It Could Be Worse

Things have entered ‘don’t care’ mode around here.  The gnats are swarming, the days are warm, the soil is dry, and the nights are cool enough that everyone (plants and gardener included) is thinking about wrapping things up for the year and calling it autumn.

red onion harvest

The red onion harvest drying under the back porch overhang.

I make no secret of the fact I dislike autumn.  Letting go of the growing season is tough and I try to put it off for as long as possible, but for some reason this year it’s a little different.  This year I’m almost looking forward to a few autumnal things, and I barely mind seeing summer  2019 fade into the the history books.

potager in September

The potager has made its annual transition into an over the hill, flower filled and vegetable-free weedy mess.  I love it, and I love all the late season bugs, bees and butterflies.Fall has suddenly become an easier transition, and I think it’s got a lot to do with my super formal program of planting more things that reach their peak after summer takes a step back.  In case you don’t know, my ‘super formal program’ translates into going to the nursery each week in autumn and planting whatever looks nice.

fall shade garden

The strong carmine color of what’s left of aster ‘Alma Potschke’ is the only reason I grow this plant.  To me most of the asters don’t seem to bloom for any great length of time and I’ve actually gotten rid of a few… or I just resent the fact they grow well all along the highways yet struggle in my garden beds.

One fall-bloomer which I don’t ever give enough credit to is the variegated obedient plant which has been bravely plodding along for a few years now in the dry, rooty shade of the north end of the yard.  I was given a warning when my friend dropped it off, but apparently the spot where it’s been planted is so terrible it hasn’t even considered trying to spread.

Physostegia virginiana 'Variegata' obedient plant

Variegated obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana ‘Variegata’) bringing a little color to the shade garden.

Other plants giving fall color now are the colchicums.  The earliest ones are in full stride, but the mid-season ones are starting up now as well.  The heat rushes them along, but they’re still a welcome flush of fresh color amongst all the other fading and yellowing summer things.

colchicum nancy lindsay

Colchicum ‘Nancy Lindsay’ just outside the smothering leaves of a verbascum seedling.  Nancy is one of the most reliable colchicums I grow, and quite the looker as well.

A newer colchicum is ‘World Champion’s Cup’ which is officially the largest flowering colchicum in the garden.  Although the photo doesn’t do the size justice, the blooms probably span six inches when open in the sun, and of course I love it.

colchicum world champion's cup

Colchicum ‘World Champion’s Cup’.  Not many blooms yet, but if size matters then this is the colchicum for you.  The heat seems to have bleached parts of the flower, but that’s a big improvement compared to what the skunks did to them last year. 

Fall blooming bulbs aside, the tropical garden is earning its keep as the season winds down.  It looks lush enough but it also looks like my complaining last year about digging so many roots and tubers fell on deaf ears.  In another month when non-hardy things get cut back and stuffed into winter storage I’m not sure who or what I’ll be complaining about, but I’m sure it will be quite vocal.  Only the gnats will be listening though, and their fake concern will only be a cover used to get close enough for an ear canal dive or yet another stealth attack to the legs.

tropical border

As usual the pathway is nearly impassable due to plants growing just as big as they were supposed to.  That doesn’t matter though.  What I get a kick out of is the huge goldenrod growing up past the kitchen window of the person who obsesses about dandelions and crabgrass in the lawn.  

I can’t take in all the cannas.  I already thought I had too many and then planted seeds for even more, and of course they grew even better than they should have.  As seed grown plants they’re all a little bit different, so now the struggle is deciding which of my babies is so wonderfully different that I need to dig it as well.  Obviously one of the things I’ll be complaining about this fall is my own lack of common sense.

cannova mango

Cannova ‘Mango’ seedlings.  Do I save the shorter ones… the ones with a more mango color… the heaviest bloomers… 

Common sense also will not apply to the elephant ears.  I suspect the tubers will weigh in at close to a ton, and someone said they might want to try one next spring so obviously I should dig another hundred just in case they want more.  It should be fun, but I’m not sure if this is really what people who claim to enjoy autumn do to enjoy the season.

27 comments on “It Could Be Worse

  1. I think it’s pretty much a given that you’ll enjoy fall more if you have fall-blooming plants.I think you were wise to embark on that super formal program of yours.

    • bittster says:

      Yes. I leave nothing to chance 😉
      Plus the first snowdrops may be opening within a month or so. Having October and November snowdrops is a nice thing to look forward to, and almost makes autumn seem more like pre-spring rather than the gateway to winter.

  2. Deborah Banks says:

    It all looks beautiful. The cannas all are worth saving. I think you should take a piece of that physotegia and put it in the sun so you can see what it does when it’s happy. This variegated one doesn’t send out runner roots like the species one does; it’s really not bad.

    • bittster says:

      I think it’s earned a place in the sun. I’ll move a bit this spring and see what it does. I can’t resist a variegated pant anyway, so what better than to spread it around a little more!

  3. Pauline says:

    Your autumn garden is so colourful and your Cannas are beautiful, I wish mine grew like that!
    I did have Physotegia once but after a few years it died on me, I like your variegated variety, maybe I should try again.

    • bittster says:

      The cannas have enjoyed the rain this summer, but I think they would have liked a warmer spring. They’re actually slightly smaller than usual.
      It’s been warm and dry the last few days. The garden is starting to look a little wilted and tired.

  4. I didn’t know there was a variegated Obedient plant. That is interesting. Your cannas are gorgeous. I would have to try keeping some. Do you ever leave them in the ground to see if they come back? Your might be surprised and some come back. Lift some you know you want and leave some as an experiment. It takes them longer to come up than if you start them inside.
    I always think the fall garden looks ragged. The rains dry up and so goes the garden. I don’t mind because my enthusiasm for the garden also dries up this time of year.
    My colchiums are not blooming as yet. I think they are in a pout about this dry weathers we are having. I know I am pouting.

    • bittster says:

      I’ve tried leaving a few cannas out but they all seem to turn to mush. There was a surprise that came up in the one bed, but I think it’s more likely I just forgot that I planted it rather than it overwintered. I’m going to leave it where it is though and see what happens.
      What surprises me is that I get canna seedlings coming up every year. They don’t get big enough to bloom, but each summer I see a few here and there from last year’s scattered seeds.
      It’s become dry here as well and the hydrangeas are browning and wilted. My enthusiasm is away keeping yours company, and I also don’t care. The weeds get bigger and I’m just fine porch sitting and butterfly watching. I’ll worry about it next year 😉

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    I love seeing your tropicals – always so exuberant! It is hard watching the garden senesce, I have trouble letting them go. I won’t chop anything down unless it doesn’t have a bloom left. Folks may think what they might, but the bees aren’t so fussy, neither are the migrating butterflies. 😉

    • bittster says:

      I agree. Even a browned stalk with barely a bloom on it is more interesting than a boring mulch bed, so I leave everything as well. Here and there a few things go, but most of it will stay all winter.
      I think I might be seeing the first couple migrating monarchs coming through. I’m worried they will just pass us by for wetter areas, which would be super disappointing since there are supposed to be a lot this fall. Have yo seen many?

      • Eliza Waters says:

        I have seen the most Monarchs since I became a milkweed gardener (when I saw zero one fall 5-6 years ago). Maybe a 6-12 a day, but it’s hard to say given they flit all around!

  6. Indie says:

    Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love foliage that turns color, and thankfully this year the dahlias and the cosmos are saving the day in the garden when other fall blooms are less than stellar this year. I am, however, also dreading the thought of trying to fit all of those tenders and tropicals into my basement…and somehow I collect a few more every year!

    • bittster says:

      Good luck with getting everything into the basement. This is the time of year when I think it’s not so bad, but then once the digging starts it seems like every ‘last trip’ into the garden finds another few things which will need to go in. I let quite a few things go last year. It wasn’t all bad, but I’m pretty sure I’ve replaced most of them over the summer 😉

  7. Gnat swarms! That explains the battalion of dragonflies that were suddenly swooping and diving across and around my backyard on several afternoons last week! I’d never seen such a thing before (there were more than a dozen of them) and had no idea what they were hunting. Thanks to you, now I know it must have been a gnat swarm. The dragonflies later departed as mysteriously as they’d arrived, but it was super-cool to see them hunt (and eliminate the gnats.) 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Oh how I wish I could summon dragonflies. There have been a few here and there but not enough to make a dent in the gnat supply. At this point I would welcome a Canadian swarm of mosquitos over these ignorant gnats. They don’t even respect DEET.

  8. Cathy says:

    Your tropical bed looks great even so late in the season. And the potager looks just as a potager should. I love autumn because it is finally cool enough to tidy up things and do some deadheading. I suspect you will end up keeping most of the cannas and worrying about space for overwintering. Oh, for a heated greenhouse! Enjoy the season Frank!

    • bittster says:

      Isn’t it great finally being able to tidy things up and have it last for more than just a few days? I’ve been starting on a few projects (rather than just finishing one up completely), and even between all the messes the garden already looks like someone’s finally making an effort out there.
      I hope you’re not tackling too many things in the new garden this fall. All that watering and worry over the summer has earned you a break!

      • Cathy says:

        Thanks Frank, but I am glad to be back outside now the temperatures are lower, although today is surprisingly warm. Just got some compost around new plants and ummmed and aaahed about whether to pick the last (green) tomatoes or wait a bit longer! 🙂

  9. I know what you mean about this “don’t care ” feeling that creeps over you at this time of year. For me it was reinforced by the unpleasant humidity that just won’t go away. Not usually a big fan of variegated plants, but I like that variegated obedient plant.

    • bittster says:

      I would agree that humidity is one of the least pleasant parts of summer gardening. In the midst of summer I can accept the instant sweat and all the dirt and chaff sticking to you as you toil away, but once September hits that’s it for me. I come to my senses regarding the humidity and realize it’e just not worth it!

  10. I love your wild garden! I’m waiting for rain and cooler temps so I can get my fall planting done and continue working on a huge project I’ve been puttering away at since last year. So happy to see those monarch caterpillars! Woohoo!

    • bittster says:

      I can’t wait to see your beds all filled with (healthy) color and life! You must be itching to see things finally come together.
      You made the right choice tackling all the not-so-fun stuff first, I was just looking at my yard last week and wondering if maybe I should have just brought in some heavy equipment years ago to “fix” a few things. I had no idea though, I just wanted to plant a few things and see it grow.

  11. I love your description of your pottager: ‘over the hill, flower filled and vegetable-free weedy mess’ perfectly describes my kitchen garden. I don’t hate autumn but feel guilty that I haven’t started the clean-up yet. Your fall garden is wonderful! P. x

    • bittster says:

      Haha, I’ve seen the latest pictures of your cottage garden and it still holds many delicious meals as well as an abundance of blooms! -and it still looks great. Mine has a few problems, the worst of which are the deer visits of the past few nights.
      I have lettuce to plant out, and if the deer get it I’ll be furious!

  12. pbmgarden says:

    Everything looks so compelling. I think going to the nursery each week in autumn and planting whatever looks nice is a good strategy.

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