Friday, October 24, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday: Mystery Aster

Why am I always late for Wildflower Wednesday?  I don't mean a couple days late: our hostess Gail of Clay and Limestone celebrates wildflowers all month long and isn't fussy about deadlines for her monthly meme.  No, I'm talking about being a whole month late.

Back in late September I had planned to show off the New England asters that have taken over were blooming in the small butterfly/native garden.

In September these purple and various pink blooms were covered with all kinds of bees filling up with nectar for the long winter ahead.

There were also butterflies a-plenty back in September in this little backyard garden, including the late-arriving Painted Ladies, sharing the goodness with the bees.

Most of the goldenrod was also blooming back in September, its bright yellow blooms covered with all kinds of little critters.

Oh, I could have done a nice little post just on the asters and goldenrod blooming in September.  But you see, I was waiting for something else.  Two tall plants had suddenly, or so it seemed, emerged at the very back of the butterfly garden.  Earlier, I had mistakenly thought they were Obedient Plant, because the stems and leaves looked somewhat similar.  But as they grew and grew, reaching five feet, and began to show small little buds on the top stems, I realized they were something entirely different.  But what were they?

This would make an interesting addition to my Wildflower Wednesday post, I thought, and so I waited as September turned into October.  The buds turned a pinkish cast, but still did not open.

While I waited, I tried to figure out what these two plants could be.  I didn't remember planting anything in this corner, and I searched my garden journal for native plant purchases in the last year or two, with nothing noted that would look anything like this.  I consulted my two favorite wildflower references without much luck either.  Perhaps it was an Aster tataricus,  a tall, late-blooming aster.  But the leaves are alternate, and one source said this aster's leaves were opposite.  Could it be a Vernonia, or Ironweed, which does have alternate leaves?  I began to hope it was Ironweed, a plant I've always wanted to add to this area.  Only time would tell .  . .

While one week turned into the next, another flower suddenly burst into bloom at the front of the butterfly garden.  This wildflower is no stranger here, usually appearing in the fall in various places around the outbuildings.  Some time ago  I identified this as a Aster pilosus or Frost aster, also called a Hairy Aster, though I'm not 100% positive that is correct.

This is definitely a weedy wildflower and not to everyone's taste.  I usually pull them when they appear throughout the garden, but I was too lazy didn't have time to pull this one before it bloomed, and I'm actually glad I left it alone.  The bees don't care whether it's some fancy type of aster or a weedy one.  Meanwhile, back to the mystery plant . . .

After weeks of waiting, the blooms on my tall mystery plant finally appeared.  Definitely not Ironweed!  The blooms are those of an aster, but what kind?

Perhaps it's an Aster tataricus, but it doesn't quite look like the images I've found.  I have trouble distinguishing one aster--or Symphyotrichum for botanical purists--from another.  Its tall, sturdy stem sways in the breeze, but doesn't bend; it's nice to have a tall plant at the back of the garden that doesn't need staking.

The asters in the early photos have long since faded to brown, but after two weeks, this maybe-aster is still blooming, and I am no closer to solving the mystery of its identity.  I also haven't solved the mystery of how it came to be in my garden.  Perhaps it's just another of the many gifts I receive each year from the birds sharing seeds with me.  Whatever this plant is, I'm enjoying its late blooms in my garden.

Wildflower Wednesday is hosted the fourth Wednesday of every month by Gail of Clay and Limestone.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October GBBD: Still Blooming!

For the last two weeks, I have awakened many mornings wondering, is this the day? What I have worried about, is this the day we will be hit by the first frost and all my pretty annuals will turn to mush?  Many years we've been hit by a frost before October's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but fortunately not this year.  We've had a few cold nights, but so far we have escaped the kiss of death for tender plants.

The downside to this is that I keep putting off many of the fall chores on my long to-do list.  I have planted a few bulbs, but I need to pull out some annuals to make room for many of the rest.  But with the zinnias and cosmos still blooming alongside the asters, I can't bring myself to pull any of them out just yet.

Can you blame me for wanting to enjoy this beauty as long as I can?

Although I took this photo two weeks ago, there are still a few butterflies enjoying the 'Zowie Yellow Flame' zinnias, including a few late Monarchs making their way south.  

They're not the only ones enjoying the late-blooming annuals.  Frank and Coconut enjoy making the rounds of the garden with me in the morning and checking out how many cosmos are still blooming.  And no, I couldn't get them both to look at the camera--my only photo with Coconut facing forward also had Frank lifting his leg to "water" the cosmos:)

There are bulbs to plant in the lily bed border, but heat-loving lantana is occupying that space right now and is looking so good, despite the cooler temps.

One small chore accomplished--the Dragonwing begonia has been repotted to bring in for the winter.  This plant did so well in a container this year that I am going to do my best to save it for next year.

The nasturtiums apparently like the cooler weather--they've doubled in size in the last few weeks.  They're on the edge of the veggie garden and not in the way of any bulbs, so they can stay for as long as they last.  Another chore I haven't completed is cleaning up the veggie garden now that the tomatoes are done, but we've had so much rain lately I haven't been able to.

There are a few new blooms this October Bloom Day.  For a couple of years I bemoaned the fact that the Japanese Anemone I had planted must have died, but apparently I needed to be more patient.  It's had a few blooms the last year or two, but this year it has really come into its own, growing to nearly 5 feet tall with masses of blooms.  A newer pink Anemone has a couple of blooms, so I hope it will also take a growth spurt next year.

And the appropriately named 'October Skies' Asters are covered with masses of lavender-blue blooms.  They can be partially seen alongside the zinnias and cosmos in the first photo as well.

But most of the other perennials are ready for their long winter's sleep.  A few stray coneflowers have decided to bloom, however.

And this Rudbeckia is a virtual Energizer Bunny--it just keeps going and going.

The cooler weather has encouraged the Knockout roses to put out a fresh flush of blooms. 'Radsunny' looks better now than in the summer.

If you read my earlier post on Lessons Learned, you might remember that I was waiting to see what this plant was.  Earlier in the spring I thought it was some volunteer Amsonia and shared some starts with my good friend Beckie.  Fortunately, hers didn't make it:)  The Switchgrass behind the goldenrod, by the way, is Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah.'  I love the burgundy hues of this grass.

A surprise latecomer to the garden is this Cleome next to the 'Vanilla Strawberry' Hydrangea.

The hydrangeas are more typical of what is going on this October as most of the garden is putting on its fall color.  The 'Vanilla Strawberry' blooms have turned a deep pink, finally more Strawberry than Vanilla.

The blooms of the 'Limelight' Hydrangea, on the other hand, have turned a much softer shade of pink.

Fall is when grasses really shine.  The plumes of Miscanthus 'Morning Light' can be seen waving in the wind at the back of the Arbor Bed.

Another lovely example of foliage is the Amsonia hubrichtii turning to gold behind the Beautyberry.

One example of colorful fall foliage I'd rather not have is this. Mr. Procrastinator got a little carried away this summer with the weed-killer around the outbuildings, but somehow he missed this poison ivy.

The leaves have just started to turn in our area in the last week or two.  This ash tree in my front yard is always the first to turn.  I'm not looking forward to the first frost and its effect on my garden, but I am looking forward to the fall color show transforming my front yard to a display of red and gold very soon.

What's still blooming in your garden?  For a look at what is blooming around the world, check out other Bloom Day posts at Carol's May Dreams Gardens.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Many Faces of Portland--Part II

When I wrote my last post about Portland--Part I of its many faces--I jokingly said that it might be a month before I finished the sequel.  Little did I know how true that would be!  Fall activities have pushed blogging to the back burner, and I'm still learning how to navigate Windows 8.0 on my new computer, especially locating and editing photo files.  But enough of excuses--it's time to look back on more impressions from this summer's Portland Fling.

The Historic side of Portland:

I confess I really don't know much about the history of Portland, but it's hard to travel to Oregon without being reminded of its significance in the Westward Movement.  When I made my first trip to Portland--a four-day road trip--in 2009 to help my daughter move there for grad school, I couldn't help but think of the hardy pioneers who made this long and treacherous trip, not in days but months.  Pioneer Square in the heart of the city, where the above sign is located, commemorates the courage of these early pioneers.

When we traveled to the coast the day before the Fling, Daughter and I found many more historical sites.  Near Astoria at the northwestern tip of Oregon, the Astoria Column stands out as a reminder of early exploration of the area.  Built in 1926 and financed by the Astor family, the column overlooks the mouth of the Columbia River.  Modeled after the Roman Trajan's Column, the tower's murals depict significant events in the early history of Oregon including Lewis and Clark's expedition and the discovery of the Columbia River by Captain Gray in 1792.  That's my daughter at the top who, even though she's in good shape, said she was winded by climbing the spiral staircase of this 125-foot tower.  Needless to say, I stayed on the ground.

Throughout state parks and other points of interest, there are reminders of the famous expedition of Lewis and Clark in 1804-1806 that paved the way for later travelers along the Oregon Trail.

One of the goals of the expedition was to find a waterway across the western part of the continent suitable for commerce.  The Wreck of the Peter Iredale in Fort Stevens State Park is a reminder of the importance of the shipping industry to Oregon.  It has stood grounded in the sand for more than 100 years, even surviving a bombardment of Fort Stevens by the Japanese during WWII.

But back to Portland and the Fling . . .

The gardens of Portland are Eclectic:

Some of the gardens we visited certainly had a unique style, such as the Dry Garden above located in the Portland Japanese Garden.

Others reflected the individual style of the gardener.  I just had to stick this photo of JJ's garden in somewhere.  No surprise the pots are orange, since that is the dominant color in her garden, but they were huge! 

But what is most noticeable about the gardens we visited in Portland is that because of its temperate climate, they can grow just about everything.  From a Southwestern style of cacti and succulents as found in Danger Garden's front yard above . . .

. . . to a more Midwestern feel with prairie and native plants at Scott's Rhone Street Gardens . . .

. . . to a little bit of everything, found at Floramagoria above.

Portland's gardens are Inviting:

Danger Garden

Every garden we visited had cozy seating areas where tired bloggers on sensory overload could catch their breath for a minute and chat with others or make notes of creative ideas they had seen and wanted to remember.

As inviting as the gardens were, sometimes they could also be a bit dangerous:)  Loree's Danger Garden is appropriately named as a few bloggers found out first hand when they became a little too curious.  A few had some minor battle scars after getting too close to Loree's collection of cacti.

But those skirmishes were isolated incidents.  A seating area at Floramagoria even provided a cozy fire.

No fire needed on the warm day we visited the colorful Ernst garden.

Another large seating area at Floramagoria provided the perfect spot for lunch on a rainy Sunday.

And a favorite spot for several of us on the sweltering first day of the Fling was the patio table at JJ's garden shaded by a misting umbrella.  Yes, I did purposely stand under the spray and got a little wet; it felt wonderful! (Notice those big orange pots in the background again--this gives you a better idea of their size.)

Portland's gardens are Wildlife and Eco-friendly:

This sign greeted us as we entered Chickadee Gardens and gave us a clue on what to expect within--a garden filled bees and other pollinators.

This garden was jam-packed with plants, including a green roof above the garage porch.

More friendly plantings at Floramagoria

With its own beehive in the side yard.

If you look very closely, you'll even notice a bee on a waterlily at the Chinese Garden.

A stand of tall Rudbeckias at either Cistus or Joy Creek Nursery
 not only attracted me, but the bees as well.

There were feline helpers in many of the gardens we visited, but one of the more unusual "wildlife" visitors was this chicken at Scott's garden.  He belongs to a neighbor down the street, but apparently
prefers the offerings at Scott's and frequently comes for a stroll through the garden.

Bloggers always seem to have their cameras ready, but what is fascinating these three?

Why, the famous Danger Dog himself!  I wonder if he knows the celebrity status he has achieved through the blog Danger Garden:)

Although the Fling is all about gardening and having the chance to see one fantastic garden after another, it's all about people, too. I was delighted to see some familiar faces from other Flings I've attended, meet some bloggers for the first time whose blogs I read, and to meet so many new people.  One thing is true about garden bloggers--there is never a shortage of things to talk about!

A few of the Friendly Faces in Portland:

At JJ.'s garden

With 80+ bloggers in attendance, gardens were photographed from every angle.  Forgive me for not identifying everyone in these photos, but there were a few people I didn't get a chance to talk to, and even more whose names I'm afraid I may have forgotten in the last two months. 

At the Fuller garden . . . I think

At Scott's garden

One name I won't forget--Claire, who was my seatmate on the bus for one day and whose distinctive red hat made her stand out in the crowd. 

Janet of The Queen of Seaford kept her Facebook followers up to date with posts from the "front"--here at Scott's garden again.

Alas, her face isn't visible here, but this is Michelle of Veg Plotting taking a break at the Chinese Garden.  I was so excited to finally meet "VP", one of my first commenters over six years ago.  Michelle was one of five bloggers who made the long journey from the UK to attend this year's Fling.
When they weren't photographing the gardens, bloggers always had time to chat and swap ideas.  Taken at the Chinese Garden again, that's the irrepressible Tammy of Casa Mariposa on the left, who is as fun-loving and delightful in person as you would expect from reading her blog.

More familiar faces to many--and one new one--Jean, Gail, Charlotte (of the UK), and Lisa wait for the bus outside Scott's garden.

And finally, one of our hosts--the super-organized and very patient Scott in front of his Rhone Street Gardens.   So many thanks go to him and his cohorts in organizing a fantastic and memorable Garden Bloggers' Fling this year!
Readers who also attended the Portland Fling may notice a couple of omissions here and in my previous post.  I wrote about both Old Germantown Gardens and Westwind Gardens earlier, which you may find here if you missed it.  I left a little early from the garden tours on Saturday and even earlier on Sunday to spend some time exploring other parts of the city with my daughter.  As a result, I didn't get any photos of the McMenamins Kennedy School and completely missed the Kuzma and Bella Madrona Gardens.   I also deliberately omitted most photos of Scott's garden because I hope to do a separate post on just his garden one day--no doubt that will be in the dead of winter!