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 😉

21 comments on “A First Day of Autumn Tour

  1. Pauline says:

    Your garden is looking wonderful with so much colour, I’m sure all your garden visitors really enjoyed looking round. Thanks for the virtual tour. What is the tall cream feathery plant to the left of your sand path?

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Pauline! The (excessively) tall plant is the giant reeds grass Arundo donax ‘Peppermint Stick’. I love it but that might not be the best spot for it 😉

  2. Cathy says:

    It looks wonderful after such a damp summer Frank. Yes, mosquitoes are a problem but the garden has lapped it all up…. even that six inches which is a lot! The sand path is a great idea and looks very nice. I bet your visitors enjoyed the tour more than you know and are still talking about it. It really is lovely, especially the Caladiums. I think you could be coming round to enjoying autumn after all… good luck with the bulb planting!

    • bittster says:

      Thanks and I think your’e right. If it weren’t for the bugs and endless clouds I believe my mood would be much better… and its already much better than its been in previous years!
      The chrysanthemums are starting. They’re kind of a diseased mess with all the rain, humidity and overly lush growth, but it’s one last thing to keep me distracted from the end of the year 🙂

  3. Paddy Tobin says:

    I don’t think I have ever seen the garden look so well as it is now. The colchicums especially take my eye and have me jealous with desire. There are several that I have never heard of and certainly have not seen them offered for sale at this side of the Atlantic. I agree that ‘Norah Lindsay’ is an excellent garden plant and I find it very good to stand up while many are flopping about.

    • bittster says:

      It’s a little backwards that my garden looks better at this time of year, but that’s probably because it takes me so long to get things under control each year. although the winter weeds are sprouting, for the most part I’ve either wrestled control or given up on the most troublesome areas, and the trees and shrubs are not growing as explosively as they do in July. I’m glad you like the colchicums. If your obsession continues I suspect you’ll be much more successful in adding new ones. Here anything unusual is a struggle to get, and small growers are almost non-existent.
      But on the plus side I finally have the basic collection down, and now it’s all unusual and exotic bonuses as I add anything new!

      • Paddy Tobin says:

        I have had a Dutch supplier of colchicums recommended in the last few days and I will be able to add a good number of cultivars next year.

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    It appears that you and your garden are having a phenomenal fall. All that rain I do envy. Our area is so dry we didn’t have much of a mosquito problem if that tells you something. Luckily we are now getting a small amount of rain as our area is riding on the edge of a cold front.
    Isn’t it the most fun to have like minded people come tour your garden. I think it is the most fun to hear comments about the garden especially since they are usually the most kind comments. 😉 I always like to see what bloggers write about garden tours. Often you really see what they see through their cameras eye.
    Your colchicum collection is one of dreams come true. All of your caladiums look happy with their summer. I hope you find room to store everything. That is one reason why I try not to keep too many plants I have to bring inside. My home is not large enough or bright enough for most plants.
    I have a HUGE sago palm that needs a new home. It takes up way too much room. I am reluctant to let it go though. I have had it since it was a tiny start.
    You must know that I wouldn’t *ahem* doubt your choice of path material. I am so glad that you have shown your finished product and explained it so well. It looks well built and quite fashionable. I am pleased to see that it doesn’t look like sand. I just couldn’t see it in my minds eye when you first spoke of it.
    Your tower of black eyed susan vine should be shown in a seed catalog to entice people to grown it. I don’t have enough sun to create such a masterpiece. As beautiful as it is I do shudder when I see that morning glory. It took me 20 years to get the morning glories removed after my experiment with them.
    Cheers and beers…

    • bittster says:

      Lisa I was very nervous about trying out a morning glory! The seeds sat for a year before I reluctantly put them in a pot. The ones I have this year are all self-sown but theses Japanese sorts do not seem to seed as aggressively as the usual ones. I might try and rip them all next spring just to keep tabs on them… no sense in tempting fate!
      I hope you had some more rain in the meantime. A dry fall is not something I look forward to, as everything kind of gives up on its own rather than fighting to hang until the last breathe. I much prefer a few rains to keep the fall transplants and seedlings growing happily.
      On the other hand the rain we’ve had is ridiculous. We had another inch and a half Tuesday. The back lawn finally dried enough to mow yesterday. Of course the rain has kept me mowing endlessly all summer.
      I feel your pain regarding the sago. My mother was stuck with a huge golden barrel cactus on her windowsill for decades as it grew up from a two inch pot that my brother picked up during his elementary school days. Finally when my brother settled down and the kids were past infancy she convinced him to finally take it away. I think it only lasted another two or three years under his care.
      I’m much more ruthless. I ‘forget’ things outside ever fall and shovel prune tons of things when I redo a bed. I have enough clutter around the house, I don’t need to add plants to that list!
      Have a great weekend 🙂

  5. Ahh! So you DID order some bulbs–I somehow suspected as much! I really have to get a bulb order together, like TODAY!
    So, here’s what you do if you don’t want morning glories to overrun your garden — get a family of woodchucks!
    My caladium plan is to take the bulbs out of the pots, let them dry a bit, and store them in the cool-ish basement for the winter. Maybe I’ll leave one group in the pot, actually, to see which way works better. I’m really happy with mine and glad I grew them, even if it did take forever and a day for them to get started! I would have expected that the pinks would be my favorites, but you know what? ‘Red Flash’ is Fantastic!
    My Colchicum are blooming now, and the very few people who have seen it have oohed and ahhed! I may need more! Where do you get yours?
    The castor bean is so dramatic–a woman at our farm market was selling them this summer, and I was sorely tempted, but I knew we were having a visit from our niece and her two very inquisitive, explorative, sensory-oriented toddlers this summer and it just seemed wise NOT to have something quite so toxic around!
    Your front border looks gorgeous, and so well sculpted! I just don’t seem to have the talent for nice neat edging.
    I see you have a balance beam and mats out there–you don’t need a couple more mats, by any chance? I’m looking to give ours away.
    I personally love the combination of the lavender-pink colchicum and the floppy yellow mums, though it reminds me more of Easter than fall!
    I hope you continue to enjoy the fall. I’m slowly getting there, myself–I may even double mask up and go buy some pumpkins and mums today, and I’ll even change my little garden flag to the one that says Happy Fall!

    • bittster says:

      I forgot to ask about the mats when you were here. Let me see if Paige wants another one or two…. I hope she doesn’t, it seems I drag them around a lot more than she does!
      I told my brother that he needs castor beans next year for exactly the same toxic reason you won’t plant them. No! He doesn’t have small children visiting, he has hordes of deer which are even worse than yours. Maybe a few beans will teach them a lesson to stay away…

  6. Oh, fun story–a friend recently stopped by and was admiring some things in pots on my deck. Everything she pointed out came from you–the green and white Wandering Jew, the pink-ish coleus, and the paddle succulent! It was like a mini-tour of your garden, at someone else’s house, lol!

  7. TimC says:

    Things look terrific! Very well done. I don’t think any amount of rain would lead to a comparable result here; not sure my garden has a peak, but if so, now is not the time, although the persicaria orientalis here is doing its bit for adding color and height. Your colchicums continue to impress, I’m envious. I might be able to compete in the mosquito category, however.

    • bittster says:

      I think the mosquitos have only gotten worse over the last weeks… It doesn’t help that our 10 day forecast reads cloudy, cloudy, partly cloudy, cloudy, cloudy, partly cloudy….rain… more clouds…

  8. It looks absolutely fabulous. I am sure you got lots of oohs and aah from the visitors. The Colchicums are gorgeous. I only have a couple of them but I realize I haven’t seen them yet. We are around 11 inches below normal for rainfall, so six inches in a short time sounds nice to me. After 2 and 1/2 inches a week ago, the ground is still bone dry. First bulb order planted but the bigger one and some plants are still to come. Temps only in the 60s this week and cloudy. I want at least 70 and sun to lure me outdoors.

    • bittster says:

      70 and sun sounds excellent. We’ve had the 70 part, we just need a few more glimpses of sun since at this point I barely remember what it looks like. I swear many plants here are stretching and getting spindly because of the endless clouds.
      Nice that you have the first bulb order in the ground already! I have a few daffs coming, but with weather and shipping delays they haven’t made it here yet… which is kind of nice because I have no idea where they’re going, and without the bulbs here I don’t have to struggle with that guilt yet 🙂

  9. Oh my gosh, everything looks so NEAT (in both senses of the word!) I am both impressed and embarassed at the same time, lol. And you have absolutely sold me on colchicums with those pics, especially Faberge Silver. I’d been considering colchicums because they are pest-proof (between the rabbits and squirrels, I have given up on other bulbs) but at the moment I don’t have enough “other stuff” for the stems to come up through and be supported. Oh, and I am a big fan of Japanese morning glories too, though sadly they have never reseeded for me at all. Wouldn’t mind if they did! Murphy’s Law strikes again.

    • bittster says:

      heh heh, you would be much less impressed to see the garden this week 😉 Rain and clouds have everything falling over and molding up. I just hope the chrysanthemums can pull through and open a few flowers before they loose all their foliage to disease.
      When you’re ready to give colchicum a try let me know, I know a guy lol

  10. Eliza Waters says:

    Always a pleasure to see one of your updates, Frank. Your garden is looking great, despite the slide towards dormancy that we know is coming. 😦 I’m glad you had a good turnout for the garden tour. You put a lot into your garden and sharing is a self-satisfying reward.
    The weather, while warmer than in previous Sept., does look like it is taking a turn towards fall. It was so hot this summer, I must admit that fall is sounding pretty nice. Already, the cooler days have made me a happier gardener. Fall is still a scramble, second only to spring rollout. Lots still left to do.
    I’m taking a poll: What are your favorite shade perennials? Over the years, as trees around my yard have grown, I have less sun, so a few ailing beds need updating, so I’m open to feedback. My handicaps are they must be slug and deer resistant… which narrows the field considerably.

    • bittster says:

      Kind of a late reply but…. 🙂
      I don’t know if solomon seal is deer resistant, but maybe there are enough better things for them to munch on. I think epimediums are though, and I think if I were looking for something that takes a lot of abuse I’d give more of them a try. They do need a cutting back in the spring to clean them up but honestly I usually just run them over with the mower on mulch and I’m done with it. Of course I almost always do it too late and end up mowing the first few flower stalks!
      I’m still ignoring all the work that needs to be done. Warmer weather is wonderful in helping me ignore the oncoming cold 😉

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