A Tropical Update

While we look to the tropics and wait to see what the latest hurricane brings I think a trip to the milder side is in order.  The Pennsylvania tropics are much calmer and even-keeled and if you ignore the heavy hand of winter’s approach I think it’s a nice enough retreat from everything else going on.

tropical garden

The tropical border this summer.  The steady rains were a plus but the cooler temperatures held many a hot-blooded plant back.

Even though things were in the ground earlier than ever this year the cool weather made for a slow start.  I even lost nearly all the dahlias when my “big patch of ’em” idea didn’t go well with the “all the water drains here” reality.  Losing plants to an excess of water is not something I’ve ever experienced here on this thin-soiled hilltop.  Fortunately there’s always a backup plan.

tropical garden

The striped leaves of ‘Bengal Tiger’ canna rank as one of my all time favorite plants.  To me they seem to go well with everything, especially the purple verbena bonariensis and surviving dahlias.

Verbena.  Verbena bonariensis is my backup plan for nearly every plant fiasco/disaster.  Any unmulched sunny spot quickly sprouts a few seedlings and all this gardener has to do is stand back.  If anything they need thinning since they  come up thick and look much better when each has some space of their own.

alcazar kniphofia

This might be my most promising red hot poker.  Kniphofia ‘Alcazar’ has nice big spikes with just the right glow factor.  Last year there were only two flower stalks which faded in a week or two, but this year three flushes of flowerings kept the plant interesting for almost two months.  I hope it wasn’t a fluke!

I do tend to let things just happen.  Laziness and distraction can do that to a garden, and the far end of the tropical border is mostly foliage.

tropical garden

Leaves aren’t all that bad.  Having a spot where color is not entirely in your face is probably a good idea.

The mulch which I smothered this end of the bed with must have contained some leftover autumn decorations so the coleus I planted ended up being smothered by the climbing vines of Yugoslavian finger squash.  They seemed to love all the rain and vines slinked and slithered all through the back of the border.

yugoslavian finger squash

There’s something about the name ‘Yugoslavian finger squash’ which I think is funny.  Yugoslavian?  The finger?  Finger squash?  It’s like a teenage boy came up with the name and I guess it speaks volumes for my maturity level.   

So while we await our Finger squash decorating bonanza the rest of the border is busy with the bees and butterflies who take advantage of the color.

monarch on verbena

With any luck this year’s Monarch migration will be a big one, and I hope I left enough verbena to keep them around for a few days. 

I’m hoping things work out well for a big Monarch migration this autumn.  A few years ago there was a trifecta of beautiful weather, plenty of butterflies, and loads of verbena blossoms and walking through the fluttering garden was almost surreal.  Thinking back on it I really feel bad for those people who hire landscape companies, spray for any wildlife which gets too close, and then stare at lawn all summer.  Holy boring.

katydid

At three or four inches long Katydids are an insect you can have a conversation with.  People go on about bees and butterflies but these guys are my favorites… even if they do eat decent sized chunks out of the purple canna leaves.

The tropical garden is not boring.

tropical garden

Too much?  Stripes on stripes was not the plan but somehow ‘Tropicana’ ended up in front of ‘Cosmopolitan’ fountain grass.  It should look even more tasteful in another few weeks when the grass puts out its pink flower heads.

Hope a good weekend is had by all and a little boring can extend down to the areas in the path of hurricane Irma.  The tropics look much better when not ravaged by obscene winds.

A Different Tuesday View: The Tropics 09.20.16

The weeks have been flying by too quickly and once again I find it’s time to join up with Cathy for the Tuesday view.  If you remember last week there were tarps and shingles flying, and since the roofer also happens to be a friend of mine, guilt had me up there over the weekend lugging bundles around and throwing in a hand to help out (even if it was only for an hour or two).  The view is nice up there, and what better vantage point for this week’s view?

tuesday view

The Tuesday view from above. I think we can safely say the bed has filled in and keep in mind all the canna clumps tower at least 8 feet.

A view from the top reminds me of a similar post over at The Rusty Duck last year.  Jessica was up the scaffolding getting a new outlook on the garden, and although she made it slightly higher than the roofline of my neighbor’s one story ranch, I think the effect is the same.  Something about seeing the same old view from a different perspective always makes it seem new and exciting again… even though my wife was less than excited to find out I also took my daughter up there.

tropical garden

The back end of the tropical garden.  I love the purple napier grass (pennisetum) but the banana is my favorite by far 🙂

A new look or not there’s really nothing special worth mentioning this week.  Don’t get me wrong, I spend far too much time each week just soaking in the color and lushness of this bed, but I’m going to try and be considerate and spare you yet another stripped canna leaf close-up or castor bean portrait.  I’m sure a few will show up this winter when the cold and snow get to be too much.

Have a great week and consider giving Cathy a visit at Words and Herbs to see what other Tuesday views are looking like.  I hear there’s talk of autumn in the air…

Stop it with the autumn talk

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

hardy chrysanthemums

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

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

fall vegetable gardening

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

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

salvia splendens van houttei peach

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

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

dahlia mathew alan

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

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

pepper masquerade

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

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

dry perennial border

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

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

dry perennial border

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

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

kniphofia

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

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

summer planters on the deck

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

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

Same old story, dry again…..

The rains came, the grass greened, and all was well for a few weeks, but now it’s dry again.  I shouldn’t complain though since it hasn’t been hot enough to kill off anything, just a few wilting annuals and sad looking, dry dahlias.  Fortunately the perennials have deep enough roots to carry on, and overall the front yard doesn’t look too bad.

zinnias in a mixed border

The front border may be dry, but there’s still enough color and texture to keep things interesting.  I watered a little after taking these pictures…. the guilt of wilting zinnias and coleus was too much of a weight on my conscience.

When things go dry I start to lose interest.  The plants look sad and I hate watering, so my daily inspections just turn into bored sighs and a quick return to the porch furniture or air conditioning.  It’s a shame since so many things are still peaking and a little water would do a world of good for my thin quick-to-dry “topsoil”.

sedum spectabile brilliant

The sedums (maybe sedum spectabile “Brilliant”?) are in full bloom with bees galore, and help give some nice solid color to what otherwise might be too busy a planting.

I don’t like a planting that limps into autumn in a half dead state of decay.  I want something that hangs on until the last hard freeze forces things to come crashing down to an end.  In the front yard that means a mix of long season “lingerers”, late perennials, grasses of course, and plenty of planted and self sown annuals.

late season flower border

It’s mostly green in this border in June, but the color really revs up in September.   The yellow rudbeckias in bloom now came up as seedlings in June (when I finally got around to weeding and dividing and planting my way through this bed).

Occasionally some of the earlier perennials take a second bow.  This clump of delphiniums was great in June (for a few days before strong winds flattened them all), but now they’re back for some late season color.

rebloom on delphinium

Green grass, full borders, and rebloom on the delphinium.  The next storm will surely flatten them (again) but for now this corner by the garage is a nice welcome home.  This picture is looking out from the garage, across the walk to the front door, and on to the front border along the street.

The beds along the house are ok too, but much calmer.  This year I tried to limit the usual “too much color” look and stick with more gray and blue tones with some yellow of course.  The red coleus just happened…. you know I can’t go cold turkey when there is open soil and a few extra plants in my hands 🙂

ranch house foundation planting

The plants are a little spotty, but the overall effect is much calmer than last year…. even with a couple clumps of orange mums coming along 🙂

I guess a bright accent by the front door is sorta acceptable.  This almost became the year of the geranium considering how two pots overwintered became eight big plants when divided.  I really shouldn’t, but maybe I can just roll this pot into the garage and hope for the best when winter kicks in.  I’ve already got nearly a billion plants coming in so what’s one more pot?

potted geraniums

Potted geraniums, a perfect container plant for gardeners with a less than perfect watering record. Seeing the blue leadwort (ceratostigma) blooming reminds me that I wanted to try a few colchicums here.

So the front garden is aging gracefully and as long as a little rain comes our way it should still be a nice, colorful fall.  Seeing the pot full of geraniums reminds me of some developments this year which could now become an ugly problem.  My containers have been multiplying and it might be time for some plant confessions.