We returned from our trip to the Dolomites to find that there had been pretty constant rainfall while we were gone (and that has continued). The temperatures have also stayed 5-10 degrees below normal. This meant that we had a LOT of mowing a weed pulling to do, but we also didn’t have to waste a lot of time dragging hoses around the yard. The lilies were in full bloom. It is marvelous to walk out in the yard and get knocked over by the lily fragrance.
Besides other lily varieties there are also the day lilies blooming in gay profusion right now.
Many annuals are also happening right now but of a couple of perennial standouts are as follows:
Yes, the ‘Blue Billow’ is very pink.
From the greenhouse we have a couple of little cuties.
And lastly though the Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day is mostly about the flowers, I think it’s worth noting a couple of beneficial insects that I saw on the flowers.
The Tachinid fly parasitizes caterpillars, including monarch larvae, but on balance it’s a very useful contributor to the garden. The Widow Skimmer Dragonfly grabs small flying insects out of the air and it’s like having your localized air force to guard the space over your garden.
Many garden bloggers will recall that Gardening Gone Wild used to run a regular photo contest where people shared there images from the garden. It was fun activity which encouraged one to take on certain challenges in photographing the garden. Well, Saxon Holt, at Gardening Gone Wild has restarted the Picture This activity. As a first challenge he has asked that we post our favorite photos from 2014 and select one for submission to the Picture This photography contest. This actually struck a chord with something that I had been meaning to do anyway in response to the annual suggestion from Les at A Tidewater Gardener. I post so many pictures in a year that it is somewhat of a task to go back through the years images and choose the best, but that being said here goes…
The picture of the Greenhouse is not so much a picture of high technical quality but one which captures a moment that sets forth the whole year. We had a difficult winter that ended up making every flower that survived that much more of a special gift. The other pictures are mainly of flowers that track the progress of the year.
It was the first year I grew ferrarias. They are spectacular in every respect.
Nearby and almost at the same time as the ferraias was a delicate oxalis that was especially charming seen from the side and rear.
The adonis are so wonderful at combatting the snow, even as early as they come into flower.
You have to kneel down to see those blue stamens, but wow are they ever spectacular.
This is a Sierra Nevada endemic that is one of the parents of the commercially successful ‘Pagoda’ erythronium. It has an almost ethereal purity.
Speaking of purity, it is hard to exceed the golden stamens on white petals featured on this peony.
Sometimes the profile of a flower is more effective than the full on in your face shot. I wish that this were actually my rose, when in fact I took the shot while touring Maryland gardens in June with the Four Seasons Garden Club.
Then there are the flowers that are not strictly flowers that stick in your memory. This is my favorite arisaema.
Finding the British Soldier Lichen on our garden fence post was one of the treats of the year. Not only are they useful, but they are exceedingly beautiful if you look closely.
I think it was about 10pm when I photographed this Epiphyllum in bloom. It was busy extending an invitation to the local bats.
What I especially like about this picture is the way the colors overlap between the fly and flower…
There are so many of these perfectly formed anemones in September that you wonder that more people don’t given them space in the garden.
One of the constraints of the Picture This photo contest is that I now have to select one of the above for my entry. I like so many of these, but if I have to choose one it will be the Peony ‘Krinkled White’ as it appeared in June.
We’ve had our first killing frost right on schedule — October 25th. However, it just barely hit the most tender plants and many others are enjoying the extended nice weather we’ve had since then. Especially the Colchichum that I planted in the revived wildflower bed.
I’ve been able to get in some delightful gardening outside including planting some of our bulb order in the new garden (daffodils, corydalis, erythroniums, scilla, and chionodoxa). I also put some Chiliean crocus in the alpine bed. It was an opportune time to do some transplanting too. I put in a Virginia Waterleaf that I had been saving up for the last six months.
This is a very interesting looking plant just for the leaves but the pictures on the internet promise very pretty flowers as well.
I continue to be fascinated by the Oxalis which are flowering in the greenhouse right now.
I have to thank Diana Chapman of Telos Rare Bulbs for alerting me to the interesting variety in Oxalis bulbs.
I have seen aphids attacking the Oxalis, but I’ve also seen some natural protection.
On a warm afternoon I also found many Ladybird Beetles trying to get into the greenhouse (it’s not hard, they just need to find the open windows).
There were perhaps fifty on the outside looking for a warm place to spend the winter. I helped many of them out. And in return they were busy in the greenhouse.
I’ve also noticed a Praying Mantis eggcase in the greenhouse which is a nice sign for next spring.
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.
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.
Another red flower that is a head-turner is the red 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’.
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.
The New England Asters are just now beginning to flower with their dark purple flowers and golden centers.
The gentian that heads this posting is forming a substantial mat of strong blue flowers.
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.
The Celosia continue to dominate the front flower bed. I had no idea that these would be four foot high when I planted them.
And the toad lilies just go on and on with their flowering.
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.
But there are other critters around the yard when the Macro lens goes for a walk.
I think the mantis is saying ‘What’s growing in your garden?’ Check out other gardens for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.
This is my first full year with the new greenhouse and I still haven’t got a plan for the summer. While I’m pretty confident about what I want to do with it in the wintertime, I’ve been less certain about how to treat the environment in the heat of the summer. Out of inertia, I’ve left the basic springtime plan intact — the misting and watering comes on four times a day for 10 minutes. I’ve only just gotten to moving out some of the plants that were clearly not happy with that climate (the temperature can go to 95 – 100 degrees even with the automatic venting). So the temperate plants and seeded pots are mostly on the outside now with filtered shade and automatic watering. What I expected was that many of the South African bulbs would grow and go dormant for the summer so that as foliage died off I moved them to the basement for a rest. We’ll see if they start up again as planned. And the preying mantis seems to still be enjoying the opportunities for eating in the greenhouse.
Note the many little figs.
What has been a real surprise was to see that we have inadvertently created the perfect environment for Kalmiopsis leachiana.
This beautiful little relative of the Mountain Laurel is found only in the Northwest, particularly the Siskiyou Mountains of Southwest Oregon. When you read that this is a difficult plant to grow but that in it’s native mountains it experiences 250 inches of rain and hot dry summers with porous soils you can see how it might find the greenhouse reminiscent of home. In any case it is thriving. I see a ton of flower buds for next year.
My original idea was to plant it outside, but now I’m not so sure…
Some of little bulbous plants are showing flowers from seeding this year via the seed exchanges.
I also have a ton of little plantlets that I should have separated by now.
Life just keeps marching along. I spent this morning finalizing the first courses for a retaining wall around the greenhouse.
The idea is to have a raised bed for alpines with more space than I can manage in a trough. This will be a lot of fun to plant once I finish construction…
When you are using your greenhouse to grow special plants like Lewisia tweedyi or Pleione formosana, or seedlings of an unusual western rock cress, you might be forgiven by reacting to the first sign of aphids with an immediate fog of insecticide. However, I decided last winter that I would try to make the greenhouse as much of a natural environment as I could. The windows open to the out of doors on warm days without screens so that insects are free to come and go. The greenhouse manufacturer said that people liked this idea for pollination but I was thinking more about insect control.
In early December when I first began operations I saw a few ladybugs taking refuge from the cold. I had hoped they might settle in, perhaps laying eggs. And last week I saw my first ladybug larva busily patrolling the leaves for aphids.
They are voracious eaters (think of teenagers eating between meals).
And yesterday I spied a praying mantis.
I had seen an egg case in the hillside garden and put it into the greenhouse in February. Though I never saw the hatching take place, they are apparently growing fast. Unfortunately a few minutes later I saw this one get trapped in a spider’s web. While both seemed to be about the same size, the spider definitely won the battle. But there should be many more praying mantis wandering around the greenhouse at this point.
While i was watching the praying mantis and spider struggle I looked up and saw the dominant actor in the food chain.
This guy was alert and ready for action. So while I do see aphids here and there, nature’s enforcer’s are busy keeping things within bounds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This close-up image of the Aibika, a relative of okra, will be my entry for the October Picture This Contest.
This summer has given a new appreciation of the Dog Days of August. Historically this is a phrase connected with the significant observations of Sirius, the dog star. But for me, and many others I think, it connotes a tiredness associated with day after day of overwhelming heat. We have finally just had two days of long overdue rain. It was the first since July 4th and we’ve been running a water deficit since May. When you have to supplement the water drops the plants milk out of the atmosphere, it doesn’t leave time for many other projects. I won’t even mention the blog postings that were completely written in my mind and never made it to the keyboard. Let it suffice to say that I will be ready and willing to move toward fall. In the unfailing optimism that must accompany gardening I planted fall peas and beans on Satuday morning, just before we got some rain.
In the meantime, it is GBBD after all and time to celebrate that which has survived to flower even in this heat. I want to give a special commendation to the chocolate Joe Pye weed which has been sharing it’s remarkable foliage with us all year and has now decided to flower as well.
The white flowers contrast nicely with the dark foliage.
Another winner is the Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ which is finally coming into its own.
A nice little addition to the party is a seedling Rudbeckia that looks much nicer than the ones which stayed in the ground all winter. Of course it’s been getting more hand watering than the others.
In the camellia garden we also have the fall blooming cyclamen looking very charming at the moment with their fascinating leaves and flowers combined.
And it would not be fair if I didn’t mention the yellow corydalis which has been flowering continually since spring. What a great shade garden flower.
There are other flowers out there, such as the rudbeckias, the black-eyed susans, cosmos, geraniums, and the monarda. But they are on the scraggly side of their blooming cycle right now. We need to digest this rain for a bit. Let me close out with one of the regular visitors to our gardens, the crab spider. They are getting bigger at this time of year and this particular spider seems to be very well suited to the cosmos he/she settled in on.
Please take the time to visit other gardens courtesy of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens