Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Garden in December

It seems that El Nino is already at play in our weather here in the Midwest. It's been so mild that I don't know whether to call it an extremely early spring or a really late fall, but it certainly isn't winter yet. We've had a few heavy frosts, but no snow. Mostly, it's been warm for December.
The grass is still green, the leaves are still on the butterfly bush, and bulb foliage is popping up here and there. Many of my hardier plants are still green, especially the ground covers. And there are a few flowers in bloom! The pansies here are a little wilted from a frost, but haven't really stopped blooming since I planted them way back in early October.
It's not uncommon for lamium to put out blooms during a warm spell, even in winter. But I always enjoy when it happens. The leaves stay fresh for most of the winter, fading only a bit when it's bitter cold. It spreads quickly, but I don't consider it invasive, because it's easily uprooted. It's easy to share when it starts to be a little overly enthusiastic.
These Tall Ribbon Mix snapdragons are a personal favorite of mine for many reasons. Mostly, I love them because they refuse to stop blooming. At least a few of these flowers have been in bloom non-stop since May! There aren't many left now, but still, they are definitely worth growing. They also drop seeds around freely, and you may not even have to plant them again next year.

This is the bloom that really surprised me, Candytuft. It's an early spring bloomer, so seeing a few flowers today was unexpected. The lamium, pansies, and snapdragons have never really stopped blooming from summer, but the Candytuft just started. I had no idea that these were so good for reseeding, because I have plants coming up all over the place. I'm sure I'll be giving them out to fellow gardeners come spring.
The rest of my December garden sights are the usual kinds you'd see this time of year, especially the ornamental grasses. Morning Light miscanthus makes for good winter interest...
as does Hamln pennisetum seen below. My favorite summer grass, Karly Rose is not a winter interest type grass, unfortunately. The seed heads shatter in autumn, leaving a mass of tangled stems behind. I still leave them up in winter, but only because its directions tell me to.
By far my favorite winter garden plant is Angelina Sedum. It's beginning to put on its winter color already. It seems to look best in February and March, when the snow melts and the rest of the world is drab.

I never thought I'd have a full garden post to share in December, but this year is definitely strange so far. I'm sure it will eventually get cold, and we'll surely see some snow. But in the mean time, I sure love this unusual weather. I've never been a fan of a white Christmas anyway.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fall into Fall

Autumn is the most beloved of seasons, wouldn't you agree? The only problem is that fall often has to bear the burden of the winter that follows it. I've heard many people say "Well, I love fall, but I don't like how it ushers in the winter". That's not really fair is it? How about if we enjoy autumn on its own, without comparing it to the often despised season that comes after?

When the fall weather is pleasant and warm, and the trees have turned into a kaleidoscope of colors, I find myself driving off to my favorite parks to spend the afternoon. This one is a particular favorite, Chestnut Ridge. I can see the ridge off in the distance out my bedroom window, and will often joke that it is my mountain, even though it's just a small bump.

I wander around taking pictures of every little thing, but mostly I just sit and admire. It's time to breathe deeply, and start saying my goodbyes to the outdoor world for a few months.

Sometimes I have something important to think about or a problem to figure out, This is the perfect time for that. I find that my mind clears, my breathing slows, and solutions are easier to figure out. And so it was on this day.

Things looked  much brighter after my day at the park. I decided that I would indeed be able to tackle the problems that were looming over me. It would take time, and hard work, but I know I can do it. I'm tough like that.

So next time you need to figure out where to go next, grab one of those perfect fall days, and take it in. I'm sure you'll come up with your own solution in no time.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Stay Away Jack Frost

Our first frost is threatening tonight. Say it isn't so! Now I know it's that time of year, but I'm always in denial right about now. I tell myself that the frost will magically pass me by. But eventually it arrives, and that's the end of my garden season till next year. 
Endless Summer hydrangea with begonias
Dinner plate dahlia
Birdbath jumble
Got what I needed, thanks! 
There hasn't been much new to look at in my garden for awhile. It seems like every day I'm taking more photos of the same zinnias, snapdragons, and dahlias. But they continue to delight me, so why not? 
Raspberry Lemonade mix zinnias 
Queen Red Lime zinnias
Tequila Lime zinnias
Digiplexis Berry Canary with Tall Ribbon Mix snapdragons
Cafe au Lait dahlia
Dahlias and sunshine
I've found that autumn light is extra favorable to garden photography. The low angle of the sun makes the light softer. I can hardly wait till the sun begins to set, so that I can run out and get more photos of my grasses glowing. 
Morning Light miscanthus
Lone Queen Red Lime zinnia with Karly Rose pennisetum
Karly Rose pennisetum 
Karly Rose with verbena bonariensis
A few butterflies still pass through, which always delights me. Every monarch that comes through is photographed if possible, while sending them off with good wishes towards Mexico. 

The roses have been revived by the cooler air. They tend to survive a few light frosts because the blooms are up above the ground. One year I had roses in early December, what a treat! 
Sunny Knockout rose, the fragrant knockout
Funny Face rose
Chinatown rose
For reasons that I don't quite recall, we are having a late start with our fall color change. There's still a lot of green out there for mid October. After this frosty weekend ahead, we should really start to see some color out there. If you didn't look too closely, my garden looks almost summery. Almost. 
Queen Red Lime zinnias with Sedum Autumn Joy
Amsonia hubrichtii starting to turn gold
Last year, I did a trial for Proven Winners, which was a lot of fun. The annuals are long gone, of course, but the perennials live on. This is Cinnamon Curls heuchera, and while it's pretty, it hasn't grown any bigger than when I first planted it a year and a half ago. Maybe next year it will put out some growth or flowers? Sure looks nice here in the tapestry of the other foliage nearby. 
PW Cinnamon Curls heuchera
This PW is Sugar Shack buttonbush. It looks like the leaves will be putting on a show. But those same leaves are popular with leaf cutters of some kind, and I'm not sure how to fight that. If it's going to look like this all summer, what good is it? It gave me one "button" flower this year, but the plant itself has grown by leaps and bounds. I'm sure I'll see more blooms next year. The verdict remains out. 
PW Buttonbush Sugar Shack
PW Little Quickfire hydrangea is a real beauty. Last year it had two flower heads, this year there are many more. I love the way the flowers start out white, then fade to pink and then dark pink. I've dried a few blooms for the winter, but didn't want to leave the whole thing bare by cutting anymore. I'm hoping that it will have so many flowers next year that it can spare a few more for me. 
PW Little Quickfire hydrangea in July
PW Little Quickfire hydrangea in August
PW Little Quickfire hydrangea in October
I was honored to find out that I took home honorable mention in Gardening Gone Wild's recent End of Summer photo contest! Do you think I should tell them that I didn't even use an SLR for this shot? 
Let's all cross our fingers that frost stays away from my garden for a little longer, shall we? I just need a few more flowers to get me through winter. 
Perky pansy pot
Queen Red Lime zinnias with extra pink coloring
Queen Red Lime zinnias with extra muted coloring
Zinnias, verbena, sedum, gazing ball jumble
Rieger begonias