Articles for the Month of October 2010

Fall Crocus & More Birds

Crocus speciosus 'Oxonian'

This year I looked for the Fall Crocus that I planted last year and saw nothing as I was considering where to put the ones I bought for this season.  I decided that putting them in the lawn as I did last year was a dumb idea.  So this year’s batch I put next to some very big trees hoping that I would thus avoid mowing them down at a critical juncture in their growth.  It turned out I was just a little early in anticipating when they should appear.  They started flowering about 10 days ago and have been popping up ever since.  Nonetheless I think that my thoughts about where to put them in future is probably still a good idea.

I didn’t plant Fall Crocus for years because I associated them with Colchicum which I always found a bit to extravagant and floppy for my taste.  It turns out that the Fall Crocus are very much like the Spring Crocus and crocus are delightful to come upon in either season.

Crocus cartwrightianus 'Albus'

Instead of my usual birdwatching at the back of the garden I took an early morning into the woods a few days ago and discovered the Eastern Towhee hopping about on the forest floor.  All year long I wondered where the Towhee was and hadn’t seen any.  I know that they enjoy prospecting about in the brush for insects, fruit and seeds so one is not likely to see them in the trees.  But I have seen them come into our yard in the past.  Their markings are so striking that they are instantly identifiable as distinct from other species.  This is testimony to varying one’s habits and seeing what new things arise.

Eastern Towhee

A completely new species for me that showed up last week is another of the little birds that you might miss entirely if you didn’t look with binoculars or zoom lens in the trees.  The Golden Crowned Kinglet is one of the smallest native birds.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

I’ve seen them repeatedly now, both singly and in groups, in the woods and in the orchard, but I have yet to get a real bell-ringer of a photo.  They are constantly on the move and they are so small that it’s a challenge to get locked in on them.  I did see the Ruby-crowned Kinglet on one day but again no really great photo.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers hung around for about a week and on one day I had about three of them checking out our Mulberry tree.  Here was the best picture I got of one of the females.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker female

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for October 2010

Anemone hybrida 'Whirlwind' (Japanese Anemone)

I missed last month’s bloom day posting in part because of the pathetic state of the garden after of summer of drought.  At least this month there are some flowers worth sharing for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  The above white Japanese Anemone has just started to flower.  We’ve had the pink flowered ‘September Charm’ for many years but I was struck by the white flowers that my children have in Boston — so we’re very pleased to see these appearing.

Another flower influenced by our northern branch is the Toad Lily.

Tricyrtis 'Tapei Silk' (Toad lily)

I must admit I didn’t fully appreciate these when I first saw them.  They take a fair part of the season to get going but by this time of year they are terrific.  They are really appreciated best when you look at the flower detail.  This particular variety is quite aggressive and seems to have handled the drought just fine.

Toad Lilies in abundance

Maybe the theme this month should be flowers that we’ve imported from the kids in Boston.

Aster Tataricus

We have the Tatarian Aster growing on the hillside.  It tends to be a bit unruly with very large leaves but the combination of the multiple purple flowers with the vivid yellow centers is really very striking.  I recommend them if you have some space.

Another Boston import is a Dahlia that we brought down from tuber divisions in Boston.

Dahlia 'Ginger Snap'

Dahlias really shine as we go into the crisp fall weather.

Dahlia 'Arabian Night'

My favorite new Dahlia is this very dark red, ‘Arabian Night’.

And a winner for us all year long has been this seed-grown Celosia.

Celosia 'Flamingo Feather'

It just flowers and flowers — and the butterflies love these blooms too.  There are some others blooming now too, but let me close with a Rose.

Rose 'Charles Darwin'

This is a David Austin rose that has many delightful stages of satisfaction, from the early bud to the petals falling.

If you go to May Dreams Gardens you can see the postings from many other gardeners sharing the monthly update on their flowers in bloom this day.  Enjoy.

Rain lilies and Puffballs

Rain lilies (Zephyranthes candida)

One of the happy sights at this time of year is the bright white flowers of the rain lilies that testify that you really have gotten some rain after a long dry spell.  These flowers, like super-sized crocus, are always a surprise even when you know that you planted them.  There are many plants in this genus and the related Habranthus that go collectively by the name rain lilies because of their habit of going dormant before shooting up there flowers after a rain.  While they all have merits in the garden these little white guys are my personal favorites.

Another occasional surprise after early fall rains are the puffballs that can sometimes spring up in the pasture.  You never know where they will appear although there seems to be some tendency to repeat in a general area.


This is one of the few mushrooms that I think I can identify.  If you have any friend who is a mushroom expert they can certainly point out the puffballs for you.  In this case I managed to pick one nice one before the animals destroyed the rest.  This is what it looked like in the kitchen.

Puffball with bottom cut off

When you slice them they look as pure and clear as you can imagine.

Puffball slices

For supper that night I sauteed the slices with garlic, olive oil, and white wine.  The slices became the basis of a mushroom sandwich with spinach and sourdough.  Very tasty.

Puffball slices in the pan

A couple more birds have shown up for my morning ritual this week.  The first was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

This is a woodpecker that I haven’t seen for a couple of years.  I do see it’s handiwork on the trees though.  They frequently drill a substantial number of holes in the pecans and the maples.  Usually in a circular pattern going around the tree.  You would think that someone had been taking maple syrup for years.

Then there was a Northern Flicker that came by just to pose for my camera.

Northern Flicker

The Flickers are really easy to identify with their very strange markings.  This one is a male as indicated by the black bar on the cheek.  Note the pretty yellow tail feathers.  Unlike the other woodpeckers these sit on the branches in normal bird fashion and pose for the photographer…