Thursday, October 1, 2015

Autumn in the Cottage Garden

Everything in my garden changed overnight it seems. Yesterday was summer; today is autumn. The leaves of the maple tree turn red and blanket the front lawn. Echinacea flowers disappear, to the joy of twittering goldfinches gorging themselves on the seeds. Brown, rust, and gold overtake green in the cottage garden. The final glory of summer goes on in fuchsias, zinnias, and nasturtiums, but I am acutely aware from the untidy messiness of it all that it's time to clean up and begin preparations for (dare I say?) winter.
No two gardens are the same. No two days are the same in one garden.
-- Hugh Johnson

Maple trees near the front of the house.
It surely looks like fall!
View of the pond from an upstairs window.

As the pond takes on its new-season look, the fish and frogs remain active, not yet ready for winter's sleep. We close the pond between Halloween and Thanksgiving, so a few more weeks yet.

Lotus leaves with brown seed pod tickling the fish's nose.

 While the leaves turn to gold, little punches of color are evident in cottage garden blooms ...

Phlox 'Bright Eyes' and perennial geranium surrounded by the yellowing leaves of gooseneck loosestrife.
Threadleaf coreopsis with lambs ears.
 The petunias in the window boxes remain true to summer until the first frost.

Three of five window boxes on the tractor shed.

One of our grandchildren, very young, pointed to the tractor shed and said, "Who lives in there?" An understandable mistake since he saw lace curtains at the windows.  I explained it's where Pappy keeps the farm equipment including the old field tractor. I didn't tell him the reason for the curtains: H.H. and I, a bit like the 'Odd Couple,' differ in our idea of tidiness. I don't want visitors to my (usually) orderly garden looking through these windows.

Zinnias, cleome and the seeds of puple cone flower.

Most noticeable in the garden today, zinnias present a riot of color -- my reason for growing them. In the butterfly garden they vie for attention with the exuberant cleome. I use the word 'exuberant' because the flowers remind me of a burst of fireworks.

Cleome and zinnias at the entrance to our farm.
The butterfly garden attracts butterflies still ...
... and bees.

The grape over the pergola is full of fruit. It grew from just one small plant. H.H. added a wild grape that he dug up in the Woodland Walk, but I don't believe it survived. In any event, the wild one doesn't produce fruit. I'm reminded of the many tasks I must perform before the end of this garden season -- including making grape jelly or juice. Unfortunately, by this time of year I am feeling tired, and usually leave the grapes for the birds.

As well as the enormous Concord grape, notice two clematis in bloom.
Walking under the pergola, it smells like Italy.

 In the Woodland Walk the beautiful Virginia creeper punctuates the tree trunks with red, providing more evidence of the changing season.

My mini horse, Dude, peeps around the vibernum that grows in the shade garden.

Finally, the kitchen garden and more zinnias ...

The sunflowers bow down under the weight of their seed-filled heads.

Everything in the garden changed. Now we are under the threat of winds and heavy rains from Hurricane Joaquin, so more changes ahead, and with no gardening for a few days. What changes are you seeing in your garden today?

One of Nature's ironies is that a garden's warmest colors blossom
 as the skies turn gray and cold.

-- author unknown

Enjoy October, dear gardening friends!
Pamela x

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Container Gardening

 Each spring, I fill containers, hanging baskets, and window boxes with annual and perennial flowers.  I don't always follow the 'rules' for container planting except to ensure a good quality, well-draining, light and fluffy potting soil. Of course, I give the plants the type of light they need, but I don't worry too much about color combinations and design. Here are a few of the 30-plus containers I planted this year, starting in the Stone Garden, so called for the crunchy lava rock covering the ground.

A creature of habit, I usually place pots of coleus at the entrance to the Stone Garden. This welcoming entrance also leads to the front door. I start coleus from seed, indoors, in early spring. All plants in the Stone Garden need shade.

Coleus invites you into the Stone Garden

King Begonia, perfect in the teapot planter, sits on a bench in the Stone Garden.

The Stone Garden is my utility area for the generator, air conditioner unit, and water hose. I use strategically placed planters in an effort to distract from their ugliness.  Often, my containers provide temporary homes for new acquisitions -- like the veronica in the trellis planter in the corner of the Stone Garden. I'm surprised the veronica did so well in this shady spot and was prepared to move it if necessary. Soon it will be time to plant it in its more permanent home in the Horseshoe Garden.

Veronica, tobacco vine, and an ivy wreath.

A planter of mixed annuals resides next to two smaller containers of perennials. They successfully detract from the large, ugly generator. I used double impatiens as an experiment to see if the downy mildew problem is over. After three years, I am thrilled the infection didn't reoccur. I will grow more next year.

Mixed planter: Double impatiens, Coleus, Fuschia, Lysimachia, Polemonium, Torenia, Vinca Vine

Japanese painted fern, heuchera, and vinca vine.

I placed a simple pot of calibrachoa on a wrought iron chair on the front step, as well as in various hanging baskets. Calibrachoa thrives in part shade I've found.

In full sun areas, like the cottage garden and the kitchen garden, I planted several pots of zinnias and marigolds. This year, zinnias didn't fare as well as usual, due to the bizarre weather that began with a very dry June followed by an excessively wet July. I start zinnias, marigolds, and snapdragons indoors from seed before the last frost.

Zinnias and snapdragons in tubs, ivy in a birdcage.
 Happiness held is the seed;
Happiness shared is the flower.
-- author unknown

I placed tubs of zinnias and marigolds in the kitchen garden to attract pollinators. Initially, I put them along the bottom fence next to a stand of milkweed.

Early morning in the kitchen garden.

 When the milkweed grew up, it shaded the annuals.

 I moved the containers out into the main vegetable garden where the sun could bless them.

 More zinnias ...

Near the pond I display my collection of hypatufa containers. Some I bought, one I made, and some were gifts. I house various succulents in them. My largest hypatufa sits above the waterfall providing a backrest for the angel there.

Morning Glory and moonflowers live in a container against the arbor; in a container on each side I grow perennial sunflowers. I don't plant directly into the ground here because it doesn't drain well. I keep the sunflowers in pots so they don't spread and take over my garden space!

 I filled the five window boxes along the tractor shed with petunias, purple fountain grass, bacopa, coleus, and dusty miller:

 If you look back at previous years' postings you will see similar plantings in my window boxes -- as with the coleus at the entrance to the Stone Garden, I don't mess with what works!

My favorite container sits in the Horseshoe Garden where the lamium ground cover provides camouflage, ha ha. My dear friend and former secretary, Pat, sent me the miniature rose following my surgery a couple of years ago. I over-winter the rose indoors and plant it out in spring. It blooms all summer.

Miniature rose, heuchera, and creeping Jenny.

Only one rose bloom today, but several buds. I moved the planter so you can better see the planting ...

 Flowers are the sweetest
God ever made and forgot to
put a soul into.
-- Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)

I hope you enjoyed this sampling of my container plantings! I have many more, but I try to limit the number of photos to 12 in each posting, so you don't become too bored. Oops, this posting is far too long.

Did you plant containers in your garden this year? Do you have a favorite?


Pamela x

Polka dot plant and hosta
Fairy, bearing a basket of flowers

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Lessons Learned at the West End Fair

Nasturtium, 'Empress of India' -- Best of Show

It's the first day of September -- next stop fall! The weather doesn't seem to know it on this hot and humid day, although the maples already begin to shed golden leaves on the front lawn, and with the end of the West End Fair, children are back to school. It was a great gardening season exemplified by wonderful flower, herb, fruit and vegetable exhibits at the Fair. There I learned a lot this year. I learned to trust Mother Nature: having spent an inordinate amount of time fussing with fresh flower arrangements for my floor and shelf displays (that took second place ribbons) my simple, three-stem exhibit of nasturtium earned Best of Show -- the first time I won this prestigious award!

I grow nasturtium every year to aid pollination in the kitchen garden. 'Empress of India' has a pleasant mounding shape, bright scarlet blossoms, and blue green water-lily like leaves. This is one of the varieties of nasturtium bred so the flowers stand above the foliage. Both flower and leaves are edible with a peppery flavor and I use them to decorate plates of tea sandwiches and add them to salads. This old-fashioned flower fits right into my cottage garden.

I direct sow the seeds after the last frost. To aid germination, seeds should be rubbed with a nail file. This year I completely forgot to scarify them, not remembering until seeds were in the ground. I doubted they would germinate; thank goodness they did -- I really must learn to trust Mother Nature! Following directions in the Fair's Premium Book, my grandson (my gardening helper) and I chose just three stems. We picked branching ones with more than one bloom on each and I displayed them in a plain glass jar as required. I entered them in the Herbs section. I also entered peach colored ones in the Annual Flowers section and they earned a third place ribbon.  I didn't seem to do so well in that section this year, but my herbs more than made up for it...

Proud grandson with winning entry, Nasturtium, 'Empress of India'

For the floor display, 'Tea Time,' we created an Olde English Tea Room, complete with English menu. With the teapot and other china patterned in yellow and orange, I chose perennial sunflowers, orange zinnias, and marigolds. I was happy with the second place when I saw the entry that won the blue ribbon -- it was outstanding. Very stiff competition this year!

Tea Time

Tea Room Menu.

Jon was very proud of Humpty Dumpty and all his King's horses and men in the Nursery Rhymes section. After he arranged them, I added a bouquet of perennial geranium, yarrow 'The Pearl,' and spikes of Anise Hysopp. Another second place.

I write a monthly 'Gardening in the Poconos' article for the local newspaper, and my August topic was 'How to Exhibit at the West End Fair.' I should have said 'do as I say, not as I do' as I didn't follow my own advice, being somewhat disorganized this year. Jon arrived two days before the fair to help me get ready, but instead of immediately preparing the jars as we usually do, I decided we should pickle and can beets because I wasn't ready with that entry. Canning took the whole day and led to a stressful rush to get everything else to the fair on time. But it paid off when the beets took the blue ribbon!

Jon should take much of the credit as he picked and washed the beets, and after I cooked them he slipped the skins off. While I sliced, he mixed the vinegar recipe. We make a great team!

Burpee's Organic Beet, 'Detroit Dark Red'

Other blue ribbon winners were my lambs ear, Russian Sage, and turtle head.

Lambs ears in the foreground, perennial geranium above.
Lambs ear Stachys is a favorite with children.
Russian sage Perovskia atriplicifolia
Russian sage is a favorite with bees.

For the first time since I have been exhibiting at the fair, the turtle head was in bloom. Always the star of the shade garden in fall, I was excited to enter it. It took a blue ribbon!

Turtle head Chelone lyonii 'Hot Lips'
Prince Turtle and the flower named for him.

Some of my plants, such as blue mist shrub and pink phlox, are not listed for entry at the fair. I plan on writing a letter to the fair committee asking for these flowers to be added.

Blue mist shrub Caryopteris and Phlox paniculata' Bright eyes.'
'Bright Eyes'
Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful;
they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul.
-- Luther Burbank

I learned much at the fair this year. The judges sometimes leave a comment on the plant's ticket and this can be very helpful: I saw that one plant had 'stems too long for vase,' another's 'leaves drooped,' and one flower had a 'bent stem.' As well as starting to prepare earlier (not canning the day before,) I learned that I still have a lot to learn -- one reason I love gardening!

I am linking with Beth at Plant Postings and her Lessons Learned meme and with  Helen at The Patient Gardener's Weblog for her End of Month View. Also, with so much to celebrate (ten blue ribbons including Best of Show) I am linking with Donna at Gardens Eye View and her Seasonal Celebrations meme. Please visit these excellent blogs.

Still some summer days left and the glories of autumn to look forward to. Enjoy!

Pamela x

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