Tuesday, December 25

Merry Garden Christmas

It is Christmas Day... so I thought it would be fun to post some pictures of the red and green combinations in my garden today. Some plants, like this 'Efanthia' euphorbia and the 'Amber Waves' heuchera pictured below it, seem to show off their red-and-green combos all year round:

'Marmalade' heuchera shows variations on peaches and reds all year round, but by this point in the winter the golden oregano at its feet has usually already disappeared. Not so this year:

I'm sure I've already rhapsodized over bergenia enough... but I can't resist showing one more picture. In a few weeks, the green centers will probably be entirely gone, and the reddish color will have deepened into almost purple:

Some plants appear to be evergreen at first glance, but if you look a little closer on this hellebore and mountain laurel, you can appreciate their pretty red stems:

The handsome abutilon that I mentioned in my jungle post, which had been placed in the clearance section as its first flush of blooms finished up, is already beginning to bloom again. They look lovely now, but will be even showier when they actually are in full bloom. I promise to post another picture at that point:

Last but not least, what would Christmas time be without a poinsettia picture? I must confess that I do not like poinsettias in general... but this one, with its interesting leaves (check out their variegation, lower right) and lacy bracts splotched with cream, caught my eye. At just $4 for a 4inch pot--but a very full plant--I couldn't resist:

I hope that everyone has a safe and happy holiday... and is looking forward to the new year.

Sunday, December 16

Bloom Day Addendum

I suppose that my orchid thinks that showing its cheery, smiling face is going to make me forget that it opened a whole day late. This tardiness, in spite of my constant reminders for the past few weeks that it had to be open by the 15th for December's Bloom Day, makes me say: "Harumpf!"
(I already used "Bah Humbug!" yesterday.)

On the other hand, I just flat-out missed the blooms on this rosemary. It was behind another pot of rosemary on the kitchen counter, and since the branches all cascade down they were hidden from view. This may be the last year that I bring rosemary inside, by the way, as I learned that one of my garden center co-workers has successfully overwintered hers outside for the past 5 years. They are now shrubs--I will definitely have to try that!

The flowers on 'Huntington Carpet' are actually a very pretty light blue, but I had to use my flash because the picture kept turning out yellow without it. That's the one thing I hate this time of the year--I'm so busy at work, and the sun rises so late and sets so early, that I rarely get enough daylight at home.

But next month will be better.

Saturday, December 15

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - December 2007

It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and I am cheating. Sure, I have a cute little poinsettia on my dining room table--in spite of the fact that I don't like poinsettias--but frankly I'm not in a very Christmas-y mood right now so I don't particularly want to show it. Bah, humbug!

What I want to show off instead is the lovely bergenia from my front yard, which is starting to "bloom" with tinges of its winter burgundy. In his book "Christopher Lloyd's Garden Flowers," the late Christo voiced his suspicion of the worthiness of bergenia... but did include a mention of its virtues as listed by fellow gardener Beth Chatto, who loves the plant and has included it in her dry gardens.

I agree with both of them in context. The flowers are not really worth growing the plant for... but the plant itself is so handsome and dependable that it definitely deserves a spot in the garden. Especially since it takes on this coloring from fall through spring, when not much else is changing in the garden.

(Given their mutual respect and strong opinions, those of you who are reading Beth and Christo's correspondences in "Dear Friend and Gardener" for the first time this month are in for a treat. Thanks to Carol for naming it as the most recent Garden Bloggers' Book Club selection, thus giving me an excuse to read it again!)

Since Bloom Day is all about flowers, I suppose that I should take a picture of the big, fat, swelling flower bud on my phalaenopsis orchid to post... but if I much prefer the approach of my fall-planted 'Angelina' sedum. You can see a hint of the dark orange that her tips will be turning soon, and the rest of her looks beautiful in the meantime.

In comparison, the orchid bud sits there like an oyster shell, clamped shut and stubbornly unbudging. It's been like that for way too long--doesn't it know that more isn't always better, especially in regards to teasing? Sometimes you at least need a taste of the beauty that awaits you.

Last but not least, I want to show some love for those plants that are performing above and beyond the call of duty. (And no, the Christmas cactus that is finally blooming after 3 years of residence at my house does not fall into this category!)

I never realized how beautiful the dusty blue leaves of sea kale, crambe maritima, could be in the wintertime... because by this time last year, the leaves had all withered away. I like the way they combine with the pebbly snow, brown leaves, and green sedum. The muted but rich colors, and the layering here, is very interesting.

The sedum is one that I had at my old house and have been introducing to fill that area while the sea kale is dormant--last year, there was a huge bare spot there from November through March. The sedum is a polite spreader, and isn't bothered by the shade of the sea kale leaves, so the plan has been working out fairly well.

And that wraps up my cheating post for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. To carry out the theme to its logical conclusion, I'll end with a quote--the only line that Silent Bob says during the movie Clerks. It pretty much sums up the way I feel about flowers vs. foliage anyway, but especially during December:

"You know, there's a million fine looking women in the world, dude. But they don't all bring you lasagna at work. Most of 'em just cheat on you."

Thursday, December 13

Planting (Finally!) Complete

Garden Journal note: 2007 planting completed at 12:13am on Thursday, December 13.

Yes, you read that correctly... I finished this year's planting after midnight last night. My boyfriend pulled up after his fencing lessons (he gives them) and found the dog and I working in the backyard. She was sniffing random tufts of grass--investigating who had been in the backyard leaving her messages, no doubt--and I was digging in the dirt with my favorite, broken old shovel.
(Side note: I know that it's pretty sad-looking, with its shrunken wood handle and broken tip. But it works so well and has so much character that I adore this shovel. The matching hard rake is the only thing I regret leaving with my former husband, because I don't think he'll appreciate it nearly as much as I did.)

Whenever I'm out digging at an absurd time of the year, I always think about those "Fall is for Planting!" proclamations that decorate garden centers at the end of the summer. I chuckle to myself and think, "No, December is for Planting!"

It really isn't, of course, but there were extenuating circumstances that led to today's shenanigans. First, some clearance trout lilies jumped into my basket while I was in a local garden center the other day. They were the last ones left, and I couldn't resist them even though I have never had luck with any bulbs that come in a "Biltmore" package. (And I swear that if these don't grow, no more "Biltmore" for me!)

I had two silene maritima that I had dug up but never replanted, and two pots of a low-growing blue sedum that were in the same boat. And when I recently visited the garden center where I worked this spring, I was gifted some free pots of perennials. Sure, they were frozen and felt like chunks of ice so they might not make it through the winter... but then again, they just might. I sunk them all into the ground, pots and all, to insulate their roots and wished them well over the coming winter.
Having a small garden, I am pretty choosy about the plants that I bring home--free or otherwise. So when offered a few plants, I sifted through what was left on the tables and picked only those plants that I had considered buying this year anyway: A yellow spiderwort (for container planting), a silver lungwort, 2 hostas, and 3 small pots of bearberry.

Besides being a pretty, low-growing, tough little plant, bearberry has an interesting history. First noted in a 13th century Welsh herbal--which appeals to my Welsh heritage--it was also used by the Native Americans as a smudge and for various herbal remedies.
It gets its other common name from its use in a Native American tobacco mix... and it's already set as that in my head because it's so much fun to say that you have "Kinnikinnick" planted in your garden!

Trout lilies, cool foliage plants, and a tiny little plant with lots of history. If those aren't good enough reasons for me to be out planting in 30 degree weather, consider this: The pictures accompanying this post were taken early this morning, as freezing rain started to coat NE Ohio. (Doesn't it look like some kind of pretty, modern, glass mulch?) Temperatures are supposed to plummet into the low 20s and upper teens during the overnights starting tomorrow, so it really was a now-or-never issue of getting them dug in before the ground froze.
And now that I'm finally finished with my outdoor planting for the season, just a week or so before the solstice... well, winter can finally head our way!

Wednesday, December 5

Welcome to My Jungle

I was content. Yeah, so maybe I was in denial about my indoor jungle... but I was quite happy there until Heather asked people to share what kind of indoor gardening they were doing this winter. I thought it would be fun to catalog my efforts, so I dutifully created my lists:

Houseplants: 2 pots of sanseveria, a huge spider plant, my clearance-find crown-of-thorns, 2 pots of cacti, 5 pots of sedum and various other succulents, a dark-leaf rubber tree, an aloe that's barely limping along (that's a genetic deficit, not being able to grow aloe,) a philodendron, a draceana, a lucky bamboo, a purple passion plant, one orchid, a variegated ivy, a small Christmas cactus grown from cuttings, and two jade plants--"The Monster" jade plant (that I just had to replant into a 14 inch pot!) and its much smaller counterpart.

Herbs, tender perennials and overwintering annuals: 1 licorice plant, 2 different silver plectranthus in the same pot, 2 'Cerveza 'N Lime' plectranthus, 2 different begonias, 2 bay laurels (in their third year) with silver ponyfoot planted around them, phyllostachys nigra (black bamboo,) a 'Golden Delicious' pineapple sage cutting, 'Sweet Caroline Bronze' sweet potato vine, 4 kinds of coleus, one 'Red Sensation' cordyline, 'Gage's Shadow' perilla, and 4 pots of rosemary.

YIKES! When all of the above were added up, I realized that I had 45 different plants to keep alive in my house over the winter. As Heather mentioned, that makes for quite the jungle... but apparently even that was not quite enough to satisfy my insanity.

Over the past week I have acquired even more indoor plants on clearance: 3 fancy sempervivums that I planted inside the birdbath bowl that I just brought inside and a gorgeous abutilon megapotanicum (flowering/parlor maple) that had been placed on clearance simply because it was almost out of blooms.

But my biggest, most problematic new acquisition... is this. I am not the greatest with houseplants, but I'm pretty sure that this is (was?) a parlor palm of some sort. I found it this evening a mere 4 doors down from my house, nestled in its 16 inch blue plastic pot under a canopy of wooden pallets and broken lawn chairs. Right next to it was a 20 inch burgundy pot with a broken, brown draceana stem sticking out of it.

As a frugal gardener, I can always use more sturdy pots, especially if they are both large and free. So after letting the dog in the house, I went back to retrieve both. The big burgundy pot is sitting on the porch right now (and it has a big seashell in it--bonus!) but there was just enough green on these palm leaves to convince me to bring it inside.

Some quick internet research says that most indoor palms start to show cold damage on their leaves at 45 degrees, and that the damage will show in a few days. But if I admit to no other labels, I will definitely admit to being an optimist. The way I see it, if I leave this palm outside for the rest of the night, it will definitely die... but if it's inside and gets a little TLC, who knows. Maybe its current leaves will die off, but maybe it will give me a few new leaves in the spring. (And when you're already taking care of 49 different plants in your house... seriously, what's one more?)

I'll post updates on the palm throughout the next few weeks, but I'd love to read some comments if anyone feels like hazarding a guess as to what its ultimate fate will be. (Advice on how to treat it in "sick bay" is more than welcome, too!) I'm not a fan of Vegas, but I'd like to believe that my odds with this palm are 50-50 unless someone tells me otherwise. And as an optimist, I'm going to round that up and say that I have a good shot and getting something out of the whole experience.

Saturday, December 1

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day - December

The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.
- from Preludes by T.S. Eliot

Posted in honor of Garden Bloggers' Muse Day, the newspaper and other items that I picked up in the yard, the gusty shower that drove me inside and is now slickening the sidewalks, the leftover steak that the dog is about to eat, and the three beech leaves that I picked off of my shoes once I returned to the house.

A Brief Blaze & A Botanical Mystery

It took a while to arrive, and it didn't stick around--not for even an entire week--but I did finally get some good fall color this year. The unexpected star of the late show was this 'Diablo' (aka 'Monlo,' aka "Diabolo') purple ninebark, physocarpus opulifolius.

I don't know for sure that its Latin name means that its leaves are showy... but based on the plant's appearance I could easily buy that definition. It's a happy accident how well Diablo's fall leaves play off of the red-stained arbor post, but one that I'm looking forward to enjoying for years to come. Especially when the arbor is finally finished!

By the way, some of you who have your own ninebarks may be looking at mine and thinking, "Why are the leaves on her shrub so small?" That was my botanical mystery of the year! When I bought the plant last year its leaves were normal ninebark-sized. This year, I had these delicate tiny things instead. My guess is that our April cold snap came at exactly the right time in the leaf bud development to cause this. Any other theories?

The hostas finally came around as well... mostly. 'Northern Halo' added a lot of zing below the slowly-turning Japanese maple, and my unknown blue variety turned a warm golden shade.

Last year's favorite fall-color hosta, which burned electric in front of some 'Powis Castle' artemisia as seen in this post from October, barely turned any color at all before its leaves bleached out and blew away.

While digging up a link to that post, I discovered that most of my fall color last year came in late October, while this year I had to wait until November to enjoy the turning of the foliage. Discoveries like this really make me happy that I have this blog for reference... especially since I can't seem to maintain a proper written garden journal for some reason. And my memory is sometimes a steel trap, and other times a rusty sieve, so I don't particularly like to rely on it!

One thing I apparently did remember correctly, however, was the rich autumnal tones of my oakleaf hydrangea last year. I ran outside to take a current picture for comparison, and you can see that the top leaves are starting to get the idea but the rest of the plant is still mostly green.

You can also see that the plant is packed all around with leaves from the basswood tree in my treelawn. I love the way the leaves seem to "tuck things in," so unless I know that the plant should not have any extra winter mulch (for example, with lavender) I generally leave the plants with their little foot-blankets throughout the winter.

My biggest disappointments in terms of fall color were my grasses. The sorgahstrum nutens began to take on some gold tones but then bleached out quickly. 'Morning Light' miscanthus faded quickly into a straw-esque ghost of its former self, and did nothing to pick up the dark tones of the 'Black Beauty' elder in front of it. In mid-November, the neighbor's beech leaves were falling but only the seedheads on my little bluestems gave a hint that they realized how late it was in the season.

But finally, they turned. I know that I "shouldn't" like this combination of warm pink foliage and orange pyracantha berries, but I do. The color, the texture, and the unexpectedness of this combination just does something that makes me smile.

And with that smile on my face, I'd better end this post and get outside. Someone had the bad sense to go out and purchase another 40-some daffodils, 20 more species tulips and the last of the nectaroscordium at her local garden center the other day. (But I had been looking for the cute, short yellow tulip tarda... and the nectaroscordium is also called honey garlic. How could I resist something called honey garlic?!) With winter weather moving in and daylight fading fast, I'd best bundle up and get to it!

Thursday, November 29

Eight Things About Me (A Meme)

I'm almost running out of interesting things to share about myself... honestly, I'm a pretty boring person. But since Mr. McGregor's Daughter and Muum both tagged me for the latest meme to circle the garden blogosphere, I decided to dig a little deeper and see if I could play along. So here's my list:

1. I was very excited to find my first few gray hairs last year. (I'm 31.) My Mom has beautiful silvery-gray hair, and I secretly hope that I have inherited it. If I discover in a few years that genetics has granted me this wish, I'll end my once-per-year lowlights routine and let my mane go completely au naturel.

2. My very first concert: The Violent Femmes at Bogart's in Cincinnati, 1995. I still love music but I may have outgrown my concert-going phase... I haven't bought a concert ticket since 2004. But over the years I've seen a lot of shows, including: Pearl Jam (x12), Radiohead (x3), Bob Dylan, Joan Osborne, Ozzy Osbourne, L7, Guided by Voices, The Melvins, The Butthole Surfers, Green Day, REM, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Beth Orton, Gordon Lightfoot (don't laugh--he was wonderful!) and many more.

3. I took the ACT 5 or 6 times when I was in high school, trying to get a perfect 36. My scores were all only a point or two below that, and it just cost around $25 to take the test, so I figured it was worth a try. This is particularly interesting when you read the next point:

4. I almost had to leave college after my freshman year due to my terrible grades. I had never had to study for anything in my life and was too stubborn/proud to ask for help when I began seeing grades below A's and B's... and by the time I failed Calculus for the second time, I was pretty much at a total loss for a way to turn things around. (Luckily, my request for a second chance was granted and I spent my sophomore year on scholarship probation with a new major and specific goals to meet.) I still feel a large amount of guilt and shame over this, and that I am not at least "earning my scholarship" by working in a noble profession or job makes me feel even worse.

On a side note, I don't think that my two younger brothers know how proud I am of them for their own college successes... but I am. Particularly of Craig, because I know how hard he worked for every good grade he received on his way to a degree in mechanical engineering. That seems much more worthy than receiving a free ride to school and then almost squandering it.

5. My "real name" is Kim, not Kimberly. My last name is a mouthful in its own right, so Mom figured that she wouldn't add to my misery by giving me two long names to fill out on tests and other official forms. Why name me Kimberly when everyone would call me Kim anyway?

6. I am very good friends with my former husband. (Doesn't "former" sound nicer somehow than "ex" does?) We probably would have figured out that we shouldn't get married before the wedding, if we had both lived on our own longer after college... but honestly I have no regrets. Instead, I feel very lucky that there was no acrimony and that we are still in each others' lives. But I do admit that I miss my friendship with his Mom. We still keep in touch but of course it isn't the same.

7. I have posed nude for an artist before. For sketching, not photographs! (And it had nothing to do with attempting to recreate a scene from a well-known chick flick, either. Ugh.) No, it was just one artist generously providing the subject matter for another artist who wanted to hone his skills... although I'm thinking that I might have benefited more from the experience than he did. I know for sure that it helped me to shed some of my own inhibitions and insecurities.

8. I'm not sure whether I believe in any kind of afterlife, but if there is a heaven I think that you should get all of the answers to the outstanding questions you have had in your life once you get there.

Why am I the shortest one in my immediate family? Does Coco think that I am a good dog owner? Could the fact that my Mom and I both have trouble growing aloe be something genetic? Where did the diamond I lost out of my engagement ring go? And was that--or the fact that he insisted on a diamond engagement ring when I wanted something else entirely--supposed to be a sign?

Maybe the answers will just fill the pages of a book that they will hand you, and you can go through it page by page at your leisure. Or maybe when you step into heaven, the knowledge will just swarm into your head. Since I seem to have not ever grown completely out of that "But why?" stage of childhood, I'm sure that I would have a very thick book to go through and so I hope that it is the former. Unless they have gardens there to tend, of course. Then I could probably find a much more enjoyable way to pass eternity! *grin*

Reasons for these photos, from top to bottom: Silver sage the color of my mother's hair, one not-so-perfect fallen flower, my first (and way too small) garden bed at the house my former husband and I bought together, and a begonia photo that both shows some interesting illumination and reminds me of yet another question: Why does cool foliage entice me to buy moisture-loving plants that I know I won't be able to keep happy in my dry garden?

Saturday, November 24

Understanding Miss Willmott

Ellen Willmott was a British artist and gardener who had several plants named after her, including a white, double-flowering lilac and a pale, pink-edged rose. The best known plant that bears her name, however, is a biennial sea holly, eryngium gigantium, known as 'Miss Willmott's Ghost.' Apparently Miss Willmott enjoyed sprinkling the seeds of this particular plant about--in effect, leaving her "ghosts" to appear in the gardens of her friends and acquaintences long after she had departed those places.

You can see an image of her starry, silvery doppelganger (or a similar cultivar) at the bottom of this first picture, courtesy of King Coyote and Flickr. When I first read about Miss Willmott's sneaky propagation of this eryngium, I shuddered. I couldn't imagine someone ever doing that to my garden, and I knew that I would never be so brazen as to invade someone else's garden in that way.

Or... would I?

Hmm. Time to digress for a minute:

Like so many women in her generation, my fraternal grandmother was a "homemaker." Since she was very good at sewing and upholstering, she often did work for other people out of her home while my grandpa earned a living mixing and laying cement. I have always been amazed at how easy Grandma made it seem to create new, tightly fitting cushions for an old rocking chair or whip up a bride's dream dress with nary a pattern book in sight.

Grandma still lives in the house beside my childhood home, where she and grandpa raised their 6 kids--and where I "pilfered" some of her variegated iris this summer. Grandpa died at 57, before he even reached retirement age, and she mostly relies on monthly social security checks to pay her bills. As you can imagine, she could definitely use the money that I would happily pay her for her work on my bridesmaids dresses, business suits, and so on.

Unfortunately, whenever that is offered she insists rather indignantly that, "I will not let my grandchildren pay me for any sewing work! I'm just happy that I can still do this for you." Her good German stubbornness has percolated down through the generations, however, and I can't help but think of how she's saved me at least (yes, at least) $700 in alteration costs over the past decade.

And so I have become determined to do something--preferably something that she simply will not be able to be mad about--to pay back her kindness in some small way. And this is how I came to understand Miss Willmott a whole lot better.

See, I was looking at tulip bulbs this fall when suddenly, an idea clicked. Grandma really loves her "pretties," even though she can no longer do a lot of the heavy work in the garden. She might balk at me offering to buy her mulch or bringing over a new trellis for her now-huge clematis, but... well, really, what could she say about tulips?

Tulips come up in the spring, when any color that breaks the grey/brown of a Northwest Ohio winter is sure to bring a smile. And by the time she becomes aware of their existence, the actual acts of buying and planting them are long over. There has to be some statue of limitations (or so I can claim) on complaining about a random act of beautification. And my trump card is this: Before Grandma can even utter the words, "Kim! You didn't have to do that," or shake a finger in my direction... she will first have to figure out that I am the person responsible for the riot of 120 'Impression Mix' Darwin hybrid tulips in her front garden and huge cast iron pot!

Just a few key, trustworthy family members knew about my tulip-planting plan, which was successfully completed earlier this evening. Armed with a bagful of bulbs, a trowel, a shovel and a 5-gallon bucket, I snuck over to her house just after she left for my cousin's basketball game. I carefully skimmed the mulch off of the top of the bed and stored it in the bucket while I dug up some ground for the "large drifts." (The trowel was used to plant some bulbs into the cast iron pot as well.)

Eventually the bulbs were all tucked in, mulch was replaced and smoothed, and a dusting of oakleaves was randomly raked over the area to further hide any evidence of garden disturbance. It was a little later than twilight when I gathered up my things and started walking home with red cheeks and frosty fingers. And suddenly I thought of Miss Willmott, and remembered my initial horror at her eryngium-strewing hubris, and grinned.

I'm not about to make a habit of planting seeds or even random bulbs in other people's gardens... but I think that I understand her a little better now. I would imagine that as she left a garden in which she had sprinkled her magic ghost-dust, she was hoping for the same thing that I was tonight: To have planted not just a plant, but some delight and wonderment for another gardener to discover.

Friday, November 16

Subtle Fall Color

Autumn has long been my favorite season. There is something beautiful in its decay, in the thought that the earth is going to slumber through the winter and then wake up again vibrantly in the spring. Many people think of spring as the beginning, of the time to clean and organize and begin their lives anew, but I have always felt that kind of energy much more keenly in the fall.
I had expected to show more fall color than blooms for November's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day but I was surprised to discover that lots of flowers are still blooming... and that many of my usual fall foliage stars are just beginning to change into their autumn wardrobes. For example, I am very sure that my oakleaf hydrangea was a deep, ruddy purple by this time last year, while the powdery blue sea kale in the front of this picture had bleached to creamy white.

The goatsbeard behind my trashpicked old milk can is generally entirely crispy by November, but only one of its branches has turned so far. The Japanese bloodgrass has turned even more brilliantly red, however, and the slug-plagued ligularia 'Othello' surprised me by turning a deeper green-violet on the top of its leaves. Generally, you only see that color on the undersides.

Elsewhere, more reds and purples are revealing themselves, but slowly. By winter, this 'Bressingham Beauty' bergenia will be a dark burgundy, but most of it remains green...

...while the tips of my new 'Efanthia' euphorbias are tinged in shades of wine and red.

2007 must be a good year for yellows. In addition to the acid yellow of both 'Sum and Substance' and my low-growing, unnamed blue hosta, 'Sioux Blue' sorghastrum nutens is bidding me a sunshiney good-night...

...in my little "fern grotto," the gilded fronds of Scaly Buckler ferns pick up both the natural wood of the new fence and the pink-tipped 'All Gold' hakone grass...

... and the sedum alboroseum 'Mediovariegatum' shows enough color change to ease my guilt at removing all of its flower buds in the summertime, thereby missing out on potential fall seedheads. (I grow this one only for the foliage, which I love. I don't know why, but I detest its pink flowers in combination with the pretty yellow-centered foliage.)

But the above plants are the exceptions rather than the rule. Even my 'The Blues' little bluestem is still mostly... well, blue! On my way to work, I pass a mass of bluestem that were incorporated into an urban planting scheme. A mere 10 miles south of me, they are already a gorgeous russet. Here are mine:

At least I have the neighbor's beech leaves to add a fall feeling to my garden. They nestle up to the retaining wall, leading the eye to a shock of red bloodgrass and soft background of woolly thyme...

And are artistically scattered over the 'Fuldaglut' sedum that should have already begun to retreat back into the ground.

All very beautiful vignettes, but... I confess, I want more. I want deep color on my oakleaf hydrangeas and for the burgundy laceleaves on my maple to turn a blazingly bright red. I would like to see whether I agree with what my amsonia tabernaemontana tags described as "great fall color." And some may think I'm crazy, but I really want to rake leaves!
So... here it is, November 16th. And still, I wait for the arrival of autumn.

Thursday, November 15

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - November 2007

I got a chance to play with the new digital SLR from work this week. Since I need to learn how to use it, I figured that taking a few pictures in the garden would be my best bet. After all, I've photographed the garden so often that it should help me gauge my skills with the new camera, right?

Well, I learned two things. First, that the camera goes way beyond my point-and-shoot experience, and I am going to need to read a book so I can get the most out of its capabilities. And two... that my nasturtiums are finally blooming! These late-planted 'Moonlight' climbing nasturtiums never did scramble up the chainlink fence like they were meant to, and honestly I had forgotten about them. It was a fun surprise to see them peeking out of a pile of beech leaves.

Those leaves were trying to hide a few other things, too, like the last of the toad lily flowers but I found them anyway. And I was happy to see the white-edged ajuga I planted nearby (and then promptly forgot to water) peeking through the leaves as well. (Whew.)

There's no hiding the blooms on my brave little alpine strawberries, which line the driveway and provide groundcover around some ornamental grasses and raspberry bushes there. I am unlikely to get any more juicy berries, but the sweet little white flowers are refreshing. And I did enjoy the sweet-tartness of two strawberries (and one raspberry) bursting on my tongue last week. Small fruit ripening in November... amazing.

Not so good-tasting are the acid-yellow leaves of the incorrectly named 'Golden Delicious' pineapple sage. I enjoy chewing on flavored herbs while I walk the garden, so on a whim I tried these one day in August... bleeeech. It was like chewing plain old unflavored leaves--and rough leaves, at that! It's very pretty, but I feel that if a plant is supposed to be edible it really ought to have a taste, like my reblooming 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth. (Which tastes like spinach.) So I may go back to the plain old pineapple sage that I usually grow.

Flowers are still going in the front yard, too. Here you can see exactly why you shouldn't necessarily plant nicotiana sylvestris in a highly visible part of your garden: the leaves, flower stems, and flowers attract bugs, and their stickiness traps the bugs that come around to visit. The nighttime scent is amazing, though, so I'm planting them on a less obvious corner of the porch next year.

Last but not least, all three of my 'Paprika' achillea are absolutely covered in flower stalks and buds! The first blooms of this reflowering bent the stalks over into the sedum and heuchera, as you see here. The exact colormatch of the heuchera leaves and the 'Paprika' flowers was not really planned--I don't particularly like actual "matching," either in the garden or in my wardrobe--but it looks okay enough together, I suppose. Dark purple leaves elsewhere in the bed and the visual weight of the nearby rock keep it from being "too sweet" for me.

The sum total of what's in bloom today in the garden is as follows:

- digitalis parviflora (wimpy rebloom)
- unnamed purple toad lily
- miscanthus 'Zebrinus'
- 'Caradonna' salvia
- 'Paprika' yarrow
- chasmantium latifolium
- lavender ('Munstead,' I think)
- 'Hameln' pennisetum (almost done)
- 'Ozark' everbearing strawberries
- 'Canby Red' raspberry
- 'Lightning Strike' tricyrtis
- zauschneria latifolia var. etterii
- panicum virgatum 'Rotstrahlbusch'
- passalong silver-leaf lamium
- 'Walker's Low' catmint
- sedum sieboldii
- sedum cauticola 'Lidakense'
- hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' and 'All Gold'
- Japanese anemones 'Party Dress' and an unknown pink (possibly 'Robustissima')
- echinacea 'Merlot'

- 'Moonlight' climbing nasturtium
- nicotiana sylvestris
- 'Golden Delicious' salvia eleagans
- red snapdragons
- 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth
- 'Huntington Carpet' rosemary
- 'Koralle' upright fuchsia
- bronze fennel

All in all... much more than I expected for mid-November, especially after a few light frosts! In fact, it looks more like October around here, with some trees sporting green leaves and the oakleaf hydrangea just starting to color up finally. I wonder if our extremely late snow over Easter weekend is responsible for shifting the whole growing season back a few weeks. Anyone know if that could still be possible? Maybe not, but I feel like it should take some of the blame--er, credit!

**Edited to add: I was remiss to not mention this originally (excited about my nasturtiums--sorry!) but Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is the brainchild of Carol over at May Dreams Gardens. On the 15th of every month, garden bloggers post about what's growing in their neck of the woods... click here to visit Carol's November post and scroll through the comments to see who else has posted their bloom list!