GBFD September ’16

Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day always sneaks up on me, it hits exactly at that point of the month where I start wondering where the month went and start panicking over the thoughts of yet another turn of the calendar page.  But I get over that pretty fast and although my posts are frequently late, Christina at Creating my own Garden of the Hesperides is always understanding, and so this month when she suggested that in spite of my tardiness I might still be able to sneak in even more tropical garden photos, I of course jumped at the idea.  The tropical plants really keep the garden fresh at this time of year, and their bold foliage looks big and unblemished and makes an excellent contrast to the seedheads and dying foliage of much of the rest of the garden.

canna indica pupurea

The purple cannas of the tropical garden (Canna indica pupurea?) look great as they catch the light.  I promise to not show them any more, but how bout this one last time🙂

So this post was just going to be a pat on the back for foliage in the tropical garden, but then just like Christina suggests I started looking a little closer at how much foliage brings to the table as far as the overall garden picture…. but before that one more canna…

canna Bengal tiger

I might have talked to this Canna ‘Bengal tiger’ at some point, it’s like a close friend, and there’s nothing I don’t like about it.

So the canna foliage was a no-brainer, but there’s something else brewing in the tropics.  The Kochia continues to ignite as the season winds down.  Not exactly a contrast, this plant is starting to take center stage as an eye-jarring punch of color.  It was a lacy pale green all summer but now as it goes to seed the magenta capsules turn color and are soon followed by red tints in the foliage.

kochia scoparia

Kochia scoparia, the old-fashioned annual burning bush, creating a nice backdrop to pink gomphrena ‘fireworks’ and a just-opened autumn flush of flowers on the red rose ‘Black Forest’. 

A few tropical ‘fakers’ are also in the mix.  An unknown fig which defied all my neglect and poor caretaking just put out a nice new flush of large, lobed, leaves.  No figs of course, but the large leaves balance out all the seediness around them.

hardy fig

A hardy fig which was never supposed to make it (hence my losing the ID tag) now fills too much space in the vegetable garden.   

Besides the tropical ‘fakers’ there are also a few actual tropicals which end up outside of their main bed.  I have a habit of sticking cuttings in here and there and every now and then they take off to good effect.  Coleus are one of the easiest to just stick in here and there.

coleus redhead

Coleus ‘redhead’ is one of the best. Carefree, colorful, and I have yet to have it bloom and go to seed. It’s also a nice offset to the lacy cypress vine behind it and the bright marigolds in front.

I could probably put together a post made up entirely of bits and pieces which were stuck in around the garden, but as usual I’m going on to long.  Lets wrap it up with more coleus up on the deck.

coleus

If you need to know which one this is I’ll look it up, but for now I don’t have the patience to dig through my bucket o’ labels for the tag.  Needless to say it’s a good grower, bright, and also not overly anxious to send up flower stalks (and end the foliage show).

Other foliage on the deck includes my pet spikes.  They’re a great accent and just plain old cool looking as they keep getting bigger.  Some day they’ll wear out their welcome as far as being dragged indoors, but this winter they’re still A-list.

deck planters

Overgrown spikes in green and purple plus a potted oleander.  Not many flowers, but still a nice mix if you ask me.

Rosemary is also one of our must-haves for the deck.  It’s scented, always looks neat, and gets used quite a bit by our chef.

deck planters

Foliage on the deck includes the rosemary plus others such as the strappy leaves of vacationing amaryllis bulbs (hippeastrum) and other future spikes.  In the background you might notice the elephant ear sprouting up out of the geranium pot.  That’s what you get for reusing potting soil… elephant ears, caladiums, and reseeding million bells become your weeds🙂

Finally as temperatures cool, the back porch becomes a perfect spot to soak up the last rays of the day.  The temperatures out back are comfortable this time of year and the low autumn light backlights the grasses and summer foliage.

deck planters

Upright elephant ears (Alocasia portora?) looking great in the afternoon light, and offsetting the airier grasses and geraniums nicely.

So I’m glad Christina convinced me to take a look around this month and keep an eye out for foliage.  It’s easy to forget how important it is to the garden’s overall presence, and paying attention is even more important when you’re so distracted by this and that flower coming into bloom and then fading away.  If I might suggest, why not give Christina a visit and see what else has come up this foliage day, with gardeners from across the globe checking in it’s always a nice time.

 

Thursday’s Feature: Colchicums!

As one considers the winding down of summer and the general decay of the growing season… as I suppose one should on this first day of autumn… there do seem to be a few positive notes which make the changing of the seasons more bearable.  While other things die or flee in response to cooler temperatures and weakened sunshine, a few plants spring to life, and if you count yourself among the optimists you could almost consider this to be the start of a new growing season with flushes of new foliage for the cooler weather, healthy root growth and spring buds forming below ground, and the first of the autumn flowers.  “Good for you” I say since I am not a lover of fall and its frosty death, but even I will admit colchicums make it easier to cope, and the fresh blooms at this time of year make it all seem a little less final.

With those cheery thoughts in mind I’m again joining Kimberley at Cosmos and Cleome for her Thursday Feature, and the flowers of the autumn crocus or naked ladies (Colchicums) are what stand out in my garden this week.

colchicum nancy lindsay

A reliable Colchicum with smaller flowers and colored flower stems, Colchicum ‘Nancy Lindsay’ would be on the short list of favorites.

As a good blogger I should take this opportunity to discuss the various details of researched growing conditions and also cover the finer points of colchicum cultivation but as you may have already guessed from previous posts I bore easily and tend to laziness, so to be honest I’d recommend getting that book learnin’ elsewhere.  I’m more of a stick it in the ground and see if it grows kind of guy, so if you don’t mind, click on >this link< and you’ll find a few of Cathy’s posts over at Cold Climate Gardening which should do very nicely to fill the void I leave.  She’s like a crazy cat lady of colchicums, and in addition to growing, showing, sharing, and speaking on colchicums, she also does an excellent job of putting that information online.  She’s also a wonderful person, so I hope she finds neither ‘crazy’ nor ‘cat lady’ offensive since I would hate to offend her good nature.

colchicum innocence

Colchicum run a range of pink shades from dark to light, but the odd white form really lights up an autumn bed.  Here’s Colchicum ‘Innocence’.  Decent sized blooms, slight pink tint when you look for it, and a good grower.

Better sources of information aside, I guess I should mention some of the barest essentials of Colchicums.  They bloom bare, without foliage, hence the common name of naked ladies.  Their bloom shape resembles that of crocus, hence the name autumn crocus -although they share no family relation whatsoever.  Of course being unrelated to crocus is not the worst thing since wildlife love the crocus around here yet completely avoid the poisonous parts of colchicums.

In the early spring, colchicums quickly grow leafy, hosta-like foliage but then yellow and disappear once the weather heats up.  Decent, well drained soil, sun or part shade (the more sun in spring the better), and hope for the best.

colchicum foliage

Spring species tulips and the springtime foliage of colchicums growing in the lawn.

With their fall blooms, colchicum are a bit of an oddity when compared to the regular spring and summer flowers of most bulb catalogs.  Maybe this is why they seem expensive when compared to the mass produced spring bulbs, but don’t let it fool you.  They might require some special handling and storing, but overall  it’s an easy group to grow.  If I have one bit of advice which may be helpful it’s to plant shallowly in heavy soils.  The flowers seem to struggle when sprouting up out of hard-packed soil, and if they can’t make it up chances are the spring foliage won’t make it either, and your special new bulb will die.  Cover loosely I say, and if the bulbs (actually corms btw) are already flowering, do not cover the flowers with dirt and expect them to rise up out of the soil.  The flowers, and foliage as well, seem to take advantage of the old, dried floral tubes and follow these paths up out of the soil.  When newly planted, the tunnels from last year no longer exist, so to get around this plant shallowly and cover with some mulch once flowering is finished and you should be in good shape.

colchicum lilac wonder

Colchicum ‘Lilac Wonder’ planted in grass.  If planting in lawns, be prepared to hold back on mowing until the foliage has yellowed off.  I like a field of gone-to-seed grass swaying in the breeze in June.  You may not.

Over the last two years I’ve been adding colchicums to the meadow garden, and so far have been pleased enough to want to add more this fall.  I’m hoping they do well enough amongst the root completion of the grass and so far so good on that.  Another plus is I prefer the flowers when set off by the green grass, even though in most years this area usually has more of a brown grass look to it.

colchicum lilac wonder

More Colchicum ‘Lilac Wonder’ planted in the meadow garden. This is my favorite colchicum right now, it really does well here.

colchicum in meadow grass

A more sparse planting of an unknown colchicum.  This one will sulk if the spring is too short or dry, or isn’t exactly to its liking.  I’d blame the lawn, but the same lack of blooming happens in my flower beds as well.

I’m going to wrap it up here since although I can stare at and talk colchicums for hours in the garden, I am way past the limits of my attention span here at the computer.  But before ending I have to show Colchicum x aggripinum and the remarkable pattern of its blooms.  Many colchicums show tessellation in their flowers and of the ones I grow this one shows it best.

colchicum x aggripinum

The smaller, shorter foliage and flowers of colchicum x aggripinum still show up very well in the garden.  This clump liked being divided last summer, but didn’t like the late freeze and short spring we had, so I hope it fills in better next year.

colchicum x aggripinum

Tessellation on a flower of colchicum x aggripinum.  I love this patterning.

If you’ve made it this far I might as well apologize while I still have your attention.  There are still a few weeks left in the colchicum season and it’s very likely you’ll see more of them at some point or another as I try to work my way through this otherwise miserable new season.  In the meantime though, please consider giving Kimberley a visit to see what she and others are posting about this Thursday.  Perhaps they have a higher opinion of autumn.

A Different Tuesday View: The Tropics 09.20.16

The weeks have been flying by too quickly and once again I find it’s time to join up with Cathy for the Tuesday view.  If you remember last week there were tarps and shingles flying, and since the roofer also happens to be a friend of mine, guilt had me up there over the weekend lugging bundles around and throwing in a hand to help out (even if it was only for an hour or two).  The view is nice up there, and what better vantage point for this week’s view?

tuesday view

The Tuesday view from above. I think we can safely say the bed has filled in and keep in mind all the canna clumps tower at least 8 feet.

A view from the top reminds me of a similar post over at The Rusty Duck last year.  Jessica was up the scaffolding getting a new outlook on the garden, and although she made it slightly higher than the roofline of my neighbor’s one story ranch, I think the effect is the same.  Something about seeing the same old view from a different perspective always makes it seem new and exciting again… even though my wife was less than excited to find out I also took my daughter up there.

tropical garden

The back end of the tropical garden.  I love the purple napier grass (pennisetum) but the banana is my favorite by far🙂

A new look or not there’s really nothing special worth mentioning this week.  Don’t get me wrong, I spend far too much time each week just soaking in the color and lushness of this bed, but I’m going to try and be considerate and spare you yet another stripped canna leaf close-up or castor bean portrait.  I’m sure a few will show up this winter when the cold and snow get to be too much.

Have a great week and consider giving Cathy a visit at Words and Herbs to see what other Tuesday views are looking like.  I hear there’s talk of autumn in the air…

Tuesday View: The Tropics 09.13.16

Cathy at Words and Herbs has been following a weekly view of her garden throughout the season, and each Tuesday I’ve been trying to join in and keep track of my own weekly view in order to catalog the changes.  This week the roofers are next door and this afternoon they’ve made their way to the side where the tropical garden grows.

tropical garden

This afternoon’s view of the tropical garden.

Other than a few stray roof shingles and tar paper strips the garden has escaped damage, and that’s great because now is the time of year when every day is a celebration of summer and every night is a reminder that colder weather is on the horizon.  As nighttime temperatures cool off I’m beginning to notice a tint of red in some of the clumps of annual burning bush (Kochia scoparia).  Me thinks in a few weeks the ‘will it burn or will it snuff out’ question will finally be answered.

kochia burning bush

The clumps of burning bush (Kochia) are actually several seedlings all planted into the same hole. Most of the season they’ve appeared to be one big bush, but now a few here and there are going their own way and beginning to show color.

I can’t imagine these plantings will be as successfully bright as some of the photos I’ve seen online but if they’re halfway interesting I will be happy enough.  As it is their fluffy green mass has been a welcome green rest in an otherwise overloaded bed of color.

tall purple salvia splendens

One of the less-than-bright kochia seedlings.  More of a tan in my opinion, but things are all under a little stress here in the shadow of the canna clump…. with the exception of the tall purple salvia splendens seedling, it’s still doing just fine!

The rest of this post is gratuitous canna color.  I posted canna ‘Cannova Rose’ last week, but it’s still outstanding, and deserves another mention.

canna cannova rose

Cannas and dahlias with an orange zinnia and purple petunias.  The petunias were planted as petunia intergrifolia but I bet there’s something else in there as well, and that’s just fine since I like the bold mini-flowered purple groundcover it’s become.

Canna ‘Tropicana’ is always over the top.  I think you either love it or turn away in disgust, but either way it’s a bright tropical show.

canna tropicanna

Canna ‘Tropicanna’ in a bed of verbena and backed by one of those dark leaved, huge, grow-it-as-an-annual, Napier grasses (Pennisetum purpureum).  Hard to see in the picture, but the grass is just over five feet, so probably much bigger than you’d guess.

I know I’ve called Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ my absolute favorite canna, but there’s a new kid on the block this year.  Canna x ehemanii is an old hybrid which tops nearly every other canna in the gracefulness category.  I did not suspect my small plant would bloom this year but here it is opening its first flower.  A little short for this variety, but much easier to admire when it’s down here amongst us mortals :)

canna x ehemanii

I saw Canna x ehemanii growing in a corner of Chanticleer a few years back and have been looking for my own plant for years.  Once open its flowers will arch and hang with an amazing tropical grace that you’ll have to trust me on right now, but I’m sure more pictures will follow as it develops. 

We are into the one month countdown.  First frost typically hits around mid-October in these parts, and for as much heat and drought and storm this garden can take, it can’t take a hard freeze.  That’s a Tuesday view I’m not looking forward to.

In the meantime please give Cathy a visit and find out what she and other bloggers are seeing this Tuesday.  It’s a great way to keep up with the changes and really see just how much goes on in your garden!

Thursday’s Feature: Bessera elegans

I really need to apologize for yet again neglecting comments and neglecting blog visits and for neglecting most of the fun interactions which make blogging so rewarding.  I think on Tuesday I went on about how lazy I’ve been lately, but now I’m afraid it’s becoming borderline rude, so for that I apologize.  That said I’m not really worried about offending anyone, I think most who read this have their own busy lives which heat up and cool down, but I figured I’d throw it out there just in case.  I really do appreciate the interactions.

But it is already late on Thursday and since it’s a day when I like to join up with Kimberley of Cosmos and Cleome for her Thursday’s Feature it looks like another night of post first, blogworld later.  Who could blame me for just wanting to sit here for a few minutes before bed and write about Bessera elegans anyway?

Bessera elegans

The dainty yet boldly colored flowers of Bessera elegans.  a bulbous goodie from Southwestern Mexico.

Before I get you too excited, this plant has long, sloppy, narrow leaves which flop all over the ground.  The non-hardy, bulblike corms seem to rot easily during winter storage.  It doesn’t like cold weather.  I’ve seen it referred to as “fussy”.  All of these are good enough reasons to plant a marigold instead but then the flowers come and you’re hooked.  The color is saturated bright and they hang in clusters at the top of long wiry stems.  For as spineless as the foliage is the flower stems never seem to need support, and they hoist the flowers up to dance in any breeze which happens to come through on a hot and muggy summer day.  I’ve heard them described as like a red snowdrop, but I don’t see it.  To me maybe parachute, umbrella, maybe a little fairy…. I don’t know, it’s a cool form with the long stamens and pistils sticking out of the inner skirt, and before I start sounding too wacky I’ll leave it to you to find a better description🙂

Bessera elegans

I didn’t notice the spider lying in wait, but I do notice the odd greenish pollen every time I do a closeup examination of these elegant little flowers.

My bulbs originally came through Brent and Becky’s and the fact I’ve been able to get blooms from it each of the last three years says a lot for its toughness.  I’ve always grown them in pots in a well draining potting soil and they seem to appreciate regular water and full sun and just take off during the growing season.  The flowers last for a relatively long time and there are several flowers on each stalk.  I would almost say they’re easy then, but when winter rolls around the trouble starts.  Without revealing how close I’ve come to killing them each winter (last year I was truly amazed those last remaining spots of corm even grew let alone bloomed), I’m just going to say my best success has been keeping them bone dry and on the warm side when in storage… but I’m open to advice on this.

I really have no business adding any more plants which need pampering over winter but such is curiosity.  The red version is cheap enough (10 for $6 last time I looked) that one can just plant and abandon them once winter arrives, but there are other colors and of course other colors mean collecting opportunity.  I’ve seen mention of crimson, pink, lavender, and a dark purple, each with varying flower sizes and markings, and of course I want to try all of them.  Telos Rare Bulbs has the “outstanding” purple form for sale but at $15 a piece I’m reminded of how poorly my current plants survive the winter and it’s taking all my strength of reason to resist.  It even says “few available” and that does absolutely nothing to calm me down.

I will wrap it up here.  I need to get some rest before someone clicks and orders something they shouldn’t, but in the meantime please consider a visit to Kimberley’s blog and see what others have featured this Thursday.  I was fortunate enough to have her pay a visit to my own garden last weekend, and had she not needed to rush off early I’m sure I would have gone on and on about this plant.  As it is I’m sorry she missed it🙂

Tuesday View: The Tropics 09.06.16

One of the benefits of regularly joining Cathy for the Tuesday view has been that little push each week to actually follow up on the observations made the week before.  The fear of confessing laziness and sloth publicly has been great for keeping on top of the weeding, deadheading, staking, and planting and it’s also a great regime for someone who goes through bouts of couldn’t-care-less and stretches of I’m-bored-with-this-garden-thing.   Now might be one of those bouts, and as the days grow shorter and our latest dry stretch begins to stress plants out again, I look at the water hose and then look at the recliner and typically chose the recliner.  So I apologize ahead of time if my mood comes through,  I’m sure colchicum season will come along soon enough and snap me back out of it.

Tuesday view

A quick picture taken this evening. I find the low sun angles to be absolutely disgusting and far prefer June.

The cannas keep going from strength to strength and I’m glad to see this bit of ‘Cannova Rose’ finally showing off.  It went through a rough spot which I suspect were the aftereffects of stray weed killer, but the latest bloom stalks look mostly normal… unless you’re really neurotic and notice that one stalk still has thinner petals and is quicker to fade…

canna cannova rose

Canna ‘Cannova Rose’, a newer seed strain which grows without complaint (even in cooler weather) but has been pointed out to have somewhat boring foliage. It looks nice with the first flowers of dahlia ‘Mathew Alen’… throw in a few orange zinnias and some purple petunia and you’ve got a nice patch of color.   

The dahlias are slowly starting up.  They seem late, but that would be because I planted them late, and there’s no sense in complaining about that now.  An earlier show would have been nicer is all I’m saying and of course next year none of this will be a problem since as of now next year is still perfect😉

ball dahlias

Had they been staked properly this patch of ‘Sylvia’ and ‘Red Cap’ dahlias would have risen just perfectly amongst the cannas and verbena.  Who knows, maybe the red will still rise up a bit, but if it doesn’t serves me right for slacking.

I’m kind of at a loss as to why I’m down to just three or four dahlia varieties.  I’m sure in June I had a brilliant plan as to where they were placed and who their neighbors were, but now it seems to all be ‘Mathew Alen’.  Vaguely I remember thinking I was bored with a few and felt all empowered when I tossed them onto the compost pile, but naturally I just assumed things would come together later and there would still be a good bit of variety.  So much for that.  I guess it doesn’t help that several were swamped by other plants… but oh well, another serves me right moment.

colocasia esculenta tropical storm

Something for the future.  If this Colocasia esculenta ‘Tropical Storm’ can get through a serious spider mite infestation I’m sure it will be worth the $2 I spent.  My icecream cone was actually more expensive than this soon to be amazing plant🙂

There’s only about another month and a half left in the tropical garden and it’s absolutely not the time of year to get into a ho-hum mood about things.  I really need to treasure every shortened day and to that end will keep reminding myself as I self medicate on fried foods, baked goods and chocolate.  Give me another week and I’m sure I’ll have come to terms with the waning season and maybe just maybe I can look forward to autumn.  Many people claim to enjoy that season and I guess it’s only fair I give it a try as well.

Have a great week!

Thursday’s Feature: The Three Cousins

The story of the three sisters of native American agriculture (corn-squash-beans) is a story which goes hand in hand with almost any elementary school lesson on the Pilgrims or Thanksgiving.  Northeastern tribes of Native Americans commonly grew the three crops together in the same mound, and as the corn grew up and the stalks provided support for the twining beans, the squash filled in along the ground and together the three crops coexisted peacefully, each filling their own niche.

This spring I rebuilt the rebar arbor which marks the entrance to the vegetable garden and this summer three vines are working their way up and over the arch.  They don’t coexist quite as peacefully as the three sisters and they’re far less useful in the kitchen, but I like them well enough anyway and even if they never make an appearance on the back of a Sacagawea coin I guess we can say they’re close enough to be called cousins at least.  The three cousins are Cypress vine, Love in a Puff, and Red Noodle bean, and all I can think of is how great common names can be🙂

rebar arbor

After struggling for four years with an arbor that fell over each spring, I finally put in the effort to set the base in concrete.  The jury is still out on whether it will survive this spring thaw or not any better, but since the jury is still also going back and forth between rustic and ugly, survival may not matter either way.  

There are many a more floriferous trio for a trellis, but for some reason I love the mixes of foliage, flowers, and fruit of these three cousins.  The bright scarlet flowers of the cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) sparkle alongside its soft ferny foliage and contrast nicely with the puffy green globes of love in a puff (Cardiospermum halicacabum)  and the dark red pods of the red noodle beans (Vigna unguiculata… aka asparagus bean… aka yardlong beans).

red noodle bean flower

The pale lavender flowers of the red noodle bean only open in the morning but they look just right mixed in with the ferny cypress vine foliage.

I wish I could take credit for this combo, but in all honesty I saw it a few years ago on Nan Ondra’s blog.  As it is with these things a single picture got stuck in my head and then over the next several years the radar stayed tuned in to find seed for the three components.

cypress vine, red noodle bean

The red “noodles” of the asparagus bean stretch anywhere from a foot and a half to nearly two feet.  The arbor is starting to look pretty cool with all these red beans dangling down.

Right now I think it’s the noodle beans stealing the show and I wish I had a few better photos, but the ones from this afternoon just didn’t make the cut and then the daylight called it quits on me.

red noodle bean

I think the beans are cool, but the hummingbirds much prefer the cypress vine flowers.

As I think further on it each of the three cousins also provides something more than just looking pretty.  The beans are edible (and some say have an excellent taste if picked small), the hummingbirds love the cypress vine, and the kids love picking and popping the puffs.  It is a useful trio and it’s likely they’ll show up here for many a year to come… if only because (with the exception of the beans) I haven’t planted a thing on this trellis for three years and there are still more than enough seedlings each spring to fill the ranks.

So there they are, the three cousins as my feature for Kimberley’s Thursday Feature meme, and although they are technically three entries it’s nearly impossible to separate them so I think I’m good to go.  If you think you’re good to go might I suggest a visit to Kimberley’s blog?  She encourages us to look around each week and find something which grabs our attention in the garden and it’s always interesting whether you’re just visiting or joining right in.