Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

IMG_9164 copy
Sorry for the lack of posts lately...a cold and the start of our busiest time of the year at work have kept me occupied (and exhausted). I have a ton of photos I've been taking, though, so hopefully can get my act together soon for a few great Autumn posts :-)

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Tipping Point...

aging rudbeckia  529
It happened...the Tipping Point. Of course, there are many such points during the year in a garden. There is the first sign of new growth at the end of winter, ushering in spring. There is the first Daisy, announcing summer. Then, there is that moment when late summer trips into Autumn. Some years, I admit, I'm so busy and preoccupied with other things that I won't realize it's happened until I'm faced with a mountain of leaves from our neighbors oak trees. This year I spotted it...that one moment where there is an ever-so-slightly perceptible shift in mood in the garden. Last month, while taking pics for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I noticed that the Rudbeckia flowers (which always seem to last forever) had started to fade...only a few at first...then more and more...a sure sign that summer was on its way out. I know many gardeners hate to see summer end, but I love autumn, and all the changes it brings with it...even if winter is just around the corner. Of course, it helps that here in the PNW, our winters are pretty mild..absent are the shoveling of snow and the frozen fingers and toes that go with it!

aging rudbeckia  528rudbeckia seedheads v  668
September 15, 2011October 15, 2011
As they age, the flowers go from being held stiffly horizontal to drooping a bit like an octopus on a stick. A month later, the dark black seed heads are all that remain. I love this time in the garden, when summer-bloomers start to fade away, putting their energy into interesting seed heads. I was particularly pleased with how the Miscanthus purpurascens behind the Rudbeckia created a warm background for the Rudbeckia., reminiscent of their summer show.

rudbeckia seedheads wide  669
There is something wonderfully graphic about seed heads that I just can't quite put my finger they create a field of tiny dark focal points against different colored backgrounds. Of course, this all relates to one of my favorite aspects of gardening...the constant (and sometimes unpredictable) changes that occur all year long. A garden is never static, but always growing, thriving, declining, going dormant. It's this ongoing evolution that makes me excited every morning to see what has changed. Even if I am only away for a short time, I am always amazed at just how much can change during just those few days!

Panicum Shendoah wider
Of course, with the advent of fall and the fading of many perennials, the ornamental grasses really step into the spotlight, like this Panicum 'Shenandoah'. Granted, this 'Shenandoah' isn't quite as vibrantly colored in my garden as it would be in a garden with more sun...but I'll take what I can get! Take a moment in your garden and appreciate all the changes that are happening now...faster and faster as we head into the next season.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - October 15, 2011

GBBD_October 2011
October GBBD is here, and with it my favorite time of year...Autumn! While the leaves in Portland are just starting to turn vibrant shades of red, orange, yellow and purple, the rains have been in full force for several weeks. While I actually like the rain, I have to admit it's a mixed blessing in my garden. Fall planting is such a no-brainer in PDX, mild temps all winter and plentiful rain means the plants aren't stressed by summer heat and I don't have to traipse around the garden in a bonnet with my wooden bucket. The flip-side, however, is that tall, top-heavy plants just topple over as their blooms get waterlogged. As a result, the garden looks a bit rough this year...but whatcha gonna do? It's almost comforting to know that soon the garden will be cut down by frost and I can start fresh and new a few months I just have to remember this feeling in January ;-)

clematis tibetana  658
Clematis tibetana
Blooming at last! I bought this vine at Cistus Nursery last fall after covetously eyeing this vine in their gardens the year before. It was just a sprig, and so fragile-looking I was afraid it wouldn't make it through winter. It popped up this spring, however, and hasn't looked back since. It's practically covering an entire wall of our house in the back yard. I love the thin, wiry stems, which change in color as they age, from a deep plum-purple to a warm rust color. The foliage is so finely divided, it's almost invisible from a distance. The blooms are reminiscent of a quartered lemon peel...thick and succulent-looking. I was so excited to see a few flower buds a month or so ago...feeling please to get any blooms...then, weeks later, I realized there were probably hundreds more starting to 'em!

Agastache 'Purple Haze'
This Agastache wins the award for durability this year. It's been blooming since June and is still going, it has also managed to stay fairly upright throughout our rains...although, admittedly, a few branches have snapped from the weight. The color is less vibrant than a few other Agastache, but is still a nice foil to it's brighter neighbors, plus, it adds mass and height to that part of the garden.

agastache ava  659
Agastache 'Ava'
'Ava' is still going strong, many of these plants collapsed almost entirely, but I propped them back up and they just keep on blooming! I'm probably going to cut them back a bit this weekend so I can at least walk along the pathway in back...and the formation of lateral buds along stems that already snapped let's me know they'll probably be blooming again in a few weeks (barring frost).

persicaria lance corporal  650
Persicaria 'Lance Corporal
Ok, ok, I know it's practically verboten to let this one blooms, unless you really want a million seedlings the following year, but I can't help it, there is something intriguing about those wiry, scarlet tapers! Plus, the seedlings are easy to spot and uproot if you don't want them.

Verbascum vpersicaria golden arrow  653
Verbascum 'Album'Persicaria 'Golden Arrow'
The Verbascum seedlings gifted to me by Ryan Miller are still blooming! I gotta admit, I love them without reservations, and can't wait to see them bulk up even more next year...they are so wonderfully evocative of meadows and cottage gardens. Persicaria 'Golden Arrow' has settled in happily (it is a Persicaria, after all) and has been blooming madly. I LOVE that burst of chartreuse in the garden and hope it seeds a bit around...would love to play with it in more spots in the garden.

Helenium mardis gras
Helenium 'Mardi Gras'
I was a bad gardener this year and didn't deadhead the Helenium, not even once. In the past, with regular deadheading, it has bloomed from July to the first frost...but it's in a very hard-to-reach spot, so I decided to just let it go this year. It rewarded my inattention with continuous blooms...apparently, I'm not as necessary as I thought!

sedum autumn joy  634
Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
How can you have an Autumn post without the stalwart 'Autumn Joy'. Ubiquitous it may be, but for good reason! It's dependable and offers a really long season of interest. I actually appreciate it most in the winter, when it's skeletal silhouette remins a point of interest until I chop it down in spring.

agastache blue blazes  642
Agastache 'Blue Blazes'
This Agastache, by far the tallest, also suffered the most from our recent rains. I woke up a few weeks ago to find most of the stems completely snapped. I actually wasn't surprised after I went out to cut them off...heavy with rain, they really weighed a lot! Next year, I'm resolved to cutting them back as they are growing, to keep them busher...well, most of them...I rather like the ginormous size they attained!

agastache blue blazes  660
Agastache 'Blue Blazes' new growth
This is the new growth appearing at the lateral buds beneath the snapped stems. I can't believe how vigorously the Agastaches are still growing! I guess I always think of them as heat-lovers, but they seem to really be responding to our recent cooler temps and ample rains with a surge of new growth.

Aster Prince
Symphyotrichum (Aster) 'Prince'
Yikes...this name change will take me a while to remember (and longer to pronounce). I suddenly realized, which typing this post, that this is my ONLY Aster...crazy! I think I've avoided many of them because they are so nondescript during most of the year...and having a small garden, I try to maximize interest as best I can. 'Prince', however, has wonderful, dusky purple foliage all season long...which makes it a no-brainer for me. I actually bought it out of bloom, just for the foliage, a few years ago, so was pleasantly surprised by how wonderful it is in bloom. I love those little raspberry-centered white blooms...which are absolutely tiny, but borne is such profusion that they (like most Asters) completely cover the plant. Seeing it in bloom these past few weeks makes me realize I'd really like to add more of these around the garden...such a great plant!

geranium ann folkard  648
Geranium 'Ann Folkard'
Oh, 'Ann Folkard', you just don't give up, do you! This year, 'Ann' managed to completely avoid getting defoliated by rust, so I got to enjoy her awesome foliage all summer, and now with cooler temps moving in, she's putting out new, fresh growth. She flowers constantly until frost, although the amount of flowers decreases during the hottest part of the summer. Her wandering ways means I get to enjoy serendipitous combinations like the one above.

agastache desert sunrise  655
Agastache 'Desert Sunrise' and Vebena bonariensis
After this year, 'Desert Sunrise' may have become my "go-to" for smaller Agastaches, replacing A. rupestris. While I will always have a few rupestris in my garden, 'Desert Sunrise' has better color and more it still has that amazing silvery foliage that I love in rupestris.

salvia black and blue  640anemone honorine jobert  653
Salvia 'Black & Blue'Anemone 'Honorine Jobert'

eutrochium rugusum  647
Eutrochium (Eupatorium) rugosum 'Chocolate'
Another name change that I keep forgetting! This poor plant was smashed up a bit earlier this year when the neighboring Joe Pye toppled over onto it...eek! Next year, I'll be sure to brace the Joe Pye just in case it happens again. Luckily, 'Chocolate' is as tough as it is beautiful and formed an arching mound. This is one plant I could probably never have enough of...the foliage is just beautiful, sultry and lovely. The flowers are just a bonus, with their frothy white caps floating around the garden.

Knautia macedonica
The flowers get smaller and fewer, but they just don't stop! I must admit, Knautia has become one of my top plants for it's wonderful, rich reds...but in blooms small and charming enough to avoid being overbearing...great for a dash of warmth without setting fire to a border ;-)

verbena ridiga and muhlenbergia  646
Verbena rigida and Muhlenbergia capillaris
You can hardly beat a Verbena for durability and lenght of bloom. This one, a smaller, lighter version of another I have elsewhere, really captured my eye, even though I don't know if I would have bought it had I known it was such a light color....still, it's a happy accident, I now love, how can you not look smashing when you're enveloped in a gauzy pink cloud of Pink Muhly blooms!

dicentra   645
Dicentra scandens
Another gift from seed-starting champ Ryan Miller, this little climber surprised me with it's vigor! It grew to over 6' in a little over 2 months! It's already taller than the Panicum 'Northwind' it's planted between!

persicaria firetail  663
Persicaria 'Firetail' and Miscanthus 'Purpurascens'
Persicaria are probably classified as "summer-blooming", but I think they are at their best in the fall...maybe it's just that their wild-looking nature speaks of gone-over pastures and opulent meadows. Then again, maybe it's that their fiery blooms look amazing popping up between the fading foliage of other plants.

geranium rozanne  661
Geranium 'Rozanne'
Oh, 'Rozanne', how could I ever garden without you? I am constantly reminded by how much I love this plant...such a long bloom season, and she always manages to look fresh...a winner in every way.

salvia purple rain  639
Salvia 'Purple Rain'
This Salvia really surprised me this year by blooming almost constantly...what a work-horse. Of course, the fact that the flowers are pretty much the most gorgeous, rich purple ever makes it even better!

geranium wlassovianum  637
Geranium wlassovianum
I bought this Geranium mainly for it's fall foliage color, which is supposed to be warm reds and far it's looking like it will just be yellow. Oh well, I stil got the flowers :-)

verbena bonariensis  641
Verbena bonariensis
How can you have a garden without this amazing just can't!

echinacea purpurea  628
Echinacea purpurea
While the Echinacea blooms coming on now aren't as richly-colored as those of summer, they are still a nice treat...and I actually like this sort of faded color almost as much...seems very fitting for fall, somehow.

cosmos astrosanguineum  627
Cosmos atrosanguineus
Another plant that just keeps pumping out the blooms! I'm not sure how hardy these are, but we'll see...I hope to see them come back next year bigger and better than ever.

vernonia  656
Vernonia missurica
The Vernonia that was just starting to bloom in last month's GBBD post is finishing up. The other two plants near it were the victims of a spring cat-stomping, so were stunted a bit and are just now starting to bloom...which,happily, extends the show!

vernonia  596
Vernonia missurica in BLOOM!
This is what the Vernonia looked like a few weeks ago, just before I left for Nebraska...what amazing color! I love that rich, saturated reddish-purple. Sadly, these were pretty top-heavy and were toppled over when I got back from our trip...I'll have to remember to stake them next year, just in case.

Persicaria Firetail and Grasses v
Persicaria 'Firetail' with Panicum 'Blood Brothers' and Calamagrostis 'Overdam'
So there you have it, a taste of what's blooming in my garden today...head on over to May Dreams Garden for more!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Going Home

IMG_9109 copy
I'm back! Where was I for the past few weeks? In my home state of Nebraska, that's where! While not on the top of my list of vacation destinations, the occasional family event (in this case, a sister's wedding) can drag me back. While on the plane, in an attempt to resist the urge to throttle the screaming children in the row behind me, I finally did the math and realized that it had been around 6 years since I'd made it home. One thing I had not counted cell phone service or wi-fi...eeek! It was very strange being "unplugged" for the better part of a week!

little bluestem  602
We flew into Omaha, and on our way to one of the most sacred of spots (a Runza Restaurant) I spotted a commercial planting with one of my favorite grasses, Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). I'm not sure if the intensity is due to it being a different cultivar ('Blaze', maybe)? It could also just be the severe weather Nebraska endures...with horribly, hot summers and freezing winters. Either way, I was smitten by that coloring!

little bluestem  599
A closer look reveals that the uniform reddish color is actually a rainbow of hues, from red, blue, purple, orange and! Seeing them up close was amazing. I resolved at that very moment to move my Little Bluestem to a sunnier position in the hell strips next spring (well...I had sort of already decided that after they flopped AGAIN this year). If you are ever looking for a shortish grass...go for Little's great!

dads house  603
On the way to my sister's farm, we stopped by my childhood home for a quick visit with my Dad. The house sits outside the nearest "town" (population 1,300) on an acreage.

dads house  604
It was funny to see a few of the plants I had planted when younger were still going strong...indeed, Dad had divided them and filled in a lot of space! The Sedums and Tiger Lilies in particular made appearances all over the property.

seedheads  606
While we were busy working on the wedding details (if you can describe moving hay bales and stringing lights from barn rafters "details") during most of our stay, I'd occasionally sneak down the long, country driveway to snap a few pics of interesting plants. I was struck by the lovely form and coloring of these seedheads, Gray Coneflower, perhaps?

seedheads  607
I was totally intrigued by these seedheads as well...I remember them from my childhood, but never actually knew their name. After doing a little e-research yesterday, I can (almost) confidently declare them Desmanthus illinoensis (Illinois Bundleflower). They are actually related to Mimosa (which is evident when you see the finely-divided pinnate leaves).

Even the crops can be is Rye Grass waiting to be turned into hay bales.

And here is the resulting hay bale...I was always intrigued by the swirling pattern.

weed  609
The effects of a few frosts (or maybe herbicide) were visible in a few plants that had obviously gone over. I was struck by the spare, skeletal beauty of this weed.

weed  613
Grasses abound in Nebraska...each ditch of a gravel road can play host to dozens of species, which are at their loveliest at this time of year.

fence  617
Mind the barbed wire!

little blusetem  622
474" alt="little bluestem 624">
One of the pastures used for my sister and her husband's cattle sported a nice colony of Little Bluestem...a little hard to see in this shot, the whole field glowed with orange and red when backlit!

little bluestem  625
I shifted position and in this photo you can see the rich autumnal coloring of the Little Bluestem. I keep going back and forth about whether or not this is actually Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii). It was taller than most Little Bluestem (around 4', if memory serves) but not quite the 6' that I've seen Big Bluestem reach...then again, if it had been grazed, it would understandably be shorter.

What about the wedding, you ask? It was really lovely...held outside the couple's house with the reception in their newly-build shed. Above, the happy couple!

The ceremony itself was held just as the sun set, which made for a beautiful service...but also tricky photo conditions!

Fall flowers were the order of the were pumpkins!

The ceremony's setting...bucolic Americana!