Autumn. It Could Be Worse.

I’m ok with summer being over.  Not excited, but ok with it, and I guess that’s good enough since neither myself nor anyone else can do much about it anyway.  Fall follows summer and that’s just the way things roll here in NE Pennsylvania.  At least we have butterflies this year, and in this garden the butterflies have been the highlight of every garden stroll.

Monarch on zinnia

Monarch butterfly on a zinnia in the potager.

People enjoy talking about how beneficial butterflies are and I’m not going to argue with them but if you think about it they’re right up there with cabbageworms and tomato hornworms in terms of caterpillar crawling and plant eating.  They don’t do all that much to benefit the gardener, but they’re just so darn pretty to look at.

monarch mantis attack

A handful of butterfly parts.  Not a good sign for the butterfly lover since no butterfly sheds its wings willingly.

If you want to consider a beneficial insect the praying mantis might come to mind.  Maybe.  Not since the garden of Eden has all life pleasantly revolved around working purely for mankind and the praying mantis is definitely a New Testament kind of creature.  Its instinct is to kill and eat (not necessarily in that order) anything from bees to grasshoppers to butterflies and it doesn’t matter if the gardener would prefer the later to stick around (uneaten) for pollination purposes.  Scattered butterfly wings under your flowers is a good sign of a fat mantis above.

praying mantis

The guilty party lurking amongst the flowers of a chrysanthemum.

The chrysanthemums are only second party to the carnage.  It’s not their fault they’re so attractive right now right as the Monarchs are moving through.

seedling chrysanthemum

Some seedling chrysanthemums from a few weeks ago.  

I couldn’t care less about chrysanthemums in April, but now as everything else is calling it quits I wish I had an entire border of them.  I bet I say that every fall but your guess is as good as mine as to if it will ever happen.  So far the one thing I have managed to get done is collect, and grow (and kill) quite a few different mums and fortunately manage to have a few nice ones left to flower each fall.

chrysanthemum centerpiece

Chrysanthemum ‘Centerpiece’.  Perfectly hardy for me and an interesting flower form, but she always insists on starting the season in August, way before I’m ready to look at mums.

What I really want is some of the big “football” types, ideally the obscenely large, overfussed, and overfertilized types which show up in the better greenhouse displays at this time of year.  There’s about a zero percent chance of that happening but it doesn’t stop me from hoping that someday, something close to a miracle will take place, and one of my larger flowered types will do the impossible.  For now I’m just happy I found (mailordered from Mums of Minnesota) a few ‘footballs’ hardy enough to overwinter here without me jumping through hoops… or even just jumping anywhere… I’m still feeling seasonally lazy.

football mums

A few football mums which survived two months of potbound abuse and then a way too late planting.  I like them all but the pale yellow ‘Mellow Moon’ at center is my favorite.

Although I’ve been ordering and labeling and trying to keep mum names straight, I’m much less snobby about the chrysanthemums than other plants such as say… um… snowdrops.  My barren soil seems to make an excellent seedbed for mums and I try not to rip them all out during those frantic days of May.

seedling chrysanthemum

I planted ‘Dolliette’, the smaller quilled flower in the back, but the others including the pink are just surprise seedlings which popped up around her.

I welcome the seedlings, I welcome the fussier ones, but I also welcome any leftover autumn decorations found on our or the neighbor’s porch.  Most of these disposable greenhouse mums don’t make it through the winter, but a few surprise us with green life in the spring.

garden mums

These leftover porch decorations have been here for a while, surviving drought, disease, and neglect.  This spring I moved a few of my favorites next door to ease the monotony of mulch and I’m quite pleased with the result.

The mums and Monarchs may be stealing the show but the beautiful weather sure doesn’t hurt either.  Our gardener did make an effort last week to mow and trim and between that and the greening lawn I think he may eventually snap out of his autumn doldrums, but when temperatures are so comfortable and the lighting is so relaxed I don’t see much hope in the way of any major garden projects being started.

autumn flower border

The front border with some nice autumnal light.  The brown amaranthus dead center really does detract from the view, but….

I’m fine with enjoying the weekend while the weather is still on our side.  There’s always next week to start fall cleanup and if it doesn’t happen…. maybe the winter winds might do just fine on their own.  As long as I dig up the dahlias and cannas before December, that’s the kind of timetable I have in mind.  Have a great weekend!

9 comments on “Autumn. It Could Be Worse.

  1. The brown amaranthus is architectural and does not detract from the view. I certainly haven’t seen as many monarchs as you’re getting. The Japanese beetles have no trouble finding my garden, however.

  2. Cathy says:

    That last photo shows off that border beautifully Frank! You have had such a great growing season this year! It has been warm and sunny here too and I did a little trimming yesterday but the autumn tidy up can wait. Love your Chrysanthemums. I have never really felt tempted to grow them, but that pale yellow one might persuade me… 😉

  3. Chloris says:

    I would be over the moon if my chrysanthemums seeded about. The one delicately tinged with pink is gorgeous. I have a few in flower but I am not ready to look at mine until November when they are all in bloom, then I will croon over them and be grateful for so much late colour. What a show yours make and how wonderful to have monarchs fluttering about.
    By the way, I’ve got my first snowdrop in bloom. Do you have reginae–olgae?

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I think you have the perfect idea for the weekend. I think your borders look perfect. Mums, I don’t think of mum other than the ones you get seasonally. I didn’t even know of ‘football’ mums. Hmmmm I will have to look into them. They are quite spectacular.

  5. Christina says:

    I feel a bit the same about being able to just enjoy the garden now that it isn’t horribly hot. But autumn is the only time I can plant, divide etc. do you find that the ‘pot’ mums eventually grow taller when the effects of the chemicals that keep them a good size for a pot (but with masses of flowers) wears off. Mine where all bought as potted plants and this year they are suddenly really tall. Enjoy the season whilst it lasts.

  6. Gorgeous Saturday here but raining today. If it was nice out I could not just sit here and enjoy the view. That pale yellow “football” mum is a beauty. But you better not wear yellow to a Badger game; though it would be perfect for the Packers.

  7. Eliza Waters says:

    Sad about the butterflies… 😦 but I know, mantids need to eat, too. Even though you say you’ve been feeling lazy, your garden still is looking terrific!

  8. Excellent, if somewhat chilling, photo of the preying mantis. I don’t see them around in my garden, which is disappointing. They do seem to be designed to be scaled up so they can act in sci fi movies.

  9. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Wow, Frank, that last image is especially great. I enjoy mums too but they don’t stick around in my crowded garden for long. Yours really make a beautiful statement. Fall clean up? Nah, winter will take care of it & the gardener can always tidy up in the spring, right. Besides, you want to leave all of that dead stuff in place for the wildlife, yes, that’s it for the wildlife. I’ve heard that praying mantises will eat just about anything, including hummingbirds. Isn’t nature fun?

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