Archive | September, 2012

bringing in tender plants

30 Sep

I’m beginning to bring into the sun room those plants that won’t be able to survive the winter outdoors. It’s a little early, but we have had a couple of nights when temperatures dipped near freezing. I’m not yet worried about losing plants, but the process of bringing in pots and repotting plants is a big job and it’s nice to do the work while temperatures are still mild. Some of these plants will continue to bloom sporadiccally throughout the winter, making a nice contrast to the stark winter landscape outside.

goldenrod – solidago

28 Sep

Although goldenrod is usually thought of as a weed, there are several varieties cultivated to bring a nice spot of color to fall gardens. In addition, a non-flowering version is cultivated for use as fillers in floral arrangements. Usually sold as solidago, not goldenrod, to avoid its perception as an allergy irritant, solidago is grown in many colors from bright lime green to deep wine red and even purple. This one is a volunteer that usually turns brown/red as seed heads develop and hang on the plant.  The weight of the seeds will cause the stems to develop a cascading, waterfall shape.  Although some don’t care for goldenrod, blaming it for hay fever attacks, it doesn’t really bother most people and I’m glad to have in in my garden.

colchicum

23 Sep

It’s always a surprise to see the colchicum, which pops up overnight. Much like amaryllis belladonna, the plants send up leaves in early spring, in this case looking much like those of a large tulip, that wither away completely by early summer. The flowers, only 6″-8″ tall, are grown from bulbs (well, they’re really corms but that’s kind of a fine distinction) which are completely used up each year, but before that happens they usually manage to produce side bulbs that provide the flowers for the next year. I acquired the bulbs with an order of other plants–one of those “buy $xx.xx worth of plants and get six colchicum bulbs free” things and quickly discovered that squirrels consider them, like tulip bulbs, to be delicacies and don’t hesitate to dig them up. That’s why I have only two of the original half dozen bulbs left.  The squirrels haven’t touched those two bulbs, though, so hopefully I’ll continue to get the fall surprise of colchicum blossoms for many years.

tansy – tanacetum vulgare

22 Sep

Also sometimes called Mugwort — an unfortunate nickname for such a pretty plant — tansy is alternately considered a flower or an herb, depending which gardener you ask. New leaves emerge yellowish green and are divided into multiple lobes, giving them a fern-like appearance. If grown in full sun, the plant produces very small flowers (about the size of a shirt button). Tansy has a long history of use as an herbal remedy, with usage dating back to the eighth century, as a flavoring, and even as part of skin cleansing regimen. Ironically, when taken in large doses both leaves and flowers are toxic. Tansy also is used as a natural insect deterrent, as it is toxic to most insects, and is sometimes planted near peonies to discourage the small ants that often plague those plants. Particularly in full sun, Tansy has a tendency to spread rapidly; this particular plant has nearly tripled in size this year although its size stayed fairly constant in its old location where it got sun only a few hours a day.

sedum

11 Sep

Sedum is one of the easiest plants to grow and brings great late-season color to the garden. Its large stems and thick leaves help store water, making it wonderfully drought resistant. It will grow just about anywhere, sun or shade, though I’ve had the best result in part sun (2-6 hours of sun a day). The leaves will droop a little when it’s very hot outside, especially in full sun, but usually perk back up overnight. The most common variety–showy stonecrop or ‘live forever’–forms nice tight 12″-18″ clumps and blooms pale pink. ‘Autumn Joy’ (shown here and at the top of the page) looks almost identical when it emerges in the spring, but the stems develop a dark red color; the clumps grow taller (24″) and looser; and the flowers turn a darker shade of pink. This variegated variety also forms fairly loose clumps with white, star-shaped flowers. The only care sedum requires is cutting back the dead stems each spring; the plants emerge as new growth from the ground up each year.
Sedum is extremely easy to propagate. This one and several others were started when a few stems broke off last spring as I was weeding the area. I dug small holes and planted the bare stems a few inches deep. They’ve already formed new plants and are even beginning to flower. They’ll increase in size next year and probably will reach their full mature size the year after.

joe-pye weed – eupatorium

10 Sep

A large, bushy flower, the most common cultivar is eutrochium (green leaves, pink flowers). This version has white flowers and bronze-colored leaves, thus the nickname chocolate joe-pye weed. I like this type because the colored leaves make it interesting throughout the season, even when it’s not yet in bloom. It grows about 24′” tall, making it a good back-of-the-bed plant. Ideally, it likes a part-sun location. This bed gets a fair amount of afternoon sun, but the plant held up well even during the July heat wave.

bluebeard – caryopteris

6 Sep

Fall-blooming shrubs are unusual, particularly blue flowering ones, making bluebeard a nice addition to the garden. The plant only grows 2′-3′ tall, so it’s easy to fit it in as a backdrop to most flower beds. It’s sometimes referred to as sage bush because its grey-green leaves resemble that herb, although they’re not related. This bluebeard was extremely stressed during the July heat wave and lost nearly all its leaves, but cooler weather and a couple of good rains have brought on new growth and a few small flowers. Bluebeard is one of those bushes that can be propagated by ground layering–bringing some of the stem in contact with the ground for a season. It’s a good idea to weight the branch with a brick or stone to keep it in the ground; another stone forced against the branch will encourage it to grow in an upright fashion.  By next spring, this stem should have formed its own root system. I should be able to cut it off the main plant and dig it up for replanting elsewhere.