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Monday, October 31, 2011

The Frosted Garden

The first frosts are almost always something that this gardener dreads.  Mostly because it is the end of the growing season - mostly, some plants will grow on through the winter. But if you look closely at the frost you can also find it is a thing of beauty.

Frost on Viburnum x burkwoodii

Frost on Butterfly Bush

Frost on a Solar Globe Light

Frost on Oregano

Frost on 'Shasta' viburnum

Frost on Thyme

Have you had your first frost yet?  

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Join the 2011 Fall Color Project and share the brilliance of Autumn!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Virginia Creeper - The Other Red Vine in Fall!

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is one of those beautiful plants for fall color that unfortunately gets mixed up with one of similar appearance but of very ill repute: poison ivy (Rhus radicans).  The difference has traditionally been summed up in the phrase "Leaves of three let it be, leaves of five let it thrive!"  Physically speaking, that's the difference between Virginia creeper and poison ivy, Virginia has five leaves where poison ivy has three. Sometimes Virginia creeper will begin with new leaves in groups of three which often can lead people into believing it is poison ivy.  Look for the mature leaves which should have a grouping of five. 

Both Virginia creeper and poison ivy have some stunning fall color but there's only one of the two I would allow in my garden. I find poison ivy in all the gardens and pull them when they are small.  I wear gloves to weed out the poison ivy but I'm one of the fortunate one's who isn't effected by the uruishiol (which is the chemical that actually causes the skin rashes when you make contact with the ivy).

This Virginia creeper plant decided my back deck was a nice place to visit.  I'll cut it back after the foliage is finished.

Join the 2011 Fall Color Project and share the brilliance of Autumn!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We're Not at Peak Yet, But We're Close

I always wonder exactly when the colors are going to peak. It always seems though that you never quite have it figured out until you're actually past peak.  With that in mind are our fall color peaking?  Are the color changing maples, oaks, and sassafras at the height of their autumn radiance?  Hopefully not but we'll see.

Looking out over the lawn toward the garden shed and the back tree line you can see the color state of the yard. The colorful autumn display hasn't quite arrived.  Our spring and early summer was wet but the last half of the summer was dry. I wonder if the wet growing conditions encouraged lots of growth which the trees couldn't maintain when the dry times came which may have resulted in a poorer display of color.

You can see the effect on this 'Red Sunset' maple.  It should be red but is instead an orange with mottled brown spots on it.

This maple is located in a more consitently moist area with a little more shade.  It's simply a red maple or Acer rubrum. I say simply but red maples are some of the most gorgeous trees for fall color around. It has done an amazing job in this location and even serves as a trellis for the passion vine. That was definitely not planned but the wildlife has enjoyed it.

 Here's a closer look at the deep red on some of the leaves.  It isn't in peak form yet, but maybe soon.

This young oak was completely hidden by a large hackberry tree.  We cut the hackberry tree down before building the shed and the oak has gotten the chance to grow.  Unfortunately the hackberry has sprouted new growth from the trunk and will need cut back again.

How are the colors shaping up in your area?

Join the 2011 Fall Color Project and share the brilliance of Autumn!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In Case You Missed It!

My wife told me today that when I post to one of the other offshoots of this blog I need to let people know with a post here!  I should listen to my wife more, but don't tell her that! So what has been updated?

For one the Fall Color Project now has several posts on it that will direct you to fall color in Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, and Virginia.  Maybe you can help fill out another state?  Or just add to the other fall color posts!

The other thing you might have missed is my latest post on the greenhouse garden shed.  I did some work on the storage situation and added some countertops and cabinets. Go check it out when you get a chance!

Join the 2011 Fall Color Project and share the brilliance of Autumn!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Garden Over The Weekend

This weekend I found myself in the shed working on some shelving and countertops for the reclaimed cabinets I picked up from the dump (yes I'm that cheap!)   I'll talk more on the garden shed later in the week but for now I thought I'd show you a little of what is going on in the garden. Things are winding down and the recent frosts have already claimed some victims like the zinnias, coleus, and the beans. Warmer weather is going to be with us this week but it won't be long before the garden goes to sleep for the winter.

The 'Winter Snowman' camellia looks like it will bloom this year for the first time. We have two planted in our front garden that should provide us with a great late season show!

The heucheras are providing a for some ground cover color next to a fast spreading ajuga.

In the same garden with the heucheras an oak leaf hydrangea is beginning to show some fall color.  Oak leaf hydrangeas are one of my favorite shrubs.  They get large so if you plant one give it plenty of room!

Next to the house an orange berry bush (pyracantha) is putting on a show.  It's an awesome plant for fall color which if you haven't checked out the Fall Color Project yet please do!  Pyracantha has plenty of thorns which make it unappetizing and nearly deer proof! Deer proof plants are integral members of my garden.

The 'Shenandoah' switchgrass has gone to seed.  It's more brown than red now but still provides some good visual winter interest.  It's time to collect some seeds!

In the vegetable garden the lettuce is coming along. Here is a red Romaine that has become a favorite of mine called 'Rouge D'Hiver'.  This little plant is a self-sown volunteer.  If you let a few of your plants go to seed your garden may sow itself for you!

The beans took a hit with the frosts but the nearby arugula can take the cold.

The radishes are ready to pick. I'm always at a loss with how to serve radishes except in salads.

How was your weekend?

Join the 2011 Fall Color Project and share the brilliance of Autumn!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

20 Butterfly Bushes

This week I went to my mom's house to do a little digging.  Back in the late spring we noticed small butterfly bush seedlings beginning to sprout in the pathway's of her vegetable garden. As they grew large enough to transplant the weather became hot and transplanting wasn't a great idea. Then my father passed away and just about everything gardening related was set aside until later.  Now it's later and these 20 butterfly bushes that sprouted from seed have been transplanted into a variety of pots.

Fortunately for me there was very little digging. The plants sent roots across the surface of the soil and were completely blocked from getting a grip on the soil below because of a weed blocking fabric. Unfortunately for the butterfly bushes the roots have grown sideways!  It will take some time but the roots will eventually correct themselves in their pots. The bushes are suffering from a little shock but should rebound fine.  It's hard to stop a butterfly bush from growing!

Monarch Butterfly on 'Attraction' Butterfly Bush

It won't be long before these butterfly bushes are ready to invite flocks of fluttering butterflies for dinner!

Join the 2011 Fall Color Project and share the brilliance of Autumn!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Raised Bed Vegetable Garden with Stone Borders

It's taken me all summer to get to it but I'm finally taking the first steps toward changing the vegetable garden to the parterre layout. I had some of the blocks sitting around for months now and others I borrowed from our patio sidewalk expansion which I just haven't had time to get to this summer.  Using the stone for the border is more expensive than wood but will last much longer.  

For a comparison take the $2.50 cost per foot of these stone blocks and compare it with a piece of lumber somewhere around $5-6 for a 10 foot piece.  That comes to about $0.50-$0.60 per foot which makes the stone about 5 times more expensive.  The big advantage is that it won't ever rot and it looks pretty good!

So far I only have one small portion of the raised bed vegetable garden put together.  Even it still needs several more blocks placed to complete the beds.   These beds are going to be planted ASAP with some more winter greens.  Pak choy sounds good and maybe more spinach.

Ever tried potatoes in the fall?  This one was a volunteer in a large nursery pot I was using for a weeding bucket.  I'm tempted to wrap the top area where you see the metal stakes in plastic to create a little greenhouse effect. I'm theorizing here but I might just be able to get some potatoes by December.  We'll see!  The neat thing about potatoes in a pot is that when they are ready all you need to do is dump the pot to get the potatoes.

How's your vegetable garden growing?

Around the Garden in October

It's been while since I showed larger scale pictures of the garden.  Mostly because it was such a mess over the summer. Today I'll share a few photos of the various garden areas.  The resiliency of plants is simply amazing. With neglect, wet weather, dry weather, hot weather, and lack of time my plants seem to be doing fine!

The Front Garden Walkway

Right now in the front garden along the sidewalk you will see mums becoming the center of attention. The red mums to the right have been in the ground for several years and have gotten quite large.  I didn't cut them back even once this year and their timing seems to be just perfect.  The mums on the left side of the sidewalk are the 'Clara Curtis' mums I mentioned in an earlier post. The 'Autumn Joy' sedum is going to seed while the gaillardia is still producing blooms.


The Surprise Garden!

In Saturday's post I told you about my surprise garden.  Essentially the spring garden cleanup resulted in the germination of the seed the spring garden produced.  It' snot a bad problem to have but it does make mowing around it a little difficult. Cilantro, arugula and lettuce can all be found in this garden patch.

The Herb Garden

My herb garden is located just off one side of our patio.  Oregano stretches itself onto the edge of the patio but you will also find lemon balm, stevia, and catmint here.  On the opposite side is thyme, lemon basil, and one of my favorites, sage.

The Birdbath Garden

It's still without a birdbath at the moment but the birdbath garden is putting on a good show. The 'Sheffield Pink' mums are in front of this picture with salvia, red twig dogwood, catmint, and a butterfly bush all nearby. 

The Lawn Garden

OK it's not really a garden but it is a part of the gardens.  It connects them all together through a sea of green and is a void of space that allows the gardens to stand out. The trees in the back are well on their way to fall color.  The lawn looks pretty good now that some of the oversown seed has emerged.  It's not perfect but I'm not looking for the perfect lawn, just one that does what I need and provide a great place for the kids to play!  I don't use pesticides or herbicides on the lawn.

The Shed

Back by the shed the gardens have filled in fairly thick.  It's time to move a few plants to other locations.  I'm looking forward to seeing the two crape myrtles on either side of the pathway grow into larger trees to flank the path.  Also flanking the pathway are two 'Shenandoah' switchgrasses.  The one on the right is significantly larger even though both were planted at the same time and were in the same size pot.  The difference is the light.  The one on the right gets a couple more hours of sunlight than the other.  A few hours makes a huge difference.  I was trying to be symmetrical but one of the problems with symmetry is that it can be hard to get both specimens to match for a variety of reasons. In this case they grew at different rates.

The Trees

The trees are well on their way to being naked.  While the cooler weather will be welcome for a little while I'm going to miss the growing season.  Spring will come along eventually and we'll get the opportunity to try new things in the garden.  For now though we'll just have to live in the moment and enjoy the colors as they turn.

Join the 2011 Fall Color Project and share the brilliance of Autumn!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Surprise Vegetable Garden

You've seen it before I'm sure.  A surprise plant or two coming up where you would least expect it.  A bird may have moved the seed around, or maybe it was caught can carried along on the wind. But have you ever had a whole garden just appear ready to go?  I have!  Now it's not the perfect fall garden.  It doesn't have everything I would have chosen to plant but it does have several different edibles that we can definitely make use of.  So what is planted in my surprise vegetable garden?  Lettuce, arugula, and cilantro! 

Arugula, lettuce, and cilantro self-sown in the lawn.

The next thing you are probably wondering is how did this surprise crop appear?  A planting by aliens perhaps? Or bigfoot? Maybe Elvis?  Nope as much as I hate to disappoint those who wish to keep Elvis alive, I planted this vegetable patch without even realizing it.  In the spring I gathered the refuse from the garden and piled it up in the center of the yard before I took it all to the back for composting.  I always let my cilantro go to seed for a returning crop the following year so its presence isn't too shocking but apparently the arugula and lettuce also made it to the seed stage.  When I dropped the load in the center of the yard the seed went everywhere.  I have no issues about eating the food from the lawn since our yard is free of chemical pesticides and herbicides.  What is neat about this situation is that the deer so far have left this patch alone.  Apparently deer aren't fans of cilantro, it's good thing I am! 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bargain Blueberries

'Bluecrop' Blueberry Bush
As I indicated in my last post about the two camellias in one pot I'm always looking for ways to garden cheap.  Imagine my excitement when I stumbled across some 'Bluecrop' blueberries that are normally over $20 marked down to $5 each!  Of course I snatched two up (I might have gotten more had they had a second variety) for planting in my garden.  My kids love eating blueberries but they can get expensive in the stores, especially if you prefer the organic ones. The cheapest price I've seen blueberries for in the store was about $2 for an 8oz. package.  With a potential yield at maturity of 10-20 lbs. these two plants will pay for themselves many, many times over.

Blueberries typically enjoy acidic soil and if the soil isn't ideal it will need amended.  Getting a soil test to find out what the soil is like (I have to admit that I've never had my soil tested) from your local agricultural extension program is a good idea!

Here is my strategy for improving the soil for blueberries:

  1. Add aluminum sulfate and bonemeal to the soil prior to planting.  The aluminum sulfate is a common soil acidifier often used in to change the color of hydrangea blooms.  Bonemeal has a high phosphorus content which is good for promoting rooting.  I want the blueberries to have a great root system to start off with.
  2. Add organic matter to the soil area.  I'll scratch in compost periodically to the top layers of soil and allow the nutrients to soak down into the root system. Working in compost
  3. Water periodically with diluted coffee.  There's almost always a little bit of coffee at the end of the carafe when we're done with the coffee in the morning.  Unless of course one of the children kept us up in which case we'd be strongly considering brewing a second pot of coffee just to get through the day.  Diluted coffee has a low nitrogen level and is slightly acidic.  I'll also integrate the coffee grounds in and around the base of each plant on a semi-regular basis to improve the organic matter in the soil and improve the acidity.
  4. Mulch well!  Blueberries need moisture and a good organic mulch like pine needles is perfect. They will slightly (just a little) acidify the soil over time, allow water to move to the root system, and shade the ground to keep the root systems cool and moist. Blueberries like their moisture!
Most blueberries enjoy having a second variety somewhere nearby as a pollinator but 'Bluecrop' blueberries are reportedly self-fertile. Yields increase with better pollination provided by another variety that has overlapping bloom times. Fortunately I have two other varieties that should be cross pollination compatible with my new 'Bluecrop' blueberries called 'Reka' and 'Chippewa'.  My first blueberry cutting experiment didn't work out so well. The gardener let the cuttings dry out.  Better monitoring by the gardener will give be better results. I'll have to get onto him for his lapse in cutting care!

I'm looking forward to the fruits of spring and winter hasn't even begun yet!  

What fruits do you grow in your garden?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Camellias, Two for the Price of One!

When you garden cheap (or try to) you look for all those little tricks that will help save a few dollars. Plant propagation is one of my favorite tricks but here's another money saving trick that pops up from time to time: multiple plants! Sometimes plant propagators stick more than one cutting in a pot to increase the odds that a pot will be filled with at least one plant. It's a time saving technique that prevents the propagator from having to go back and redo a planting. It's not the greatest thing in the world for plants since there are two or more competing (for nutrient and water) plants in the same pot which will then be planted together - unless you catch it! Today while planting my 'Yuletide' Camellia sasanqua the root ball fell into two pieces, literally.  It fell into two pieces. I wasn't trying to divide it, nor was I removing any dirt for any reason. It just broke cleanly into two separate plants and each (fortunately) had pretty good root systems.

What I find peculiar about this camellias is the name.  It's called 'Yuletide' but the yuletide season is in December, this camellia flowers early between September and October!  Hmm...

Whatever the case blooming evergreen plants are very welcome in my landscape. I don't have enough evergreens and the blooms icing on the cake!

These two new camellias make the second variety of camellia in our garden.  The other is 'Winter Snowman'.

Do you grow camellias?  Which ones?