Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Welcome Sound of Rain

Rain, rain, glorious rain!  After at least a month with no significant rainfall, a gentle rain is falling this morning, and I am thrilled.

Normally, I wouldn't complain about day after day of warm and sunny weather in October, but when you are trying to plant bulbs in ground that is as hard as concrete, you start wishing for gray days with rain soaking the soil.  Pulling out weeds and even dead annuals isn't easy either, when their roots are stuck in the aforementioned cement.

I've planted most of the bulbs in the garden, where the soil is much better, but I have crocuses I want to plant in part of the lawn and daffodils around some trees, so a good rain should make these two jobs much easier.  I've also done just a little garden clean-up, including pulling/cutting back most of the Rudbeckia triloba.  Although the seedheads look rather cool,  they were in my way as I planted tulips.  Besides, these brown-eyed Susans took over one area of the lily bed this summer, and I really don't want any more here.  Of course, I probably scattered thousands of little seeds as I cut them back, so it may have been an exercise in futility anyway.

Most of the Echinacea seedheads will stay in place through the winter, however.  I still see some goldfinches--less colorful as we approach winter--feasting on the seeds occasionally, and the seedheads add some winter interest when topped with a dollop of snow.

Once the ground is a little softer, though, all the rest of the annuals will be pulled.  We had a light frost a week ago,  but its effects varied from place to place.  In town I noticed that most annuals were still going strong, but here in the country where the wind whips across the flat land, it's a different story.  My poor 'Zowie' zinnias just couldn't escape the cold.

The Gomphrena was hit, too, but with a different effect--
the blooms now look like little frosted pink pompons.

Fall seems to be slipping by without a chance for me to enjoy it as much as usual this year.  No time for leisurely drives or walks in the woods with Sophie.  Saturdays have been fun, however, with Illini football games, and older grandson's football games and the younger grandsons' soccer games.  But family obligations have kept me preoccupied much of the rest of the time--my mother has been in and out of the hospital for the past month and is back in a nursing home once again.  Meanwhile, many of the trees changed color and dropped their leaves before I really noticed it.

Still, there are moments when I notice the changing world around me.  On a particularly beautiful sunny day as I was driving to visit Mom, I came over the crest of a small hill and came upon a scene of golden fields stretching for miles with farmers busy harvesting.  No time to stop for a photo, but the scene uplifted my spirits so, making me think of the line "amber waves of grain"--the quintessential Midwest scenery.

Other than enjoying the fall scenery as I whiz past it in a car, most of my appreciation of fall has been closer to home.  The old oak tree at the end of the lane is beginning to change from green to bronze, and at the right corner of the photo you can see one of the burning bushes in their brilliant reds.

My favorite tree this time of year, the maple in the center of the yard, is slowly becoming more and more orange.  The leaves gradually change color from the top moving downward.  It's always the last tree to lose its leaves, and once it does, I know that winter is not far away.

The crabapples have all lost their leaves, but plenty of ripe fruit remain,
 waiting for the birds to find it.

While the trees are the most obvious examples of fall color, the garden is slowly changing color, too.  Solomon's Seal turns a light buttery shade as the season winds down.

I think this might be the 'Stained Glass' hosta--almost as eye-catching as it was in its prime.

Pokeberries are finally a deep purple--
I do hope their stains come out of my gardening pants, by the way:)

Amsonia tabernaemontana is turning a beautiful golden hue.

But my favorite golden shrub in the fall is the Amsonia Hubrichtii.  This photo isn't as striking as last year's pose (see banner photo) when the Beautyberry still had its leaves and was covered with frost.  But still, you can't help but notice the Amsonia--it positively glows in the sunlight.

There is now over two inches of rain in my rain gauge--hooray!  This makes my garden happy, and me, too, since it will make working in the garden so much easier.  I have so much still to do, but the forecast is for sunny days in the 70's next week, so I'll be out finishing the bulb planting and as many of the top-priority items on my list as I can before the weather turns.  And if I don't get all the rest done . . . well, there's always next Spring!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

GBBD: Bloomin' October!

Every October, it seems, I get lulled into a sense of complacency.  Although the days are getting shorter, they are warm and sunny, making me think fall will go on forever, and I have all the time in the world to get all my fall clean-up done in the garden.  Instead of planting the bulbs that keep arriving on my doorstep, I spend my time watering, trying to keep a few new planted perennials and the fall mums alive.  I keep hoping for some rain--we haven't had any significant rainfall in over a month--so that I don't have to water, and so that I don't need a jackhammer to drill through the concrete-like soil to plant bulbs.  But time is running out--I know it, and the garden knows it.  Any day a frost could arrive, putting the garden into hibernation till spring.

Although the growing season is winding down, there are a few new blooms since last month, surprisingly.  What would October be without 'October Skies' asters? I especially like these asters because they form nicely mounded masses of sky-blue blooms, perfect for the front of the arbor bed.

The butterfly garden is mostly green and brown these days now that the New England asters and goldenrod have stopped blooming.  But at the back of this area is a latecomer, Tatarian asters that mysteriously appeared here last here and happily have returned again.

In the front of the butterfly garden, as well as several other places throughout the garden, Frost asters have burst into bloom in the last week or two.  While many may think of these as a weed, when they're in bloom, it's hard to think of them as anything but another pretty aster.

A new bloom this month that has me excited is the Pineapple Sage.  I usually plant one plant each spring, but in the past it has bloomed for a week at the most before getting zapped by the first frost.  This year, though, it bloomed early enough so that I have been enjoying it for a couple of weeks.

Not only has it put out numerous blooms, it's grown into quite a monster!

Also new since last month are the Japanese Anemones, which have actually been blooming for at least three weeks now.  It took a few years for this plant (now plants??) to get established, but once it did, it took off and now provides lots of lovely white flowers when the rest of the area is fading away.  I'm pretty sure this is 'Honorine Jobert.'

I have a pink Anemone, too, one I had forgotten I had planted. I don't remember the name for sure, but it may be 'Robustissima.'  It's a shorter variety, which in my garden means it gets lost among all its neighbors, including the dark burgundy sedum flopping to its right.

Not actually a bloom, but one of my favorite sights each fall is the Beautyberry covered in purple berries.  This year the berries are partially hidden by a tall switchgrass that I temporarily planted near it---one more plant that didn't get moved to a proper place this year, sigh.

Everything else that is blooming has been around for awhile.  The 'Golden Guardian' marigolds at the front of the veggie bed are going crazy.  That's a good thing, because they're hiding the rest of this area that desperately needs some pulling of plants and cleaning up.

The Arbor Bed is pretty wild and crazy right now, too.  But this is the time of year when I appreciate all the annuals that are tough survivors, holding up in spite of no rain for what seems like forever and some serious neglect by the head gardener the last two months. Annual salvia, nicotania, zinnias, and gomphrena should keep on blooming right up until frost.

One of my long-time standbys, 'Victoria Blue' Salvia farinacea, can't be beat for a long-term bloom.  It will even stand up to a little frost.

And of course, one of my very favorite annuals can't be overlooked this month--'Zowie Yellow Flame' zinnias still going strong and still attracting the pollinators.

Volunteer Debbie deadheads the Zowies at the nursing home--I rarely deadhead mine, though.

I've not only bragged about this annual over and over again in this blog, but I also convinced my cohorts at the Nursing Home garden to plant some this year.  As you can see, they are doing well, and my fellow volunteers think I'm a genius:)

The trees are just beginning to turn in our area, but there are other signs of autumn everywhere.  'Limelight' hydrangea blooms are tinged now in pink.

Hostas are turning yellow and crinkling up.

Ornamental grasses are swaying with the autumn winds.

The white crabapple is loaded with fruit--the birds make short work of these once it turns cooler.

Pokeberries are turning a deep purple at last.

Blackberry lilies are showing off their seedheads, actually my favorite stage in this flower.

There are other obvious signs of fall in our area, too.  The last two weeks have been a busy time for farmers as they put in long days harvesting all the corn and soybeans.

Surrounded all summer by tall corn, we can now see for miles once again.  Of course, that also means I probably shouldn't go out to the garden in my ratty blue robe anymore:)

It's a time for gathering pumpkins at the popular local pumpkin patch.  We took two of the grandkids when they had a day off from school last week--Jack's sister was too "cool" to have her photo taken.

And it's time to spruce up a few containers with fall annuals.

Although there are near-freezing temps in the forecast for this weekend, next week promises to be warmer once again, and there's even a chance of rain--hallelujah!  I'll be covering up a few plants like the pineapple sage for a couple of nights, trying to prolong the season.  And most of all, I'll be enjoying the garden for as long as I can.

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is hosted the 15th of each month by the indomitable Carol of May Dreams Gardens.