Saturday, September 27, 2008

Annuals in Pots

As the gardening season winds down and the garden starts to look tired and ready for a rest, one thing that still looks good are my big pots of annuals. I always plant up a number of these in the spring and they look pretty pathetic then with the tiny '6 pack' annuals, two or three to a large pot. Before you know it they have filled the pot. I just pick some things I like, usually with not much thought as to how I'm going to do this when I get home. I have yet to have any that are really ugly combinations. This year I planned my pots around what Lowe's had in their 'we almost killed it now you get it cheap' area. For 25 cents each I got a couple of 6 packs (usually 4 plants left) of coleus and the geraniums were 25 cents each for a 4 inch pot. I had no idea what color the geraniums would be. I think this pot worked out just fine. I liked this coleus so much that I took some cutting from it to live in the greenhouse over the winter. I don't always do this because it takes up space and the greenhouse is small, but we really liked the brightness of this one. I also got some red salvia, silver artemesia, white flowered vinca and a few dark leaved coleus.
When I plant these pots up, I use a layer of gravel in the bottom, especially if it is a plastic pot, partly for drainage, but mostly for stability. As the plants get taller, there's a chance they could get toppled in a windy rainstorm. I use a well draining potting mix because even though they are more likely to suffer from lack of water, soggy roots will be sure death for most of the things that end up in pots. Pinching back things as they get leggy helps keep the pots looking nice. The thing I especially like (other than that the plants are above the level where the rabbits can eat them) is that I can rearrange things at will. The pots have their homes, but can move to the other side of the house into the shade temporarily for a garden lunch or to spice up a too green area until later season perennials get going. My only requirement for placement is that they can be reached with a hose. Hauling that much water by watering can is a lot of work if you have a couple dozen pots to water every day - and they usually need watering every day.
Frost will do them in sometime in the next month, but I will certainly enjoy them until then and maybe even bring a few pots into the sunroom for awhile after that.
I've been canning lots of stuff for the past few days, so haven't been near the computer much. We now have lots of applesauce and tomatoes and some peach jam and grape jelly all looking so sparkly in their jars. I just love having shelves of canned things put up for the winter. Such a secure feeling knowing that we have plenty to eat should be we snowed in for a week or so.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sagina subulata aurea

This lovely thing is Sagina subulata aurea - Golden Irish Moss. I think it is much prettier than the plain old green version. It is a low growing ground cover that will grow in some sun to quite a bit of shade. I don't think full sun would make it happy. It is the kind of plant you can get growing between stones on a walk and it will take light foot traffic, though I always feel a bit uncomfortable walking on any of my plants. If you do use it between stones, be sure there is enough space for it to grow, because it will spread. I even have it growing on top of rocks, so my guess is that super fertile soil isn't one of its requirements. It has tiny, dainty white flowers in the spring which look kind of like you just took a handful of these super miniature blooms and just threw them across the ground. Quite a nice effect. It is relatively easy to transplant as long as you keep it well watered for a few weeks after you transplant it. You won't find a huge root system, so a bit of babying is necessary to a successful transplant. This golden form is not as easy to find as the green one, but so much prettier.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Morning Glories

Some weeds are just so pretty. I rip these out ruthlessly - except when one gets missed and blooms and then it gets to stay, at least temporarily. They remind me of my grandfather. His roses were his pride and joy, but he had a trellis upon which he always grew Morning Glories; plain old fashioned blue ones. These wild ones are smaller, but the color is the same. I guess I'm more likely to let the blue ones stay even as I pull out pink and white ones. I always helped him plant seeds in the spring. In addition to the radishes and lettuce, there were always zinnias, marigolds and portulaca. I still grow zinnias and marigolds, but the portulaca is a bit more difficult. Since I mulch most things heavily, it doesn't self-seed and when I do get some going, it is a favorite of the bunnies.
On growing Morning Glories: the packages always say to soak the seed overnight to aid in germination, but we never did that and I don't see much difference whether I soak them or not. Don't get too anxious to get them started in the spring since they are a tropical and are easily done in by even a little frost. They like full sun, but since the flowers will close up when the sun gets too bright, I always grow them where they get a little shade by mid day and then I can often get to enjoy the blooms a little longer. Early morning sun doesn't seem to bother them. I know they come in a variety of colors now (probably did back then too) and even some with patterns, but I will always only grow the lovely blue ones because they remind me of my grandfather (Chester Forrest Baker 1891-1963)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rumex sanguineus

Rumex sanguineus is a more recent addition to the gardens, but seems to be happy here. It does spread, I'm going to guess by underground runners since I've never seen it bloom to have seeds to spread. I have variously seen it described as a shade or sun plant and as liking average garden conditions or living in a bog. A common name is Bloody Dock. Mine seem to like shade better and grow fine with average water. It is not a large plant, maybe 10 inches tall, but the leaves are quite unusual with the green background and the red spiderwebbing pattern. I have it growing with hostas and pulmonaria and it fits in fine.
Note: This is the post for Saturday, for some reason Blogger lumped it in with Friday's post.

Spiranthes cernua 'Chadds Ford'

Spiranthes cernua 'Chadds Ford' is another of the hardy orchids, a native American even, and I totally forgot it when I was writing the other day about orchids. It likes sun, though it will grow in light shade and will grow just about anywhere in the US since I looked it up and it says zones 3-9. It has low green foliage and 12 inch flower spikes which bloom in September and have a smell something like vanilla, though maybe a little more flowery. Smells are so hard to describe. It likes moisture since in the wild it prefers bogs. We have grown it both in boggy conditions and just in the border and it did well in both places, though the one that was more damp certainly increased faster. It is easy to grow and will form a colony, slowly, by underground runners. I think this plant was 2 or 3 years old when the picture was taken, so you can see that it makes a showy small clump rather quickly.
Rereading all that I just wrote I'm not sure it makes a lot of sense, but I spent all afternoon outside in the sun, so I'll blame that. Fall cleanup is definitely underway and hopefully will be finished before I need mittens to work outside.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I'll bet most of you aren't familiar with this plant. It was recommended to me by Roslyn Nursery a long time ago and I'm told that it, like many others, seems to come and go in fashion. It is a rather large perennial, maybe 3-4 feet tall and almost as wide, so it needs some space. We grow it in dappled shade. It gets morning sun, but more shade by lunchtime. This first one is Leucoseptrum stellipilum. It has plain green leaves and was the first one we planted.
You can see the flowers just starting to grow.

When we realized that there was a variegated form, of course we had to have it. It is, obviously enough, Leucoseptrum stellipilum variegatum. The leaves are green and chartreuse/gold and seem a little thinner/less rounded than the plain one with a bit less serration.

Both flower in late summer/early fall with spikes borne at the tips of the stems. Quite pretty and a perennial most people will not recognize.


Stachys - Lamb's Ears

A love/hate thing to be sure with Lamb's Ears. I love the look, I love how kids in the garden like to 'pet' them. Even the flowers are nice, BUT, the species can be just plain rampant. I wish it would stay in a nice neat clump, but it doesn't. I rip it out and cut it back when it covers the path and I often consider just doing away with it, but I still like the way it looks in the garden, so we try and coexist.
This next one is the variegated form which we got from the nice folks at Baker's Acres up near Columbus. We keep it alive with some difficulty. As with a number of variegated plants, it seems to like more sun than the species, though thinking about it, the species will take full sun also.

This last is called 'Primrose Heron' and we picked it up from Glasshouse Works in Stewart Ohio. The color varies between yellow and chartreuse and instead of rambling all over the place, this one seems to be content to form a nice, furry clump. Right now it is about a foot tall and 18 inches wide. I think this would be my favorite - pretty and well behaved.
Like I said, most of these will enjoy full sun and also do well in at least partial shade. They are at least a bit drought tolerant, being able to go for quite awhile in a dry spell without looking thirsty. The flowers on the species appear on a bloom scape which is about 18 inches tall, though most seem to ramble on the ground a bit and only really go up about 10 inches. The scape reminds me of mullein in that it is somewhat reminiscent of a large asparagus except that it is fuzzy and silver with lots of tiny purple flowers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Actually, I think this is one of those plants that has changed names, but I still call them Ligularias since I can't remember the new one. As an aside, I read in Horticulture magazine the other day that Asters are no longer Asters but some multi-sylable name that starts with 'S' that I'll never remember. If it looks like an Aster, I'm going to call it an Aster.
But back to the Ligularias. This first one grew here for a number of years before it succumbed to a hard winter. It isn't reliably hardy this far north, but in a protected place it did just fine for awhile. The name is Ligularia tussilaginea cristata.

This next one is 'Leopard' because of it's spots which some leaves display more than others. This picture seems to have been taken when it was less spotted. It is also marginal here in zone 6, but we don't seem to have any trouble with it. It grows in a bed with the next two that are pictured along with hostas, toad lilies and a few other miscellaneous shade plants. This one seems to tolerate drought better than they do, though, maybe because it is a small plant, less than a foot tall. I've never seen these first two flower.

Ligularia japonica and the one that follows are both dependable fall bloomers with lovely daisy-like bright yellow/gold blooms.

This is my current favorite, Ligularia 'Britt Marie Crawfore'. The leaves are green toned red on top and dark red/burgundy on the bottoms. A little sun intensified the color, but too much sun will just give you a plant that spends the afternoons wilted. The ligularias are truly plants that will take a lot of shade and still bloom freely.

And here are the blooms from 'Britt Marie Crawford'. They are fairly typical for Ligularias. This one and the previous one are larger plants, maybe up to 2 feet tall and the same across.

Although the blooms resemble Black Eyed Susans, there are many on each scape. Not sure how they might do as cut flowers since there aren't all that many per plant and I have so many other things to pick this time of year.

Monday, September 15, 2008

This will be short. I started working outside this morning about 8 and I just came in and it's almost 5 here. I expect I'll fall asleep shortly after supper this evening. But... I got a tremendous amount of work done on this cloudy and relatively cool day. I lost track of the number of times I filled the wheelbarrow with weeds, did some pruning, packed a box to send tomorrow and checked frequently on my Monarch Butterfly chrysallis. I can now see the pattern of the wings, so I know it will happen soon. I'm hoping to catch the whole thing and post the photos here.
I promised more Liriope photos for today, and here they are. The first is Liriope muscari 'Okina' (I've also seen it as Okino). It comes up all white and gradually adds some green. In good shade, the white color lasts a long time. It is quite stunning in the spring.

This next one is Liriope spicata 'Silver Dragon'. It is a green and white striped one. Both of these are smaller. Okina spreads very slowly if at all. Silver Dragon spreads by runners, one little clump here, another there, unlike the 'normal' green ones which make large, dense clumps. You can see in the picture how it just sort of wanders. This one also seems to like dappled shade. I have one clump growing under a Japanese Maple which I think is the one in the pictures, but have put it all around the garden. You can always tell when I like a plant because you'll see it popping up all over the place.

This Liriope can take quite a bit more sun and the color will be better with some sun. This is Liriope 'Peedee Ingot'. It is quite yellow. Can't remember what color the flowers are, but I think they are lavender. We do have some with white flowers, but I don't think this is one of them.

This one is 'Big Blue' which is a named clone of the species. It is bigger and bluer, but otherwise no different. In a picture it looks just about the same.

We have the plain green Liriopes growing in lots of sun and they seem to take drought without complaint. I do like those dependable plants that don't need to be fussed over even more as I get older and the garden work seems to get harder. I suppose if we just had a yard to take care of instead of something close to 10 acres of gardens I might not get so tired, but I can't imagine being without any part of it and it's what I love to do.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Liriope 'Gold Band'

Liriopes are great all summer as edgings and just general garden plants, but it's this time of year when they really get noticed. Rather than having old ratty foliage and yellowing leaves, they still look as good as they did in the spring and on top of all that, this is when they come into bloom. This one, 'Gold Band' is a nice green with a gold edge and purple flowers. We have some with white flowers and one with gold leaves. I'll try to take some more pictures and put them up tomorrow. The flowers are mostly like little purple balls which never open into 'flowers' but eventually turn into larger, round seed pods. These seem to disappear rather than make babies in the vicinity so I think that small furry things must like them, or maybe birds. Liriopes spread enough on their own, so seeding all over the place really isn't necessary. We have them scattered around most of the beds and they are refreshing this time of year amidst the others who have given up for the year.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hardy Orchids

Frankly, I didn't have a clue what to write about today. The garden is winding down and nothing much is blooming besides the Black Eyed Susans (and I already wrote about them), so I just flipped through some pictures until I came upon something I liked. I used to think of Orchids as something other people grew, tempermental things that would just up and die on me given half a chance. I couldn't have been more wrong about the two whose pictures follow.
This first one is Calanthe tricarinata. It has never increased, but it is still there after many years, blooming dependably in mid-summer. The flowers are orange and yellow; the leaves are a soft green, pleated lengthwise. The blooms last for several weeks and each is a perfect 'orchid shaped' bloom. It is no more than a foot tall, so need to be placed at the front of the border where you will thoroughly enjoy it every time you walk past.

The second one I grow is Calanthe discolor. This one increases quite well and I have divided it to pot up for several years now, a few divisions each year. The flowers are a baby pink and the leaves are the same pleated green of the one above. They are both growing in dappled shade in woodsy soil.
I do grow one other, the name of which escapes me right now since I don't have a picture of it to refer to - that being because it seems to be really tasty and most years gets nipped off about a foot above the ground by a rabbit or one of its friends. It bloomed once for me and has a creamy colored cup shaped bloom. It is a vining/climbing plant and will be caged this year so that it can grow and bloom.

So don't be afraid to try orchids. The ones above are easy ones to start with and aren't unduly expensive.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I'm Back

W.ell, I've not been lazy or overly busy or on vacation, but my phone service has been out since Thursday. Still not sure what started it, but the first repairman though he had fixed it (2 days after I called in for help) but then apparently pinched a wire when he was closing things up. We didn't get another technician out here until Monday morning. It took another day to get the DSL working, so finally, here I am. It was weird being without internet access for so long. I'd forgotten what it's like to not know what the weather it doing according to the radar map or to check the newspapers and a whole bunch of other things I read daily. I got a bit or gardening done, though I would have gotten more done if the weather had been a little cooler. I read a 500+ page book which I thoroughly enjoyed which is something I hadn't done for awhile, at least a novel that long. In spite of the internet withdrawl, I did enjoy my time. The picture is of another thing I was working on.

Awhile back I found an old metal bed frame in the barn. I decided it would make a lovely display piece for my handmade baskets that I sell at the nursery. It was painted pink and purple then, but the paint had faded and there was some rust starting to show. When I was at the hardward store last week I picked up a can of paint to redo it, medium green. This is a lot brighter than the color on the can would have led me to believe, but I do think I like it. I don't have as much time to making baskets any more, so I'm just going to use it for plants.

Next project is to find a better way to keep the deer out. Midafternoon yesterday I went out and hear something in the sales area. Thinking we had unexpected customers (since we were closed) I walked over and there were two very large deer about to munch yet more hostas. They took off and I did my best to close up the space where they came in. My barrier has not yet been knocked down, so maybe I scared them enough to keep them out for awhile. I can hope.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Begonia evansiana grandis

What I hear most when people see these begonias in the garden is something to the effect that 'They aren't hardy, are they?" Well is you don't know these and live in a place not too far north of the northern edge of zone 6, these will be quite reliably hardy in your garden. I grow 2 different ones, the pink flowered and the white, though I have recently seen another advertized in catalogs and am not sure just what the difference is since it looks just like the pink one in the pictures. The pink flowered one is much more robust than the white one, but both are just lovely this time of year. They come up late, so be sure to mark where you put them. It is not at all uncommon for June to arrive before they make an appearance. Flowering is in late August and until frost when not all that many other things are still blooming. They like dappled shade best, but will grow in deeper shade or a place with morning sun. I just don't think they like to bake in the afternoon. The pink flowered one has wonderful deep red leaf backs that simply glow when the sun shines through them, especially this time of year when the late afternoon sun is so much lower.

The white flowered one ('Alba') has lighter green leaves, but both have flowers that look just like those you know from begonias you grow on the windowsill in the house. The pink flowered one will spread quicker and make a bigger patch, but both will spread by seed.
They seem to be readily available and a nice addition to the fall border. Not quite for the front since they can be 2 feet tall. One note, for the first time this year the deer have nibbled on some of mine, though only once and they've not come back. The deer seem to be very hungry due to over population (we have a doe with triplets this year), but some things are just not tasty enough to finish off. I'm always on the lookout for plants they don't like - like they enjoy my 'hosta salad'

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Nicotiana (or as I grew up knowing it Nicotinia) includes a lot of plants with flowers and leaves that don't look all that much like each other - some small, some large; some fuzzy, some smooth; various colors. Also included is good old tobacco. This first is Nicotiana langsdorfii. I got the seed years ago in a seed exchange through an English group. I thought it was an English variety, but have since seen it in lots of places here, though the seed doesn't seem to be offered in all that many catalogs. It is about 3-4 feet tall and has smaller leaves and green flowers. It self seeds nicely and comes up late, seeming to flower almost overnight. It will continue until from late mid-summer until frost.
These next two are the flowers and leaves of Nicotiana sylvestris. The flowers and leaves are both quite large, the flowers probably 6 inches long and borne in groups at the top of scapes that can easily reach 6 feet tall.

The leaves are also big, easily up to 18 inches long. The vine going up the post on the left is Parthenocisis 'Fenway Park'.

I think I had a picture of this one up before, but it is the variegated Nicotiana. I would guess it is related to langsdorfii since the flowers are the same. This, as all of the others is supposed to self seed. The first two do reliably and since this is the first year for this one I'll save some seed just in case, but I expect it to appear near it's spot again next year.

These are the flowers on the variegated one and although it doesn't show as much as I had hoped, the pollen on these is a bright blue. Maybe the anthers too.

The last on which I thought I had a picture of but which I don't seem to have, is a white one with a much wider but shorter flower. This one shows just how persistent these can be since it isn't one I bought or grew or planted, but it can up in a bag of leaves we had across the street in our mulch pile. Someone in the city of Athens had these growing in their yard 2 years ago since this was an old pile and the bag was still sealed last summer. Even with all that heat, enough to turn the leaves in the bag to compost, the seeds survived and gave me a lovely plant this year. I will surely save the seed to grow for next year.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Much as I love perennials which return year after year, this time of year I wouldn't be without my annuals, those plants which, although I have to plant them every year, grace my garden with color for several months with virtually no care at all past planting the seeds.
This first is a red leaf Castor Bean. Not much as a flower, but it is large with wonderful leaves. I have always collected the seeds to start in the greenhouse for plants to set out after frost, but this past year I kind of spaced it out and forgot to save any. To my surprise, where one of the plants was growing last summer a small forest of baby castor bean plants appeared this spring. I dug a lot and transplanted them all over the place. It it said that they repel moles, and we certainly need to do that around here, so I figure anything this pretty that also serves some useful purpose will always have a place in my garden.

There aren't all that many blue annuals that are really blue. Nigella, also known as Love in a Mist, also comes in a darker shade plus white. This one will self seed pretty reliably, though mine sort of ran out where it used to grow. I think it got too shady there. I replanted it in 2 places this year and am hoping it likes its home and returns for many years to come. It is a good cut flower.
I first grew nasturtiums when I was just 5 or 6 years old. At our school our only fundraiser each year was to sell flower seeds in the spring. I don't think I ever actually went out and sold any, just made my mother buy them all so we could plant then. There were 15 or 20 flowers plus radished and lettuce. I don't remember ever really getting any good lettuce, but I ate lots of radishes. One of the first ones I remember planting by myself were the nasturtium seeds, probably because they are so big. The packets now suggest soaking them overnight to speed germination. I've done it with and without soaking and don't notice all that much difference. The ones I have planted this year are just wonderful, even though the leaves have been attacked by something. There are so many flowers you don't even really notice that the leaves are less than perfect since they are pretty much covered up.

I started calendulas here the first summer after I moved here. It was a mixture called 'Art Shades' which ranged from cream through yellow through orange and anything in between. They self seed so I've never planted any more. Actually some years I have to thin them because they have gotten to be too much in the tree peony bed. After all these years I don't have many different colors any more, just the ones you see below which are more like the species.

This is a wonderful begonia called 'Charm'. It is not one I grow from seed, and am not sure it would come true from seed anyway. I make some cuttings in late summer and grow them either in the house or the greenhouse over the winter. In spring they usually have become a bit leggy and I make a lot of trimmings to root, either in water or with rooting hormone in individual pots of soil, and then I set them out after frost when it gets pretty warm. They do brighten up a border.

I don't remember planting this Amaranth, but it has been in its place near a pond for the last 3 years. I did have a multicolored one in another place in the garden once, so I suspect a bird or beastie planted this one for me. It is not too large and a nice contrast to the Salvia 'Argentia' growing behind it.

Although not pictured, I also have a patch of zinnias and marigolds, two others I always have growing here. I love being able to always have a vase of flowers on the table or on the kitchen windowsill, so depending on perennials this time of years would make that difficult. Tomorrow, the Nicotianas, a whole group of annuals which call my garden home, growing pretty much just where they please.