A summertime stroll with a couple surprises

I think I’ve been pretty good this summer keeping up with the garden.  Usually I have so many more weed patches and unplanted pots, but this year  things look a little better.  I know, I know…. prep soil first, have a plan, buy new plant with a spot in mind, don’t plant more than you can take care of, keep low maintainence in mind….  but that’s not how I roll 🙂

I finally cut, bent, and put together the rebar arbor I’ve pictured in my head for the last two years.  Last summer it was a single span, this year I doubled it for more stability and wired in a few cross braces.  I really should throw a little concrete around the base…. but I’ll wait till it blows over this autumn before I learn that lesson (again).

rebar garden arbor

Arbor going into the vegetable garden. The rebar alone looked a little bare, so I went out back and ripped down a few grape vines to bulk it up, and give the vines a little something to hold on to.

Since we’re in the vegetable garden, here’s the early garlic harvest.  This is the first year I managed to plant it properly (in October), and I’m pleased.  I’m even more pleased since these were stray, sprouting cloves I found in the bottom of the vegetable crisper which were planted out rather than thrown away.

garlic harvest

Garlic harvest. The ones I actually bought from the garden center specifically for planting are a later variety and yet to be harvested.

Last winter was one of the coldest, snowiest ones I’ve experienced living here, so you can imagine my surprise to find some gladiolus overwintered.  I vaguely remember there being a few thin little wisps of gladiolus leaves here last summer (I must have missed some of the tiny cormlets when the mother bulbs were lifted) but never gave them much thought.  This year they’re back, and voila, the little things surprised me even more by blooming!

phlox 'bright eyes'

Not only was the gladiolus a surprise, but the color coordination with the phlox, verbena and pole bean blooms is better than anything I could plan!

I only finished laying out and digging up the vegetable garden last summer, prior to that it was lawn and a holding bed for some of the plants brought up from the old house.  One of those plants was a wisteria vine, and when I moved it the remaining roots put up a couple suckers.  Surprise again when one of the suckers actually put out a bloom!

wisteria summer bloom

Not many gardeners are avant-garde enough to combine sweet corn with wisteria, and the fact that I’m considering building another arbor or tuteur in order for this guy to stay here says a lot about the haphazard design of my garden.

It surprises me that I would actually post a photo of this mess.  It’s the unfinished steps to the deck, and it’s were I like to sit with a drink thinking about all the tasks I should be finishing up instead.

tropicals in containers

Tropicals in pots, geraniums on the steps, and plenty of weeds. I actually did trim them all back yesterday but I’m sure they’ll have rebounded by the time I take another picture.

From the steps I get a good view of the vegetable patch -I like to call it the farm 🙂 , and the sunflower patch.  Last week I noticed this quilled version in with the others.  The rolled up petals are different enough to be interesting.

quilled sunflower blooms

In the center is the quilled version of the regular sunflowers. The flowers are nice enough, but it’s the coming and going of the goldfinches and sparrows that keeps things busy around here… as well as the angry little hummingbird who tries to chase everyone away.

I’m getting the feeling yellow is a little passé as far as being a fashionable color -if it ever was- but I clearly have a problem with “acquiring” yellow leaved plants.  “Isla Gold” Tansy is one of my favorites with its finely cut foliage and drought tolerance.

isla gold tansy with bon bon sedum

‘Isla Gold’ Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) in front of ‘Bon Bon’ sedum. Don’t let the stupid name throw you off, the sedum is also a great plant.

Around the house in the front yard I finally gave up on the way-too-dry-and-hard-to-water spot by the lamppost.  I trimmed the ‘Tiger Eyes’ staghorn sumac back to the ground and let it and its suckers fill in the bed.  Too much yellow?  I don’t think so, and I no longer have to water this spot.

tiger eye sumac

I hope the plant police don’t find me. ‘Tiger Eyes’ cutleaf sumac (Rhus typhina “Bailtiger”) is a patent protected plant, and here it is propagating itself without corporate approval.

Another weedy spot has been the front street border.  I should probably do something about this since it’s a slightly prominent location which everyone who passes sees… but I’m a little bored with it right now.  Maybe once this bright red standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) blooms and some of the other annuals take off I’ll like it again.  I wish I had some nice mulch for it though.  I’m constantly jealous of compost rich gardeners and the ones who flaunt their piles of aged leaf mould,  and I think I’m close to breaking down and raiding the yard waste dumped by my neighbors in the nearby woods.  I’m sure my mother in law will be horribly embarrassed.

selfseeding annuals

More golden yellow in the form of rudbeckias, this time tastefully paired with red standing cypress -which almost has a touch of orange in the blooms. If people complain I’ll remind them the ipomopsis is a southeast native plant and hummingbird friendly, hopefully that will distract them from judging my trailer park color combos too harshly.

“Blue Satin” -or maybe ‘Blue Bird’, I forget- rose of sharon (hibiscus syriacus) always looks a little out of place or a little weedy to me, but the color is interesting and it just laughs off drought and abuse.  The white variety “Diana” (a sterile variety) still needs to be acquired, I keep forgetting to take a cutting of my mother’s bush in NY.

blue satin hibiscus

As close to blue as you get in rose of Sharon, “Blue Satin” is a cool color but reseeds freely, and the seedlings though nice enough are all more purplish.

You can’t help but notice the big clump of arundo donax ‘variegata’ (variegated giant reed) growing at the end of the bed.  Wow,  I love it.  It will easily reach 10+ feet by autumn and if frost holds off we’ll even see the seed plumes.  This variety will begin the season with a crisp white/green variegation, mellow to yellow around now, and then go green as soon as temperatures peak for the summer.  It’s invasive down south, so keep that in mind, but the huge clumps I used to see down in Texas were quite impressive.

arundo donax variegata

Still bright, this clump should ‘green out’ in the next few weeks if temps go up… the cool summer has kept it brighter for longer than usual.

A few pennisetum “Karley Rose” divisions (also patented, so please don’t tell anyone I split my clump) are still gaining momentum here amongst the black eyed susans.  They would have done better without all the company but I just couldn’t rip out the daisies.  I’m sure by next year the grass will just muscle it’s way through and form a big clump to hopefully balance out the big hydrangea.

karley rose pennisetum with black eyed susans

Pennesitum ‘Karley Rose’, rudbeckia hirta seedlings, and erynginum in the shadow of the almost blooming ‘Limelight’ hydrangea.

I’ll end with a non yellow.  Verbena bonariensis is starting to open up all over the borders and I wish I had more!  Serves me right for having ripped so much out this spring.

verbena bonariensis

Finally something to balance out all the yellow, but is that a prickly thistle coming up through the middle of the clump!? Who missed that weed?

You might notice in the last picture that there’s a mild green tint to the lawn.  I’m afraid I’ve gone over to the dark side, and have begun to water the lawn.  The brown straw mat I looked at all last July and August was just too depressing, and if I can just get it to the next thunderstorm (tonight I hope), things should stay green for at least another week or two.  Honestly I only ran the sprinkler one day, and the back lawn is responsibly dead….. but I may or may not have also fertilized the day before I watered…. sometimes even good people stray.

Have a great week!

Tis the season for orange

The view from the back deck is changing.  As fall color moves down from the mountains into our valley, the woods and weedy edges of the yard are losing the tired green of a droughty fall and going gold.fall color from the deck

Dry soil and warm night temperatures don’t make for good fall color but there’s still plenty to go around, and inspired by this last hurrah I trudged out to my trusty favorite nursery, Perennial Point, and cracked open the wallet for a mum, ‘redbor’ kale and some pansies.  I’ve been trying to stick to a budget, and mums and pansies that may or may not survive the winter don’t fit well into the spending plan.  Still it’s always nice to bring home even a small patch of instant color.fall porch color

The budget is helped immensely by home-grown pumpkins and cornstalks, and a couple butternut squash fit in perfectly until I draft them for soup duty.  The pansies in orange and purple are not what I’d pick in spring, but seemed a perfect fall theme. autumn porch decorationsOrange is definitely the color of the season, and now that the front stoop has been re-decorated (by someone over the age of seven) I’m starting to notice orange all over the place.

The last of the Tropicana cannas are managing to get in a couple more blooms before frost cuts them down (any day now)tropicana canna with ninebark

These seed grown marigolds (I believe Sophia mix… although they don’t look too mixed) did well in spite of neglect, soccer balls, and drought, and I’m almost a little nervous about saying I really like them.  Orange marigolds…. a color and plant frequently looked down upon by more refined gardeners…. perfect for my yard!  orange fall marigolds

Another looked-down-upon plant which I love is ‘Tiger Eyes” sumac.  The wild version of staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) provides most of the color in the backyard but I try to keep those weeds back a ways.  Here in the front, the slightly more refined chartreuse foliage of ‘Tiger Eyes’ is almost acceptable.  I can easily ignore its suckering ways when it glows like this.sumac 'tiger eyes' fall color

Here’s another one poking up by the house.  Even I think it may be a little too wild for a foundation planting, but until something better comes along the sumac stays. It actually looks good right now with the blues of the spruce, catmint and fescue grass.  Between that and the rusty chrysanthemums and orange amaranthus it almost looks like I planned it this way.  If anyone asks I’ll say I did 😉  orange mums with blue foliage

The rust colored mums stick with todays orange theme but it’s the purple ones I like best.  There’s a little fading in the blooms to give some depth and even without pinching they keep to a low mound.  I’m really appreciating the chrysanthemums in general this year and spring may bring some new additions.  How can I not like a plant which never got a drop of watering or fertilizer and still puts on a perfect show?purple and orange mums

I’ll have to enjoy these last splashes of color as fall starts to fade.  We’re on borrowed time as long as the frost stays up in the mountains, but our days are numbered.  This weekend the smart gardener will bring his tender plants indoors.  The other gardener will remember his plants just before bedtime and regret his procrastination as he fumbles with muddy plants, a flashlight, and cold fingers in the dark.