Autumn Leaves

Beauty From A Different Perspective

Autumn usually makes me feel semi-depressed.  Knowing that the growing season is coming to a close.  Leaves change color and drop off, leaving plants and trees with nothing but bare branches.  A bitter cold winter is waiting around the corner.  The whole perspective of everything coming to an end has never settled well with me.  Until I came across a bookmark that was sent to me by the American Horticultural Society this year.  A quote on the back of the bookmark said…

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”  Albert Camus

It’s interesting to look at autumn as a second spring.  Leaves that are usually green turn yellow, orange, red, pink and various shades of these colors.  Some are multi-hued.  My new found perspective on autumn makes me more aware of the leaves’s colors, large and small.

Reservoir-autumn
Second spring at the reservoir

Below are leaves that were found in and around our garden.  Quite colorful.  I can see why Camus described them as flowers of the second spring.

 

 

Growing Crocuses

Try To Get A Natural Effect

We have a few days off for Thanksgiving and have spent most of our time grinding up leaves for mulch, fixing the deer fence to make sure there is no breach and planting crocuses and tulips.  Autumn is the time to put in spring crocus bulbs.  We put a couple of hundred bulbs in a year ago and love the way our lawn looks in spring.  This autumn we put 400 more bulbs in. I don’t really like growing anything ‘bulb’ because most of the time they become squirrel and chipmunk food.  However, taking our honeybees into consideration, I want to provide natural, early spring food for them.  Crocus is one of the flowers that bloom very early and have plenty of pollen and nectar.   They are also quite pretty and come in variety of colors.  They will disappear underground by the time other flowers start to bloom.

Crocuses blooming on the lawn in early April.  Since we mixed the bulbs, the colors are random.

I run out of space to put a lot of bulbs in so our lawn is the only place.  In order to make them look natural, I bought mostly mixed color bulbs.  I also bought individual colors of the larger variety and mixed them with the smaller ones.  Cast them on the lawn then planted them wherever they landed.  Last spring they came up before the lawn grew, creating a lovely natural effect.  Multi colors of crocus bloomed randomly in early April.  Unfortunately we lost all our hives last winter so the native bees had a great time.

Here’s a selection of spring crocus..

Deep yellow with maroon veins underneath
Lovely white
Dark purple
Yellow with a white edge
Lavender with a touch of white

I’m missing a couple of colors, either the bulbs rotted or they became our furry friends food.  We can hardly wait to see what our lawn will look like next spring.

 

 

 

Growing Garlic

Plant Them Now

I use a lot of garlic in cooking and like to try various types of garlic.  Supermarkets don’t offer any real varieties of garlic and hardly provide any information about the origin of the garlic they sell.  I want to know where the garlic comes from because any roots, bulbs and rhizomes will usually absorb whatever is in the soil and store it, minerals and toxins included.  I used to purchase my garlic from the farmer’s market which guaranteed freshness and origin.  Years ago when my previous neighbor offered me garlic from her garden, I was hooked.  I’ve been growing my own garlic ever since.

There are several varieties of garlic to choose from.  Rocambole is the type I’ve been growing from the beginning.  I’ve also grown Korean, Tibetan and Siberian.  I found that the Rocambole and Siberian varieties produce large heads and grow well in the northeastern U.S. climate.

Autumn is the time to plant garlic, just a few weeks before a hard frost.  I do not use garlic purchased from the supermarket for planting.  The best way is to get them from your local farmer’s market or order from a reputable company.  One of the vendors at our farmer’s market this year posted a sign explaining his garlic was not for planting this year because he had a problem with fungus.  Honesty is always the key to good business.

Once you get your first harvest, use the largest clove for planting.  You’ll have to buy new garlic for planting again if you want to try a new variety.  Put them in now and wait, they will come up next spring when the soil starts to warm up.

I use a few large heads from this year harvest. These are Siberian garlic.
Separate the heads to individual cloves. Use large cloves for planting and use the small ones for cooking. I grew only Rocambole and Siberian this year
Put selected cloves on the ground, with 4-6 inches between them. I do the ‘X’ instead of parallel rows to save space. I use a stick as a divider between the two varieties
Pick each clove up, use a trowel to separate the soil around 2 inches deep. Put a clove in, with the side that was previously attached to the stem (the blunt side) facing downward, cover with soil.
After every clove is under the ground, water a little to eliminate air pockets then cover the area with mulch. I use shredded leaves and grass.

Then sit back and wait until next spring.

 

 

Happy Halloween

From Garden Spiders

Spiders can evoke nightmares and cause many people to pause or scream.  For us, they are friends.  We have plenty of them in the garden and some in the house which we don’t mind as long as they stay in the corners.  I should point out that they keep the house flies in check for us.  The webs they create always fascinate me especially when there is dew on them.

I don’t have to waste words extolling their natural beauty…

Spiderweb
Who knew a deadly trap could be this beautiful
Spiderweb
A crystal necklace
Spiderweb
Even a deer fence looks nice with the web on it
Spiderweb
Crystal monkey bridge

More spiderwebs and dew at Amazingseasons

Happy Halloween to one and all

Late Season Flowers

And Good For Pollinators Too

Aside from the beautiful fall foliage colors there’s not much color elsewhere.  Chrysanthemum seems to be abundant in autumn but I’m not a fan of it.  I associate it with mourning.  It’s commonly used in funerals and to arrange on a wreath.  So, I don’t plant chrysanthemum in our garden.  We still have plenty of choices for autumn blooming plants and many of them are good for pollinators as well.

I bought Alyssum seed only the first couple of years, now they just come up every year.  Cute little flowers that hug the ground, tolerate light frost and smell like honey as a plus.

White Alyssum seems to self sow much more commonly than the purple variety

Aster is one of the flowers that can lend a helping hand in autumn.  Both native bees and honey bees love it.

I group different colors of Aster together. The white one is a weed though, White heath aster

I put two Maximillion Sunflowers in the garden two years ago, now I have a growing patch of it.  It blooms when other sunflowers start to fade.  It’s a perennial so I don’t have to seed it every year but I will have to divide it next spring as the patch is getting too large for the space.

Flowers are great for pollinators and the finches love the seeds

Fall crocus is also a great pollinator food source.  I’ve seen some bees attempt to pry open the flowers before they have fully opened.

This crocus flowers in late summer and early autumn instead of spring

Moonflower will bloom from mid summer on.  If the weather is warm enough it will keep going.  Its large, white, fragrant flower blooms in the evening.  And, the flower is edible too.

I have this one trailing over our toolshed door.

Calendula is perfect for sunny spots and it self sows.  Its flower is edible as well.

It comes in shades of yellow and orange.

About weeds.  Many weeds are quite beautiful and provide pollen and nectar as well.  I make sure that they don’t overrun the garden.  Goldenrod, with it’s bright yellow flower is a great source of pollen and nectar in late autumn.  It will grow any place that the seeds drop, even between cracks.  I have to pull a lot of them out each spring, sprouting in the wrong place, and it’s the only work I have to do to keep it around.

Once it’s established in the garden it’s very difficult to get rid off. It’s much easier to confine it to one place by cutting spent flowers off so they won’t sprout all over the garden

I don’t know where the first White Heath Aster came from but it has settled in our garden now.  I don’t mind at all.  I just think of it as an aster that is waiting for humans to see its potential.  I do, especially when I see honeybees, Hover fly, Bumblebee and many other small local bees on it’s flowers.

White Heath Aster is just another aster that hasn’t received very many ‘likes’ yet

There are a few more late summer-autumn flowers that are easy to grow and good for pollinators I would like to mentioned.  Until next time.

 

 

Monarch

More Of Them This Year

The population of Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) has been dwindling down to a point of concern that they may be heading toward extinction.  With a small patch of garden, we try our best to help them by letting the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) grow.  It’s the only plant that Monarch caterpillars eat.

Common Milkweed flowers
A male Monarch soaking up morning sunlight in early July

I didn’t grow the first milkweed.  It came to our garden around three or four years ago.  The seeds are airborne but I had not seen any milkweed around our area then, but I may have overlooked it.  Though it falls in the ‘weed’ category, I let the first one grow anyway.  Then I fell in love with its fragrance.  The first lone milkweed has grown into a large patch now and we try to keep them confined to one spot.  They can be pretty invasive; every spring I have to pull out the ones that sprouted in the middle of the lawn or flower plots.  We also let them grow in the spots that are out of the way so as not to over-crowd the other plants.

Aside from enjoying its fragrant and beautiful flowers, it’s also host to a variety of insects both friend and foe of the garden.  This year we are seeing more Monarchs so we have started to monitor them more closely.  It has taken us a few years to be registered on their homing GPS as one of their destinations.  I guess they decided that our garden is a reliable food source for their caterpillars and young adults so they lay eggs.  We were so happy and excited close to the point of obsession.  We checked on them everyday!

Laying egg under the Milkweed leaf
A fresh laid egg
A day or two old caterpillar, just the same size as a grain of rice
Munching on Milkweed leaf
A little bit older, pale green color bands changed to bright yellow
A full grown caterpillar

Only a few of them survived.  I don’t know who might eat them.  Most likely wasps have taken them for the future youngsters in their burrows.  But a few are better than none.  Hopefully the ones that were born in our garden survive the long flight to Sierra Madre, Mexico, and the winter to tell the next generation where our garden is.

A female Monarch enjoy nectar from Maximilion sunflower

View more Monarch photos at Amazingseasons

Rose Companions

Enhanced Beauty

I want our garden to resemble a natural environment as much as possible but the roses don’t seem to quite fit.  I try to incorporate roses in the garden anyway.  I love roses and I think any garden without roses is not a complete garden.  Any readers who don’t like roses and think that they are a pain to take care of, please do not take offense.  It’s just my personal take on it.

There are periods, before the roses bloom in late spring and in between blooming (for the re-bloomers) when there are nothing to see but green leaves.  I need plants to give some color to the trellises and the area adjacent to the rose bushes.  There are a few plants I found that work well for our garden and make the garden look more natural.

The first choice, as recommended by many professional gardeners, is Clematis.  They intertwine with rose branches and flower here and there between them.  For mid-spring, Clematis ‘Crystal Fountain’ is really lovely.

Clematis ‘Crystal Fountain’ blooming right next to the Rosa Rugosa ‘Foxi’ and Paul’s Himalayan Musk on the trellis, that was still budding
Clematis ‘Betty Corning’ takes the trellis next to the Rose ‘Eden’. It blooms for months if deadhead. It’s also lightly fragrant.
Clematis ‘Belle of Woking’ with Rose ‘Knockout’ and peony
White peony with Rose ‘Knockout’

Peony is another good companion for roses. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten the name of the white one above.  But the flowers large and quite fragrant.

This peony came with the house so I don’t know the name. I just divided them and tucked them here and there.
Iris is also a good rose companion. This one is right next to the Rose ‘Jewel Topaz’ which is still budding.

A new wave of rose buds have started to emerge now, not as profuse as in late spring.  I’ll keep seeking rose companions and in the meantime, the echinacea and garden phlox are in full bloom.

 

 

Summer

Roses

I didn’t expect to stay away from posting for almost a month, time flies.  With the weather swinging like a pendulum, I find myself spending more time getting the garden in order.  By the end of the day I was too exhausted to do anything else.  But I can’t let summer passes by with out posting about roses.

The rose bushes in our garden are doing well this year.  With rain early on and cooler than normal temperatures, it’s a perfect combination for roses.  The first round of blossoms are just about to fade and just in time for the arrival of the heat and humidity.  Now it’s time to snip off the spent flowers and feed them again.

They present their representatives, below, to vouch for the caretaker that has kept them well fed and healthy.  That is why she has been MIA for a month.

‘Eden’ bloomed profusely this year and the flowers are big enough to weigh the branches down as well.
Rugosa rose ‘Hansa’ is my favorite. It’s a fast grower, produces plenty of flowers, re-blooms and is extremely fragrant. And, the honeybees love it too.
‘New Dawn’ covers the whole trellis, with red ‘Blaze’ and pink ‘Knockout’ peeking in on the sides
‘Heritage’ is also highly fragrant and re-blooms. I may have to move it to a new spot, away from the invasion of the Summersweet
‘Zephirine drouhin’ has a very interesting pink color and re-blooms throughout the season

 

Good Year For Bluebirds

Starting Their Second Brood

I think the Bluebirds are getting more comfortable with our garden now.  They no longer leave us during winter.  We provide roosting boxes, food and water in heated birdbaths when nothing much is around in winter and we help with guarding their nesting box during their breeding season.  Since they have become our resident birds, they have started their nesting early.  Last year they had two broods and this year they have already started a second brood while still feeding their chicks from the first brood.

They started the first brood in April. Once the female lays eggs, we start to monitor the nest box weekly to make sure they are fine.  Four out of five eggs hatched with the 1st brood.

May 7th – not much feathering and eyes still closed
May 14th – They are much bigger and have feathers. This was our last photo because we don’t want them to fledge too early

We stopped checking their nest box when the chicks have full feathers.  If they fledge too early, out of concern for their own safety, they could become other birds food.  So we don’t want to stress them with visits.

May 30th – The female tends to one of the chicks in between building a new nest
A couple taking a break from feeding the chicks and building a new nest
June 4th – The first egg in a new nest-second brood
Two of the babies from the first brood perching on top of new nest box
Male keeps his eyes on his chicks and the new nest too

The second nest is right by our vegetable garden and the green pole is only a couple of feet from the front of the nest box.  Hopefully there will be another three or more chicks from the second brood.

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