A Last Hurrah

There’s not much left blooming in the garden these last few days in October – the only thing looking halfway decent are the patches of sweet Alyssum.  The huge Zinnias, colourful Cannas and even the merry Marigolds are either withering away with the cold nights or had to be pulled to make way for bulb planting.  (I know – a lot of people really hate Marigolds.  I, on the other hand, really LOVE them and grow them every year; next year’s seeds are already dried and waiting in tiny envelopes for April germination.)

There are still a few delightful surprises though.

reblooming Iris Oct 28 2017

This white Iris is STILL blooming!!!!!  There’s a half dozen flower stalks and a few buds left that have survived our light frost.  Amazing!!!

Blanket Flower October 27 2017

I took a few Gaillarda (Blanket Flower) seedheads off a rocky slope in Toronto’s Tommy Thompson Park many many years ago, and have tried to grow them all over the property.  Not surprisingly, the only place they have really thrived and come back year after year is on a similar rocky slope!  No compost, leaf mould, mulch or watering wanted!  They bloom non stop from mid summer until…

Shasta Daisy Oct 19 2017

I bought a little 10 cm pot of Shasta Daisies last spring and, stupidly, tried to make two plants by splitting it down the middle.  Neither half was happy.  They appeared to just wither away over the course of the season.  I left them alone though and this year, with no coaxing and quite by surprise, they came up bigger and better.  Also a surprise is how short this variety is – a reminder to NEVER throw away plant tags until I’ve recorded everything written! 

Veronica Oct 28 2017 v1

I have no idea what variety of Veronica this is (again with the tag!!!) – last year it was a ground hugging rosette of leaves that spread quite a bit.  This year it threw up tall spikes and then the little flowers, a perfect blue, started to appear and bloom, from the bottom up.  It’s been three months now!  And they’re still attracting the last desperate bees needing to top off before winter.

Finally, another Veronica – Whitley’s Speedwell.  It holds a special place in my heart because the original small clump was given me by a dear lady in Toronto many many years ago.  A large patch of it was growing up a slope by the sidewalk in front of her house and I admired it year round.  Its original spot in my garden is still going strong and growing year by year.  It’s generally drought tolerant (I’ve never watered it) although last year by the end of the summer drought only the fringes survived (it all grew back this year).   But I’m really impressed by my new patch – started with just four hand-full’s pulled up from the original, it has now filled in to border the side patio.

AND – the best part – it’s evergreen.  ALSO the best part is this new patch flowered en masse as usual in the spring but continued to send up dozens of individual, tiny blooms all year.  Last week, for some reason, it just burst out again with hundreds of flowers.  Weird and wonderful!

Whitley's Speedwell closeup Oct 27 2017

Veronica Whitley’s Speedwell

Rounded

I think this Lilium lancifolium (a true Tiger Lily) is my favourite Lily – it’s growing in the shade of a large Basswood (Tilia americana) multiplying quite happily and is a welcome splash of colour mid August in an otherwise drab corner.  The rounded petals are a perfect match for this week’s photo challenge!

Rounded
Rounded

How to Stand Out in a Crowd

I have large patches of purple and white Liatris scattered around the garden – all originating from the seed of a few plants I purchased and planted 15 years ago.  The height of the flower spikes vary year to year, depending on how much rain we get.  This spring, with record breaking rainfalls in April and May, the Liatris was almost as high as an elephant’s eye.  Let’s say it was as high as a medium size cow’s eye.

Except for this one stalk, which for some reason decided walk its own path, follow its own winding, curvy, horizontal road.  By the time this photo was taken in mid August it was so heavy with flowers the tip was almost touching the ground.

I collected a lot of Liatris seed a few weeks ago and hope to add even more August height in years to come.

curvy Liatris

 

via Photo Challenge: Rounded

Glow after First Frost

In the wee hours of yesterday morning a wave of frost rolled over the field and gardens closest to the house.  I had, perhaps instinctively, cut and brought in for drying all the sweet and Thai basil the day before so no loss there.  Hardest hit were the Canna Lilies, cantaloupe, zinnias and, sadly,  my overgrown jungle of Amethyst Jewel cherry tomatoes.

Wanna know what happens when you try to pull a cherry tomato plant after frost?

The tomatoes fall.  With the lightest touch, they fall like marble size pieces of purple hail.  And, I discovered, they make a nice ‘pop’ when you happen to step on any that land in the grass on its way to the wheelbarrow and compost pile.

Anyway.

Here is a portion of my frost touched cherry tomato bed, glowing in this morning’s light.

Amethyst Jewel frost hit Oct 17 2017
Glow

Compost Fever!

One of the garden chores I get a lot of satisfaction from is the annual compost screening.  Usually I’ll wade into the compost a few times every month to turn it over, aerate it, help the insects and microbes do their decomposition bit.  This year; however, nature had other plans – I’ve posted previously how pie pumpkin seeds from last year germinated and basically took over.  This indicated two things:  the pile didn’t get hot enough to kill the seeds, and, whatever was happening within that pile of kitchen scraps, leaves and garden clippings had created a really nutritious growing medium!

I harvested the pumpkins a few weeks ago (had to make Thanksgiving pies!) and it was time to see what was there.  I’ve had for many years a compost screen that fits nicely over a wheelbarrow – it’s easy to build with two-by-fours (or should that be written as 2×4’s?) and wire screening from a building supply store.  I shovel three or four scoops from the pile onto the screen then swipe a trowel through it several times, which sends the decomposed material into the wheelbarrow.  What’s left gets dumped onto this year’s pile for further composting.

After a few hour’s work I’m left with an empty slot ready for next year, a growing pile of this year’s raw material being transformed and a nice pile of rough, crumbly compost, ready for top dressing beds or adding to bulb planting holes!

Composter Oct 11 2017 aComposter Oct 11 2017 cComposter Oct 11 2017 dComposter Oct 12 2017 c

Dream a Little Dream

One of my favourite gardening activities isn’t actually an activity – it’s just standing (or squatting or sitting) in the midst of it all, day-dreaming about what it will look like next year. Or three years from now. I enjoy this (non) activity so much that when a neighbour had a large spruce cut down this summer and offered me pieces of the trunk I gladly accepted; not for firewood but to create perching stools.

Spruce Stumps to be used as perching stools

spruce Perching Stools waiting to be placed around the garden

These log chunks are now scattered around the property – waiting for me to do some sanding and sealing next year and then to be perched upon.

Although I’ve been known to stand around day-dreaming about the garden at any time of the year, October is possibly about the best time to do it. I do a lot of planting in October and standing for a spell helps relieve my aching back. Also, of course, October is bulb planting month.

As I make my way around the various garden beds, basket of bulbs and planting tools in hand, I like to stop and envision what the bed will look like next spring. How I can enhance one micro garden to complement the whole.

Allium bubs

various Allium bulbs ready to plant

Along bulb planting toolswith a shovel (for digging large holes for the larger bulbs) and my trusty trowel, I have a new favourite bulb planting tool this year. It’s called a Cobrahead, (aka the aptly titled Steel Fingernail) and is marketed as a ‘weeder and cultivator.’ I’ve been using it to plant smaller bulbs – Fritillaria meleagris, Crocus, Chianodoxa – by pulling it through my rocky, clay soil to create a furrow the perfect depth for planting.

One of the micro gardens I’ve been thinking about all year is a small semi-circular area behind a short Caryopteris hedge that screens the side patio from the house. It’s an important area because it’s the first thing you see looking out the dining room window but for the past two years it’s been unimpressive. I scattered Lupin seeds there last fall and they germinated but remained small this year. I planted Snapdragons there last year and this year and although they’re one of my favourite annuals they didn’t make the statement that’s really necessary for this location.

adding bulbs to a Lupin bed

area to be planted with Lupin seedlings..

I decided last spring that Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ would make that statement and planted a few dozen earlier this week – adding Chianodoxa near the top of each planting hole to extend the spring blooming season.

layered lanting hole

Alliums planted — I’ll add a bit of dirt then the smaller Chianodoxa on top for a layered planting.

I wanted to keep the Lupin seedlings that have been slowly growing there so dug them out first and made an interesting discovery:

Lupin have a tap root, just like a dandelion or carrot – long and tapered, with many fine hairs coming off it. So all summer, while producing little growth above ground, extraordinarily long roots have been developing underground.

Lupin roots

LONG Lupin roots!

I replanted the Lupin I had to remove to plant bulbs and hopefully they’ll survive.

Now, when I look out the window, I have an image of blue Chianodoxa followed by purple Allium followed by purple or pink Lupin. I’ll let you know next June if my day-dream becomes reality!

tiny tiny tomatoes….

I was amazed this year when three volunteer tomato seedlings quickly took over a pretty big micro garden.  Last year this area was home to large artichoke plants.  This year I changed it up and planted Canna lilies, a hardy Hibiscus, rhubarb, a few asparagus roots and a row of purple beans in front.

Then up popped these tomatoes – brought in with the compost or by a hungry chipmunk the previous year.  They are a heritage variety of cherry tomato – Amethyst Jewel – which I started from seed and planted in 2016.  The fruit starts out the most beautiful dark purple, almost black, then ripens into a pale orange.

Amethyst Jewel cherry tomato

Amethyst Jewel – looks pretty but not ready to eat!

Amethyst Jewel cherr tomato ripe

Now it’s ready!

To say it’s a vigourous grower is an understatement – the three plants took over the entire area, layer after layer of tomato stems two to three feet deep.  The size and lushness of the vegetation is so out of scale with the size of the fruit you need to get in close before, gradually, spotting the hundreds and hundreds of purple fruit just waiting for a few more warm sunny days to ripen.

And fall to the ground.

And sprout next year.

Amethyst Jewel cherry tomato plant

The whole thing…can you spot the tiny tomatoes?

Scale