Our Days Are Numbered

There’s an impending air of doom hanging over the garden, and the threat of next week taints everything.  The Cubs winning the World Series was likely the first sign of the apocalypse and now I can only imagine what next Wednesday could bring.  Our current stretch of warm weather has me even more nervous since as we know from high school science, freezing is an exothermic process and on the chance that Hell has indeed frozen over science would predict that things up here on the surface would warm up as a result.  I’ve never hoped for a cold snap more, even if it means losing the last of the autumn flowers.

late chrysanthemum

The latest of my seedling chrysanthemums.  This one’s not as hardy as the rest but does well enough up near the foundation.

The last of the autumn leaves are really hanging on in the warmth.  This red maples along the fence is always my favorite with its sunset blend of reds, oranges, and yellows.  As the days go on it will hopefully fade to pale yellow with red highlights before finally covering the lawn with a carpet of next year’s mulch and compost.

maple fall foliage

For most of the year I resent the greedy water stealing roots of this pesky red maple (Acer rubrum), but for a few days in autumn I forgive it and soak up every glowing minute of its final foliage show.

Closer to the ground the earliest (or latest, depending on your perspective) bulbs are beginning to show signs of growth.  My absolute favorite right this moment is the fall blooming snowdrop a friend of mine brought back for me from Nancy Goodwin’s Montrose Gardens in Hillsborough, North Carolina.  I love a plant with a story and this one has a good one.  Its full name is Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus Hiemalis group ex. Montrose and to be honest I love writing that one out.  It’s the nerdy Latin way of describing a fall blooming snowdrop with a single green mark that comes to me via Montrose Gardens.  This one and its thousands of sisters are all the descendants of a handful of bulbs Mrs. Goodwin purchased decades ago at a local hardware store.  They say the rest is history, but in this case it’s a history which required years of division and transplanting as the bulbs were slowly spread across her acres of woodland.  The bulbs now make an unparalleled show each autumn around Thanksgiving and I wouldn’t rule out some day making the eight hour trip to see it in person.  Such are the dreams of the obsessed, but if you’d like more information have a look at this NY Times article on a visit to the gardens, and also consider looking up Nancy Goodwin’s book “Montrose: Life in a Garden” for a monthly chronicle of the gardens.  She was also a big fan of the Cyclamen family and grows thousands of them as well.  That’s my kind of gardener.

fall galanthus elwesii monostctus

Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus Hiemalis group ex. Montrose.  Yeah.

Besides fall blooming snowdrops, there was also an October surprise here when my two auricula primrose insisted on sending up a few autumn flower stalks.  I’d rather they waited until spring since the flowers don’t look nearly as big or nice as the could, but my hope is they really liked their repotting and are only just ramping up to an even more amazing show in March under the growlights…. unless they’re planning on dying, which is always another possibility for plants in my care.

primula auricula

A pair of primula.  Primula auricula hybrids to be exact.  The yellow had bloomed before but this is the first flower for the brownish one, and I’m pleased with the color.

Some other final color in the garden is the Aster oblongifolius ‘Raydons Favorite’.  It waits until the very end of the season and carries it out with a clear lavender blue color and attractive dark eyes as the flowers fade.  I should really give it a little more room and respect next year, and not let it suffer all summer crowded and untended while the summer annuals steal the show.

Aster oblongifolius 'Raydons Favorite'

Amidst the mildew decay of fading peony foliage and frosted zinnias, Aster ‘Raydons Favorite’ offers up fresh color for this part of the border.  I think more would be a good idea.

I can’t do a late fall post without slipping in a cyclamen or two.  They’re sending out more and more of their beautiful foliage and while other parts of the garden are fading, these go from strength to strength.  I may have to talk to John Lonsdale about adding a few new ones since you can never have too many of these treasures and he always seems to have a few special ones for sale at Edgewood Gardens.

cyclamen hederifolium

The hardy Cyclamen hederifolium starts flowering without foliage in late summer.  I love it even more when the leaves begin to come up and there are still plenty of blooms to accent them.

The range of foliage types in Cyclamen hederifolium is really outstanding.  The dainty and distinct flowers are almost more of an afterthought.

A pale pink form of Cyclamen hederifolium with a leaf pattern which I love.

A pale pink form of Cyclamen hederifolium with a leaf pattern which I love.

For the moment I may have resisted adding any new Cyclamen but don’t be under the false impression I’ve resisted all the other goodies which can be found during fall planting season… or even better found during autumn clearance sales.  For some reason I found the Santa Rosa clearance sale (still going on btw, and don’t miss out on the additional 20% off coupon code) and discovered I needed more grasses and a trio of carnivorous pitcher plants.  Who knew?

Sarracenia from santa rosa gardens

Three new bog plants (Sarracenia) for the bog I don’t have.  Hopefully I can keep them happy elsewhere since they’re so absolutely cool with their sinister insect trapping pitchers.

As I go on and on about new plants I won’t even mention the tulips which need planting, the daffodils which need replanting, and the projects which need finishing before the bottom drops out of this pleasant autumn weather.  Let’s hope that’s the only thing which the bottom drops out of this week.

Have a good one!

30 comments on “Our Days Are Numbered

  1. I’ve been to Montrose Gardens. Not when the snowdrops were blooming, but the colchicums were! And we didn’t get to go in the woods, just the gardens near the house. http://www.coldclimategardening.com/2009/10/10/colchicum-design-ideas-from-montrose-gardens/

    • bittster says:

      And she has colchicums as well… Is it just me or is there a certain ‘type’ of gardener who just fixates on the same kinds of plants?
      Sounds like you had an interesting visit, and thanks for the link. I’m surprised I didn’t remember that post since I thought I’d gone through nearly all of them by now. Guess I have something to add to this winter’s reading list!

      • I am honored and flattered to think you would go through all my back posts. All 1,339 of them? Really? Or just all the colchicum posts? I have been blogging since 2002, and there is a lot of writing there. I think there is a certain type of gardener who wants to grow “something different”, whatever that may be, and so there winds up being a bit of overlap.

      • bittster says:

        Sounds like I missed a few posts! That’s good news for my winter reading, I just need to find a way to work through with out missing any. Searching or just clicking related posts just doesn’t do it…

      • Can’t seem to find a Reply button for your latest reply, so I’ll just say it here. If you want to systematically go through my back blog posts, go here http://www.coldclimategardening.com/archives/ and then choose browse by date. The earliest one is dated August 2002. Once you are on a blog post, you can just keep hitting the Next button at the bottom to get to the next one.

  2. Cathy says:

    I detect a sense of foreboding in your post Frank! I hope the frost holds off just a little longer for you to get those last jobs done. That snowdrop is a lovely sight indeed!

    • bittster says:

      I hope it’s just end of season fatigue and nothing else.
      Having all the projects wrapped up before frost is a nice thing, but even if I miss a few the only things that truly matter are getting the tulips in and getting the tender bulbs out. If I can focus long enough that won’t take more than an afternoon. Everything else might be just as easy to do next year 😉

  3. rusty duck says:

    Maybe it won’t be as bad as you fear. There speaks the eternal optimist who went to bed confident that the UK would stay in Europe and woke up to Brexit. At least we have cyclamen.

  4. Indie says:

    I fear that the doom and gloom we normally get way too often from the news has now spread to the gardener! Though there usually is doom and gloom of some sort always going on in the garden whether it be the weather or pests. That is so cool to have a fall-blooming snowdrop! I honestly never really got the whole obsessive thing with snowdrops until I gardened up north. Now I see just how much they are to be treasured, especially after such a long winter! The cyclamen is gorgeous – I love those leaves!

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Indie,
      I’ve always wondered if I’d be as obsessed with snowdrops if they bloomed in June. Probably not, but luckily I don’t have to worry about that choice!
      The cyclamen are really coming on now and I’m always amazed by the variety. What a plant group!

  5. pbmgarden says:

    Lovely color hanging on around your place. You know, I’m only half-hour from Montrose Gardens but have never seen it. I got sick just before the one time I’d planned to go to an open house to see the snowdrops. Thanks for reminding me of a gem so close to home.

  6. Lisa Rest says:

    I’m with you about anticipating the first frost. We have been in this warm weather pattern too. I may be the only person in Chicago who is not a Cubs (or anything) fan, but I think there may be other forces at work to cause hell to freeze over. I have asters that look like yours but mine are overgrown. I have a Rudbeckia that has decided to bloom and a goldenrod starting up again. Enough already. We’ll get through this.

    • bittster says:

      Well it looks like we have a lot more to get through now than just an election…
      Trust me, my asters are overgrown as well, the photo has been cropped heavily! It’s one of those plants which has to take care of itself for most of the year since now is the only time asters get much attention.
      What a treat the Galapagos photos were, I’m glad you got them up.

  7. Ah, Raydon’s Favorite aromatic aster – I love that plant! At our last garden, in the middle of south central Kansas, I had lots of aromatic aster and felt like fall was ushered out in real style. The garden was full of more insect activity during the weeks those asters were blooming than during the entire rest of the year. It was stunning!

    We moved about 18 months ago and now I’m starting a new garden in the panhandle of Florida. Aromatic asters don’t do as well down here, so I’m experimenting with other species. Right now my calico asters are buzzing away…but I still miss the beautiful color of those aromatic asters I left behind.

    • bittster says:

      I’ve always been lukewarm towards asters in general, I think it’s because the garden varieties don’t like it here, and the wild ones love it here a little too much… but this one is great!
      I don’t blame you for missing them though, the color is awesome but I’m sure you’re going to come across something either similar or more exciting for your new garden. You really are just in the learning stages after all and it’s going to take a while to get used to the new growing conditions.

  8. Eliza Waters says:

    Fascinating that there is a fall-blooming galanthus. I love all your plants – how do you find time to tend them all? I’m impressed that you have primula auricula in bloom. I love them but don’t seem to have much luck with them.
    Good luck with continuing the fall chores. They seem endless sometimes! Have a great week whatever the external outcome!

    • bittster says:

      Don’t be fooled Eliza, most of my plants have to get by on far less tending than you would think, and the idea of watering is one of my least favorite activities… so boring!
      Here’s my auricular primrose secret- plant so many seeds and kill off so many seedlings that only the two strongest will survive! It kind of limits your color range (a lot!) but over the last few years these two plants and I seem to have come to an understanding about what we will put up with 🙂
      Enjoy your weekend, there are still plenty of leaves to rake and bulbs to plant so I suspect it will be busy here. I can’t seem to get anything done after work now that the clocks have changed and I’m not loving that…

  9. Your asters are much longer lasting than ours – all the asters in our garden have gone to seed.

  10. johnvic8 says:

    I’m feeling it too.

  11. ian lumsden says:

    The Autumn flowering snowdrop is a beauty. I have a few that flower in December but not this early.

    • bittster says:

      Hi Ian, this snowdrop was unusually early this year, the rest look like they’re aiming for a more reasonable December flowering… in which case they’ll need to come in under lights since I don’t trust the weather.

  12. Woke up to snow this morning, Frank, and still haven’t finished all my tasks even though the fall season was longer this year. However, a winter of garden writing lies ahead for me, plus the (always new) planning for next year. I’m hoping that staying totally focused on ‘everything garden’ and not watching the news gets me through. Happy Thanksgiving. P. x

    • bittster says:

      Pam the snow has caught me off guard as well! I have been happily digging and raking and transplanting and it’s all been going very nicely until this came along. I like planting tulips in short sleeves!
      Hopefully temperatures come up again and the rest of the bulbs will go in just as comfortably. I added many more than I should have, but in April I won’t care 🙂

  13. nj says:

    how are the pitcher plants doing now?

    • bittster says:

      They don’t look bad at all but it’s still early. I had them on a cold windowsill in the garage through most of the winter but last month’s warmer weather had them breaking dormancy. Outside they went and we will see if it was too early or not.

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