End of Summer for the (not quite)Tropical Bed

Today surprised me with a completely free afternoon.  There was plenty I should have done, but nothing I had to do, so I spent all afternoon in the garden.  I actually worked too!  Usually when it’s dry and it’s warm I tend to just sit around, but the grass was due for a cutting and one thing lead to another and before I knew it I was sore and sweaty and satisfied.  The following pictures have little to do with anything that got done, but they’re more interesting than edged lawn and mulched beds!

heptacodium blooming

At the very end of the former tropical garden the heptacodium is actually looking good for once with a decent shape and nice blooms.

The sunflowers which took over the tropical bed are looking a little worse for wear but I’ll leave them till spring since they’re visited daily by several families of goldfinches and other songbirds.  Dahlias, cannas and now mums are picking up the slack, and if I get just the right angle without the dying sunflowers everything still looks fresh and lush.

mammoth mums

At the top end of the tropical bed this clump of ‘mammoth mums’ adds to the already-too-much-color theme. L-R the mums are bronze, pink, coral, red, and yellow quill. They’re colorful and great growers, but nothing exciting.

I broke down and ran the sprinkler out front again.  The grass was curling up and I can’t deal with brown lawn in September.  I’m letting the vegetables dry up but the lawn and perennials out front need to stay green for a little while longer or it will all be too depressing.  I also watered some in the back, the tropical beds are so dry most of the water just runs off, but I hope it’s enough for a few of the surviving treasures.

pink salvia splendens

I would call this one of 2014’s treasures. It’s a pink salvia splendens grown from seed. The only one to sprout and the first one I’ve grown that didn’t turn out to be another red when it bloomed. I have my fingers crossed for seed!

One of the happiest finds of the day (and one that only a gardener could even come close to understanding) was that I found where a neighbor’s been dumping lawn clippings in the woods.  I lugged back about four wheelbarrows full of clippings and spread them out around the bed I’m slowly reclaiming from bellflower and other weeds.  This should go a long way in bringing in the earthworms and smothering the last sprouts, and my fingers are crossed that this same neighbor will also dump nicely shredded autumn leaves in the same spot.  What a bonanza that would be 🙂

red zinnias with ninebark

Red zinnias are bright enough to distract you from the other tired perennials and vigorous weeds. This area is just past the tropical bed and I cling to the hope that someday it will be a red garden. So far these zinnias are the only plant which has worked out -even though I almost quit the watering this week!

With all the new mulch and (I hope) smothered weeds I feel like for once things are almost under control in the garden.  I still hope there will be at least one more nice load of grass clippings to feed  the tropical border but the fact that there are no four foot weeds is a first here for this time of year.  Now if we could just get some rain then maybe I could get some transplanting started!

sun sugar tomatoes

The tomatoes are one thing that did get away from me. I froze a bunch of nicely prepared San Marzanos last week, but these “Sun Sugar” tomatoes are too much of a good thing. They look nice though.

While taking the tomato picture I was surprised to find a cicada clinging to the trellis.  I love cicadas and this closeup was a treat for someone who usually only hears them.



With all these beds under control the smart thing would be to regroup….. but Santa Rosa Gardens has a great fall sale (plus 10% more off with the code FALL10), I want to place a Lily Garden order for lilies, there are a few shrubs which are tempting me at Lazy S’s Farms, and my favorite local nursery has an open house (and sales I’m sure) this Saturday.  Plus I have a snowdrop order to pay.  My checkbook is saying no but I keep disagreeing with it. Oh what to do, what to do…..

23 comments on “End of Summer for the (not quite)Tropical Bed

  1. I have grown zinnias, Frank but only a pink and a lime-green. The former I didn’t much like and the latter were a little invisible. Those reds however really sing. Hmm. Interesting. *makesanote* Can’t you make your own lawn clippings compost and leaf mould? Dave

    • bittster says:

      I tend to direct sow the zinnias and then move them into position when they have a bit of size to them. They’re later, but it is a nice way to end the year.
      My lawn is an underachiever as far as clipping production goes, and the topsoil so thin I feel obligated to let them fall back on to decay. On top of that the three maples which overhang my yard only give me a minimum of leaves but a maximum of roots. Sadly I actually offer to mow next door during leaf drop just to get my hands on the leaves. What little compost I get from my treasured pile is usually a twiggy mess of pulled weeds and anything else that stands a chance of decaying. Welcomed, but nothing to make a real gardener jealous 🙂

  2. Christina says:

    The red Zinnias are very eye-catching, I like them a lot, they would be great in a vase your know Frank. The tomatoes look very tempting too, a good crop, you will pick them and eat them won’t you? There’s so much you can do with tomatoes. The rest of the garden looks great at least from the angles you’ve used, and nothing wrong with choosing the best angles.

    • bittster says:

      I wonder how a golden tomato sauce would go over?
      What would you do with the zinnias? A big vase full or accents in another arrangement? I would be stuck on placing them with purple foliage from the ninebark growing behind….

  3. pbmgarden says:

    Your late summer garden looks strong. I like those red zinnias a lot. I too have planned a red garden but so far it’s not worked out as planned. Those tomatoes look delicious.

    • bittster says:

      The tomatoes are tasty. Sweet little bites for the deserving weeder 🙂
      I have plans to dig over the red garden area. I guess that might be my second chance.

  4. Red zinnias are great for fall–I’ll have to remember that next year. Last winter was too much for the mums here; I think only one survived, and it is puny. I am definitely going to try cannas in the garden next year rather than pots, and hope that deer and ‘chucks find them distasteful. I like the bold, structural statement they make, and it really does make you feel like you live somewhere exotic and interesting!

    • Also love that pink salvia! I really don’t like the red ones, but the pink is right up my alley!

      • bittster says:

        I do like the pink but I’m not sure where it should go next year. I’m hoping to save a few seeds, but for me this is one plant which needs to be started indoors.

    • bittster says:

      Wait a minute…. NE Pennsylvania isn’t exotic and interesting!? haha
      The cannas multiply like wild, and you’re welcome to experiment with as many as you want. The more water and fertilizer the better, but the Tropicana greens up a lot with too much nitrogen. They might even grow fast enough to outpace a groundhog… but I’m sure the little pig-chuck would only eat the nicest growing of the plants!
      The mums are supposed to be zone 5 hardy. We’ll see about that 🙂

  5. AnnetteM says:

    I too love your red zinnias. Great photo of the cicada – so that is what they look like!
    Go spend – if you are paying sale prices then you are saving money, aren’t you? You can’t put a price on a beautiful garden in my opinion.

  6. Paulinep says:

    Your tropical border is looking very good indeed, so colourful still. We have often heard cicadas while on holiday in the Mediterranean, thank you for showing us what they look like, super photo!

    • bittster says:

      hi Pauline-P!
      Interesting that the cicadas stick to the warmer climes of Eurpope. I believe there are several kinds here with all different years to adulthood and song patterns. It’s a very interesting bug, and SO loud!

  7. Benjamin says:

    Finding a pile of grass clippings is like finding buried treasure! Happy bargain hunting at the garden center! 😉

  8. Cathy says:

    Those red zinnias are fabulous! I may have to rethink my attitude to zinnias, as I was a bit disappointed with mine. I also love those moments when I feel everything is “almost under control”! They don’t happen very often and rarely last longer than a few days, but today was such a day for me. And I also like your expression “sore and sweaty and satisfied”… in a nutshell! Hope you get some rain soon. 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Whoo-Hoo for having things under control!! Fall is a perfect time to let it all go, but to have a few areas prepped and ready (and looking rather nice and neat) sure is a nice feeling too.
      Maybe my dry, windy, sunny garden reminds the zinnias of their native Mexico! Too bad I don’t also have the long growing season and beaches (minus the drug cartels).
      With the garden under control, I hope you have plenty of time this weekend to enjoy the first few days of fall 🙂

  9. Chloris says:

    Your garden looks fantastic, it does you great credit. I am definitely going to grow Zinnias next year. Your red ones are gorgeous. What is the red leaved shrub behind them?
    My Heptacodium is not flowering yet, yours looks wonderful. I bet it smells wonderful too.

    • bittster says:

      Thank you Chloris! The shrub is a ‘coppertina’ physocarpus (ninebark), one of my favorites for ease of growth and color. I have a yellow leaved version too, but it tends to burn in full sun (which it needs for the brightest foliage color).
      I never notice a scent on the heptacodium, but the bees and butterflies have no problem finding it. Perhaps I have an issue with certain scents since I can’t get anything out of heliotrope either.

  10. Not all heliotrope has a scent. That’s why it’s better to get a plant grown from a cutting of a known fragrance-producer. I am glad to hear I’m not the only one “tidying up” four foot weeds. That’s one of the best things about colchicums. I always feel compelled to weed the areas I know they will soon be blooming in. Otherwise I’d probably be planting daffodils or something.

    • bittster says:

      Haha! That’s exactly what I thought as I cleaned out around the colchicum plantings 🙂
      I still don’t know about my nose and heliotrope. This spring I stuck my nose into a few which I think were from cuttings and which were labeled as extra fragrant…. same thing. Nothing.
      Maybe I’ll need to recruit a tester nose to second-smell and see if they can’t detect something!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.