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October 2008

Observations!

High 44 F
Low  30 F
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Another chilly day here today.  A walk in the garden  resulted in a few snapshots of some bright foliage remaining.  I know many bloggers received their first snowfall and I feel lucky that we escaped the white covering.  I am just not ready.  The furniture needs to be put away and the bulbs...a post for another day, have all arrived and are ready for planting.  In the meantime, the Heptacodium miconioides or Seven-Son Flower is sporting red.  I have limbed this up a bit high so that I can enjoy the exfoliating bark but the sepals have their red colorationDSC_0003 and are still visible and interesting in spite of being sky high.  The other plant in the garden which is sporting crimson is the Vaccinium corymbosum. DSC_0030 While these are supposed to be highbush blueberries, they are not very high.  I planted them at least ten years ago and they are stunted and small but the color is nice and they aren't taking up too much room.  One of my many plant failures!  This year they are beautiful shades of red, pink and yellow. The fall coloration of the highbush blueberry makes it a good  substitute planting for the Euonymus alatus or burning bush which has been widely planted here and is now considered an invasive species. DSC_0032 This plant is native to Northeastern Asia and central China and was introduced to this country in 1860.  It is adaptable to a wide range of soil types and will tolerate sun or shade.  I have never seen any seedlings from the three plants in my garden but they were given to me by a friend who dug up the seedlings from her garden  .  It is perhaps the  brightest red plant in the northeastern landscape in the fall.  The density and shear number of the leaves make it a focal point in the landscape and while it is no longer in favor, it is still beautiful.  A scary beauty, just in time for Halloween.


The maples....eye candy!

High 47 F
Low  45 L
Rain--yes
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Well, the rain gauge is not working but it has rained and the rain did, in fact, interrupt the morning walk.  It has been dark, dreary and chilly all day but as I look out the window, the  Acer japonicum aconitifolium is a beacon in the garden and the one bright spotDSC_0005 in the garden on this grey day.  This tree never fails to color up and at a time when many of the native trees have lost their leaves.  Here is a picture of the whole treeDsc_0011 (2) which is still small. It was given to me by a friend when it was just a few inches high. I always think of him when this tree puts on its' pumpkin color.  Since this tree pulled me out into the garden on such a nasty day, I decided to take pictures of the other Japanese maples I have collected.  It is not a large group but they are all pretty colorful at this time of year.  This is the foliage DSC_0008 on the Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum'.  It has a pretty red stem and most of the leaves have dropped at this point.  This next tree is Acer palmatum 'Omurayama'.  DSC_0010 The leaves are a delicate pale yellow.  DSC_0009 It is starting to put on some size and should reach fifteen feet tall someday.  This next Acer is A. palmatum 'Osakasuki'. Dsc_0012 (2) Gee, it is interesting to note that I actually wrote down these names when I planted these in 1999.  This one is very slow growing and only three feet tall. DSC_0013 I guess it probably doesn't like this spot.  I will have to keep a closer eye on this one.  I have some of the dissectums, both red DSC_0017 andDsc_0022 (2) green. DSC_0019 They add so much texture to the garden it would be hard to live without them.  I almost forgot about the Acer griseum.DSC_0033   This tree is not thriving either but it is alive and about eight feet tall.DSC_0035   Perhaps it needs more sun but the foliage is bright and the bark is cinnamon, peeling, and wonderful.  There is always something that shines in the garden, even on a nasty day.  It just takes getting outside to find it.   What is shining in your garden today?


Check out other fall colors over at Dave's Home Garden at http://thehomegarden.blogspot.com/2008/09/garden-blogger-fall-color-project.html

Most of you know that my fall colors are in Foster, Rhode Island. 



Not just a frost.....

High 63 F
Low  48 F
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Thursday marked the day not only of the first frost, but the first freeze.  25 F is more than a frost.  Finally the impatiens have surrendered their plump cellsDSC_0061 to wrap their limp arms around the container.  The dahliasDSC_0021 can finally be put to bed in a blanket of peat moss for their winter hibernation and if I remember where I put them (in the box, in the cooler, in the barn) they will be resurrected next spring.  Athena looks a bit sadDSC_0031 to see the season end but she is sporting perennial sedums and will rest inside for the winter.  Frost crystals are beautiful and ephemeral. DSC_0007 Each plant has a  different textile pattern. DSC_0025 Some flowers are doomed once the crystals form DSC_0028 but others such as this DSC_0024 calibrachoa, bounce right back. DSC_0043 This squirrel has a weeping larch coat DSC_0033 to keep the frost off his back as the sepia tones of autumn DSC_0017 march on toward the black and white landscape of winter.  Is it time to put the Christmas lights up yet?


Fall shots!

High 59 F
Low  32F

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Time is short this evening but there are a few worthwhile fall shots to share which were taken this weekend.  If you have ever had the opportunity to stand underneath a tree with the fall coloration of that above, you will know how it feels to be enveloped and saturated in the burnished glow of fall.  You must also remember or imagine the scent of fall which is rich, earthy, mushroomy and a bit tangy.  If you have not yet had the experience add it to the 'to do' list.  The colors this year are fairly bright in spite of a a good amount of rain as fall approached.  The best colors are supposed to develop when it is cool, clear and dry.  This maple is sitting at the edge of the back field.DSC_0029   I don't have too many maples here at Ledge and Gardens.The woods and native trees are mostly oaks which don't color up very much and white pines.  The sky of autumn is so often clear blue  without that summer haze dimming the colors.  DSC_0051 There is comfort in just the browns and yellows of fall. DSC_0057 I love the look of the fading ferns of fall.  The perception of fall is so very different in other parts of the country.  What signals fall in your region?


Vegetable Garden clean up

High 48 F
Low  37 F
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The temperatures have turned remarkably colder with still no frost settling on the ground.  I confess, I am tired of looking at the impatiens which in the summer provided cheery color.  I did plant orange so at least they are blending with the fall colors but they look oddly out of place.  The oak leaves seem to be dropping at a record pace.  The oaks, white, red and pin, usually retain many of their leaves until the new buds push out in the spring.  I seem to remember from a long ago botany class something about abscission  layers* forming more thoroughly at the base of the leaves of deciduous plants when frost is delayed causing more leaf drop on those varieties which tend to hold their leaves through the winter.  I have no time to thoroughly research this tidbit but the leaves are falling.  
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This weekend the vegetable garden begged for a clean up. The tomato plants have stopped producing and the vines have withered.  The  tomato cages were a big help this year as was the straw mulch which reduced the weeds and the need for constant hoeing although that is a rather gratifying task.  The marigolds have yet to be frosted but since their demise is imminent and the garden needed lime and compost most of them had to go. DSC_0046 The Christmas beans on the tower did not develop and, in fact, only three seeds germinated.  I was hoping to get a handful or two but this is a long season crop and there is just not enough time here for them to develop properly.  I will try a different type next year, maybe soldier beans.  I had much less of a problem with pests this year.  I added calendula and marigolds as companion plantings which are supposed to attract beneficial predators and I think they did their job.  Squash bugs do remain a problem but I am determined to find a good, organic solution and starting with a thorough cleanup of plant debris can only help.  The parsley is still growing strong and the arugula and swiss chard will be put in the cold frame next weekend.  I have a feeling that once it turns cold here, it will stay  cold.  The basil looked ragged but the fragrance remained and when I pulled the still green but leafless stalks from the garden for a ride to the compost pile summer returned for an instant.  I mentioned in a previous post how many worms I have in the compost. DSC_0059 When you think of worms, the word 'fast' does not come immediately to mind as a description of their activity but these worms are frenzied and remarkably fast.  Each shovel of compost reveals a good amount of worms who, immediately upon their exposure to light, wiggle and dive back into the depths of the pile.  DSC_0048 Cleaned out and ready for next year, the veggie garden has served us well this summer.  The white plastic visible in the picture is a row tunnel which I will pull over the parsley to extend its' season.  The beleaguered corn patch, which ended up producing a couple dozen butternut squash, some pumpkins and embraced the extra tomato plants, was tilled and planted with winter rye. DSC_0050 The GFSD in  the background shows to good effect at this time of year and through the winter.  I have ordered more bulbs to continue the 'river' and the pick ax is sharpened and ready for digging.  Another busy weekend comes to a close with a few more garden tasks accomplished.   I still have the scent of marigolds tickling the memories of past seasons' garden cleanup. Dsc_0047 (2) I love the smell of marigolds,  Pungent, clear and reminding me of Dad and his garden which was never without marigolds.  Why did I wait so long to add them to ours?

* This from The U. S. National  Arboretum website:

Abscission Layere

an area at the base of a leaf stalk, fruit stalk, or a branch in which a layer of loose cells that are poorly attached to each other develops; the abscission layer causes a leaf, fruit, flower, or other plant part to fall away from a plant


Bloom Day - October 15, 2008

High 68 F
Low  51 F

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Just when you start to believe that you have nature figured out, she surprises you.  It is unusual to reach this date with no frost at Ledge and Gardens.  Usually, frost occurs by the middle of September.  Last bloom day I mentioned that it would probably be my last for the year and now I find that there is an abundance of bloom.  Not vigorous bloom, except for the above dahlias, but abundance.  I am enjoying the last bloom days of autumn.  Here goes...


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Here is a long shot of the border in its' fall decline.DSC_0038

As always, thanks go out to Carol from May Dreams for hosting yet another, and sure to be but don't hold me to it, Bloom Day. 



The Fish Pond-new bed!

High 70 F
Low  49 F

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Rhode Island is one of those states which celebrates Columbus Day and since I worked Saturday I decided to take the day off and prepare the proposed bed by the fish pond.  Thanks for all the suggestions concerning this bed.  I will add plantings in the spring but I wanted to get the bed prepared and plant the existing plants before the very cold weather. DSC_0050 I got out all the tools and started with an edge.  The ground is damp and pulling out the first layer of sod was easy but the task of removing all the sod looked daunting so I decided to try 'lasagna gardening'.  It wasn't easy to convince myself to leave the sod.  It just feels wrong! I did it anyway.  What is life without a few experiments?   The cardboard and paper were laid out in the area and the water hyacinths, which have not yet succumbed to frost, went on top to wet everything down.DSC_0052   Then, ten to twelve wheelbarrows of compost went on top of the paper.  I did dig the holes for the plants first with the exception of the Heuchera.  That one went in after the pictures.  Tucker was not impressed with all this back and forth activity but he dutifully performed as  'Job  Foreman'.  Many times I have planted three shrubs only to find that the middle one is not centered so today, Mom and Hopie, who stopped in to bring more newspaper, sat on the bench directing.  DSC_0053 I put the two end hollies in first and then centered the third in the middle.  The compost had some huge worms which I should have taken a picture of but I was so dirty that the camera would have suffered but, they are worth noting.  After all the compost was placed on top of the first layer and the plants were in place I added a layer of pine bark mulch.  DSC_0059 The mulch should keep the compost from running into the pond.  I have plenty of room for those plants many of you have suggested and also a whole winter season to think about them.  The amsonia does look a bit lost but I am on the hunt for a few more.  It may have to wait for spring.  I did tuck some bulbs in this bed berfore putting on the compost and mulch.DSC_0060   Not a river of bulbs, just a few grape hyacinths and some daffodils.  DSC_0063 I am well pleased with the new bed and pretty weary after a good five hours of heavy gardening.  Is there anything as satisfying as a newly prepared bed?  


That's a big one!

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Steve Connelly's pumpkin
Giant pumpkin growing is big competition in the Massachusetts and Rhode Island states.  There are two major weigh offs of these behemoths.  One takes place at the Topsfield Fair in Topsfield, MA which takes place between October 3 through the 14th.  The other is at Freirich Farm in Warren, RI and that is scheduled for the 11th of October. DSC_0019 The record breaking weight from 2007 was over 1600 lbs.  Steve Connelly grew this pumpkin which he estimates weighs in excess of the current record breaker.  A new record is worth $10,000.00 to the winner.   I visited Steve last week to take a look at his pumpkin and discuss pumpkin growing.  He started with five plants and last week he lost the fourth one to rot.DSC_0030   This is what that one looked like a few days after its' demise looking very much like the aftermath of a binge drinking episode.  It did smell disgusting. There is just this one left.  DSC_0021 All the eggs are in one basket so to speak.   The vines are struggling with powdery mildew and low light levels in addition to the cooler temperatures of fall. A tape measure stretched around the top to bottom axis measured 198.4 inches as of last week and Steve said it was still putting on about 11 lbs. per day.  Steve pulls a remay covering over this last pumpkin at night and the tarp in the top picture is there to keep the pumpkin from cracking.  He does use a fungicide through the season to keep the powdery mildew at bay but surprisingly, he uses mostly organic fertilizers such as bone meal, molasses, fish solution and calcium.  The main stem is protected with this little coverDSC_0026 to  provide a bit of protection.  Pumpkin root It is a gnarly looking stem isn't it?   Steve was very generous with his techniques and time but of a very curious note to me, was that  there was no other garden in sight.  There is just the big pumpkin patch with the vine woven back and forth around and through the perimeter of the garden.  Giant pumpkin growers invest their energy in one crop.  Perhaps it is too exhausting to diversify.Giant pumpkin with Steve Connelly  Curious isn't it?  If anyone wants more information about the process of pumpkin growing and this local pumpkin scene, Susan Warren's book, Backyard Giants, is a great read.

Addendum:  The pumpkin weighed in at 1568 lbs. but it had a bit of rot on it and was disqualified.  It was the largest pumpkin grown in the world this year and the fourth largest ever grown.



How do you handle the spaces?

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Above is a picture of the proposed garden bed to enclose the fish pond.  I have three Ilex x meserveae 'Berryific' which are  really two plants, the male 'Blue Prince' and the female 'Blue Princess' combined in one container to ensure berries.  That the male has a faster growth rate and is more pyramidal than the female should produce interesting results.  I think I will have to prune the male to keep it from looking leggy next to the female.  The x denotes that this is an interspecific cross between two species and in this case the species are I.rugosa which is very hardy (zone 3) but not too attractive and I. aquifolium which is great looking but not too hardy(zone 7).  The crosses were made by Mrs. F. Leighton Meserve of St. James, New York and she subsequently selected the best seedlings out of the group resulting in these plants which have  a hardiness rating of Zone 5.  This plant can grow ten feet wide  by twelve feet high which will provide a good screen for the garden bench and enclose this area for privacy.  It may take ten years though and rather than plant these too close together, I am giving them ample room for growth.  Unfortunately, this results in the initially sparse look of the planting bed.  I was thinking of adding some temporary structures, such as this,DSC_0012 between the hollies and putting annual vines on them, or, I could put in a grouping of grasses to provide screening until the hollies fill in. I am open to suggestions.  I will be putting other perennials in the bed in front of the hollies.  The Amsonia may move into this bed but maybe not.  Also, what plant would you put right at the edge of the pond behind the stones?  I am thinking of prostrate junipers but, again, am open to other ideas.  If you feel inclined to share your thoughts and ideas,  I would appreciate and entertain all suggestions.