Previous month:
September 2012
Next month:
November 2012

October 2012

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner....Sandy

The lawn on Saturday
Sandy is supposed to track quite a bit south of my garden in western RI but I hope she sends enough breeze to remove the leaves from the lawn that accumulated since it was mowed on Saturday.
The lawn on Monday morning.
Many of the leaves were chopped and put in the gardens. There are many more to go. Perhaps hurricane Sandy, although uninvited, will bring all the leaves down at once. That could be a positive among so many negatives. Stay safe.

Dreaming of English Bluebells

Spring tulipsThe bulb catalogs are beguiling. Those luscious closeups of blooming bulbs are more enticing than any Halloween candy. Bulbs are 'crack' for gardeners. The bulb distributors know my name. Due to many past indulgences I am on their lists. It starts off so innocently with just a few bulbs but like anything which produces surprising satisfaction, the addiction grows. I say 'surprising' because it takes months for those preciously planted bulbs to produce color. That is long enough to forget that bulb planting is hard work. Bulb planting tools
I know I am not alone with this addiction. Carol of May Dreams has planted close to 1,500 bulbs. Elizabeth of Garden Rant and Gardening while Intoxicated forces hundreds of bulbs each year in addition to those beautiful tulips she plants. She has over 1,000 bulbs this year. I owe the martagon lilies in the garden to her. Gail, of Clay and Limestone, will be planting 1,000 'tommies' this fall. That is the affectionate name given to Crocus tommasinianus, a very tiny bulb which produces some of the first flowers of the season. I have Gail to thank for alerting me to the charms of this little crocus. /Crocus tommasinianusGarden friends are like that. They help feed this healthy addiction. Many more of my blogging friends are planting bulbs this fall. I have 900 bulbs to plant. They are, for the most part, the little bulbs. I started planting this year with the English bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta. I have seen pictures of  ancient English woods adrift with English bluebells. A swath of fragrant blue in the woodlands of grand estates. The English do know how to plant bulbs. I am not claiming to have a grand estate. There is no sign hanging at the end of the drive announcing 'Downton Abbey' or 'Dove Cottage'. Still, why didn't I start planting the bluebells years ago when life stretched endlessly in front of me? Pine woodsNow, I have just a few decades left in which to achieve a carpet of blue under the pines. One has to start somewhere. I will have to settle for blue throw rugs in the pine woods along the drive. Future blue carpetThat is if these little beauties decide to prosper here. How many bulbs have you ordered/planted this fall? 

Wooly Morning Glory

DSC_0016One of the most interesting annuals I planted in the garden this year was the wooly morning glory, Argyreia nervosa. Also called Hawaiian woodrose and elephant creeper this plant is native to India and while perennial there and in any similar tropical locale, it is very frost sensitive. My first frost occurred on October 13th of this year. This vine takes quite a while to get growing. It loves a warm, humid summer.Argyreia nervosaIt was the end of July before it reached for the rooster on the tutuer and then, in the heat of August, it grew inches every day. The leaves are large, the size of a ping pong paddle and the new growth is softly grey and textured. The sinuous vine searches for a structure to envelop and wraps itself with thick purpose climbing higher each day.  Argyreia nervosa is in the Convolvulaceae family which is the same as the morning glory, sweet potato and bindweed. There are over 1,000 species in this family.Wooly morning gloryThis vine flowers if grown in the tropics but here the season is just too short. It would also produce seed pods if it flowered. A. nervosaThe seeds contain a chemical compound, LSA, similar to LSD and with the same psychedelic/hallucinogenic effect. Perhaps just the act of growing inspires a similar effect as I swear that I saw Jack climbing this beanstalk-like vine on more than one occasion and friends have reported similar sightings. A heavy frost has reduced this vine to a sinister version of itself. Frost withered A. nervosaThe withered leaves are hanging as if ready for Halloween. I find it almost as striking in death as I did in its life. Argyreia n. - wooly morning gloryAny plant which has such large tropical foliage and which shows measurable growth each day is a welcome addition to my garden. What was the greatest conversation piece in your garden this past season? 

Gradual Gold

The back gardenThe usual slow pace of decline in the garden is fast forwarded when you are away from it for any length of time. Usually, October is brilliant but the autumn colors are less than dramatic here this year. Perhaps it is relative and I am unfairly comparing them to the brilliance of the trees in Maine which I saw the first of the month. The seasonal change in leaf color can spice up the garden as flowers wane.  The first heavy frost occurred just a week ago and morning temperatures are finally chilly.'Pink Sheffield'Having been away for a good part of the month, all that is left blooming is the very late 'Pink Sheffield' mums along with Eupatorium 'Chocolate' and a couple Knock out rose blooms. Eupatorium 'Chocolate'I do see some color on the delphinium in the upper garden but that is another story. The garden needs a good cleanup as the leaves fall and cover everything with their uniform brown. Most of the trees closely surrounding my garden are oaks while the outer perimeter is ringed with white pine. White pines are very shallow rooted and not a great choice when planted in close proximity to a garden. They are a softwood evergreen and the native white pine, Pinus strobus, is very large. Oaks are more desirable for my garden as they give great shade, are deeply rooted and can be pruned up for more light. They are, however, very stubborn about giving up their leaves. The leaves start to fall in October and they continue to drift to the ground right through the winter. The abscission layer of oak leaves is stubborn and fails to fully mature uniformly. Some leaves wait to fall until spring growth begins. They settle on the garden through the fall and winter like dust on the bookshelves requiring weekly attention if the garden is to look tidy. Not so the white pines. The white pine woods are cleaning themselves. DSC_0028A new layer of pine needles have been shed and they cover the ground with a uniform sprinkling of cinnamon. DSC_0030This soft layer of needles muffles the sounds of the wildlife and not so wild life. Plush as a Persian carpet, the woodland paths are inviting me in to take a walk.   

Transitions in the Garden

Miscanthus s. purpurescensIn the middle of summer the garden's transitions take place with grace and ease. There is so much in bloom at once one hardly notices when the flowers of the campanula fade giving way to the blowzy blossoms of the phlox. Not so in the fall. Every bloom could be the last on the annuals as frost threatens. The perennials are starting to hunker down for the winter. A scant two weeks can make all the difference in the garden in fall. We have had only the slightest of frosts so far but the foliage is turning and the grasses are fading. MiscanthusSome such as the Miscanthus sinensis purpurescens have traditional fall robes but these have faded to dry tan as the temperatures and light levels drop. There is a plus to the dried foliage of the large grasses. They do change voice from a whisper to a purr as the wind blows. The sounds of the season are as unique as the colors and the temperatures. 9-27The long sunny border was full of glorious asters in late September but as October progresses, the colors fade and the shapes of the plants take over. Long border in Oct.The bones of the garden are starting to show. It is time to crisp the edges of the borders with a new cut, clean out the fading foliage of those perennials which melt with the season and add a bit of compost to some areas of the garden. The leaf raking will come as should the tool cleaning but the large grasses will stand at least until a heavy snow brings them to their knees. There is nothing sadder to see than a large clump of one of the tall varieties of ornamental grass which has been cut off clean and level enough to spread out a tablecloth and have a meal on the remains. I understand that some prefer the neat appearance of the sheared grass and many landscape crews need to get the job done in the fall but silencing the grasses by chopping them off is, to me, on the 'Crimes against Nature' list. I say this with good humor. We all have our standards. What are yours concerning the grasses?