Monday, October 6, 2014

Fall in My Garden

     I reviewed my title for this post and realized that it could have another meaning. After my painful muscle response to all my spring gardening this year, and now with fall cleanup underway, I could have actually taken a spill -- a fall -- in my garden and been unable to get up. Turning 70 has definitely produced more muscle aches and I noticed every time I tried to do more outdoor work, I paid for several days and even some times a week of achiness and stiffness. I even went to see a rheumatologist to check out if this could be my old polymyalgia rheumatica acting up. He thought not and just thought it was the effects of degenerative arthritis and aging. Thank you very much. He suggested Tylenol, the water aerobics and hot tub therapy that I am already doing, and better posture when I am sitting reading. That was it! Well, this retired physician is starting to identify with the opposite side of the check-in counter at my clinic.
     I have not gardened much since the intense work of weeding and planting in spring and early summer. I really let my garden do what it wanted this summer. There were some dry spells this year and that has ended my pretty potted plantings. But the fall flowers have done well for me this year. I include some photos of some of these beauties. I wish you a happy autumn and freedom from falls of the other kind.

     In my gardening, I often let volunteers grow even in my formal beds near the house. I have been watching these asters as baby plants for a couple of years, growing in the middle of my entry way bed near the house. This year they had multiple stems so I decided to pinch them as one does with chrysanthemums hoping that they would stay shorter and provide more bushy growth. Well they still grew very tall, but they did produce many blooms. My spouse told me I should pull out these weeds during the summer, but I ignored him, as I usually do, and look what this native North American plant produced.
     These volunteers no doubt seeded from my prairie areas near our front driveway. But here with better topsoil and occasional fertilizer for my bedding plants, they have thrived. The ones in my wild area usually have single stems. The colors vary from lavender, to deep cobalt blue, to purple and magenta rays, with yellow to orange centers.

Left and top: New England aster

      I once saw flowering kale or ornamental cabbage (Brassica oleracea) planted in tiny (3 by 3 feet) cutouts in the sidewalks or around trees while walking the pavement in New York City in the fall. I loved the effect. Since then I have been purchasing these plants even in the spring when very small. I plant them along my front walkway. During the summer and depending on the coolness of the weather, some bolt to flower and seed, but this year with our coolness, several formed very nice colorful kale plants. If they do bolt, in the late summer I just cut off the flower stems and sometimes interesting shapes result. Even bolted plants will brighten their color in the leaves with the fall season. And look how the pink ones complement the color of the nearby aster plant. Sometimes during mild winters, some of these plants will survive the winter, especially the flowering kale varieties, and you will get some growth the next year. However, getting a nice circular colorful head like this for two years in a row is unlikely.

     Dahlias can be the star of the fall garden. I have them planted among other June flowering plants in my beds. They come into their own in August and last until frost, a time when the garden needs some of their showiness. They are heavy feeders and my neglect of my garden this summer showed as I didn't get as many blooms. But I love their variety of gorgeous colors. Most of mine are low growing, but I have one 3 foot tall white spider dahlia that I place in the middle of the bed. After frost, I dig up the tubers, air dry them a couple days, and then store them in a paper bag in my wine cellar. Yes, you read that right -- the wine cellar is cooled and humidified -- perfect for the dahlia tubers. I replant directly in the ground in the spring, as soon as I can work the ground. I add some sort of fertilizer to the soil when I plant in the spring -- either bagged manure, or pellet fertilizer, or bone meal or a mixture of these substances. This year I just did not add liquid foliage fertilizer sprinklers during the summer and I think the dahlia's suffered for this.

One of those taller white spider Dahlia varieties.

A low growing dark burgundy dahlia growing next to "Carmel" Heuchera along the sidewalk. Actually I propagated this Heuchera from a cutting this spring. Next year it will be nice and large, I am sure.

Echinacea - purple coneflower with a mum coming into bloom.

Another volunteer from my prairie area, the brown eyed susan, native Eastern prairie plant.

Brown eyed susan, Rudabeckia triloba, with burgundy dahlia peaking through.

     For the first time in many years, this year I planted nasturtium seeds and sweet alyssum bedding plants in many tiny vacant spots along my walks in among my perennials. I am seeing the pleasant results now because both of these annuals planted in the ground are still going strong unlike those planted in my pots as you can see on the left. I used the variegated leaf form of the nasturtiums and really like the bright colors of yellow, orange, and dark reddish orange. Also in this photo in the foreground is the only foxglove plant that survived the past winter as a seedling. This whole area was filled with foxglove seedlings last fall. I covered them with lots of wood chips but all but one still succumbed.
     I am using small inexpensive solar lighting posts along my walks and am pleased with the night affect. These lights have continued working now for two winters.

     The grouping to the right contains a couple brown eyed susan volunteers, nasturtiums, white sweet alyssum, a heliotrope in bloom, and a single blossom of a "White Swan" variety of Echinacea.
     The heliotrope now is responsible for a name of a color which is this deep violet as shown in the photo on the right. Heliotropism is the ability of a plant or other organism to diurnally follow the path of the sun. Helio means sun. It is interesting to see this phenomenon. 

Purple and white alyssum with orange nasturtiums.
Fancy coral geranium with colorful brown and green leaves, with tansy to left.

Viburnum berries and Lambs' Ears, which come back as volunteers all over.


                                                                                              I always plant some snap dragons as some of my annuals. They are very colorful, and the tall "Rocket" variety gives excellent height to the garden. What I love most about them is that they tolerate the cold and continue to bloom prolifically into the late fall, unlike many other annuals. During mild winters, some of them may live through the winter and go on strong the next year. Also some self seed. However, I usually buy new bedding plants each year.

My red weigela produced a scant second bloom this summer.

Fall blooming clematis always produces prolific sweet smelling blossoms.

      Above is my oakleaf hydrangea. I have such a bush on each side of my front entrance. I have trouble with the deer eating the buds in the late winter so I have to remember to spray a deer repellent on the buds starting in February. I did remember this year, but still I had no flowering on either plant. I think the buds this year got nipped by the very cold winter that we suffered in Wisconsin. 

     Below is a nice calico aster. This is one of the several native asters growing wild in roadsides, pastures, and prairie remnants in the midwest of the country. It has very small daisy flowers up and down heavy stems that seem almost shrub like. It is fairly low growing but can form quite a nice show in the fall. That is why I leave them growing in beds. Also shown is a blue woodland aster, and a heath aster. These appear throughout my property along with the New England asters. Interestingly the species names have been changed for many asters. Many are now called Symphyotrichum, along with several other species names. They are all still in the family Asteracae.  I don't do anything to cultivate these plants, just avoid pulling them with the weeds. Now is the time of year when they shine. 

blue wood aster
heath aster
calico aster topped by brown eyed susan.
Fall golden leaves and slate grey sky, a great fall color combination in our backyard.

View across our backyard and across neighbor's backyard.

Peekaboo purple coneflower.