Monthly Archives: August 2016

so i have this one apple

This has been a pretty difficult growing year . We are down 7 inches from our usual rain total and have had 12 days over 90 degrees so far this summer. There is now a mandatory water ban and many plants are suffering from the dry heat.The focus has been on triage watering and cutting back  things that can go dormant , which for while made me forget about “The great fruit crisis of 2016.”

Way back when the fruit trees were just budding up , we had two nights that the temps plummeted to 18 degrees. In my yard that meant cherry and peach blossoms were toast and, unusually, it also affected the apple and pear  trees. The big apple tree out front is a biennial bearer and had a bumper crop last year so the crop was expected to be on the smaller size, but you have to look way up into it to see the very few apples( less than 10) that are growing there,DSC_0003

and the pear nearby has only a couple dozen small dry pears. DSC_0004DSC_0003

The apple tree in the Rock Garden has only a  few apples that  are small and malformed ( I think from lack of water).

Of the 3 espalliered trees , only one has fruit, and even then it is just three apples.  Of those three , one looks entirely perfect and it is killing me watching it ripen.

The chipmunks, voles and rabbits prevent me  from ever enjoying the fruits of my labors. Off 6 blueberry bushes I ate maybe 4 blueberries,  from the bazillion strawberry plants I got not even one.( Next year they are beng moved to vertical planters). In the only good news , the raspberries which were  very late in flowering and are just starting to be pickable now and no critters bother them.  Last year at this time  all the espalliered fruit trees were hijacked by chipmunks right before I was ready to pick them .

My one perfect apple is on an espalliered tree that is visible to me from my seat on the couch in the living room. Whenever I get a chance to sit and knit or binge watch netflix ( did you see Stranger Things or Marco Polo??? You must!)   I have a direct sight line to it

view out the window from my seat on the couch

view out the window from my seat on the couch

.One perfect apple, so many threats. It might even be better if it was hidden out of sight so I could forget about it. Watching and waiting , worrying and wondering if and how I should protect it  is getting to me. It is my apple, my one perfect apple….. I may just pick it and eat it unripe.DSC_0006 The stress is giving me a stomach ache already so what do I have to loose?

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the best fall garden ever….annuals

well,mostly….. but not really.

Annuals are a plant form that starts as a seed, grows roots and leaves, then flowers and fruits and dies , all in one year. many of the plants we grow here as ‘annuals’ are actually herbaceous perennials in the warmer parts of the world. We grow them through one season then usually compost them, BUT  with the knowledge  they are indeed non-hardy perennials we are  able to overwinter choice plants indoors and save $$.

A few that fall under this annual yet perennial heading that may be worth saving are  are petunias, coleus, and persian shield.

But let’s start with plants that are easy to grow from seed, fabtabulous bloomers, and  then headed for the compost bin.

Cosmos and zinnias make huge impacts in the late season garden Both are available in many heights and colors, both can be started from seed by even the most inexperienced grower, both flower profusely  and do so until frost if deadheaded routinely. Ths year I focused on many different cosmos and didn’t even grow any zinnias ( a decision I now regret)   . They cosmos though, are  getting going after some nice rain and are  just the perk the garden needed now.

Verbena bonariensis is a very tall see through plant with strong  stems and a profusion of small purple flowers .It works well when let to seed in between other plants , which it will relaibly do every year once you have planted it for the first time. Butterflies adore it,. I want to add that for some people this plant can reseed quite vigorously and down south it is actually escaping cultivation , but here is easy to thin and control. ( photo :Annies Annuals)

Verbena bonariensis

petunias often get looked down upon by experienced gardeners, but I say what’s not to like?

They bloom like crazy,

if they get leggy or even if you forget to water them , you can give them a haircut and they will spring back to life

very few pests bother them, here the rabbits leave them alone and only occaisionly I get tobacco worm caterpillars I need to pick off

if you don’t like the commercialized ones, there are many you can grow from seed. I have talked about petunia exserta here before. It is a lovely red that is hummingbird pollinated and again, super easy to start from seed

This year I have added some from the Sparkler seed mx and they are going like gangbustersIMG_20160803_094229

and every year I have many self sown pink ones that fill containers for me everywhere. They will tolerate quite a bit of cold and persist very very late into October.

Amaranth is another plant I start from seed and there are so many I try new ones every year.

This year I am growing tri-colored amaranth both in the ground and in containers20160805_110338

coral amaranth


and I also tried one called ‘Deadlocks” which is doing  horribly and I don’t know why.All the plants are very small and they look more like goofy  drumsticks. I am hoping they get going soon20160805_105845

Now onto ones you may want to  winter over.

For foliage you can’t beat coleus, and the varieties available  to us now are outstanding. After the season you can take cuttings to root in soil or water and overwinter , or   hack them back and grow them on indoors. I had one pruned into a tree form for years but lost it this winter .20160805_110251

Persian Shield or stobilanthes dyerianus is beautiful but can be pricey , so ,again, overwintering a cutting or two can save you lots. ( it is a very easy to grow houseplant as well)20160805_105715

Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’ is a garden and  houseplant that blooms in the fall and winter and really comes into it’s own as days get shorter. It has the added bonus of flowering in shade ( photo from pinterest)

caladium bicolor is a bulb often grown as an annual . Tthe emerging plant ,although it loves full sun, will perform very well as a foliage filler in almost full shade. It is planted in this container with nasturtiums and another bulb , eucomis. I bring the pot in and let it either go dormant or sometimes keep it leafed out depending on window space


Hypoestes phyllostachya is another lovely shade foliage plant that delivers a punch of color all through the growing season. There are many color variations out there, and this guy also will prform well as a houseplant

An interesting plant( although be aware the seeds are very poisionous) is castorbean  or ricinus communis . Where it is hardy it is a massive perennial shrub but here it is grown as an annual.
Super easy to start from seed, this dangerous baby will shoot to 9 feet with tropical plamate leaves and colored stems  . There are many purple and dark  leaved varieties available  and the fuzzy fruits are really cool too. It makes a very useul filler in the garden and will certainly elicit some response to both folaige and fruit, as well as the  story of how it is where the nuerotoxin ricin comes from20160805_110010

I am growing three different ones ths year , none are flowering yet so the second photo is from Annies Annuals and the cltvr is ‘New Zealand Purple’ Talk about drama!

i have read that it takes 3-4 seeds to kill a rabbit I just can’t figure out how to make them eat them lol

slavia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ is a non stop bloomer that the hummingbirds love and has quite the presence in the garden right through to frost. I have overwintered this successfully  inside as well

I think these days many gardeners dimiss  the use of annuals as beginner stuff and look past them to perennials and shrubs, but  we can add loads of interest to our garden by adding in a few non-hardy plants . You may be able to find some interesting choices at a nursery near you, or you can cheaply order seed from Plantword, Chilterns, ebay and  to name just a few

For plants , a  source I ALWAYS reccomend is Annies Annuals who has very interesting choices and does a superb job at shipping. Their catalogue is fun to look at and always gets lots of post-it-notes added here during the winter.


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