The forecast was right – we really are getting some rain. Not the wind driven storm type rain that bounces off the dry earth, but a good gentle soaking rain. So far this morning we have had about 0.5″. It has been a month or so since we last had any rain at all, and the gound was definately hard. That thin layer of dust that has accumulated will finally be washed away and over dry roots can now refresh the drooping leaves. The garden will look so much better by tomorrow when the rain has moved through.
Alas it was also ‘Walk your child to School Day’ – not an enthusiastic group doing that today!
The Evidence is on the leaves of this Poinsettia
A few months back I was asked to do an article about compost. That was fine until it came to a photograph. Who takes photographs of compost heaps? Well this past week or two I have come across two compost heaps that are out there and in full view, and looking good.
An Elegant Compost Area
The first one, above, was an elegant compost heapwith debris contained in cedar bins. The compost would not dare to become untidy is this arrangement!
The second, below, was in a much more modest neighborhood, but still very respectable. Clearly though this lucky gardener is not harrassed by covenant police who think such things are rather unseamly. The tomatoes and other vegetables are growing close to the road, alongside lantana and sunflowers. Tomatoes in particular need lots of fertilizer. That can come in a bag with a price tag, or it can arrive by saving veggie clippings, lawn clippings, and fallen leaves. This family put the compost heap right where they needed the compost. A sensible arrangement, and, at least for me, it does not bring the neighborhood down. Rather it shows that tolerance and common sense is right up there with good gardening practices and probably some very good tomatoes.
I needed to find some photographs for the header page of this blog and found myself going through a whole bunch of old (relatively old, anyway) photographs, The digital era has created an atmosphere where even rotten photographs are not deleted, and I take many more than we ever did with traditional cameras – although there are plenty of those around too.
So as it is autumn/fall, I found a few seasonal ones that are from when we lived in the north. October was when the great colors of tulip trees, oaks and sweetgums would turn.
In the south that has barely started, and the days are still very mild with clear blue skies. I did find one with pretty trees and a blue sky though from Pittsburgh, where they have more cloudy days than Seattle, or so I am told. Fall colors are something that Pennsylvania does beautifully.
While my back was turned, a rabbit found my newly germinated beans. They acted as rabbits do, and ate the tops off all the seedlings, leaving me with some ragged little stalks. Tough measures were needed if we were to get anything from the garden this fall. For rabbits, you don’t need a whole lot of protection because they will not jump over fences. That is good, but as I don’t have any little fences around the place I opted for a cover. This will at least allow the seedlings to sprout and start growing without being eaten.
Its not elegant, but at least it works!
Rabbit Protection - Crude, but effective
I have very mixed feelings when some of my old favorites are picked up by large breeding companies and ‘new’ patented versions swamp the market. Two that come to mind from the past week are Agastache and Abelia.
Agastache (Anise Hyssop).
Agastache foeniculum is a wonderful herb that can be used in teas, but it also makes a great garden perennial. The species comes in blue and white, and is hardy to zone5. Strong upright stems and great summer color that attract bees and other pollinators. The resulting seed heads are sturdy and can remain throughout winter to add winter interest. New cultivars though have expanded and Agastaches are about to hit the market big time. The new ones come in reds and pinks, peaches and other pastels. On the left above is Agastache “Cotton Candy” by Terra Nova nursery, a pink droopy sort of plant, and on the right is the lovely species Agastache foeniculum
This has always been one of my favorite shrubs. It blooms in late summer with lovely white bells lining the arching stems. The leaves are evergreen and glossy throughout most of the continent (through zone 5) but obviously look a little drab in spring when the snow has melted. Now the Abelia is getting some attention as a great shrub for small gardens. It is bug free, trouble free and attractive without getting out of hand. It can also be pruned into a hedge, but this is not a great hedge plant, rather it should be a casual, cottage garden shrub.
To the left above is the Proven Winners line Abelia “Bronze Anniversary” and to the right is the beautiful A.grandiflora.
The good side of the argument is that these very worthy shrubs and perennials are being noticed and planted in gardens, rather than being relegated to old fashioned gardens. The down side is that the true species of these great plants will likely be lost. Abelia has great dark green leaves, so why did they feel the need to develop a lime green/bronze type growth? Was it because the traditional one was boring or was it just because they could?
Osmanthus Fragrans: The Tea Olive
Now that the cooler nights have arrived, and the days are shorter, my wonderful tea olives (Osmanthus fragrans) are blooming. These shrubs are evergreen and quite mature but sit in a corner of the garden where they are ignored most of the time. So the fragrance from them caught me off guard as I wondered around the garden. Fortunately they hide near the deck and I will be able to take advantage of the scent while enjoying early morning tea or a cocktail on a mild evening.
The shrubs are around six feet in height now, and really need to be pruned but that is a job for next year, because the tiny yellow blooms will give out fragrance all through the winter.
In general these are very trouble free shrubs, and have managed without any extra water during the extended drought that North Georgia has experienced. In the grand scheme of things, they are definitely a keeper for my garden. Unfortunately this is perhaps the most northerly area that it will grow, as it is formally listed as being from 7b and warmer, which translates to the southern states only.
Conferences are where you can network with people who speak the same language as you do. Too often we have an interest in something but that interest leaves us rather isolated. Such it is with garden writers who spend hours at a keyboard, and in the garden trying to get things to grow. Without much contact with the outer world.
So this past weekend provided a venue where I could visit gardens, see new plant lines being developed, and met up with old friends, and learn some new trick of the trade.
Portland has some terrific gardens that are both private and public, plus some excellant commercial growers. I got to see several new echinacea in red, yellow and orange colors, plus some new agastache in pastel shades.
Echinacea “Mac & Cheese” from Terra Nova Nursery
The Beautifully Landscaped Iseli Nursery
One of the best things about garden writing is that you get to go to conferences. Most professions have conferences of some sort, but I have to say that this one is my favorite. Flamboyant, informative, great networking, and great gardens – what more can you ask from a 3-day event?
The garden will have to manage without me for 5 days, so it got a good water today and those little seedlings are still doing fine. I did manage to harvest a lime before I left though. The trees are just a year old and not producing too much right now, but what they do produce is welcome. This is the second lime that I have taken from this one tree, in the last 10 days.
These little seedling were up in just a few days
Fall is an underused season through most of the country, but especially here in the south. Yet fall is one of the best seasons to plant things. I usually plant a few lettuce and salad type greens, but this year i am trying some little green beans that should mature in about 60 days, and some carrots that will give sweet orange, but small, carrots in about 65 days.The rain this evening meant that I don’t have to water in the morning, and the rain at the end of last week helped to germinate the ones outside already. I did plant some kale inside as well, but that has not yet come up.
Some fall vegetables like kale taste better after a fros, and many will survive a light frost with just a little cover over the top of them. First frost though is still a way off – we are barely out of the 70’s for night time temperatures! I will be prepared though for when that happens – I have lots of floating row covers tucked away somewhre, and if I get short I have Walmart down the road for some garment underlay (sold in the fabric section) and this is very similar to the commercial row covers.
Well as this is a new home for the blog, I think that some newcomers to the garden are in order. As I wandered around this morning, I found some babies of the plant world that I was not expecting. One was the hardy banana tree that has produced some new shoots, but I noticed this morning that the new Red banana had one too! I don’t really want to many of these guys, so i will probably pot some up and give them to the localplant swap or plant sale.
Another little guy that caught my attention was the little Elephant Ears. I have the dark colored ones, and they are very well behaved. Today though, I noticed a little one that has to be a seedling. Sometimes nature just surprises you.
A Baby Elephant Ear