End of Summer for the (not quite)Tropical Bed

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

heptacodium blooming

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

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

mammoth mums

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

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

pink salvia splendens

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

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

red zinnias with ninebark

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

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

sun sugar tomatoes

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

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

cicada

cicada

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

Welcome to Fall

Now that autumn is here I have officially given up on watering the garden.  The cooler temperatures are not as deadly as the summertime heat, and the rain we had a week ago should be enough to keep things alive.  So things are on their own for a while.

Most of the vegetable garden is done anyway.  Yesterday I let the kids pick the pumpkins and decorate the porch for Halloween.pumpkin patch

red wing onion harvestThe ‘Red Wing’ onions were also harvested as well as the last of the eggplant.  This pretty much finishes up the garden for the year (with the exception of a few peppers and a single brussel sprout plant).  It’s a shame the dry weather sapped all my enthusiasm for a fall planting, the idea of a fresh lettuce harvest right about now sounds very nice.

Despite the end of regular watering, the dahlias continue to put out flowers and carry on.  But they are beginning to look tired, and anytime the sun gets strong the leaves wilt.  Just about everything looks tired.dahlias in the vegetable garden

sunset colored dahliaThe only dahlia that actually looks better now is this one.  I need to look up the name, but the color that looked awful in July shines in autumn.

In case you haven’t already picked up on it, the vegetable garden tends to become a flower garden as the season progresses.  Any gap in the plantings quickly fills with self sown verbena, Persicaria orientalis, and amaranthus ‘hot biscuits’.  The amaranthus has a weedy look that not everyone appreciates, but I like it, and have been very generous with spreading the seedlings throughout the yard.  At this time the seedheads seem to glow in the autumn sun.the late summer vegetable garden

"phoenix" the fig returned from the ashesThe glow of autumn light is a signal to start thinking about protecting the tender plants for winter.  My fig has had a troubled season.  It spent the winter in the dark of the garage and began sprouting in January.  The sprouts dried off by March but then a few pots of water brought some new shoots for April.  By May I decided to use its pot for other, healthier looking plants, and while the fig waited for a new home (perched with rootball exposed on a spare saucer) it died again, this time I thought for good… on to the compost pile it went.  But like cats, apparently figs have several lives.  Around July I noticed a few sprouts coming up out of the compost and upon investigation found the fig root ball to be the source.  Finally it was given a decent home, and it’s grown this year without any resentment.  Now what to do this winter…..

red Dipladenia with pansiesAlso needing a winter home are the tropicals on the deck.  Even though I only paid three dollars for this red dipladenia, I can’t let it die!  So either the dipladenia or the pansies will need to be repotted and brought in.  I would have never thought of this combo, but pansy seeds do their own thing.

I don’t even want to think about the rest of the non-hardy deck plants.  They’re growing and blooming and doing well in general even though I never got around to any of the summertime repotting or transplanting I had planned.blooming succulents on deck

 The geranium should hang on in the dark of the garage, maybe the rosemary, but I’ll need someplace warmer for the coleus.early fall planters on the deck

Fortunately the tropical garden survives the winter by seed or stored tuber.  No windowsills needed for this end of the garden.red themed tropical garden

the freshly turned compost pile…and I’m finally getting some work done instead of just sipping drinks in the shade.  The compost pile was turned and a bonanza of “god enough” compost was found underneath.  It’s as dry as a bone in the pile, so I’m surprised there was any decay going on at all, but the plants will love it and I’m grateful for any scraps I find.  the question will be “who gets it?”

Actually there’s no question, my favorite new bulbs always get the scarce compost.  Here’s the newest bed in the back of the meadow.  A privet hedge (luckily privet isn’t invasive here) is planned for along the fence, and a snowdrop (galanthus) bed will get its start here.  I’ll bore you with the varieties next spring but for now here’s a picture of my usual low work (ie lazy) bed preparations.new bed for snowdrops (galanthus)A couple inches of topsoil from elsewhere in the garden is spread out, bulbs are pressed down into the raked surface, a few inches of compost is used to top off and cover.  The compost I used has a good amount of soil mixed in, but if it was more organic I’d cover the bulbs with a layer of garden soil too.  They should be just fine here, and I’ll give them a good mulch of chopped autumn leaves once they come down.

I celebrate fall with bulb planting, I love getting the bulbs nestled down into the earth for next spring, I just wish the soil wasn’t so unfriendly and dry.

A Hawaiian Shirt

Normally I try to give this flower bed a little respect, calling it the tropical bed instead of just “the mess”, but for whatever reason this year it really is a mess.  The usual tropicals went to fill up new bed space this spring and I didn’t save enough goodies for here, plus it was planted late too…. (more excuses)…. and about half the plants are volunteers that just came up on their own, so it’s a patchwork of screaming colors.

Red salvia is loved by the hummingbirds, but the color really asserts itself.  Some people have poo-pooed this pairing with the violet verbena as too “bleech”, but I think it could have been worse.red salvia and verbena bonariensis  The bigger view shows the weediness of the planting…..

annual flower garden

I suppose I could have ripped out the amaranthus plants that came up (they’re the tall leafy stalks) and the squirrel ravaged sunflower is no beauty…. and the white buddleia in front of the white fence…. I could go on and on….

But it’s bright and colorful and it was meant to be vibrant.  Next year I’m hoping to add a little green to calm it down and going back to more cannas to make it a little more “solid”.  The white will be moved out.red annuals

The “summer poinsettia”  is actually starting to grow on me, it’s the dark purple leaf which is developing the red tops.  I like its lushness and maybe if I can just find some good neighbors it will really make a statement…. not that it’s keeping quiet now 🙂