Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lessons From the Garden: Summer 2014

Summer is drawing to an end, and there is a definite hint of fall in the air.  As the autumnal equinox approaches, it is time to join in with Beth of Plant Postings for her seasonal reflections of lessons learned in the garden. I still consider myself an adolescent in gardening years, but I've learned that even much more experienced gardeners find that there is always something new to learn every year.

Here is a round-up of just a few of the important lessons I've learned this past summer:

1. I need to learn to identify seedlings.  I think I've used this idea before, and I am getting better at identifying many seedlings, but I still have a long way to go.  My friend Beckie and I are notorious for swapping misidentified plants.  The funniest example, and one I've often mentioned before, is the time I gave her some seedlings I had started indoors, telling her they were yellow coneflowers.  As the seedlings grew and the leaves developed more, I quickly realized my mistake--they were kohlrabis, not yellow coneflowers! 

This spring I dug out some of the masses of coneflowers in my garden and shared them with her.  One day while visiting her garden, Beckie pointed them out and asked if it was normal for them to have what appeared to be the beginnings of yellow blooms.  Sure enough, they weren't coneflowers at all, but some of the volunteer Rudbeckia triloba that have popped up throughout my garden.

These Rudbeckia leaves look very similar to those of purple coneflowers, but the stems have a reddish cast.

At the same time, I also gave her some volunteer Amsonia, or what I thought were Amsonia.  I left a few in the bed where I pulled these, and I noticed this week that they have buds on top.  Amsonia doesn't bloom in the fall--I'm now pretty sure these are goldenrod, or maybe even a weed.  Shh, don't tell Beckie or she may never accept a free plant from me again:)

Zinnias are so easy to start from seed.

2. Creating a garden doesn't have to be expensive.  I am a self-confessed plant-aholic who was once accused by my daughter of spending her inheritance on plants, yet it really doesn't take a lot of money to turn a patch of dirt into something beautiful.  Seeds are inexpensive (or even free, if you collect them yourself), and some of my favorite annuals like cosmos and zinnias are so easy to direct sow into the soil. 

Cosmos from seed bloom all summer.

Then there are the many plants that will multiply year after year, either through re-seeding or through divisions. For example, as long as you don't get addicted to collecting daylilies as I have, a few plants will easily double or triple in just a few years by dividing them.

Many of these 'Victoria Blue' and all of the 'Victoria White' salvias re-seeded from last year.

Best of all, gardening friends are more than willing to share the bounty of their garden.  This year, other than the usual annuals I purchased in the spring, I have probably spent less on plants than any other year since I started gardening.  Part of that is due to running out of empty space to plant them in (without some strenuous digging, that is), but much of it is also due to the many free plants I've received from gardening friends. 

'Immortality' Iris, a free division, was planted just last fall and is now full of its second flush of blooms.

Turtleheads were thinned out at the Nursing Home Garden, and some extras found a new home here.

Working at the nursing home garden, I've often brought home divisions of plants after we've thinned them out.  Many of the volunteers also bring in divisions from their own gardens as well.  One of the best freebies I've gotten this year are two bare-root peonies.  We'll see if they survive here, but I'm certainly excited about the prospect of adding more peonies to my garden.  And just last week, I was so happy to meet our hostess Beth at a Botanic Garden in southern Wisconsin--more on that in a post one of these days.  Beth, such a sweetie, remembered that I had commented on one of her posts how much I loved her purple and white irises, and she brought some divisions along for me!  They are now planted in my garden, and I'll think of her whenever they bloom.

As long as you can be patient, you can easily create a garden without ever whipping out a credit card.

And finally, I'm also going to tie in with Donna's Seasonal Celebrations for a lesson I remind myself to learn over and over every season.

3. Enjoy every moment.  It has been a beautiful summer--there have been very few days that I complained about the heat, and plentiful rainfall kept the garden looking lush and green.  I almost hate to see this season end, but I am enjoying the last vestiges of summer just as I am enjoying the changes I see around me.

'Vanilla Strawberry' Hydrangea
Hydrangeas are one of my favorites in the summertime, but they also age beautifully.

Volunteer Goldenrod is a favorite of bees and other insects every fall.

The Purple Coneflowers are way past their prime, but I enjoy watching the goldfinches feast on the seedheads this time of year.

The garden is swarming with more butterflies than I've seen all season.

The first Painted Ladies didn't appear until a few weeks ago; they are loving the late-blooming zinnias and salvias.

Monarch sightings have been few this year, so I was happy to see this visitor on the lantana yesterday.  According to local experts, this is their week to migrate through our area, so I might not see them again until next year.

One of my favorite activities this summer has been watching the hummingbirds.  This little lady has found a shepherd's hook the perfect perch for watching me as well.  Their days in my garden are numbered, I know, so I'm going to enjoy their antics every moment I can until they head for their winter homes.

I have a long to-do list for fall, planting more bulbs and making some changes to the garden. But as the seasons change, I am going to remember especially this last lesson and take some time each day to enjoy the beauty around me.  It's nourishment for the soul.

To see what others have learned this past season or to get ready for the coming fall, visit Beth at Plant Postings and Donna at Garden's Eye View.

Monday, September 15, 2014

September GBBD: Blooms, Bees, and Butterflies

It's time for another Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, the monthly round-up of what is blooming in your garden.  A few days ago, I wasn't sure I'd have much of anything blooming today.  It has been cold here. After a couple of days of rain, the temperatures plummeted, never reaching higher than the 50's and dropping into the low 40's each night.  We never had a frost, thankfully, but I was beginning to worry. 

The sun has returned, and yesterday we may have reached 70 degrees again, making it a good day to walk around the garden and see what is in bloom.  I was surprised to see that the 'Little Business' daylily was reblooming, albeit a single, small bloom.

In the expanded section of the shade garden, turtleheads have been blooming for a week or more.  This is a new plant here, planted this spring when we thinned them out in the Nursing Home Garden where I volunteer.  One of the benefits of volunteering--free plants!

Another new bloom this month--the Japanese Anemone.  It has taken awhile to get going, but it made the "leap" this year and is finally tall enough to be really noticed.  I have a second small Japanese Anemone nearby in the Arbor Bed, which looks like it will soon bloom, too.  I'll be darned, though, if I can remember where I got it or when I planted it!
A few other blooms are carryovers from last month, like the 'Limelight' Hydrangea, one of my favorites of late summer.  I'm trying to prune this to more of a tree form, and one branch is complying by standing up straight and tall, seeming to reach for the sky.

The Brown-eyed Susans, Rudbeckia triloba, continue to put on a show.  I've noticed the goldfinches like these almost as much as the purple coneflowers.

Another favorite of mine and the hummingbirds, 'Wendy's Wish' is doing well despite the crowded conditions I planted both of them in.

Some of the containers are still looking good, while others are beginning to look a bit tired.  The pots of coleus in front of the house are approaching shrub proportions.  A few years ago I bought too many coleus and stuck them in a couple of pots by themselves when I didn't know what else to do with them.  They looked so good by fall that I've done the same thing every year since.  The burgundy coleus really stands out, especially among all the green shrubbery.

Many of the annuals are still putting out new blooms, like this white cosmos.

And, of course, the zinnias, including my favorite 'Zowie Yellow Flame,' which will keep going until the first frost.

Signs of fall are definitely evident in the garden.  The few ornamental grasses I have are beginning to shine, like this Panicum 'Shenandoah,' which glows in the sunlight.

Miscanthus 'Morning Light' is also showing off its plumes.

The berries of the Beautyberry are just beginning to turn purple.

Meanwhile the seedpods of Blackberry Lily have opened up, revealing how it got its name. 

The vegetable garden is nearly done now, too.  The squash bugs finally got to the cucumbers and squash, and the green beans are finished.  The tomato plants are still producing more than we can eat fresh, but the blight is slowly taking them over.  But the volunteer cosmos and some marigolds in the veggie patch are looking good and hiding the slow decay beyond them.

And the Butterfly Garden is a mass of color right now with all the goldenrod and asters. 
But best of all, this little area of natives is really living up to its name right now.  I hadn't seen a single Painted Lady all summer, but today they were swarming everywhere. 
In fact, as I was taking photos yesterday, I became so entranced by all the activity throughout this garden and other areas, that I started following the butterflies and bees around and forgot all about focusing on what was blooming.
A bumble enjoying the cosmos.

And a lady beetle enjoying a pink one.

A marigold in the veggie patch.
  I don't use any chemicals in my garden--which is why the squash bugs eventually ran rampant over the squash and cucumbers.  But we had more than enough squash and cucumbers already, and it's a small price to pay for all the happy bees in the garden.

A bumble too busy enjoying the zinnias to notice he's not presenting his best side for the camera:)

And one last promotion of the 'Zowie' zinnias, a butterfly and bee favorite.
 Who knows what the next Bloom Day will bring.  An early frost could very well bring an end to many of these blooms, and the butterflies will have surely left by then.  So I'm going to enjoy every beautiful moment in the garden I can until then.
Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is brought to you the 15th of each month by Carol of May Dreams Gardens. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Many Faces of Portland--Part I

Summer is definitely winding down, despite the blast of heat and humidity a week ago and again today.  Students are back into the routine of getting up early to board the school bus and spending the day in the classroom. It's safe once again to walk into a discount or big-box store where they have finally finished re-stocking their shelves after the onslaught of college students stocking up for a semester of dorm or apartment living.  Summer vacation is quickly becoming a faded memory.

My own mini-vacation to Oregon and the Portland Fling in July is still vivid in my mind, but the details are getting fuzzy.  Even though I semi-organized photos when I returned home, I look at some photos and can't remember, was this in the Ernst Garden or the Fuller garden?  Joy Creek Nursery or Cistus?  Before my memory gets any hazier, I want to share some of the highlights of this memorable trip and my apologies to our hosts for any mis-labeled captions.

Like any big city, Portland has many sides to its character, and the gardens we visited during the Fling represented the different faces it presents.

It is a Vibrant city:

Hydrangeas at either the Fuller or Ernst garden

What I will remember most about the gardens in Portland are the lush plants and huge blooms.  One of the local bloggers told me they have a saying that if a plant usually grows to 3 feet tall, it will grow to 6 feet in Portland.  After seeing so many gardens in Portland, I believe it!

Hydrangea at Cistus Nursery
Not only were hydrangeas covered in blooms, but those blooms were huge.

Bloom at Joy Creek Nursery--I wish I could get my hydrangeas to turn blue instead of pink.

And Blue!

Crocosmia at Cistus Nursery
Crocosmia has to be a signature plant of Oregon as I also saw them in many home gardens when my daughter and I visited some coastal towns in Oregon.  I've never seen any this big before.

Begonias in a container planting at the Fuller garden.
Look at the size of these begonias compared to my hand!

Portland also has its Serene and Tranquil side:

We visited one of my favorite places in the whole city on Day 2 of the Fling--the Portland Japanese Garden.

Despite the heat, shady areas, shimmering pools and waterfalls, and mossy stones helped to make us feel cool.

I've visited this garden on previous visits to Portland--you can learn more about it here, if you wish.

More Asian inspiration at the Lan Su Chinese Garden, one of our first stops on Day 1.

I had also visited this garden once before--more on the differences between a Japanese garden and a Chinese garden can be found in an earlier post here.
Serenity could be found in smaller spaces as well--here a scene from the Fuller garden.
The Playful side of Portland:
Orange Buddha at JJ De Sousa's garden

Entrance gate to JJ's garden--hmm, I wonder if she has trouble with rabbits:)
 Blogger Gerhard demonstrates the size of JJ's hostas.
I missed taking a photo of one of the best examples of playfulness--a scantily clad mannequin at Floramagoria.  Check out other Flingers' posts or the Facebook page for this one.
Portland is also a Colorful city:

Garden shed at Chickadee Gardens.

Koi at Japanese Garden

 Octopus? planter at JJ's--can you tell orange is her favorite color?
A colorful nook in the garden of artist Linda Ernst--
I love the way the art echoes the colors of the plants.
 Masses of blooms, foliage, and art create a beautiful display at Floramagoria.  
The Creative side of Portland:
Glass art in the garden of Joanne Fuller
 really stand out in all the green foliage.
Sculpture at the entrance to Westwind

A screen of metal spirals in either the Ernst or Fuller gardens serves as both trellis and eye-catching art.  I should explain these two gardeners were next door neighbors, and one garden led into the other, which is why I can't remember the exact location of couple of these photos.

Even the gravel path leading from the front to the back garden of Joanne Fuller held some interesting objets d'art. 
Next door, the creations of glass artist Linda Ernst blended in with the colorful blooms of the garden.
If you look closely, you'll see these glass blocks were made with leaf impressions.
At Floramagoria unusual pieces of garden art strategically placed here and there catch the eye amidst the interesting plant combinations.
I fell in love with Portland the first time I visited it five years ago, and I was thrilled to have the chance to visit it once again during this year's Fling.  Many thanks to our hard-working and super-organized hosts who gave us the opportunity to visit such a variety of gardens.  There are so many faces of Portland that I can't cover it all in one post, so stay tuned for Part II--which, at the rate I'm going, may not get posted for another month:)