The Last Of Our Fall Bloomers

This is Colchicum ‘Water Lily’ and it is one of the last things to bloom for the season here on Glen Road.  It’s hard to imagine Fall without the appearance of our Colchicums.  Their bright blooms rise without warning and shine in the sharp light of Autumn.   We planted our bulbs at the base of our Japanese maple trees several years ago.  Colchicum ‘Water Lily’ produces several double, lilac-pink flowers.  Their silky texture is a great contrast to the ruddy complexion of Fall.

Sometimes called the Autumn Crocus, the Colchicum is a one-of-a-kind wonder in the flower kingdom.  They grow from corms, which are available in late summer, and the astonishing thing about them is that they will flower without being planted at all.  Just setting them on a sunny window sill is enough.  They can, however, be arranged in a shallow dish of gravel, pebbles, etc.  The best thing to do is plant them like we did outside in shallow soil in a sunny area where they will not be disturbed so that you can easily enjoy them on a yearly basis with minimal, if any, work involved.

Colchicums come in various tones of pink and lavender and never fail to surprise with their delicate appearance amid the rougher weather of Fall.  It all starts in Spring, when a clump of broad, deer-proof leaves emerge, stay for a while and then vanish by midsummer.  Then in Fall, these dainty flowers emerge to show off their brilliant color.  Here is an older shot of their Spring appearance.  See their leaves on the right?

So we are officially near the end of the 2011 garden season with the blooming of our Colchicums.  It is a good feeling mixed with some sadness.  Like the plants, all gardeners need to re-energize during the Winter, but we will miss all of the pretty blooms that we have seen over the Spring and Summer.  What final blooms do you see in your garden that signal the end of the growing season?

The Busy Bee Bush Is Now Buzzing

This is Spirea ‘Blue Mist’ that protects our front door from the front yard.  It is another one of the plants that bloom here on Glen Road in September.  When the blue flowers show their pretty faces, you will soon have every bee within a small radius of the house coming over to visit to collect some special end-of-the-season pollen and nectar.  The bees are so intent on collecting pollen and nectar that you can stand right next to the tree and they don’t care.  They don’t fly at you or swarm at you.  All the bees are intent on doing is collecting pollen and nectar and then going back to the hive to make preparations for the Winter.  Sometimes when there is no wind and you listen very closely, it almost sounds as if the Spirea is actually buzzing.

Our Spirea ‘Blue Mist’ is quite a grower.  By the time we hit September bloom time, the bush is over four feet high and about as many feet wide.  No matter how small I trim it down in the Winter and Spring, this Spirea always has a growth spurt in August as if to do so to show itself off to all the bees in the neighborhood.  At the start of the Spring, our Spirea ‘Blue Mist’ was pruned down to one foot tall and one foot wide.  That is some fast growing in a few short months to get to four feet and it does this in some of the hottest months of the year.

Caryopteris’s (the botanical name for Spirea ‘Blue Mist’) low mounding habit makes it perfect as a border plant for massing purposes and works wonders in dry, sunny spots.   There are blue foot-long flower spikes that cover this plant in September and this make for quite a visual display.  Spirea ‘Blue Mist’ is also many times referred to as a Bluebeard, which is not too difficult to understand where this name comes from due to the look of the blooms.

Did you ever hear of a bush that provides the house with lots of laughter?  Well, our Spirea does just that.  How?  Well, in terms of our friends, there are three groups:

  1. The first group that walks past the Spirea that is filled with bees and they don’t notice a thing.
  2. The second group are those people who notice the bees and take a look, but aren’t really scared
  3. The last group are those people who notice the bush filled with bees and become terrified and take off running to our front door screaming and yelling for us to open up as soon as possible!

Since no one has ever gotten stung by one of the Spirea bees, we always laugh at those terrified individuals that are part of group 3.  We know it is not right, but we can’t help it.  We apologize to those folks in advance.  So if you are interested in a late-blooming bush for your garden that can also add some comedy to your every day life, give Spirea ‘Blue Mist’ a shot.  Trust us, the neighborhood will be….buzzing.  What late season bloomers do you have in your garden?

How I Know Autumn Is Here

This is a Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and my sure-fire way of detecting Autumn’s presence among us.  The plant grows through Spring and Summer in our garden, but it is Autumn where the Sedum changes color from green to pinkish red.  It is my first wake up call that most things in our garden are now in their final stages and our appreciation of all things green is rapidly coming to a close with Winter only a few months away. 

Autumn starts a new season of flowers and blooms, second in spectacle only to Spring.  Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ stalks appear in Spring and its flower heads form in July.  The flat corymbs that it produces look like broccoli until they change color.  In September on Glen Road, the flowers start to color up, turning a pinkish red.  Slowly the flowers turn red, and late in Autumn, the flowers on the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ turn a deeper rusty-red.  When frost finally takes the final life out of the Sedum, we cut it completely to the ground and say goodbye until the coming Spring.  I have read that many people do not cut the spent blooms away at frost time because of its great Winter appeal against the back drop of white snow.

Th Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is an excellent plant for those places you just don’t water often.  It is very drought tolerant and will turn a lighter shade of color if given too much water.  Plant where the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ will see a lot of sunshine as the leaves can actually turn floppy with too much shade.

The coloring to pinkish red on the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is always a wake up call to begin Autumn chores.  When I see it change color, I think about getting Winter clothes out of storage, making sure the rakes can be found for leaf clean up and scheduling out our garden clean-up dates on my calendar.  From a gardener perspective, it makes me sad in a way to know that the garden will be leaving us for a while, but at the same time, this break is appreciated after a long season of planting and weeding.  As much as it reminds me that the garden is going to go away to re-energize for another season, it also reminds me of the fact that I too need this re-energizing period of time before I begin to think about my garden in 2012.  What things happen where you live that signal that Autumn is here? 

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words – Phlox You!

This is one of the remaining blooms in our garden.  How lovely is this Phlox bloom with its white flowers with intense pink centers?  We have had a lot of rain over the last week.  There were several fronts that moved through the Connecticut area that dumped quite a few inches of rain.  While you would think all the rain would be great for our plants, in most cases it just served to destroy any remaining blooms that were left in the garden.  A nice bloom takes a beating in heavy pouring rain!  So while most of the blooms were destroyed, this Phlox bloom held tough and is about all that remains in our garden.  How has your garden been doing in all this crazy weather we have been having?

A Plant I Like – The Butterfly Bush

This is one of four butterfly bushes in our yard.  It is another one of the plants that we like in our garden.  They grow large with showy flowers and require little, if any, care.  Other than an occassional pruning, the butterfly bush is self-sufficient.  With a name like butterfly bush, you might expect a plant to be attractive to butterflies.  In fact, it’s more than attractive; it’s a magnet for all the butterflies who pass through your garden seeking nectar.  Many butterfly gardeners plan their garden around Buddleia (pronounced BUD-lee-ah), a genus that includes over 100 species and cultivars.  Also called summer lilac, the medium to large-sized shrubs can anchor a perennial bed or form a hedge.  With a little help from the internet, here is some more information about the beautiful butterfly bush.

You’ll be happier with Buddleia if you accept its growth habit, which is not neat and tidy.  Its narrow branches support lilac-like clusters of blossoms a foot or two in length, with side branches and blossoms.  After a rainfall, the flower-laden branches of some species can droop all over your flower bed.  You’ll want to allow at least six feet between bushes to keep some semblance of neatness.

But wait until you see the bush covered with butterflies!  You can see large and small butterflies land to sip from the many individual blooms.  Butterflies and bees will flock to the honey-scented blossoms, whose dilute nectar is sweetest in mid-day sun.  Near a path or patio, the shrub provides delightful fragrance for you, too.

Where did the name Buddleia come from?  A seventeenth-century amateur botanist named Reverend Adam Buddle was honored posthumously, when the first butterfly bush reached England in 1774.  Victorian-era explorers brought all kinds of exotic plants back to England.  From China came seeds of Buddleia davidii, the hardy species that is most familiar to gardeners today.  Named after a French Jesuit missionary, Pere Armand David, B. davidii reached London’s Kew Gardens in 1896.

Another reason for Buddleia’s popularity is that it’s easy to grow, even hard to kill.  Buddleia davidii tolerates urban pollution and alkaline soil.  It’s generally pest-free, except for spider mite infestations during drought or stress.

A plant that can take care of itself is great for any gardener.  Couple this with the butterfly bush’s great beauty and you have an all around winner.  These are must haves for any butterfly enthusiast.  When in bloom, there is rarely a time that you walk by and don’t see a flurry of gorgeous butterflies enjoying this plant.  They are a great addition to any garden in need of a large tree-like bush.  Go buy one.  What plants in your garden are your favorites?

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words – Attack Of The Never Ending Tomatoes

This is a new cluster of heirloom cherry tomatoes growing in our garden.  See the morning dew on them?  With eight tomato plants in the garden, getting enough tomatoes has not really been a problem this Summer.  Better yet, they just keep producing.  How has your garden been growing this Summer?

A Plant I Like

This is a plant that I like named Cornus Sericea. It is better known as a red osier dogwood. During the Summer months, the leaves of this dogwood are a beautiful green and white color. The white color is so light it is almost like silver. In the Winter months, this plant has so much appeal. The twigs actually stand out against the dark colors and snow in a reddish blaze. It is nice to have a plant with so much Winter appeal. Everything looks so barren during the dark Winter months and this red osier dogwood’s branches give a little pop of color to an otherwise bleak landscape.

The red osier dogwood is a pretty easy plant to grow and is also widely found in nurseries with an even better low price. This plant transplants readily from a container, ball and burlapped or even bare root and they adapt well to most soil types and are also great plants to grow in area where you fear that you might have erosion issues, like a sloping area in your yard. Red osier dogwood does best in full sun to develop the blood-red stems.

Clusters of tiny white flowers appear in the Spring and will continue to bloom sporadically through the Summer. The flowers are attractive, but do not make a dramatic display. The fruits are white and usually go unnoticed. This dogwood has a purple to red fall color, but can be variable.

They grow pretty rapidly and are best trimmed in February or March by going in and cutting out the older, thicker twigs (which are darker in color than the newer ones) close to the base of the plant. They grow around six feet in height and are an excellent addition to any garden. What are some of your favorite plants in your garden or yard?