The Natural Garden Coach

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Before the freeze


With a light freeze predicted for last night, I knew better than to hope for the best when it comes to basil. So I picked what little I had left as well as some of the Sun Golds. With the Sun Gold tomatoes I was hoping for the best, as there were still a lot of good but green fruits hanging on. I think maybe the tomatoes made it through the freeze okay but the basil was definitely hit. We have a similar weather prediction for tonight so once again, I've got my fingers crossed for those tomatoes. (Last year I picked them green before a freeze but they just weren't the same when they finally ripened.)

I've got to admit, I'm sorry to see the last of the summer produce go.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another horticultural weekend

This past weekend I joined my hubby on one of his business trips (one of the "perks" of being unemployed). We went to St. Louis and my big plan was to go to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Inclement weather at first had me a bit worried about my plans so I put off going to the garden. But Saturday dawned clear and brisk so off I went. This botanical garden has been around for a very long time, initially being a country home and acreage of Henry Shaw back in the mid-1800's. Shaw was definitely into all things horticultural and eventually left his estate to the city. It was really an interesting place.



As you enter, to the left is a fenced in rose garden. Notice the arch in the background. It's topped with glass artwork by Dale Chihuly. I've always loved his work and have seen more and more of it in public gardens where I think it fits perfectly. The rose garden was full of mostly shrub roses and it looked like it was putting on its last show for the season.



And speaking of seasons, fall was definitely starting to show in St. Louis. This is a sassafras tree near the Victorian District (so named because Henry Shaw's home is located in this area).



There was a really large Japanese Garden as well. Or at least the lake it surrounded was large. Here you can see a bridge and some of the fall colors.



This little fountain was found near a quiet hard-to-get-to tea house. I found its simplicity beautiful.


The Missouri Botanical Garden is also home to the world's first geodesic dome. They house their tropical collection there (they call it an "indoor tropical rain forest"). It was probably one of the more interesting tropical greenhouses I've been in, with loads of different plants, water, birds, and of course, art work.
The art work was really cleverly placed. This piece, "Pouf serpent jaune" is by Niki de Saint Phalle.

And this is another piece by Dale Chihuly. It's called "Sunset Herons". I love the way it rises out of the pond, like a being from the swamp.

Alas, my time was too short there. I didn't have time to visit some of the plant collections, like the scented garden, nor spend any quality time in the Center for Home Gardening. If you're in the area, you should definitely make enough time for this great botanical garden.

In a few days I'm off to Austin. I wonder if I'll have yet another horticultural weekend? I'll be busy visiting friends and the Texas Book Festival but if I'm lucky, maybe I'll make it to Barton Springs Nursery and/or Gardens. Oh, and Boggy Creek Farm too!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Horticultural weekend

This past weekend I went with a friend to Hot Springs, Arkansas for a gardening symposium put on by Horticulture magazine. The weather was spectacular - cool, crisp, and clear. Of course the unfortunate thing was that we were all inside a hotel for much of the day for the symposium! Still, at the end of the day we all journeyed forth to Garvan Woodlands, a shady botanical garden just outside Hot Springs. For much of our walk through the garden there was an Asian theme, as you can see in this "moon" bridge.

One of my favorite things there were the rocks. They're really beautiful and interestingly, very much like the rocks that I've had to buy to add some dimension to my own garden. I believe the rocks I bought are from Arkansas since our area of the state has none (maybe all of Louisiana has none??).

It was starting to get dark outside when we found this little jewel. Unfortunately I can't remember the name of it. Something about a pipe??


At the end of the tour we saw this spectactular wood and glass framed chapel. There was just enough light to still see the trees outside.


The next day my friend and I took a scenic drive into Hot Springs National Park. Here you can see the mixed hardwoods on North Mountain as well as the view of some smoky mountains in the distance. I can't wait to go back to Hot Springs again to take some time for hiking.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blooms Day October 2008


It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and what's blooming in my garden? Well, let's see. It's October in the South so that means... roses of course! The rose at the top is the floppy-headed 'Janet', a David Austin rose. I've got a recent post about this one.


Next comes "Veteran's Honor", one of the few hybrid teas that I've ever grown. I like the wonderful fragrance and long stems but like most hybrid teas I've come across, it's a rather weak plant.


Now one of my favorite little roses, "Marie Pavie". Very fragrant, beautiful little buds, and almost always blooming. It tends to suffer from blackspot occasionally but it keeps on going. For years I had it in a large clay pot in Austin because we had terrible soil. When I moved here I was excited to finally give it a home in the ground. Well guess what? It didn't like it! And since I had to move it anyway when we put the new beds in, I decided to put it back where it was happiest, in a clay pot. And it's stayed there and thrived.


There's a few other things blooming as well. Below is a little burgundy and gold combo that I didn't really plan. It's Salvia Van Houtii ‘Burgundy’ in the background, Purple Petra basil in the foreground, and the gold coming up in between is Mexican Mint Marigold, otherwise known as Tagetes lucida. This plant is a good southern substitute for tarragon, which tends to melt here.


My "wild Italian arugula" is blooming and attracting all kinds of bee activity. That means I should have seed pods soon, which will disperse and pop up little arugula plants here and there. By the way, if you're a fan of arugula, you MUST try and find this kind. It's really delicious and totally unlike the rather boring arugula you find in the grocery stores.

The potted pelargoniums are still blooming away as are the mums (that I didn't grow but instead bought at the feed and garden store). Alyssum is making a comeback and the A.J. sedum is still strong. And I'm still getting lots of little 'Sun Gold' tomatoes, yippee!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

New for fall


Fall is the time of year most Southern gardeners yearn for (check out any Southern gardener's Blotanical Favorites for confirmation of that). Just like Northern gardeners who yearn for Spring because of the many barren winter months, we yearn for fall to get relief from the burdensome summer heat (which starts in "spring" of course!). Fall is a great time for planting here. Roots can start to plump out and the plant won't have to endure heat (though sometimes lack of rain can be a problem). We get the last hurrah of the roses and other flowers, like the sasanqua, are starting to come into their time of glory. So normally I start a new season of planting at this time. However, this time it's mainly my friends who have done that. That's because most of my effort so far has been in giving them my seedlings and other plants that need dividing. So they're busy planting everything I've managed to give away - good for them and good for our town! I love passing along plants.

I have managed to plant one new thing - the lovely hydrangea at the top of this post. It's "Mini Penny Hydrangea" (H. macrophylla). I usually prefer the lacecap hydrangeas to the mopheads like this. But we don't get a lot of variety at the nurseries in my small town this time of year. And since I really wanted a hydrangea for this one spot, I chose this one. What I'm excited about is that it's relatively compact, growing to just 3 to 4 feet high and wide. We'll see!
I also snagged a buddleia for me because of my never ending quest for more butterflies. It's supposed to be a Nanho Purple Butterfly Bush but I think it was mislabeled (it came from a big box store, what can you expect). The other reason I bought it is because it is a standard and I don't have a lot of room for how big these normally get. I had planned to plant it in front of the rock wall but I think I like it better there when it's in a pot. It clears the top of the wall instead of competing with it. So it's temporarily sitting there, waiting for a decision from the head gardener (me, of course).
Also new for fall is this lovely fungi. They're growing all over the back on rotting stumps. It's interesting because I normally associate mushrooms with rain but we haven't had any rain since the hurricanes. Pretty, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

For the birds


As many of you do, I provide multiple feeding stations and premium bird seed for the winged critters around here. It's delightful to sit on the deck after a long day and just watch the activity at the feeders. This past year we've had a population explosion of Northern Cardinals. They're always a treat to watch although I worry sometimes that their attractive color may be a little too attractive to the neighborhood cats. (But maybe the fact that we've rid the neighborhood of some of the unneutered male cats accounts for that population explosion.)

So about a week ago as I was enjoying the bird scene, I started noticing how the cardinals would fly down to my bench and then hop over to the table in front of it. There was some type of activity there but the tomato plant was blocking my view of what it was. So I grabbed my binoculars and moved over a bit and what did I see? A bit of a feeding orgy on my little potted sedum. Each bird would pull off one of the leaves and eat it right there or on the bench. You can see in this picture how the leaves have been stripped off. I took this pic a week ago and you should see the plant now - it's almost completely stripped!

Which has got me to thinking about a couple of things. First, what do they like about that plant? Is it like a fruit to them? And secondly, why do I let them do that? If it were the squirrels doing that you can bet I would scold the squirrels and move the plant out of harm's way. But I'm a sucker for the birds.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Looking on the bright side of things


I've been doing a lot of fall cleanup lately. As I intricately unravel the bearded iris roots and rather mindlessly whack at the old 'Goldsturm' blooms, I continue to be amazed at the fact that I am doing this during the day on a weekday. That is, I'm not having to cram all this work into two days on the weekend. And thus I'm not suffering the consequences of a strained back.

Why should this be so amazing? Because for decades that's exactly what I've had to do as part of mainstream working America. Now I'm unemployed, unceremoniously laid off along with my whole department so the big corporation I worked for could send our jobs overseas. And as I slowly work in my garden I think of all the other people in our country who are unemployed and don't really want to be. And I think of those who are struggling with their crazy mortgages. And I also think of the panic that our government and financial institutions are in.

But... I am also thinking about how grateful I am for this break in my work routine. How I'm lucky to be out enjoying the cool weather. How I'm doing what I love in the garden. How I'm not starving yet and probably won't ever be. These difficult times will pass and we'll survive. We have no choice.

Now back to gardening. I've read that some people leave their old Black-eyed Susan blooms in the garden for the birds to eat. That certainly seemed like the sensible and correct thing to me so I tried just that when I first planted these. Little did I know that probably Louisiana is not the place to do this. I've had a slew of baby plants popping up all over my garden. Everywhere! They'll hide under plants, in almost complete shade, until fall or winter comes and the plant that was shading it dies. Then it takes off. So I try to clean up the blooms as you can see here. However, I still think I was too late in the game. I may have just spread a whole new crop of the buggers by waiting until all of them bloomed. Oh well. I guess I need to continue to look on the bright side - at least I have the time to take care of this now.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fall light

I love the light in the fall. It promises surrender. It gives respite from the summer heat. It intensifies some colors, most especially the blue sky. When I lived in Austin I used to start looking for that subtle change in the sun's slant by mid to late August. If I could just see that, then I knew I had almost survived another summer.
My yoga instructor was talking about fall being a time of change and unbalance. Maybe. But I see the animals in my garden working more industriously than ever, as with a definite purpose. The hummingbirds are busy with the salvia and their feeder. The other birds are everywhere, visiting my garden and poking around for things. A Common Yellowthroat graced me with his presence yesterday. Not very common looking to me.

The bees are still at it as well. And the garden. Well parts of the garden are tired. The Sun Gold tomatoes and the basil are tired. But the grasses, ah, the grasses. I need to plan for more room for grasses. You can't beat a rising or setting sun shining on and through ornamental grasses.