Tuesday View: The Tropics 10.25.16

It’s a cold and breezy Tuesday this week, with a wind that makes you feel like change is a’comin to this end of Pennsylvania.  The forecast tonight is a dip below freezing and there’s a good chance this will be the last week a colorful and lush view shows up in Cathy’s weekly meme.  There are still a few weeks left to the season, but after frost hits the view will be decidedly less colorful.

tuesday view tropical plants

A gloomy, gray Tuesday afternoon.  The last of the autumn color has worked its way down the mountains and into the garden and things are entirely autumnal.  The wheelbarrow is covering the flowering thistle,  I’m hoping to get a few ripe seeds before it freezes.

Whether or not this turns out to be our killing frost remains to be seen, but with the cold wind blowing I’m completely indifferent.  Sunday was spent clearing the rest of the garden of everything I wanted to save, so now it’s just a matter of letting nature run its course.  Snow is predicted for Thursday so I guess I’m officially giving up 🙂

tropical annuals

One last view.  The tropics have been good to me this year.

So next week will likely show some serious changes.  Once frost hits I like to get things out of the way and cleaned up fast so that I can put down some mulch before winter hits.  Any unmulched areas will likely sprout a carpet of winter weeds such as hairy bittercress and I’d rather not start next season with that kind of a mess on my hands.  Wish me luck.

After you wish me luck please consider giving Cathy at Words and Herbs a visit to see how autumn is progressing through other gardens in other parts of the world.  It’s always a great visit and a fun way to keep up over the season.  Have a great week!

Tuesday View: The Tropics 10.19.16

I’m a day late in joining Cathy for the Tuesday view, but I think it’s just that time of year when things begin to unravel and go to seed so hopefully my tardiness will be forgiven.  Here it is!

tuesday view tropical plants

Autumn comes to the tropical garden

The view looks remarkably similar to last week’s with just a few more hints of autumn color in the background and a few more tints of brown in the front.  We had a slight frost last Monday and again on Friday but for the most part the garden is intact.

alocasia x portora

The tender new leaves of alocasia x portora took the low temperatures very seriously while the dahlias just shrugged them right off.  Serves me right for not bringing this elephant ear in earlier. 

Last week’s lows have been followed by a few warm days but I think the damage has already been done.  Most tropicals get all miffy once nighttime temperatures drop below 50 and I guess it’s time to start thinking seriously about bringing them in.

colocasia esculenta tropical storm

My newest elephant ear, colocasia esculenta ‘tropical storm’  is gaining back a little strength following a run in with spider mites.  I ended up snipping off all the foliage to get rid of them, now it’s a matter of hoping for the best over winter.

Even with some of the largest leaves showing a little frost damage, the cooler nights seem to intensify and brighten the last of the autumn colors.

knockout rose pennesitum

‘Knockout’ rose seems to get even brighter as the thermometer drops.  It’s a nice mix with the season long color of the Verbena bonariensis.

Although I made a good effort of removing most of the chrysanthemums from this bed, I did leave ‘Carousel’ for some late season color.  The plan was for it to carry on after frost blackened most of the other color in this bed, but here it is joining in as just another supporting player.  I like it for the long stems and late blooms which last into November but tolerate it for it’s floppy stalks and necessary June pinching.
chrysanthemum carousel

Chrysanthemum ‘Carousel’ opening up as one of the last floral events of the 2016 tropical border. 

‘Carousel’ is pretty much the only thing left to anticipate in the border, everything else is just finger crossing for additional days without frost.  We are into a slight Indian summer of warm, hazy days following our earlier run-in with cold, but even that is somewhat irritating as I like the cooler weather for transplanting, bulb planting, and fall foliage enjoying…. not that I’m complaining too much about having a few last drink nights out on the porch sans jacket 🙂

autumn dahlias border

Looking up towards the back end.  I love that all 6 feet of that annoyingly bright white vinyl fence is now hidden behind an interesting wall of greens and flowers.  And I love that I still have plenty of dahlias!

So here’s to another Tuesday view where the tropics are still green!  Long live summer and all the best for your upcoming week 🙂

Tuesday View: The Tropics 10.11.16

Tuesday is here and again I’m happy to join up with Cathy at Words and Herbs for the view.  Things still look warm, but the lows last night seem to have brought in the tiniest bit of frost which singed a few tomato leaves here and there in the vegetable garden.  We’re living on borrowed time!

tuesday view tropical plants

Still a tropical view.  The one kochia has gone brown, but the flowers and foliage of nearly everything else is all autumn abundance 🙂

I wish I had more to say but I’ve been distracted by the chrysanthemums and fall bulbs and time consuming things such as fall baseball and gymnastics.  I’ve also had a bulb buying relapse and in a weak moment ordered many more snowdrops than I could possibly need.  That and tulips… even though I recently said I wouldn’t buy any new ones this year.

My suspicion is that I’m the only one concerned about this latest purchase, but now that I think about it further (since I have absolutely no idea where to place these latest purchases), I wonder how the tropical border would look with a large swath of tulips and a small throw blanket of snowdrops.  I bet it wouldn’t look half bad!

Have a great week 🙂

Tuesday View: The Tropics 10.04.16

The nights have taken a turn towards cool here and for the first time it feels like the tropical bed is showing signs of autumn.  The winding down of the season is ok by me, but my fingers are crossed we don’t have a repeat of last year when a single 23F (-5C) night in mid October crushed all hopes for a mellow end to the season.  Frost is inevitable, but a brutal freeze?  Unnecessary.

Tuesday view tropicalismo

The Tuesday view on this first week of October

This Tuesday as I again join up with Cathy at Words and Herbs, I’d like to also give a nod to Eliza and copy her idea of showing a flashback to the earlier days of this season.  Everything looked so cute and tiny back in this last week of June.

 

Tropical garden

The first Tuesday view.  A few perennials making a show, but the only annuals visible are a flat of small orange zinnias, freshly planted out of their six-packs. 

Things have grown since then and one of my favorite growers has been the annual burning bush (Kochia scoparia).  One by one the individual plants in the seedling clumps I planted out are starting to color and I have to admit I like the look, even though the plants will go brown once they pass their peak of redness.

 

kochia scoparia

I love all these colors but last week the kochia at the lowest right of the clump was just at its peak.  Only seven days later and it has browned, so I hope the rest of the clump doesn’t follow as quickly. 

Sneaking up alongside the kochia is a new chrysanthemum seedling.  I evicted nearly all the mums from this bed earlier in the year, but I guess this one was small enough to miss.

self sown chrysanthemum

Not the greatest photo of it but a nice enough self-sown mum with small spoon shaped yellow petals.

Slightly less impressive are the late season flowers of ‘white frosted’ Japanese thistle.  There’s not much to them, and some might mention the word “weedy”, but I’m hoping for seeds since the spring variegation on these is great and my only other plant of this perennial thistle died during our relentless May rains.

'White Frosted' Japanese thistle (Cirsium japonicum).

The less than impressive flowers of ‘White Frosted’ Japanese thistle (Cirsium japonicum). 

There’s nothing less than impressive about the cannas and dahlias.  I know I constantly show the same combos, but….

canna Bengal tiger dahlia Mathew alen

Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ looking as variegated as ever alongside the deep red flowers of dahlia ‘Mathew Alen’.  The purple cloud of Verbena bonariensis has been going strong all summer.

The path up through the center takes a little maneuvering to get through.  The purple leaved cannas have pushed most everything out of their way, and the dahlias now sprawl across the path.

dahlias in the garden

Dahlias and verbena up through the middle of the tropical garden.

The resident hummingbirds headed south a few weeks ago and with the exception of a few last stragglers migrating through the flowers have been left to the sleepy bumble bees of autumn.  Monarch butterflies still stop in here and there, but it’s getting pretty quiet as things cool off.

dahlia sylvia

Dahlia Sylvia seems to make a nice spot for a bumblebee’s afternoon nap.

Sleepy bumblebees kind of sum up how I feel about the garden these days.  Maybe it’s allergies or lack of a good night’s sleep, but if you had to put me in camp grasshopper or camp ant I think I’m more of a grasshopper.  I’ll enjoy the sun and last bits of warmth while they last, and just have to hope for the best when the axe of winter falls.

Agriculture in Suburbia

This post was mostly finished last weekend but for some reason I never got around to publishing.  I wish I had a good excuse, but it might have just been one of those Sunday evening get ready for the workweek make lunches and clean the kids off from the weekend kind of things.  In any case here it is and to be honest I have little idea what I was talking about back then with all the design comments and self reflection.  Sometimes I really wonder where this stuff comes from, but regardless the pictures have me thinking of last June when the garden looked ready to die so let me just start off with a photo from then 🙂

dormant lawn

The beauty of the  garden in June.  Roadside daisies and dead grass.  Fortunately the rains came back in August, but not until all July passed and I reached the “wordless Wednesday: I hate gardening” stage.

It’s always nice to hear compliments about your garden, and I am one who by reflex nearly always shrugs them off or dismisses them.  I’m sure there’s some childhood trauma involved which has long been forgotten, but it’s my way and it’s a rare day when I can just accept with a thank you.  Now I’m not saying I get a lot of compliments, but I do get a comment every now and then about a nice design touch or a combination which actually worked out.  Those are the compliments I always downplay since I rarely (unless I’m doing it subconsciously) put a whole lot of thought into what goes where.  With few exceptions my design process revolves around having a new favorite plant in hand and then desperately needing a spot in which to cram it.  Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.

front street border

The front border in mid September.  If I had to put a name to this year’s design theory it might be something like ‘neglected agricultural’.

The front border along the street may not look brilliant, but it does look colorful, and with five months of winter breathing down my neck colorful is perfect.  Colorful and agricultural I suppose, since this years feature plant seems to be ‘Hot Biscuits’ amaranthus and in my opinion it either looks sort of farmyard weedy or like a particularly bright sorghum crop.  Ornamental or not I just can’t look away.  It’s big and bright and grainy and between it and the wheat-like feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) and the sugarcane-like giant reed (Arundo Donax) I feel like it’s almost harvest time out there.

front street border

The view from the street side.  The purple perovskia has seeded around a bit and put out a few runners, the purple coneflowers as well, but I’ve done essentially nothing here since March and I kind of like that.

I owe this year’s crop of ‘Hot Biscuits’ to my friend Paula who surprised me one afternoon with a packet of seeds in the mailbox.  I had grown it before and ended up losing it, but fortunately she had a few seeds to spare and sent them my way.  That was last year, and I efficiently killed all the seedlings which sprouted, but this year was a different story and I ended up with a few clumps of healthy seedlings.

hot biscuits amaranthus

Just the first of many amaranthus close-ups which will pepper this post.  No one could plan this combo since I’m sure it violates numerous design principles, but I just love it.

The amaranthus shows up here and there all along the border, which is probably a good thing since even the simplest design theorist will tell you it repeats and unifies a theme.  Repetition is important since this bed frequently suffers from “I always start from the driveway end and use up all the best plants there” syndrome.  The far end of the bed gets less weeding, less watering, less tending… it basically gets less of everything, so carrying the amaranthus theme all the way through helps hide the sparseness of the neglected end.

wine zinnia

Here in the preferred end of the bed are well tended seedlings of Benary’s Giant wine zinnias and the pink gomphrena ‘fireworks’.  These were the seedlings I was most excited about this year, so in they went first 🙂

I did have a few too many zinnias this spring so was pretty generous about placing them in the border, but when the Brenary’s Giant scarlet began to open next to the pink gomphrena I immediately cringed.  For about a week I thought it looked awful but now I quite like it.  It reminded me of the first time I saw pictures of some of the late Christopher Lloyd’s magenta and pink plantings at Great Dixter.  They also bothered me at first and I think my first thought was “grow up Chris and plant some lavender and white and pink instead of that mess”… but look at me now.

scarlet zinnia fireworks gomphrena

Scarlet zinnia with ‘fireworks’ gomphrena.  Am I suffering from retinal fatigue or does it actually look nice together?

Maybe the green lawn and the parchment color of the feather reed grass tames it a bit but between this and the orange of the amaranthus I’m just plain pleased.

scarlet zinnia karl forester grass

A very technicolor look with the yellow of the ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac across the lawn.

Here’s another amaranthus photo-bomb.

hot biscuits amaranthus

Looking down towards the ‘less interesting’ end of the border.

Ok. One last amaranthus photo.

hot biscuits amaranthus

From the neglected, far end of the border, more amaranthus 🙂

You may have noticed a bright golden patch of marigolds in the border.  The fall smack dab in the middle of my newfound love for the most offensively bright colors and I’m not sure I can resist planting a whole border of them next year.  I had to smuggle these seeds out of my stingy older brother’s garden last year and was lucky that a few sprouted and survived July’s dry spell.  He’s been letting them reseed for a couple years now and they still come up in a good range of colors on relatively short and large flowered plants.

marigolds tagetes

A few marigolds putting on a nice end of summer show.  More might be nicer, and by more I mean a whole border.

What to plant them with?  I think they’ll go at the far end of the border, alongside the bright gold of a juniper, but other than that I have no plans.  Should I back them up with some darker foliage plants?

img_3082

Korean feather grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) in front and pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ towards the back. With the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea it all looks very calm and refined, but I think a nice border of marigolds will give it a good jolt of color!

We will see what happens.  There’s a good chance it will all come down to whatever seeds sprout the best next spring, but in the meantime it’s nice to dream about having a more plan-comes-together kind of garden.  That is until the snowdrops bloom.  Once that happens my brain goes to mush and I’m lucky if I get anything planted 😉

Tuesday View: The Tropics 09.27.16

Of course it’s late, and of course I’ve left this to the last minute, but I’d really like to join in with Cathy at Words and Herbs and get my Tuesday view up on time.  I can’t be a day late with everything 🙂

tuesday view tropical plants

The last Tuesday view of September

Cathy’s view has hints of autumn this week and I believe the same is happening here.  The last two nights have been into the chilly zone, and friends North of here have had their first frosts.  In the mountains, the maples are beginning to show color this week and if I can hope for anything it’s that there will be for another two or three weeks before the first frost hits here.  It’s been a good run though, and I really can’t complain.

canna x ehemanii

My little Canna x ehemanii surprised me with a bloom this summer, hopefully I can overwinter it and have twice as big a plant next year.

Color is at a peak this week and most everything is doing its best to flower and seed out before the final axe of winter falls.  It’s a tropical garden after all, and there’s no long kiss goodnight.  The first frost means it’s over.

roses and dahlias

My unknown peachy dahlia with ‘Black Forest’ rose, ‘fireworks’ gomphrena, and peach colored salvia splendens.  Even though the light wasn’t too good for this photo the colors still just explode. 

So I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and enjoy each day.  Winter is too long to not soak up every last minute of summer (and this borrowed summer) while we still can.  Have a great week!

GBFD September ’16

Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day always sneaks up on me, it hits exactly at that point of the month where I start wondering where the month went and start panicking over the thoughts of yet another turn of the calendar page.  But I get over that pretty fast and although my posts are frequently late, Christina at Creating my own Garden of the Hesperides is always understanding, and so this month when she suggested that in spite of my tardiness I might still be able to sneak in even more tropical garden photos, I of course jumped at the idea.  The tropical plants really keep the garden fresh at this time of year, and their bold foliage looks big and unblemished and makes an excellent contrast to the seedheads and dying foliage of much of the rest of the garden.

canna indica pupurea

The purple cannas of the tropical garden (Canna indica pupurea?) look great as they catch the light.  I promise to not show them any more, but how bout this one last time 🙂

So this post was just going to be a pat on the back for foliage in the tropical garden, but then just like Christina suggests I started looking a little closer at how much foliage brings to the table as far as the overall garden picture…. but before that one more canna…

canna Bengal tiger

I might have talked to this Canna ‘Bengal tiger’ at some point, it’s like a close friend, and there’s nothing I don’t like about it.

So the canna foliage was a no-brainer, but there’s something else brewing in the tropics.  The Kochia continues to ignite as the season winds down.  Not exactly a contrast, this plant is starting to take center stage as an eye-jarring punch of color.  It was a lacy pale green all summer but now as it goes to seed the magenta capsules turn color and are soon followed by red tints in the foliage.

kochia scoparia

Kochia scoparia, the old-fashioned annual burning bush, creating a nice backdrop to pink gomphrena ‘fireworks’ and a just-opened autumn flush of flowers on the red rose ‘Black Forest’. 

A few tropical ‘fakers’ are also in the mix.  An unknown fig which defied all my neglect and poor caretaking just put out a nice new flush of large, lobed, leaves.  No figs of course, but the large leaves balance out all the seediness around them.

hardy fig

A hardy fig which was never supposed to make it (hence my losing the ID tag) now fills too much space in the vegetable garden.   

Besides the tropical ‘fakers’ there are also a few actual tropicals which end up outside of their main bed.  I have a habit of sticking cuttings in here and there and every now and then they take off to good effect.  Coleus are one of the easiest to just stick in here and there.

coleus redhead

Coleus ‘redhead’ is one of the best. Carefree, colorful, and I have yet to have it bloom and go to seed. It’s also a nice offset to the lacy cypress vine behind it and the bright marigolds in front.

I could probably put together a post made up entirely of bits and pieces which were stuck in around the garden, but as usual I’m going on to long.  Lets wrap it up with more coleus up on the deck.

coleus

If you need to know which one this is I’ll look it up, but for now I don’t have the patience to dig through my bucket o’ labels for the tag.  Needless to say it’s a good grower, bright, and also not overly anxious to send up flower stalks (and end the foliage show).

Other foliage on the deck includes my pet spikes.  They’re a great accent and just plain old cool looking as they keep getting bigger.  Some day they’ll wear out their welcome as far as being dragged indoors, but this winter they’re still A-list.

deck planters

Overgrown spikes in green and purple plus a potted oleander.  Not many flowers, but still a nice mix if you ask me.

Rosemary is also one of our must-haves for the deck.  It’s scented, always looks neat, and gets used quite a bit by our chef.

deck planters

Foliage on the deck includes the rosemary plus others such as the strappy leaves of vacationing amaryllis bulbs (hippeastrum) and other future spikes.  In the background you might notice the elephant ear sprouting up out of the geranium pot.  That’s what you get for reusing potting soil… elephant ears, caladiums, and reseeding million bells become your weeds 🙂

Finally as temperatures cool, the back porch becomes a perfect spot to soak up the last rays of the day.  The temperatures out back are comfortable this time of year and the low autumn light backlights the grasses and summer foliage.

deck planters

Upright elephant ears (Alocasia portora?) looking great in the afternoon light, and offsetting the airier grasses and geraniums nicely.

So I’m glad Christina convinced me to take a look around this month and keep an eye out for foliage.  It’s easy to forget how important it is to the garden’s overall presence, and paying attention is even more important when you’re so distracted by this and that flower coming into bloom and then fading away.  If I might suggest, why not give Christina a visit and see what else has come up this foliage day, with gardeners from across the globe checking in it’s always a nice time.

 

Tuesday View: The Tropics 09.13.16

Cathy at Words and Herbs has been following a weekly view of her garden throughout the season, and each Tuesday I’ve been trying to join in and keep track of my own weekly view in order to catalog the changes.  This week the roofers are next door and this afternoon they’ve made their way to the side where the tropical garden grows.

tropical garden

This afternoon’s view of the tropical garden.

Other than a few stray roof shingles and tar paper strips the garden has escaped damage, and that’s great because now is the time of year when every day is a celebration of summer and every night is a reminder that colder weather is on the horizon.  As nighttime temperatures cool off I’m beginning to notice a tint of red in some of the clumps of annual burning bush (Kochia scoparia).  Me thinks in a few weeks the ‘will it burn or will it snuff out’ question will finally be answered.

kochia burning bush

The clumps of burning bush (Kochia) are actually several seedlings all planted into the same hole. Most of the season they’ve appeared to be one big bush, but now a few here and there are going their own way and beginning to show color.

I can’t imagine these plantings will be as successfully bright as some of the photos I’ve seen online but if they’re halfway interesting I will be happy enough.  As it is their fluffy green mass has been a welcome green rest in an otherwise overloaded bed of color.

tall purple salvia splendens

One of the less-than-bright kochia seedlings.  More of a tan in my opinion, but things are all under a little stress here in the shadow of the canna clump…. with the exception of the tall purple salvia splendens seedling, it’s still doing just fine!

The rest of this post is gratuitous canna color.  I posted canna ‘Cannova Rose’ last week, but it’s still outstanding, and deserves another mention.

canna cannova rose

Cannas and dahlias with an orange zinnia and purple petunias.  The petunias were planted as petunia intergrifolia but I bet there’s something else in there as well, and that’s just fine since I like the bold mini-flowered purple groundcover it’s become.

Canna ‘Tropicana’ is always over the top.  I think you either love it or turn away in disgust, but either way it’s a bright tropical show.

canna tropicanna

Canna ‘Tropicanna’ in a bed of verbena and backed by one of those dark leaved, huge, grow-it-as-an-annual, Napier grasses (Pennisetum purpureum).  Hard to see in the picture, but the grass is just over five feet, so probably much bigger than you’d guess.

I know I’ve called Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ my absolute favorite canna, but there’s a new kid on the block this year.  Canna x ehemanii is an old hybrid which tops nearly every other canna in the gracefulness category.  I did not suspect my small plant would bloom this year but here it is opening its first flower.  A little short for this variety, but much easier to admire when it’s down here amongst us mortals 🙂

canna x ehemanii

I saw Canna x ehemanii growing in a corner of Chanticleer a few years back and have been looking for my own plant for years.  Once open its flowers will arch and hang with an amazing tropical grace that you’ll have to trust me on right now, but I’m sure more pictures will follow as it develops. 

We are into the one month countdown.  First frost typically hits around mid-October in these parts, and for as much heat and drought and storm this garden can take, it can’t take a hard freeze.  That’s a Tuesday view I’m not looking forward to.

In the meantime please give Cathy a visit and find out what she and other bloggers are seeing this Tuesday.  It’s a great way to keep up with the changes and really see just how much goes on in your garden!

Tuesday View: The Tropics 09.06.16

One of the benefits of regularly joining Cathy for the Tuesday view has been that little push each week to actually follow up on the observations made the week before.  The fear of confessing laziness and sloth publicly has been great for keeping on top of the weeding, deadheading, staking, and planting and it’s also a great regime for someone who goes through bouts of couldn’t-care-less and stretches of I’m-bored-with-this-garden-thing.   Now might be one of those bouts, and as the days grow shorter and our latest dry stretch begins to stress plants out again, I look at the water hose and then look at the recliner and typically chose the recliner.  So I apologize ahead of time if my mood comes through,  I’m sure colchicum season will come along soon enough and snap me back out of it.

Tuesday view

A quick picture taken this evening. I find the low sun angles to be absolutely disgusting and far prefer June.

The cannas keep going from strength to strength and I’m glad to see this bit of ‘Cannova Rose’ finally showing off.  It went through a rough spot which I suspect were the aftereffects of stray weed killer, but the latest bloom stalks look mostly normal… unless you’re really neurotic and notice that one stalk still has thinner petals and is quicker to fade…

canna cannova rose

Canna ‘Cannova Rose’, a newer seed strain which grows without complaint (even in cooler weather) but has been pointed out to have somewhat boring foliage. It looks nice with the first flowers of dahlia ‘Mathew Alen’… throw in a few orange zinnias and some purple petunia and you’ve got a nice patch of color.   

The dahlias are slowly starting up.  They seem late, but that would be because I planted them late, and there’s no sense in complaining about that now.  An earlier show would have been nicer is all I’m saying and of course next year none of this will be a problem since as of now next year is still perfect 😉

ball dahlias

Had they been staked properly this patch of ‘Sylvia’ and ‘Red Cap’ dahlias would have risen just perfectly amongst the cannas and verbena.  Who knows, maybe the red will still rise up a bit, but if it doesn’t serves me right for slacking.

I’m kind of at a loss as to why I’m down to just three or four dahlia varieties.  I’m sure in June I had a brilliant plan as to where they were placed and who their neighbors were, but now it seems to all be ‘Mathew Alen’.  Vaguely I remember thinking I was bored with a few and felt all empowered when I tossed them onto the compost pile, but naturally I just assumed things would come together later and there would still be a good bit of variety.  So much for that.  I guess it doesn’t help that several were swamped by other plants… but oh well, another serves me right moment.

colocasia esculenta tropical storm

Something for the future.  If this Colocasia esculenta ‘Tropical Storm’ can get through a serious spider mite infestation I’m sure it will be worth the $2 I spent.  My icecream cone was actually more expensive than this soon to be amazing plant 🙂

There’s only about another month and a half left in the tropical garden and it’s absolutely not the time of year to get into a ho-hum mood about things.  I really need to treasure every shortened day and to that end will keep reminding myself as I self medicate on fried foods, baked goods and chocolate.  Give me another week and I’m sure I’ll have come to terms with the waning season and maybe just maybe I can look forward to autumn.  Many people claim to enjoy that season and I guess it’s only fair I give it a try as well.

Have a great week!

Thursday’s Feature: The Three Cousins

The story of the three sisters of native American agriculture (corn-squash-beans) is a story which goes hand in hand with almost any elementary school lesson on the Pilgrims or Thanksgiving.  Northeastern tribes of Native Americans commonly grew the three crops together in the same mound, and as the corn grew up and the stalks provided support for the twining beans, the squash filled in along the ground and together the three crops coexisted peacefully, each filling their own niche.

This spring I rebuilt the rebar arbor which marks the entrance to the vegetable garden and this summer three vines are working their way up and over the arch.  They don’t coexist quite as peacefully as the three sisters and they’re far less useful in the kitchen, but I like them well enough anyway and even if they never make an appearance on the back of a Sacagawea coin I guess we can say they’re close enough to be called cousins at least.  The three cousins are Cypress vine, Love in a Puff, and Red Noodle bean, and all I can think of is how great common names can be 🙂

rebar arbor

After struggling for four years with an arbor that fell over each spring, I finally put in the effort to set the base in concrete.  The jury is still out on whether it will survive this spring thaw or not any better, but since the jury is still also going back and forth between rustic and ugly, survival may not matter either way.  

There are many a more floriferous trio for a trellis, but for some reason I love the mixes of foliage, flowers, and fruit of these three cousins.  The bright scarlet flowers of the cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) sparkle alongside its soft ferny foliage and contrast nicely with the puffy green globes of love in a puff (Cardiospermum halicacabum)  and the dark red pods of the red noodle beans (Vigna unguiculata… aka asparagus bean… aka yardlong beans).

red noodle bean flower

The pale lavender flowers of the red noodle bean only open in the morning but they look just right mixed in with the ferny cypress vine foliage.

I wish I could take credit for this combo, but in all honesty I saw it a few years ago on Nan Ondra’s blog.  As it is with these things a single picture got stuck in my head and then over the next several years the radar stayed tuned in to find seed for the three components.

cypress vine, red noodle bean

The red “noodles” of the asparagus bean stretch anywhere from a foot and a half to nearly two feet.  The arbor is starting to look pretty cool with all these red beans dangling down.

Right now I think it’s the noodle beans stealing the show and I wish I had a few better photos, but the ones from this afternoon just didn’t make the cut and then the daylight called it quits on me.

red noodle bean

I think the beans are cool, but the hummingbirds much prefer the cypress vine flowers.

As I think further on it each of the three cousins also provides something more than just looking pretty.  The beans are edible (and some say have an excellent taste if picked small), the hummingbirds love the cypress vine, and the kids love picking and popping the puffs.  It is a useful trio and it’s likely they’ll show up here for many a year to come… if only because (with the exception of the beans) I haven’t planted a thing on this trellis for three years and there are still more than enough seedlings each spring to fill the ranks.

So there they are, the three cousins as my feature for Kimberley’s Thursday Feature meme, and although they are technically three entries it’s nearly impossible to separate them so I think I’m good to go.  If you think you’re good to go might I suggest a visit to Kimberley’s blog?  She encourages us to look around each week and find something which grabs our attention in the garden and it’s always interesting whether you’re just visiting or joining right in.