Articles for the Month of November 2010

Just a little Frost

Light basket in Leaves

November continues to be a welcome Indian summer — I am amazed that we still have lettuce, peas and Swiss Chard growing in the garden.  I dug the Dahlias today but they were actually starting to grow again from the base.  I decided that I could not in good conscience dig the Glads — let them at least get frozen off for Pete’s sake.  I noticed in town today that some of the shrub roses are still doing fine and show many blooms.  We are off to New York for Thanksgiving but I wanted to share a couple of discoveries.

One is the use of a mattock for fall bulb planting.  I had bought a small hand mattock for moving and installing flagstones.  It turns out that it is also marvelous for putting in bulbs.  So long as you avoid hitting your hand or leg, it is much easier to dig a quick bulb-worthy hole with a one-handed swing of the mattock than with a trowel in our rocky soil.  I’ve long used bigger mattocks for planting larger plants, but the use of a little one for bulb planting is a more recent discovery.

Small mattock for bulb planting

Having the right tool is what makes many a job a pleasure to do on a warm November afternoon 🙂

The other item worthy of note is the discovery of an excellent garden writer in our midst.  Marianne Willburn writes of the joys and sufferings attendant to growing plants with the experienced pen of one who has battled slugs on the front line and somehow retained a knowledge of the English language in the process.  I highly commend a look at her writings at The Small Town Gardener.

A Small Town Gardener

Take a look at the recent article A Rose by Any Other Name to get a sense of her writing.  How could I miss such a talent just a few miles away in Brunswick, Maryland?   Mea Culpa…

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for November 2010

The fall leaves dominate the backyard and flowers are scarce

Well this November Bloom Day finds us with a limited number of flowers and a powerful number of brilliant fall leaves.  We have had an extended sunny autumn with many of the plants making a comeback as they (falsely) assume that the cold weather will never get any worse than the 28 degrees that we’ve seen now and then this fall.  It’s been altogether a great time for fall bulb planting (all completed this week), garden chores (never complete), and photography.

The few flowers that let us still claim this as bloom day are the Gallardia, some random snapdragons, a few bedraggled salvia, and some very nice little Calendula.

Gallardia grandiflora 'Arizona Sun'

There are a few other sources of flowers besides the perennials though.  In the pasture the dandelions have had a rebirth and I’ve also seen the Yellow Toadflax showing it’s cute little butter and eggs flowers.

Yellow Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris)

Another plant that persists in flowering beyond all reasonable expectations is the Loropetalum.  I first saw this plant in a posting from Les at A Tidewater Gardener.  It has already grown rapidly from 1 gallon plant this spring to a fairly decent sized shrub with pretty fuschia flowers that have strap-like petals.  The question will be how it survives our winters.   Stay tuned…


Strap-like flowers on the Loropetalum

One other source of flowers are the plants we’ve brought inside in pots.  A particularly lovely violet shade is on the bougainvillea which is happily flowering (or what passes for flowering on a bougainvillea) in the basement.

Violet Bougainvillea

The various grasses have yielded their seed heads, some more colorful than others.  I couldn’t help noticing the fine scale of the pink muhly grass since Beth has brought several stalks into the house.

Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

But the real color of the season is the leaves.  Everywhere you look there are various shades of leaves doing their thing.  The gigantic Red Maple in the backyard has turned a vivid yellow this year.  And it contrasts nicely with the other maples.

Red Maple with yellow fall leaves

Depending upon the light in the morning or evening the outline of the Japanese Maple leaves against the sky can also be quite artistic.

Japanese maple leaves in outline

The japanese maple leaves are also quite persistent as we move toward winter.

Speaking of persistency, one of my favorite trees in the forest is the American Beech.  The leaves turn from golden to a warm brown shade and last well into the winter.

Beech leaves

Although they stand out even in a mixed forest, if you can find them in a grove setting it can be perfectly wonderful.   We have one such grove along one of the trails at the Worthington Farm, a part of the Monocacy National Park.  It is a delightful, almost mythic place, at any time of year.  But in the fall it really comes alive with golden yellow-brown.  Seek such a grove out and treasure it.

American Beech (Fagus grandiflora) in forest grove

Go to May Dreams Gardens for other Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posts…

Flirting with Frost

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Sensation'

We’ve been just missing predicted frost the last few nights but I think this may well have been the last of the frost-free nights.  It’s hard to complain because the average date for first frost in our area is October 25th but I thought that nature was trying to make amends for the disastrous summer growing season with high temps and no rainfall.  We’ve had a lovely October and the vegetables that I, with only the faintest of hope of success, planted in the dregs of early August has been yielding in abundance.

Late Fall harvest

Everything is growing as though the parched summer was only a distant memory and it does help rekindle my enthusiasm.

Fall lettuce

It’s quite unusual for us to have squash this time of year because it’s usually long gone to the squash borers by now.

Summer Squash

In addition to the green beans which are doing nicely, the original planting of Swiss Chard went right through the drought as though it were no problem at all and the small patch has been flourishing this fall.

Swiss Chard

This wonderful fall weather has brought out the color for some of the trees and shrubs.  It’s always amazing to see the variety of colors and forms that jump to the camera at this time of year.  Let’s start with the Amur Maple that provides the backdrop for the MacGardens header.

Amur Maple (Acer ginnala)

This is a reliable treasure with consistent strong reds and golds on small leaves that flutter in the wind.

Another really strong red is the Sour Gum that grows wild in the second pasture.

Sour Gum (Nyssa sylvatica)

It always colors up pretty early compared to a lot of the trees.

Sour Gum leaves

We also have a lot of wild sassafras that has pretty nice oranges and yellows in trees that line the pasture.


In the same area we have a lot of Bigtooth Aspen that not only color up nicely but flutter their leaves in the wind in a gentle whispering characteristic of the Aspens.

Bigtooth Aspen (Populus grandidentata)

Of course you can’t go anywhere on our property without noticing the dogwoods, both wild and planted, that have to be one of the all time best four-season plants.

Dogwood (Cornus florida)

A couple of standout favorites for fall leaves are the Sweet Gum and the Sugar Maple.

Backlit Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

The Sweet Gum is one of the first trees that we planted when we moved here 35 years ago.  Followed only shortly afterwards by the Sugar Maple.

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

Finally a treasure at the bottom of the pasture is a pair of Pecans that color up very nicely in a good year.  They always look very nice against the backdrop of White Pines that form that part of our boundary.

Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)

Of course they look pretty nice with just the sky as a backdrop as well…

Top of Pecan