Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What's in Your Pot?

Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination. ~Mrs. C.W. Earle, Pot-Pourri from a Surrey Garden, 1897

Fall is here in my world and with the colder weather and nights dipping to freezing already, many garden and potted plants are taking a hit. It’s time to refresh your pots, add cheer to your front door or patio and fill in a few holes in the garden. I took a stroll around my district, looking for great fall combination plantings to share with you. I don’t know about you but sometimes I need to be inspired. Usually in years past, front porches have been a treasure trove of ideas around where I live. This year, not so much! I did find a couple of bed planting combinations but they were both commercial establishments. Wow, more evidence of people spending less? Or is everyone just too busy? Or is it we are not ready to let go of summer? Hmmm, I wonder.

So here is one of what I found that was photo worthy. I think it’s my favorite.


The standard greens and purples of a Kale planting is livened up with what looks like spikey New Zealand Flax (Phormium). You could also use the burgundy Cordyline to achieve a similar look but for a smaller scale like a pot. What I love about this is the Dusty Miller. It really adds some brightness to an otherwise dark grouping.

Next is another kale display but with a geometric design of color blocks and blue pansies for a texture change. Truly I’d have chosen a creamy white or soft yellow pansy color but I was not the designer. Somehow the blue color looks off to me.


For cool weather displays Kale is kind of a standard and yet somehow I don’t get bored with it. To liven up your kale planting, you can choose from Aster, winter Pansy, Cyclamen, Chrysanthemum and Heaths and Heathers. All make nice textural combinations. And remember to leave a space in your pot to tuck a little gourd or pumpkin. And a casual tumble of pumpkins around the base is nice too. Hopefully next year will bring more ideas for me to pass on to you. But here’s one more I couldn’t resist sharing with you. Not a garden but adorable no less…


Dancing ghosts! The imagination of people never ceases to amaze me! Happy Halloween!

In Bloom In My Garden Today: Gladiolus callianthus Abyssinian Glad, Cimcifuga ‘Brunette’, Cyclamen hederifolium, Colchicum, Gaura, blue fall crocus speciosus, Fushia, Alyssum, Coryopsis, Nepeta, Russian sage, rose, Eupatorium ‘Chocolate (Joe Pye Weed), Oregano, Schizostylus, Mullen chaixii ‘Album’, Veronica, Salvia, hardy geranium ‘Mavis Simpson’,Lavender, kirengeshoma palmate, Daphne caucasica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ and ‘Summer Ice’

Authors photos

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sweet Cyclamen

Let no one think that real gardening is a bucolic and meditative occupation. It is an insatiable passion, like everything else to which a man gives his heart.
~Karel ńĆapek, The Gardener's Year, translated by M. and R. Weatherall, 1931



The best kept secret in my garden is the Cyclamen hederifolium (hedera leafed, of Turkey, SE Europe).

I know that’s a mouthful of a name but I know of no common name with which to ease your discomfort. However, Cyclamen you probably know. Think of the large flowering florist cyclamen which is Cyclamen persicum (of Persia, Iran) that are on sale now in cooler climates for indoor or protected outdoor plantings. Locally this time of year, the large flower florist cyclamen is used a lot for commercial indoor and outdoor plantings but they are not good for hardy re-bloom year after year in the garden. Here these are just annuals. They sport large flowers in white, reds and pinks, have showy leaves and are considered annuals here in the northern US states.

But today I’m talking about hardy Cyclamens that are smaller flowered and will survive winters to USDA zone 5 so they are perennials here. They are a secret in my garden because for a portion of the summer they are dormant and covered by other perennials. In late winter the gorgeous, green leaves with silver marbled patterning come out, and are showy till mid summer. Then after the leaves die down and a brief period of dormancy, the flowers make their entrance in fall when some surrounding perennials are wilting from the cold. They just seem to appear…I’m always caught by surprise. Oh! The Cyclamen is blooming. The picture does not do it justice…it is a must see in real life.

There are many varieties, all reportedly hardy in USDA zones 5-9, except for the persicum variety (the florist ones). According to Sunset Garden writers the hardy Cyclamen grow best in rich, porous soil with lots of humus (an annual mulch of your leaf raking can give you this, especially if you don’t walk on your beds). The tubers like to be planted fairly shallow, just about ½ inch (1-2 cm) below the soil surface, but understand if you live in a colder zone than my zone 7-8 you may have to plant them deeper. Be sure to consult with knowledgeable nursery staff for your regions specific requirements. These Cyclamen self sow, which for this diminutive, non-invasive treasure is desirable. I don’t think you can have too many and they are easy to transplant the pea sized starts the following year to areas not in reach of the ‘seed toss’. If you look at your plant after the flowers have died down, you’ll see the seed head, coiled up like a spring. So cool! I imagine it must give a good fling at some point as I’ve found new starts coming up within several feet of the original tuber.

Some varieties of Cyclamen may sport leaves with the blooms. C. hederifolium has just a smattering of leaves during flowering. All have interesting leaves for a nice show when not in bloom. Some flowers are fragrant, but I really have to get my nose close to catch the scent, and since they are only about 3” (7-8 cm) above the ground your flexibility will really be tested. Shari can help you with that.



Mine have been in the ground for several years. I noticed a few years ago, even though I planted it below the soil surface, the top of the tuber is now exposed. It seems to have moved itself up. I used to worry about this and dig and replant when bulbs would do that. My Lycoris did it too. After replanting them, within a few years they would be up and above ground a bit again. I’ve left them alone for several winters now and they always come back, they must know what they want more than I do.

As for pests, I’ve never noticed any bug, slug or snail damage on Cyclamen. They reportedly prefer dry, dappled shade or full shade areas, so under trees or largely un-watered shady spots will make them happy.

The time to choose and buy C. hederfolium is either in spring when the potted selections will be in full leaf or in fall when they are in bloom. Some of the leaf patterning is so beautiful you may choose the variety on this alone. If you want to see the flower to make your selection…waste no time…head to your nearest nursery NOW!



In Bloom In My Garden Today: Cyclamen hederifolium, Gladiolus callianthus Abyssinian Glad, Cimcifuga ‘Brunette’, Colchicum, Gaura, blue fall crocus speciosus, Fushia, Alyssum, Coryopsis, Nepeta, Russian sage, rose, Eupatorium ‘Chocolate (Joe Pye Weed), Oregano, Schizostylus, Mullen chaixii ‘Album’, Veronica, Salvia, hardy geranium ‘Mavis Simpson’,Lavender, kirengeshoma palmate, Daphne caucasica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ and ‘Summer Ice’


Author’s photos

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkins and Poppies...It Must Be Fall

It is good to be alone in a garden at dawn or dark so that all its shy presences may haunt you and possess you in a reverie of suspended thought.
~James Douglas, Down Shoe Lane


I love growing plants in the garden that keep giving long after the plants have become compost in my bin. Every fall I look forward to making a fun arrangement at my front door using the seed pods from the purple poppies that bloom in the summer. I also like to grow the mini pumpkins in white or orange up a trellis. This year I grew ‘Baby Boo’ which is the white variety. Combine them with a fun Halloween plaque and the front door is ready to greet the October 31st revelers seeking candy treats for their tricks.


Purple poppies are gorgeous in summer.


The seed pods ripen in August and September. As they dry and the tops open I shake out all the seeds and save them for the next year and to share with friends.



Add a terracotta pot with the plaque and voila! This years fall decoration that will last till it’s time to change it to something for Christmas.


Happy Autumn!

In Bloom In My Garden Today: cimcifuga ‘Brunette’, colchicum, gaura, blue fall crocus speciosus, fushia, alyssum, coryopsis, nepeta, Russian sage, rose, eupatorium ‘chocolate’, oregano, Schizostylus, mullen chaixii ‘Album’, veronica, salvia, hardy geranium ‘Mavis Simpson’, lavender, kirengeshoma palmata, Daphne caucasica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ and ‘Summer Ice’


Author’s photos

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm OK...Really I Am

Hi Friends!

Sorry for the lapse in posts. Lest you worry that I’ve fallen into my rain barrel and can’t climb back out, worry not. I am still gardening and keeping bees, and I want to write about it, but I am having technical difficulties with blogger.com. We seem to have differing opinions about the easiest way to upload photos, and what fun is a gardening blog without photos? Please be patient with me as I explore my options and remedies. Until then, I trust you are raking your fall leaves for mulch and smiling every time you see a honeybee. Oh, and did you remember to buy and plant Abyssinian Glads this spring? Mine are blooming now…ahhh the fragrance!

Happy Fall season to you!