Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Once Upon a Time in a Flower Garden in October

I sure got behind with my garden summaries. Now that I have a break from my night classes and have gotten through the holidays, I am working to get caught up. My flower garden never looks all that great in the fall. It is more of a spring and summer garden. But nevertheless, here it goes....

Some of the roses were trying very hard to show that despite appearing dainty and having a reputation for being difficult, they could withstand at least a bit of fall chill. It was a welcoming sight in a garden that doesn’t have much color in October. 

I have one mum that has proven itself to be a perennial and shows its lovely pink flowers every fall. The Black and Blue Salvia was also vying for attention.

This purple Aster was trying to outshine the mum.

I had planted this bright red Cockscomb in either September or October in an attempt to add a bit more color to my lackluster fall garden.

The purple Coneflowers were certainly past their peak, but that is when the Goldfinches are at their happiest. They sure do love the Coneflower seeds.

The bed on the other side of the main flower garden was looking lush with greens and deep reds. Nothing flowering, but still looking kinda lovely.

Shade plants like this variegated Solomon’s Seal really seem at home under the tree on this side of the yard. The painterly white stripes make this plant pop in the shade of the tree.

The dark leaves on the gracefully arching branches of the Ninebark make it one of my favorite shrubs. The clusters of tiny, white flowers are insignificant in the spring, but it is the leaves that make this a stand-out shrub. The coleus that is with it has become one of my favorite annuals. It was a darker red earlier in the season and then became more magenta as the cooler weather approached. It was full and beautiful all season long – and where it is at is a really sunny, hot spot. I think it was Stained Glassworks Copper, which is bred for full sun. Definitely a winner in my book. I want to plant more of these next year.

One the other side is a 3-foot spirea, which is another favorite shrub because it changes colors throughout the season, plus gets pretty, pink flowers in the spring. Now if I could only remember the name of it! I think it is either Goldflame or Magic Carpet. The leaves vary from lime green to red depending on the time of year.

The elephant ears in the two, tall, copper-looking pots were finally starting to seem more at home in the fall.

I enjoyed being able to see the back of these leaves while sitting on the screened-in back porch. They looked so pretty when the sun showed through them. Look at those dark purple stems and veins, plus the pattern of curved lines in the leaves – really cool.

My two pots of bog plants always appear happiest in the fall. The Pitcher plants look tall and healthy and the little traps of the Venus Flytraps seem to multiply like tiny bunnies. The White Tresses Orchids like to bloom in the early fall.

The bog pots are in the greenhouse now.

The fairy garden looks like a woodland setting in the fall with all of the leaves strewn about. 

And my poor pot of mosses and baby ferns was drowned by some rain storms. The sad gnome looks like he is going down with the ship. It’s as if he is saluting the end of the growing season.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Daydreaming about the Kitchen Garden in October

October seems so long ago as I look at the kitchen garden today. A few herbs and veggies were still hanging on in October, and I had planted some cold-hardy plants in September that were doing well in October. Here’s what was going on. I took these photos on a very bright and very windy day, so they aren’t the best pictures, but you get the idea.

I had planted some veggie plants from Haines Farm and Garden in September. Here you can see some Spinach.  

I had also planted Escarole, Joi Choi Pak Choi, Leeks, Kale Redbor, Superdukat Dill (a tall variety), and Graffiti Cauliflower (a purple variety).

The greens, the Joi Choi Pak Choi and Kale Redbor did well until the first killing frost. I had hoped to get out and cover them to prolong the growing season, but never managed to do that. Very sad about that.

The Cherokee tomatoes were still trying to hang on in October, but were struggling to ripen.

The Bright Lights Swiss Chard was still lighting up the garden with its striking red stems. It looked marvelous with the sunlight showing through the leaves – made it look like it was on fire!

The Alaska Nasturtium was the chard’s happy companion all season long, until mid-November when the frost finally got everything.

The curly-leafed parsley was the last to die from frost. It sure is a trooper compared to the flat-leafed variety. More Alaska Nasturtium here, as well as Sorrel and Sweet Basil still trying to survive the plummeting temps.

The Solanum quintoense was bearing fruit even as the weather turned cooler. I brought this baby into the greenhouse for the winter and am still picking ripe fruit from it even now. Some of the leaves got a bit damaged from the cold before I brought it in, so I hope it survives.

The Beautyberry shrub was putting on the usual fall show with fabulous, brightly-colored berries.

The two Shenandoah Switch Grasses (Panicum Virgatum ‘Shenandoah’) look their best in the fall when the leaves turn bronze/reddish and the tan-colored plumes appear. The wind was whipping it around here and it was making that tall-grass-rustling-sound that I love. The succulent wreath is now in the greenhouse for the winter.

Wild applause for the Cut And Come Again Zinnias. They really gave the kitchen garden that “cottage garden” look this summer and were still producing new blooms into the beginning of November. I loved cutting them throughout the summer for the vase that I keep in my kitchen window.

The Zinnias were various shades of pink, red and orange.

They were about three feet tall, with some leaning here and there, and others shooting tall and straight as an arrow.

 Here are some more Zinnias with some more curly-leafed parsley.

So that was the extent of the kitchen garden in October. Things were definitely winding down, however, I’d take the garden in October verses what it looks like now. Time to start dreaming about what to do with the kitchen garden next year....

Friday, December 26, 2014

Decorating with Greens for the Holiday

I love decorating with live greens for Christmas. It’s my way of keeping the gardening spirit alive even in the colder months. Some years I’ve made boxwood tabletop topiaries, other times I’ve arranged greens in vases inside, or in pots or a pail on the porch, and I always make my own wreath (either from scratch or starting with a basic wreath of greens). I never remember to take photos for my blog, though, so this year I made sure I did.

My first purchase this year was a simple wreath made of just boxwood. I have always wanted a boxwood wreath and they are hard to come by in my area for some reason, or you’ll find them and they won’t look so great or they are really expensive. This year we happened to be at Terhune Orchards the weekend after Thanksgiving and I saw they had these beautiful boxwood wreaths at a very reasonable price and I couldn’t resist. I added a gold bow, a few pinecones and holly and viola, instant festive wreath – simple, yet elegant. (Don’t tell the neighbors, but I cut the holly from their holly tree that overhangs our yard – ssshhhhhh!)

The two-tiered pot by the front door stays there year-round, so I like to fill it with greens. (The pole with basket on top came from Kinsman Company.) I get lots of loose greens from Bartram’s Gardens. It has been an annual tradition for many, many years to go there with my mom. They have piles of loose greens and you stuff as much as you can into a brown bag and pay $10 for each bag. What a bargain!

This year I got some pretty magnolia leaves, blue spruce, and other greens from Bartram’s, plus the holly from my neighbor’s yard and some twigs from my own yard. There are pine cones tucked in here and there, too. Those drop into my yard from my neighbor’s pine tree. (I wonder if they know that two of their trees help me decorate from Christmas each year.) I decorated the rim of the top basket with silver Christmas balls this year.

For two of my hanging baskets, I got this idea to fill them with greens. I had seen something similar at the Plow and Hearth store using fake greens and thought, hey, I can do that with real greens. Again, I decorated the rim with Christmas balls, this time silver and red. That was a last minute idea I had come up with.

We usually put a live Christmas tree on the front porch and decorate it with lights, beads, and Christmas balls. We ran out of time this year, so that is why you see the silver and red balls on the hanging baskets instead!

I like to add a little holiday cheer to the greenhouse, too. I keep strings of white lights in there all year round, but for Christmas I like a poinsettia or some other festive plant, besides the two Christmas Cactus plants and the Cyclamen that I always have. This year I found a Lemon Cypress at Whole Foods. The bright, green color really caught my eye.

I had made these candle decorations many years ago. They actually sit on my fireplace mantel the rest of the year. They are in little terra-cotta pots with dried flowers and mini pine cones.

I picked up the tradition from my mom of decorating the fireplace mantel with greens. I add lights and Christmas decorations.

I like to add animal decorations, sometimes made out of natural materials, so that it looks kind of like a little forest. This first little owl came from Plow and Hearth.

This stuffed bird on top of a pine cone and the two little reindeer below also came from Plow and Hearth.

We haven’t done a tree inside for the past few years, since we had our two cats, Molly and Izzy. My old cat, Montague, used to climb the tree when he was young, but stopped doing it when he was older. Izzy is a climber and I know she would be up that tree in a shot, and is big enough to take it down with her. So until she “matures” and we feel like we can trust her, no inside tree for us.

I will keep my decorations up for a little while longer, however, the cut greens do start to look dry after awhile. I enjoy it while it lasts. I hope you and yours had a happy holiday!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Greenhouse

Finally finished my web design class for the semester and have been busy running around for the holidays. I am hoping I will have more time to post to my blog now, though, with not having homework for awhile and (hopefully) with things slowing down a bit at work now, too, as we near the end of our busy season.

Around Halloween I started to move all of my potted plants into the greenhouse. Mind you, this can take awhile. When it comes time to move the plants in or out, I often find myself wishing the greenhouse had a door to the outside. The door is attached to the family room, which means lugging plants through the house to get them into the greenhouse. This was something I really shouldn’t have been doing since I had a cortisone shot in my rotator cuff just a few days before, but my plants come first and I couldn’t leave them out to die.

I love how the greenhouse looks with all the happy plants in it, such as these succulents.

Even though the Hens and Chicks in the succulent wreath are supposedly winter-hardy, I brought it inside just to be sure. If we have another winter like last winter I was afraid they wouldn’t make it. You can also spot my two vertical planters here, minus a few plants that had died.

The bakers rack on the left used to be dark green and had rusted with age. I spray painted it my favorite color, cobalt blue, about a week before I moved the plants in. Spray paint is a great thing. Looks like I will need to paint the fern stand in the spring – lots of rust there now, too. Although it kinda gives it character I guess.

My two bog containers that contain my carnivorous plants are in the greenhouse to protect the venus flytraps. The pitcher plants might survive the winter, but the flytraps would not. I also brought in the big, blue pot that has the Solanum quitoense in it. (See my post about that intriguing plant.) I just HAD to get that one in the greenhouse.

The three-tiered wood shelf came with the house. I think it must have been built in the greenhouse because it is way too big to every try to get it out. I’m glad it’s there because it can hold quite a few plants.

When I move plants into the greenhouse for the winter, I also do some re-potting as well as taking cuttings to try to multiply and extend the life of some plants. It takes extra time, however it is definitely worth it.

I hope my plant friends will be happy in the greenhouse this winter. A heating vent from the house manages to keep the greenhouse at a comfortable temperature for these lovelies. I sure am lucky to have this greenhouse. As I have mentioned before, it was a big selling point for us when we bought the house. I don’t know what I’d do without it now that I am so used to having it.