Fall garden work

melissa_thefarm(NItaly)October 19, 2011

Ahem. I think fall is about to arrive. FINALLY--after summer that came in April and May, vanished for a blissful month and a half in June and July, then returned and hung on relentlessly through August, September, and October until now--finally it has clouded up and the forecast has been sitting steady on a prediction of rain. O I am glad, because I'm unspeakably sick of sun, heat, and drought.

Anyway, in slight anticipation of water falling from the sky we've been doing a bit of planting, and about time. I have an area alongside the Rose Road that was a pile of rocks when we came here a decade ago. My husband covered the rocks with a load of dirt, I covered the dirt with mulch, and we started to plant things. These very dry, free-draining sites, in sun, call for particular plants. We have three or four young olives there; they froze almost to nothing in our last two severe winters, but did survive, and I'm hoping that they'll make it through the winter and next year will begin to grow sturdily. Seed-grown lavender (L. angustifolia, more or less), lavender cotton, one hybrid lavender ("lavandin"), two phlomis, rosemary, and a flourishing herbaceous euphorbia were there already. The buddleia looks miserable now, though still alive, ditto for 'Old Blush', 'General Schablikine', and a smokebush. I added common thyme, more lavender, another euphorbia, a cistus, and two brooms. These last are this year's experiment. I got baby plants of Cystius scoparius, Genista radiata, G. pelosa, G. tinctoria, Retama monosperma; and have ordered the fearsome Spartium junceum. The latter is--I think--our native broom, found growing in the most inhospitable sites. I have places where nothing will grow; well, I want plants to grow there, and think S. junceum has a chance.

These sites of thin soil over rocks, in sun, have been a problem. Roses hate them: they like more dirt under their feet, and a bit of shade. Even lavender, the angustifolia types and the hybrids, like some clay, as long as they're on a slope. Ceanothus looks promising; then the brooms, and the cistus; Teucrium fruticans, which I found looking very handsome down in Tuscany a couple of years ago, has done well in light soil; and then there are woolly lavender (L. lanata) and Spanish lavender (L. stoechas), both of which are supposed to be slightly tender here, but which do well in hot dry rocky places: the woolly lavender is very handsome, with its silver foliage and electric purple flowers, and has survived two cold and wet winters.

Yesterday I was working on the Boundary Bed, first started in 2006. Last fall I looked at this bed and thought it would never again see its spring glory; and then this spring it was beautiful. So now I know its current wretched state isn't permanent. Still, when we created this bed we made the mistake of making it too narrow. It's open on both sides, no structure or woodland to protect it from wind and sun, and it needs to be wider than its double line of roses. So I'm planting rosemary and lavenders outside the roses, hoping to offer them some protection, and will be thickening the planting inside with a few shrubs, but more herbaceous plants like valerian, artemisia, iris, agastache, to join the hyssop, lamb's ears, clary sage, and similar tough plants already present.

My herbaceous peonies I planted last fall died, killed by the extremely wet winter followed by the extremely dry summer. Herbaceous peonies like some shade here. Tree peonies seem to do better in these very dry sun-beaten areas. To my surprise the large-flowered clematis are all alive; not growing, but alive. I think they must so love all that clay to get their roots down into, that they forgive drought, sun, compacted soil, and inadequate mulch.

Today eleven tons of hay are arriving, and I'm so happy at the thought that finally we will be able adequately to mulch our garden! This has not been the case the last two years, and the garden shows it.

I've been working on expanding my collection of slightly dull shrubs suitable for hedging and as background for flashier plants. I have a great need for these. First, our garden is a country garden, set in the middle of fields and woods, and most of the plants have a wildish character, with smaller blooms, smaller foliage, milder coloration, than the showiest plants the garden center has to offer. Old roses rather than brilliant Hybrid Teas and Floribundas, for example. Then, most common shrubs available don't grow in our tough conditions. Most people with gardens live in town, that is, in valleys or in the plain, with alluvial soil, flat ground that water doesn't run off of, trees and buildings that shelter from wind, and gardens small enough to be irrigable. They can grow photinia, English and bay laurel, box, nandina, loropetalum, viburnums, and so on. For our garden, I need plain old privet--one of the toughest shrubs around--lilac, mock orange (Philadelphus), hazelnut, Lonicera fragrantissima, and snowberry (Symphoricarpos). These are mostly plants with a single season of interest, dullish foliage, no fall color; and they do for me: I wouldn't want a garden of just these kinds of plants, but they satisfy my need for unobtrusive and unkillable shrubs. And I like that slightly untidy wild hedge look.

The propagating beds are still stuffed with plants we haven't been able to move to the garden, including lots of roses (too many gigantic climbers); so I've been putting fall cuttings in pots. Rosemary, lavender, buddleia, lemon verbena, caryopteris, snowberry, artemisia (A. abrotanum I believe). So far so good, but I need to do more plants; I have an endless need for gray-foliaged, aromatic shrubs and herbaceous plants...never too many.

I haven't said anything about roses because there's been nothing to say. 'Mme. Antoine Mari' close to the front door at the foot of the terrace is in full bloom, in spite of having received just an inch of rain in the last two and a half months. Gotta love those Teas! She does have a bit of mildew. Most of the roses survived this dreadful year, and there are lots of rooted babies to find places for, once the ground doesn't need to be broken up with a pick. All in all, they came through this endless summer better than almost anything else. Some very battered ones, like my put-upon 'Thisbe', are making new growth now. I hope it doesn't freeze for many weeks to come.

So, that's my fall. What are you all doing in your gardens?


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I enjoy your ramblings very much. I am surprised that your garden should be so difficult at times because your climate seems like a dream to me in Sweden where we dream of sun all winter. But then we had enough sun this summer and no rain for months so I've realized that too much sun is not always a good thing. Other parts of the country claim they had no summer at all, only rainy days.

I've planted all the roses that have sat in pots since May, all of them American and Canadian varieties, 'Radiance', 'Marianne', 'Quadra', 'Lambert Closse', and 'J.P. Connell'.

When the rain finally came our urge to garden came back. We cleared a fallow corner area and planted climbers along the hedge mainly to screen a new house on the other side. Some neighbours sold off half their lot so both lots are now incredibly small with large houses occupying almost all of it. We planted 'Quadra', 'Valdemar', Rosa x dupontii and an Ayrshire, Capreolata, along the hedge. There is already a giant rugosa hybrid there, a local variety.

My husband and I realized that we have too few shrubs and small trees so we took a couple of days off last week and drove down south to a nursery specializing in shrubs on the island of Oland, a remarkable landscape on the UNESCO world heritage list. The nursery is in a remote place, the owners are cattle farmers, so they invited us to spend the night in their guest house and gave us a lovely dinner and breakfast, and wine and whisky from their recent trip to the Continent to buy more plants. (A good time was had by all!) They didn't charge anything for board and lodging in spite of our protests.

We came back with three kalmias, 'Peppermint', 'Raspberry Glow' and 'Pink Charm' for our woodland, a small Pinus contorta 'Chief Joseph' for the front of a shady border, a Rhus typhina 'Tiger Eyes' in glowing orange and a Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum, a nameless variety but it looks very much like 'Mariesii'.

We lost a pear tree last year and have removed a gooseberry bush so we suddenly had some room in our small orchard. We have enough common varieties of soft fruit so we are adding some more unusual varieties (for Sweden) like American blueberries and honeyberries and on this trip we found a Japanese silverberry, Elaeagnus umbellata. We are looking forward to some exciting jams.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 5:44AM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

I enjoy both of your posts, Melissa and Marianne. I love reading the things I can't do here. My room temp. if 60 degree (I have the heat on!), and it's 30 degree outside. Melissa, I love lavender but it doesn't like the wet weather here. Marianne: Sorry about the loss of your pear tree. I'm thinking about killing both my pear trees - they are supposed to be dwarfs, but giant trees here. Pear doesn't taste good in my wet limestone soil, but my Mom's pear tree in Michigan gave really yummy fruits.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 10:36AM
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lori_elf z6b MD

We had a very hot and dry summer, and now a wet fall. I lost a lot of perennials and grasses due to the drought. The roses all survived with minimal or no watering, by the way (though they grew less and had fewer new basal breaks due to the drought I noticed). I lost a mockorange shrub that was well-established. Crab grass and weeds were the only things that thrived. So now I am reseeding my lawn, pulling weeds, mulching, etc., to restore the bare patches and clearing the weed tangle.

The dying grass is perplexing. True, I didn't water, but it survived other dry summers with similar treatment. I think it is the fault of my lawn service cutting the grass too low and often during the drought. They probably think they are doing a good job by cutting close and making it look neater.

I am planting fall bulbs and wildflowers too. I have had good success with many native plants and am trying a few more varieties (erythronium pagoda (dog-toothed violets), sanguinea canadensis (bloodroot)). I am sticking to species tulips, daffodils, crocus, and other bulbs that will perennialize as I'm tired of re-planting tulips that die after a year or two.

I have a big order of fall roses coming from Pickering in early November. I added to the order last-minute to get some rare varieties that will be discontinued next year and I fear no longer available anywhere in the future. I have a couple Austins, one bourbon, but mostly once-blooming old european roses on order. I don't know where I am going to put them all!

I discovered that I have poison ivy growing somewhere in the wilder parts of my garden! I have rashes all over my arms and waist (where my shirt must have hiked up or I scratched or something). I have a vague idea what poison ivy looks like from pictures, but I am terrified of my wild garden now. I still have lots of weeding, planting, and mulching to do there.

I've been cutting back and training climbers along my privacy fence and cutting back certain clematis and euonymous fortunei. This is a big job involving tall stepladders that I dislike. I had one trellis taken down and removed the climber. I would like to take more down but I would lose too much privacy and it would take years to grow something else tall enough (and then it wouldn't stop growing and might get too tall, so I'd be back to pruning with stepladders again.)

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 10:39AM
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When a new friend who loves roses came to visit yesterday, I once again enjoyed the peculiar pleasure of introducing the roses and other plants in my garden. The names are such a pleasure to say. Often when a new person comes to visit me, if they have shown even the slightest interest in the gardens, I want to tell them all about it. I have learned to watch, to see if their eyes glaze over and so then, stop talking. They've come to see me, after all, and not my garden. They just do not realize, and I do not tell them, how much my garden is me. I will enjoy their company over coffee or tea, but they will never know who I really am.

It was really a strange and very peculiar happiness, then, when my new friend's eyes were not at all glazed over, as her head too is filled with names and faces of the roses she loves, of plants, of gardens, of plans for the springs and summers to come.

Marianne and Melissa's postings remind me of what a pleasure it is to say the names of those that inhabit your garden, even if it is on paper only, the sounds only echoing in your mind and ears. So while reading your garden ramblings, I felt as if I were the one tagging along behind you, and while not as good as being there, I too, am happy for the pleasure it gives us all to both say and hear the names and words of plants and roses that live with you and fill so much of your mind and life.

For myself, I remember the last day of summer. That Sunday morning dawned with the perfection of a summer day, so much so that it carried the foreboding of the end. And truly, that was the last day of summer; the grey and rain came the next day.

Fall here - but what do I know, my life here is less than two years old and I'm constantly told by those wiser and more long lived than me in this place - but this is not what it's really like, this fall is not, this summer is not, this spring is not, this winter is not. What is it really like, then? Who knows, not me.

This summer a spot in the woods was finally cleared and planted. A new Annabelle hydrangea - one whose stems do not flop, I'm promised - some species roses, r. xanthina or Manchu rose and r. glauca, Darlow's Enigma, Purple skyliner, and at the front, some apricot shrubs that I hope will become large enough to form a passage through, with phlox, hardy geraniums and other perennials and small shrubs. At the back with sun from the south there are gallicas, and in the most sun, two tea roses, Lady Hillingdon and Mme.Berkeley. It's planted and now there is the waiting of another 250 days to see what will bloom and how it will look. And then another 3 or 4 winters and summers to see whether the pictures in my mind lied to me, and the reality is not the same as what I now see.

And then that odd little spot backside of the garage. There is a dead Japanese maple that is now a scaffold for a Madame Alfred Carriere. Was this a silly thing to do? How large will MAC get here? Maybe next year I'll know more. I scrounged a door from a junk shop and painted it blue, and my dh bolted it to the backside of that long blank garage wall. We built a step underneath it, and I planted some stepables checkerboarded into it. Ghislaine deF is there, along with a paniculata hydrangea, Limelight, some hostas, woodland phlox, a fern, goatsbeard with a path to the blue door. It needs a doorbell and a wreath on the door to complete the picture of an entrance to nowhere. Is it ridiculous, charming or simply odd? I won't know until next year. More waiting.

The split rail fence behind houses some hybrid musks and others I thought would do well there, but it's at the edge of a steep and deeply wooded area, so even my summer and spring efforts at clearing out that precipice are futile, as the undergrowth, vine maples, odd trash trees and rampant blackberries come back with a vengeance whenever they're cut back. And their roots keep the soil stable. Nothing does very well there except a rhodo and a camellia in the more shaded area along that fenceline. Excellenz v Schubert is happy there, though, and maybe one of the other hybrid musks. Probably I should remove everything else and let those two fight it out with the undergrowth after my spring and summer sessions with a lopper. this summer I spent time with a shovel digging out part of that area trying to understand why so little grew well. Digging down I found large chunks of asphalt that had been buried there when the house was built, not doubt, to stabilize the soil. Oh, I said and re buried the asphalt. That is why not even grass will grow in some spot but is covered with moss. I have rugosas planted in a bed there, but they probably will die. Sunny spots are so precious, but there it is. I can't change that.

There are some perennials to cut back later, but most of my work is done now. It's just waiting for another summer. It's the hardest part of living here, the short growing season. Next year's work is to reclaim a graveled area and plant some fruit trees and a veg area in raised beds. Next year.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 11:40AM
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Melissa - the amount of work you do is amazing! Makes me tired just thinking about it. Love reading about your garden - I like the fact that you just keep on finding things that work for the difficult conditions/areas, by trial and error if necessary.

I think we are a bit warmer in the winter here than you are (zone 9 - hardly ever even frosts), and we have clay soil, lots of water, and a flat lot. I remember being frustrated reading garden magazines when plants wanted "well draining rocky soil", because I knew we didn't have any of that! We are just doing "Fall cleanup" right now - cutting back shrubs, pruning the roses, weeding, etc. Many of the roses are blooming & putting out more & more buds right now, of course. My narcissus are coming up already - this season is really a second spring, here.

One thing made me laugh - your comments about planting broom. We have broom here. It is not native, buy has naturalized. We call it "Scotch broom", but who knows what kind it really is. It has naturalized all over the hills and wild spaces, to the point that the environmentalists are very concerned - it is crowding out native species. So, volunteers get together with the park service several times a year and do "broom eradication" on public lands. A volunteer plant of broom came up in our garden a couple of years ago - when I finally figured out what it was, I looked around, expecting the "broom police" to be looking over my shoulder!

A suggestion about a plant that might like your rocky open spaces - Jupiter's Beard. It has also naturalized here, and grows on rocky almost vertical hillsides, as well as in gardens. I can think of several road cuts where the cut hillside next to the road is completely covered with blooming Jupiter's Beard in the Spring - all three colors. Just a thought -

Thank you for sharing your adventures -


    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 1:10PM
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Lori, I am so sorry you are having poison ivy problems. I'm really susceptible to getting rashes and can really empathize.

There are some scrubs that used to help me, Technu extreme was one, after getting into it. Learning what it looks like is essential and then taking a shower and scrubbing with Technu immediately after going inside helped when I got into an area where it is. Don't be terrified, you just have to know your enemy. Don't ever burn the stuff, as the oils go air borne and cause more problems. I don't think round up helps, either, very much, but it's worth thinking about using it.

I wore gloves that I threw away after being near the stuff and kept cutting it back. My area wasn't wild, though, just in a wild-ish area under pine trees at the back of our lot in Alabama.

Last resort if the rash starts to get infected, go see a dr. and get a cortisone shot. good luck, and I'm sorry. It's a hellishly miserable plant.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 2:59PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

I enjoyed reading about your fall gardens. melissa_thefarm, no common Myrtle, Myrtus communis? It lives and thrives here on our winter rain alone, is so sweetly fragrant, and must be native to your area.

We are in the midst of a ravishing October rose flush. A couple of weeks ago we got an inch and a half of soft, steady rain, and a few weeks before that, a freak thunderstorm gave us 1.4". The roses responded to this double miracle with jubilation.

'Young Lycidas'

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 5:25PM
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roseblush1(8a/Sunset 7)

I'd love to be able to say that I am doing all of the interesting planting mentioned in the posts above, but right now, I am doing the hard labor part of gardening because the HOT days of summer are past and the COLD days of winter are not here,yet.

I am hauling rocks from the dredging pile to create raised beds. I am hauling mulch from the chipping pile and I am weeding. Oh, and I plan to move the irises that I planted in the wrong place.

Next year, I am hoping fall will be less hard labor and more planting.


    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 10:44PM
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Nice to hear all these pleasant posts!
Marianne, I can imagine it does sound odd to a Swede, but yes, when sun goes on week after week and month after month, with never a cloud in the sky, it's possible to get awfully tired of it. Then we get tired of winter when it comes as well, though ours is minor compared to what you experience. This year we didn't have either a decent spring or a decent fall, which are the two agreeable seasons, of course. But in spite of all these complaints, I agree, we have a wonderful climate.
I confess to envy of your 'Radiance'. 'Dupontii' is a wonderful rose!
Fresh blueberries are delicious! Also, do you make American-style fruit pies? Your visit sounds like it was memorable and lovely.
Strawberryhill: Dang, that sounds cold. Our endless summer has finally ended, but the house hasn't chilled down yet. Yesterday evening we lit our first fire, but it was to dry a load of laundry and not because of low temperatures, which are still sitting in the low 60s indoors. Our house's 20 inch thick masonry walls have stored a lot of heat during all these weeks of sun, and now are releasing it.
Your description of your garden conditions make me wonder: Do you have clay? Are lilac, peonies, clematis, old roses and spring bulbs suited there? My credo is that everyone can have a wonderful garden, if they just find the plants that are suited to their conditions. It's an act of faith, I suppose--faith in nature, and its capacity for evolving plants for every ecological niche.
lori elf: I imagine you already know that hydrocortisone ointment will help with the itching. For the rest, I bow before the convincing information proffered by Gean.
I'm surprised you lost a mockorange to drought: I rank these among the unkillable shrubs, and Lord knows ours go through long, dry, unwatered summers. Is your soil light? Was this a pampered shrub unable to withstand the shock of sudden austerity?
Good luck getting your garden going again this fall! Congratulations on your once-blooming old roses: I love this group.
Gean, oh so true, and thanks for speaking for me and many others. What a blessing it is when a gardener--present or future--comes to visit.
From what I hear from friends and family out your way, this has been a very cold year in the Pacific Northwest, much chillier than what I remember as "normal". When I lived in Olympia I didn't think of the growing season as short. As I recall it, November was the worst month of the year, all the foliage of the herbaceous plants blackened and dying; but spring began at the end of January, and lasted till the 4th of July! July was too bright and warm for my taste, but August was already a soft and beautiful month, the prettiest of the year. Your experiences of the weather may improve as you live there longer. I think you are going to have some beautiful roses.
Jackie, I think that invasive broom is Spartium junceum, which is why I described it as I did in my first post. I believe that's what I saw growing all over in Washington state as well. It's native here, however, so I can plant it without worrying about it crowding out other plants. And I'm putting it where nothing else will grow, so it will do its duty as a colonizing plant in hostile terrain.
Jupiter's Beard is Centranthus ruber, isn't it? I have that; I spread it about as I get a new plant here and there. You're right, it's a good addition to the garden.
hoovb, Ha, for once the weather did its duty, or what we would like to think its duty. It does sound ravishing: enjoy your roses!
I'm experimenting with myrtle, and certainly would love to have it in my garden. It's not native in Piacenza nor grown in local gardens, which suggests it's too tender for most places in our area. I've tried it outside a couple of times and have lost it, though I finally got two plants in the ground through last winter alive. I'm experimenting with it. I do think that I can grow it in the ground here if I can find the right site. We're in a warm spot for our area, with our steep baking southern exposure, and in the sunny garden some of the most prosperous trees and shrubs are Italian cypresses and Italian pines, plants typical of Tuscany, not of northern Italy where we live, though they are fairly widely grown locally. Olives are another borderline plant here, that can be grown in the warm spots but not just any old place.
Lyn, have fun gardening! Here, too, we're in that brief period between summer and winter. I'm doing cleanup as well as I plant, but I agree it's a lot more fun combining the two rather than just pulling weeds and hauling rocks. Enjoy your fall!
Happy gardening to all!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 1:12AM
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seil zone 6b MI

So fun and interesting to hear about all the things that are happening in everyone's gardens all around the world! Sorry to hear about plants lost and the dreaded poison ivy though. I do battle with it here from time to time too. Thankfully, knock wood, I've never gotten the rash when disposing of it. And no, regular Round-Up doesn't work on it. I've tried that. But there are other herbicides made specifically for poison ivy, you have to read the labels carefully.

For the most part things are in a sort of a holding pattern here. It isn't cold enough yet and we haven't had a killing frost so it's too soon to start doing any fall clean up. Things are still growing and blooming. At a snails pace though. The days are short and the weather is gray and wet so everything is blooming in slow motion. Besides, the main garden in front is decorated for Halloween so I can't really do any work in there until next month.

November is when I will start to winterize things around here. But the rose pots won't go into winter wraps until December. I have some new tulips to plant and some iris to move. And a new fence to put around the bed out by the street. I've been worrying about it getting trampled during the winter when it's snow covered. We're on the path to school and the kids aren't always careful where they step. They haven't walked on them yet but once they're snow covered and you can't see where they are I'm afraid the kids will just step on them. So I got a nice metal folding fence that sticks in the ground to run along the edge. It's easily removable so I can work in the bed but high enough that it will be hard to step over and very visible. I hope that does the trick.

So for now I'm enjoying the mums and asters and the handful of roses still blooming and biding my time.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 10:25AM
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Lori, I also fear poison ivy because when I get it it spreads all over me and lasts a couple of weeks. I have seen some in my garden this year and have not removed it because I want to get someone else to do it who is not allergic to it. ( my husband) Meanwhile I spray painted the leaves so I will be better able to avoid them. Even spray paint doesn't seem to bother that plant. There's an old saying, " Leaves of three , let it be." It can be easy to confuse poison ivy with virginia creeper..sometimes I think vc's early leaves look the same but later they have about five leaves. I bought some Technu and also a spray that has a drying agent in it and Calamine..it is made by Bandaid. I thought I had the beginnings of a rash but it went away after treatment with those two.

I badly want to get outside and work but have been sick for almost two weeks. Finally went to the dr yesterday and was put on an antibiotic. You're not suppossed to be out in the sun while taking it. Today is a beautiful day, just after a rain, and I would love to plant some of my many potted roses. I will have to SP some plants I like fairly well to make room for new ones. It's hard. I also have a lot of irises to plant and some alliums.

I have been weeding the past month, and pruning out dead wood. Still haven't finished potting up rooted cuttings..I have some lacecap hydrangea and lilacs to pot up. About a month ago my son and I saw a strange brilliant green caterpillar with what looked like a brown furry head at each end and a spot on the back. My son identified it and it is the Saddleback Caterpillar. It apparently has a sting as bad as a hornet. I had moved it to a field but now kind of wish I had squashed it. These caterpillars are seen more in the fall and more often in the southeast.

Our sugar maple tree is just starting to turn brilliant orange. I like this time of year.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 10:29AM
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ingrid_vc(Z10 SoCal)

Very enjoyable posts from all of you, and hoovb your picture of a rose I've been wanting is really magnificent.

I'm humbled by the amount of work many of you are doing, and am frustrated that I'm able to do so little. My husband recently planted new roses I had ordered. Out of 12 only one, Le Pactole, seems to not be viable. There are four more of these roses to be planted this week. I took out one of my Spice roses that never looked very good and was impinging on the roses around it. We had a very large ficus removed and replaced it with a crape myrtle, and the roses around it seem to really appreciate the additional light. At the moment the weather is beautiful and the roses, especially the teas, are blooming beautifully. I'm happy to see that my baby Amazone is putting out new growth in a place where two other roses failed. It's a small victory that makes me very happy. My garden is fully planted so it's now just a process of upkeep and refinement. Now that many of the roses are maturing, and I'm seeing many hundreds of blooms, I'm almost wondering whether I have more roses than I want, which is quite a change from a year or two ago. After all the remaining roses are planted, I'll be taking a hard look at the garden as a whole to determine how I can achieve a proper balance of roses vis a vis other plants and the background landscape. More mulching needs to be done this fall before the rainy season (hopefully) comes and perhaps alfalfa for some of the roses and other plants. I have no grandiose plans, and plan to spend quite a bit of my time just enjoying the outdoors and reveling in the sights, sounds and smells of the garden and surrounding landscape.


    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 4:58PM
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lou_texas(8a N Central TX)

Oh, how I love visiting everyone's gardens! Melissa, I've followed your garden for a long time and I admire your tenacity and hard work. I like the honesty you all express about your challenges and your ideas for meeting them. No sugar-coating the hard work and no denying the extent of the pleasure it brings.

Gean, It's rare when someone can express exactly how I feel about my garden, but you did it - "very peculiar happiness when my new friend's eyes were not at all glazed over . . . what a pleasure it is to say the names of those that inhabit your garden, even if it is on paper only, the sounds only echoing in your mind and ears". Thank you.

This year, for the first time, I got a poison ivy rash -- even though I battle it coming through my neighbor's fence every year. Not fun! This is one of the best sites I've visited to see pics of poison ivy, oak, and sumac: http://landscaping.about.com/od/galleryoflandscapephotos/ig/Pictures-of-Poison-Ivy/ I've printed out many of the pics to educate my grandsons so they won't have to go through the rash I experienced this year - all gone now.

I have very little time to spend doing yard work, but I'm in the middle of dividing and transplanting iris and daylilies. My cannas will have to wait until spring.

The best thing about my yard right now is the resurgence of the OGRs. Now that summer is gone, they're happy and they make me happy.

hoovb, the pics you post are unbelievably beautiful. Do you think your Young Lycidas would do well in Texas?

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 5:54PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Hoovb: You tempted us by so many loaded and luscious pics. of your roses that I am ready to build a roof-garden (I'm out of sun with my giant 26 trees).

Seil: How do make your brick edging stand up? Do you dig down into the dirt, and how many inches down to prevent grass from growing inward? Any brick-glue needed? With our wet weather I am leaning toward brick raised bed, since wood rots. We ordered Suncast resin raised bed as a trial, and will install it when the rain stops. Your brick bed looks very lovely, nice and neat.

Lori: I feel for you - I got poison ivy at least 3 times from my garden. Went to the doctor twice, got both the pill and the lotion. The hard water here with lime (calcium) doesn't heal my skin fast enough - my right hand still looks like a leper. I am shopping for the type of SOFT garden gloves to wear, so I don't waste bandages to cushion the wounds. Rough gloves can make the rash worse -corduroy is rough, leather is rough, so is goat skin - I might have to try the more expensive deer skin, or just wear plastic surgical gloves for the garden.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 9:50AM
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seil zone 6b MI

Thank you Strawberryhill! I have to thank my brother, Al, for all the design and construction of that beautiful bed. Other than my planting it he did all the hard labor! The bricks we used are just standard garden edgers but we didn't sink them because I wanted the extra height. Each brick has two, two foot long rebars glued to the back with construction adhesive and the rebars are sunk into the ground. Then each brick is also construction adhesived to it's neighbors on the ends. The back wall is two foot square patio blocks standing on edge and rebared into the ground as well. You can see that better in this pic.

So the top tier is two feet deep and the bottom one about one foot. Then on the inside of the walls all the way around he took that eight inch corrugated metal edging and adhesived it to the backs of the bricks to hold it all together. It's been 6 years and there is only one brick loose. You can see it sort of tipping out there on the left side of the first picture by the ghost, along the driveway. That one's my fault. I tend to step on it when I'm getting out of the bed. Otherwise they haven't budged! Around the front where the lawn is there is a row of regular bricks flat on the ground that provides an edge for the lawn tractor to ride on and keeps the grass from growing into the bed. About once a season I do have to weed some grass out from between the flat bricks but it's kept it out of the bed nicely.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 1:59PM
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This year is house renovation time and so not much playing in the garden, only emergency work like bringing in the last of the tender plants the night of the first freeze; citrus, gardenia, brunfelsia, mango, rosemary, Passiflora edulis, bay tree, Tabernaemontana grandiflora, jasmine 'Sambac Maid/Maid of Orleans', fig, clivia and Cyclamen persica and there are still a few more to bring in that will take a little frost.

Every year at this time I truly appreciate the japanese anemones and vow to grow more. They take their sweet time deciding whether to live or not (and half the time not) and then some more time growing into a decent patch but once they have decided to stay they are carefree, generous of bloom and very beautiful this time of year. They have succeeded best transplanted in the Fall which is very rare for this part of the country. The only other plant I know that insists on Fall planting here is Eryngium (Sea Holly). Peonies, lilies, etc. like Fall planting but don't swoon to death with Spring planting. Another Fall bloomer I love is Crocus speciosum, intense cobalt blue and larger than the usual Spring crocus. This will only grow for me in one spot, through a clump of Sundrops (Oenothera - can't remember the species name). I have finally figured out, I think, that the rodents that feast on my crocus, tulips etc. do not like the Sundrops and that is why the crocus survives there. So I am going to plant these tempting morsels in the most poisonous plants I know; hellebores, colchicum, snowdrops, lily-of-the-valley and, if I still had it, aconitum (wolf's bane).

The only rose bloom so far this Fall is from Souvenir de la Malmaison which lasted 6 days on the kitchen windowsill, only a few inches from my nose while doing dishes which is a good place for it. A few buds on Belinda's Dream and Gruss an Aachen probaly won't open before frost.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 2:10AM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Thank you, Seil, for posting that festive picture and very good instructions on brick work. My hubby is busy with his new job, so I tackle the job myself. Bricks and glue sounds fun, and I'm up to the job - Many thanks.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 12:22PM
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Campanula UK Z8

Mmm, autumn always seems like the start of the gardeners year - new bulbs, lots of pruning, cuttings for overwintering, harvest, ladling on compost and planting the new bare root fruits, roses and shrubs. After a truly bizarre rainless summer, the allotment has turned sere and brown much earlier than usual. Rudbeckias, dahlias and heleniums and asters had an attenuated show - I always struggle with these prairie type beauties on my sandy soil but one must have them. This year, not even emergency hosing was going to prolong the luminous late summer show of golds, bronzes and purples so I turned my face to the gravel garden which never fails to thrive. Melissa, how I love spanish broom - yep, Spartium junceum can be a thug but what a gorgeous fragrant and elegant one. They twist and bend, making fantastically gnarly shapes and grow huge and fat in East Anglia. Cytisus also grows to shocking tree size, as does Tamarix. Desperate savage pruning has been done. even though the shrubs in question are less than 6 years old, they are eating the shed. A glorious stipa gigantea, planted so carefully to filter the low evening sun, has been overshadowed one one side and totally mugged by a giant acanthus on the other. In truth, the entire gravel garden has to be redone, lifting the remnants of the old membrane (which utterly failed to prevent the millions of verbena, centranthus, ox-eye daisies, althea and eryngiums from seeding with total abandon) and replacing plants which should never have been placed there (legion - Dieramas, Schizostylus, echinaceas - embarrassing how clueless I was to plant these moisture lovers in gravel!!!)Then there are the plants which clearly love it but are far too keen - helianthemums, nepetas, salvias, hebes - small cushions are ground swallowing mounds. Apart from lots of lavender - I have hedges of L Hidcote - the deepest blue, I do not have as many silver plants as I would like. A colony of pulsatilla does well with summer silky seedheads. Santolina and a lone artemisia (Powis Castle - another huge thing). Would like to try astelia and also celmisias. A plant grown much by Ingrid, and a revelation to me, was Limonium - violetta, I have and it looks terrific with eryngiums and stipa tenuissima. Stachys or Phlomis have, so far, failed to touch my heart and I have done verbascums to death. Still throwing out flowers is the modest Zauschneria, looking good with the last of the escholzias, Salvia greggii and microphylla are flowering profusely and unstoppable. Also, pushing out another cycle of flowers - a lovelu silver leafed mound of erodium chrysantha (might be good for you, Melissa, it is a lovely thing). However, much of this is happening out of my sight since I am woefully stuck at home in a kitchen which resembles Entebbe. A simple flooring job turned into armageddon - the massively heavy cast-iron and enamel sink is upside down on the sofa, the old washing machine has been drug to the tip and a new (to me) one has arrived - although the sink issue means it is still in the middle of the kitchen. Am running out of knickers and socks - may have to be a slut and turn them inside out since the whole water system is now only usable with a lot of fiddling about with stopcocks. In a moment of frenzy, I thought we may as well go the whole way and ripped off great swathes of old painted wallpaper - which of course, came off really easily....on one wall - the rest seems as though it was cemented in position. The ingrates (offspring) have absented themselves for large amounts of time yet still manage to materialise at sensitive (shouty, sweary) moments and chip in with ludicrous suggestions (we could put speakers in the new sink cupboards, why don't we have an indoor hammock?)Estimates of finishing time have gone from 'around a week' to 'in time for Christmas'. We are eating a lot of 'bread based snacks' - although the rate of jam consumption is worrying as I was definately slack this year, using the virusey raspberries as an excuse to cut down on all the 'earth mother' nonsense I had somehow got myself into(what was I thinking?) May be forced onto chocolate spread - sweetheart can have marmalade (shudder). Even so, it has been a spectacular tomato year (no rain - no blight)- have had kilos and kilos from 40 plants. I now have wrists of iron from poking hundreds of tomatoes through a sieve. The first bareroots will be arriving soon so I will have every reason to flee the kitchen chaos.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 6:39PM
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peachiekean(z10A CA)

Fall has arrived and I'm recently retired and busy! The summer was frustrating with hand surgery June 13 and the 2-3 months it took to heal. I could barely water as the hoses caused so much discomfort. Then, all of a sudden I was better. My daughter Rose came over with her truck and took me to the stables for about 10 bags of horse compost. I got the fall garden going and thanks to the garden center staff, have less varmints after they removed 12 Acacia trees which contained 30 rat's nests. I've been up to my favorite thing - transplanting roses and planning where to put what.
Today I gave a couple of nice rose bushes to our friend Father Jerome. His eyes never glaze over. We can talk roses! I get a great joy seeing what my plants do when they are planted in his garden. It's breathtaking! Anyway, that leaves me a couple of spaces to plant a hybrid musk or something else. I'm waiting for them to paint our condo then I'll be busy taking out more to move to my garden plots and putting in Cornelia and the Lyda Rose. They will like the part shade, I hope. I met a lady recently who is a painter. She fell in love with my roses as everything is blooming now. Yesterday she took slips of Gruss an Aachen, Westside Road Cream Tea, Scepter'd Isle, Pure Poetry, Pat Austin and one more which at the moment I cannot recall. She will paint them once they are mature!! It's a good feeling to see some enthusiasm. I feel it all the time but most folks don't get it. I suppose they think I'm a bit touched in the head.
This week I also was told by the management company to do something about my huge Buff Beauty on an arch in the patio. (They are painting.) A gardener or me? Well, I managed to do the entire job all by myself and reduce it to just two trash cans. Not bad for an old lady, right? It looks barren but after the power wash and new paint, I'll get out there and refurbish that patch. I can hardly wait! On top of all this, I'm learning to knit. Another obsession!! Happy Fall everyone.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 11:45PM
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How beautiful all these messages are: thanks for writing them!
Seil, how nice to see pictures of Halloween. The holiday isn't absolutely unknown here, in part because of our substantial population of London Italians (there was a large emigration there from this area after the war, and people have been passing back and forth ever since), but there's no trick-or-treating, and we can't even get a pumpkin to carve!--too expensive. But I may make a winter squash pie or two. I love to see your decorations.
Hello, Linda! nice to hear from you. I like fall too; I wish we had more fall color, which is very scarce here.
Hi, Lou! One of the great blessings of gardening in Italy is NO POISON IVY. I had some terrible rashes in the U.S.
I'm not surprised the roses are happy summer's gone. I think everyone's happy. I certainly am.
Strawberryhill, have you thought about huge tree-climbing roses? Or are they too tender for your climate?
Cath, you remind me of Henry Mitchell's posts about bringing in tender plants in the fall to overwinter in the house. We don't have any frost in the forecast, so all that's come in so far are the Sansevierias. That's quite a collection you have: nice! When a frost warning comes we'll bring in a few plants, mainly air plants and angel wing begonias; the rest will spend the winter in cold greenhouses, and most will survive. Two winters ago it was so cold we had to keep a light bulb lit in the greenhouse all night, but normally the protection of a wall is sufficient. They don't like winter, though. I keep telling myself to give the Sansevierias a dedicated light so that I don't have to keep them so dry, but I never get around to it.
I like Japanese anemones, too, but they don't like me. I have yet to find the right spot for them in my garden.
Good idea about interplanting bulbs with poisonous plants!
Suzy, what a fine list of plants to find out about! Do you grow pinks? a perfect plant in my eyes.
Gravel beds are pretty exotic in my eyes, as, generally, are light soils, though now I have my attention focused on those thin-soiled fast-draining areas, as you saw in my earlier post. Should you ever get out to Italy, pay me a visit and let's have a long tour of the garden and equally long conversation about plants and soil types. Salvias of the greggii and microphylla types seem to be borderline here: I've had some die and others survive the last two chilly wet winters. Is it all drainage, do you think? I doubt our winters are colder than yours are.
I have a friend gone mad for phlomis who has collected every one he can find, and most generously given me cuttings of them all. I appreciate their stout resistance to drought; their foliage texture and form are an addition to the repertoire of gray foliaged plants; and some have attractive yellow-green leaves that are unique among the grey-foliaged plants I've seen. Flowers too, of course.
I hope you get your house in order soon. Fall's coming! Time to pull indoors!
Happy fall to you, too, Peachykean! I think most of us a glad it's here. Congratulations on your hand getting better. Your roses sound beautiful.
Happy fall, everybody!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 1:51AM
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Yesterday we returned from a vacation and what a pleasant surprise. Many of the perennials and roses had put on quite a magnificent growth spurt while we were away. I'm a tad bit concerned about the roses hardening off before the winter comes but not much can be done about it. As usual I stopped all fertilizing mid-August. I suspect its been the warm fall we are experiencing.
We are amazed that the plum sized yellow tomatoes are still producing as are the strawberries. The leaves this year are more brilliant in this area than I remember in the past.
Now to the weeds....they also had an enormous growth spurt. Ah well...it's so pretty outside that I dont mind too much. Knee length rubber boots and rubber knee pads helps...actually I come in chilled and covered with mud.
I'm hoping to use this winter to edge two of my beds with red brick. I'm hoping that will stop the weeds from creeping into the beds.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 2:45AM
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Campanula UK Z8

How are you planning on doing the edging, Jeannie? Upright bricks, embedded in soil like dog teeth will do a sort of job in keeping weeds out but they are better at just adding definition. A better way to use bricks is to lay them flat like soldiers, on top of a little trench footing filled with a cement, sand and aggregate mix. This is not as arduous as it sounds - you can do small mixes in a wheelbarrow. If the bricks are between beds and grass - they will also make a really good mowing strip (whereas, a strimmer will be needed to cut grass up to a raised edge).
Rambling a bit but just wanted to say that autumn and winter are top seasons for getting all the structural work done and give us all a nice clear start to the new season of planting and growing.
Melissa, I would LOVE to visit the farm and chat for hours (days).
Amazingly, rain is still not happening in East Anglia, nor has a killing frost finished off the dahlias or even the tomatoes - however, winter wet has always done more damage in my garden than any amount of sheer cold. Yep, Melissa, I think many of the shrubby salvias do well as long as they are not waterlogged. Along with perennial wallflowers ( Erysimum Bowles Mauve and the yellow Harpur Crewe), these are the longest flowering plants I can imagine - months and months of colour which never looks cloying or artificial (unlike massed beds of impatiens and petunias, yek!) And yes, I do grow a few pinks but need more, many more, especially the tiny cheddar and maiden pinks. Love them!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 8:07AM
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For me, fall is less about the roses and more about the rest of the garden.

Next month I will to start my rose pruning and winter cleanup. I don't normally start until December but in January I'm giving a talk on the winter care and pruning of roses, so I need lots of pictures. And there is nothing wrong with getting done it early for a change.

I am busy now tearing down the summer vegetable beds. Tom is going to plant onions and potatoes in some of them. The others I will just cover with straw to reduce weeds over the winter. I've been waiting for the asparagus to die down because I want to move the plants to the largest of the beds. They will get more sun there than they do now by the blueberry bushes.

I lost a small plum tree that never did well. I'm okay with it. In my fruit tree enthusiasm a few years ago I actually planted too many trees. We cannot possibly use all the fruit. I'm going to give away a couple of the apple trees, too, keeping my favorites. I do love apples.

Meanwhile I am enjoying wandering around and being surprised by some really wonderful, well-scented roses. Simply breathing is a joy in such circumstances!


    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 12:57PM
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Campanula...I'm planning the dead soldier scheme. But no concrete. Instead a sand base. Some of the brick will be going up a steep incline so I cant invision how that could be done...but I realize that it would last better.
Thanks for asking.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 5:25PM
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