Tuesday View: The Tropics 10.19.16

I’m a day late in joining Cathy for the Tuesday view, but I think it’s just that time of year when things begin to unravel and go to seed so hopefully my tardiness will be forgiven.  Here it is!

tuesday view tropical plants

Autumn comes to the tropical garden

The view looks remarkably similar to last week’s with just a few more hints of autumn color in the background and a few more tints of brown in the front.  We had a slight frost last Monday and again on Friday but for the most part the garden is intact.

alocasia x portora

The tender new leaves of alocasia x portora took the low temperatures very seriously while the dahlias just shrugged them right off.  Serves me right for not bringing this elephant ear in earlier. 

Last week’s lows have been followed by a few warm days but I think the damage has already been done.  Most tropicals get all miffy once nighttime temperatures drop below 50 and I guess it’s time to start thinking seriously about bringing them in.

colocasia esculenta tropical storm

My newest elephant ear, colocasia esculenta ‘tropical storm’  is gaining back a little strength following a run in with spider mites.  I ended up snipping off all the foliage to get rid of them, now it’s a matter of hoping for the best over winter.

Even with some of the largest leaves showing a little frost damage, the cooler nights seem to intensify and brighten the last of the autumn colors.

knockout rose pennesitum

‘Knockout’ rose seems to get even brighter as the thermometer drops.  It’s a nice mix with the season long color of the Verbena bonariensis.

Although I made a good effort of removing most of the chrysanthemums from this bed, I did leave ‘Carousel’ for some late season color.  The plan was for it to carry on after frost blackened most of the other color in this bed, but here it is joining in as just another supporting player.  I like it for the long stems and late blooms which last into November but tolerate it for it’s floppy stalks and necessary June pinching.
chrysanthemum carousel

Chrysanthemum ‘Carousel’ opening up as one of the last floral events of the 2016 tropical border. 

‘Carousel’ is pretty much the only thing left to anticipate in the border, everything else is just finger crossing for additional days without frost.  We are into a slight Indian summer of warm, hazy days following our earlier run-in with cold, but even that is somewhat irritating as I like the cooler weather for transplanting, bulb planting, and fall foliage enjoying…. not that I’m complaining too much about having a few last drink nights out on the porch sans jacket 🙂

autumn dahlias border

Looking up towards the back end.  I love that all 6 feet of that annoyingly bright white vinyl fence is now hidden behind an interesting wall of greens and flowers.  And I love that I still have plenty of dahlias!

So here’s to another Tuesday view where the tropics are still green!  Long live summer and all the best for your upcoming week 🙂

Tuesday View: The Tropics 10.04.16

The nights have taken a turn towards cool here and for the first time it feels like the tropical bed is showing signs of autumn.  The winding down of the season is ok by me, but my fingers are crossed we don’t have a repeat of last year when a single 23F (-5C) night in mid October crushed all hopes for a mellow end to the season.  Frost is inevitable, but a brutal freeze?  Unnecessary.

Tuesday view tropicalismo

The Tuesday view on this first week of October

This Tuesday as I again join up with Cathy at Words and Herbs, I’d like to also give a nod to Eliza and copy her idea of showing a flashback to the earlier days of this season.  Everything looked so cute and tiny back in this last week of June.

 

Tropical garden

The first Tuesday view.  A few perennials making a show, but the only annuals visible are a flat of small orange zinnias, freshly planted out of their six-packs. 

Things have grown since then and one of my favorite growers has been the annual burning bush (Kochia scoparia).  One by one the individual plants in the seedling clumps I planted out are starting to color and I have to admit I like the look, even though the plants will go brown once they pass their peak of redness.

 

kochia scoparia

I love all these colors but last week the kochia at the lowest right of the clump was just at its peak.  Only seven days later and it has browned, so I hope the rest of the clump doesn’t follow as quickly. 

Sneaking up alongside the kochia is a new chrysanthemum seedling.  I evicted nearly all the mums from this bed earlier in the year, but I guess this one was small enough to miss.

self sown chrysanthemum

Not the greatest photo of it but a nice enough self-sown mum with small spoon shaped yellow petals.

Slightly less impressive are the late season flowers of ‘white frosted’ Japanese thistle.  There’s not much to them, and some might mention the word “weedy”, but I’m hoping for seeds since the spring variegation on these is great and my only other plant of this perennial thistle died during our relentless May rains.

'White Frosted' Japanese thistle (Cirsium japonicum).

The less than impressive flowers of ‘White Frosted’ Japanese thistle (Cirsium japonicum). 

There’s nothing less than impressive about the cannas and dahlias.  I know I constantly show the same combos, but….

canna Bengal tiger dahlia Mathew alen

Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ looking as variegated as ever alongside the deep red flowers of dahlia ‘Mathew Alen’.  The purple cloud of Verbena bonariensis has been going strong all summer.

The path up through the center takes a little maneuvering to get through.  The purple leaved cannas have pushed most everything out of their way, and the dahlias now sprawl across the path.

dahlias in the garden

Dahlias and verbena up through the middle of the tropical garden.

The resident hummingbirds headed south a few weeks ago and with the exception of a few last stragglers migrating through the flowers have been left to the sleepy bumble bees of autumn.  Monarch butterflies still stop in here and there, but it’s getting pretty quiet as things cool off.

dahlia sylvia

Dahlia Sylvia seems to make a nice spot for a bumblebee’s afternoon nap.

Sleepy bumblebees kind of sum up how I feel about the garden these days.  Maybe it’s allergies or lack of a good night’s sleep, but if you had to put me in camp grasshopper or camp ant I think I’m more of a grasshopper.  I’ll enjoy the sun and last bits of warmth while they last, and just have to hope for the best when the axe of winter falls.

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…

Tuesday View: The Tropics 09.13.16

Cathy at Words and Herbs has been following a weekly view of her garden throughout the season, and each Tuesday I’ve been trying to join in and keep track of my own weekly view in order to catalog the changes.  This week the roofers are next door and this afternoon they’ve made their way to the side where the tropical garden grows.

tropical garden

This afternoon’s view of the tropical garden.

Other than a few stray roof shingles and tar paper strips the garden has escaped damage, and that’s great because now is the time of year when every day is a celebration of summer and every night is a reminder that colder weather is on the horizon.  As nighttime temperatures cool off I’m beginning to notice a tint of red in some of the clumps of annual burning bush (Kochia scoparia).  Me thinks in a few weeks the ‘will it burn or will it snuff out’ question will finally be answered.

kochia burning bush

The clumps of burning bush (Kochia) are actually several seedlings all planted into the same hole. Most of the season they’ve appeared to be one big bush, but now a few here and there are going their own way and beginning to show color.

I can’t imagine these plantings will be as successfully bright as some of the photos I’ve seen online but if they’re halfway interesting I will be happy enough.  As it is their fluffy green mass has been a welcome green rest in an otherwise overloaded bed of color.

tall purple salvia splendens

One of the less-than-bright kochia seedlings.  More of a tan in my opinion, but things are all under a little stress here in the shadow of the canna clump…. with the exception of the tall purple salvia splendens seedling, it’s still doing just fine!

The rest of this post is gratuitous canna color.  I posted canna ‘Cannova Rose’ last week, but it’s still outstanding, and deserves another mention.

canna cannova rose

Cannas and dahlias with an orange zinnia and purple petunias.  The petunias were planted as petunia intergrifolia but I bet there’s something else in there as well, and that’s just fine since I like the bold mini-flowered purple groundcover it’s become.

Canna ‘Tropicana’ is always over the top.  I think you either love it or turn away in disgust, but either way it’s a bright tropical show.

canna tropicanna

Canna ‘Tropicanna’ in a bed of verbena and backed by one of those dark leaved, huge, grow-it-as-an-annual, Napier grasses (Pennisetum purpureum).  Hard to see in the picture, but the grass is just over five feet, so probably much bigger than you’d guess.

I know I’ve called Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ my absolute favorite canna, but there’s a new kid on the block this year.  Canna x ehemanii is an old hybrid which tops nearly every other canna in the gracefulness category.  I did not suspect my small plant would bloom this year but here it is opening its first flower.  A little short for this variety, but much easier to admire when it’s down here amongst us mortals 🙂

canna x ehemanii

I saw Canna x ehemanii growing in a corner of Chanticleer a few years back and have been looking for my own plant for years.  Once open its flowers will arch and hang with an amazing tropical grace that you’ll have to trust me on right now, but I’m sure more pictures will follow as it develops. 

We are into the one month countdown.  First frost typically hits around mid-October in these parts, and for as much heat and drought and storm this garden can take, it can’t take a hard freeze.  That’s a Tuesday view I’m not looking forward to.

In the meantime please give Cathy a visit and find out what she and other bloggers are seeing this Tuesday.  It’s a great way to keep up with the changes and really see just how much goes on in your garden!

Tuesday View: The Tropics 08.30.16

It’s Tuesday again and time to join up with Cathy at Words and Herbs to take a look at the Tuesday view.  I’m going to guess that the purple leaved cannas are at full height and full bloom now and things are about as close to a peak as I can imagine 🙂

tropicalismo

The Tuesday view this evening.  I managed to get the pictures just before dusk, and finally for once the photos didn’t come out all blurry and overexposed.  I can see why photographers enjoy this time of day and may have to reconsider my strong commitment to doing nothing at these closing hours of the day.

I’m not thrilled about the sun being lower and lower in the sky each week, but the low evening light hitting the canna tops really highlights their bright little blooms.

tropicalismo

The garden has become very popular with the hummingbirds as they go from verbena to canna to salvia to everywhere in between. I wonder if they are local youngsters or just birds starting to work their way south.

In case you’re wondering most of the dahlias have been staked.  It was a struggle but since the spool of twine has been sitting on the walkway for days now I figured it was time.  Hopefully the dahlias can bloom in peace and sway gently in the wind with their reassuring support system… although now it’s the overhanging canna leaves which threaten their happiness…

sunflower

I can’t help but put in another photo of the sunflower which came up near the fence. It’s got some doubling in there but I think the dark anthers poking through around the center are what really make it stand out for me. 

As long as I’m just putting in gratuitous plant pictures I might as well show my absolutely favorite canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ again.  It’s practically stunted in comparison to the others but gardeners all know that the show is always going to be better next year.  I’ll just have to get something taller to go with it since right now it matches perfectly with the verbena bonariensis… but that won’t be the case net year if it sprouts up to six feet (which it should have no problem doing).

canna Bengal tiger

Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ with the purple of Verbena bonariensis.

Speaking of plants which are sprouting up, the banana ‘Bordelon’, which spent last summer potted on the deck, has finally recovered from a neglectful winter in the garage and a tough spring with a rough crowd in the back of the bed.  I hope this winter I can do better with its care and avoid this setback since I used to be able to just throw the stem with a few roots into a basement and they would survive just fine.  Something’s changed though since lately they’ve been just plain struggling.

tropicalismo

Banana ‘Bordeleon’ rising up above the verbena and knock out rose.  It’s still got a few more weeks before being dug up, so I hope it keeps going strong.

Actually I don’t even want to think about overwintering anything yet, so before I go I just want to point out one of the most enjoyable late summer events which occurs around the tropical bed this time of year.   Just across the grass path you’ll find a nice patch of hosta in bloom.  I received it years ago as an incorrectly labeled plant but I believe it’s hosta ‘Royal Standard’ and it completely fills the evening and nighttime air with a sweet tropical fragrance which reminds me of gardenias minus the mustiness I sometimes get from them.  I love the scent and the plants are indestructible and even if they’re as old as dirt compared to all the new, fancy hybrids I would never consider getting rid of them.

hosta royal standard

Hosta ‘Royal Standard'(maybe).  Full sun and drought fried the tansy to the right of it, but the hosta just trudged along with a small bit of leaf scorch and yellowing. 

That’s about it for the view.  I was beginning to think there wasn’t much new going on anymore but once you start poking around there are always a few surprises.  Hopefully I can keep it up a few more weeks.  As usual thanks to Cathy for hosting!

Tuesday View: The Tropics 8.23.16

It’s another Tuesday and although I missed last week due to a quick summer jaunt up to the mountains of New Hampshire, this week I’m back to joining in with Cathy at Words and Herbs in order to look at the weekly progress of the tropical border.  Heat, humidity, regular rain showers, and strong summer sunshine in between have brought on an explosion of late summer growth and the purple leaved cannas now dominate the bed.

tuesday view

Purple leaved canna indica, maybe ‘purpurea’ or ‘red stripe’ or ‘Russian red’… I don’t really know since they were given to me years ago as just plain old canna… have now topped off at around 8-9 feet.

You’ll probably notice the small red blooms the cannas have put out.  They’re nice enough as a little decoration up top but hardly enough reason to grow these plants.  It’s all about the foliage and it’s looking particularly good on this deliciously cool and clear, breezy summer day.

canna indica purpurea Russian red

Canna indica ‘purpurea?’ blooms against the bright blue of a clear summer sky.  A very popular flower with the hummingbirds.

Have I referenced “summer” enough yet?  I’m hoping that if I keep saying the word it will hang on forever, and we’ll never have to deal with the cold little deaths called autumn and winter.  Surely it’s a part of life here in Pennsylvania, but I don’t mind if it holds off for another two months at least.

coleus Alabama sunset

I need to add more coleus to the bed next year.  As things grow so does the shade, and this coleus (maybe ‘Alabama Sunset’)  fills in nicely rather than fading away like some of the zinnias.

There’s a whole back half to the bed which has been blocked off by the main clump of canna.  It’s a little messy but hopefully in the next few weeks a dahlia or two can break through and add a little color as other things begin to fade out.

tropicalismo

Is ‘Tropical Weed Patch’ a look?  If I can only think of a better name maybe it will catch on but in the meantime you may notice the salvia ‘Caradonna’ which constantly annoys me is still exactly where its always been.  Sometimes things don’t move too fast around here 🙂 

With such a mess of randomness there’s bound to be a surprise here and there, and sometimes that surprise even turns out to be a nice one.  This week it was the salvia which has just come into bloom.  My favorite version of the stout, too-red, gas-station salvias (Salvia splendens) are the ones which don’t look like they’d end up in a gas station planting at all.   They’re the tall and lanky ones which are sometimes referred to as Salvia splendens ‘Van Houttii’ and up until now I’ve only succeeded with a peach colored one.  But last year I did have a short purple bedding type nearby, and apparently things happened at night and lo and behold this year one of their children is a tall, lanky purple.

purple salvia bloom

At about three feet tall this purple salvia bloom has all the grace and style which its shorter cousins lack.  Even better was that I found this as a self-sown seedling and was lucky enough to nurse it on to blooming size.  This makes me wonder as to what the other seedlings will look like.  

I’ve shown it before but have to show one more photo of the castor bean.  The bright seed pods look perfect amongst the purple foliage.

castor bean carmencita

The spiky red (and remember poisonous as well) seed heads of castor bean ‘carmencita’

This afternoon the sun hit the back corner of the bed perfectly.  You don’t even notice the weeds when the light is like this.

tropicalismo

Verbena bonariensis is the workhorse of this bed and although it threatens to swamp everything else here it’s still worth any bit of trouble it causes. 

At this time of year it’s easy to ignore any maintainence and just enjoy the plants as they slide on into autumn, but dahlias are yet to come and dahlias need staking.  Two weeks ago would have been the best time to do this but things happen and when things happen the dahlias fall over.  It will require twice as much time to carefully put them back up and some might just stay where they lie.  It will be more of a groundcover look, but with the way they are stretching away from the canna’s shadow nearly all the plants have verticality issues which might not be worth fighting.

panicum northwind

There are dahlias in them thar purple verbena, but for now lets just focus on the panicum ‘Northwind’ which is turning into a tight fountain of frothy seed-heads.

Dahlias will hopefully be staked tomorrow… or Thursday.  Weekend at the latest.  It’s so nice right now with green grass, butterflies, and flowers who wants to stake stuff?  Plus I needed to tackle a hedge of crabgrass which sprouted overnight in one of the other beds, it’s an embarrassing mess, but at least it’s green and green is so much nicer than the dead brown which surrounded me last month.

Mess or not I hope you enjoyed the view and if you’d like give Cathy a visit and see what this week has brought to her garden and others.  It’s  a nice way to keep tabs on things over the season and it’s also a great way to get things staked and weeded.  Shame is a great motivator and even if it means I have to stake with one hand and take pictures with the other, the job will get done long before I even consider publically admitting that the twine has defeated me 🙂

Tuesday View: The Tropics 8.2.16

Finally I’m back for a real visit with Kathy’s Tuesday View meme.  After two weeks away the tropics have taken off here and the heat (and now rain!) have really brought everything to life.

cannas and verbena bonariensis

In the view today is damp soil, overcast skies and plenty of humidity.  The cannas have exploded along with just about everything else and exuberance is the word of the day.  How do you like the ferny green lump of kochia (summer cypress) just in front and to the left of the olive-green planter? I love it btw

My biggest fear when I left was that my new bananas and precious castor beans would just pine away waiting for rain, so two days before we left I added an extra line to the drip irrigation system and set up a few drip emitters to some of the most precious plants.  Good thing I did since this bed was the only part of the garden where lush greenery welcomed me back from our midsummer vacation.

castor bean carmencita

I have blooms on my ‘Carmencita’ castor bean plant.  I love the bright red seed pods and I hope they stay that way for a while… and the leaves aren’t too shabby either!

I’ll try not to go on too much about every single plant.  Here’s an overview of the farther side of the bed, beyond the path to grandma’s pool 🙂

cannas and verbena bonariensis

The purple of Verbena bonariensis has nearly taken over large swaths of the bed.  I’m fine with that but the old flower stalks on the salvia ‘Caradonna’ just irritate me to no end.  I’m sure no one but myself notices them, but there’s a good chance I snap this week and pull them all out!

The old red leaved cannas are nearly as tall as me now and will likely break the six foot mark by next week and I love that.  In no time this will be a garden you look up to 🙂

fennel with verbena bonariensis

My poor planning skills are often saved by horticultural volunteers.  Here the chartreuse froth of blooming fennel mixes in with a pale green nicotina and of course more Verbena bonariensis.  You can’t even see the dahlias which are supposed to fill this space.

You may have noticed a few of the sunflowers which peek out of the far corners of the border.  After relentlessly weeding them out through the spring I finally let a few of the latest sprouts in the hard to reach spots go on with their lives.  I love them of course, and I’ve already seen the goldfinches stopping by to check on the seeds.

sunflower and long horned bee

Sunflower with a few long-horned bees making themselves at home.

New to me this year are the bees which can be found on each sunflower bloom.  I’m sure they’ve been there every year but after I found the long antenna interesting I realized they’re not the regular honeybees.  According to this face book group >click here< they are either a type of sunflower bee or most likely a type of long-horned bee, both of which belong to the solitary bee group which includes some of the hardest working and most effective pollinators out there.

sunflower and long horned bee

I’m leaning towards long-horned bee for these two, since they both share the almost comically long antenna, but I have no clue as to which species.  Apparently there are more than a few! 

Something new to me which I came across while investigating bees is that these solitary bees are much less aggressive than their colony-forming cousins due to the fact they have no hive to defend.  They only sting when handled roughly and are considered more docile… although I’m not sure who did this investigation of insect manhandling.  I’ll take their word for it though and skip starting my own investigative bee-bullying program.

Oh and one more thing.  Solitary bees are fine feeding on nectar from a wide range of flowers but the individual bee species is much more specific in where its pollen comes from.  It’s called oligolecty, and if you want to add that one to the vocab list it describes bees which specialize in collecting pollen from a limited palette of flowers, often only one species.

A usual I’m as surprised as to where this Tuesday view went but it’s been an interesting ride for me and I hope it’s at least been somewhat interesting to you as well.  If you’d like to expand on the visit stop over at Words and Herbs and check in with Cathy to see what the other Tuesday views are up to.  There’s always plenty to explore!