September flew by and now it’s October.  Autumn, and for maybe the first time in forever I’m glad to be done with summer.  Maybe.

colchicum with groundcover

Colchicum ‘Lilac Beauty’ coming into full bloom against the blue of leadwort(Ceratostigma plumbaginoides).  I think I show this scene every year, I like it.

It’s been chilly and gray and rainy and within 5 days I had my fill of autumn and started thinking about snowdrops and even colder weather.  Cold I don’t really mind, it’s these depressing dark days which wear me down and I can’t imagine “living” somewhere with endlessly gloomy weather.

colchicum speciosum

A colchicum speciosum which came as ‘bornmuellerii’ but might not be.  The yellow next to it is a Sternbergia lutea, a fall blooming crocus look-alike which I need more of.

The gloom and rain also makes the lawn explode into growth and I’ve mowed it more times in the last month than all summer, and between that and the endless construction, and cleaning out the house next door, and making room for another person’s everything, and work, and lawyer talk, and explaining geometry and biology every night to a 14 year old, well I guess I know why September flew by.  Good thing for colchicums and all those other autumn goodies, they sure make up for a less than complete daylily farm!

Colchicums by the driveway and a few 40% off goodies which I of course don’t need, but at least won’t need cramming into an already overfilled basement.

So it’s busy here and a new normal is setting in and a change of seasons might not be the worst thing to keep everyone moving along.  The colchicums kicked off autumn and now hardy cyclamen and autumn flowering crocus and chrysanthemums are making it into a party.

Most of this would be fine in the open garden, but I do like having the most special of things all in one single protected space. Maybe next year I’ll evict the camellia seedlings and give them a try in the open garden.

Besides the miracle of copious rain, and its explosive effect on the lawn, the rain also performed a little miracle in the potager.  It’s nothing to impress a Southerner, but having any kind of red spider lily in bloom this far north is something I did not expect to ever actually have happen but it did.  Maybe there’s hope for it establishing.  I wouldn’t complain if it settled in here, but knowing that the second bulb was also doing well up until it rotted last summer is giving me a few serious doubts.

Lycoris radiata, the red spider lily. Winter foliage will grow in another few weeks and then look miserable all winter as it wishes it were still south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Elsewhere in the garden the colors are all autumn and the vibe is all seedy.

Along the street the ‘Sunnyside Up’ pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is as lovely and promiscuous as ever. Unlike everything else here it didn’t even seem to mind the heat and drought this summer.

Even after a summer of neglect and weeks of triage watering there were still plenty of things which bounced back.  The front border looks full and the potager is an overgrown mess.  It might not be as tusnami-of-chlorophyl as previous years but I can deal with it.

I didn’t expect Geranium ‘Rozanne’ to endure the drought like it has, but it looks great and seems to have been reborn this October.


Maybe the thousands of dollars spent watering were worth it here in the potager… things limped through the heat and then made for one last hurrah now that it’s cool and wet.

tropicanna canna

For the last two or three weeks you can’t even tell the cannas and dahlias spent all June and July in misery. Stunted plants aren’t the worst thing for a gardener who never got around to staking.

Progress on the daylily farm hasn’t been as swift as I had hoped for.  My sole employee gets a list each weekend, but then when Sunday afternoon rolls around it’s like he didn’t even have a list, since it’s been mostly ignored for two days and nothing was done.  Last weekend he made a good point about taking a few cuttings and carrying in a few pots instead but he really could have done a little more in the digging department on top of that.  Perhaps this weekend I’ll take him out back and give him a serious talking to.  Hopefully he’ll see the light, and hopefully back there no one will see me mumbling to myself again.  

new daylily bed

Ok, I distinctly remember my mother in law saying ‘I don’t care, as long as it looks nice you can plant whatever you want’ a couple months ago when I asked about planting some coleus in her planter.  Maybe I took that out of context, but so far there have been zero comments about a daylily farm going in on the side of her house.

So maybe the daylily farm will be ready by next spring, and maybe it will not.  Whatever happens I’m sure it will mostly complement the tropical bed which has also somewhat revived from the rain… and is also just across the property line, in my mother in law’s yard…

tropical bed

Not a whole lot of tropicals in the tropical bed this year, but even the tropics have their run-down, abandoned-farm kind of areas.  Thankfully there’s more yellow pokeweed here weeding around and complementing the red roses and purple verbena.   

While the stunted cannas here bring me down a bit, it’s my Queen of the Prairie statue which brings on the only commentary about this bed.  The statue has been called creepy, and it’s been questioned as to why it faces her kitchen window but that’s just coincidence and I think she looks pensively thoughtful and pleasant.

prairie queen statue

Although no one insisted the Queen remain in our living room I don’t think anyone expected her to be evicted to the back lawn once we bought the house.  Personally I think she’s enjoying her trip back to the earth.

Something else who’s days are numbered are the tropical pots.  Time to start thinking about who is freezing, who is becoming a pot of cuttings, and who is getting hauled back in for the winter garden.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone that things have multiplied and been added to.

red cane begonia

Obviously this begonia needs to come inside.  What soul-less heathen would let frost touch it while it’s flowering its head off?

The new angel’s trumpet in a (heavy)20 inch pot looked much less alarming as a little free cutting last fall, and a couple elephant ear divisions were never expected to fill one entire half of the garage but then it happened.  Better safe than sorry is what I always like to think, so of course they’re all going to get safe winter homes.

pink brugmansia

In May I almost let spider mites kill this.  “pinch off all the leaves, soap it down, and fertilize and water the sh!t out of it and it will be fine” was the excellent advice I received.  It would look even better if i didn’t forget to fertilize the last few weeks and missed a few waterings…

Other things are also finding their way in for the winter.  If it’s an early freeze things might be easier, but if it’s a late freeze I’ll have way too much time to soften up and say what’s the harm in one more?

red suntory mandevilla

I hope this red mandevilla can survive the winter with me.  Previous attempts have failed but how can I not try?

There’s always room for one more and it’s good to have all these things going on to carry us through the next month.  Each month has it’s own surprises, and even if I didn’t need the surprise water heater replacement yesterday, having hot water again is almost as nice as a house packed full of somewhat appreciative houseplants and a garage full of sleeping bulbs and tubers.

Hmmm.  I didn’t even think about digging things yet.  That might be a November, as the snow flies, kind of project and I’ll wait until then to worry about it.  One month at a time, right?

20 comments on “October

  1. Every variegated pokeweed I’ve tried, including Sunnyside Up, never survives the winter for me. Of course, the regular pokeweed does just fine, in all the wrong places. I think the problem is winter wet, not cold per se. Or perhaps I should say mud season.

  2. AWESOME POST! Glad to see one of your Spider Lilies survived and bloomed! I had them in my yard when I lived in Mississippi. Actually, they popped up in most yards. I miss seeing them here. I was also surprised when I saw the Pokeweed. You may laugh, but I never cut one down They come up in the same places every spring, even the HUGE plant next to the house. Right in front so everyone who drives by and sees it thinks I am nuts. Your pottage looks great! Well, your beds always look great, and I am drooling over the cyclamen. Your yard reminds me of mine when I was in Mississippi and what I was working on. Only in the back yard because to them I was a yankee. 🙂 I am ready for summer heat to be done, and we have had much cooler temps as well. But, unlike you, we haven’t had any rain for a while. I have neglected to much this summer and started off bad because the mower broke down right off the bat. I have been battling crabgrass all summer and it has finally stopped growing. Wishing you the best always!

    • bittster says:

      Haha, here the rains came just in time for the crabgrass to put out a bumper crop of seed, which the sparrows love so I can’t complain too much, and for the lawn to need mowing every five days or so…. which will be annoying now that it’s been eight days since the last cut, so that should be a mess! Hope you get some rain though, drought gets old real fast.
      I lived in Texas for a couple years and always hid most of the garden out back. That way I could do stupid things like look at plants in the most brutal heat without being judged, and plant native weeds which all the neighbors were rounduping so they could plant more monkeygrass. Good times!

  3. Cathy says:

    Sounds like you have a lot on your plate at the moment, but escaping to the garden is such good therapy and you have so many lovely plants to tend! The Lycoris is rather special. Maybe I’ll try and grow some one day. And the tropical bed has bounced back too. We had a wet September after a very dry summer as well, and quite a few of my plants made a final effort too – I was relieved, as I thought a lot of them would just shrivel up and die! Rozanne is one that seems to go on relentless in my garden too. I had to look up pokeweed. 😉 Good luck with getting the Mandevilla through the winter. It’s a pretty shade of red. 😀

    • bittster says:

      The garden is a nice escape, but this year I won’t mind putting it to bed and taking advantage of the slower pace of autumn and winter. Fortunately with a good amount of perennials i can cheat a little and let things take care of themselves for a few months without them looking too bad, and the other stuff can just get pulled after frost and forgotten. The snowdrops will need attention, but that’s where I don’t mind a little fussing and tending, even though they would probably do just as well without me 😉
      We had a fairly normal, dry summer. I think it just seemed brutal because the past two or three summers were consistently rainy so that things were lush all year. I expect it’s anyone’s guess what next summer will bring!

  4. Paddy Tobin says:

    Your garden has come into October in far better condition than ours here. We visited a garden, where there are plant sales, during the week. It was less than an hour away but we were amazed at the lush growth there and the obvious lack of impact from the drought of the summer with lush growth everywhere and many plants still in good condition and in flower…much like yours. I love the colchicums!

    • bittster says:

      Isn’t it even more irritating when gardens just a few miles away get perfect weather and you’re left to shrivel up and suffer? Here the mountains are often lush and green while we are hot and dry in the valley.
      I’m very grateful for the rains which greened us up last month. Going into winter with a bare lawn and a weak chrysanthemum show would have been frustrating!

      • Paddy Tobin says:

        I visited a garden about 45 minutes north of us a fortnight ago and it was perfectly lush; great growth on shrubs and trees etc. Pfffffffffff!

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    Impressive lot of colchicums, Frank. Sounds like you are as busy as ever. I myself also enjoyed the minimal mowing this summer required, and was actually relieved to wake up to frost this morning (what is wrong with me??) … my first thought was good, that’ll slow the lawn down, but then I looked at my cutting bed and felt badly. Oh, well, the end was inevitable in this climate. Good luck with your fall plant migration!

    • bittster says:

      I just noticed the dahlias froze earlier in the week. Sad, but like you it’s almost a relief to move past this summer! Fortunately only a few of the (way too many) plants which still need to migrate in had any damage. I think there’s at least a week of warmer weather, but in my usual Saturday morning optimism I think they’re all going to get taken care of this weekend 😉

  6. Your garden looks like a lush colorful paradise compared to mine. But maybe that’s because I don’t plant nearly as many blooming plants as you. But I do need to get more fall blooming bulbs in the ground. Waited too late to order what I wanted. Yours are such a great inspiration. That Angle’s Trumpet is one of the best colors I’ve seen. Love that soft edging. I’ve brought Begonias indoors to see if I can keep them alive until the spring. A drop in the bucket compared to your indoor plants and garden projects.

    • bittster says:

      We are only now seeing the foliage change on the red maples, so probably not as far along as you, and I think that extra week or two of warmer weather makes a huge difference in how lush the garden looks… and I do still go through all that yearly tropical planting so that keeps it lush here as well 😉
      Keep me in mind this weekend though, as you enjoy a warm mug while contemplating the brisk weather and consider the fallen leaves. I have to deal with all that lushness this weekend as I lug the bigger stuff in, look at the dozens of heavy succulent pots, and not even think of the bulbs to plant and cannas to dig. Fortunately if I let it all go it’s only a disappointment and can be replaced, and it’s not like I’ll ‘lose the farm’ or something!

  7. Kerry says:

    Your potager looks so lush! Wishing you much luck with the plant migration (that mande villa looks well worth the effort!) I’m still debating whether to bring in a couple ferns that are still beautiful…I just know they’re going to make a mess in my basement!

    • bittster says:

      Thanks! I’m lucky in that the mess my plants make is usually in the garage, and I can use a leaf-blower to clear it up real quick. Between all the salt and mud that comes in during the winter, the dried leaves and miserable plants are easy to ignore.

  8. It looks fabulous! By the way, I am in LOVE with Geranium ‘Rozanne’ which this was my first year growing. Planted some in spring from Robin Parer’s nursery, and added more in early summer when Bluestone ran a sale. It has literally not stopped blooming for 4 months. I did have to cut it back severely in…hmm…I think it was late July because the crabgrass and stiltgrass had invaded that bed, but “Roz” just kept pumping out new growth and buds even though we had no rain and my so-called watering is erratic. I am curious to see when it finally does stop; my bet is not until at least the second hard freeze. Unbelieveable plant!

    • bittster says:

      She’s still blooming here! Even after a couple hard frosts, but I suspect the last few days of warmer weather have helped. I might also try cutting back next summer. This year the beds were a mess, so it wasn’t really noticeable, but I can see there’s a bit of ugliness down there and I think a good august haircut would have helped.
      I’m really trying to keep the stiltgrass at bay. Last summer there were a few larger patches but I hit them with the string trimmer just as the seed heads were coming up and I think that helped (a little). The dry summer might have also helped… who knows… I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it, I’m just aiming for a little control.

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