten day forecast.

fall fruit on dogwood

Ripe berries and a touch of autumn colors on the dogwood

“Maybe it will kill some of the mosquitoes” was the delusional hope

autumn perennial border

The front border is looking exceptionally neat and well-groomed

No, the mosquitoes aren’t going anywhere, but fortunately they weren’t completely rabid the weekend before last when the local garden club, the Backmountain Bloomers, paid a visit to the Sorta Suburbia gardens.

autumn perennial border

‘Bengal Tiger’ cannas with the yellow daisies of Heterotheca villosa ‘Ruth Baumgardner’.  I like this plant more and more every year.

I was absolutely thrilled that the club came by, and even more thrilled that a few more showed up than I had expected.  A muggy, buggy, September afternoon isn’t exactly prime garden visiting season so even a group of four felt-bad-for-you-so-we-came visitors would have been something special.  There were more visitors than that, so I hope I didn’t come across as too desperately excited 🙂 (I don’t often get visitors you know)

hyacinth bean pods

Purple hyacinth bean (Dolichos lablab) seedpods in the front border.  I threw a few seedlings in amongst the fennel forest, and I think they looked nice enough.

So that was the big excitement.  It was a nice balance to the insane cursing and swatting I experience every other day as I try to beat back the bugs and not catch West Nile while everyone else is getting Covid.  That would be just about right, I’m never any good at following the trends.

disraeli cilicium colchicum

Colchicum cilicicum and some Colchicum ‘Disraeli’ coming up nicely through a few floppy chrysanthemums

With all that said, the garden does look nice.  There’s been enough (actually way more than enough) rain and I really gave the garden a once over of weeding and trimming.  Plus now there are more fall-bloomers than ever, and it’s really given me something to look forward to as everything else crumbles and dies prior to winter’s kiss of death… -ok i said I didn’t hate fall as much as I used to, I never went as far as to say I actually liked it-

colchicum autumn herald

Colchicum ‘Autumn Herald’ coming up through the creeping thyme.

Colchicums are a big part of what’s become good about fall.  The earliest ones help distract me from the earlier and earlier sunsets, and then I have the mid and late season ones to look forward to.  Right now the Mid season ones are just hitting their stride.

colchicum glory of heemstede

Colchicum ‘Glory of Heemstede’ according to my label… love the darker color and checkering!

Let me just share a couple pictures and talk less 😉

colchicum Jochem hof

Colchicum ‘Jochem Hof’ is the name I have for this one.  For some reason colchicum names and IDs are notoriously muddled, and even a good source may give you a misnamed bulb.

colchicum faberge silver

‘Faberge Silver’ is a newer variety with a nice blend of white and pink

colchicum nancy lindsay

‘Nancy Lindsay’ is a favorite and also a great grower here.  I have a few bigger patches of it and still feel like I could use more 🙂

colchicum world's champion cup

‘World’s Champion Cup’ has large goblets of bloom, often with a white highlight.

Colchicums aside (for just a minute), the backyard was also looking decent in its late summer colors.

autumn perennial border

The edge of the tropical bed always looks good with a few cannas, but for the most part it’s been neglected this year.  What a shame considering how lush it could have been with all the rain (as demonstrated by the lush green of the lawn)

The potager was also looking nice, even if it was mostly out of control.  Ten foot tall Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate (Persicaria orientalis) has a way of demanding attention, and although no one asked for seeds, I guess in MY garden they liked it.

autumn potager garden

The pergola has almost disappeared under the vines and overgrowth of September

I of course liked showing off the castor beans and complaining about my dumpy seed-grown dahlias.  The black eyed susan vine was also something to be admired, but maybe my visitors know there are cooler colors out there, so plain old orange wasn’t so impressive.

autumn potager garden

My hiding spot in the now mosquito-infested potager.  Hopefully with long sleeve weather approaching I can safely hang out here again without losing a pint of blood.

Thankfully no one asked the awkward question of why there weren’t more vegetables.

japanese morning glory

The Japanese morning glory Ipomea nil ‘Fuji no Murasaki’ has reseeded mildly enough that it doesn’t scare me like regular morning glories.  Let’s hope it stays that way.

One last part of the garden which I was proud to show off was the nearly completed sand path which now runs around the back side of the house.  I think my visitors might have appreciated it more if it weren’t so overgrown, but if they only knew what a muddy mess this path was just three weeks ago I think they would have been more appreciative of this solid and dry passage.

sand garden path

The finished path.  There’s still plans afoot for this end so we will see…

My friend Lisa asked about the sand, and in the nicest way I think she was trying to figure out what if any thought process there was behind this decision.  Sand is nice at the beach, but anyone who has slogged a couple hundred feet through it knows there might be better path options out there, so let me point out this is the crushed sand usually used as a paver base, and it actually packs down fairly well as a path.  When I went to check out the ‘crusher run’ which is a rougher mix often used for paths, I saw this and thought it might be worth a try.  So far so good I think.  It has a nice clean look and is mostly crushed Pennsylvania bluestone so I like the mellow color as well.

sand garden path

Recycled retaining wall blocks on the right, recycled composite decking as an edging on the left.

Even with a bit of a slope there were no washouts after our six inches in two days rain event.

sand garden path

You can see some of the slope here.  The grass looks crappier than usual because I had to raise the lawn about four inches to meet the edge.  I’ve been filling in this part of the yard for years to bring it up.

Actually there was more erosion in the caladium sand bed than there was in the sloped walkway.  I suspect there was just an extreme amount of runoff from the concrete, so hopefully that’s a one time deal.

caladium in containers

It’s still ‘Year of the Caladium’ along this side of the house 

Here’s yet another gratuitous caladium picture.  They haven’t liked the cold spell we had, and then all the rain didn’t help, but they’re still awesome 🙂

caladium in containers

Mixed caladiums in need of a winter home.

Cooler weather had me thinking about what to do with the caladiums and also where to go with all the other pots which have accumulated around the garden.  I started to hear an echo in my head of ‘Oh, that just goes into the garage over winter’ because I think I said it dozens of times as an answer to wintering over questions.  It started to make me wonder…

deck planter mandevilla

‘Alice DuPont’ still looks great.  In general most of the deck still looks decent, and I really don’t need fall to come by.

So will it really all fit into the garage?  A quick count of pots quickly went over 100, and that wasn’t even counting anything under six inches or anything on the deck.  That’s a lot of overwintering, and that’s almost even stressful, and when I deal with stress I take cuttings.  So on Sunday I added another two flats full of little potted cuttings to bring in.  Maybe they won’t all make it.  Maybe I’ll find some kind of other space… doubtful… but with a suspicious box on the porch this afternoon and vague memories of bulb orders, I think a few pots of caladium tubers are the least of my worries.

Have a great week 😉

Yay. Fall.

The colchicum are coming and that could mean that fall is approaching.  I say ‘could’ because these “autumn crocus” also come in forms which bloom in the winter and early spring, but most normal people are satisfied with the fall bloomers, and most of the named hybrids with the largest blooms come up at this time of year.  I of course am quite the normal person so shouldn’t have been surprised to come across the first clump of Colchicum x byzantinum shrugging off all the rain and coming into full bloom yesterday afternoon.  It was inspiring.  Instead of sitting on the porch all afternoon thinking about things which should be done, I found a garden fork and started lifting and dividing colchicum clumps.

colchicum byzantinum

Colchicum byzantinum coming up through the foliage of a floppy clump of little bluestem 

Less-normal people might listen to experts who know better, and divide their colchicum in early summer after the foliage dies down, but those experts clearly need more tulips to dig and caladiums to transplant because they obviously have too much time on their hands in July.  I do it now and even if the bulbs (corms actually) have begun to send out roots it’s not the end of the world to disturb them and get them into the spots which are not yet planted up with colchicum.  Actually, as long as I’m confessing faults I might as well admit I’m downright careless with the process and don’t even water in moved bulbs… even if it’s bone dry and fresh roots are sprouting… they don’t seem to mind at all.  I wish more plants were as forgiving.

colchicum byzantinum album innocence

Colchicum byzantinum ‘Innocence’ just starting into growth with no roots present yet.      

Honestly I far prefer moving them now.  It’s instant gratification and you can see how the flowers work with the neighbors, and most importantly you know they’re in a spot where you can see the blooms.  A lot can happen between July and September and usually it involves other plants covering the spot where you thought the colchicums would look perfect.

colchicum byzantinum album innocence

‘Innocence’ with a little more room to spread out.  Better gardeners would add a short groundcover of sedum to better show off the blooms, but one thing at a time please.

The colchicum bulbs looked great btw so I’m hoping for a good show this fall.  Fair warning: you might have to come with me to look at them all in bloom, since a quick review of last year’s posts show less than ten colchicum photos.  Unacceptable!  I need to refocus on my blog’s tagline of “more than you ever wanted to know about my garden”.

Speaking of ‘more than you wanted to know’, last Christmas I did get the new book on colchicums (titled ‘Colchicum: The Complete Guide’, just in case you’re struggling) and after going through it once last winter, I may now take a refresher weekend to brush up on a few things.  I say this to prepare you for all the smart-sounding observations I’ll be peppering my colchicum posts with over the next few weeks, things like why is it ‘x byzantinum’ and not just Colchicum byzantinum…  well it’s because the plant is believed to be a hybrid (hence the x) and not a true species, as writing C. byzantinum would indicate.  Wow.  You’re welcome, and please feel free to correct me as I overconfidently bumble my way through botany.

Hope you have a great weekend!