Fall

So here I am, finally forced to use the new block editor for WordPress. I don’t like it. Everything is adrift in a sea of white and I can’t fix how the photos and captions are displayed. There is no desire in me to be a web designer, I just want to post a couple pictures and write a few comments and since I’m struggling with that I’ll just assume it’s too smart for me.

Feather reed grass along the street. Things are looking autumnal.

I just want to complain. I don’t like it. I want menus and boxes and structure, not symbols and icons and dots that I somehow have to know to click on… or double click on… or whatever alt hold and click combo I’m supposed to just know or remember or whatever.

The front border from the other side. I’m quite pleased, but this is all the beginning of the end, as things color up, dry up, and die off…

Why the heck does everything need to be in stupid blocks!? I don’t like it. I just want it to be intuitive and let me write and I can throw in a picture whenever I want. Now I have to add a stupid photo block and then start a paragraph block and then go on to the next block. I seriously had less trouble editing html code than I do with this cloud of one size fits all.

chrysopsis Heterotheca villosa ruth baumgardner
Heterotheca(aka Chrysopsis) villosa ‘Ruth Baumgardner’. Still glowing brightly from the end of the front border.

I’ll stop now. I don’t like it. Maybe what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, but that’s not exactly the kind of win-win scenario I strive for either so… on to the fall garden. It’s here. It’s winding down. Still colorful, but fading fast. All the smarter plants are packing it in for the winter they know is coming, but the foolish tropicals are still carrying on like there’s always a tomorrow.

dahlia happy single flame
Dahlia happy single flame. This one always seems at its best during the last weeks of fall.

The tropicals were saved at the last minute by some rain and an almost-but-not quite-frost. The rain was just in time, but late September would have been tragically early for a frost date. Only a few things were touched though so I’ll count my blessings, especially since others North and South of us were not as lucky.

white cactus dahlia
The last big hurrah for dahlias and the red rose ‘Black Forest’ isn’t doing too bad either.

I’m enjoying the final flowers, but I’m afraid sometimes the impression is that everything is an overflowing wonder of color and interest in this garden. Angles and cropping make a big difference. The photo above vs the photo below shows how the full clump of big white dahlias looks much thinner and poorly staked from a different angle.

autumn dahlia garden
Things look a lot gappier from the back. Honestly everything is too close to the path and a mess, but at this time of year who really cares? I’m just enjoying the color.

The lack of big tropicals in the tropical border this year bothered me for a little bit, but I’m not going to miss all the canna root digging and elephant ear lugging that normally happens in October. It still looks fake-tropical lush with grasses and pokeweed, but my big plant of happiness is the non-tropical ‘Michigan hardy’ cardoon seedling which will hopefully prove to be more hardy than previous seedlings. It’s become a monster and I wonder if I’ll ever hope that winter takes this one out like it has all my others.

hardy cardoon
This is another really nice camera angle. All year I hated how this combo worked (or didn’t work), but here at just the right angle the cardoon is nestled in perfectly between grasses, pokeweed and dahlias.

I reeeeaaaallly like the cardoon although again it’s one of those spiny, pokey, too-big, weedy looking, things that takes up all the room that a peony could shine in, but… let’s just move on. The potager still looks respectable even if a few too many ‘Hopi Red Dye’ amaranthus were allowed to grow in all the wrong places.

the potager pergola
Parts of the potager are still neat and weed free. Let’s hope I can keep this up for a second year!

We’re still picking a few things such as eggplant and tomatoes but for me the chrysanthemums and gourds are so much more entertaining. Now that fall transplanting season is upon us it will take resolve of steel to keep from filling all the beds with tulips and transplants of everything which would likely do better in more cultivated soil.

diy pergola
The raised beds are nice, but my favorite spot is the pergola. Already I’m wondering what to do with the four corners next year!

A bed or two of phlox, multiple beds filled with tulips, a few for chrysanthemums, maybe just a few coleus here and there ūüôā

hardy chrysanthemums
Last year annual salvia dominated, this year the dry weather stunted the salvia seedlings and left an opening for mums and verbena.

Just is case you’re wondering how my feelings towards the new editor are going… I don’t like it…. but what I do like are colchicums. And just typing the word immediately lowered my blood pressure a bit and made the three days I’ve been screwing around with this post seem just a little less wasted.

colchicum flowers
The last of the colchicum with a leaner sister of the big lusty cardoon that’s growing in the tropical bed. I think this is mostly ‘Nancy Lindsay’ and maybe ‘Lilac Wonder’?

I really try to avoid showing the same plant again and again, but the dry, cool weather has the colchicums lasting and lasting. So here again is my group of C. speciosum giganteum group.

colchicum speciosum gigantea group
Colchicum giganteum still looking good after two weeks.

And although my friend Cathy grows this one much better than I do, Colchicum autumnale album plenum is slowly spreading into a small clump that will hopefully some day become a small drift of white.

colchicum autumnale album plenum
Colchicum autumnale album plenum

And one more. C. speciosum ‘Atrorubens’ came up pale but has now darkened down to a rich color which bleeds onto the stem almost to the ground.

colchicum speciosum atrorubens
Colchicum speciosum ‘Atrorubens’

Oh and one other announcement. After about ten years of holding onto an old shower door, two years of thinking I should use it for a coldframe, and four weekends of staring and planning and considering, the coldframe is finally done. “What took so long?” you ask… well I don’t know. I’ve just been lazy.

diy coldframe
It took forever for me to figure out how to use the hoarded door, wood scraps, and salvaged pink marble to build… but once the last screw was in it took me about 15 minutes to fill it with plants.

In case you’re wondering, the door slides flat in order to cover the plants, it’s just folded up right now to enjoy the sun and breezes of autumn… and since I look at it multiple times a day, I might as well leave it open anyway. I like it. I’m happy it’s done, and with that albatross off my neck I’m free to do more fun-erer things until the next simple project weighs me down.

homegrown gourd harvest
As soon as I finished basking in the glow of a project done, and congratulated myself one last time, it was time to harvest the gourds. An excellent haul me thinks!

I noticed the pink marble of the coldframe isn’t quite as pink as it could be and what’s the sense of a marble coldframe if everyone doesn’t realize it’s marble? I worry that garden tours will pass by and think it’s just fieldstone or any old stone block or something, and that could be embarrassing… especially after they’ve experienced the fancy that is our potager. Perhaps this weekend’s to-do list will have to start with some powerwashing. I’m sure in the grand scheme of gardening tasks which I neglect, powerwashing the blocks under a crusty little coldframe is the most effective use of my gardening energies. On a side note, it’s obvious why I could never do this professionally.

new england aster alma
“Alma Potschke” New England aster along the runoff path for the gutters. I should call it the ‘rain garden’, that has a nicer ring to it.

Honestly there are so many more important things to do, such as replanting a couple hundred daffodils or bringing in dozens of potted plants or doing all the other fall prep, but I suspect I’ll start the weekend off with powerwashing. Ok, full honesty means that I also looked at the birch trees and decided they should be whiter and cleaner as well. If you never see another photo with the birch trees in it you’ll know how that went.

Hope your weekend turns out more productive, but even if it’s not have a great one! -btw I think I survived the new editor…

Let’s Pretend

They say summer ended last weekend and we’re now into fall.¬† I saw pumpkins on porches and people buying chrysanthemums and I thought I’d be ok with a switch in seasons but apparently I’m not.¬† Regular rains have made the garden green again, and although it wasn’t enough to penetrate the maple foliage and give relief to my dry shade, nothing really looks like it’s at death’s door, so it’s unfathomable for me to understand why anyone could wish for it all to be on it’s way out.¬† I love summer.¬† I love the longest days of the year and warm nights filled with crickets.¬† I love saying it’s too hot, and then sitting around for an hour instead of working.¬† I don’t want it to end.

front border

An oddly neat and green scene.¬† I’ll call it the Covid effect meets moisture laden tropical storm systems.

Today after getting home from work we closed the pool.¬† My mother in law can’t wait to get the cover back on as soon as Labor Day is over, and I’m surprised she hasn’t already yanked all the New Guinea impatients out of the planters and tarped all the porch furniture as well.¬† I don’t get it.¬† I’ll milk this weather for at least another month and a half and then hope for two, since in my opinion winters are far too long around here to rush this warm weather out the door.¬† Still, no amount of sarcasm or complaints of sweatiness and hot forecasts could change her mind.

front border

It may not look it, but along the street is also exceptionally neat, considering the usual sunflower and fennel overgrowth.

So in her mind summer is dead, but I disagree.¬† My garden seems to peak towards the end of August, and then lingers through September with all the bright colors of summer keeping it hot and vibrant in spite of the fact you can’t cool off in the pool any more.

rudbeckia triloba prairie glow

Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Glow’ may be a little stunted from July’s dry spell, but it’s still an excellent show in the depths of the front border.¬†

I deadheaded butterfly bushes and whacked back fennel last weekend, and the garden looks pretty good again.  I highly recommend plenty of late bloomers to keep things from going to heck once August rolls around.

buddleia royal red

One of the older butterfly bushes, Buddleia ‘Royal Red’ has a nice height and grace that many of the newer hybrids lack.¬† Yes, I know it’s not really red.

Even if you can’t keep things in full bloom, there are always grasses.¬† They look good on their own right, but also do a good job covering up the less than impressive June and July bloomers.

ornamental grass border

Along the street, Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’, ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass, and russian sage (Perovskia) have enjoyed the drier weather and lack of towering sunflowers… plus I ripped out a ton of echinacea and mountain mint.

I guess late summer grasses are a seasonal look.

geranium rozanne

Geranium ‘Rozanne’.¬† I’m about ten years late in raving about how nice it is, but it is.

When everything dried out I thought this would be the year I replant bearded iris all over again, but only a few went in before the rains returned.¬† Maybe next year I’ll be more firm.¬† Come to think of it the Arundo donax grass at the end really has become a little overwhelming, and groundcover junipers?¬† So boring when a big patch of iris in bloom could give me some inspiration (says the person who will be grateful in January when the juniper is green).

front border

I like certain dead and dying things, but not until November!¬† Much was chopped back and I think the less is more look works out alright…¬† although my neighbors would laugh if I tried to convince them this is a “spare” look ūüôā

New iris or not, the front border looks ok but the tropical border isn’t even close to calling it quits.¬† I was hating it in spring, and cut way back on the spring planting here, but it’s still plenty of too much.¬† Maybe not tropical, maybe more just a mess of annual color, but just think of how much more tolerable it makes the September Slide.

tropical border

The cannas are practically dwarfed this year, but a few other things enjoyed the drier soil.

Honestly I can’t believe I made it through all the work of prepping, planting, staking, mulching, deadheading, weeding… but I did.¬† Most of it was just a matter of putting my phone down for a while and getting off my lazy….

Tsuki-Yori-No-Shisha Dahlia

A gift last year, this year I’ve finally given ‘Tsuki-Yori-No-Shisha’ the care and attention this dahlia deserves.

I’m down to just a few dahlias and it’s so much less work.¬† Thinking about more is a terrible idea and so hopefully I get at least one more year of freedom before another bout of weakness in February strikes.

cactus dahlia

I do like this peach cactus dahlia.  Others have come and gone, but this one is probably pushing fourteen years with me. 

Dahlias, cannas, elephant ears, bananas…¬† I never know when the addiction will flare up again.

dahlia mathew alan

Dahlia ‘Mathew Alan’.¬† As you may have noticed I have a weakness for the cactus style.

For now I won’t even worry about digging or cooling night-time temps or shorter days.¬† I’ll just enjoy it while it’s here and maybe start thinking about autumn in another month.

salvia splendens

A very subtle, peach colored Salvia splendens.  Growing from seeds can always leave you with surprises.

Have a great week!¬† The weather here promises to get hotter again tomorrow before cooling off for the weekend.¬† Not cool enough to make me think closing the pool was a good idea, but at least cool enough to sit in the sun and do nothing rather than sit in the shade ūüėČ

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.

Please don’t mention frost

The last few days have been cold, rainy, and damp.¬† Combine that with reports from the north of snow flurries and frost and I guess it’s time to face reality…. eventually.¬† Let’s make one more visit to the tropical garden while I sit indoors waiting for things to dry out.

peach salvia annaul planting

Seedlings of this peachy-pink salvia splendens have finally come into their own along with the grasses.   A garden which ends in a crescendo rather than sputtering out is my kind of garden!

Although autumn is never welcome around here I am grateful for the rain and the possibility of seeing green grass again.¬† I did break down and water the front¬†around the middle of last month but¬†my brief sprinkle¬†just provides life support and doesn’t bring on a lush flush of green.¬† A green lawn does seem to set things off so much better…

Abelmoschus Manihot dahlia happy single flame

Second year’s a charm for this Abelmoschus Manihot.¬† It’s an annual for me and doesn’t appreciate the dry poor soil of most of the¬†garden.¬† Although the size and color of the blooms is perfect, it shamefully begins to close up by the time I get home from work.¬†

Actually a green lawn just means more mowing so I guess I’ll embrace the summertime tan, but¬†being¬†that the autumn rains have returned, something green to set off the soon to be falling red maple leaves would be nice.

miscanthus cabaret

Miscanthus ‘cabaret’ in the tropical garden.¬† This one becomes massive so I’ll¬†need to take a spade to it next spring to keep the clump size reasonable.¬†

But cool plants don’t really need much to set them off anyway.¬† This year time under the growlights and a little stay on the heating mat have given¬†the swan plant seedlings just the head start they needed.¬† Gomphocarpus physocarpus is the official name but the plant goes by several other names, all more colorful than that of ‘swan plant’.

Gomphocarpus physocarpus flowers milkweed

Gomphocarpus physocarpus used to be an African member of the milkweed genus (Asclepias) but somewhere along the line got booted out.  Monarch butterflies disagree though and still feed on the foliage, while the flowers show off the family resemblance.

The tall graceful willow-like plants are attractive enough in their own right, but the real draw for this plant are the interesting seedpods.  Pufferfish milkweed and balloon plant are more common names describing this feature.

swan plant family jewels

Pods forming on the six foot tall plants of the sawn milkweed.  They always draw attention.

In case you haven’t noticed, the pods seem to form in pairs and the puffiness is joined by a vegetative hairiness which leads to several other descriptive names.¬† Since Tammy over at Casa Mariposa¬†already broke the ice with¬†her sure-to-make-you-smile plant support post on¬†“All the Wobbly Bits“, I’m going to introduce the male version here, which also needs support on occasion.¬† Family¬†jewels plant, Bishop’s balls, and hairy balls plant are additional common names which¬†more worldy and less discrete eyes have given to this plant.

Gomphocarpus physocarpus seed pod hairy balls

Quite a¬†set of seed pods growing on Gomphocarpus physocarpus.¬† A pair like this would make any gardener proud, and you could sow your seed far and wide once they’re¬†ripe and released.

I’ve seen swan milkweed listed as a cutflower, but I’m not sure what bouquet they could find their way into (outside of a bachelorette, or bachelor-bachelor party favor).¬† I think my best bet is to leave them out there swaying in the breeze and not bring them inside, least of all feature them in one of Cathy’s Vase on Monday posts!

dahlia in mixed perennial border

Dahlias in the front border.¬† I need to re-focus on dahlias next year and give them the care they need.¬† They’re not really a fend for themselves kind of plant!

I’ll leave you with a more respectable showing of my most reliable unknown dahlia.¬† It’s sandwiched into the rough and tumble of the front border but I feel the color goes perfectly with the aged seedheads of ‘Karl Foerster’.¬† I guess there are some good things about the end of summer and maybe even I can finally let go.

Make way for Monarchs

The last few weeks are bringing the Monarch butterflies in.¬† They usually miss my plot on their¬†springtime crawl North, but during their escape to the South they come right through.¬† It’s good timing¬†too¬†as it comes about four or five weeks after I’ve given up¬†completely on the vegetable garden¬†and¬†the selfsown Verbena bonariensis have taken over.¬† Last week they were all over the place feeding and fluttering and during the one day of perfect conditions I counted at least 20 in there at one time.¬† They don’t stay long, but walking the paths¬†and having the large orange butterflies lifting up and floating around you on a warm autumn day is a wonderful experience.

verbena bonariensis

An airy purple haze of Verbena bonariensis will spring up wherever I leave an unmulched spot of soil.

The verbena is clearly a favorite, but other flowers also fill the menu.¬† I don’t think of double dahlias as wildlife-friendly but maybe the color brings in even more dinner guests.¬† I at least think they look great.

dahlia sandra

Not a Monarch but still a welcome visitor, this fritillary is taking a break on dahlia ‘Sandra’.

My dahlias are not quite where I’d want them to be this year.¬† I’d blame the rains of July but in reality it’s the neglect of August and September which really did them in.¬† Fortunately with some good lighting and a few verbena screening and distracting they still look nice.

dahlias and verbena

Dahlias and verbena in the morning light.

I like that the flowers take over in autumn, and I like that the combinations and players change each year as I gain or lose interest in one thing or another.¬† This year ‘Tiger cub’ corn is back.¬† The seed was a gift from Nan Ondra of Hayefield and I love the variegation but I’m afraid it won’t have time to ripen any seed this fall unless things stay warm late.¬† My fingers are crossed.¬† I love how the bright leaves¬†of the corn go with the¬†bright colors of the red gomphrena and orange marigolds.¬†¬†Word is¬†marigolds are supposed to be a no-no¬†in classy gardens, ¬†but I still love their carefree color¬†and I like them even better knowing they’re¬†another gifted plant, this time from Kimberley of ¬†Cosmos and Cleome.

tiger cub ornamental corn

I did start out with cauliflower here in the spring, but then rather than replant with a fall crop I put in a few ‘QIS red’ gomphrena seedling, a few ‘Tiger cub’ corn kernels, and a few coleus for good measure.

I like this autumn mess.¬† Lettuce would be nice too but it’s just been too hot and dry and I just don’t have the ambition to start plants in a shaded spot for transplanting.¬† Plus I can always pick it up at the market… unlike butterflies, those I need the flowers for.

verbena bonariensis cypress vine Ipomoea quamoclit

In a few spots ‘love in a puff’ and the red blooms of cypress vine (Ipomoea¬†quamoclit) thread their way through the verbena stems.¬†¬†These little surprises make me smile.

Here’s another little surprise which I could fill a whole photo album with.¬†¬†This spring I¬†finally seeded out a few Spanish flag vines (Ipomoea lobata), and although they never sprouted in their seedling pots, they did once I threw the leftover soil into the garden.¬† It’s a late bloomer and¬†like many in the morning glory family it can be a little rambunctious, but in this spot it’s perfect.¬† The¬†spent broccoli seed stalks (I suspect I’ll be weeding out tons of broccoli weedlings next spring)¬†¬†and verbena stalks provide just enough support and when a bed to the left opened up after the potato harvest the vines¬†moved right in.¬† I couldn’t have planned the color coordination with the chrysanthemums any better.

Ipomoea lobata Spanish flag

Ipomoea lobata (Spanish flag) vining through verbena stalks, broccoli stems, and some of my favorite orange chrysanthemums. 

The colors of this planting are the perfect match to my daughter’s favorite orange ice pops… please don’t question why she was eating this while the morning light was still so fresh.

Ipomoea lobata Spanish flag

Color echoes in an ice pop.

I’m not a pink and grey pastel kind of guy so this bold mix of orange and purple really tickles my color bone.¬† Throw in a few hot pink persicarias in front of the dark foliage of the ‘Coppertina’ ninebark (Physocarpus) and I’m more than happy.¬† I just regret that my photo skills weren’t enough to capture it all together in one shot.

Ipomoea lobata Spanish flag

More orange and purple in the fall garden.

Another thing I regret is that the flag vine planted on the deck has turned out to be a much less vibrantly colored plant¬†from a¬†more refined end of the gene pool.¬† When my seeds seemed destined to fail I snapped up a potful found at my favorite nursery.¬† It’s still a very nice thing, and I’ve even grown a paler yellow version before, but I can’t help wish they all had the darker stems¬†and bolder orange of their¬†more common cousin.

Ipomoea lobata Spanish flag

A paler version of Spanish flag grappling through some pennisetum on the deck.  The whiter blooms and lighter foliage are nice enough, but I need darker colors to hold up to the white railing.

Bold and less bold are still just fine and it really revs up the autumn season around here.¬† With temperatures finally cooling off and a good soaking rain last night fall is officially in full swing here and I guess I’m going to have to¬†finally give up on my whining about the loss of summer.¬† It’s about time I’m sure, and to cheer myself up I think I’m going to get into chrysanthemums next post.¬† Have a great weekend¬†ūüôā

Stop it with the autumn talk

Many people enjoy and¬†claim they¬†welcome the coming of autumn.¬†¬† I want to make it clear that I do not, and although the last few days have been a little too hot and dry for my taste, I would much prefer the relief of a summertime cloudburst rather than¬†any farewell to summer eulogy.¬† So I guess what I want is just a few more days of denial before I’m forced to admit the season is breaking down.

hardy chrysanthemums

The tomatoes of summer are still going strong even with their new neighbors the fall chrysanthemums.

After a promising start to the summer August went dry and for the past forty days we’ve barely cracked the 1/4 inch mark for rainfall.¬†¬†With high temperatures, thin soil, drying winds, and full sun the life was sucked out of a garden which¬†had been almost carefree at the start of the summer.¬† With a nice rain today we’ll see how fast things bounce back.¬† My guess is it will be a much faster turnaround than the last two summers when things REALLY dried out to a crisp.

fall vegetable gardening

One patch of watered soil ready for fall planting. Hopefully cool weather will soon allow for a few broccoli and cauliflower transplants.

In spite of the heat a few things still look nice.  The tropical garden got a few minutes with the hose, and that seems to have been enough to keep it from death.  I love the colors right now with the purple verbena bonariensis, dark red dahlias, and peach colored salvia splendens filling the bed.

salvia splendens van houttei peach

A little orange from ‘Tropicanna’¬†canna goes a long way in brightening up the late summer salvia, verbena and dahlias.

With the grass dried up to a crispy beige the stronger reds, oranges, and purples really stand out.¬† I don’t think a bed full of¬†lavenders, whites,¬†and pale pinks would be as eye catching…. which I’m going to say is a good thing, since in this world of gray and tan I can use as much eye catching and hold-on-to-life color as I can get!

dahlia mathew alan

End of summer color from dahlia ‘Mathew Alan’.¬† As usual the dahlias could use some dead heading.

Even up front a little bold color is a nice thing.¬† The border along the house foundation has a few spots of color from the ‘Masquerade’ peppers I planted out this spring.¬† The true type has purple peppers changing to yellow, orange, and red while¬†a few¬†oddball plants started right off with pale yellow and¬†are now going through the same¬†sunset effect.

pepper masquerade

‘Masquerade’ peppers from seed with all the fescue clumps I divided up this spring.¬† I finally like this bed… but we’ll see how I can mess it up next year ūüôā

Along the street is another story.  Even with a few emergency waterings things look end of summer tired.

dry perennial border

To water or not to water, that is the question.¬† Obviously I chose the latter, but the ‘Karl Forster’ feather reed grass, sedums, and perovskia are still holding on.

I did give the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea a little soaking, but a few water lovers such as the ‘Golden sunshine’ willow will need a good bit of water¬†before they look anything close to happy again.

dry perennial border

I think this border will need a little trimming out of dead things once the rains soak in.  No big deal though, a little fall cleanup will carry it on through the next few months.

There are still a¬†few bright spots.¬† Even in the harsh midday sun¬†kniphofia¬†‘Ember Glow’ looks nice.¬† It could be a little taller but the size actually works well with the peppers and coleus (please ignore the dead rudbeckias and dying zinnias).

kniphofia

Red hot poker (Kniphofia) with peppers and a surprisingly sun and drought resistant coleus.¬† I wasn’t sure if the poker would ever bloom this year but I guess it’s a later cultivar.¬†

Until the garden bounces back the best thing to do is spend more time in the shade, seated with cold beverage in hand.  I can ignore the weeds and dead lawn quite successfully on the back deck.

summer planters on the deck

This is a late summer view, not autumn.¬† I’ll keep that delusion up until the first frosts threaten!

Even with a good soaking the lawnmower will still¬†likely¬†be on vacation for another week or two.¬† I’m ok with that.¬† I hope the soil takes in the rain, the plants come back, and I can finally use something other than a pickaxe to dig a hole.¬† Maybe then I’ll start thinking about things like fall while I’m taking care of a little¬†late summer transplanting and bulb planting ūüôā

A hot day in Philly

The calendar¬†is beginning to insist¬†that all things summer will soon come to an end, so when a free day presented¬†itself I made my best to take advantage of the last weeks of warmth.¬†¬†A quick call to a friend¬†near Phillidelphia and I was on my way to one of my favorite gardens, Chanticleer.¬†¬†As usual the visit did not disappoint, and despite a mental note to just enjoy the visit I did break down at the end and¬†went a little¬†camera happy.¬† Hopefully I can show some restraint with the length of this post even if I couldn’t with the camera.

chanticleer red border

Red and purple as you come around the house. Coleus ‘redhead’ and the awesome canna x ehemanii… rounded out with a few random bananas.

I like to stroll around pretending this is my own estate, and if by chance if I do win millions (I’ve given up on earning them through hard work, marriage, or genius) I feel like this is the kind of garden I’d create.

chanticleer container plantings

Many exotic and unusual container plants are scattered around the house and terraces. All appear perfectly grown and cared for.

The tropical plantings around the house are some of my favorite plantings, although even away from the house a random banana or elephant ear may turn up (Chanticleer refers to itself as a¬†‘pleasure garden’… so I guess anything goes!)

teacup garden chanticleer

This year’s teacup garden plantings. Fiddlehead figs and canna ‘Ermine?’, plus many others.

I’m guessing on almost all the IDs since the gardens are for enjoyment and inspirations and not so much for the down to earth realities of botanical labeling, but there are plant lists available both in the gardens¬†and online.¬† I apologize for being¬†too distracted to look while there and far too lazy now to look them up online.

papyrus chanticleer

Potted dwarf giant papyrus. I love the pot in pot planting with a ‘groundcover’ of duckweed, and I’d love to imitate, but… no pot and no dwarf giant papyrus.¬† Maybe the plain old giant papyrus will work, ¬†at least that’s finally become¬†easy to find in the spring.

I can feel the banana itch coming back.¬† I was given one and bought another this summer….

chanticleer tropicalismo

Canna x ehemanii, various bananas, red and purple dahlias, and a few tall salvia splendens varieties.

…and how can you not like dahlias at this time of year.

chanticleer mixed border

A respectable boxwood border holding back a wave of visitors from the south.

On a hot day the dry, full sun,¬†gravel garden was not the place to linger… but we did, and while sweat beaded we enjoyed the waterwise plantings and the mix of dryland perennials and tropical cactus and succulents.

chanticleer gravel garden

I think the yucca rostrada (hardiest of the trunk forming yuccas) stays here year round, but I’m not sure of the agave.¬† I do know I wouldn’t want to be the one to lift it come autumn.

All the rain earlier in the year probably helped most things, but some¬†I’m sure¬†didn’t appreciate the reminder they were in Pennsylvania and not Southern California.

artichoke bloom

Artichoke blooms?  Not the best leaf-wise, but the color of the flowers almost glowed in the heat.

Or South Africa…

chanticleer kniphofia

Kniphofia (a species I’m guessing) along the dry slope.¬† I love this plant family, but never get decent flowers on the ones I’m growing.

The bulk of the grounds around the house are open grass and trees, and this was the beginning of the colchicum season.

chanticleer naturalized colchicums

Some of the colchicums just beginning to bloom in the lawn at Chanticleer.¬† Form what I’ve heard there are many more to come.

And then there were the pond gardens…

chanticleer koi

Chanticleer koi

With lotus and water lilies.

chanticleer lotus bud

One of many lotus flowers.  My photos never do the blooms justice.

And then there was the cutting garden.¬† My favorite canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ (Pretoria) was the star, and in my opinion everything looks better when it’s next to this beauty.

chanticleer canna pretoria

The cutting garden.  Summer annuals, dahlias and cannas were at their peak.

It’s just pictures from here on.

chanticleer cosmos

Cosmos and dahlias with canna leaves.

chanticleer cutting garden

The beds threaten to swamp you in a tsunami of plants.  Still to come were all the hardy sunflowers and other native prairie plants which filled the inner portions of the bed.

dahlias chanticleer

Dahlia with gomphrena ‘fireworks’ (I think)

dahlias chanticleer

Dahlias again (it’s the season!) plus more awesome canna leaves. I think the ferny foliage belongs to the SE native dog fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium).

dahlias chanticleer

Nice right?

chanticleer summer flowers

Summer zinnas and cosmos. Who says fall is near?

I didn’t realize it’s been two years since I last visited (click here to see that very pintrest-popular post), and¬†I’m glad to have had¬†the chance to do it again.¬† The gardens are on a scale that really seems approachable, yet aren’t filled with how-to beds or dull bedding.¬† It’s really a place where you can enjoy the art of gardening,¬† and if¬†you get the chance I would¬†absolutely recommend a visit, but for those further afield there’s also hope.¬†¬†September 23rd marks the release date for a new Timber Press book on the gardens and¬†I for one am looking forward to it.¬† It has an excellent pedigree¬†across publisher, author, and photographer and¬†what¬†I’m¬†most looking forward to are the interviews with each area gardener.¬† I saw them at work¬†during our visit but was a little too shy to bother them with an endless gushing of praise or question after question.¬† Hopefully the new book will¬†pacify me. ūüôā

Thanks for meeting me there Paula, and I wish everyone a great week!

GBFD Finishing August

Yesterday¬†was the 22nd, today¬†the 23rd, and by the time this post is finished the date will probably flip on to the 24th, which will make me¬†two full days late in¬†joining Christina¬†in the¬†celebration of¬†Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day.¬† I’m sure she’s fine with my tardiness¬†but I’m also sure I didn’t want to miss¬†this month’s opportunity to look¬†past flowers and recognize all the contributions foliage makes in the garden.

squash climbing in garden

In the vegetable garden the broad leaves of late planted summer squash threaten to swamp their less edible neighbors. I love how fast they grow in the heat.

I’m a big fan of large leaves and whether they’re squash or cannas or elephant ears, the more enthusiastic a grower the better!¬† While some plants did not enjoy the recent spell of hot weather, a newer resident of the garden did.

Alocasia Borneo Giant

One of the larger elephant ears, Alocasia ‘Borneo Giant’, is finally putting out some more enthusiastic growth. The leaf is still barely larger than my hand but the giant part of the name gives me hope for the future!

Summer is when I really enjoy the potted plants on the deck.¬† Not only can they be enjoyed from the window, they can be enjoyed as you walk by, as you sit in a¬†comfy seat, or from below.¬† It’s as if you’re multitasking your enjoyment!

coleus in deck planters

The rich foliage pattern of this coleus sometimes gets lost in a planting, but against the white railings the colors really come through.

Besides showcasing my favorite plants close up, the deck is also a great place to show off the little things which get lost out in the garden.

potted succulents

Little cacti and succulents which don’t mind a few missed waterings or weekend road trips.¬† They’re all foliage and¬†make great¬†deck plants… which¬†look even better¬†if the gardener finally repots them into roomier quarters (as I did this spring, although one of this bunch already needs a bigger home).

As I was walking about trying to focus on foliage, I realized this collection at the¬†end of the deck steps doesn’t rely on a single flower to bring in the color.

deck planters

More succulents as well as ‘Alabama Sunset’ coleus, ‘purple flash’ pepper, and my belovedly spiny porcupine tomato.

It’s really way past time to do a catch-up post on this year’s deck planters (and hopefully I can come clean soon) but there’s¬†only so much time tonight, and there’s still plenty of other foliage to consider in the garden.¬† For as exciting as flowers and color are, sometimes the eye needs to rest on a little green.¬† For me chrysanthemums are a nearly indestructible¬†planting¬†for¬†some of the hotter, dryer,¬†tougher-to-fill spots which could use a soft mound of green.

chrysanthemum foliage

Usually the iris in the back has nothing but sad, browning and yellowing leaves, but this year the rain has been enough to keep it growing strong.  The chrysanthemum on the other hand looks respectable for the entire summer, even when the crabgrass gives up.

Dry sun is bad, but dry shade is worse, and this year I’ve been surprised at¬†how well variegated obedient plant, (Physostegia virginiana ‘Variegata’) has done.¬† In moist soil it may spread a little too enthusiastically, but here it seems downright demure, and I wonder if the straight green type would be as restrained.

Physostegia virginiana 'Variegata'

Physostegia virginiana ‘Variegata’ lighting up the shade.¬† It’s a dry spot full of maple roots, but the foliage on this plant still looks great.

In my only bit of non-rooty shade I can always count on the calm contrasts of foliage form and color via evergreens and hostas.¬† Although things are beginning to get crowded here, I won’t mess with this planting until it starts to look desperate.

shade foliage border

Along the porch the hostas cover the spring bulb plantings and dwarf conifers shelter the porch without overwhelming it.¬† They’re all slow growing plants, but not too long ago¬†I remember being able to easily plant between these shrubs.

The calm of the shade garden is always appreciated in summer, but in sunnier spots August means flowers, and I do try for plenty of that as well.  Even with all the flowers though, a good foliage background can make a world of difference.

cannas and dahlias

The rich red flowers of dahlia ‘Mathew Allen’ set off even brighter next to the solid mass of the red-leaved cannas.¬† ¬†

I’m all for the masses of flowers but you sometimes need a rest here and there and a mass of foliage can be just the ticket.¬† For next year I’m already nursing along a few new bananas and¬†elephant ears and I think things will look a little different in this border.¬† If worse comes to worse though¬†I¬†can always replant sunflowers ūüôā

cannas and sunflowers

More cannas trying to keep their chin up against the tide of sunflowers which still swirls around the tropical garden.  In my opinion this bed could have used a few more masses of foliage to balance out all the bloom. 

So there are some August musings on foliage from my neck of the woods.¬† If you’d like to dabble a little deeper give Creating my own garden of the Hesperides a visit.¬†¬†Each month on the 22nd¬†Christina provides the platform¬†there to¬†host a foliage review, and I’m¬†sure you won’t be disappointed by the¬†foliage musings¬†of bloggers from around the world!

Spare the rod

My nemesis the sunflower.

bird seed sunflowers

Self sown sunflowers from birdseed backed up by variegated giant reed grass (Arundo donax ‘gold chain’).

Harmless and full of promise is how they appear in the spring, now two months later¬†they’re acting more like closing time at the bar.¬† Sloppy drunks¬†hang all over one another, sprawl¬†across the beds,¬†and smother¬†the other sober little¬†plants which have yet to grow.¬† If it weren’t for their summertime good looks and the goldfinches they pull in I would compost them all!

sunflower bloom birdseed

Future birdfood.

It doesn’t take many sunflower seedlings to overtake a bed and between the extra mulching and copious rainfall they’ve had everything they needed to explode.¬† It’s like a lovely¬†tsunami of sun looming over the plantings.

flower border sunflowers

The sunflowers do look pretty with the purple verbena bonariensis, striped leaves of ‘tropicanna’ canna, and¬†the first of the peach colored salvia splendens.

From the top of the bed it still looks pretty but only after I cut down two of the sunflower trees and chopped the rest back in order to clear the pool path again.

tropicals with annuals border

The tropical border looking colorful, but as usual not very tropical.

The inner depths of the tropical bed are beyond reach, I’ll have to wait for frost before I can get in there again.¬† Fortunately it’s well mulched and doesn’t need much of anything for most of the summer, so as long as the cannas and reed grass¬†don’t get completely swamped I guess I can turn the other cheek and let chaos rule.

arundo donax gold chain with sunflowers

There’s a giant thistle in there as well, I see a steady trail of goldfinches¬†flying¬†in and out feasting on the seed.

Really.  Next year will be the year when this whole mess gets back under control.  The sunflowers will have to go as well as the chrysanthemums which never did get moved like they were supposed to.  In spite of the overwhelming agricultural look of the sunflowers (and I have to admit I really love the show right now) there are a few tropical highlights which have flickered on.  The cannas may not be as big as in years past, but I would never go without them.

healthy canna tropicana

Healthy ‘Tropicanna’ canna leaves in a sea of green with only a touch of gold.

They’ve still got a good two months of growing before frost threatens and¬†hopefully everything will¬†still have plenty of time to fill in.¬†¬†While other parts of the garden might be taking on a weary look this time of year, these tropicals are just going from good to better, and it’s not just the cannas.¬†¬†The dahlias are beginning to come on as well.¬†¬†The flowers are what I’m waiting for, but¬†on a few the foliage show is even better.

dahlia happy single flame

Dahlia ‘happy single flame’ with the dark purple spires of ‘Lighthouse purple’ salvia behind.¬† I wish those salvia were just a tiny bit¬†taller,¬†right now¬†this low¬†planting looks closer to Victorian bedding than tropicalismo!

Although the foliage is fantastic, I wish I could say¬†the same for the blooms of dahlia ‘happy single flame’.¬† They¬† don’t last long and never¬†really make¬†the ‘wow’ impression most of the other dahlias do.¬†¬†The color is great though and I’ll try to hold on to this one for another year or two, even as the others bloom their heads off in comparison.

dahlia happy single flame

Peak bloom on dahlia ‘happy single flame’.

One plant which I had high hopes for¬†but is now slightly underwhelming¬†is the Brazilian button.¬† New this year from the HPS Mid Atlantic seed exchange, the buttons are nice enough but there could be more flowering at one time¬†and most importantly have a color less like the verbena which I already have¬†filling in¬†all over.¬† You just don’t notice them in the mix.

Centratherum punctatum Brazilian button

Brazilian button (Centratherum punctatum)

But I’m being too negative.¬† The sunflowers are awesome and the patch is full of flowery interest,¬†and whenever I get the chance I sit (with a drink preferably) and watch the comings and goings of the goldfinches, hummingbirds, and bees.

pink salvia splendens

The pink salvia splendens are only now starting to flower having spent most of the summer putting on weight.  The large leafy bushes should put on a great show for me and the hummingbirds.

I’m sure there will be more to come from the tropical garden, and if I can only keep a firm hand next year it might even look tropical-ish as well.¬† Right now I’m just¬†happy enough it’s mulched and weeded from the topside all the way down to the low end.¬† Last year the low¬†end was pathetic with its drought crisped annuals and struggling heucheras (is that the correct plural for heuchera?)¬† This year it’s much improved and I can¬†see this becoming a nice transition to the pond garden…. once I get¬†a non-leaky¬†pond in!

panicum northwind in garden

Next year the new divisions will fill in and there should be a¬†wall of panicum ‘northwind’ ¬†separating the tropics on the left from the heucheras and pond garden on the right.¬†¬†

In the photo above you can barely make out the blue mist of Browallia Americana hovering above the hosta.¬† It’s an easy enough annual (native to Central and South America and across the Caribbean isles) and each year¬†I like it’s nearly true-blue flowers even¬†more.¬† Too bad I can’t get the camera to agree on the color, it always washes it out to a violet.

browallia americana

Browallia americana

So summer is still in full swing here, and for someone who prefers to ignore the calendar there’s not even a hint of the season winding down yet.¬† I like this sense of denial and will hang on to it for as long as I can…. but if pushed I will admit to thinking about next year already.¬† Ok, so I don’t even need a push.¬† I stumbled¬†upon a summer sale at the nursery and took home a cool little banana plant.¬† It’s been a couple years since my banana growing days but I can feel the itch again and who knows what this means for next year’s plantings ūüôā

In a vase on Monday: End of the road

This is actually an ‘In the Vase on Sunday’.¬† With a freeze¬†forecast for¬†Sunday night I wanted to get out there and save the last bits of summer for just a few more days (a vase full of frost blackened flowers wouldn’t be as welcome on the dinner table).¬†¬†Zinnias, dahlias, and chrysanthemums fill (some would say overfill) this week’s vase.

dahlias and zinnias cut flowers fall

The late afternoon light and cool nighttime temperatures of fall really bring a glow to the zinnias and dahlias.

The dahlias are still the backbone of this arrangement.¬† It’s been flowering for months, and even with a healthy wash of mildew over its leaves the flowers just keep on coming.¬† Red zinnias and dark pink daisy chrysanthemums fill in between, and a¬†few seed heads of panicum and tufts of papyrus reed lighten up the mix.¬† I thought I’d add some “bright lights” swiss chard for the lusty leaves, but it’s the colored stalks which really stand out.¬† Maybe I’ll just include them for the stems alone next time!

dahlias and zinnias cut flowers fall

This arrangement is fresh and bright enough to carry an August picnic table, if it weren’t for the chrysanthemums you wouldn’t even know it was fall.

I spent the rest of the afternoon lugging pots into the garage and taking coleus cuttings.¬† Although a¬†few of the hardier pots stayed out overnight (geraniums, oleander, dracaena), the rest have begun their six month imprisonment in the dungeon.¬† I won’t water them, they’ll look terrible, but hopefully they’ll go somewhat dormant rather than keep trying to grow and as a result die.

dahlias and zinnias cut flowers fall

Inside the house the colors go well with the Halloween and harvest decorations. A few little pumpkins would look great alongside the vase but the kids insist they stay on the porch¬† ūüôā

Our freeze didn’t amount to any more than a frozen windshield and a few singed coleus, but it’s good to have much of the sheltering of plants done.¬† Now all I have to do is reorganize them enough to fit a car in there too!

Looking at the long range forecast there’s a strong possibility next Monday will also host a vase full of flowers (chrysanthemums I hope!), so it will be nice to join in on the Monday vase meme a few more times before snow flies.¬† If you’d like to join in or take a¬†peek at what others¬†are up to,¬†drop by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and take a look.¬† Each Monday I’m surprised at what people put together!