Still Not the Worst

Ok, so I think I have to admit I’m halfway liking fall this year.  Those who know me are shocked.  I’m shocked, but to be honest the weather has been decent, there’s been free time to work in the garden, and just enough rain has come down to make planting and projects a pleasure, so it’s kind of an ideal autumn.  Gnats though, that’s one thing I can complain about.  They’re all over, but as long as I keep my head covered and don’t sit around too much it’s still tolerable… usually… until they get so thick I inhale a few, and then I’m done and back in the house.

hardy chrysanthemum

‘Pink Cadillac’ chrysanthemum just starting in the front border alongside some floppy little bluestem and perovskia.

Once the clouds of bugs thin a little, I sneak out a different door and try for a few more minutes in the garden.  October is chrysanthemums, and surprisingly enough a few have survived all the summertime neglect to now look bright and fresh in an otherwise tired looking garden.  One of these years I will really give them the springtime attention they deserve, but they don’t seem to be pining away waiting for me to come through for them, and look good anyway.  I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

hardy chrysanthemum

A nice orange chrysanthemum which was discovered after the Rosa glauca was cut back mid summer.  It’s been blooming for at least a month and the flowers get to be almost four inches across, so I’m good with that!

Although I’ve been enjoying the finale of the garden more than usual this year, I’ve also managed to squeeze in some actual work and projects.  One such project has been building up some of the flower beds which drowned last year in the endless rain we had.  A load of topsoil was ordered and delivered, and slowly found its way around the house and into the backyard, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow, and will hopefully help in keeping plants up and out of the swamp… just in case we ever end up in another repeating loop of rainstorm after rainstorm after flood.

new garden beds

Drowned hydrangeas and rhododendrons are gone, and this bed’s been raised about two or three inches.  Also a nice walk out of salvaged stones makes this bed look promising again.

Although I am entirely against hard labor, at least the delivered topsoil is root and rock-free and easy to dig… as long as it’s only slightly wet, and hasn’t crusted yet or turned into rock solid dirt clods.  Hopefully it makes for easy planting and good growing next year with a minimum of weeds, but experience suggests otherwise and I should probably get a plan together as far as mulching and groundcovers.

container bog garden

The bog garden is looking quite nice now that the pitchers have grown a little and some spagnum moss has been moved in.  Now if I only knew what to do with it for the winter.

I had planned on ordering a load of shredded bark mulch to follow up on the topsoil, but yesterday discovered my source is closed for the season.  Easy come easy go I guess, and I’ve taken that as a sign to not bother, save the money, and instead find something else (preferably free) to cover up the newly bare and exposed real estate for the winter.  My friend Paula mentioned her frequent trips for free township compost and that sounded like an excellent plan.  A little research on my part and I discovered there may be free compost available from my town as well,  and maybe just maybe I can squeeze a few loads into the back of my less than three month old suv without making a muddy mess.  We’ll see.  It’s about time I broke it in anyway.

new garden beds

The topsoil ran out and so did the gardener, so this is how I left things.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll have the energy to redo the stone path and set the last of my stones… but I still need more soil to raise the bed and all of that is gone…

Oh and by the way in between dirt moving and stone setting, I weed wacked the entire industrial park berm.  Ok so it took three days and it was before the dirt was delivered, but I’m glad it’s done and I have to admit it does look nicer… even if I almost broke a leg a couple times as I lost my footing or tried to reach just a little too far down the slope…

spruce on berm

The berm stretching back from my mother in law’s to the end of my yard.  The spruce are at least ten feet tall, so it’s a big area and a lot of work to clear.  Imagine my two word response when someone said “I wish you would have done that all summer”.

The boring neatness of a cut berm is far less interesting than the front yard, so it’s out there that I go to enjoy some color.  We had a bit of frost last Saturday, but overall it’s still fairly colorful with a few late bloomers and a bunch of lingerers.

fall perennial border

After ten years a few of my conifers have finally grown big enough to become noticeable.  Oh my gosh this might qualify as winter interest!

The lingerers are mostly annuals and dahlias holding on until frost, and the late bloomers are mostly mums and asters, but there is one star which always makes me happy to see.  ‘Sunnyside Up’ pokeberry (Phytolacca americana) has been lighting up the street side of the border all summer and as I found out this past week has been stirring up the neighborhood as well.  While cleaning the last of the dirt from the driveway a neighbor stopped by to tell me about the ‘invasive’ he saw growing out there.  “Those weeds are all over my backyard” he started with, and then continued to go on about how they spread and how fast they grew, but not much further before I cut him off with the offer of another beer.  Problem solved.

sunnyside up pokeweed

At this time of year I love the red stems and purple berries alongside the yellow foliage of “Sunnyside Up” pokeweed.  I get a little thrill every time the mockingbird swoops down to snatch another berry or two and spread the joy of this lovely native far and wide.  As long as you’re going to have pokeweed might as well have a lovely yellow leaved strain.

Once the subject changed I didn’t even mention the masses of mugwort and the forest of bradford pear seedlings which lined the road behind him.  Or the bittersweet which went from just a sprig to a tree-strangling mass in five years… or the Japanese knotweed, stiltgrass, honeysuckle, garlic mustard in the woods… or the purple loosestrife growing in his foundation beds.  Hmmmmm.  Plenty for another post.  We should enjoy just a few more autumn flowers instead 🙂

colchicum autumnale album plenum

One of the last of the colchicums, C. autumnale album plenum.  Just as a note I’ve tried to refrain from posting too many colchicum photos this year, so fair warning that 2020 will be a rebound year.

I’m thinking the reason I’m finally enjoying autumn is the new ‘I don’t care’ attitude which has developed out of my previous ‘because I can’ attitude.  At first it was actually a little hard to leave the lawn uncut and let weeds grow, but unless it was really necessary I let a bunch of the tedious labor slide this year in favor of stuff I’d still be enjoying years from now.  New shrubs.  New beds.  New paths.  Lower maintenance plantings.  Simplification.  Last year to keep the garden perfect meant continuous mowing, trimming, and weeding that went around the yard and then started all over as soon as it was done.  Thats no fun, and it’s also only appreciated by myself.  So I let it go.

hardy cyclamen

The hardy cyclamen (C. hederifolium) alongside the driveway are flowering well this fall.  About half rotted out from the rain last year, but the survivors seem to have recovered and are seeding about.

Or… maybe I’ve just reached critical mass for fall flowers and this is the first year in three that every day doesn’t start with gloomy, rainy grayness, but I think it’s the flowers.  Better get to the nursery this afternoon to make sure I haven’t missed any fall blooming plants that can still go in 🙂

bougainvillea hanging pot

My bougainvillea has greeted cooler weather with a second flush of flowers.  The colors scream summer, but the blooms are welcome regardless even if they do look a little out of place in October.

Or maybe I’m overthinking all of this.  The truth is I have new snowdrops, and some are already sprouting and in bloom and that makes me think of spring.  I love spring.  Maybe all this talk of autumn is really just a very very early spring.

Have a great week 🙂

GB Foliage Day- October Highlights

Ok I know I’m a few days late, but I still wanted to get in on Christina’s GBFD post.  It is her 500th post after all!

For us the foliage season is going downhill fast.  Here in NE Pennsylvania the foliage color has peaked and most has dropped, and it’s just some of the slowpokes and lingerers which are still giving a show.  The gray days of winter are approaching fast….

fall color in a mixed border

Color along the front porch. In a few more days the hostas will turn bright yellow, but for now the dogwood seedling (now a sapling?) steals the show.

We’ve had a good amount of rain lately and I’m digging and planting and cleaning away.  I love a nice green lawn in the fall, and spent yesterday mowing up the fallen leaves and leaving behind a neat lush carpet.  What I should have done is transplant the flowering dogwood seedling which is way too close to the porch and house…. but I guess I’ll just have to live to regret that one’s placement.  Maybe it will somehow work out 🙂

burning bush fall color in a mixed border

Burning bush (euonymus alata) living up to its name with a few final zinnias and giant reed grass (arundo).

The red of the burning bush foliage is a fantastic color at this time of year, but I think this will be its last fall.  It’s an invasive plant around here and although several neighbors also grow it I don’t want to contribute to the problem.  There were enough seedlings coming up last spring to tell me it needs to go, and maybe a native blueberry will be a better choice for the spot (tastier too).

yucca color guard with ceratostigma (leadwort)

Yucca ‘color guard’ with the burgundy foliage of ceratostigma (leadwort).

Last winter was rough on the yucca, killing off most of its leaves.  I’m glad to see it has recovered since I love the foliage so much.  Right now the leadwort has a nice reddish tint which sets off the yucca well, and even without the bright blue late summer flowers it’s still a great plant.  Too bad I never planted the colchicums out here.  That would have been a nice look!

variegated boxwood

I like boxwood, and this variegated one surprised me by making it through last winter without a single scorched leaf. The odd little drumsticks to the right are seedheads from an anemone who’s name escapes me at the moment.

The big foliage stars around here are the hardwoods, and if you move around to the back deck, the red maples are still hanging on to a few leaves.  Without any wild storms or hard freezes the color has lasted quite a while this year.

Pennsylvania deck in fall

It’s been a nice long fall this year, and I’ve had plenty of time to work through the summer containers figuring out who comes inside and who doesn’t 😦

Off to the other side of the deck the not-quite-tropical border has faded to dead stalks, and I’ll probably leave it like that all winter.  Fortunately the grasses are at their peak, and with a little late afternoon sun everything has a nice glow to it.

autumn color ornamental grasses

Panicum ‘cloud nine’ is a big fluffy grass which really comes in to its own this time of year.

I’m not much for fall cleanup, I tend to leave everything standing throughout the winter and then mow it all down in March.  I do get a little greedy with the leaves though.  I’ll mow up as many as I can and use the mulched leaves to blanket vegetable beds and bulb plantings.  They’re perfect for keeping out winter weeds and feeding the earthworms.

heuchera fall foliage

The heucheras are showing new colors and patterns now that the weather has cooled. It will be interesting to see how these settle in and perform next year… I bet these would love a nice chopped leaf mulch.

More evergreens would go far in setting off some of the fall foliage, I just don’t have much in that department.  Overgrown yews are about all I have, and they’re a little close to the house to let them develop into the small trees they could be.

fothergilla fall foliage color

Bright reds and oranges of fothergilla. It’s a great native shrub for late season color, just keep the rabbits away from it in winter.

… and of course cyclamen.  How can you talk fall foliage without mentioning cyclamen?

cyclamen hederifolium

The last flowers on cyclamen hederifolium. As long as snow doesn’t cover them I’ll be able to enjoy these leaves all winter.

I’m much later in posting my foliage than I should be, but on the 22nd of each month Christina at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides hosts the Garden Bloggers Foliage Day, and gardeners from all over the world show off what leaves are doing for their gardens.  Take a look and see what they’re up to…. I’m going to try to, but I have so many bulbs to plant and leaves to mulch it’s going to be a busy weekend!