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  🙂

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!

End of Summer for the (not quite)Tropical Bed

Today surprised me with a completely free afternoon.  There was plenty I should have done, but nothing I had to do, so I spent all afternoon in the garden.  I actually worked too!  Usually when it’s dry and it’s warm I tend to just sit around, but the grass was due for a cutting and one thing lead to another and before I knew it I was sore and sweaty and satisfied.  The following pictures have little to do with anything that got done, but they’re more interesting than edged lawn and mulched beds!

heptacodium blooming

At the very end of the former tropical garden the heptacodium is actually looking good for once with a decent shape and nice blooms.

The sunflowers which took over the tropical bed are looking a little worse for wear but I’ll leave them till spring since they’re visited daily by several families of goldfinches and other songbirds.  Dahlias, cannas and now mums are picking up the slack, and if I get just the right angle without the dying sunflowers everything still looks fresh and lush.

mammoth mums

At the top end of the tropical bed this clump of ‘mammoth mums’ adds to the already-too-much-color theme. L-R the mums are bronze, pink, coral, red, and yellow quill. They’re colorful and great growers, but nothing exciting.

I broke down and ran the sprinkler out front again.  The grass was curling up and I can’t deal with brown lawn in September.  I’m letting the vegetables dry up but the lawn and perennials out front need to stay green for a little while longer or it will all be too depressing.  I also watered some in the back, the tropical beds are so dry most of the water just runs off, but I hope it’s enough for a few of the surviving treasures.

pink salvia splendens

I would call this one of 2014’s treasures. It’s a pink salvia splendens grown from seed. The only one to sprout and the first one I’ve grown that didn’t turn out to be another red when it bloomed. I have my fingers crossed for seed!

One of the happiest finds of the day (and one that only a gardener could even come close to understanding) was that I found where a neighbor’s been dumping lawn clippings in the woods.  I lugged back about four wheelbarrows full of clippings and spread them out around the bed I’m slowly reclaiming from bellflower and other weeds.  This should go a long way in bringing in the earthworms and smothering the last sprouts, and my fingers are crossed that this same neighbor will also dump nicely shredded autumn leaves in the same spot.  What a bonanza that would be 🙂

red zinnias with ninebark

Red zinnias are bright enough to distract you from the other tired perennials and vigorous weeds. This area is just past the tropical bed and I cling to the hope that someday it will be a red garden. So far these zinnias are the only plant which has worked out -even though I almost quit the watering this week!

With all the new mulch and (I hope) smothered weeds I feel like for once things are almost under control in the garden.  I still hope there will be at least one more nice load of grass clippings to feed  the tropical border but the fact that there are no four foot weeds is a first here for this time of year.  Now if we could just get some rain then maybe I could get some transplanting started!

sun sugar tomatoes

The tomatoes are one thing that did get away from me. I froze a bunch of nicely prepared San Marzanos last week, but these “Sun Sugar” tomatoes are too much of a good thing. They look nice though.

While taking the tomato picture I was surprised to find a cicada clinging to the trellis.  I love cicadas and this closeup was a treat for someone who usually only hears them.

cicada

cicada

With all these beds under control the smart thing would be to regroup….. but Santa Rosa Gardens has a great fall sale (plus 10% more off with the code FALL10), I want to place a Lily Garden order for lilies, there are a few shrubs which are tempting me at Lazy S’s Farms, and my favorite local nursery has an open house (and sales I’m sure) this Saturday.  Plus I have a snowdrop order to pay.  My checkbook is saying no but I keep disagreeing with it. Oh what to do, what to do…..

I’m pretty sure there’s fiber in icecream

Many people wax poetic on the joys of homegrown produce.  The flavor, the nutrients, the connection with the earth…. all good things and all good for you (and deep down inside I agree) but on the shallow outside I’d still rather reach for a donut or chocolate bar rather than a carrot stick.  Vegetables just don’t make my heart go pitter pat.

Because of that the vegetable garden always walks a fine line between productivity and extinction.  I love the look of vegetables bursting from the soil, but the newly dug beds and open ground are just too tempting to keep free of flowers.  At this time of year it’s more of a flower harvest.

volunteer sunflower

Oddly enough a sunflower has come up in exactly the same spot as one grew last year. It’s the perfect spot actually, and I’m glad to have it!

The season starts innocently enough, and with a strong will I turn under all the persicaria and daisies and whatever else tries to sneak in.  I need room for delicious lettuce seedlings and broccoli transplants and the flowers just throw off my industrially neat rows.  Things go downhill from there.

dahlia tanjoh

Dahlias always seem to grow best in a vegetable plot and when you’ve got one or two extra roots it seems perfectly logical to sneak them in between the chard. This is dahlia “Tanjoh” which I barely noticed last year as it suffered under the shade of a wayward sunflower.

Harvest time is always a problem.  If the broccoli is ready it needs to be picked, and there are only so many broccoli-cheese omelets you can reasonably fit into a weekend.  Things go to seed and I’m strangely amused to see weeds such as lettuce, pumpkins, and chard popping up the next year.

broccoli bolting

When you lose control the broccoli turns into a froth of yellow blooms and green rattail seedpods. Several of these plants were self-sown seedlings which just showed up from last year’s patch.

One of the sore points this summer was how often the sweet corn needed watering in our pancake-thin topsoil.  It seemed like every other day I’d look out there and see dry curled leaves begging for a little moisture.  Shockingly enough even after giving up in disgust the patch managed to produce a few deliciously sweet and flavorful ears.

freshly picked sweet corn

A space, water and fertilizer hog, freshly picked sweet corn is still worth the trouble (I guess). But it’s a tough argument when the supermarket has 6 perfect ears for $2.50 and mine probably cost me that much just for the seeds!

Another producer was a trellis of pole beans (which called it a year after being blown over in August).  Beans are nice on a trellis, but the kids appreciate “love in a Puffs” much more than bean salad.

love in a puff and cypress vine

The pale green balloons of love in a puff (Cardiospermum halicacabum) with the ferny green leaves and red flowers of cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit). Both conveniently reseeded here at the base of the trellis from last year, something to keep in mind if you don’t like volunteer plants.

The kids share the love by picking the puffs and having a puff-fight but the real reason behind the name is found inside the puff on each of the vine’s black seeds.

love in a puff seeds

A white heart forms on each seed, a kind of ‘belly button’ from where the seed was attached to the plant. Glad my hands were clean for this one 🙂

There is plenty of ‘real’ harvest that comes from the patch.  Tomatoes never fail, even the fussier heirlooms, and here is a huge cluster of “Kellogg’s Breakfast”.  In a rare second appearance in a single blog post (I hate having myself show up in any pictures), I left my hand in there to show just how big the fruits are.  2 lbs, 14 oz for the pair in case you’re interested.

Kellogg's Breakfast tomato

Kellogg’s Breakfast tomato

When I finished planting the tomatoes I couldn’t resist adding a border of “Moldavian” marigolds (from Nan at Hayefield) and a few stray salvia and leftover zinnia seedlings.  Might as well since the other side of the bed is edged in hellebore seedlings.

zinnias, marigolds, and blue salvia

A vegetable garden is the perfect place for bunches of annuals that might not find a place in the rest of the garden. The brownish orange of these “Moldova” marigolds might be hard to fit in somewhere else.

And did I mention I like phlox?  When you’re faced with a few new ones to plant and you’ve given absolutely no forethought to where they’ll go the vegetable garden makes everything better again.

phlox kirmeslander

Just coming into bloom now, phlox “Kirmeslander” seems almost too summery a color for the autumn-golds and yellows which are starting to appear.

With the season winding down one would think the vegetable patch would be safe, but fall is actually the most dangerous time of year for vegetable space.  After you pull up a dead, mildewed patch of zucchini the vacant spot almost begs for a few tulips or daffodils which you can’t find a space for elsewhere.  No worries though, I’m sure they’ll die down before I need the room for peppers!

Oh and I think the colchicums look nice blooming between the sweet corn stalks 🙂

In a vase on Monday: Goldenrod

In celebration of Labor Day and a Monday away from work, I’m once again making a contribution to the ‘In a Vase on Monday’ movement.  It may not exactly be a world changing movement, but it’s fun and does motivate me to bring a few flowers into the house so look at how it’s changing lives!

arrangement with goldenrod and dahlias

Another pluck and plunk arrangement. I didn’t realize how unbalanced it was until after I looked at the photos!

This week’s arrangement was inspired by Kimberley at Cosmos and Cleome.  In a recent vase Kimberley had the good sense to add a few sprays of goldenrod in to fill things up, and it took that vase to make me realize I have a ton of the stuff growing all over the place and should do the same!

goldenrod and dahlia

The just barely blooming goldenrod has a nice soft color and fills in well. It’s like a redneck version of baby’s breath plucked from the roadside.

Besides the goldenrod, this vase has the pink tipped blossoms of dahlia ‘Tanjoh’, a purplish red dahlia (maybe ‘Plum Pretty’?), a few zinnias, a couple pink sprays of ‘kiss me over the garden gate’ (persicaria orientalis), and a few fig leaves which were in the way of my boxwood trimming.  I like it 🙂

dahlia 'Tanjoh' with goldenrod

The goldenrod makes up nearly half of the arrangement yet you really just notice the larger blooms. Such is the curse of a ‘filler’…

With all the goldenrod coming into bloom I may have to admit to myself that autumn is approaching.  On the road to college I was always disgusted by the mass of goldenrod yellow filling the fields along the highway, and it’s always been a mental marker for the end of summer and the return to work.  I guess that’s my bias against the plant, but because of its native status I tolerate it when a seedling shows up.

goldenrod for cutting

There are more than enough wayward areas around the garden for goldenrod to sneak in a rod or two.

Not to stray too far from my Monday vase, but I guess some goldenrod annoys me less than others.  One of the species is only just starting to color, and I think it’s my current favorite.

goldenrod and sumac

Goldenrod just coming into flower along with some staghorn sumac which the starlings and robins will enjoy this winter.

This floppy one is not a favorite.  Once it’s finished blooming I’ll run back here and mow things down to give the grass a chance.

wild goldenrod

Not a bad goldenrod, there’s just too much and I’d rather leave a little room for some of the asters which are yet to come.

Here’s my last goldenrod.  I don’t know any of the species but this one’s a smaller, leaner version.  I would almost say I like it.

wild goldenrod

Unknown goldenrod…. any ideas? This one’s about two feet tall and like the others doesn’t need a thing from me.

Thanks for staying with me for my little segue from cut flowers to roadside weeds.  They’re wildflowers of course, and if I can just get past my stereotyping I may be able to call them all cutflowers someday.

If you’d like to see other cutflowers more artfully arranged I’d encourage you to visit Cathy over at Rambling in the Garden.  You can check out what she and other bloggers around the world are doing for their own “In a Vase on Monday”.   Have a great week!

Hello dahlias :)

I’ve always dabbled a little in dahlias, but last year I treated myself to a few named ones from Swan Island Dahlias.  Last year they did great, this year even better!

dahlia moonstruck

Dahlia “moonstruck” would look great in a border, it’s got a nice height and really puts out the flowers.

I did lose a couple (my overwintering technique is sloppy at best) but I like to think of it as natural selection.  Eventually I’ll be left with only the dahlias that can tolerate my abuse!  Right now if I can only keep them watered and possibly fertilized once more they should put on a great show until frost cuts them down.

dahlia tanjoh

Dahlia “Tanjoh” barely bloomed last year, this year it’s in a much better spot and is really starting to put on a nice show.

I consider dahlias to be as easy to grow as a cabbage.  Maybe that’s why some people look down on them, they grow so lush and showy that there’s little room for subtlety and finesse…. which is just fine with me.  I grow them best amongst the vegetables where they can be fussed over and freely cut for the house, and they relish the easy life amongst the tomatoes and beans.

dahlia 'mathew alan'

This was supposed to be my favorite from last year “Plum Pretty”, but apparently it’s dahlia “Mathew Alan’. He’s a nice enough dahlia, but this means it was the plum that died over winter and went onto the compost pile….

I love all kinds of dahlias, but seem to be stuck on the quilled ‘cactus’ types.  A six inch wide cactus bloom and a height of about four feet seem just right for my taste, but a look through any dahlia offering will show plants from a half a foot to six with blooms from one inch to twelve…. and daisies, pom poms, dinnerplates, waterlilies, collarettes and more and more in the way of bloom types.

dahlia 'bride to be'

With a generic white flower name such as ‘Bride to Be’ I would guess this one would be perfect for a wedding arrangement. It’s a waterlily type, with broad, perfectly arranged, rounded petals.

Water, rich soil, and full sun are all these ask of me.  They should be staked, but I’m the sort who waits until a storm knocks them all down before I do anything….. I should really reconsider that plan, especially since I just picked up some suitable wood at the DIY store (no excuses!)

dahlia "goovy" with japanese beetles

Slugs, earwigs and Japanese beetles are the only troublemakers I get in the dahlia patch. They’re never much of a problem, I just dispense punishment, clip the bloom, and wait for a new one to come up in its place. This is dahlia “Groovy”, a darker leaved variety.

I’ve been through dahlia phases before and usually after a couple seasons of digging and replanting I either get bored or end up losing them all to bad winter storage.  We’ll see.  This latest phase is still burning hot and fierce, and I’m tempted to turn over the entire vegetable patch and fill it with dahlias!

peach dahlia

My oldest dahlia. This unidentified one from the box store has been surviving the in and outs of winter storage for at least 9 years…. practically a record in responsibility for me! (If it was taller it could be the 1963 dahlia “Alfred Grille”, but named or nameless still a nice one)

So we’ll see what happens.  Dahlia season is just starting and there are more to come, but opinions may change when the temperatures drop.  Digging soggy dahlia roots on a cold windy October weekend can really kill a plant lust and I’m far too frugal to just buy new tubers each spring.

Do you bother with dahlias?