Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for Sept 2013

Gentiana 'True Blue'

Gentiana ‘True Blue’

It is now mid-September and time to note the flowers in bloom for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  For the most part it’s the usual suspects.  An exception is the Blue Lobelia that I grew from seeds distributed by the Scottish Rock Garden Club this Spring.

Lobelia siphylitica

Lobelia siphylitica

It grew easily from seed and looks like it will have a long term role as a perennial in the garden.

Another newcomer for the season is the pineapple sage.  It’s just starting to flower now and it’s brilliant red flowers are real eye-catchers.

Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage

Another red flower that is a head-turner is the red Dahlia, Bishop of Llandaff.

Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff

It’s not supposed to be hardy for us, but I left it in the ground last year and it has come back even better than before.  We’ve had dozens of flowers over a long season, much more than if I had planted it from scratch this year.

Another flower with a very long season is the Alstroemeria ‘Sweet Laura’.

Alstroemeria 'Sweet Laura'

Alstroemeria ‘Sweet Laura’

Ever since we discovered Peruvian Lily hybrid was hardy in this area we have been amply rewarded by growing them.

Among the nice surprises of the season was to see this little cyclamen popping up with no leaves showing as yet.

Cyclamen hederifolium var. confusum

Cyclamen hederifolium var. confusum

The New England Asters are just now beginning to flower with their dark purple flowers and golden centers.

New England Aster Purple

New England Aster Purple

The gentian that heads this posting is forming a substantial mat of strong blue flowers.

Gentiana 'True Blue'

Gentiana ‘True Blue’

Both the spring and fall blooming gentians share strong coloring on the outside of the petals and detailed coding when you look on the inside.

Gentiana 'True Blue' on the inside

Gentiana ‘True Blue’ on the inside

The Celosia continue to dominate the front flower bed.  I had no idea that these would be four foot high when I planted them.

Cramer's Amazon Celosia

Cramer’s Amazon Celosia

And the toad lilies just go on and on with their flowering.

Tricyrtis 'Autumn Glow'

Tricyrtis ‘Autumn Glow’

We have been blessed by an abundance of butterflies this year, partly stimulated by a magnificent showing from the Mexican Torch Flower (Tithonia) in the cutting garden.

Butterfly on Tithonia

Butterfly on Tithonia

But there are other critters around the yard when the Macro lens goes for a walk.

Triangle Orbweaver (Verrucosa arenata)

Triangle Orbweaver (Verrucosa arenata)

Praying Mantis face-on

Praying Mantis face-on

I think the mantis is saying ‘What’s growing in your garden?’  Check out other gardens for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for August 2013

inula magnifica

inula magnifica

It’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day once again — time to show what is blooming around the hillside.  The image above is from a raggedy looking plant on the hillside that I picked up at Stonecrop Gardens this spring.  The two standout items for the Inula are the brilliant yellow flowers and the fact that the deer leave the plant untouched.

It’s been a marvelously rainy summer, with so much consistent rainfall and almost fall-like temperatures now in August.  The plants have generally responded very well to all this rain, though I have seen a few casualties from plants that were expecting to have a dry rest in the summer — two little Drabas in particular seem to have gone to that final compost station.  But meanwhile the fall cyclamen are popping out their little purple heads and looking happier than ever.

Cyclamen pupurescens

Cyclamen pupurescens

There is even a little Cyclamen hederifolium with little white flowers with no leaves appearing in the Camellia bed.

Cyclamen hederifolium 'Fairy Wings'

Cyclamen hederifolium ‘Fairy Wings’

Out in the front garden, which is dominated by shasta daisy and black-eyed susans, one of perennials grown from seed this year is producing many beautiful little blue flowers against red buds.

Ceratostigma minus

Ceratostigma minus

This little plumbago was obtained by seed from the Czech plant hunter Vojtech Holubec after I saw his wonderful photo of the plant in it’s natural environment in Tibet.  I hadn’t appreciated that it is a well-known and popular horticultural plant in the U.S. under the name Plumbago larpetiae.  It’s said not to be hardy here, but I will probably experiment with it since my seed came from Tibet.

Above the plumbago stands a profusion of celosia stalks that are nearly 4 feet tall now.

Cramer's Amazon Celosia

Cramer’s Amazon Celosia

These came from seed obtained from Johnny’s this spring.  They grew easily and rapidly and make great cut flowers.

Dahlias are also doing well right now.  In particular a Bishop of Llandaff came back from overwintering in the garden where it is not supposed to be hardy.

Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff

Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff

In the shadier gardens the Toad Lilies are holding forth already.  The clump of Autumn Glow is expanding particularly rapidly.

Tricyrtis 'Autumn Glow'

Tricyrtis ‘Autumn Glow’

Trycirtis 'Tojen'

Trycirtis ‘Tojen’

If we stop by the greenhouse the Kamiopsis leachiana which I’ve mentioned in earlier posts has indeed decided to flower in the fall which is surprising for this rare spring flowering evergreen.

Kalmiopsis leachiana

Kalmiopsis leachiana

The vegetable garden is totally out of control and dominated by a large stand of Tithonia which attract a continuing stream of swallowtail butterflies.  I have never seen as many butterflies as we’ve had this year.

Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

Finally let me close with a non-picture of the pretty yellow milkweed that we were growing.  It’s been completely stripped by the amazing Milkweed Tussock Caterpillars.

Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar

Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar

There were a hundred or more eating at the milkweed and they took it all except for the seedpods.  Could this be their plan to make sure there was food for next year?

These are some of the most interesting plant happenings at Ball Rd.  What’s going on in your garden?

A Chanticleer Workshop

Bee on Dahlia

I spent last weekend at a garden photography workshop at Chanticleer Garden outside of Philadelphia.  The weather was intermittently mixed clouds and sunshine but we got enough good lighting for some interesting photo opportunities on Saturday.  The workshop was conducted by Alan Detrick and Roger Foley with a small group of enthusiast photographers who were really pleased to get early morning access to the gardens (with good lighting and before the public showed up).  Roger and Alan gave regular and helpful advice as we tried to isolate our own respective visions of what was worth photographing in these early fall scenes.  Both of them have extensive garden photography experience and have previously been judges for the Gardening Gone Wild photo contests.

Chanticleer is truly a pleasure garden in every sense for a gardener.  They have seven horticulturalists who specialize in different sections of the garden and the attention to detail really shows throughout the garden.  A weekend of photography might sound like a lot, but it barely scratches the surface of what is possible at Chanticleer.  By the time you set up your shots the light is already moving on, not to mention the bees and butterflies.

One of the benefits of a small workshop like this one is that you get to share and comment on the other visions that people bring to their photography.  I’ve seen time and again that different people will always bring different photos away from the same scene.  And it only takes a few times of people pointing out the annoying branch you left in the composition before you start to think about it before you click the shutter.

Anyway, despite the weather being less than ideal, I had a great time and I’d like to do it again.  If the thought appeals to you they are likely to run this workshop again next year.

Here are some selected photos from the weekend.

Bee on Dahlia - Version 2

Grasshopper on Celosia

One of the points that Alan emphasized was the way the early morning light can delicately light the edges of a subject like the grasshopper in this image.  And if it’s cold enough, they don’t run from the camera.

Celosia sans grasshopper

Backlit Celosia

Bee on Celosia

Toad Lilies ( Tricyrtis hirta 'Miyazaki')

The Toad lilies are almost shrub-like and completely line the path through the Minder Woods.  They are flagrantly in flower at this season, shaming all those spring blooming flowers that have long gone by now.


I’m generally not a big fan of the Cochicum which flop all over the hillsides at Chanticleer, but they do have their moments.  Mostly I prefer the less gaudy fall crocus which are just now showing up in our lawn.

Perennial Gotta Pea (Amicia zigomeris) detail

Sulpher Butterfly with Proboscis unfurled

Clitoria ternatea

This is tropical vine that was up on the terrace in the house garden.  I think it has to be started from seed each year.

Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata)

I really liked the detail on the Callirhoe — it would be well worth adding to our hillside garden.

It’s also time for another Gardening Gone Wild Photo contest.  Saxon Holt has selected a theme of filling the frame.  I’m going to take this opportunity to enter a photo that I think truly fills the frame, though perhaps not in the way that Saxon Holt originally conceived.

Aibika (Abelmoschus manihot) detail

This close-up image of the Aibika, a relative of okra, will be my entry for the October Picture This Contest.

Maximum May Slugfest

A Catmint/Baptesia/Coral Bells Rose Garden

There is a lot going on in the gardens right now.  Everyday a new flower emerges and Beth rearranges what is showing in the house as well.  Even as things change there is one constant theme for May and that is a struggle for our attention between the Iris and the Peonies.  This is the first year for the Itoh Peonies to bloom for us.  They are a wonderful combination of the best of the foliage and form of the Tree Peonies and the fullness of the normal herbaceous lactiflora varieties.  And, unlike the full-flowered lactifloras, they do not flop.  Not that I would complain about any of the Peonies — they are all wonderful — but we are really liking the Itohs, especially Julie Rose.

Itoh Peony 'Julie Rose'

Itoh Peony 'Singing in the Rain'

Last flower from the Yellow Tree Peony

Paonia lactiflora 'Honey Gold'

We often bring the Peonies inside for closer enjoyment.  They last fairly well and many have a nice fragrance (especially Festiva Maxima).  But it is hard to compete with the eye-stopping display that the Bearded Iris provide.

Bearded Iris

They need constant attention — the buds in flower change daily and the dead flowers have powerful dyes when they drop.  But the colors are superb and the fragrance grabs your attention when you walk by.  In the garden they pull you toward their sentinel flowers from a distance seem to be impervious (like the Peonies) to deer predation.  This purely cranberry colored Iris is one of my favorites.

Cranberry colored Bearded Iris

In addition to their fragrance and color the Iris are also so very distinctive in the architecture of the flowers.  They have exquisite detail that rewards close examination.

Iris 'Ginger Snap' profile

Iris Beard

Orange Iris Beard

Even with all the attention given to the Iris and Peonies, I would be not be serving by constituent flowers fairly if I didn’t mention a couple of other star performers right now.  The Baptisia are looking better than ever and the variety ‘Twilight’ makes a lovely photo subject.

Bapteisia 'Twilight'

And for an ex-California I was delighted to see that the California Poppies that I planted last spring have decided to come up this year.

Calif Poppy in bud

I should also mention the creatures that have been visiting.  The first hummingbird of the year has come zooming past with it’s motorboat-sounding wings.  There have also been a lot more clearwing moths than I remember previously.

Clearwing Moth

I enjoy their high tech sunglasses and long proboscis.

And then there was the Black Snake that we noticed while eating dinner on the deck last night.

Black Snake Planter

Think of this as a new design for planters…

This is also the time for the monthly photo contest at Gardening Gone Wild and the focus this month is on lighting with Macro Images.  I looked at using one of the images above but I’m going to return instead to a favorite closeup shot of a backlit Tulip where the light just seemed to emanate from the base of the flower.

Tulip 'Flaming Purissima'

Another Source of Water in Maryland

Blue Water Lily with yellow cente

Yesterday I awoke at 6am with crashing thunder and multiple lightening strokes headlining the arrival of the first rainstorm in 29 days.  It was quite a storm with over 5000 people losing power in Frederick(not us) but most importantly for our yard was the total of more than an inch of rain.  It was followed by more rain in the afternoon and then again last night.  It is hard to believe how dry it has been here.  The ground has been cracking, trees losing their leaves,  and plants have been dying left and right.  Gardening has been discouraging on the whole when you see so many of the spring’s investments disappearing.  It’s not just that it’s been dry but the temperatures have been high enough to make it really unpleasant to go outside.

Two weeks ago a posting from Melissa at Garden Shoots reminded me that last year I had made a photography trip out to the sunflower fields that Maryland plants near the Potomac River.  I had heard that the fields were not up to last years display but I remembered that the Indigo Buntings were plentiful last year and I decided to journey out to the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area to see what I could find.

The field was full of dried out stunted sunflowers that were well past the peak of flowering.

Very tired collection of sunflowers

I spent a couple of hours there hoping to see the Indigo Buntings that were so plentiful last year.  I thought I imagined I might have maybe possibly seen one or two in the distance.  But the field was loaded with Goldfinches and House Finches.  There were hundreds.

Goldfinch on sunflower

A very red House Finch

I did see a Pileated Woodpecker in flight across the field.

Pileated Woodpecker in flight

After two hours of waiting and watching on a very hot day I packed it up and decided to go find my own water.  On the way back from the Potomac I stopped at Lilypons Water Gardens.  Their 250 acres of ponds are filled with flowering water lilies at this season.  It was refreshing to see so many flowers at once and what a contrast to the dry tired field of sunflowers.

Pond of Fuschia-colored Water Lilies

You can wander freely about the grounds and it’s a great spot for photography.  Wildlife abounds as you would expect with so much water and lush vegetation.

Dragonflies mating

Swallowtail at Lilypons

I have to confess that I don’t really know my Water Lilies at all.  I’m a water gardener wannabe.  I could guess at some of the varieties I was looking at but I’m probably on safer ground just to cite the colors.  Suffice it to say, Lilypons is worth a visit if you are in the area.  And if you aren’t, they have a mail order catalog.

Yellow-white Water Lily

Yellow Water Lily

Lilac Water Lily

Pink Water Lily with reflection

Up Close and Personal

Red-Shouldered Hawk that greeted me yesterday morning

Though the mulberries are almost gone, I still try to start the days with a half-hour watching the birds in the mulberry and cherry trees.  Yesterday morning as I was rubbing the sleep out of my eyes on the way out to the garden I heard the characteristic cry of the Red-Shouldered Hawk.  And there on the garden fence, not 25 feet away was this awesome hawk.  The cry is actually a mating call so that I was probably just a distraction.  Nonetheless the look I got was an irritated one.

Red-Shouldered Hawk getting ready to launch

Red-Shouldered Hawk takes off, note the talons

You would think that this would make the birds of the neighborhood lie low.  But moments later I witnessed this same hawk getting dive-bombed by this Eastern Kingbird (no bigger than a Robin).

Eastern Kingbird atop cherry

Just two days earlier I had seen a family of Great Crested Flycatchers amongst the Cherry trees.

Great Crested Flycatcher

Great Crested Flycatcher youngster

So despite the fact that I missed the last couple of weeks of the mulberry/cherry season there is still a lot of bird watching to do — and it remains rewarding to get up and out in the morning.

Yesterday also yielded a Swallowtail hanging out in the Agastache ‘Tutti-Fruiti’.

Swallowtail on Agastache

Swallowtail fully spread out on the Agastache 'Tutti-Fruiti'

Clearwing Moth and Other Novelties

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe)

It’s a good sign that the season is advancing when I see the first of the Clearwing Moths hovering about the garden.  They look like miniature hummingbirds with tiny sunglasses and are among the prettiest moths that you will ever see.  A couple of Allium in the rock garden were the main attraction.  This one hung around long enough that I could definitely see the long feeding tube in use sipping nectar from the flowers.

Clearwing moth

Clearwing detail

I had a major surprise this last week in wandering our woods.  As I was checking out the daffodils that I had planted last Fall at the bottom of our hill I encountered a three-leaved plant which (once I concluded wasn’t poison ivy) looked like it might be a Trillium.

Three leaves among the daffodils

I sent a picture to my eldest in Boston and he suggested that it looked a lot more like his Arisaemas.  And indeed, as I walked further down toward my neighbor’s stream it was clear that it was a Jack-in-the-pulpit without it’s most salient feature.  At the time I walked about the area hoping that even more plants had found their way across the boundary.  But alas, I saw none.  I have so far resisted taking such beauties either from my neighbor or the public land along the creek near the railroad tracks.

Just two days later though I was planting some Bellwort in the woods and looked up from my planting to see a Trillium — oops no, an Arisaema.  You would think I would recognize it by now.

Baby Arisaema

This one was more than 50 feet onto our property so that’s a very positive sign that we will get more in our woods.  So I took a more determined look and behold, let the real Jack stand up

Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

So I now count 4 Jack-in-the-Pulpit in our woods — whoopee!

One of the new arrivals in the Camellia garden this week was a little Iris that we picked up at the Garden Vision visit last year (since we went there for the epimediums who know that some of the other little plants would be such hits).  This is a little crested iris with fantastic coloring.

Iris cristata 'Dick Redfield'

It is hard to have too many of the crested Iris since they seem to multiply and fill their allotted space so charmingly.  I need to try them out in the woods next by taking some of the clumps that are growing so well.

Another delightful little iris blooming right now is the Iris gracilipes.  This one came from my visit to the open house at Asiatica last year.

Iris gracilipes

Again I went for other things but came back with this little Iris as a bonus.

Garden Blogger Bloom Day for October

Today is GB Bloom Day for October, a tradition started by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.  I took a brief walkabout yesterday and noted there were indeed still some flowers doing their best to have us take notice before the anticipated freeze that should come in about a week or so if the weather is on schedule.  Place of honor has to go to the Cosmos.

Cosmos and our resident Sugar Maple

Cosmos and our resident Sugar Maple

The bees are very fond of the Cosmos (of course they don’t have as much to choose from as the season runs down.

Bee on Cosmos

Bee on Cosmos

And other annuals like Zinnias and Marigolds are still very much in play.

Bees on Marigold

Bees on Marigold

The Dahlias are at their best in the Fall.  These colorful flowers are better and better right up until frost.

Dahlia (fuschia tinged yellow)

Dahlia (fuschia tinged yellow)

I’ll have to see if I can see the label on this one when it’s daylight (*Jonathan says it’s Gallery Pablo and I believe that’s right).

The cyclamens that we bought from Seneca Hills last Spring are also looking better as the season progresses.  All three plants purchased have come into flower.

Cyclamen purpurascens

Cyclamen purpurascens

The surprise for us this week was the Pineapple Sage that Beth planted last Spring in the herb garden.  It’s supposed to take a long time to flower and it did.  But it’s a very nice flower once it comes.

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)

Aside from the blooms, we also had a butterfly visitor that I hadn’t noticed before flying through the orchard.  It’s name really is the Question Mark — that’s not a stand-in for not knowing the name.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

The season is well marked by that Sugar Maple that I mentioned earlier.  This tree almost died in our front yard, exposed to the winter winds.  When I moved it to the forest (dragged by a logging chain because it was quite big even then), it prospered.

Sugar Maple turning color

Sugar Maple turning color

Another sign of Fall is the steady stream of honkers passing overhead.  The Canada Geese are abundant over at Lilypons where I returned again this week looking for bird pictures after last weeks successful visit.

Landing Pad for the Canada Geese

Landing Pad for the Canada Geese at Lilypons