Monday, October 8, 2018

Returning to the Garden

It has been awhile since I have written a blog post, but it's also been awhile since I've done much in the garden.  When August arrives and dried stalks and brown seedheads are the only reminders of the daylilies and coneflowers that once brightened my garden, I get the gardening doldrums.  Keeping all the containers and new plants watered in the summer heat is enough to get me dripping with sweat, and I prefer to retreat into the cool indoors.  It's also been a busy time for family: in mid-August my daughter and family arrived for a visit from Texas, and it's always a joy to spend time with the little ones I only see a few times of year.  Before they left, my dad had some health problems and was hospitalized for almost a week and needed extra help when he returned home.  Then the local grandkids started their fall sports season, and we have been busy attending volleyball, baseball, and soccer games, and cross-country meets.  My calendar is full!

I'm not complaining, however; with over a month's hiatus, I'm ready to get back into the garden for fall chores--if it ever cools down and stops raining, that is!

Though the bright blooms of mid-summer have long since faded, there have been some new blooms to replace them.  'Heavenly Blue' and 'Flying Saucers' morning glory seeds were planted in a pot in early summer, but I thought they would never bloom.  The vines grew taller and taller and meandered through the dried coneflowers, but finally some blooms appeared.

I usually plant a variety of leftover seeds in an old whiskey barrel planter at the back of the garden and then forget to water it.  A few hardy seeds survived the neglect like this tall Celosia (name forgotten).

A favorite, Rudbeckia 'Prairie Sun' also survived.

Late August brought the Zinnias, including my favorite 'Zowie Yellow Flame.' 

 They are looking a bit more tattered now in October, but from a distance they still look good and add some bright fall color, especially in the roadside garden above.

Other zinnias in shades of pink, orange, red, and purple are still going strong 
and providing nectar for the late butterflies.

Speaking of butterflies, I thought the Monarchs might have all migrated, but this afternoon I saw several floating through the garden.  They were enjoying some late blooms, but their favorite was the Tithonia.  The Tithonia planting was an accident--I think I dropped some seeds here--but I definitely need to plant more of this on purpose next year, because it really is a butterfly magnet.

"Better late than never"--I have no idea what took the Cosmos so long to bloom, but I'm happy to see them, especially since most of the flowers around them have finished.

There are some new perennial blooms as well--this is the first time I've ever seen blooms on my hardy Begonia.  I bought this plant because I love the foliage and have been surprised it has survived in my zone 5b garden.  These sweet little blooms are an added bonus.

Turtleheads, Chelone, are a welcome sight in the shade garden as the hostas begin to die back.

Many of the annuals are starting to fizzle out this time of year, but the Lantana is going strong in the Lily Bed.  I think it has doubled in size in the last month!

Coleus are also going strong and have taken over a couple of pots, which is fine with me.

Many of my containers are looking pretty sad right now, so it's a good time to evaluate what plants do best in our long summers.  All the begonias are looking great, but especially this dragon-wing begonia.  This is one plant I definitely want to try to over-winter indoors.

Supertunia Vista 'Silverberry' is one of the few petunias still looking good.  I've replaced a few plants elsewhere with fall annuals, like mums, kale, and pansies, but I don't get too carried away with fall plantings.  Autumn is just too short a season here to make it worth my time or money--we're still in the 80's, yet a frost could happen any day.

Though the summer-like temperatures are still hanging around, it definitely feels like fall.  Days are getting shorter, and there are subtle changes all around.  I took this photo of our lane a month ago, more for my benefit than to post it.  The trees lining the lane are all flowering crabapples, and they have never looked as good as this year.  The leaves are beginning to turn and drop now, but usually they look that way in August.  I think consistent rain throughout the summer really made a difference this year.

And every tree is full of fruit--no wonder my yard is filled with birds!

Other changes can be seen in the garden--Blackberry lilies showing their beautiful seedheads.

Fall perennials are blooming, like the New England Asters.

The shorter 'October Skies' Asters line one edge of the Arbor Bed.

A Tatarian Aster at the back of the Butterfly Garden--I wish I could get more of these to grow!

I have no trouble growing these, however--Frost or Hairy Aster, Symphyotrichum pilosum, is a native plant that many would consider a weed.  But I happen to like these little white blooms, not to mention they are a valuable source of nectar for bees and other insects in the fall.

In the Arbor Bed, Japanese Anemones are making an appearance.

Another Japanese Anemone--I vowed I would remember what variety both of these are, 
but naturally I've forgotten.

I'm also happy to see the Pineapple Sage in bloom.  So often, it blooms so late that it is hit by frost before it can even bloom, but this year it looks like I will have more time to enjoy it.

And finally, one of my favorite shrubs this time of year, the Beautyberry.  I love these purple berries!

Although I haven't been very industrious in the garden the past month and a half, I have enjoyed spending time just sitting and observing nature.  The hummingbirds have been a constant source of joy as I watch them dancing in the air and flying from flower to flower.  Yesterday I saw two in my garden, the latest I remember ever seeing them here, but I know that very soon they will all be on their way to warmer climes. It's a good time to enjoy the many beauties of nature before the snow flies.