What do you think of when you think of the flowers of autumn? Chrysanthemums immediately to mind, if only because in September every supermarket dresses itself with ranks of potted mums. These mums are colorful, although a bit straitlaced in their pots, and may blind us to the many other flowers of autumn. However, there are many other fall bloomers.
One of my favorite autumn bloomers is the Japanese anemone. I have a large clump of the old pink variety Robusstisma. It begins blooming in late summer and continues till a hard frost. Like Robustissima, the standard white Honorine Joubert has a classic cup shape with a golden center. It is 36 inches tall and new flowers keep appearing over a long season. Both are hardy to zone 4, but there are newer cultivars.
Bluestone Perennials and WaysideGardens offer newer varieties as well as these old favorites. Max Vogel is a more ruffled pink with a brilliant gold center. Margarette is a deeper pink double variety that is only 24 inches tall. Whirlwind is a tall white double with petals that do look ruffled by the breezes. These newer varieties are listed as hardy to zone 5.
Japanese anemones are listed as rabbit and deer resistant, but I have to report with some chagrin that the deer have munched on my Robustissima, both before and after blooming.
Boltonia closeup in September
Boltonia is another fall bloomer that isn’t mentioned very often, but this hardy plant, sometimes called a false aster, will bloom for a month. At four feet or more and covered with snowy white flowers just one plant puts out a tremendous show until after hard frost. Snowbank is the white variety, but there is also Boltonia Pink which is slightly shorter with pink petals around the golden center. Both are hardy to zone 4 and both tolerate a wet site.
Rudbeckia Goldsturm is a classic black eyed susan. This flower is hardy to zone 3, and not susceptible to any disease. It is also quite drought tolerant. It will bloom from July until well into September.
At four feet tall with unusual narrow rolled petals Rudbeckia subtomentosa Henry Eilers is a striking cultivar that will certainly attract attention.
Black eyed susans are such popular flowers and such late bloomers that it is no surprise that the hybridizers have glammed her up. Rudbeckia hirta Cappucino is 18 inches tall and the large double blossoms are in shades of golden red. Rudbeckia hirta Cherry Brandy will not bloom quite as late in the fall, but the deep red-maroon color is a whole new vision of the black eyed susan. All the rudbeckias make good cut flowers, as do the Japanese anemones and boltonia.
Good front of the border plants are garlic chives and salvias. I have various kinds of chives, and had forgotten that I had planted a new garlic chive clump in the North Lawn Bed. Garlic chives bloom in late summer and through the fall. The blossoms are white, not the purple of the familiar spring blooming chives. The purpose of my new clump was ornamental, a touch of white against a dark fountain juniper, but they can be snipped all season long for use in the kitchen. The flavor is more garlicky than oniony, and more gentle that garlic cloves.
There are so many salvias, and all so beautiful and useful. Culinary sage is a salvia and while it doesn’t have flowers at this season, the gray-green foliage is a very handsome element in any garden.
Of course there are many other colors of annual salvias like Lighthouse Purple, white and blue Sea Breeze and Red Hot Mama. Seduced by the peachy flowers in June I planted a perennial salvia listed as Autumn Sage Heatwave Glow. It still has a few flowers thought it is badly crowded by a trumpet vine, parsley and some enormous horseradish leaves. I don’t know whether it will survive the winter (hardy to zone 6, minus 10 degrees) but this year’s flowers were worth it.
Of course there are other fall bloomers including a world of chrysanthemums, asters and dahlias and other annuals. Just take a walk over the Bridge of Flowers and see how many plants are blooming this late in the season.
A final note. Many people are not familiar with Ratibida columnifera Red Midget, otherwise called Red Mexican Hat. I only became aware of this native prairie plant recently, about the same time I learned about the ‘bat faced’ cuphea which I have enjoyed so much this summer. Ratibida is hardy to zone 3. It is only about 15 inches tall and its small blossoms are comprised of reflexed red petals around a prominent cone. This seed cone will be very attractive to birds after the petals have fallen in the fall. Ratibida will not bloom as late into the fall as the other plants I have mentioned but they are so interesting and unusual I wanted to mention them. There is also Ratibida Yellow. Look for them in my garden next year. ###
Between the Rows September 20, 2014
Sheffield Daisies October 4, 2014
It is hard to believe these are Sheffield daisies. They could be any chrysanthemum – except that my chrysanthemum is blooming.
Sheffield daisies closeup
I look closely at the Sheffield daisy buds to see if they look like they might be ready to open, or at least to be showing color. Why are they so late to bloom? The summer was very cool for the most part. And dry in late August and all through September, but I did occasionally give them a deep watering. We recently had a couple of very warm sunny days and I hoped that would give them a big dose of encouragement, but alas, no.
Sheffield daisies October 14, 2013
Here is the answer to my question. When I went back to look at last year’s Sheffies I found that on October 14, 2013, when I was preparing for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day on the 15th, the Sheffield daisies were just beginning to bloom. Lot and lots of buds yet to open. I guess I just have to hold on to the hope that this October will be mild right up to November so I will have more of these wonderful blossoms to enjoy. They were still blooming last year on October 28. You can see that one of the reasons a blog is useful, not just fun, it because it is a great record book!
Sunset October 29
A different kind of Dinner Theater. At this time of the year we are sitting down at our dining table in front of big windows that look out across the lawn, to the hills beyond, and into the sky for supper right at sunset. The show is brief and doesn’t take us all the way to dessert, but it is spectacular.
A little later October 29
For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.
Dahlias on the Bridge of Flowers
As a member of the Bridge of Flowers committee I am always happy when a visitor eloquently admires dahlia season on the Bridge of Flowers. Or any bloom season. Recently the Fine Gardening Magazine website featured a number of photos of the Bridge, and comments by Andy Engel of Fine Homebuilding Magazine – who finally followed the signs to the Bridge. To see his photos click here.
I have taken my own photos of the Bridge this season. Here is a sample.
Double bloodroot May 1
Not all the flowers are as flashy as the dahlias, but we are very proud of our double bloodroot that bloom early in the spring. We usually have a few divisions to sell at the Annual May Plant Sale.
Azaleas May 7
The Bridge is a perfect example of a Mixed Border that incorporates, blooming shrubs, trees, vines, perennials, annuals and a few grasses.
Tulips May 25
Tulips can be pretty flashy in May and June.
Roses June 25
June is the month of roses for me, but there are roses blooming on the Bridge into September.
Daylilies July 19
Shady greens July
The many shades of green have their own beauty and fascination.
Lilies August 1
Daylilies and other kinds of lilies in many colors all through August.
Phlox and crocosmia August 1
Never a dull moment.
Gladiola August 26
Gladiolas are not usually my favorite, but I cannot resist this one.
Asters – September
And here we are – back to September – but not for long – and asters as well as dahlias – and many many others. To call this Dahlia Season on the Bridge of Flowers is actually not very descriptive. I hope you will all come and visit.
Many of us are very reluctant to put together a flower arrangement. We see photos of complicated bouquets accompanied by complicated descriptions of color and texture and know we could never aspire to making such a thing. In her book Windowsill Art: Creating one-of-a-kind natural arrangements to celebrate the seasons (St. Lynn’s Press $18.95) Nancy Ross Hugo, shows us a way to make arrangements that are beautiful in their simplicity.
I am a person who is known for looking at the big picture. For me the delight of Windowsill Art is the way it encourages me to look at the details, of a flower or twig or leaf.
Hugo knows about plants, big and small. She is the education manager for the LewisGinterBotanical Garden in Virginia and has written four other books including the magnificent Seeing Trees with photographer Robert Llewellyn. In Windowsill Art she explains that she has great fun making windowsill arrangements because there is no anxiety. She also considers making these regular arrangements a kind of spiritual practice that prompts her to notice the changes that every day brings to the natural world.
This little book with its glowing photographs is divided into four sections beginning with Getting Started that will push aside all worries about finding plants or containers or even windowsills. In the next section she goes on to Explore the Process, and then on to Experimenting with Styles and Technique. The final section is a photographic record of windowsill arrangements through the seasons of the year.
Sometimes an arrangement goes solo, a single vase filled with the plants of the season. Sometimes she shows the power of massing when she puts an assortment of related flowers in un-matched containers.
Throughout all this it is clear that there is no plant or part of a plant that Hugo does not find stunning. Vegetables, herbs, weeds, and shrubs find their way into her arrangements in addition to familiar flowers. She even finds drama in the arching branch of dead leaves.
I think this is the value of all her teaching. She knows how to entice us into new ways of looking at the common things around us. And if we learn to see the elegance of a cabbage leaf while we wash dishes, it will not take long before we see the beauty of many other everyday details.
Hugo says, “ . . . although I had been meaning to create something ‘pretty’ every day, it is seldom the beauty or design success of an arrangement that moves me . . . it’s the way they capture the seasons.”
This beautiful little book is the kind of book that would even please a non-gardener. Any walk outside might result in a bit of grass or leaf or flower, all you need to make Art.
Gardens in Detail
Gardens in Detail: 100 Contemporary Designs by Emma Reuss (Monacelli Press $45.) is also about details, but it is the big details of landscape design: repetition, pattern, geometry, symmetry and proportion. Those are big details and Reuss takes us to 100 contemporary gardens around the world to show how they can play out to very different effect.
My garden is not contemporary in the sense that a landscape designer would use that term, and yet any successful elements I have achieved can also be credited to repetition – of my gingko trees in the Lawn Beds – and rhythm – of the curving Rose Walk.
Water features abound in this book. Many years ago I was reading one of Beverley Nichols charming books about his garden where he insisted that ornamental water was essential in any garden. Since I could not imagine how I could get water into my garden I dismissed his dictate. However, more and more gardeners have found ways to put water in their gardens, reflecting pools, fountains, and ponds. Water in the garden is not a contemporary idea
This is the point I want to make. Although you might think that this book would be of limited use on our suburban plots, there is something to learn and adapt from almost every detail described in this book. For example, many kinds of path grace these gardens. In one formal garden the path is closely clipped and edged grass; one path through a meadow is a boardwalk; one is cement pavers arranged in an idiosyncratic pattern; a brick path ends and segues into ‘ sympathetically colored gravel of the dining area.’
One of the techniques I liked, in opposition to severely clipped hedges, is the ‘staggered hedge’ which is made up of several different shrubs. This is a softer, and less work intensive, way to create a boundary. The shrubs would be different depending on your climate.
For each garden the defining details are listed, photographed and an explanation is given for how it works within the design of the whole garden. The instruction is brief but dense as elements reappear throughout the book in a number of different ways. Five hundred photographs make the principles very clear.
Reuss is British, a member of the Royal Horticultural Society and lives in London, but the ideas in this book range from the formal to the more ecologically concerned, as well as from the Arizona desert to Tokyo, Japan.
Reuss stresses that the “key to successful garden design is to be true to the character of both the site and the house – the genius loci . . . and environmental conditions.” That is where we all must start.
Between the Rows September 27, 2014
Birds and Blooms Magazine
In spite of its name, Birds AND Blooms, I always thought of this magazine as concentrating on Birds. However, I’ve been looking at it from time to time and have come to realize that it has lots of good information for gardeners, too.
In fact, as we all become more aware of the pressures on our environment, climate change, depredations of host environments for migrating birds, and a simple desire to attract those ‘flowers of the air” birds and butterflies to our garden, this magazine can be very useful. Features that focus on gardens, focus on those plants that are going to attract those other beautiful “flowers.” Who can complain about that.
The current issue has a useful story about the wide variety of coral bells, heucheras, that are now available. I have written about these myself because of their many shades of foliage from green to gold, to burnished reds. I was intersted in color, but it is also true that hummingbirds enjoy coral bells. What a bonus. Another story reminds us that fall is a good time to plant perennials and makes it clear that while flowers and foliage may fade at this time of the year, roots are still going and growing strong. The soil is warm, and roots will continue to grow until it freezes. Besides, there are great bargains at garden centers and other businesses that sell potted perennials. As long as plants don’t look diseased they can be a great buy. Bring them home, give them a deep watering, and then plant them. Keep them watered because those roots are taking hold. You’ll have a great plant ready to bloom in the spring.
Right now you can get a free first issue by ordering at www.birdsandblooms.com/FreeExtra and get 8 issues for $12.98. The holidays are coming and this is a great gift for gardeners – and birders.
Tricia and Brian’s wedding ceremony
Two parks played an important part in our life recently. Last week our granddaughter Tricia married her high school sweetheart, Brian. The ceremony was held in the beautiful and pastoral Look Park in Northampton at the Theater of Pines. It was a happy moment for all the extended family and there are lots of us on both sides.
The bride and groom posed with Granny and the Major, and Aunts Kate and Betsy, her mother our daughter Diane, and Uncles Chris and Philip. Pride and joy all around.
After the wedding we were off to Norwalk to visit with friends who took us to the Maritime Aquarium where there was this eerie column of Moon jellyfish. Going through the aquarium was very like wandering through a mysterious garden - there were all manner of silent creatures swimming through amazing landscapes. It was amazing to think that all the marine life in the aquarium was local; all the creatures were found in Long Island Sound.
Bryant Park, NYC
We also made a trip to New York City and strolled through Bryant Park. This park, renovated in the 1980s has a very different vibe from the violent reputation it had in the 1970s when we lived in NY, and from the pastoral Look Park. The renovation of this urban park, and several other NY parks has changed the tone of their neighborhoods, and even the economics. Buildings that look down on this lovely park with its little eateries, a carousel AND a Reading Room (the park is built over the stacks of the main NY Library) now command higher rents.
Grand Central Station
But finally it was time to leave New York, and Norwalk and return home. I love Grand Central Station. Such a beautiful building, and so much energy. And as the old radio show used to say “Grand Central Station! Crossroads of a million lives.” Still true.
For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.
Dawn on September 22, 2014
The colors of the landscape on the first day of fall are shifting. Fall colors are mutable, first draining and then gathering richness. The dawn sun on the trees across the field show the rustiness of the trees as the fresh green seeps away.
Maple reds arrive
As I drove around on my errands I saw the different fall colors arrive in different ways, vibrantly on the treetops.
The low branches of the beeches are turning gold and if I look closely I can see the tiny pointy buds of next year’s leaves forming.
Golden riverside tree
A single golden tree along the river set against the green hillside.
This small maple is being transformed from emerald to ruby, but you can still see the transformation is not complete.
red leaves on a vine
Soon reds will become more prominent. Already this weedy vine has a brilliant sash.
Rich gold is to be seen in all the local farmstands as the pumpkin harvest is set out. These pumpkins are in the Hawlemont School garden.
What colors are changing in your landscape?
Narcissus poeticus – Pheasant eye daffodil
These chilly days and cool nights have got me thinking about spring. Or more specifically the need to plant spring blooming bulbs this fall. There is something about gardening that makes us gardeners keep one eye a season or two ahead, even as we work with the challenges and pleasures of the present.
Catalogs for spring bloomers have already arrived. The Old House Gardens catalog is a favorite because I love thinking of the long history of the bulbs they offer. For example the Cloth of Gold crocus was being grown as early as 1587, and was commonly offered in catalogs during the 1800s because it was so popular. Cloth of Gold is a very early bloomer and the bees love it. That would be reason enough to grow it. We have to take care of our pollinators especially in those difficult early and late seasons.
I grow a number of small bulbs, grape hyacinths and scillas, but a favorite is the snowdrop. I have the Elwes snowdrop growing in grass and at the edge of the herb bed. I am planning to plant the Gravetye Giant Snowflake which is actually a Leucojum, not a Galanthus. The graceful, nodding bell-like blossoms with their green tips are very similar to snowdrops, but they are held on tall 18 inch stems and bloom a little later. Both snow drops and the snowflake are deer and rodent resistant.
Because they are deer and rodent resistant most of the bulbs I plant are daffodils. Often from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs great collection. Daffodils are a favorite of mine because they are so varied from tiny bi-color Jack Snipe and pale Toto to the large cool Ice Follies and big Precocious with its white perianth and deep salmon-pink cup.
Tulips on the Bridge of Flowers
I don’t grow many tulips because critters do like the planted bulbs, and because they are not as long lived as daffodils. Still, ephemeral beauty is not to be avoided just because it does not last over the years. I have planted viridian tulips like Spring Green with its ivory blossom feathered with green, and the flamboyant fringed Apricot Parrot tulip.
There are so many cultivars of these common bulbs, crocus, grape hyacinth, snowdrop, scilla, tulip and fragrant hyacinth that I still get a shock when I open the bulb catalogs to find a whole array of other fall planted spring blooming bulbs.
Alliums are flowering onions. Even non-gardeners identify and admire the large alliums like Purple Sensation and Ambassador with their large spheres of flowerets. There are also cultivars with white spheres like the creamy Ivory Queen and icy Mount Everest.
Less familiar are alliums with looser and more unusual blossoms. Allium bulgarium has a chandelier-like arrangement of tiny white, green and pink bell shaped flowers. Allium carnatum ssp pulchellum looks like a rosy fireworks display and A. flavum is a golden explosion with blue-green foliage. The John Scheepers catalog describes A. Hair as “a bit like an alien life form . . . with tentacle-like flowers.” This last would definitely be a traffic stopper during a garden tour.
Alliums are deer and rodent resistant. I have to say the fine stems and foliage of the drumstick alliums I have planted have been nibbled to nubs by deer long before they bloom. The other cultivars are bigger, sturdier, and smellier even when young and therefore more repellent.
Frittilaria imperialis Crown Imperial is another deer and rodent resistant show stopper. It is 36 inches tall, topped with an umbrella cluster of several pendant blossoms. Lutea Maxima is tall with a sunny yellow flower cluster and rubra maxima has a striking red-orange flower cluster.
Frittilaria meleagris, sometimes called the Checkered Lily has small, low maroon and white flowers. There is a white cultivar as well.
And of course, there are lilies. Not deer resistant, alas, but so beautiful. There are Asiatic lilies, species lilies, Chinese trumpet lilies, Orienpet lilies and Oriental lilies. All easily recognizable as Lilies, but differing somewhat in flower form, size and fragrance. Orienpets are a hybrid making use of the best aspects of the Chinese trumpet lily and the fragrance of the Oriental lily.
Lilium white henryii
The challenge for those passionate about lilies is the arrival of the lily beetle. However the University of Maine has done research that shows Asiatic lilies may be the most susceptible to the lily beetle while some Oriental lilies are more resistant. The most resistant cultivars they have identified were Lilium henryi ’Madame Butterfly’, Lilium speciosum ’Uchida’, and Lilium ’Black Beauty.’
The lily beetle is more active early in the season when the adult beetles that have overwintered in the soil emerge and almost immediately begin laying eggs. Neem oil and spinosad are organic controls that have been useful. Even so, if you have lily beetles close observation very early in the season and control, including removal by hand of the egg clusters and larvae, can save your lilies.
All bulbs need to be planted in well drained soil. Bulbs need phosphorus to bloom well which means that when planting bulbs the soil beneath should be amended with bonemeal or rock phosphate. To maintain the necessary nutrients the bulb planting should be given a fall helping of bone meal, two cups for a 10 foot square area. Repeat that feeding in the spring, when the shoots are starting to appear. A 10-10-10 fertilizer could also be spread. Whatever fertilizer I use, I try to spread it when rain is expected.
Sources: Your local garden center: www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com; www.oldhousegardens.com; www.johnscheepers.com ###
Between the Rows September 13, 2014
Encino lettuce is a tender green oakleaf. I always pay attention when a vendor like Rich Pascale of Shoestring Farm urges me to try something. I am really glad I took home a huge head of Encino. The end of August is getting to be the end of the season for Encino, but now only the beginning of my desire to grow it, or at least eat it. I found seed at Seedway and as far as I can tell I can buy 1000 seeds for $6.92. That is a few too many seeds for me, but Rich will grow it again next year, and I will be sure to visit the Farmers Market in Greenfield frequently. This is a beautiful and flavorful lettuce. Big heads. It makes really good salads.
Salad made with Encino lettuce.
There is nothing like a salad fresh out of the garden. And if not my own garden, it is perfect from a market farmer’s garden. Thanks Rich.