Saturday, October 15, 2011

A 2011 “Summery” of My Garden and Other Random Observations by Gardener Dave

Sometimes a summary report is useful only to the one who writes it. I hope this one is a bit more informative and even somewhat entertaining. I have used common plant names in most cases. Here goes…

Annuals:  I like bright color all summer. It’s not that I look for more work to do – I let the perennials show their stuff, each in their own short season. But when it comes to providing color and consistent bloom, annuals still are the way to go. In addition to choosing bright colors, I go for the ones that require less maintenance.

Deadheading definitely extends the blooming period – some annuals don’t require any deadheading and some are easier to keep trimmed than others. Those that I have indicated with an asterisk (*) are not hard to deadhead, but they do need it very frequently.

No Deadheading Required    Easy to Deadhead            “A Pain” to

Wax begonia                         Salvia                                 Petunias
                                                                                        (get “rangy”)
Calibrachoa                           Marigold                           Cosmos*
Vinca                                     Snapdragon                       Calendula*           
Nemesia                                 Canna lily                         Coreopsis*
Scaevola (Fan Flower)          Dahlia                              Carnation relatives*
Moss rose                               Zinnia                             Blanket Flower*

  I have a lot of respect for the annuals listed in the “No Deadheading…” column above. Most are also prolific bloomers, so I plant them every year. Give them regular watering, good drainage and a bi-weekly fertilizing and they will perform. The little Wax Begonia with brown leaves is a favorite of mine. They will do well in full sun, part sun or light shade. The “Callies” (Calibrachoa) are also called “Million Bells”. If you don’t let them go dry or sit with wet roots, you will see why!  They do well in my large pots. I no longer plant petunias because I like the Callies much better. A favorite Nemesia of mine is Sunsatia “Cranberry Red”, try it in a pot, it will overflow with small red flowers all summer. Scaevola (Scaevola aemula) is also great in pots, flowering and expanding all summer even in extreme heat. Their five-petaled flowers are fan shaped, thus their alternate name, “Fan Flower”.

I find myself growing lazy as my years accumulate, ergo: I have added quite a few perennials to my garden. Some show off quite early, such as spring bulbs.  Most “do their stuff” in the May-June or June-July time period and then are done for the year. I have tried to add several which bloom in August-October when others are done.  Some observations from my garden, good and bad: 

Aagastache "Ava"

  Agastache “Ava”
– that seeded itself in my gravel garden path – did better than the same plants in the regular perennial bed.  I have always suspected that a certain amount of neglect is “beneficial”, or at least that plants that grow from seed often do better than those purchased as nursery stock and given loving and tender care!

Northern Sea Oats
– An attractive plant that resembles bamboo – has interesting flattened seed heads that appear in late summer. I have had a couple of these over the years.  A word of warning however, if you don’t want them springing up all over your beds, trim off the seed heads in late fall. They re-seed with a vengeance!

Red Birds in a Tree (Scrophularia macrantha)
  – These were a 2008 Plant Select item. I planted these in three different spots in different beds. One did not receive enough sun due to a linden tree that did very well this year. Another did not seem to like the soil I put it in (too wet?). A third one was in a spot next to my agastache which gets all morning sun with perhaps too-high temperatures? All had improved soil at planting time. None have done well. I believe these are penstemon relatives. Perhaps too little neglect?  Any suggestions?  :o(

Joe Pye Weed
– I planted two of these toward the back of my garden this year. I have a neighbour who has  a large specimen that seems to “bloom” most of the summer into autumn. They make a good background.

Torch Lily (Kniphofia)
– I planted these years ago in a spot not far from a fire hydrant on the corner of my front landscape. It now tries to overwhelm the hydrant, so I cut it back and will probably be moving it next spring.

Large mushrooms
– sprang up in several spots in my flower beds after rains in the early summer. I didn’t consult anyone about their edibility, I just got rid of them before the spores matured (I hope).  I’m sure Jeffco Master Gardener (and Mushroom Expert) Tom Taggert could have told me exactly what they were.

California Fuschsia
   Zauschneria (Epilobium) – Now called “California Fuchsia” (don’t ask me why) has made a very good ground cover on a hot southwest-facing slope in my rock garden. No other ground covers that I know of have such attractive red trumpet-shaped blooms that last from July thru September. I want more of it next year!

Fox – I have a “foxhole” passageway under my back fence. There have been fox in my neighborhood for many years. A pair used to sun themselves on the roof of my neighbor’s tool shed. About 4 years ago I observed three little ones chasing each other around a tree and fountain in the back corner of my yard. They are cute and entertaining, never seem to do mischief in my yard, other than digging that one hole, apparently to allow the little ones through for their training exercises. The adults leap the fence with very little effort. I once saw an adult fox sitting in the middle of my street, regarding a young human mother who was walking with her baby in a stroller. The baby was sucking on a bottle. I assume the fox wasn’t thinking about “a meal on wheels”, but he might have been thinking “Why doesn’t the mother teach her kid how to hunt, as I have to do with my own youngsters?”

Squirrels – The squirrels use the cables and utility wires that span my back yard as “Interstate Highways”. It’s fun to watch them zoom across singly and in small groups. One day I saw two groups meet, headed in opposite directions. I wondered if they would fight, but one (submissive?) group got around the other by hanging upside down and traversing the wire beneath the other group very quickly. No road rage at all! We drivers can’t pass beneath other traffic, but maybe we could learn something from this episode?

Deer – Three or four years ago, I couldn’t raise tulips in my front yard. The deer would eat them down to the ground.  So – the only bulbs I planted were Daffodils, which they don’t eat. The tulip bulbs are still in the soil and this spring they somehow did very well. The deer were nowhere to be seen. Did they have an abundance of things to eat in the wild this year without having to visit the suburbs?

Anyway… some things to think about over the winter season!

Happy Autumn, and Cheers!

Gardener Dave