Monday, October 29, 2012

Late Asters

We have some fall color but the wind is playing havoc with the leaves. One of our chief trees for color in these parts is the red maple, which can be almost but not quite as spectacular as sugar maples. They are pretty sensitive to moisture levels though; a dry late summer and fall will squelch their fall show.

Members of the aster family are still going strong. Swamp sunflower is as sunny as ever.

I grew some zinnias from seed to liven up the plantings of tomatoes and lima beans. The lima beans are now growing rampantly after a hesitant start but never produced much. The sulfur butterflies like the zinnias.

Have I mentioned how much I love the purple of Aromatic asters?

The two pink dahlias have about half a dozen big flowers each. I never stake the dahlias because I never know whether they will make it through the summer, so their flowers always nod, but they are still beautiful. The dahlias would do best grown in pots, staked, and watered regularly. I may do that next year. Not sure about the winter storage though. I lost a lot when I tried storing them in pots under the house. I think the potting medium held too much moisture and the tubers stayed too wet. If you store dahlias over the winter what is your technique?

'Venus' is a late-flowering mum that never blooms in July or requires much care at all. Every October
I think I need to spread it around more and/or get some of the other late fall mums: 'Ryan's Pink' or 'Sheffield Pink' or 'Country Girl'. The bees and butterflies flock to these late season asters.

Red Admiral Butterfly

Monarch (top right) and Viceroy

The last three days we've had a lot of clouds and wind and last night we got almost 4/10ths of an inch of rain as Sandy made her way around us. At the coast many places got at least 8". For folks further north I sincerely hope that "frankenstorm" ends up being a Halloween hoax and not the real thing.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day October 2012

Swamp sunflower is the current undisputed queen of the October garden. The asters are starting with their magical soft purple blooms but what really catches the eye above the brown stems of the Bidens are the sunflowers. (Edited to add: Greggo commented that my sunflowers look like the willowleaf sunflowers native to the midwest, Helianthus salicifolius. To be honest I'm not entirely sure of the identity of my sunflowers. To begin, I have two types. The first four pictures feature a swamp sunflower that I bought from Niche Gardens years ago. It has wider leaves than my other sunflower, gets fungus on the bottom leaves, and blooms during the entire month of October. My other swamp sunflower was grown from seed from the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. It too grows tall but is much more likely to slump ~ albeit very gracefully ~ as it has less robust stems. No fungus but also doesn't bloom as long, 3 weeks as opposed to 4-5. Different species or differences within species?)

Niche Gardens swamp sunflower

To further add to the confusion, I was reminded of something I read in an old Sunlight Gardens' catalog. So I pulled it out (I keep these catalogs as references), and it states that H. angustifolius typically grows to 1.5-5 feet. There's another species called tall narrow-leaved sunflower H. simulans. Here's what they wrote about it:

"This plant has been circulating in the trade as H. angustifolius, and when we first saw it, we thought it must be a giant form or even a tetroploid (genetically, extra well-endowed). But further research has confirmed its true identity to be H. simulans native to the southern coastal plain from Florida to Louisiana and up into Tennessee and Arkansas. It has narrow willowy leaves and easily reaches 8 feet in height. In mid-fall here, it explodes into flower and will cover itself with 3 inch bright yellow sunflowers."

So perhaps I don't have H. angustifolius at all, but H. simulans. I'm not sure. The two species could have been lumped together by now.

Swamp sunflowers from the NC Botanical Garden.

This dainty swamp coreopsis is like a swamp sunflower in miniature.

The swallowtails and hummingbirds are gone but there are still sulfurs, skippers, Monarchs and Viceroys around.

A young purple coneflower putting out its first bloom this fall, very vibrant in the bright sunshine.

I have only one species of hardy ginger, in spite of our close proximity to Plant Delights, but to my mind the white one is the only one that counts since it has the best/ strongest fragrance. :) (Not to take anything away from the others, they are beautiful. But I only want to allocate so much room to very tropical-looking plants in my garden. If I lived on the coast of North Carolina or in southern South Carolina and southward, which are truly in subtropical zones, it'd be a different story...) The ginger started blooming in August and will continue until November.

I have unfortunately lost many dahlias the last few years. Most were grown from seed I got through a trade and were in almost every color of the rainbow. I'm not sure of the origins of this one but I really like it. It's the only dahlia blooming for me now.

This sweet aster just popped up in the big perennial bed one year. It's much taller than my white-flowered frost asters. I'm guessing willowleaf, although it's not as robust-looking and blooms a month earlier than 'Miss Bessie'.

Shale aster. Love those purple flowers! I look forward to seeing the asters bloom all year and still want more. I lost my Georgia asters and large flower asters during wet winters. I also want the wild ones I see growing roadside. Not sure of the species but they are lovely. All of the species of purple-flowered asters have different shades of lavender and purple and all are beautiful.

The roses are blooming, not with the exuberant bunches of
spring but spots of color here and there. This is 'Clotilde Soupert'.

Today I am joining Carol at May Dreams Gardens for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Iris Project

This has been a banner year for figs and gardenias in our garden, thanks to the past dry warm winter. DH has been eating figs from the trees all summer and put up several jars of preserves besides. Delicious with bagels and cream cheese, or butter and toast. I've been thinking of making a tart with figs if I can get around the yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets that have recently started monopolizing the figs. Yellow Jackets get so aggressive around food sources this time of year.

Our gardenias, quite stingy with flowers in past years, looked like this at the end of May:

The sweet fragrance permeated the entire yard.

At the other end of the spectrum, this year was not a banner year for bearded iris in my garden. Even though I diligently kept the deadnettle off of them all winter and spring they didn't bloom very much. I got maybe a half dozen flowers in the big perennial bed. They were simply too crowded and overshadowed by other plants (four o'clocks, Brazilian Blue Sage, rugosas and Bidens) the rest of the year.

In 2011, Jessie's Song

and Jellybean.
I missed the bouquets of iris flowers this year.

Compare to 2006, when there were far fewer woody plants and overall competition:

By 2010 the iris were mostly relegated to the edges of paths where they could still shine.

This year the garden had matured right up to the paths' edge in many places and so the extra iris went up into a new bed in the front yard.

(There isn't really a daylily planted with the hydrangea in front of the house. That's a
'Spellblinder' that was taken out of the vegetable garden due to some serious clashing with
Phlox 'Robert Poore' and I was waiting for a cooldown to put it elsewhere. There's also a young
Bald Cypress that was rescued from vicious deer antlers and will find a new home this fall.)

So, barring a late freeze, there should be more iris flowers next year. I hope so. Both my paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather grew beautiful iris up in limestone country in southern Indiana years ago and I have entranced by them ever since. I should probably mulch the bed with gravel too, since voles took out the iris next to the sidewalk. The soil is much sandier and easier to dig in around the house than in the gardens below, and if it's cold Prissy would prefer to stay in her heated bed on the porch than hunt voles.

In the fall of 2010 I decided to move the path at the back of the big bed, to the very back where the two loblolly pines keep anything I plant from thriving or even living, and this created some temporary open space for iris as well. You can see a little bit of the new planting area mulched with hay in the pictures from 2011 below.

The pictures below are from the spring of 2011. I LOVE iris in mixed plantings like those below but eventually they will all have to have more of their own space, likely close to the house. The gardens below the house just have to become less work. DH is too busy to help with the garden, and there are farm projects to be done and horses to be ridden too.

I keep thinking to myself that I won't be ordering new iris anytime soon, and then I see something like this: a post about Ginny Spoon's gorgeous iris on the blog of the American Iris Society, World of Irises. I was completely smitten with the beautiful shades of rose and plum in those iris. Or Mike Unser's post about black iris. I'm not a fan of black pansies, as they truly are coal black and rather ghoulish (although perfect for Halloween), but I am a big fan of "black" tulips and iris. Black iris are in deep shimmering shades of purple or deep red. There's lots of eye candy on the AIS' facebook page as well.

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