Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday: Thanksgiving Edition

Like most of you, at least those of you living in the U.S., I have a full agenda today.  Bathrooms have been scrubbed and floors mopped, but there is vacuuming and dusting to do, though why I bother I don't know--by tomorrow afternoon there will be dirty dishes and toys strewn all about, as the adults sit, too stuffed to move, let alone notice a little dust.  Ah, well, old habits die hard.  Once the cleaning is done, it's time to begin the serious work--baking, chopping vegetables, wrestling the turkey (that I hope has thawed completely) into a pot of brine, and all the other food preparations that can be done ahead of time so that Thanksgiving morning is as stress-free as possible. Of course, a stress-free Thanksgiving dinner is an oxymoron at my house, if you recall my tale of Turkey Trials and Tribulations from last year.

With all this to do today, what in the world am I doing here blogging?? For one, I wanted to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving.  And two, today is Wildflower Wednesday.  I have been racking my brain the last two weeks, trying to think of something I could show for this month's celebration of wildflowers.  I could have shown another photo of dried seedheads and foliage, but with the rain recently, they've mostly turned to mush.  Then, a small envelope arrived in the mail--serendipity!--and inspiration hit.

Orange cosmos in the butterfly garden 2010

Blogging friend Tina had kindly offered to send some seeds for 'Cosmic Orange' cosmos, after mine failed to appear this year.  When I opened the letter from her, I was surprised to see not only cosmos seeds, but seeds for several other plants including some for Rudbeckia lacinata, a variety I have been admiring in other gardens for some time.

Photo from Wikipedia

 Rudbeckia Lacinata, also known as Cutleaf Coneflower, can grow as tall as 8 feet, which makes it ideal for the back of a garden.  It blooms in mid-summer to fall with central cones of green, turning to yellow with maturity.  And like all Rudbeckias, it attracts all kinds of pollinators; in fact, it is the host plant for the Silvery Checkerspot butterfly.

Photo from
A second seedpacket from Tina included seeds for Scutellaria incana, commonly known as Downy Skullcap.  Downy Skullcap is a native perennial that grows to 2-3 feet tall, and is covered with racemes of blue-violet flowers that are especially attractive to bumblebees.  According to Illinois Wildflowers, "it's surprising that this plant is not grown in flower gardens more often" because of its attractive tubular flowers. Also noteworthy for many of you--deer usually don't bother this plant due to its bitter foliage.

I hope that next summer I can show you both of these plants blooming in my own garden--thank you, Tina!

Wildflower Wednesday is being celebrated all this week by our hostess Gail at Clay and Limestone--why not drop by to view other wildflowers or join in when you have the time?

Today I am grateful for all of you who have shared your gardening experience and knowledge with me over the past few years.  As I plan for tomorrow's big dinner, I realize that I have been truly blessed this past year--a new son-in-law and a new healthy grandson top the list.  I also am thankful that both my parents are in good health and can join us tomorrow, as well as my youngest daughter, who will be celebrating her first Thanksgiving dinner with us in three years.

May all of you have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

GBBD: November Swan Song

This is the time of year when garden bloggers living in zone 5 or farther north are forced to get rather creative, especially on the 15th of each month when we join in the monthly celebration known as Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.  With several nights of frost the past few weeks, my garden is pretty well done for the year and ready to hibernate for the winter.

This is what most of my garden looks like--a few spots of green here and there, like the lambs' ears, but mostly dried seedheads and fading foliage like the amsonia, all covered with a thick layer of leaves blown in by the wind.  Even the grasses are losing their fall color.

Still, there are a few jewels to be found.  The beautyberry may have lost all its leaves, but the purple berries remain for a bright accent in an otherwise mostly brown landscape.  In case you're wondering about the strange foliage here, those are pieces of dried cornstalks blown in from the fields that have wrapped themselves around the plant.

The Knockout roses, especially the yellow 'Radsunny,' are still putting out some blooms, but even they look ready to give up for the winter.

 One of the best parts of participating in GBBD is that it makes me hunt for something in bloom, especially during this time of year.  If I hadn't been looking for something, anything at all blooming,  I would have missed the few delicate alyssum plants finally blooming.

Another surprise as I walked around the garden beds was this solitary bloom on the daisy 'Becky.'  Looking back at last year's November post, I realized that I actually have much more in bloom this year than last.

Not a bloom, this little seedling has me mystified.  Does anyone recognize what it might be?  I have several of these seedlings growing in the lily bed, and though I'm pretty sure they're not a weed, I have no idea what they are. 

Most of the hydrangeas have already faded to shades of brown, but 'Let's Dance in the Moonlight' is the belle of the ball and still turning heads with its aging blooms of burgundy.

Nearby, the Itea 'Little Henry' is hanging on to its fall color.

As is the Spirea 'Magic Carpet.'  The two spireas were afterthoughts planted last fall to fill in an empty spot among other shrubs.  I didn't realize until now that they had such pretty fall color, so I'm really glad I chose them.

The last few weeks have been a real rollercoaster in terms of weather.  We've had some days in the 70's and some mornings below freezing.  The plants that remain must be totally confused.  This geranium in the porch planter apparently isn't going to give up until the bitter end. 

A few petunias are also bravely soldiering on.

Not surprisingly, the new Rudbeckia  'Prairie Sun'  is still looking good in a container.  I really need to plant this in the garden soon, though, because I definitely want to keep this one around.

The kale, however, will stay in its container for the winter, along with the pansies.  Neither will survive our winter, but they're just too pretty to toss on the compost pile.

One last potted mum is still blooming away.  Soon it will be time to put these fall decorations into the compost heap and bring out the Christmas decor.

There will be a scarcity of blooms the next few months here on the prairie, but on a positive note, I finally finished planting all my spring bulbs on Sunday.  So, while my garden may be shades of brown and white for awhile, I'll have visions of  colorful tulips and daffodils dancing in my head!

To see what's blooming today in other gardens all across the world be sure to visit the ever-entertaining Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fall Color Project 2011

The older I get, the more I love autumn.  Crisp, cool days--a welcome reprieve from the summer's sweltering heat--the smell of ripe apples falling from the tree, the hum of combines harvesting the fields.  But most of all, the strongest sensory impression is watching the trees change color from their uniform summer green to glorious shades of gold, orange, and red.  What a glorious show Mother Nature puts on before the big winter sleep.

Each year I like to participate in  Dave's  Fall Color Project  as a way of recording the beauty of fall. This year the show began in late September and continued through the month of October.

The white ash nearest the front of our house is always the first to turn.  Its leaves turn a deep purple and then drop quickly before the rest of the trees have even begun to think about changing.

Another ash tree nearer to the road begins the change a little later.  As the first harbingers of the fall color show, they make me a little sad as I hear the reports of spottings of the dreaded Emerald Ash Borer closer and closer each year.  I'm afraid these trees' time may be limited.

By early October the honey locust trees create a canopy of bright gold.

The redbud tree echoes this color, which looks especially dazzling on a bright sunny day.

Driving downtown to run some errands, I always pass my favorite tree in the autumn.  I was too slow this year, because by the time I remembered to take my camera along, this large maple had already dropped most of its leaves.   Just a week before, it was a vision of orange, covered in masses of glowing leaves.  

 I'm not so sure the homeowners appreciate this tree as much as I do, though:)

Down a back street, there were other maples, however, that were still full of leaves. This one is beautiful, but how about another look at it . . .

. . . for a full frontal view--not quite so pretty now, is it?  There are several trees like this around town, but they don't seem as noticeable until fall.  All of them are in older neighborhoods where I'm sure the power lines existed before the trees were planted--a good illustration for careful site selection when planting new trees. 

I had hoped to take more photos around town and maybe even visit the nearby forest preserve, but time got away from me.  As it was, there was plenty of fall color in my own front and back yards.  Driving back home, the small roadside garden isn't much to look at in early October, but no one much notices the shriveled plants and dried seedheads when the burning bushes put on such a display.

The vivid red of these shrubs scream to be noticed by anyone driving past.

While the trees command most of the attention in the fall, if you take the time to look closely, you will notice the garden has its own fall wardrobe.  Everyone notices the hydrangea blooms that age so gracefully, but the foliage is equally pretty. In early October the leaves began to take on tinges of a purplish-red.

Today, when I walked out to the garden for the first time in over a week, 
the change was even more dramatic.

The leaves of the fothergilla show a variety of colors, though it, like the rest of the new shrubs I planted in front of the house last fall, was a disappointment this year.  I think the drought really affected them, and I'm hoping they do better next year.

No disappointment here, however--the Amsonia tabernaemontana positively glows in the early morning light of early November.

Even the common rough-eared dogwood, much less refined than its sophisticated relatives, put on some bright colors this fall.

Back to the trees . . . the old Burr Oak isn't known for its color, its leaves turning shades of bronze.

 But this granddaddy of all my trees doesn't need a gaudy appearance to be appreciated at any time of year.  Its size and age are enough to earn it respect.

In my yard, Mother Nature has apparently decided to save the best for last.  When the other trees have already lost their leaves, the maple is just beginning its transformation.

First, a few leaves at the top begin to change, and as the days pass by, the progress continues slowly down the tree, until it all is covered in a brilliant orange.

The timing couldn't be more perfect--this was how it looked on the day of our Halloween party, just the right accent for orange pumpkins!

 I'm a little later than I had intended in posting my contribution for this year's fall color project--I've been out of town for the past week, visiting my Daughter and new Son-in-law and seeing some fall color of a different sort . . .

. . . I think you can guess exactly where I have been:)  When I arrived home last night, I was surprised at how warm it still was here in central Illinois, but I also noticed this morning that all the trees are now bare.  I'm glad I didn't leave before having time to enjoy this year's beautiful show of fall color. 

  Whether fall is still showing its colors in your area or you've already been visited by Old Man Winter, you will enjoy seeing other scenes of autumn at Dave's Garden and The Fall Color Project.