Monday, September 15, 2014

September GBBD: Blooms, Bees, and Butterflies

It's time for another Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, the monthly round-up of what is blooming in your garden.  A few days ago, I wasn't sure I'd have much of anything blooming today.  It has been cold here. After a couple of days of rain, the temperatures plummeted, never reaching higher than the 50's and dropping into the low 40's each night.  We never had a frost, thankfully, but I was beginning to worry. 

The sun has returned, and yesterday we may have reached 70 degrees again, making it a good day to walk around the garden and see what is in bloom.  I was surprised to see that the 'Little Business' daylily was reblooming, albeit a single, small bloom.

In the expanded section of the shade garden, turtleheads have been blooming for a week or more.  This is a new plant here, planted this spring when we thinned them out in the Nursing Home Garden where I volunteer.  One of the benefits of volunteering--free plants!

Another new bloom this month--the Japanese Anemone.  It has taken awhile to get going, but it made the "leap" this year and is finally tall enough to be really noticed.  I have a second small Japanese Anemone nearby in the Arbor Bed, which looks like it will soon bloom, too.  I'll be darned, though, if I can remember where I got it or when I planted it!
A few other blooms are carryovers from last month, like the 'Limelight' Hydrangea, one of my favorites of late summer.  I'm trying to prune this to more of a tree form, and one branch is complying by standing up straight and tall, seeming to reach for the sky.

The Brown-eyed Susans, Rudbeckia triloba, continue to put on a show.  I've noticed the goldfinches like these almost as much as the purple coneflowers.

Another favorite of mine and the hummingbirds, 'Wendy's Wish' is doing well despite the crowded conditions I planted both of them in.

Some of the containers are still looking good, while others are beginning to look a bit tired.  The pots of coleus in front of the house are approaching shrub proportions.  A few years ago I bought too many coleus and stuck them in a couple of pots by themselves when I didn't know what else to do with them.  They looked so good by fall that I've done the same thing every year since.  The burgundy coleus really stands out, especially among all the green shrubbery.

Many of the annuals are still putting out new blooms, like this white cosmos.

And, of course, the zinnias, including my favorite 'Zowie Yellow Flame,' which will keep going until the first frost.

Signs of fall are definitely evident in the garden.  The few ornamental grasses I have are beginning to shine, like this Panicum 'Shenandoah,' which glows in the sunlight.

Miscanthus 'Morning Light' is also showing off its plumes.

The berries of the Beautyberry are just beginning to turn purple.

Meanwhile the seedpods of Blackberry Lily have opened up, revealing how it got its name. 

The vegetable garden is nearly done now, too.  The squash bugs finally got to the cucumbers and squash, and the green beans are finished.  The tomato plants are still producing more than we can eat fresh, but the blight is slowly taking them over.  But the volunteer cosmos and some marigolds in the veggie patch are looking good and hiding the slow decay beyond them.

And the Butterfly Garden is a mass of color right now with all the goldenrod and asters. 
But best of all, this little area of natives is really living up to its name right now.  I hadn't seen a single Painted Lady all summer, but today they were swarming everywhere. 
In fact, as I was taking photos yesterday, I became so entranced by all the activity throughout this garden and other areas, that I started following the butterflies and bees around and forgot all about focusing on what was blooming.
A bumble enjoying the cosmos.

And a lady beetle enjoying a pink one.

A marigold in the veggie patch.
  I don't use any chemicals in my garden--which is why the squash bugs eventually ran rampant over the squash and cucumbers.  But we had more than enough squash and cucumbers already, and it's a small price to pay for all the happy bees in the garden.

A bumble too busy enjoying the zinnias to notice he's not presenting his best side for the camera:)

And one last promotion of the 'Zowie' zinnias, a butterfly and bee favorite.
 Who knows what the next Bloom Day will bring.  An early frost could very well bring an end to many of these blooms, and the butterflies will have surely left by then.  So I'm going to enjoy every beautiful moment in the garden I can until then.
Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is brought to you the 15th of each month by Carol of May Dreams Gardens. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Many Faces of Portland--Part I

Summer is definitely winding down, despite the blast of heat and humidity a week ago and again today.  Students are back into the routine of getting up early to board the school bus and spending the day in the classroom. It's safe once again to walk into a discount or big-box store where they have finally finished re-stocking their shelves after the onslaught of college students stocking up for a semester of dorm or apartment living.  Summer vacation is quickly becoming a faded memory.

My own mini-vacation to Oregon and the Portland Fling in July is still vivid in my mind, but the details are getting fuzzy.  Even though I semi-organized photos when I returned home, I look at some photos and can't remember, was this in the Ernst Garden or the Fuller garden?  Joy Creek Nursery or Cistus?  Before my memory gets any hazier, I want to share some of the highlights of this memorable trip and my apologies to our hosts for any mis-labeled captions.

Like any big city, Portland has many sides to its character, and the gardens we visited during the Fling represented the different faces it presents.

It is a Vibrant city:

Hydrangeas at either the Fuller or Ernst garden

What I will remember most about the gardens in Portland are the lush plants and huge blooms.  One of the local bloggers told me they have a saying that if a plant usually grows to 3 feet tall, it will grow to 6 feet in Portland.  After seeing so many gardens in Portland, I believe it!

Hydrangea at Cistus Nursery
Not only were hydrangeas covered in blooms, but those blooms were huge.

Bloom at Joy Creek Nursery--I wish I could get my hydrangeas to turn blue instead of pink.

And Blue!

Crocosmia at Cistus Nursery
Crocosmia has to be a signature plant of Oregon as I also saw them in many home gardens when my daughter and I visited some coastal towns in Oregon.  I've never seen any this big before.

Begonias in a container planting at the Fuller garden.
Look at the size of these begonias compared to my hand!

Portland also has its Serene and Tranquil side:

We visited one of my favorite places in the whole city on Day 2 of the Fling--the Portland Japanese Garden.

Despite the heat, shady areas, shimmering pools and waterfalls, and mossy stones helped to make us feel cool.

I've visited this garden on previous visits to Portland--you can learn more about it here, if you wish.

More Asian inspiration at the Lan Su Chinese Garden, one of our first stops on Day 1.

I had also visited this garden once before--more on the differences between a Japanese garden and a Chinese garden can be found in an earlier post here.
Serenity could be found in smaller spaces as well--here a scene from the Fuller garden.
The Playful side of Portland:
Orange Buddha at JJ De Sousa's garden

Entrance gate to JJ's garden--hmm, I wonder if she has trouble with rabbits:)
 Blogger Gerhard demonstrates the size of JJ's hostas.
I missed taking a photo of one of the best examples of playfulness--a scantily clad mannequin at Floramagoria.  Check out other Flingers' posts or the Facebook page for this one.
Portland is also a Colorful city:

Garden shed at Chickadee Gardens.

Koi at Japanese Garden

 Octopus? planter at JJ's--can you tell orange is her favorite color?
A colorful nook in the garden of artist Linda Ernst--
I love the way the art echoes the colors of the plants.
 Masses of blooms, foliage, and art create a beautiful display at Floramagoria.  
The Creative side of Portland:
Glass art in the garden of Joanne Fuller
 really stand out in all the green foliage.
Sculpture at the entrance to Westwind

A screen of metal spirals in either the Ernst or Fuller gardens serves as both trellis and eye-catching art.  I should explain these two gardeners were next door neighbors, and one garden led into the other, which is why I can't remember the exact location of couple of these photos.

Even the gravel path leading from the front to the back garden of Joanne Fuller held some interesting objets d'art. 
Next door, the creations of glass artist Linda Ernst blended in with the colorful blooms of the garden.
If you look closely, you'll see these glass blocks were made with leaf impressions.
At Floramagoria unusual pieces of garden art strategically placed here and there catch the eye amidst the interesting plant combinations.
I fell in love with Portland the first time I visited it five years ago, and I was thrilled to have the chance to visit it once again during this year's Fling.  Many thanks to our hard-working and super-organized hosts who gave us the opportunity to visit such a variety of gardens.  There are so many faces of Portland that I can't cover it all in one post, so stay tuned for Part II--which, at the rate I'm going, may not get posted for another month:)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

August Wildflower Wednesday--Weed or Wildflower?

Most gardeners are familiar with the old saying "A weed is just a flower in the wrong place." 
And I daresay most of us would nod our heads in agreement but have to add "Some plants really are just weeds!"   I know that I will never have anything nice to say about the weedy grasses and Creeping Charlie that I am constantly pulling out of my garden.  Every gardener has her own weedy nemesis.  But there are some plants that really could be called a weed in one garden and a wildflower in another, depending on the situation and the personal preference of the gardener.  Let's look at a few that have appeared in my garden this summer.

About a month ago, my friend and I were walking around the arbor bed when we noticed these small yellow blooms on a very tall plant.  Now you have to understand that the back of the arbor bed is where I often plant something until I can find a better place for it.  It's also the place where I scatter a lot of seeds in the spring, so when I see a mystery plant, I usually leave it alone until I can identify it.

Something about these blooms reminded me of evening primrose, though I was thinking of the small plants that grow under a foot tall.  Mine was huge!  But when I did a little research, sure enough, it was a primrose--Oenothera biennis, Common Evening Primrose, which can grow to 7 feet tall.

Yellow flowers, which are actually quite attractive though small, appear on the top of the plant and are open from evening till morning, though they may remain open on cloudy days.  The blooms have a mild lemony scent and are attractive to moths, especially sphinx moths;  hummingbirds; and various types of bees and beetles. The seeds are eaten by goldfinches. 

Despite the attraction to different insects and wildlife and the cute little flowers, Oenothera biennis still looks like a weed to me.  As I read on, I found that it has a "fleshy taproot" and its "seeds can remain viable in the soil after 70 years."  That clinched its fate--I promptly removed it from my garden!

Another mystery plant appeared in the Lily Bed early in the summer.  Usually any volunteer in this area that I don't recognize turns out to be a weed.  But the small pink blooms that eventually opened looked promising so that I hoped this might be some unusual wildflower that the birds had kindly planted for me, as they did a few years ago with some Rudbeckia. 

I had no luck in finding it in my wildflower book or searching blindly through websites.  But one day while visiting my parents, I spied the same plant growing near their house.  I was so excited to find it and asked my dad if he knew what it was.  Sure enough, Dad, a farmer for all of his 89 years, immediately dismissed it with, "That's a Wild Four O'clock; it's a weed and will take over if you let it!"

Like other Four O'Clocks, the blooms open in late afternoon and stay open in the evening, closing in the morning.  The blooms didn't seem to last long on my wild plant.

When I checked this one out, it was listed on my go-to-source,, but it was also listed on many other sites as an invasive weed.  According to Illinois Wildflowers, Mirabilis nyctaginea is visited by long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, moths, and possibly hummingbirds.  But again those warning phrases: "A long taproot" and "reseeds."  This time I decided Father knows best and ripped it out.

This weedy wildflower pops up in different places every year, but it's one I easily recognize now.   Ever since I found a huge specimen of  Phytolacca Americana, better known as Pokeweed, behind our barn several years ago, I have had a few volunteers in the garden every year.  I usually cut them down or try to dig them out (again that taproot, so it's not easy), but I left this one just for this post.  They're really rather attractive plants--if you have the right place for them--especially late in the season when the stems turn reddish-purple and dark purple berries appear.  I've written about Pokeweed before, so if you would like to see the mature berries, you can check them out here.  Despite the fact the berries are popular with songbirds, these are not going to have the chance to mature--I have enough thugs in my garden without encouraging any more.

Speaking of thugs, here is a plant I purposely planted--Physostegia virginiana.  Anyone who has ever planted Obedient Plant knows that it is anything but. Although I would never call this native a "weed,"  I have a love-hate relationship with it.
 I love the white or pink blooms in the fall when so much in my garden is fading away. But it is an aggressive re-seeder.  Fortunately, the seedlings are easily recognizable, and I usually pull out many of them in the spring before they crowd out other natives in my Butterfly Garden.  This one stays--but not all its progeny.

And finally, a new wildflower/native this year that I am truly excited about!  I noticed these yellow blooms from a distance last week and thought at first they were more yellow coneflowers.  But closer inspection revealed something different altogether.  The blooms looked so familiar to me, but I wasn't sure until I looked through my wildflower book.  These are Sneezeweed, possibly Helenium autumnale.

It looks like some critters are already enjoying these tasty blooms.
Like the yellow coneflowers I featured in my last Wildflower Wednesday post, these were purchased last year at a prairie plant sale, but didn't bloom until this year.  Either they needed two years of growth to bloom, or the wet conditions this summer were ideal for them.  The native Sneezeweeds are attractive to all kinds of bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, and beetles and provide nectar for them in the autumn. While they are not as showy as the Helenium hybrids I've always meant to plant, I do love these perky yellow blooms that fit in nicely with the yellow coneflowers and Rudbeckias. 
These are definitely a keeper!
Wildflower Wednesday is hosted the fourth Wednesday of every month by Gail of Clay and Limestone.  Thanks, Gail, for always helping me to learn something new about native plants!