Autumn. It Could Be Worse.

I’m ok with summer being over.  Not excited, but ok with it, and I guess that’s good enough since neither myself nor anyone else can do much about it anyway.  Fall follows summer and that’s just the way things roll here in NE Pennsylvania.  At least we have butterflies this year, and in this garden the butterflies have been the highlight of every garden stroll.

Monarch on zinnia

Monarch butterfly on a zinnia in the potager.

People enjoy talking about how beneficial butterflies are and I’m not going to argue with them but if you think about it they’re right up there with cabbageworms and tomato hornworms in terms of caterpillar crawling and plant eating.  They don’t do all that much to benefit the gardener, but they’re just so darn pretty to look at.

monarch mantis attack

A handful of butterfly parts.  Not a good sign for the butterfly lover since no butterfly sheds its wings willingly.

If you want to consider a beneficial insect the praying mantis might come to mind.  Maybe.  Not since the garden of Eden has all life pleasantly revolved around working purely for mankind and the praying mantis is definitely a New Testament kind of creature.  Its instinct is to kill and eat (not necessarily in that order) anything from bees to grasshoppers to butterflies and it doesn’t matter if the gardener would prefer the later to stick around (uneaten) for pollination purposes.  Scattered butterfly wings under your flowers is a good sign of a fat mantis above.

praying mantis

The guilty party lurking amongst the flowers of a chrysanthemum.

The chrysanthemums are only second party to the carnage.  It’s not their fault they’re so attractive right now right as the Monarchs are moving through.

seedling chrysanthemum

Some seedling chrysanthemums from a few weeks ago.  

I couldn’t care less about chrysanthemums in April, but now as everything else is calling it quits I wish I had an entire border of them.  I bet I say that every fall but your guess is as good as mine as to if it will ever happen.  So far the one thing I have managed to get done is collect, and grow (and kill) quite a few different mums and fortunately manage to have a few nice ones left to flower each fall.

chrysanthemum centerpiece

Chrysanthemum ‘Centerpiece’.  Perfectly hardy for me and an interesting flower form, but she always insists on starting the season in August, way before I’m ready to look at mums.

What I really want is some of the big “football” types, ideally the obscenely large, overfussed, and overfertilized types which show up in the better greenhouse displays at this time of year.  There’s about a zero percent chance of that happening but it doesn’t stop me from hoping that someday, something close to a miracle will take place, and one of my larger flowered types will do the impossible.  For now I’m just happy I found (mailordered from Mums of Minnesota) a few ‘footballs’ hardy enough to overwinter here without me jumping through hoops… or even just jumping anywhere… I’m still feeling seasonally lazy.

football mums

A few football mums which survived two months of potbound abuse and then a way too late planting.  I like them all but the pale yellow ‘Mellow Moon’ at center is my favorite.

Although I’ve been ordering and labeling and trying to keep mum names straight, I’m much less snobby about the chrysanthemums than other plants such as say… um… snowdrops.  My barren soil seems to make an excellent seedbed for mums and I try not to rip them all out during those frantic days of May.

seedling chrysanthemum

I planted ‘Dolliette’, the smaller quilled flower in the back, but the others including the pink are just surprise seedlings which popped up around her.

I welcome the seedlings, I welcome the fussier ones, but I also welcome any leftover autumn decorations found on our or the neighbor’s porch.  Most of these disposable greenhouse mums don’t make it through the winter, but a few surprise us with green life in the spring.

garden mums

These leftover porch decorations have been here for a while, surviving drought, disease, and neglect.  This spring I moved a few of my favorites next door to ease the monotony of mulch and I’m quite pleased with the result.

The mums and Monarchs may be stealing the show but the beautiful weather sure doesn’t hurt either.  Our gardener did make an effort last week to mow and trim and between that and the greening lawn I think he may eventually snap out of his autumn doldrums, but when temperatures are so comfortable and the lighting is so relaxed I don’t see much hope in the way of any major garden projects being started.

autumn flower border

The front border with some nice autumnal light.  The brown amaranthus dead center really does detract from the view, but….

I’m fine with enjoying the weekend while the weather is still on our side.  There’s always next week to start fall cleanup and if it doesn’t happen…. maybe the winter winds might do just fine on their own.  As long as I dig up the dahlias and cannas before December, that’s the kind of timetable I have in mind.  Have a great weekend!

Tuesday View: The Front Border 10.9.17

My gardener has been extremely unmotivated these last few weeks as he comes to terms with the long stretch of hot dry weather which has settled down upon this corner of Pennsylvania.  Months and months of not needing to water and not having to concern himself with pampering transplants has spoiled him, and the last month of humid, buggy, unseasonable heat has him refusing to work.  As a result this week’s Tuesday view is not much changed from the last view, and other than the general air of decay setting in, there hasn’t been much of a fight put up against this end of season degeneration.

front border

Today’s Tuesday View.  Autumn is here.

The garden did get a good soaking this weekend when the latest hurricane leftovers blew through, but the humid dampness also brought the local gnat population to an electrified frenzy.  Lets hope it also electrifies the gardener since all we’ve gotten out of him in the last few weeks has been a 20 minute manic attack on a relatively innocent Rose of Sharon bush (Hibiscus syriacus ‘bluebird’).  It happened one overly warm afternoon, shortly after he was heard ranting something to the effect of  “look at all those friggin’ seed pods, no way I’m pulling up thousands of seedlings next spring”.  So out it came.

front border

Sometimes pretty blue flowers and inoffensive green leaves just aren’t enough.  The Rose of Sharon is out now, but unfortunately the branches, rootball, and garden cart still sit where the gardener left them over a week ago.  Not even the threat of a Tuesday View was enough to get him moving!

Fortunately there have been a few other autumn goings on which can distract us from the local labour’s laziness and sloth.  The fall bloomers are coming on in full force and the Monarch migration has reached its highpoint.

aster raydon's favorite

We are on the downside of the migration but Monarchs still keep fluttering on through.  Aster ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ might not be the Monarch’s favorite but as far as asters go it’s mine.  It tolerates drought, needs nothing from me, and flowers for weeks.  

There are always a few dozen butterflies floating through the air, and as you stroll they take off and circle in a round, lazy pattern which makes you wonder how they ever manage to make it all the way to Mexico.  But they do, and although it’s still on the warm side they better get a move on it.  Frost is coming and the last nectar-filled flowers won’t be around forever.

pepper sedona sun

Some color at the midpoint of the bed.  An unknown purple mum from a years-past porch decoration and the cute little orange and yellow fruits of ‘Sedona Sun’ pepper.  Each year I like ornamental peppers more and more and who knows, maybe next next spring will turn into pepperpalooza!  

The last big hurrah of the front border will be the pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) at the far end.  Most years the peak of pinkness hits only to be followed by a bleaching frost but this year my fingers are crossed for at least a few days of enjoyment.  I’ll try for a better photo next week with a little late afternoon sunshine but for now you’re stuck with a little of the grass with yet another Monarch perched in front.

monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly surrounded by the colors of autumn.

So that wraps up this Tuesday’s view, and it also signifies the beginning of the end of the 2017 season.  You may have noticed that in spite of the heat I’m no longer quite as convinced that summer will never end, and I’m actually accepting that autumn is here.  I guess it was inevitable, and if you’d like to see what it looks like in other parts of the world give Cathy a visit at Words and Herbs to check up on a few other Tuesday Views.  I hear she is also admitting the season is winding down.

As always have a great week!

Tuesday View: The Front Border 9.12.17

Of course I could go on and on about the Tuesday view this week, but free time has been in short supply lately.  The kids are back into their routine and there seems to be an endless parade of games and practices and parties and very little time for anything else… unless you count Sunday afternoon.  It was a beautiful afternoon and a big chunk of time was set aside to just soak up the sun and enjoy the last days of summer.  Some gardeners can’t sit still when there’s work to do.  I’m not one of them.

front border

The Tuesday View of the front border. Things are starting to feel the season but I’m counting on a long fade into autumn.

Even though the gnats are terrible I must have spent a good couple hours here and there in protected locations just taking it all in.  Usually ‘taking it in’ included a drink or snack or just sitting and staring but I made sure to slow down and enjoy.  If you want to think of it as being careful that would be more polite than considering it lazy.  You never know what next week will bring so it’s always safer to enjoy things while they’re here.

front border

A view from the side.  It’s not often that the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea blushes pink for me but the cool nights and consistent moisture seem to be working.  SO much nicer than dried up brown…

There are still a few things to come for autumn but we’re almost at the end of the Tuesday road.  Chrysanthemums and asters are maybe another week or two and then after that it’s cleanup and frost.  Ouch.  It hurts to even say the F word.

kniphofia burning embers

I was surprised by this red hot poker the first year it bloomed.  I wasn’t expecting it so late in the season but there it is every September.  This is last week’s photo of kniphofia ‘Burning Embers’, and it’s a plant which would probably appreciate some more breathing room, but you get what you get.

So this week it’s a calm and mellow contribution to Cathy’s Tuesday View.  The weather here and the time of year seem to demand it but if you’d like to visit with a few other more industrious gardeners give Words and Herbs a visit and see what Cathy and others are up to as they track their Tuesdays throughout the year.  Have a good one!

Tuesday View: The Front Border 7.18.17

A Tuesday greeting from humid and damp Pennsylvania.  I love it.  The garden has never been so lush and vibrant, and until the mold and fungus kick in I’ll enjoy every minute of it, even the downpours.  Here’s the view this Tuesday.

front border

The pink coneflowers and lavender perovskia are really kicking in now.  

In all honesty this is actually a Monday afternoon view since the lawn was freshly cut that afternoon and strong storms were on the way, but close enough, right?

front border

The view from the street.  I started out trying to keep it shorter and neater here but the perovskia and coneflowers seeded in and I’m pretty sure nothing I could think up would look better.    

This is the time of year when this border really hits its stride.  For the next few weeks it should be just full of color… maybe too much color, but if you think back to our bleak months of winter I think you’ll be able to ignore much in the way of poor design and less than perfect color combinations!

front border

A closeup of the middle.  I see plenty, but the yellow of my absolutely favorite new plant ‘Axeminster Gold’ Comfrey is all I want to talk about.

The variegated comfrey has been something I NEEDED for a few years and finally got a hold of this spring.  It’s everything I like in a plant, big, bright, and variegated, and although it will likely scorch in this normally dry, full sun spot any other year, this season it’s doing just great.  If you need any other reason to grow this plant check out Nancy Ondra’s Hayefield blog for one of her posts on this plant.  I make no secret out of the fact it was her photos which ignited my plant lust for this goodie, and honestly it’s been at least a year since I last plugged her awesome blog or books or just plain good person-ness so I think it’s about time I mention her again.

agastache golden jubilee

What?  More yellow?  You bet!  The tidy little grass is miscanthus ‘Gold Bar’.. which (after three years) is much shorter than its predicted 4-5 foot height, and some Agastache ‘Golden Jubilee’ which comes nice and true from seed, as these have. 

I’ll finish up with the far end of the border which is looking much nicer this year than normal.  Part of that has been the rain, but the other factor is I’ve been making a point out of starting at this end and working my way over to the mailbox rather than the other way around.  With my attention span it really makes a difference which end you start from 🙂

front border

I don’t think anyone will be copying this mess, the only colors missing are a true red and blue,  but it sure is “interesting”.  Please take note first of the amazingly neat mulch and second of the hydrangea peeking out from the center.  It’s a clearance ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ from last autumn, and although it starts white I’m hoping it develops a nice strawberry blush soon after.  We will see.

So that’s where we’re at for this Tuesday View.  If you’d like, give Cathy at Words and Herbs a visit to see how everyone else is doing this week, it’s a great way to keep tabs as the season changes, and even better if you join in with your own view… plus you can’t go wrong on any visit to Cathy’s!

Have a great week, and wish me luck.  I started tidying up a few shelves in the garage on Friday and the weekend turned into a full blown garage cleaning, rearranging, repairing, and repaint-a-thon.  I’m not even halfway done.  It was needed.

 

 

Tuesday View: The Front Border 7.4.17

Its mildly disturbing how quickly the weeks roll by, but once again it’s Tuesday and time to check in on this year’s view.  This week marks a new month, a definite turn to summer, and for those in the US it’s Independence day so bring on the picnics and barbecues and fireworks 🙂

street border

A lush, robust Tuesday view.  We have not wanted for water this year and many of the plants are bigger than I’ve ever seen.  The bugs are thrilled as well, and I don’t recall any other year which had this much  buzzing and flitting and fluttering .

I’m declaring this the year of the lily in my garden since it seems as if bulbs all over are putting out more blooms than ever.  I have special to me seedlings which have surprised me with their first flowers but I also have some of the fancier hybrids which have finally settled in.

lilium red velvet

Lilium ‘Red Velvet’.  It may not show well in the garden because of its dark, saturated color, but check out that dark, saturated color!

The Asiatic hybrids are some of the most popular of the early lilies, but I’m not all that crazy about the shorter, upright facing forms.  I like the tall downward facing ones, and if I had more room I think I could easily collect a few… hmmmm… new bed idea?

lilium red velvet

‘Red Velvet’ is in its second year here and about five feet tall.  That’s an excellent eye level flower for me, and perfect for close inspection.

Now I won’t go on about the scarlet lily beetle, since as of yet they have not reached our little valley, but for those of you afflicted by this pest I extend my sympathies.  I dread the day they reach here and that will likely be the year the lilies are given away to better homes.  I’ll just grow sunflowers if it comes to that.

street border

The mailbox is destined to be engulfed with sunflowers this summer (they’re the big leaves in the center).  No idea what kind they are other than birdfood leftovers, but I do know they’ll be awesome 🙂

The street side of the border is beginning to show some color again as the lavender colored perovskia, pink coneflowers (Echinacea), and a lonely yellow rudbeckia open up.

street border

Weedy or wildflowery?  If I ever get around to mulching I’ll try to neaten up the first foot or so of the edge so it looks like I planned all these plantings… which I didn’t 😉

A few years ago I tried adding a few named varieties of Echinacea purpurea to the border… well actually it was just two, and neither were the more exotically colored forms which you see out today… the plants seeding around now are just more of the average form, which in my opinion are still awesome, but don’t be fooled into thinking you need every seedling which comes up.  I rip out plenty each year, and if I were smarter I’d do it again now while they’re in bloom in order to select out the smaller, less exciting flower forms.

echinacea coneflower

Sometimes it amazes me that flowers this nice just grow all by themselves in some midwestern prairie.

As you probably know, these coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) are North American natives and not far removed from the wild forms which dot the prairie landscape.  For a minute I might ask myself why I bother with other more troublesome primadonnas from landscapes far removed.

echinacea coneflower

More coneflowers

Have I mentioned spring and now early summer have been perfectly watered?  They have, and the hydrangeas and pretty much everything except for a few iris and dahlias are looking all the better for it.  Plants are lush this year and on top of that it seems all the good bugs are swarming while the bad are sparse.  You know that won’t last, but for now the only thing which seems too lush are a few of the ornamental grasses and this Eryngium.

eryngium

Maybe it’s just early but this normally steely blue and gray Eryngium (species unknown) is just mostly green *yawn*… we will see how it progresses…

The late planting of annuals is also a work in progress although I have high hopes for a later season of full plants and bold colors… if not entirely tasteful or well thought out colors 🙂

mixed border annuals

The newest bed expansion is still filling in.  I believe there’s already plenty here and just needs to fill in, but it makes me anxious to see open ground in July.  

I guess the only thing left work-wise for this summer is mulch.  I couldn’t garden without mulch and this year I’m treating myself to a load of shredded bark mulch rather than a temporary bandage of grass clippings or shredded leaves (which were used up elsewhere months ago).  This time of year I only cover the outer most foot or two of beds since the inner sections are already covered in plants.  It’s not that I wouldn’t mind mulch there as well, but for as much as I plant and replant, this perfect coating of shredded neatness would be dug in and over within a few months and for me that doesn’t sound like a worth-it kind of investment.

rose campion lychnis

A common upright sedum with a few small up and coming coleus and a patch of rose campion (Lychnis coronata).  To me a sunny garden without sedum is just nonsense.  

So that’s a pretty full Tuesday View.  As usual thanks go to Cathy at Words and Herbs, and I invite everyone to give her site a visit to see what her view and others around the world look like this week.  It’s always a treat and I’m sure they probably mulched weeks ago.  Happy fourth, and have a great week!

Tuesday View: The Front Border 6.13.17

Welcome back!  That’s what I’m saying to myself as I get back to posting Cathy’s weekly view… after an *ahem* three week absence…

street border

This afternoon’s hot and muggy Tuesday view.  The iris are faded, summer has arrived, but the border is looking slightly less than interesting.

There are the usual being busy excuses, the typical computer broke problems, and of course home improvement projects which take on a life of their own, but today I’m more interested in letting you in on a little secret.  For as much as this might shock you, this blog is not as highly trafficked as the witty dialog and artistic photos might indicate.  Posts over the last few weeks have been down, and to be honest there’s not much pressure to post when your daily view count averages in the low 20’s.  As I think on it and ponder the reasons I’m starting to wonder if it’s the raw realness which is turning people off.

fading tulips

Although I’m completely distracted by the second, third, and fourth bloom stalks rising up from my precious red lupine, others might see faded iris stalks, yellowing tulips, overly vigorous weeds, and stray play equipment… I guess in an attempt to mend fences I should apologize for the mess 🙂

Maybe this upcoming week I can pretty things up and polish up on the blog’s readability.  Zinnia seedlings are just a seed packet away and the unusually reliable rains this spring should be very forgiving to late plantings.  In the meantime looking at the far end of the border should cheer someone up.

red hot poker kniphofia

I forgot which red hot poker (kniphofia) this is but I have yet to find one I don’t like.  Sure this one is over in something like two weeks, but I keep holding out hope I’ll find one with a longer season.  The rose is ‘William Baffin’ by the way.

‘William Baffin’ is taking over the end of the border and I’m just fine with that.  No disease problems, absolute hardiness, a nice 6 foot height, and even a little rebloom makes it a decent rose… but stronger fragrance would make it an awesome rose.  I bet all the better blogs have fragrant roses.

William baffin rose

‘William Baffin’ rose, hordes of fennel, and the first blades of the variegated Arundo donax grass coming up and swamping what used to be an iris patch back in May.

Who am I kidding?  Summer is finally here, the grass is a color other than its typical June brown, and there’s always a ton of new things to admire.  Maybe a little less admiring on my part and a little more work, but I’m quite pleased with (most of) the garden and even though I can’t go around the table asking cabinet members to tell me how amazing I am, at least I can look through older posts and hear myself remind myself how amazing I am.

The roses are coming on in the tropical bed as well. Plus three days of heat and humidity have done more for the cannas than three weeks of sitting in the cool dirt. Finally they’re sprouting.

So it’s an optimistic Tuesday view, and as long as I don’t dwell too long on all the other even more excellent blogs out there, I should be able to make it through the week without regretting the $3 a month which “Sorta Suburbia” demands.

Speaking of other more excellent blogs I’d like to mention and thank Cathy at Words and Herbs for her continued support of the Tuesday view.  She and other more excellent bloggers can be found there each week and come Tuesday it’s always a pleasure to see the seasons have progressed another week.  Enjoy!

Tuesday View: The Front Border 5.16.17

The spring bulbs are over.  It was up to 92F (33C) today and suddenly the feel of summer is in the air and there’s a new rush on planting and trimming and all the projects which were on the to-do list.  I wasn’t going to post this week, but with iris season fast approaching it’s probably better to at least look a little level-headed for another week or so before going completely off the deep end again with the next big flower flood.  Right now I think of this as the green phase, and with the lawn freshly cut and the beds not yet overrun with weedlings I think it looks springtime calm.

street border

Not much color.  Tulips have faded and been deadheaded but other than that it’s been a no-work week. 

I continue to border on sainthood as more and more days go by without any major plant purchases, but make no promises about the next week or two.  I do have to confess one moment of weakness though which happened a few weeks ago.  It was during pansy season so I don’t think it counts but I am concerned that I would have tried to hide it had I not been busted by a visiting blogger last week.  This plant really is an example of giving in to temptation.

lupine red rum

Lupine ‘Red Rum’.  Perfectly grown, budded, and the tag promised a color which easily breaks through my steeliest resolve.  I resisted also buying a purple, but this one was too tempting and even if it does die in another year or less I’m still sure having it here now makes me a better person.

Otherwise nothing else is putting on a show, even though a patch of ‘Gladiator’ alliums looks decent enough.

allium gladiator

Allium ‘Gladiator’ and a solitary bee.  People are worried about bee populations dropping but I feel like all bugs (other than gnats and mosquitos) are becoming scarcer. 

I shouldn’t go on too much in a post about nothing.  In an attempt to leave you with a bit of substance, here’s a flashback of last year’s Tuesday view, the tropical border.  The bed seems to have picked up a number of perennials and hopefully that’s not a problem now that it’s warm enough for the tropicals to go in again.

the tropical garden

With a fresh border of mulch the tropical garden is beginning to get its summer residents.  Oranges and yellow zinnias are the first to go in and I guess that means it will be another bright planting 😉 

The tropical bed didn’t take nearly as many zinnias as I thought so it looks like we’ll also have a nice orange theme when the extras go into the front street border.  I’m not sure how that will work out but as usual I’m not too concerned.

Thanks again to Kathy at Words and Herbs for hosting this weekly view, and please consider giving her blog a visit to see what others are talking about this week.  I hear she’s also dealing with the first warm spells of the year and it’s exciting to think summer is just around the corner…