Where is Summer Going!?

It’s entirely possible that everyone shares this same gripe, but I feel summer has been flying by this year.  Even more so than usual.  The days go faster, the schedule seems busier, and all I want to do is slow the calendar down.  I don’t even want to talk about autumn, but those back to school sales are in full swing, and I saw plenty of plasticky orange and yellow fall decorations lining the shelves of the local mart, just waiting for the summer haters to open their wallets.

In the meantime here’s a quick, picture heavy run-through of the garden in high summer.  It’s my favorite time of the year out there.

standing cypress

Annual standing cypress has seeded in nicely anywhere the mulch used to be and brings some bright red to the border.

These photos were taken over the weekend, and it was just the beginning of our latest round of gully ripping downpours that hail from the tropics.  Monday I think we topped another three inches and unfortunately that does not bode well for the lower lying areas.

monarch on rudbeckia

Monarch on Rudbeckia triloba.

The plants seem fine though.  Everything is lush and vibrant and other than a little floppiness and extra height it sure beats dealing with another year of soil-cracking drought.

pale sunflower

A pale sunflower out along the street.  I always love them against the feather reed grass.

Even with the dampness and humidity it’s much more pleasant to dig in freshly-watered soil than it is to pickax your way through a dry and dusty crust.  With some time on my hands and a little too much ‘exuberance’ in the front border I did some editing.  You barely notice the vacancies.

garden overhaul

Nothing like a big dig project on a 90F degree day.

Of course the weeds have been a nonstop battle.  I finally broke down and bought a few bags of mulch in hopes of clearing out a spot in back… which is definitely out of control.  Needless to say it is still out of control, but I used the mulch to neaten up a couple edges in front and that made me even happier.  Maybe I’ll crack open the wallet again for a few more bags.  It’s slightly addicting.

senna alata annual

My “other” popcorn plant, actually a candlestick plant (Senna alata aka cassia) showing off some of its cool leaves.

In the meantime I just love all the color and the busyness of bees, and bugs, and hummingbirds and goldfinches zipping around from sunup to sundown.

cannova rose

‘Cannova Rose’ highlighting the front border.

Mulching is rewarding, but for the most part for me this part of the year is more a matter of counting your losses, writing them off, and enjoying the successes.  I was hoping last year would be my last caladium year, but apparently the obsession continues.  They are one plant which has been thoroughly enjoying the rain and humidity and who am I to turn my back on such happy plants?

potted caladiums

The caladiums are just happy doing their own thing in a patch of shade.

Something I don’t want to talk about too much are the two new daylilies which have shown up.  Apparently people like these things, so who am I to not give them another chance?

blue fescue border

Finally, a neat foundation planting and a new daylily.  Brighter is better in my opinion 🙂

As I was working through the foundation beds (finally), it occurred to me that many of my weed problems might have something to do with me.  Every week or two I rip out a couple more milkweed shoots as they try and take over the entire front yard.  Maybe the ‘weed’ part of their name could have been a tip-off but hey, they showed up on their own and the butterflies like them so I figured what’s the harm in leaving a few.  I frequently see eggs being laid but as of yet no caterpillars, and I wonder if that’s the down side to having all those bees and other pollinators flying around.  I think they might be adding a little protein to their nectar diets.

milkweed in the garden

Milkweed in popping up around the garden.  The record so far is 15 feet out into the middle of the lawn!

Around back there is definitely a need for some mulching attention.  Your best bet is to ignore that, and just look at how nicely the jungle is spreading.

canna bengal tiger

Looking over the tropics into the backyard.  The cannas are starting to really take off is spite of the crowded planting conditions.

As usual there are too many sunflowers, but eventually the cannas and other stuff force their way through and it’s all good.

canna australia

Canna ‘Australia’ has never looked better.  I love the shiny darkness of the leaves and it’s lush growth this summer.

I can only imagine what shenanigans are going on in the interior of the bed.

canna red russian

The cannas in back have barely made it to six feet.  I blame the sunflowers of course!

Once you reach the backyard it’s practically a wild kingdom.  The potager is now on its own and the selfsowing annuals will take over as I make a weak attempt to save a few vegetables.  Eight foot sunflowers and persicaria (kiss me over the garden gate) leave little room for a bean plant.

potager garden

The potager is on its own now.  I just try and get the mower through and call it a success if I do.

There are a few things though.  Peppers and eggplants are coming along, but the tomatoes look as if the rain has done them in.

growing bell peppers

It’s been a good year for peppers!

I forgot the zucchini.  There’s some of that in the way back.

lilium formosanum

The lilies (Lilium formosanum) are starting out back.  They’re always a sign that summer is edging past its peak.

Beyond that is just weeds.  The meadow needs mowing, and the shade beds are just sitting there (and I’m all for just sitting there) but eventually I hope to whack it back before it all goes to seed.  Cool weather can be an inspiration, so we will see if that can snap me out of enjoyment mode and knock me back into taming it for next year mode 🙂

succulent cuttings

Garden visitors are all offered as many succulents as they want.  Apparently I haven’t been getting enough visitors!

In the meantime enjoy August.  I suspect it will go even faster than July!

Back to Work

The rain last week did wonders for the garden and it’s become as lush as last year.  Lush is sometimes code for overgrown, so I spent some productive time trimming and weeding this weekend and I’m happy to say it appears to have paid off.  With pictures taken at precisely the right moment, from just the right angle, within hours after the lawn was mowed and edged, the yard finally looks nice.  I guess it’s about time considering we’re about four months into the growing season.

street border

The lawn cut and edged.  It looks almost parklike, just ignore the yellow spots… the kids were playing with a metal detector and searching for treasure in the turf…

I’ll try not to dwell on all the flaws I see.  The front border has much less color from annuals this year because of beetle attacks and a dry spell, but there’s enough which has come along regardless.  From the street side it’s really filled in, the usual perennials and random sunflower make a nice barrier between us and the road.

street border

The border does its own thing along the street with just an occasional whacking back when things get out of hand.

From the lawn side there’s also a good amount of perennial color, but not as much as I’d like.  I do prefer my plantings on the brighter side  🙂

street border

This picture is 100% showing off the lawn.  It’s a rare day when a well watered, green, freshly cut, neatly edged, lawn shows up on this blog.

Speaking of too much color, it’s not an official policy but in general I don’t have many daylilies in the garden.  I don’t like the way the leaves on so many of them look all beat up by the end of the year and for that reason got rid of most of them.  That may be a-changin’ though.  I spotted this one next door and there’s a good chance I may rationalize an emergency dividing, so I can sneak a few pieces over onto my side of the property line.

orange and pink daylily

Orange and pink.  This might be just what my border needs… or it might be one more piece of evidence in the case against any good taste in my garden.

I’ll have to be sure I don’t give in to the temptation of bringing a few bright daylilies into the tropical border.  It’s supposed to be all big leaves and bright colors thanks to explosive, non-hardy southern plants, not steady reliable things like daylilies.

tropical garden

A late start means the dahlias are only just now starting to flower, plus an unusually lazy May meant three or four were all that ever got planted.  Maybe less will be more this year…

The top part of the tropical border is again nearly overwhelmed by 8 foot tall sunflowers among other things.  This year I thought for sure I’d have the upper hand after pulling nearly all of them up but of course with more space the remaining plants grew even bigger.  I guess I could have worse problems.

tropical garden

At least the elephant ears look tropical.

The lawn isn’t the only thing enjoying some maintenance love.  I pulled out the hedge clippers and started doing a little trimming and was able to re-meatball all the lumps of yew along the house.  I don’t completely mind trimming hedges, but rounding off the same yews every year just to have the same yews rounded off every year seems incredibly pointless, so by the time I got to the big one at the end I was more than a little bored.  We’ll have to see where this ends up.

yew topiary

Maybe I can call my yew balls ‘topiary’ now.  Of course I have yet to clean up the trimmings or get a ladder to reach the top…

Out back the potager is particularly lush.  I’ve been relentlessly pulling sunflower, verbena, persicaria, and amaranth seedlings but plenty remain.  Through July I still pretend to be the one in charge, but by August I lose the urge.  From here on things will be getting messier and messier, with all kinds of halfway attractive flowers sprouting up and taking over as the phlox fade or the vegetables are picked.

potager vegetables

It’s phlox season, and each day far too much time is spent checking them out.

I do like my phlox, but experience has shown they don’t like me.  The list of named varieties which have perished in this garden is pretty embarrassing, so of course we won’t talk much about that, and hopefully more observant readers won’t notice that I again spent a decent amount of money on new ones earlier this spring.  They’re not dead yet which is a good sign I think.

phlox paniculata

A mix of seedling and named varieties of tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata).  To my eye gold and pink do not mix well… in fact I hate the mix… but I need marigolds and I need phlox, so there you go.

From further away the phlox look colorful at least.  Close up the foliage looks abused and there are plenty of other issues, but the flowers keep coming, and it makes me wonder if they think this is their last hurrah before they kick the bucket.  I hope not, but I’m not going to fool myself into thinking they like it here.

potager vegetables

I feel like it’s a requirement to grow marigolds in your vegetable garden, even if it’s so fancy that you call it a potager.  Sorry about the white buckets littering the view, but this photo is to prove that there really are vegetables in here.

One last phlox photo.  I wonder if they’d like me more if I dug up a whole new bed and devoted it to even more phlox and more new phlox?  A few more reds would be nice and how much room do a few tomatoes need anyway?

I definitely need more phlox, and I also won’t rule out bigger clumps of the good ones like this white seedling. They’re native plants by the way, so maybe this is helping make America great again.

I’m sure by September I’ll be wishing for fewer phlox and more colchicums.  Maybe.  Hopefully it’s not chrysanthemums though since I’m this close to yanking most of them out in spite of the fact I needed bunches of them just a few years ago.  I hope not everyone is as fickle as I am.

Happy August and have a great week!

During and After

Summer vacations and gardens gone wild are two things that seem to come up regularly each year, and I’ve noticed many of the better bloggers will do posts on preparing your garden for a longer absence.  Here’s my two cents.  Do everything you know you should have done already but have been putting off, and then go enjoy yourself.

pandora animal kingdom

Florida in July is not enjoyment.  The kids seem to like it but my only moment of ‘not bad’ was seeing the new Pandora section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Cycads, fantail palms, tree ferns, massive rock outcroppings on what used to be flat sand…

It was as hot up in Pennsylvania as it was in sweltering Orlando but fortunately a well timed rainstorm kept everything relatively happy.  My plants are used to hit and miss attention so one more week wasn’t all that big a deal.

deck containers

The deck containers would have fried without watering, but an automatic drip system makes them almost carefree, even with a full sun baking each afternoon.   

I guess I can just pick up where I left off.

weedy garden

These are my new phlox.  Only the most adept word-find champion would be able to find any phlox in this mess, but trust me I managed to dig them out yesterday afternoon 🙂

For some reason this year seems like so much more work than any other.   I suspect it’s the result of my cheap nature and the way it’s keeping me from buying a nice, luxuriantly rich, delivery of shredded bark mulch (and its lovely weed smothering qualities), but it could be anything.  My deepest fear is that I may in fact be getting old, and I may in fact have a more ‘intense’ garden than I should.  My daughter informed me last week that all I do is look at plants or go on the computer and look at plants and maybe she’s not all that far off.  I kind of pointed out that I also brought her to her friend’s, picked up her brother from somewhere else, went to the store, met mom for lunch, picked her back up, went for ice cream with her….

potager

The potager in need of a grooming and a hedge trim.  Growing vegetables might be the most time consuming component of the garden… even if you’ve only got my word to go on when it comes to there being any actual vegetables in there.

So now I’m working through the garden one more time to get it presentable.  Throwing lawn clippings down as a mulch is helping, here and there the weeds might be slowing down, and overall the flowers are trying to make a go at it.  At least the bugs (both good and bad and indifferent) don’t seem to mind a little ‘woolliness’.

swallowtail on phlox

I’d like to think this beautiful yellow swallowtail is the child of one that was hanging around the garden a few weeks ago.  I like that there is so much life sharing my garden. 

Some of the woolliness comes from my weakness for self-seeders.  With phlox season ramping up there’s the excitement of new seedlings which snuck in while I wasn’t looking, and the surprises that come with new faces.

phlox paniculata

It takes plenty of diligence (maybe more than I have) to keep your phlox colors pure.  This may look like the same clump but it’s actually ‘Cabot Pink’ in the back right half and a stray seedling to the front left.  Slightly different petals and a tiny bit shorter, but the real giveaway comes on cool mornings when the seedling takes on a blue tint.

The phlox might look nice but they’ve been giving me trouble this year, even with decent rains and halfway decent care.  Spider mites are swarming and the usual sprays of water and fertilizing haven’t done the trick.  For as much as I like tall garden phlox, they really only tolerate me.  Maybe someday I’ll make them happy.

weedy garden

My failed poppy patch.  You may be able to spot a few purple blooms in there but for the most part it’s weeds which seemed to have sprung up overnight.  Hopefully I can get at this today before the rain hits.

Relatively speaking the front border is doing much better than the back.  It’s not nearly as colorful as last year, but it’s far less work than the potager, and only needs a strong beating back every now and then to keep looking decent.  Last year I expanded it out as much as two or three feet and worried about what to do with the space.  This year the perennials have rolled in and I barely have a few spots for annuals.  Hmmmm.  Ten minutes after saying I want less work I’m considering ripping out perennials to make more room for annuals.

front border

I feel like the border is dull this year.  The coleus I usually count on for foliage color have been brutalized by beetles and other less interesting things are trying to take over their space.

Don’t worry.  This should be the last post where I whine about how much work gardening is, and go on way too long with the woe is me theme.  It’s really not that bad and since I took these pictures I’m nearly all the way around the yard with the straightening up.  Plus there’s plenty of stuff to admire while I’m trudging on 🙂

lilium silk road

‘Silk Road’ might be my favorite lily.  It fills this whole end of the border with fragrance, doesn’t need staking, and gets better each year even in a terrible spot.  My dream for the future is that it becomes a clump of several bulbs and adds another two or three feet in height!

Enjoy your weekend, the weather here has been excellent for time in the garden and in spite of my daughter’s harsh assessment I’m still planning to do a lot out there today.

Before

It appears a little catching up needs to be done.  A gardener’s life is always hectic in the spring but for a while I was doing just fine keeping up.  Not to brag but this spring was exceptionally well under-control, with weeding and seeding and cutting and moving all happening close to when they should… something that has never happened in years prior here at the sorta ‘burb.  I was even halfway close to getting all the new purchases into the ground within days of buying them, rather than nearly killing them two or three times before planting.  Let me tell you it’s amazing what a difference that makes!  But then the blahs hit.  Relentless mowing and trimming and spider mites and weeds and the whole ‘what’s the point’ thought process set in as June turned into July and the temperature and humidity tag teamed each other to new heights.  When you reach the end of your ‘around the garden weeding tour’ only to find yourself at the start of the next ‘around the yard weeding tour’ it can get a little discouraging, and to be honest that’s where I left off.  Most of the new plants and annuals were in the ground, the automatic drip lines to the container plantings were working, all the insects were well fed… so off to the pool, a weekend at Omi and Opa’s, some porch sitting, and then a week off to Disney to realize how good I had it all along.  Miles of trudging through 100F+ heat indices and then waiting on lines for every foreseeable human need can change a person, and I have returned renewed.  Here are a few late June/ early July highlights to begin my return to gardening. 😉

clematis ville de lyons

Clematis suffer here in poor locations with shoddy supports.  I finally moved ‘Ville de Lyons’ to a decent spot and she’s rewarded me with a wonderful show of flowers.  Now I just need to move a nice blue to the other side!

This post may seem entirely random because it is.  I don’t bother taking pictures when I’m disgusted with the garden so all the last few weeks can offer are a few furtive scurries outside when I felt like I had to get a few pictures onto the camera even though I knew there wasn’t much worth documenting.

common milkweed

Common milkweed right next to the front door.  Of course it’s the absolute wrong place for a weed so  I trimmed it down to two feet the day after it was flattened by a storm… only to see my first Monarch butterfly 24 hours later.

Speaking of documenting, I do have to tally up another $33 for two amazingly grown, full of buds, Japanese iris which I bought for myself as a Father’s Day gift.  I know I shouldn’t count them since they were a gift, but being that I was surprised with an actual gift certificate the next day I guess I shouldn’t push my luck so onto the 2018 tally they go.

iris lion king

Iris ensata ‘Lion King’ is a lot of everything.  Maybe this is my own personal point of ‘too much’ because I prefer the simpler purple one I bought the same day, but I guess we’ll see next year… assuming I can keep it alive 🙂

Add on a random tornado that touched down about seven miles down the interstate.  That’s the second one in about two years, kind of bizarre considering no one remembers ever having tornados here before.

tornado damage

Fortunately the tornado hit a purely commercial area, later in the evening after things had closed down.  Timing was everything.

Then the heat and humidity descended.  Heat for us means upper nineties so if the Southerners can excuse a little whining I just want to say it felt really hot.  Not hot enough to scorch the lawn yet (and spare me from all the mind numbing mowing) but it was hot enough to wake up every bug and blight and get them energized and inspired enough to take on the plant world.

june front border

Apparently thick haze wasn’t enough to mellow out the harsh light of mid-day, but here’s the front border just waking up from it’s June lull.  Some color, but still mostly green.

The big grasses are one of the plants which seem to thrive on heat and dry spells.

ornamental grasses

Along the street the variegated giant reed grass is looking awesome again and the pink fountain grass (Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’) is flowering up a storm.  Last year all the rain had the fountain grass too lush and green and completely floppy.

One plant which did not appreciate the humidity were the hollyhocks (Alcea rugosa).  As the flowers began to open up from the bottom of the seven foot stalks, the orange spots of rust followed behind, creeping from leaf to leaf.  Just for the record I don’t remember rust on hollyhocks being such a plague years ago when my mother grew these.  It wouldn’t surprise me to find that this is some new strain which came into the country somewhere along the line, and has ended any hopes of fungicide-free hollyhock growing on the East Coast.

hollyhock rust

The orange spots of hollyhock rust working their way up from the base of the plant.  This will not end well.

A garden which actually enjoys some heat and humidity is the tropical bed.  The cannas have yet to take off but given a little water and fertilizer I know they will (and I’m even more confident about that since this photo dates back to the end of June).

june tropical garden

The red of ‘Black Forest’ rose continues to heat up the tropical border, but a few other things are filling in.  Verbena bonariensis and the first dahlias are just a few weeks away.

I would guess there are plenty of hot and dry spots in South Africa, so it doesn’t surprise me that the prickly daisy flowers of Berkheya purpurea look fresh and happy opening up in the heat.  I haven’t quite figured out yet why I like thistly plants, but this prickly, perennial mess is one of my favorites!

Berkheya purpurea

Berkheya purpurea looing as good as it gets in the rock garden.

Another mess which absolutely thrills me is the meadow garden.  In early July the grass is just beginning to dry off, and the golden rudbeckia and orange butterfly weed fill it up with color -even if golden rudbeckia are one of my least favorite colors.

meadow garden

The meadow garden with a smattering of aspen saplings which have been allowed to sprout up.  Of course they’ll end up casting too much shade, but right now I love the rocky mountain meadow look.

I leave you with one last bit of randomness.  I’ve been nursing a ‘Chuck Hayes’ gardenia along since picking it up at the nursery late last summer.  I tried the same thing the year before but of course killed it just as it was about to bloom, but second time must be the charm.  With the new plant I carefully did nothing other than take it into the garage to escape the worst of the winter, and then water just enough to keep it alive.  No silly fertilizing, or repotting, or anything else that would mess with the healthy plant that I had, all I did was wait patiently as it set buds and then finally decided to open up a few which had been forming all spring.  On the first day of the most brutal, heavy, enveloping humidity ‘Chuck Hayes’ opened a bloom and filled the air with his Southern perfume, and it was just like I hoped it would be.

gardenia chuck hayes

Gardenia ‘Chuck Hayes’ in bloom.  Another catch it while it’s still alive moment in the garden.

And then the blahs hit.  It’s really not as bad as it sounds since I’ve already seen the other side, but to make a long story short, the garden survives.

$33 worth of gifts to myself

$738 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

An Iris Visit

Although it was a struggle to break away from the garden during this (I should be) busy season, a friend convinced me to take a day and ride out to The Presby Memorial Iris Garden in Montclair NJ to finally follow through on a promise to visit.  Word was that the hot weather and rain had been tough on this year’s show, but that was all lost on me the minute we pulled up to the entrance and saw the beds full of color.  I was way too excited to be there, and just in case there was any doubt left, I’m absolutely a plant nerd.

presby memorial iris gardens

Looking across part of the Presby iris gardens towards the building which houses the Citizens Committee which oversees the gardens.

An all volunteer Committee runs and maintains the gardens, and their work is amazing.  There were several people out and about tending the beds, either deadheading or staking, and I’m sure that’s quite a job considering how many plants are being grown here and the maintenance needed to keep them at their peak.

presby memorial iris gardens

A bed of more modern iris (~1970’s) stretching upslope behind the house.

Personally I tend to prefer the older and simpler forms of historic iris (older than 30 years) but I’m only human and the fluffy, ruffly, overblown flowers of the modern tall bearded iris are very tempting.

iris 'wings at dawn' 2014

Iris ‘wings at dawn’ (2014).  A ‘space age’ iris due to the little tabs ‘launching’ off the falls of the flower.

This might have been my first time around so many iris.  They put on quite a show and I can see how the garden drew in hundreds of visitors the day before when the weather was nicer (but much hotter).  In spite of the fact I had actually brought an umbrella along, a light drizzle started shortly after we arrived and normally I’d complain about my luck, but actually the fine mist only added to the relaxing effect of the pearly light, glowing colors, and nearly empty gardens.

presby memorial iris gardens

A mixed planting near the house.  

My friend and I slowly took in the plantings.  We went back and forth between admiring each bloom to admiring the overall setting and figuring out which varieties we had and which we absolutely needed now that we’ve seen them in person.

presby memorial iris gardens

Long iris beds follow the contour of the land along a small creekbed which separates the gardens from the rest of Mountainside Park.

Although I was mostly interested in seeing all the older iris this garden is known for, here’s just one more that’s “too much”.

iris montmartre 2008

Wow.  Iris ‘Montmartre’ (2008)

Before making the visit I saw an online comment calling the gardens “small”.  I guess I can believe that.  Some people could probably walk the gardens and take a selfie in just over 20 minutes and then hit lunch, but just for reference we iris lovers strolled about in the rain for about two hours before feeling we’d gotten a fair dose of iris.

presby memorial iris gardens

Iris stretching off along the street towards the woods. 

I did enjoy spending too much time admiring some older iris I’d never seen before.  They have a grace and elegance which some of the newest varieties lack and to be honest I might have added a few more to my wanted list.  Now would probably be a good time to mention the annual grab bag sale the gardens host as they replant beds each summer,  and also next month’s annual Historical Iris Preservation Society (HIPs) rhizome sale.  Both are excellent means by which a historic iris addict can add some of the seldom offered older varieties.

iris 'titian lady' 'melanie' 1941

White iris ‘Titian Lady’  and the rosy ‘Melanie’, both 1941 introductions.

I’ll leave you with just a few favorites as we enjoyed the older iris plantings.

historic iris 'ariane' 1930

Historic iris ‘Ariane’ (1930)

historic iris reingauperle 1924

I loved the tall historic iris ‘Reingauperle’ (1924).

historic iris 'waverly' 1936

The light rain was perfect for bedazzling the flowers of ‘Waverly’ (1936)

…and there were peonies as well.  The entrance to the building next door had a nice smattering of peonies filling its beds.

presby memorial iris gardens

Peonies outside the gift shop.

presby memorial iris gardens

Iris and peonies holding up to the rain.

Thanks to Trish for meeting me there, and thanks to the volunteers who make this show happen each year.  It was great seeing such a nice garden and it has me wondering how difficult it would be to start something similar in my neck of the woods 🙂

Have a great week!

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!