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Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Halloween Hare: Do you believe?

This year I feel certain the Halloween Hare is going to visit my garden and create havoc if I don't take preventative measures.

What? You don't know about the Halloween Hare? You must be new here.  Put down your leaf rake, pull up a chair and I'll tell you all about him.

According to ancient gardening legend, the Halloween Hare hops from garden to garden on Halloween night looking for Easter candy not found in the spring Easter egg hunt.

If the Halloween Hare doesn't find any candy, he will create a little havoc in the garden by pulling up plants and turning over containers. Many gardeners, hoping to avoid this mischief and havoc, will leave a few pieces of Halloween candy out in the garden on Halloween night for the Halloween Hare to find. Sightings of the Halloween Hare are rare.

The reason I think the Halloween Hare is going to create havoc in my garden on Halloween night is because my garden is a big mess. I haven't even begun to do fall clean up.

Nothing has been cut back. No vegetable plants have been pulled out of the veg garden. The container plantings look abandoned and in most of the flower beds, opportunistic weeds have taken up residence and are putting down some serious roots.

I feel as though even if I do leave some candy in the garden for the Halloween Hare to find, the chances of him actually finding the candy in all the fall mess are slim.

Or maybe not. The Halloween Hare does hunt for leftover Easter candy so surely he can find some Halloween candy in plain view in the lawn.

The whole reason you don't want to take a chance with the Halloween Hare is because if he makes a big mess in your garden and you leave it that way, the Christmas Cottontail is likely to bypass your garden on Christmas eve.

Why is that so bad, you ask?  Goodness, where have you been? The Christmas Cottontail is reasonable for planting seeds and bulbs for the spring flowers in the garden, but refuses to do so in messy gardens that look as though no gardener tends them.

All these rabbits are related. They all work together.  It all starts on Halloween night. Or maybe it starts on Easter? Or Christmas?   Actually, no one is quite sure where it starts, but those in the know  are well aware of the hazards of ignoring any of them.

So be a smart gardener.  Get your garden ready.  Throw some candy on the lawn. The Halloween Hare is coming!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rocking the bulbs in the lawn

This is a rockery trowel
People ask, "How do you plant bulbs in the lawn?"

I answer, "With a rockery trowel."

They nod knowingly. Of course, they should have thought of using a rockery trowel.

As if they knew what a rockery trowel was.

Show of hands... who knew what a rockery trowel was before reading this post?

A rockery trowel is a trowel with a long skinny head which allows me to plant hundreds thousands of bulbs in my lawn.  I merely thrust the trowel into the ground, push it forward, plop a small bulb in the hole behind the trowel head, pull out the trowel, wipe off any dirt that stuck to it, and pat the hole closed.

Then I move on to the next one.

And it is more of a slap than a pat because I move pretty fast.

How fast can I plant bulbs with my rockery trowel? Sunday afternoon, I planted 500 crocus corms in 59 minutes, which means I planted approximately 8.47 bulbs per minute.

Last week, working several evenings, and finishing up on Saturday morning, I planted 1,000 Chionodoxa gigantea bulbs in the lawn.

And then I ordered more bulbs for the lawn.  Why not?

Between the 500 newly planted crocuses, 1000 Chionodoxa bulbs, plus the 2,000 crocus corms I planted last year and the year before, I should have a nice display.  Especially after I plant 1,000 more Chionodoxa bulbs.

People will ask, "Do the bulbs come back each year?"

I am tempted to respond, "Well, technically the bulbs don't go anywhere from year to year, so they have no where to come back from."  But what people really meant to ask is do they flower each year.  The answer is yes, they do.

Do they multiply? Hard to say.  I don't count them in the spring.

Do chipmunks eat them?  Not in my yard, but I've heard chipmunks especially love crocus corms.

What about weed killers? I don't use weed killers on this lawn so I don't have to worry about weed killers being the cause of their disappearance, should these flowers disappear.

What about dandelions? And clover?  Oh yes, I have plenty of dandelion blooms, too.  I consider them Mother Nature's contribution to the floral display.  And just so I don't show up Mother Nature, I don't plant yellow crocuses in the lawn.

And clover? It's really the best thing that's ever happened to my lawn. I even sowed clover seed in my lawn to be sure I had plenty.  The clover stays green even during periods of no rain, fixes nitrogen in the soil and has pretty white flowers. Bees come from everywhere to feast upon the clover blooms in my yard.

What other flowers am I going to plant in my lawn?  For now, this is it. Crocus, Chionodoxa and clover.

I can hardly wait for spring...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday - Flowers in the Lawn

Pretty little mystery flower in the lawn
I've spent time the last three evenings on my hands and knees and sometimes on my butt planting bulbs for Glory of the Snow,  Chionodoxa gigantia (also known as Chionodoxa lucillia), in my back lawn.

I bought 1,000 bulbs of Glory of the Snow, which doesn't take as long as you might think to plant. I timed my first 300 bulbs.  40 minutes.  Not bad.  After three sessions, I'm almost done planting these bulbs, which also don't go as far as you might think in a great big lawn. It's a good start, as they say.

Next I'll plant 500 more corms of tommies, Crocus tommasinianus, in the back lawn to join the 2,000 tommies and other crocuses I've planted over the last several years.

Then if all goes according to plan, I'll have a lovely lawn dotted with purple and white blooms in early spring.  First the crocuses will bloom and then Glory of the Snow will flower, and hopefully one or the other or maybe both will be at their peak on Easter, April 5th.

After that the grass will start to grow and the blooms in the lawn will be dandelions followed by clover. I love the clover. I tolerate the dandelions.

While I was planting the bulbs this evening, I ran across a tiny white, daisy like bloom in the lawn by the edge of the patio.  Pretty little thing, and tiny. Hardly bigger than the three leaves of a tiny clover.

I have no idea where it came from or what it is, other than a little daisy like bloom.  Bellis perennis, the English daisy? I don't think so. English daisy is not a native flower for me, and it isn't one I've ever planted here. And all the neighbors have traditional lawns, so where would the seed have come from?

Honestly, I don't really care what the flower is, I'm just happy to have it in my lawn.  I'm leaving it and hoping it sets seed and starts a colony right there.  In my lawn.

It reminded me that earlier this spring, I received an alternative lawn mix of wildflowers from American Meadows to try in my garden.

As sometimes happens, sowing those seeds got caught up in the never-ending battle between must do, need to do, should do, and want to do. Oh, and like to do. It was in the battle, too. As I recall, sowing the wildflower seeds, along with many other wants, hopes, and dreams I had in the spring, lost out to must do, as most of the other "do's" do.

But all is not lost and the seed will not go to waste. As luck would have it,  the lawn alternative wildflower seeds can also be sown in the fall after the first killing frost.  That's good news for me. We haven't had a killing frost yet.  I have time!

Once we have the killing frost,  I'm going to clear out the area just inside the vegetable garden gate, which right now is mulch, and sow these wildflower seeds.  Then later next spring, after the Glory of the Snow and the crocuses are all bloomed out in the big lawn, a little patch of low growing, lawn alternative wildflowers should be growing just inside the garden gate.

Then I'll really have something to write about for Wildflower Wednesday, hosted by Gail of Clay and Limestone on the fourth Wednesday of the month.

I'm looking forward to it!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Every garden is a story

A garden is more than plants and flowers. A garden is the story of a gardener.

Each season is a new chapter. Each plant and flower adds a sentence or two.

Some gardens are made up of many stories, when they are tended by gardeners who have come and gone, each adding their chapters to a long tale.

Sometimes, the story of a garden is a mystery. What was the gardener thinking? Where did she get that tree? What is that flower she planted there, that no one seems to know the name of?

Other stories become long odysseys, when gardeners stay for years in the same garden.

All the garden stories include comedy and tragedy, drama and suspense. They offer unforeseen turns of events. They cover life and death. They include interesting characters who come and go, each leaving their mark on the garden.

But no matter what else is in the story, the story of a garden almost always includes love and hope and a belief that by planting a garden, somehow the gardener has made the world a little better place.

If someone handed me a plant list and showed me a garden, I might remember the plants, but would I remember the garden?

Tell me the story of the gardener who tended the garden, and I'm sure I'll remember the garden as a place where a gardener planted their hopes and dreams, and maybe watered it once or twice with their sweat and tears.

I'll enjoy the garden much more, if I hear the story of the gardener,  because a garden truly is the story of a gardener.

 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2014

Autumn crocus, Crocus speciosus
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for October 2014.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, I am pleased to introduce a new bloom in my garden for mid-fall.

Please give a hearty GBBD welcome to the Autumn Crocus, Crocus speciosus.

It's nice to have crocuses blooming in the fall. 


Just like in the spring, the first one bloomed and I was excited. Then one day I walked out the back door and all of them seemed to be blooming at once.  I could hardly contain myself.

These autumn crocuses, which are magical according to the garden fairies, are as easy to plant as the spring blooming Crocus species. Just plant the corms and forget about them.

When they bloom the following year, these Autumn Crocuses will lure you into taking many, many pictures of them, just like the spring Crocuses do. It's as though they make you think they are the last flowers you will ever see.

Of course, they aren't the last flowers I'll ever see, but they are the tail end of new blooms for my growing season.

I find it hard to believe another growing season is almost over.  We haven't yet had a first frost, even though our average date for a first frost is around October 10th, but I'm expecting one next week.  Then before I am ready, no doubt, we'll have a killing frost and then it will all be over.

Brrrrr... let's not talk about all that just yet.

As we stand on the edge of the growing season, ready to fall off the cliff into winter, what a gruesome image, there are some other blooms in my garden to enjoy.

The asters are still putting on a good show and are still attracting butterflies.
Aster with Monach butterfly
The butterflies are all flitting around amongst the butterfly bushes, too.

Shrubs add color to the garden in fall, just like trees
Though, in this garden area, called The Shrubbery, the real stars right now are the colorful shrubs, which are just reaching their peak of autumn color.  The two tall shrubs in the back are Cotinus coggygria. On the left is 'Golden Spirit' and on the right is 'Royal Purple'. The reddish shrub is a lilac, Syringa meyeri, but I can't say it is always that red. It's as pretty as I've ever seen it.

Nearby, the shrub rose, Rosa 'Meiboulka', sold as Oso Easy® Cherry Pie, is loaded with rose hips and one bloom.
Rosa 'Meiboulka' 
Those colorful rose hips, which echo the color of the blooms, will be around for most of the winter, providing a spot of color in an otherwise dreary landscape.

Over in Ploppers' Field, I did notice I was a bit remiss in not weeding out fleabane,  Erigeron annuus.
Fleabane, just a weed but kind of pretty
I should really pull it out before it sets seed, but it is probably too late. No doubt there were earlier blooms and the seeds have already been sown for next year.

And so it goes in my garden. 


The toad lilies are no longer hopping, the goldenrod is not as golden as it was in September, and all around I have decisions to make on whether to cut back now or leave well enough alone until spring.  

One such decision is already made. I will definitely not cut back the Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger.

Helleborus niger, a flower for winter
I'm relying on its blooms to carry me through winter until once again, the crocuses are blooming in the spring. It's a lot of pressure to put on one plant, but so be it.

What's blooming in your garden in October?  Join us for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and show us.

It's easy to participate. Just post on your own blog about what is blooming on the 15th of the month in your garden,  then come back over here and leave a comment to tell us what you have, and then enter your name and the url to your bloom day post in the Mr. Linky widget.

If you have any problems with commenting or with Mr. Linky, send me an email and I'll be happy to help you out.

As the garden designer and writer  Elizabeth Lawrence once wrote, "We can have flowers nearly every month of the year."

She was right, you know.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Magical Autumn Crocus - A Story

Once upon a time, in the autumn time, a bouquet of garden fairies were sitting in a garden, resting after a long day spent painting tree leaves in the traditional colors of fall.  

The garden fairies were all covered in fall colors - gold, orange, crimson, yellow, burnt umber, brown and all colors in between.  They were tired but satisfied they had done as good a job as they had ever done painting leaves in the fall.

As they sat and drank their cloverberry tea, one of the garden fairies, Sweetpea Morningglory, lamented about the lack of flowers in the garden.  She longed for the new blooms of early spring days.

Though the other garden fairies pointed out there were still asters and goldenrod in bloom and many of the summer flowers had pushed out one or two more straggly new blooms, she said they weren't the same as what she wanted.

"I'd love to see some flowers pop up in the fall," Sweetpea said, "just like they do in the spring".

They all nodded in agreement. Such flowers would be wonderful!  After a bit, just as they were about to doze off, tiny little Deema Mae Flowerweb piped up and said, "Maybe we should make such a flower?"

Oh what a wonderful idea, they all said in unison. Then they began to think. What should such a flower look like?

They all agreed it should be something at ground level, just like the spring flowers. And it should be hidden all summer so when it came up and bloomed, it would be a surprise and delight to everyone.

Then they began to discuss what color it should be.  Some wanted it to be a color of fall - orange or yellow or crimson.  But others said it should be the color of spring, to give them a glimpse of what would bloom after the great snowfalls of winter.

Finally, Deema Mae Flowerweb piped up again, "Let's make it the color of spring, but we'll add orange stamens so it complements the colors of autumn."

Brilliant, they all said.  And so the garden fairies began to work on their vision and came up with the Autumn Crocus, Crocus speciosus. 

Just like the spring-blooming crocuses, Autumn Crocus corns are planted in the fall. In the spring, leaves will appear, but not flowers. Then the next fall, when the gardener has almost forgotten she ever planted them, the Autumn Crocus blooms pop up out of the ground.

When the gardener steps into the garden in October and sees the Autumn Crocus blooms, she is breathless with excitement.

She marvels at how the stamens of the blooms perfectly complement the color of the fallen leaves.
She is reminded of the spring crocuses which will bloom in her garden after the winter time has passed.

She wonders at who could have designed such a perfect flower for Autumn.

And nearby, a tiny little garden fairy named Deema Mae Flowerweb snuggles down in an old watering can, smiling.  She knows how the Magical Autumn Crocus came to be.  And she is as pleased as anyone to see it each Fall.

The End

Monday, October 06, 2014

Ten things your garden wants you to do this fall.

Your garden wants you to come out do some things this fall. Really. It does. Here are the ten things it wants you to do.

Get rid of the dead stuff. While you are at it, get rid of any plant you don't like and compost it. After all, growing the plants you love is one of the secrets to achieving happiness in your garden. Plus you will love your garden if you are at least growing the plants you love.

Clean up your vegetable garden. Not cleaning up your vegetable garden in the fall is like throwing all the Christmas lights in a big box after the holidays and leaving them all tangled up. When you get the lights out of the box again, you are mad at yourself for storing them that way. Don't leave the vegetable garden a tangled mess for spring.

Make up with your houseplants. You know you neglected them all summer. Give them a good shower and a good soaking. Replace that top layer of potting soil with fresh potting soil and trim them up a bit. Put them in the best windows. They will be your new best friends all winter.

Remember fallen leaves are gold. Do not rake them to the curb for the city to pick them up or worse, bag them up for the trash man. Instead, mulch them on the lawn, or rake them up and put them in the compost pile. Crush them up if you can so they'll decompose faster and take less room. Your garden will love you for doing this.

Add a new garden border or bed. Make it just a little bigger, just a little wider. Don't scrimp on size. Plant it now or in the spring. You'll love the results if you do it now.

Evict the weeds. Don't let any of them think they are staying for the winter. Once you think you've evicted them all, go back through and find the "hiders" and get rid of them, too. Your garden will be grateful to be rid of those nutrient sucking, space hogging blemishes of the flower borders.

Mulch your beds and borders. You'll love how your garden looks when the beds are freshly mulched. While you are at it, give each border a nice fresh, sharp edge going into winter.

Envision spring. Try to remember where in the garden you planted bulbs, then go plant more bulbs in other places. If you can't remember where the other bulbs are planted, dig and hope for the best. You will love your garden in the spring if you plant bulbs in the fall.

Leave your pruners inside. Fall is no time to prune. It sends the wrong message to the trees and shrubs. However, if you really must use your pruners, use them to cut back perennials, to make the garden as neat as you'd like. But don't cut back mums. And leave those perennials with interesting seed heads standing so you'll have winter interest to love. Or cut them back if they are over zealous self-sowers that will make you unhappy in the spring when thousands of their seedlings sprout.

Make some notes. Even if you don't regularly write in a garden journal, note varieties of annuals you grew and liked, list perennials you want to get in the spring, and draw a map of your vegetable garden so you can rotate the crops to different spots next year. You'll love having this information in the spring.

Put your tools and hoses away, and the garden decor, too. Winters can be so hard on tools and pots and other garden decor. They'll rust. They'll crack. They'll fade. They'll be crap by spring if they are left out in the winter time.

Finally, leave a door open just a crack every once in a while. It's cold in the winter and the garden fairies will use the crack to get in and spend the winter around the houseplants. They won't be any bother, and some of them will even make toast for you on occasion. (added by Violet Greenpea Maydreams because sometimes Carol forgets.)

Saturday, October 04, 2014

The color of fall

Autumn crocus
The color of fall is gold and orange and yellow and brown and tan, right?

Well, someone forgot to tell my garden about this color scheme.

Here in my garden, we are enjoying purples and pinks and whites, and they look wonderful in the glow of a partly sunny, cool autumn afternoon.

Walk with me through the garden and let's take a look.

First up, let's kneel down and see the autumn crocus, Crocus speciosus, starting to bloom.

Its blooms won't open on cloudy days, so  we'll have to come back when the sun is shining to see the gold of its stamens.

It echoes the colors of the asters blooming nearby in Plopper's Field, where I plop in flowers wherever there is a bare spot.  Did I tell you I recently plopped in another shrub clematis?  I'll tell you more about that some other day.

Asters in Plopper's Field
These passalong asters bloom in several sections of the garden and are over five feet tall. They really add a lot of pizzazz to the garden in the fall, more than making up for the months of "plain green tall things" that they are for most of the summer.

Back in the vegetable garden, I have some clean up to do.  But there are some flowers to enjoy amongst the dried up corn stalks and okra plants gone wild.   This clematis is one I ended up whacking back about six weeks ago when I was clearing the area by the fence.
Clematis re-bloomed 
It decided to grow right back and bloom for me in a lovely soft pink color.

The alyssum is at its peak now.
Alyssum is a good annual ground cover for the veg garden
I would love for it to naturalize a bit in the garden and so will let it go to seed this fall.

Nearby, in the garden bed I call The Shrubbery, a dwarf butterfly bush is still putting out purple blooms which is good because there are still lots of butterflies about.

Move over butterfly bush, I want to sit there
I planted it here by the chairs because it is supposed to have a lovely scent.  I don't think it has that much scent, but its a nice idea to put scented plants near where you will be sitting so you can smell them.

Another clematis decided to send out a few new blooms along the edge of another garden bed called Woodland Follies.

White clematis
This clematis grows up through a bayberry shrub, Myrica pensylvanica.  Bayberry is a nice shrub for winter interest because it keeps its leaves on until spring.

Across the way, some tall verbena, Verbena bonariensis, blooms half hidden behind some shrubs.

Verbena bonariensis
Like most gardeners, I let the verbena go to seed and self sow a bit in the garden. It doesn't really turn into a thug and then late in the growing season you get these purplish-pink flowers.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of the garden and are re-thinking your own fall colors now.  Fall is yellow and orange and gold and brown, but it is also purple and pink and white.