Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fall Projects

It's funny that just two weeks ago I couldn't get any energy or enthusiasm about working in the garden. It was the end of the dog days and both the garden and I had a bad case of the blahs. It's amazing what two weeks of cooler weather can do! Now I have fall projects and am excited to get started!

One: To improve the xeri-garden I started this spring. I've already admitted to you that I didn't let the soil settle before I planted this garden, with the result that now it's settled several inches and I need to add more soil. This week I bought most of the components for Mitchell's square foot garden, so I bought double and will use many gallons of this mix to add to the xeri-garden. I have also done some thinking about plants and have purchased several to finish filling out the box. A recent heavy rain and wind smashed one of the agastache 'Ada' plants, so I also need to do some trimming to get it back into better shape to withstand the winter.

Two: Plant fall asters and other perennials. I picked up five cerise asters to put in the back garden for some additional fall color. There are already some white ones starting to bloom, and some lavender and pink coming along so these will help bridge the bloom gap before the chrysanthemums open.

Three: "Fix" the nandina hedge's "bed". This one takes some 'splaining. Our neighbors at the back are nice people, but their yard is a bit junky for our taste. Fortunately, they have a euonomis hedge about 30 feet long that provides a nice backdrop for my garden across about two-thirds of our lot. It is taller than it needs to be, but I keep our side sheared pretty well, and have used it in my color planning. The hybiscus look great against it all summer as the the fall mums. Two falls ago I took all the little volunteer nandinas we had and started a nandina hedge to fill in the remaining one-third of the lot line. Unfortunately, I laid out the bed by eye, but while sitting on the ground. I used plastic edging pieces to enclose it and when I finished I discovered that it is nearly an s-curve - not at all straight. It is makes life difficult when I am cutting the grass and basically looks stupid! So, my plan is to put in steel edging and square up the bed. Some of the nandinas are now waist-high, so by this time next fall I will actually have a decent hedge back there and I want it to look less amateur.

Four: Irrigation. This is a tough problem. We desperately need to run some sort of irrigation to several parts of the yard, especially those with a lot of shade. I would like to add to our shade gardens, but none of them gets sufficient water to grow the things I would like to add. In all of them the plants have to compete too much with the trees that are creating the shade and there is no natural source of water. Whatever we do will be a big project, so I hope to do a couple of stop-gap things for the winter and then plan out something more permanent. Fortunately, most irrigation systems today can be installed "by the homeowner" and no longer require hiring a lot of expensive work done. I may need to get a plumber to run another outside faucet, but I hope that is all.

I cannot tell a lie. I wrote this two weeks ago and intended to give you some photos, but have just not had the time or energy. Am posting so that I can move on!

Betsy's Garden - Revisited

Early this summer I took you to see Betsy's garden - a wonderful round veggie garden that's pretty much right in the middle of her front yard in a very yuppy west end neighborhood - one where I have not seen any other veggies growing and certainly not in the front yard. Thought you might like to see an update.

Here's what it looks like now. That's okra in the center which is filled with pretty yellow flowers as it continues to provide okra. [We have had two dinners from it this week! - yum!] All around the outside are pepper plants of all sorts - bells of several colors, jalapenos, and dozens that are completely unknown to me. There are some annual flowers mixed in, altho the veggies have pretty much taken over the flowers. In all it's just a riot of happy, healthy plants. Close up it looks like this:

I don't know if she plans to do it again next year, or if she is planning to put in more normal front yard landscaping, but it has been fun watching it grown this summer. Kudos to Betsy for trying something new!

Friday, September 18, 2009

So... Neon is Joyful, too!

Fall is such an interesting time in the garden. It's a time when we say goodbye to our special flower friends, but we also look forward to the new blooms that only come at the end of the year. I have spent a bit of time recently deadheading - cutting back the stalks of shasta daisies, yarrow, monarda and other summer perennials.

While I miss the lushness of the mid-summer garden, there is something special about the transition that is going on now. It's nice to see the last day lilies, the last garden phlox and another flush of blooms on the clematis - even the new ones I planted this spring. But at the same time, there are the transitional flowers - especially the sedum and the very first blooms of the asters. One special plant that bloomed for the first time this year is a perennial begonia. My friend Muzzy gave it to me a couple of years ago, but it doesn't really like our conditions. It would prefer a wetter shade than I can give it, so while it has come up every year, this is the first time it has bloomed. When I transplanted a nandina this spring, apparently I brought a rhizome of the begonia with me and it liked the spot. It started blooming about two weeks ago and has stayed pretty without any additional rain.

I have bought several new asters that I plan to plant this weekend. They will provide both instant color and a bigger drift for next year. These are pink/cerise and will go nicely with the white and lavendar that I already have. I hope to show you the asters in a week or two when they are in full splendor. The chrysanthemums are really not ready to bloom yet. I don't expect them to open until early or maybe mid-October. I did update the planter in the front yard with forced chrysanthemums to replace the summer annuals. [Note in the picture how much the dogwood has grown this summer. It got a small amount of mildew on one side, but seems not to be affected by it. There is a smaller tree that was heavily damaged by mildew, so I am going to take it out in an attempt to stop the spread of it.]

In a recent post I mentioned my sedum 'Autumn Joy' and how much I like it. Well, it turns out that it isn't 'Autumn Joy" at all. It's 'Neon'. While shopping yesterday I found plants marked 'Autumn Joy' that were quite different from mine. They are less brightly colored, and not flat - which mine definitely are. I looked around and found "mine" and they are clearly 'Neon'. I don't love them a bit less, but now I want some "real" 'Autumn Joy' to add to my sedum collection. One of the reasons that I like this flower so much is its source.

Many years ago I went to the bank one day and the teller had a vase filled with sedum on her counter. I complimented her on the flower and she insisted I take one and root it at home. She was a lady whom I judged to be in her late '60's or '70's, so I took it to not offend her. I stuck it in a vase and soon it had roots, so I planted it. I now have three decent-sized clumps that grew from that single little flower. I did not know her name but wrote down the plant name she gave me. I won't be able to go back and tell her that she was incorrect, but I can love it under the right name now.

Pass along plants are the very best!