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View from the Window December 8, 2016

View from the window December 8, 2016

View from the window December 8, 2016

The view from the window shows that we had our first snowfall, just over an inch, but it didn’t last long. Temperatures mostly ranged in the 30s and 40s. I guess I am done putting the garden to bed. Our first complete year in the new garden draws to a close leaving us with a sense of satisfaction – and a list of things to do next spring.

A New Garden Room – Just in time

Garden Room

Garden Room

It was time to create a Garden Room. Yesterday I noticed that the Christmas cactus  out on the front porch had been slightly nipped by cold night time temperatures. It was time to clean out the side porch which spent the summer filled with construction materials and debris and turn it into a Garden Room. We closed the windows, and even though the temperatures never quite hit 70 degrees and substantial breezes kept our two river birches dancing, the room warmed right up. The jade tree, orchid cactus, several Christmas cacti and a begonia will be happy here for quite a while, but actually I think they will have to come inside the house eventually. Last winter we left the rosemary plant out in what was not quite a Garden Room and it sprang to life in March. Oh for the blessings of spring light and warmth after the winter.

Chrysanthemums and Beyond

Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum at 2009 Kiku exhibit at New York Botanical Garden

Chrysanthemums are an iconic autumn flower. You can see potted mums for sale everywhere including the supermarkets where ranks of mums in shades of lemon, tangerine and plum cluster around the entrances. A friend reminded me of a quote from Maggie Smith  in the 1969 movie, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which I never saw. A student had given Miss Brodie a bouquet(?) of chrysanthemums and her response was, “Chrysanthemums. Such a serviceable flower.”

Miss Brodie did not seem impressed, but at the very least chrysanthemums are indeed serviceable, providing bright welcomes on porches, cheering at football games with their giant blossoms on coats, a golden or ruby glow in candlelight in dinner table bouquets.

Dahlias

Dahlias in perennial ageratum tangle

In 1972 Miss Smith starred in Travels With My Aunt in which she played another character who had strong opinions about flowers. While strolling in the garden of her dahlia loving nephew, Henry, she sniffed and with disdainful look said, “Dahlias are so vulgar.”

Happily by 2011 Miss Smith’s characters may not have been any less waspish, but she seemed at least to have gentler feelings about bright flowers when she starred in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a movie that glowed with the warm light of marigolds. I don’t recall that she made any comments about the marigolds at all.

All three of these plants, chrysanthemums, dahlias and deep golden marigolds can bring color and drama to the autumnal garden. While potted mums are on sale everywhere at this time of the year, there are many chrysanthemum flower forms that bring special interest to the garden in addition to their colors. There are neat little pom poms, others with each floret (petal) ending in a spoon, or tubular florets called quills or incurved blossoms that will remind you of a Japanese brocade. There are 14 unusual varieties which will probably have to turn to online nurseries such as King’s Mums, or Garden Harvest Supply to see what unusual perennial varieties are available.

It is too late to order any of these fancy mums now, but you can get an idea of what they look like at the Smith College Chrysanthemum Show that includes the stunning chrysanthemum cascades and will run from November 5-20.

Recently I have been writing about Eric Greene’s dahlias which are so hardy and glamorous. Many of his dahlias originally came from Swan Island Dahlias. Like mums, dahlias can be organized by size with the largest measuring more than 10 inches or more, down to less than 4 inches across. They are also organized by type from collarette which is usually a single form, to waterlily form to petite pom-poms.

Dahlias can add rich and fiery blooms to the autumnal garden, but they have tender personalities as well. Those are the colors I always end up planting even though I am an admirer of scarlets and royal purples in the catalogs.

Marigolds

Marigolds

Recently I attended the stupa dedication at Lilian Jackman’s Wilder Hill Gardens. There I admired her tall, large flowered golden marigolds reminiscent of the marigolds The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  Marigolds will bloom into the fall and will also have a place in the autumnal garden. Marigolds are so easy to grow that they are a perfect flower for a child to grow. How happy and proud children are when their tiny seed grows into something so big and golden.

There is no problem in finding marigold seed from American Meadow, Park’s or Burpee Seeds.

Zinnias are another tough annual that will bloom long into the fall in golden shades like the marigold, or in a riot of hot or pastel shades. They also come in a range of flower forms from a neat single to shaggy cactus-flowers and dahlia-type flowers. I have made a promise to myself to always have zinnias in my garden.

All of these, mums, dahlias, marigolds and zinnias, are brilliant in the garden and make great cut flowers as well.

Without thinking too much about it I seem to have a number of asters in my new garden. I brought two clumps of the bright pink Alma Potschke with me from Heath as well as the low growing Wood’s Blue, which is a strong grower and makes a good ground cover even when it is not in bloom.

I added a white aster which has fine white flowers and was a bit disappointing. I also planted two pots of a purple aster which are just coming into bloom.

And then there is the much watched weed in my hell strip. For most of the summer I dubiously watched it grow. I wasn’t sure enough it was a weed and so did not rip it out. My procrastination has paid off because it is now producing very sweet small purple flowers, making more of a show that my new white aster. All the asters attract lots of pollinators.

Before I close I must confess to a lack of organization and record-keeping. The mystery groundcover that I mentioned last week revealed its name once planted where it was no longer crowed and got more sun. A small blossom surprised me. It is an osteospurmum which I planted in the spring, inspired by the hardiness and dramatic beauty of the osteospurmums on the Bridge of Flowers.  Obviously osteospurmums are another annual that will bloom into the fall.

Between the Rows   September 17, 2016

Blues in the Autumn

Wood's Blue aster

Wood’s Blue aster

Blues in the autumn strike a different mood from that of  the traditional expectation of reds and golds of the fall. And yet, there are many blues in the autumnal palette.

Perennial ageratum

Perennial ageratum with dahlias

The very blue perennial ageratum, or mistflower have tumbled in the heat to embrace the dahlias.

Russian sage

Russian sage, perovskia

Some may call it a shade of lavender, but I consider my Russian sage a part of my autumnal blues.

Asters

Asters

If I allow lavender Russian sage I will also allow purple asters. I love asters in any color.

Is your garden blue in the fall?

Bloom Day – November 15, 2015

Pink Chrysanthemums

Pink Chrysanthemums on November Bloom Day

On this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day in Greenfield, Mass, still boasting only a Zone 5 rating, my very late blooming pink chrysanthemums are still blooming. We have had frost, and some rain and wind, but these dependable beauties are still going. They are the only thing blooming outside.We are still not having freezing night temperatures as a regular thing, though it does get down below 40 degrees.

Prostrate rosemary in bloom

Prostrate rosemary in bloom

This prostrate rosemary was taken out of a pot and put into Greenfield soil this summer, and has seemed to tolerate the move into another pot for the winter. So far she has been able to live on the enclosed side porch. I admit you have to look pretty close to see those few tiny blue blooms.

Thanksgiving cactus

Red Thanksgiving cactus

This Thanksgiving cactus never seems to do much. Probably needs repotting. However she always blooms on schedule.

Thanksgiving cactus in a pale shade

Thanksgiving cactus in a pale shade

In  the guest room window a pretty pale pink Thanksgiving cactus is just starting to come into bloom. I bought her last Thanksgiving and she is doing pretty well. You can at least one of my holdover amaryllis will actually bloom again. This might be the first time I have managed a second year’s bloom. Although I never tried very hard before.

And so ends Bloom Day. I am barely getting in under the wire.

Thank you Carol  for  hosting Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day on May Dreams Gardens which allows us to see all the blooms across the the nation by clicking here.

 

 

Surprises on Wordless Wednesday

Forgotten pansies

Forgotten pansies

This pot of pansies was all but forgotten until the sun shone on it this afternoon.

Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums

This large clump of chrysanthemums is still blooming so energetically that it refuses to be forgotten.

For more Wordlessnes this Wednesday click here.

Fall Clean Up in the Garden

 

Lawn Bed -  put to bed

Lawn Bed – put to bed

The weather has been kind to those of us who procrastinate and go about fall clean up in the garden with a little less energy than we once had. Right now I am buckling down and in the midst of working through my to-do list.

I got an early start in the vegetable garden in late September. I pulled out finished squash and bean plants and put all that biomass in the compost bin. All the empty beds in the Potager and the Early Garden right in front of the house were weeded, and I dug in finished, or nearly finished, compost. I am in the process of refreshing my paths with cardboard and wood chips.

Sometimes we have to evaluate the plants in our gardens. There are many reasons for deciding to remove a plant. Perhaps it didn’t do well because conditions were not quite right. Perhaps it didn’t live up to the fantasy one had when choosing it. Perhaps one simply doesn’t like it anymore.  I got rid of the bright pink Alma Potchke aster last year. It has a funny name and is very pretty, but she just no longer appealed. I think the pink turtlehead (Chelone) is doomed this year. The deer like it too much and I’d rather have flashier flowers.

The plants that have to leave my garden will go to the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale in May. I am digging them up and keeping them in a vegetable bed in the Potager.

Other plants that will end up in a vegetable bed for the winter are those that need dividing. This year I am dividing three different astilbes, a white, a pink and a graceful pink ostrich astilbe, as well as Mardi Gras helenium, Echinacea and Japanese anemone. One division will stay in the garden and the other divisions will go into the Plant Sale, or to a friend.

Perennials need to be divided periodically to keep the garden in scale, and sometimes for their own health. Those divisions also allow us to be generous and that is a very good feeling.

It is time to cut back those perennials that have finished blooming. This will make things neater and easier on the gardener in the spring when there is so much to do.  Of course, if you have plants with interesting seed heads that will attract the birds that spend the winter you will want to leave them.

Last year I did not cut back the daylilies in the fall, but I will not repeat that mistake. Cutting back plants reveals weeds that are hiding beneath the foliage. Hidden weeds, and weeds that are all too obvious should be pulled out. Fall weeding seems easier to me than spring weeding. The weeds don’t seem to have as good a hold on the earth in the fall as they do in the spring.

Honey Badger Garden Gloves

Honey Badger Garden Gloves

I was given a new glove to try out. The Honey Badger garden glove has three hard plastic claws on the fingers of one hand. As long as the soil is not packed hard, these claws have proved very efficient at helping me get underneath the roots of weeds when I am cleaning out the flower beds. Somehow I seem to work best in the garden on my knees, and directly with my hands whenever possible.

I am not done with weeding and dividing, but the peonies have all been cut back and weeded. I have one Lawn Bed section that has been cut back, weeded, and divided. I topped the soil off with some old cleanings from the henhouse (no more hens) and then sprinkled some old wood chips on top of that. The bed isn’t terribly photogenic but to my eyes it looks neater and ready for a floriferous spring.

Since I have been using my finished compost I have room in the bins to make new compost. I can use the foliage of cut back plants and frosted vegetables, but I am cautious about the weeds I include. No galinsoga or weeds with roots that I think will love spending the winter in delicious compost.

Leaves blow right off our hill but I did help a neighbor bag up some leaves and took them for my compost pile. Leaves are a valuable resource and I take all I can use.

My spade and garden forks are still in daily use, as are my hand tools including the pruners. Soon it will be time to clean them carefully. Actually, it is good to clean tools, especially clippers and pruners, after every use, and I try very hard to make this a routine. I keep a rag near my tool trug as a reminder.

Finally, you might make some notes. I try to do this all season long, partly because I am apt to be forgetful about plant names. I keep a little garden journal, with weather notes for (almost) every day, and notes about what I have done that day. Notes about activities help remind me of the general progress of the season. When I buy, or otherwise acquire, new plants I put in as much of the proper name as I can. This makes it easier to recommend them, or avoid them in future.

How far have you gotten with your fall clean up? According to my Farmer’s Almanac the rest of October will be mild. We can procrastinate a little more, but not too much.

10-20 Sheffies

Not everything is cut back. It is nice to have a few blooms! I think the flowers above are Sheffield Daisies. Maybe.

Between the Rows  October 18, 2014

Asters and Mums – and Sheffies

Asters

Asters

Returning from a few days away I was happy to see that the asters are still blooming.

Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums

These sunny quilled mums don’t look like the cold and the rain bothered them at all.

Montauk daisies

Montauk daisies

The Montauk daisies have started to bloom!

Sheffies - Sheffield daisies

Sheffies – Sheffield daisies

Do think I can now say that the Sheffies, my late blooming Sheffield daisies, are finally blooming?  I leave it up to you.

When Will My Sheffield Daisies Bloom?!

Sheffield Daisies October 4, 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

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

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!

Dinner Theater at the End of the Road

Sunset October 29

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

A little later October 29

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.