Friday, September 30, 2011

My Garden in September

Hard to believe it’s the last day of September. This summer flew by. And what a weird summer it was weather-wise. My garden didn’t know what to think with a heat wave, then a record-breaking rainfall in August which seemed to continue through September. September didn’t seem as colorful as usual, but here’s a few things that were happening.

In the late summer purple morning glory vines take over my arbor in my flower garden every year. I never planted it, but it reseeds and takes over. This photo was taken late in the day, so you can’t see the tons of purple flowers that cover it. It really is pretty, but kind of a pain because it overtakes the climbing Hydrangea on the left side of the arbor.

Arbor in the flower garden.

Here’s a close up of the pretty purple morning glory flowers.

The subtle purple shades with the magenta center really are pretty on this morning glory.

I really like the green colors and different leaf textures of this grouping of plants in the flower garden. Left to right: Coleus, the leaves of Columbine, and the spikey leaves of a bearded Iris. Aw, look at the bunny statue.

Some of the roses continue blooming off and on during the summer, including this pink shrub rose.

Pink and white roses in the flower garden by the shed/workshop.

Sedum is a staple of the fall garden. Here’s some along the path in the flower garden.

Winnie looking down on some sedum.

I have another variety of sedum with dark purple leaves in another area of the flower garden. The leaves aren’t all purple, though, which is a bit disappointing. I had bought it specifically for the purple foliage. The bees sure do love the sedum flowers. Looky here, there’s a bee right now!

A bee on the sedum.

One of the plants that did especially well this year for some reason was my Phlox David. This white variety of Phlox is known for being more resistant to powdery mildew than most other Phlox varieties. However, usually it ends up with at least a little powdery mildew and I spray it to keep it at bay (with an organic spray, of course). This year I didn’t have to spray it once. Maybe the rain prevents it???? You would think the opposite to be true. I have this planted in two areas of my flower garden. In this spot it’s next to Plumbago Larpentiae, which blooms one of my favorite shades of blue. The buds start out reddish, which is really cool. And the foliage turns mahogany in the fall. It’s a very reliable ground cover in the garden and I have it planted in an area in front of the shed, as well.

Blue Plumbago and white Phlox David.

I really didn’t plant a whole lot of annuals in the flower garden this year, but this Lady in Red Texas Sage was one of them. I planted two four-packs in the early spring. They bloomed all season, but were thin and not all that wonderful until September. Then bam! There they were looking full and gorgeous. Red is not a color I use much in my garden. I think the only other red flower I have is Pineapple Sage which hasn’t bloomed yet (it’s a fall bloomer). I have this red annual to thank for bringing back the hummingbird. For the past three years I’ve had a hummingbird that would visit every morning in August. I thought it wasn’t going to come this year because I never saw it until late August hovering around the Lady in Red Texas Sage. I saw it several times after that. Hmmm...not sure how long hummingbirds live, so maybe it’s not the same one every year. Whatever the case may be, the hummingbird is always a welcome visitor.

An annual called Lady in Red Texas Sage - a hummingbird magnet.

In the area in front of the shed I have this turtlehead Chelone Hot Lips. Some bug usually gets the best of it every year (I think it’s slugs). This year it did quite well. It added a touch of color in this area that doesn’t see a whole lot of color this time of year.

You can’t beat the name Chelone Hot Lips.

I have always coveted Japanese Anemone. I saw this variety called September Charm at my local nursery recently and just couldn’t resist it’s “charm.” The flowers are soooooo sweet, aren’t they? I love the dark stems, too. Japanese Anemone add good fall color. I love the yellow and gold flower centers and the delicately curved petals. It’s a new favorite of mine.

Japanese Anemone September Charm.

In my bog garden pot (which also has my carnivorous plants in it) I have a type of orchid called Ladies’ Tresses. It bloomed beautifully in September. Much better than last year. The tiny little flowers on this spikey plant really did catch the eye by the back porch steps.

Spiranthes Ladies’ Tresses are in the orchid family.
You can see the Pitcher and Venus Flytrap plants here, too.

The Kitchen Garden started to look pretty sad in September from all the rain. I have several green tomatoes that just won’t ripen due to too much rain and lack of sun. I still got some plum and grape tomatoes in September, but my large, red Brandywine tomatoes just didn’t ripen. I tried planting some Toy Bok Choi, Romaine, and Lettuce seeds to get one last crop. However, they too suffered from lack of sun and did not germinate (they are what’s under the white row covers in the picture below). Makes me sad to see summer go.

Purple Hyacinth Bean vine on left and Brandywine tomato on right.

One thing that really is flourishing in the late summer Kitchen Garden is the Purple Hyacinth Bean vines. I have two and they are going to town. I absolutely LOVE the purple seed pods and the interesting shape of the bi-colored flowers. Too bad they are all the way in the back of the yard because they really are too striking to hide back there. These are growing on the green obelisks that Brian and I made earlier this summer.

Purple Hyacinth Bean vine.

Another thing that still looks great in the Kitchen Garden is the Alaska Variegated Nasturtium. These were slow to get started when I planted the seeds in early spring, but once they got going they REALLY got going. I love how they trail over the gravel path.

Alaska Variegated Nasturtium in one of the u-shaped raised beds in the Kitchen Garden.

Here’s a close-up. The variegated leaves look like someone spilled paint on them.

Alaska Variegated Nasturtium with Garlic Chives.

Drum roll, please...I finally got some decent sized carrots! It felt like it took forever, but here’s some colorful Kaleidoscope carrots that I had planted from seed in the spring. Too bad this was all there was to the carrot bounty! I also had Detroit Dark Red Beets that I had also planted from seed in spring.

Kaleidoscope Carrots.

As I say goodbye to September, I already get nostalgic for the earlier glories of the garden. Reflecting back on all the hard work I put into my new Kitchen Garden with its raised beds and gravel paths, I can’t help but feel satisfied and pleased with what I was able to do. The biggest thrill of all was to finally be able to direct-sow seeds and get full-grown vegetables out of them. The raised beds and row covers allowed that to happen. All of the home-grown veggies have been fantastic. Looking back on my flower garden, this year it looked it best in the early spring and in late June/early July just before I left for Oregon. A garden is always a work in progress, though. Each year brings new ideas and new joys. I’m already plotting my plan of attack for next year. My grand scheme for next year will be to try to clear out the overgrown area on the left side of the back yard. It’s overwhelming because it’s probably about 13 feet x 20 feet or more - full of overgrown honeysuckle, ivy, wisteria, poison ivy, and other invasive vines. But think about the potential for that space!!!!! I’m thinking mostly easy to care for plants such as evergreens and conifers to add privacy and some flowering shrubs. There’s a patio in the future, but probably not for next year. We’ll see, though. Oh the possibilities... A gardener never gives up gardening. Now if I could just get the neighbor in the back to put up that fence he promised a year and a half ago! The never-ending Fence Saga.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Details in the Garden

I like adding little details to the garden that you might not see at first. I have many more ideas that I haven’t implemented yet, but here’s a few that are in place now.

I have this old wrought iron café-style table and chairs that were a dirty brownish green from years of neglect. I spray-painted them a bright cobalt blue this summer and put them under a tree by the Kitchen Garden. I found this plant saucer I had spray-painted gold for a Christmas project years ago and put some shells in it from my trip to the Oregon coast. I happened to have tiny garden tools that resemble a fork and spoon when put with the plate. I love how the blue table brings out the bluish tint in the seashells. 

Here’s some more shells from the Oregon coast. I must admit that I like collecting shells when I go to the beach, which isn’t very often. This collection of shells are in a secluded little spot in the front yard.

My mom gave me this cute mobile that looks like mini watering cans and pails. It’s hanging on a tree next to the blue café table. 

We get lots of pine cones in the area between our house and the left-side neighbor’s house. They have a pine tree on the other side of their yard and when some of the pine cones fall they slide down the roof into our yard. I like it because I use the pine cones in fresh-green Christmas wreaths that I make for our front door each year. I also put pine cones in containers in the house and in the yard. Here’s some that I keep in an old rusted colander on the steps of my back porch.

This is one of my favorite pots. It’s really heavy, but I love the ornate medieval style of the carvings on it. I’ve had this Sedum in it for several years now.

This is another favorite pot, even though it’s just made of some sort of plastic. It has different faces on four sides. I keep it on a pedestal in the area in front of the shed. If you were going from the front yard through the gate to the back yard you would see it.

I can’t show special garden details without showing Mr. Wiggles! Mr. Wiggles is my pet pig. Ok, as much as a real piggie would be AWESOME, he’s just a cute statue. He hangs out in the Kitchen Garden. Good thing he’s not real or he probably would eat all my veggies.

I love cool tiles. This is one I got from a Celtic store many years ago. I move it around each year. Right now it’s in front of my pot of water plants. Pretend you don’t see the weeds next to it.

This is another cool tile. I got this handmade tile at the Moravian Tile Works in Doylestown, PA. An extremely cool place right next to Fonthill, which is even more awesome. Fonthill was the home of tile maker Henry Mercer. He made it out of concrete specifically so he could showcase his handmade tiles and his collection of tiles he had collected from around the world. It’s this maze of rooms with tiles on the walls in every room. Truly amazing and definitely worth a visit. He had built the Moravian Tile Works next door to produce his beautiful decorative tiles using old traditional methods. This was during the Arts and Crafts movement, of course. But I digress. Here is a sweet little tile of a bee that I got at the Tile Works.

A candle lantern hanging from the wisteria by the greenhouse and shed.

And here’s my fairy garden. Yep. My younger sister thinks I’m a complete dork for having a fairy garden, but I think it’s WHIMSICAL, not dorky. There’s my little fairy with her blue and white “reflecting pool,” a mirror behind her, a toadstool, a turtle coming out of a small pot, and a bunny sitting on a small rock.

Here’s another fairy on a tire swing nearby. Sorry it’s a bit blurry.

And here’s a fairy door!

Hey, at least I know the fairies aren’t real.

New Visitor to the Garden

I have a new garden visitor that has become a “regular.” It’s not unusual to find a cat in the garden. I know of at least five that are frequent visitors to my garden. They like to sit under the plants or roll in the catmint. Some come up the back porch steps to sniff at my cats through the screened-in door. But this is a new one. He/she appears to belong to our next door neighbor on the right side. Every day and night I find him/her just sitting in the garden. What makes it kind of strange is that this cat most often sits right next to my old cat Monty’s urn/grave marker. How strange. I’m not sure Monty would take too kindly to that if he knew it. I’m glad I have another creature who enjoys my garden, though. I just hope nothing bad happens to him/her. My neighbor’s last cat died unexpectedly and they practically accused me of killing it! They asked if I had anything poisonous in my garden that would’ve killed her if she ate it. I was devastated that they would think I was responsible for their cat’s death. That happened not long after I had lost Monty to cancer. I would never knowingly plant anything in my garden that would be harmful to animals and I garden organically so I don’t use any hazardous chemicals. So let’s hope nothing happens to this cat! Here’s a blurry picture of the cat next to Monty’s urn marker.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Nursery Visit - Red Ridge Farms in Dayton, Oregon

I think this will be my last post on gardens we saw while in Oregon. Ok, so this isn’t a “Garden Visit,” but it’s a really, really cool nursery. So cool that I took a lot of pictures there. Red Ridge Farms is a nursery, gift shop, lavender farm, vineyard (Durant Vineyards), and olive tree farm / olive oil producer all rolled into one. There’s also a guest suite above the gift shop just in case you can’t tear yourself away (unfortunately with a two-night minimum stay). If I lived in the area, I would be a regular visitor to this fine place.

Entrance to Red Ridge Farms gift shop.
The nursery at Red Ridge Farms.

There’s a nice little garden area next to the gift shop.

Lavender and boxwood edging.
A Buddha statue overlooks this sweet garden area.

The nursery area had some really cute arrangements of pots, plants, and rustic garden furniture.

The nursery.
The nursery.

The paths was covered in acorn shells. I saw this same ground covering somewhere else in Oregon. Can’t remember where right now...

Crushed acorn path.

To learn more about Red Ridge Farms, go to

A cool potting bench inside the greenhouse.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Garden Visit – Oregon Garden in Silverton, Oregon

In one word, this place is AMAZING!!!! I could’ve spent several DAYS here exploring. Unfortunately, our time was limited. If I lived near the garden, I would be there all the time. There are at least 22 garden areas. Everything from wetlands and water gardens, to a children’s garden, conifer garden, green roof garden, pet-friendly garden, northwest garden, sensory garden, home demonstration garden, and more. It’s so huge that they offer a tram ride to get an overview of the gardens. I have tons of pictures from this garden and it was difficult to narrow it down. But here’s some highlights.

The beauty of the Oregon Garden

We didn’t get to see EVERYTHING, but from what I saw some of my favorites were the Children’s Garden and Conifer Garden. I’ve been trying to learn more about shrubs and conifers, so that’s why that garden was so interesting to me.

Part of the Conifer Garden.
The Hobbit Hole in the Children’s Garden.
A couple of pot people sitting under and arbor in the Children’s Garden.
A unique “bathroom” in the Children’s Garden.

They have great education opportunities and events at the Oregon Garden. (Man, I wished I lived nearby!) They are also very much into sustainable gardening and being green. One fascinating fact: They partnered with the City of Silverton to reuse the area’s treated water for irrigating their wetlands. According to their website, “As much as 700,000 gallons of water daily enter the top of the wetlands from the City of Silverton’s treatment facility. As the water moves through more than 17 acres of ponds, the plants both lower the temperature and remove excess nutrients (excellent fertilizer!). Years of monthly water quality testing of these ponds have shown a decrease in excess nitrate and phosphorous concentrations from where the water enters the garden to where it gets released. When the water re-enters the watershed at Brush Creek, the nutrient concentrations are almost non-detectable — and thereby safe for our fish friends.” SO COOL!

The Water Garden complete with a Loch Ness Monster topiary.
Looking from the Bosque Garden towards the Rose Petal Fountain.

If you DID want to spend days here, or at least stay in the area, they have the Oregon Garden Resort as part of the garden. We didn’t stay there because it wasn’t convenient to other things we were doing on this trip, but I checked out the prices and it’s reasonable. Also on the property is The Gordon House, a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1957 and moved to the garden in 2002. It’s open to the public by appointment. We didn’t get a chance to see it. 

The Green Roof Garden.

To learn more, check out:

Dramatic Colors in the Oregon Garden.

Garden Visit – Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon

Another garden from our visit to Oregon in July. The Lan Su in Portland was designed by Chinese artisians and is considered to be the most authentic Chinese garden outside of China. The garden combines five essential elements of Chinese garden design: Rocks, water, plants, architecture and Chinese poetry. As their website says, “The natural elements: rock mountains, lakes, and trees, along with their qi, or energy, are brought together in harmony with architecture and poetry.”

When you first enter the garden you are in the Courtyard of Tranquility. Then you pass through the Hall of Brocade Clouds and end up on the terrace pictured below. Here you can see some of the modern buildings in the background – the only reminder you’ll see that you are in the middle of a city.

Standing on the terrace you see the Moon Locking Pavilion and Flowers Bathing in Spring Rain.

The garden is designed in the style of one that would belong to a wealthy scholar. It centers around a reflecting pool with paths and buildings around it. You know you’re in a special place when some of the garden “vistas” are called things like “Flowers Bathing In Spring Rain,” “Tower of Cosmic Reflections” and “Reflections in Clear Ripples.” The garden is designed to appeal to all senses – listening to the water, smelling the flowers, seeing the beauty around you, and feeling the rocks under your feet. They entice you to walk the garden barefoot, which we fell for. Probably not the greatest idea on a hot day – my tootsies got toasted! However, I do think walking barefoot helps you feel it in a more tangible way – grounding you to the earth and uniting you with the garden.

Buildings (left to right): Moon Locking Pavilion,
Tower of Cosmic Reflections (teahouse), and Flowers Bathing in Spring Rain.

As with the Japanese Garden, the Chinese Garden has lots of symbolism. For example, the symbolism of the Three Friends in Winter (plum, bamboo, and pine) which remind scholars to persevere. As their pamphlet says, “The plum braves the cold of winter to blossom; the pine stays green through winter; and the bamboo bends in winter storms, but does not break.” I think there are times when we all could use this reminder, scholar or not.

The rockery next to the teahouse is meant to look like rugged mountains and a waterfall in the distance.

The garden has many interesting details, like the Lake Tai Rocks. Their pamphlet says, “Lake Tai Rocks are formed underwater, with the flow of water creating their unique shapes. In a Chinese garden, viewing the rocks from bottom to top is akin to venturing up a mountain peak.”

Lake Tai Rock with the bridge and the Moon Locking Pavilion in the background.

Each building has a special use and meaning, such as the Scholars Study, Knowing the Fish Pavilion (man, I love that name!), and Moon Locking Pavilion, which is perfectly situated so you can see the night moon shimmering in the shadow of the pavilion on the surface of the lake. 

Inside the Scholar's Study.

The Chinese remind us that nature offers a never-ending source of contemplation. That’s something any gardener can relate to. I certainly feel that way about my own garden. As one of the inscriptions in the garden says, “Drink in the green.” 

Some lovely orchids.

To learn more, check out their informative website:

Waterlilies, Koi fish, the Lake Tai Rock and a bridge.