Saturday, November 22

Suspended Color

I am SO not ready for this yet.

Forget the fact that I still have some cleanup to do outside. I am simply just not ready for the interruption of the beautiful fall color that I've been enjoying! Some things, like the Northern Sea Oats in the right side of this photo, will stay upright and add interest throughout the winter... but the Japanese maple in the background had just started to show off before the cold removed at least half of its shriveling leaves in the past week:

The oakleaf hydrangea leaves haven't even fully colored up yet, but they are already dry-edged and curling:

In front of the oakleaf, my blue sea kale leaves have stuck around so far--but eventually they will disappear beneath the mantle of winter. This one 'Blue Ice' amsonia colored up beautifully for me, but the other two--planted nearby and at the same time--are still mostly green tinged with a hint of yellow:

This entire front yard garden is easily the "busiest" of my gardens in terms of texture and color... especially fall color. I kind of feel like the garden should go out with a bang in any Northern garden, to help carry us through the coming winter. And I feel like my "public face" front yard garden should be especially vibrant.

I also feel that the gardener/photographer needs to learn not to lean her head to the side when she's taking these long-view pictures:

Heading back to the porch, I notice that one spray of Nothern Sea Oats has draped itself over the littleleaf sage. Purple, golden, and different varieties of regular culinary sages like this one figure heavily into this mostly drought tolerant and easy-care front garden. I use them for cooking, and they look good in the snow:

Inside, the tender plants are huddled in sunny areas, packed in tightly. In the light of this South-facing leaded glass window on my stair landing, from left to right, you see black bamboo, a passalong Thanksgiving cactus, and a phormium underplanted with 'Lemon Coral' sedum:

That sedum, which looks like a softer version of 'Angelina,' is supposedly only hardy to zone 7. But I'm wondering if they just haven't tested it in zone 6 and colder yet, so I'm going to plant a division of it outside next year in the spring and take my chances.

Over near the antique mirror that I have to get hung up, and the old White sewing machine and cabinet that needs to be dusted, are a quieter mix of plants. (Both the mirror and the cabinet are trashpicking finds, by the way.) This area hosts a larger purple-leaf begonia and 'Lime Rickey' heuchera combo, and purple heart in addition to the black-leaf begonia and silver-streaked snake plant seen here:

But there's enough quiet and lack of color on the way in the next few months, so I'm going to end with a close-up of the passalong Thanksgiving cactus. It came from one of my former coworkers who is now retired, and is planted in an old iron birdbath that I was given as a housewarming present by one of my fellow setters on a co-ed volleyball team. The "mulch" is a collection of seashells and a rose rock:

The blooms are so bright and cheery that they seem oblivious to the cold and snow outside, don't they? Time to make the rest of the house feel the same... it looks like it's shaping up to be a long winter.

Monday, November 17

November Questions

Who says plants don't know what day it is on the calendar?

On Saturday, I double-checked this passalong Thanksgiving cactus, Schlumbergera truncata, to see if any of its long, cherry red buds showed signs of opening on November Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. They were closed tightly, and didn't seem nearly long enough, so I didn't even mention it on my post as a soon-to-be-in-bloom plant.

Last night, as I was going to bed, I caught what I thought was a flash of bloom out of the corner of my eye. "Keep going up the stairs," I thought to myself. "It's the 16th... if it is in bloom, you really don't want to know." But today, I couldn't help but admire the full-blown flowers peeking out from between the blades of the nearby phormium. *sigh* (And yes, that's a potted bamboo in the background.)

These other two pictures have no questions accompanying to them, really. They're just gratuitous fall color photos that I took along with my original Bloom Day pictures on the 14th... and since the snow is swirling outside my window, I can't resist posting them:

Above shows the interesting clash of an unnamed heuchera, golden oregano in its acid fall color phase, and the deep red leaves of the lowest doublefile viburnum branch. When the winds swept through on Saturday evening, the doublefile lost almost all of its remaining leaves... a bummer, since I really enjoyed this little vignette.

Below shows the clash of my burgudy grape arbor, the fiery fall foliage of 'Diablo' ninebark, the green of oregano and lemon verbena near the arbor posts, and a carpet of fallen yellow leaves from the mulberry tree behind the garage. The ninebark held onto its leaves better than the doublefile out front, but the cherry trees held onto theirs best of all--some of them are still pretty green, even!

But the title of this post does say questions, plural, and so I might as well get to my second one. I have a little problem at my house... you know that saying about how your eyes are bigger than your stomach? Well, my eyes are bigger than my... windows!

Yes, I have a bunch of sun-loving, not-hardy plants strewn throughout my house, looking for a good home. I can put a couple in my west-facing studio room window, but there will still be a couple of large pots left. I DO have a south-facing window in my attic, however... so...

Can I put a couple of marginally hardy plants, like my red cordyline (zone 7) and bay laurels (zone 8) up in the south-facing attic window for the winter?

I keep my house pretty cool throughout the winter--60 during the daytime when I'm not home, and at night when I'm sleeping, and 65 during the evening hours when I'm around. The attic is always at least 10-15 degrees colder than the rest of the house, and I have a heavy blanket blocking the open doorway to the attic for just that reason.

I'm kind of thinking that the plants would go semi-dormant up there in the attic, but still get a reasonable amount of sunshine... so the only trick would be remembering to water them. Does that sound reasonable? Or am I setting myself up for unforeseen issues here?

I'd appreciate hearing any input/experiences you all have here. Because unless I make friends fast with someone who is willing to lend me some window space, I might be forced to take drastic (experimental) measures! :)

Friday, November 14

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - November 2008

Red, gold, orange and brown are traditional fall colors... but in terms of this month's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, graciously hosted each month by Carol of May Dreams Gardens, my garden seems to be awash in purples, blues and silvers. Like this millionth (it seems) rebloom of the 'Caradonna' salvia, shown off against a 'Newe Ya'ar' culinary sage:

Or the cute little lilac-colored blooms of 'Purple Dragon' dead nettle, against its own pretty foliage:

Or the out-of-focus blooms on my 'Grosso' lavender, with its own foliage, regular culinary sage, 'Black Beauty' sambucus, and my unfortunately-still-not-stained fence:

No longer backed by silver plectranthus, which fell victim to a frost not long ago, but still blooming in purple is this "dogbane" coleus:

And then there are the electric-blue blooms of 'Black & Blue' salvia, against the purplish-red foliage of an oakleaf hydrangea:

And one last... see it there, in the middle of the picture? You may have to squint... one last blue bloom remnant on the hardy plumbago, ceratostigma plumbaginoides, whose seedheads are also interesting:

On the warmer side of the spectrum, there are some red blooms left in the garden, too. And there is also a new flush of coral-and-yellow blooms on the native honeysuckle, lonicera sempervirens, which I love more and more the longer I grow it. Thanks again to Annie in Austin for turning me on to this beautiful vine:

And while the spring-planted snapdragons have gone the way of the other annuals, the self-sown reds continue to bloom. Here you see them next to the oakleaf hydrangea:

And here against the red-tinged foliage of 'Efanthia' euphorbia:

('Efanthia,' by the way, continues to show some bloom herself, although she's more in the cool-acid-yellow than warm range of the color wheel:)

And last, but not least, hacking back the abutilon megapotanicum before bringing it indoors for the winter doesn't seem to have hurt it much at all. In fact, it's rebounded with some more of its dainty blooms:

It's probably fitting to close with this houseplant, as my next several Garden Bloggers Bloom Days will probably exclusively showcase indoor blooms. I'm lucky to have this many outdoor blooms, but all credit there is due to Lake Erie. She delays my springtime for several weeks at the beginning of the year, but tacks on a few extra weeks at the end of the growing season to make up for it. I'll happily take that exchange!

By the way, I'm "cheating" and posting a day early because it's forecast to be cold tomorrow... brr... and I have a lot of work to catch up on after being out a few days this week with a bad stomach virus. So I'm not sure that I'd be able to sneak in a post! But these photos were all taken late this afternoon, so I am fairly certain that all blooms will be here tomorrow. Except maybe that little remnant of a plumbago bloom... *grin*


Also blooming today, but not shown in pictures: The miscanthus I got from Aunt Becky, my 'Ozark' alpine strawberries, 'Lightning Strike' tricyrtis, the red pansies I showed in my last post, 'Walker's Low' catmint, bronze fennel, 'Jumping Jack' orchid.

What bloomed in November 2007, but (interestingly) is not in bloom this November*: digitalis parviflora, the unnamed purple toad lily, 'Hameln' pennisetum, 'Zebrinus' miscanthus, 'Rotstrahlbusch' switchgrass, sedum cauticola, sedum sieboldii, both hakone grasses, both Japanese anemones, 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth (which was taken out by cold a couple of weeks ago,) 'Merlot' echinacea, any of my rosemary plants.

*does not count plants that I didn't grow this year, like nasturtium, 'Paprika' yarrow (which I replaced with 'Summerwine,') etc.

Tuesday, November 11

November Chill

Just last week, we were enjoying sunshiny, 60-degree days... and now the winds are biting and the air is chill. November has announced its presence. I have to hurry to take down Halloween decorations like this one:

And plant the rest of the garlic and spring bulbs that I have purchased. I have already replaced summer blooming annuals with pansies and winter cabbage like these:

I also want to take some time to enjoy the natural beauty of late fall, like the unnaturally bright green of the moss that grows on gnarled tree roots in my neighborhood:

And the contrast of red maple leaves against dark branches and a crisp azure sky:

But the reddening leaves of my doublefile viburnum, and the yellowing foliage of the grasses and herbs...

... tell me, "Hurry! You're running out of time!" Soon, winter will be here in earnest, and there's much to do, to get ready for its arrival.

Sunday, November 2

October Observations: Backyard

My last week of vacation did not quite go as planned. By that, I mean that I did not get nearly as many of my projects completed as I had wanted, largely due to an unseasonable spell of cold weather.

Not only were the temps too low for me to finish staining the fence, but also I suddenly had to bring tender houseplants inside ahead of schedule! (Admittedly, this is my own internal schedule; I am not good at following things like garden chore calendars.) I then had to sand, prime and paint my collection of trashpicked plant stands quickly, in order to get said plants off of my kitchen floor and allow me to cook in there again.

I did sneak in a little time for garden cleanup, too, as my tomatoes, peppers and eggplants had to be harvested as well. I got the tomatoes and peppers before the cold set in, but these aubergine* plants were very wilty before I managed to get the remaining eggplants safely roasted and frozen away:

While out cleaning up the eggplants, I couldn't resist taking a few other photos of the backyard garden as well. The light (at around 2pm) was bright and intense in a very cold way, but unlike the summertime sunshine, it no longer bears down from directly overhead. Instead, it shines at an angle, casting interesting shadows on this vignette of rock, 'Dragon's Blood' sedum and coppery beech leaves:

I never seem to tire of seeing the red sedums and beech leaves together. There's something about the graceful arch of the leaf veins and the compact swirls of chubby sedum leaves that I appreciate together. Here the two are mixed with some of the more lax blades of 'The Blues' little bluestem:

From an artistic standpoint, I like how the grass blades add a strong sense of line and motion in the photo above, breaking up the meandering swirls of the other plants' foliage. Nearby, some of my 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth leaves were wilted, too, but the plants still show up well against the brightening clumps of 'Rotstrahlbusch' switchgrass:

By the way, this panicum is often labeled as "the best of the red switchgrasses," but don't believe that for a minute--unless mine were mislabeled when I got them! Mine may have a little red on their tips, but they turn this bright green-yellow in the fall instead of the intense red I was expecting. It's still a pretty and welcome addition to the garden, though. In the photograph below, look underneath the grey house at the far end of the bed to see its frothy brightness in the bed planted outside my dining room window:

Why I can't seem to take a straight picture of this area, I will never know. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'm always cocking my head to the right and thinking about what it will look like when it fills in?! There's always something to see here, in any case... right now, the fuzzy seedheads of 'Othello' ligularia keep attracting my attention. Here they are against a background of their own backlit leaves...

... but I also enjoy them in this picture, which shows a clump of the seedheads resting against the cap on my trashpicked black milk can:

A few of the backyard beds look very messy; so much so that I am loathe to show them here. But I have been enjoying a couple of other rather unkempt areas, like the driveway bed. With lots of assertive, colorful foliage in this bed, the quieter plant combinations often fly under the radar. One such are these shiny leaves of European ginger with the similarly-hued green of the nearby Buckler fern leaves:

What keeps this combination from being boring for me are the contrast of fine-textured fern with chunky-textured ginger, and the way the shiny ginger leaves look next to their matte-finish fern counterparts. But it's nice to have the color continuity there... too much contrast all throughout a garden can just look like a jumbled mess instead of the organized chaos that I love.

Closer to the house in the same driveway bed, my little 'Ozark' alpine strawberries are blooming like crazy. I renovated this little bed a few weeks ago, and I like the way it has responded:

Some berries on other plants are turning red already, and I'm looking forward to eating at least one or two. Late fall berries are not nearly as sweet as their late spring and summer cousins, but their tartness is still a welcome burst of "fresh" in my mouth at the end of the growing season.

I still have some October Observations to share and show from the front yard... but now my vacation is officially over and I need to get myself ready to head back to the grind tomorrow! So stay tuned for Part 2 of this fall ramble... :)

*English and French kitchen gardeners almost often refer to eggplants as aubergines. The inner me who dislikes pretension is afraid to call an eggplant an aubergine too often. But I also feel that "aubergine" is a much more beautiful word, aesthetically speaking, so I do use it sometimes. Think about it--wouldn't you be more likely to order a dish with the grand name, "Aubergine Parmegiana" than you would to order "Eggplant Parmesan?" (Melanzane is what the Italians call eggplant, however, so it's usually referred to in Italy as "Parmigiana di Melanzane" instead of either of those two options!) But as usual, I digress...