Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wildflower Wednesday: The Wild Ones

We have been blessed with warm temperatures this past week--days in the 70's, just perfect for planting bulbs and some final garden clean-up.  That is, when it hasn't been raining!  Instead of Murphy's Law, I've come up with a new one, "Rose's Law":  If you have a whole day off to work in the garden, it's going to rain:)  Ah well, after the past summer's drought, I guess I shouldn't be complaining and instead be thankful that we are finally getting some much-needed moisture to end the drought.  Before I go out to sneak in a few more bulbs before heading off to a dentist's appointment, let's take a moment to celebrate Wildflower Wednesday by looking at a few wilder varieties of natives/wildflowers growing in and around my garden this fall.

A few blooms remain on the Aster pilosus, commonly known as Hairy Aster or Frost Aster.  I prefer the latter name, especially since this aster is the very last to bloom and is undeterred by frost.  This is a plant that appears of its own free will all over the farm; in fact, most people would probably consider it a weed rather than a wildflower.  But it certainly has its redeeming qualities.

My husband has been laid up for most of the summer with back and knee problems and hasn't been able to keep up with the trimming around the farm buildings, but I'm glad he didn't get a chance to cut these Frost
Asters down in front of the old shed.  I wish I had taken this photo a few weeks earlier when they first bloomed, but you'll have to take my word for it that in their prime they provided billows of white blooms that looked as good as anything I might have purposely planted here.

But the most important characteristic of the Frost Aster is that the bees love it!  Blooming at the end of the season, it provides a last valuable source of food for bees before winter sets in.  This plant is not for everyone, but if you would like to learn more about it, you can check out my earlier post here.

 Another plant that seems to have appeared on its own is this small tree behind the butterfly garden. It took me a long time to identify it, but after seeing numerous specimens growing in the wild at our local forest preserve and then doing a little research, I finally found that it is a Rough-leaved Dogwood, Cornus drummondii.  Like other tamer dogwoods, it is covered in white blooms in the spring, but I also like its burgundy foliage in the fall.

Although it is no longer blooming, I did want to include this plant from earlier this fall that also appears voluntarily all around the outbuildings.  It's a type of Persicaria, probably Persicaria cespitosa though I'm not positive.  I remember the first time I saw Persicaria mentioned on someone's blog and being aghast!  Back in the days when farmers "walked beans"--pulling out weeds by hand in soybean fields--rather than spraying them with herbicides, I learned very quickly to identify this plant better known to us as smartweed.
As a teenager living on a farm, walking beans provided one of the few sources of a little spending money for me, and, of course, my dad believed in teaching us about the value of hard work. After hours of pulling or cutting out these plants that quickly spread to make a tangled mess, choking out the valuable soybean plants, I soon learned to hate smartweed.

Lest I offend anyone, I have since seen some lovely examples of  Persicaria cultivars growing in private gardens and in botanic gardens--and I agree they are worth planting in a garden.  But this is one type of Persicaria you definitely don't want in your garden, or it will quickly take over.  I was pleased with this photo and thought it looked rather pretty and innocent here . . . but it met an untimely end soon after the photo shoot:)

While I was trying to find the proper botanical name for the smartweed, I was surprised to see one of my favorite plants listed in the Illinois Wildflowers website as a "weedy wildflower."  Belamcanda chinensis or Blackberry Lily certainly doesn't belong in the same category as smartweed!  A native of East Asia, this plant can occasionally be found growing in the wild throughout the state.  However, I've tried for years to get these lilies established here with no luck--until this year.  Thanks to some seeds from Frances, I was thrilled to have not one, but two blooming lilies this year.

As much as I like its unique blooms, it is in the fall that I most enjoy Blackberry Lily.  One look at these berries, actually seeds, and you can see how it gets its name.  Since the plant spread by either rhizomes or seeds, I might be lucky enough to have several more of those pretty little lilies in the future.  While the other plants listed here probably aren't appropriate for most gardens, Blackberry Lily is a great addition anywhere for both summer and fall interest.

To learn more about other wildflowers and natives, visit our hostess Gail and her the bee-utiful garden at Clay and Limestone.

Monday, October 15, 2012

October GBBD: After the Freeze

What a difference a week can make! In my last post I was in a state of denial that summer would soon end, but within twenty-four hours, I had a rude awakening.

I awoke Monday morning to find not only the ground covered in frost, but much of the garden frozen in place.  The zinnias and cosmos blooming away in that last post had turned to a black mush.  A few green peppers that I had forgotten to pick in the vegetable garden soon became pepper soup.

Between the freeze and the rainy, blustery weekend that made taking pictures nearly impossible,  there's not much new to show for this October Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.  A few new Dianthus blooms have appeared in the pot where they have resided--along with the same potting soil!--undisturbed for several years.  It's taken me awhile, but I've finally learned that deadheading them regularly will keep them reblooming all summer.

There are a few annuals that survived the freeze, such as the geraniums, some petunias, and even the verbena, but the showier containers have new annuals in them.

Ruffled kale is one of my favorites for fall containers.  Depending on how low the temperatures get once winter arrives, this plant can last a long time.

Pansies, of course, are always a staple in my fall containers.  My earlier state of denial about the approaching cold weather was not a good thing in this case, because by the time I was in the mood to buy pansies, there wasn't much of a selection left.  I did find something new this year, though--a 'Cool Wave' pansy that is supposed to cascade down the sides of a pot, much like a 'Wave' petunia.  We'll see if it lives up to its hype.

And every fall, I must have mums.  Some gardeners may dismiss these ubiquitous fall plants, but I can't seem to resist them, even though they usually end up on the compost pile at the end of the season.  This particular mum, though, is a special one--not only did it overwinter outside, which doesn't happen often for me, but it survived the winter confined in a pot! 

The freeze wasn't enough to affect many of the perennials.  Knockout roses, 'Becky' daisies, and even some Rudbeckia have been invigorated by the cooler weather.  'October Skies' asters continue to bloom their hearts out.  The only truly new bloom this month was a mystery plant that I had suspected was a weed.  Sure enough, it is some type of goldenrod that found its way into the lily bed.  It looks rather pretty here where little else is blooming, but it will definitely be pulled before it has a chance to set seeds.  Sorry, goldenrod, but you belong in the butterfly garden, not here.


October is all about fall color, and that can certainly be seen in the shade garden, where gold is the new fashionable color.

"Dying gracefully" seems an apt way to describe this area as it puts out one last burst of color before going into winter hibernation.

There is much yet to be done in the garden, and there is still time to enjoy its beauty.  But the days are definitely getting shorter, and there is no denying now that the end of gardening season is drawing near.

What is blooming in your garden today?  Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is hosted the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I'm In Denial

The change has begun.  In just the past week, the trees have begun to put on their autumn colors. Mornings are chilly, and the ground has been covered with a white frost the past two days.  For the first time in months, I awoke to a house too cool for comfort and turned on the furnace.

Even though the signs are all around me, I have been in a state of denial.  September was a beautiful month, but I spent most of it substitute teaching more than usual and working on projects in my house, instead of in the garden.  I enjoyed just looking at the garden and walking around it, making notes of things I want to change this fall. 

I'd like to expand several of the garden areas and had planned to do a little digging each day to remove more of the lawn.  But other than planting a few new plants given to me by a friend, the spade has sat idle. The first bulb order arrived over a week ago--with more to come--and yesterday I bought over a hundred more bulbs after attending a talk on bulbs at a local garden center.  I need to start planting these, or I will be out in the cold winds of November trying to put bulbs in the ground with frozen fingers.

Yes, the signs are all around me, but I have chosen to ignore them, living in a fantasy world of  'Endless Summer.' At the very least, I have been thinking that fall would go on forever, and I had all the time in the world to work in the garden.

  Speaking of signs, does anyone know what these colorful leaves are?  Tangled in old tomato cages that should have been thrown away long ago, they're an indication of many uncompleted projects from the summer. I'll leave an answer in a comment.

The Beautyberry looks striking this time of year with its arching branches covered in purple berries, but it is nearly hidden by tall zinnias on either side and nicotania (still!) blooming behind it.

But this is one of the main reasons for my state of denial--
how can I pull out annuals when they still look so good??

A zinnia bud promises more blooms to come, if only the cold weather would hold off.

The 'Illumination' begonia, which hasn't done much all summer, finally shows signs of a glorious display if only there were time enough.

Invigorated by the mild temperatures and frequent rains of September, 'Vanilla Strawberry' Hydrangea paniculata has put out a few new blooms.

To my surprise, even a few coneflowers are also ignoring the warning signs of fall. 

Cosmos are still putting out their cheery blooms and reaching for the October skies.

As if to remind me that it is October, after all, and time for me to get busy, the asters 'October Skies' are covered in blooms.

This mass of blooms over six feet long started from three tiny plants last spring!

It is hard to think of winter coming all too soon when the garden is still a hive of activity.  Bees and more butterflies than I've seen all season are busy visiting the garden, finding enough warmth in the afternoon sun.  But I know they are aware of the changing seasons and probably fueling up for the winter ahead or migration to warmer climes.  The hummingbirds have been absent for the past week, and I can only imagine that they have already found their winter homes in Central America.

Other residents in the garden are preparing for winter in their own way.  Note the bulging abdomen of this little lady; no doubt there will soon be egg sacs of little mantids hidden below the sedum and waiting for spring.  I think she's trying to tell me something, don't you?  She's probably thinking it's time I wake up and realize that fall is fleeting.  I may be in denial, but a hard freeze predicted for tonight may change my mind.  That should provide the reality shock that's it's time I get busy!