Monthly Archives: October 2013

Fall Clean-up Stinks

003As I may have mentioned 50 times or so lately, I have  been very busy for  the last few weeks  and the garden  has not gotten much attention. Other than the most brief foray to pick the last of the raspberries for breakfast or cut a few stems for a quick arrangement I have not ventured out there at all. That is all about to change as fall clean-up is looming large over my head.

Every time I look out there and wonder when the crew will arrive to cut back, dig up, prune, rake leaves  and spread lime and /or compost , I get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach because ,honestly, that crew is me. Usually I am not bothered by the workload at all. I leave lots of things standing for the birds to have cover and seeds and to provide winter interest so the perennial bed work is minimal. I don’t bring in all the garden ornaments, just what will break during freeze thaw cycles or things made of wood that will rot if left out in all the snow. I don’t do the heavy pruning until the dead of late winter …in my high boots and mittens, wading through feet of snow. But the fact of the matter is that even though the chores are minimal, the time I have to devote to them is nonexistent. Between lectures and workshops, college visits with my older daughter, an out of town wedding, and various other commitments I am wondering how I can possibly get it done.

Today I started a triage style list starting with the  things that absolutely positively have to get done or that should have been done already.

Bulbs that remain unplanted, expensive pottery that has to get stored before it cracks from the weather, a few plants that need  to go in the ground or just went in the ground and need water as there has been zero rainfall for what seems like ever, you get the idea.

Then I moved onto things that should get done, but if they don’t, all will be okay…like raking leaves , spreading compost, and cutting back the daylily beds.

Just when I was starting to feel like I was getting a handle on the situation and heading out to start the first few items, Wil announced that he had made an appointment to have the septic system pumped ( an utterly disgusting ,but given the fact that 4 loads of laundry and 7 showers running a day here are the norm, necessary chore) and we had to get the cover dug out today between our weekly football watching date and going to the market ( made necessary by the same people who brought us the showers and laundry).

Of course you know where this is going if you have a septic system… no one ever remembers where the cover is. Oh, we have a general idea, but as for specifically digging a small hole just to excavate said cover in the few minutes available to us today, not a chance in hell.

What ended up happening is just like every other story of my life, painfully comical. Wil started to dig in the garden bed we were sure it was buried in, but he has an injured hand , so who do you think had to assume shovel duty? ( me). We  enlisted the help of the oldest shower hogging laundry producing food guzzler ,CJ,  to dig hoping we could get it done faster. CJ and I  unearthed the entire top of the tank EXCEPT the cover in the fist 30 minutes. Moving further to the left  we struck the large cement paver I had  put right under the mulch three years ago to mark the cover’s location that had somehow  managed to work its way to 2 feet under the ground. It was then  we realized we had left ourselves no more room to put shoveled out dirt in order to get to the cover that lay beneath it and actually had for the last few minutes been piling dirt ON TOP of it.

A little dirt shuffling and a lot of swearing later, we finally managed to find and dig out the cover. I stayed outside to replant all the things we had to rip out of the garden while digging,   the guys went in to catch up on the football game, and while staring in the general direction of the large hole was thinking about

a. how did I forget where  the GD thing  was for the fifth time since we moved here

b .how the hell did that paver we placed to help us locate the cover get so deep down in the soil?

c. why in the name of all things garden-y did I plant perennials on top of the cover???  and most importantly

d. omg omg omg aren’t  there actually TWO covers that we need access too?

I quietly mentioned this to Wil when I came in , and we made the decision to convince ourselves, that no, there were not in fact two covers , and even if there were why couldn’t it be emptied via the one. I will try to plead ignorance and hope and pray that if I am correct, I can beg or pay   the people who come to pump it to find the second cover and dig it out. For reasons that boggle the mind, the last plant left standing, the last plant that may actually be growing over the other cover ,is an 6 foot tall 4 foot wide clump of the ornamental grass miscanthis sinesis, whose root system will take a pick axe and Paul Bunyan to extricate……and now I will leave you wondering if you think I know even the tiniest little bit about what I am doing over here.



And BTW Happy Halloween! Halloween arrangement made using winterberry ilex verticillata ‘Winter Gold’, calicarpa dichtoma ‘Early Amethyst’, solanum atropurpureum a nasty thorny garden oddity nicknamed Malevolence (wear gloves my friend! there are even spiny thorns protruding from the leaves) millet, ornamental pepper ‘Black Olive’, , seedpods from baptisia australis, seedheads from helenium atumnale, spathifolium , and ‘Matchstick’ and ‘Copper Penny ‘mums 020029 033


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BLOOMBLAHYUCK gets turned on its ear

comtesseOff and on I participate in something called Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. It is the brainchild of Carol over at , and bloggers who want to play along post on the 15th of the month about what is blooming in their neck of the woods and the posts are all linked on Carol’s blog for everyone to view. It is fun to see what is going on in other areas of our country, and even in some distant lands, as bloggers from other countries are welcome to link and often do.  It is also a nice record to have personally . If I manage to keep up with my postings I can scroll back through time and see what has been going on in the gardens on a month by month basis.

Some months the 15th happens and I am completely in a fog and don’t get around to posting. Some months, like this one, I feel like “BLAHBLAHBLAHFLOWERSGARDENBLAHBLOOMBLAHYUCK”. Why this happens? Who’s to know. Boredom. malaise, the feeling of ‘been there, done that’, etc etc. October is also a very busy for my speaking business and having to go out and talk about the garden and plants means less time for he garden and plants and also lends itself to feeling the aforementioned feeling BLAHBLAHBLAHFLOWERSGARDENBLAHBLOOMBLAHYUCK.

BUT…even though I missed the date completely, I could not miss the opportunity to do a little happy dance online about said garden and one plant in particular because it is so remarkable. The weather here has been delightful, and by this I mean days in the 60s and nights staying very warm mostly in the high 40s and 50s. We have had a few scattered light frosts, but they have only affected the coldest most exposed parts of the gardens and actually helped the other parts providing very dramatic fall colors and the romantic look of a frosty garden without the freezing to black death part. Usually by now the last of the clematis are just finishing. Clematis ternifora, or Sweet Autumn as it is commonly known ,is the latest clematis to start blooming, and it is typically accompanied by a few stragglers on Pope John Paul II and maybe Ville de Lyon or Elsa Spath. This year however, the Comtesse de Bouchard out front began another round of blooming AFTER the Sweet Autumn started and is still blooming now. A very rare and very wonderful treat for me.039

What makes it even better is that the variegated garden phlox ‘Nora Leigh’ that the Comtesse winds her way through has also decided in solidarity to continue blooming even though the cold temps have been affecting her foliage . What a team player ! Thank you Nora Leigh, your commitment to making this garden all it can be is duly noted.042

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Three October Bloomers Your Garden Shouldn’t Be Without

Here in New England and other northern  regions of the USA, our growing season is limited due to cold temperatures. Since I have been gardening it has been my mission to extend that season as long as humanly possible, and thus my constant hunt for plants that bloom into October and November.

sheffOne garden stalwart that certainly helps in this pursuit is Sheffield mums (chrysanthemum rubellum). Sheffield mums are NOT the florist mums you can get at the garden center now. See my post here for info on all things ‘”mum”. Instead Sheffield mums are very late perennial plants that overwinter here quite well. I have a variety called ‘Copper Penny’  ( below) and cultivar ( a cross) named ‘Wil’s Wonderful’  and the tried and true pink version . The Sheffield pink  plants are easy to find via friends and fellow gardeners and often local garden club plant sales in the spring which is when they should be (as any mum should be) planted. That is why you don’t find them in garden centers routinely, they are not in bloom when they should be sold and that is not good marketing, even though it is in fact excellent GARDENING which is something many GARDEN centers choose to overlook. The others I have seen on Lazy S Farms website and that is in fact where I ordered my ‘Wils Wonderful’ from. 009

Another that is also a tough find is the Montauk or Nippon Daisy. More and more I am seeing this plant available and that is a good thing as it is such an asset to the fall garden. Montauk Daisy has very woody stems and cool leathery like foliage039 .  Its flowers are just like those of Shasta daisy though.019 Both the Sheffield mums and the Montauk daisies get an early summer shearing here to keep them from getting leggy  and too tall by October. Both also benefit from leaving their foliage intact and uncut through the winter to help them survive .

The third plant is a favorite here because it is completely rabbit proof.

( Montauk Daisies are said to be as well but looky here, that is rabbit damage my friend)018







003Allium thunbergii ‘Ozawa’ has lovely strappy foliage and adorable nodding blooms. Only growing to about 1-2 feet it is easy to find a home for. Like all alliums it prefers a sunny well drained spot to grow and other than that is undemanding of your attention. It is super hardy , to zone 4. The good thing about it blooming now is that it reminds me, and hopefully you too, how useful alliums are as an easy to care for and visually interesting plant at the perfect ( well really only) time to plant them. You can find allium bulbs in nurseries and garden centers now and popping a few in the ground here and there  will bring loads of delight next year. A few of my other favorites are ‘Purple Sensation’, Allium schubertii which looks like fireworks, and the cute but floppy drumstick allium (a. sphaerocephalon). 008 ’Ozawa’  looks great in a rock garden , although those in this photo are actually in the front garden, just near a rock. Great companion plants for the rock garden are earlier blooming saxifrages or even thyme, but in this garden  they are planted with peony and perennial geraniums for spring color,  allium senescens var. glauca or curly allium, clematis , sunflowers  and verbena that bloom in the summer, and heleniums for the later part of the season. All alliums make great and long lasting cut flowers.

All three of these plants have the added bonus of feeding our favorite winged pollinators, the bees,  in warm fall weather when they are still active yet nectar sources are more scarce.

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there is no blue without yellow and without orange

(Vincent van Gough in a letter to Emile Bernard)

An true artists eye, a true artists statement ….

It  seems  so clear once we start to notice, some colors reveal themselves more clearly when  given a foil .

Gaillardia ‘Mesa Yellow’ and Gentian ‘True Blue’



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