Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Last Days of September

Today I finally planted the purple heart (Tradescantia pallida) cuttings Mom brought over weeks ago.  I'd left them in buckets of water on the patio, in the hope that they'd grow some roots.  For one reason or another, I hadn't gotten around to doing anything with them until today.

I don't think they had grown roots, incidentally.  There was some pale growth on some of them, but it didn't look like roots-- more like the starts of new "branches".  The cuttings were still plump and purple, though-- not at all dried out-- so I went ahead and stuck them in a few different spots around the flower garden.  I'll try to keep them watered over the next week or two, and in time, we'll see if any of them "take".

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Since I was already outside (and sweaty, if we're going to be completely, digustingly honest), I went ahead and divided a couple of clumps of perennial coreopsis.  They probably didn't technically have to be divided this year, but I want to encourage them to cover a wider area.  This (rare) overcast day seemed like as good a time as any.  'Nana' (mouse-ear) and 'Golden Sphere' got their turns today.  At some point, 'Mercury Rising' needs attention, too.  There may be one or two clumps of daylilies that could be divided, as well, but most of them don't look like they'll need it for two or three years to come.

I also took a few cuttings from the "pinata" lavender and stuck them in a spare pot full of sandy garden soil.  It's not cold-hardy, so I'm trying to get a few backups going, in case the main two don't overwinter well.

"Pinata" Lavender Cuttings

The petite butterfly bush is still blooming.  It's doing well, though it does seem to be stretching toward the sunnier front of the bed.  I might move it to a brighter location in winter or spring.

It's turning out to be tricky to find something that really thrives along the shady front of the covered patio.  It's not wide enough (or consistently shady enough) for hydrangeas.  I'll have to give it some thought.  The more sun-tolerant gingers might be ok there.  I'd prefer something in the 2- to 3-foot range of height.

Dwarf Butterfly Bush

'Joseph's Coat' is starting another wave of bloom, which is always a pleasure.

'Joseph's Coat' Rose

'Joseph's Coat' Rose

This pale violet clematis has taken off in its new spot against the arbor.  I think it's going to do well there.


These look like flower buds on the Mexican purple sage (Salvia purpurea)!  We've been waiting a while!

Mexican Purple Sage

The yellow KO rose ('Sunny'?) is looking delicately pretty:

'Sunny' KO Rose

'Sunny' KO Rose

'Sunny' KO Rose

I don't focus on the annual vincas much, but they have a very long season of bloom and make few demands (sunshine and a little water).  They've been pretty good about volunteering the past two years, too.  (For those who don't like volunteers, there aren't enough for it to qualify as invasive, and they're easily pulled.)

Volunteer Vinca

Volunteer Vinca

Close-ups of blue bedder sage:

Blue Bedder Sage

Blue Bedder Sage

The Mexican heather Mom gave me at the start of the season has grown huge.  With luck, it should come back next year.

Mexican Heather

There have been quite a few gulf fritillary butterflies visiting our yard, this year.  The two tiny pieces of passionflower vine that I transplanted back to the trellis never grew anywhere near the dimensions the parent plant attained last year, neither did they flower.  That didn't discourage the gulf fritillaries from visiting it and laying eggs.  I saw a couple of larger caterpillars munching the leaves just a week or two ago, but when I looked for them today, they were nowhere to be found.  Either I overlooked them or they were eaten by lizards (which is what I think happened to last year's caterpillars)-- or they've already pupated.

Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary

Purple false foxglove grows along the back (west) fence-row, in spots, and it's trying to sneak into the yard.  One of them was making a nice meal for a buckeye caterpillar (not pictured).

Purple False Foxglove

In the same overgrown bed where the false foxglove has colonized, there's goldenrod.  I like both well enough as autumn wildflowers, but I don't necessarily want them in the fenced yard.

One of the items on the To Do list for this winter is clearing out that bed.  There's hardly anything in it, but it's difficult to keep tidy.  The main shrubs (two types of bridal wreath) need to be cut back severely, so maybe I should take this chance to transplant them elsewhere in the yard.  I'll give it some thought.


I spied a praying mantis on the passionflower trellis.  He was giving me some serious side-eye.  ;o)

Praying Mantis

The bald cypress looks nice and soft and feathery-- especially the parts of it as yet unscathed by wormy infestations.  (~shudder~)

Bald Cypress

Loropetalum with diamond dew-drops:



A few of the latest culms of the 'Golden Goddess' bamboo caught my eye with their height.  It's still nowhere near its upper limit (10 feet or more, depending on which source you trust), but it's inching on up there.  This weekend, I was looking through some photos from June, and they were a stunning reminder of how much that clump of bamboo has grown in one season-- particularly in width.

This is where it gets its name-- the golden hue of (parts of) the culms:

'Golden Goddess' Bamboo

I'll close with a few slightly more "overview"-type photos of the garden on the brink of September's end:

Flower Garden

Flower Garden

Flower Garden

(Did you catch the tiny brown lizard perched on top of the shepherd's hook?)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Rain and Late Summer Photos

Our neighboring counties to both the east and the west have had flooding rains yesterday and today. We've received maybe 1.5 inches so far. That amount might have to do, if the bigger rains keep avoiding us, but I was hoping for another inch or two more to start erasing the deficit caused by recent dry weeks.

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Photos from before the rain came through:



Mexican petunia:

Mexican Petunia

And again with what I think is a clouded skipper (but I'm rarely 100% sure about butterflies):

Mexican Petunia

There are flower buds on the swamp daisy!  (Maybe they were already there when Mom brought it over; I don't remember.)

Swamp Daisy Flower Buds

Still waiting for the Confederate rose to bloom:

Confederate Rosebuds

Pink rose rebloom (KnockOut rose in front, unknown "pink-lavender/cool pink" shrub rose in back):

Pink Roses in Early Autumn

The Mexican purple sage (Salvia purpurea) is being overgrown by cypress vine.  I've pulled some of it already, but there's more to do.


This is the most jungly part of the flower garden.  It will undergo some renovation during the cool season (whenever it finally gets here... not that anyone's tapping her toes impatiently or anything).

Jungle Garden ;o)

Close-up of the black-eyed Susan vine (aka clock vine):

Black-Eyed Susan Vine

Technically, it's already autumn.  That's according to the calendar, I guess, because it's certainly not reflected in the weather.  Temperatures are easing down, to be fair, and the humidity can't compare to the oppression of July and August, but it still feels distinctly summery out there.

On the other hand, we're not in a severe drought, nor are we sited on a flood-prone riverside-- count your blessings, etc., etc.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Graveling the Path

We've graveled another "branch" of the path!   This is the part starting from the arbor and heading east.  It's the straightest path in the garden, which is a little bit boring, but considering the shape of the space, there weren't many alternatives.  Forcing a curve in such a small space would've felt odd and uncomfortable, I think.  Besides, when the plantings fill in (and once the short segment of fence is in place and the flower beds are extended further east), it should look better.

Gravel Path Progress

It looks kind of strange right now because it stops so abruptly.  Eventually, there should be a fence and gate roughly were it ends.  (There will be a less structured stepping-stone path on the other side of the gate to provide a route to the front lawn.)

Gravel Path Progress

A few of the edging stones need to be nudged this way or that, but it's mostly finished.

Next up will be putting some sort of edging around the bald cypress in front of the garage (which you can just see in the upper right-hand corner of the photo below).  Then we can finish spreading gravel on the last bit of the parking area.  There's also one more short length of pathway to gravel.  It looks like Mt. Gravel will hold out just fine, but it is greatly diminished from its initial proportions.

Gravel Path Progress

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A few other garden photos before I go?

The Mexican petunia has picked up the pace in flowering.

Mexican Petunia

Mexican Petunia

Mexican Petunia

The swamp daisy (or sunflower... or muck sunflower) seems to be settling into its new home.  It looks less droopy and depressed than before.

Swamp Daisy/Sunflower

The banana shrub has a scattering of blooms.  They smell so sweetly of bananas!

This shrub/tree always suffers from scale.  I tried spraying it with diluted dish soap once or twice last summer, but I don't think it made much difference.  Horticultural oil and insecticidal soap are often recommended, and I've even seen someone online who treats banana shrubs with a spray of leftover coffee.  There's also at least one systemic product that you apply to the ground, where it is taken up through the plant's roots, but that sounds just a little scary/potentially unhealthy to me-- and it's probably not a cheap treatment, either.

The plant seems to muddle along fairly well as things stand... But I might try something different, next spring/summer.  I'd love to get rid of at least some of the scale-- and the wasps and dirt daubers that flock to the tree because they're attracted by the scale's sweet secretions.  During a certain part of the season, you can't walk close to the tree without raising a cloud of flying insects.  (Yuck.)

Banana Shrub

The loropetalum has a few fall flowers, as well as a sprinkling of gorgeous red leaves.  (We don't get much fall-tinted foliage, this far south, so we notice and appreciate the little we do have.)

Loropetalum / Chinese Fringe Flower

Some of the buds on the Confederate rose are swelling up very promisingly...  I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Confederate Rose (In Bud)

Every now and then the pink climbing rose (that may or may not be 'Lavender Lassie') gives us another few flowers.  I moved in closer to admire the next cluster of buds and spied a green lynx spider.  Looking again, I saw that she was guarding a tan egg sac.  (I looked it up online to confirm, and yes, that's what the egg sacs look like, and the mother does tend to stand guard over them.)

Green Lynx Spider w/ Egg Sac

The hummingbird sage is still dotted with scarlet.  It's been long-blooming, this year.  This is the first year since it has started to really get established, so maybe this is what we can look forward to every year.

Vinca and Hummingbird Sage

And for the last photo, we'll use three of these Encore azaleas to replace some of the dwarf yaupon hollies (if that's what they are) in the foundation planting along the front of the house.  The azaleas are waiting on the covered patio, in the meantime, and are now putting on their "encore" show.

The flowers of 'Autumn Sunburst' are salmony-tinged pink (described by marketing almost exclusively as "coral"-- but I think coral is a more intense, slightly more orangey color than this) with an irregular petal edging of white.

'Autumn Sunburst' Encore Azalea

We're expecting some rain over the next couple of days.  We still need it, so the plants and I are watching the sky, waiting for the first few drops.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Successful Seeds (and Hopeless Failures)

I've been thinking about seeds-- particularly which ones "worked" for me this year and which ones didn't.

In the hope of learning from mistakes (and successes), here's a summary of this years' experiences with seeds.

Successful Annuals:

They are one of the easiest annuals to grow from seed, for me.  This year, I've been having a problem with some of the grown plants breaking/falling open, for some reason (weather-related?)-- but the seeds certainly weren't at fault, and the flopped plants keep blooming and growing, just with an unsightly bare spot in the middle of the plant.

Bees on Marigolds

Bees on Marigolds

Spanish Flag.
I've been very pleased with these.  Through most of the summer, the fancy-cut leaves looked healthy and lush.  About the time that they started blooming, the foliage started going downhill, but it is the end of summer, and they've earned their keep and then some.

Spanish Flag

This is my first year growing mina lobata, so I'm not sure how easy it will be to collect seed, but if possible, I'll save some, even though I have some left over from the original packet.  I believe I've located the seed pods.  They're still green, so I'll have to wait to check.  If I'm right, there should be plenty of them.

Spanish Flag Seed Pods?

Spanish Flag Seed Pods?

This year, the cleome in the yard were mostly a flop, but in past years, they've been beautiful, so I still think they're worth trying.  I've gathered seed from the ones that did bloom this season, so we'll see how they do next year.

Morning Glory.
I'll count these as a success, though I think I waited too long to plant out the seedlings from their little starter pots.  Still, I ended up with several healthy vines.  Mine seem to do better if they are in the ground.  They can be okay planted in larger pots on the ground, too (though the potted ones do need a lot of watering).  Hanging baskets don't seem to work well for me; they stayed puny and barely flowered at all.  Also, the rabbits were a pest, earlier this year, so if I remember I'll protect young plants with chicken wire or similar.  I don't know if it was just a fluke or what, but most of the plants that survived to bloom were the purple ('Grandpa Ott's').  We had just one 'Heavenly Blue' that lasted to the end of the summer.

Moonflower Vine.
I'm classing these as annuals, though it's possible that they'll come back next year.  They're a borderline perennial in our zone, from what I can find online.  One of them looks dead, now, and has stopped flowering; the others are still hanging on, but definitely in decline.  This is an interesting plant, though I don't like that they seem to attract wasps.  Also, I rarely am outside when they're blooming (avoiding mosquitoes by staying inside after dark).  I'd still say they're a success.  There are quite a few promising-looking seed pods that I'll try to harvest when they've dried enough.

Moonflower Vine Seed Pods

Black-Eyed Susan Vine.
Only one of the few seeds I planted was successful, and even that has been a somewhat limited success.  Part of the blame falls on myself, though.  For future planting, I wouldn't try hanging baskets.  (From now on, the only thing I'll plant in a hanging basket is a proven drought-tolerant non-vine.  Airplane plants, mostly.)  Also, they need plenty of sun and plenty of room to grow.  This one didn't have a great location, because there wasn't much for it to climb, but it's done pretty well, all things considered.  I've gathered a few seeds to try for next year. These seed pods are a bit tricky, though.  I mostly seem to find them when they're still too green to pick, but if you wait too long, the pods will "explode" and scatter the seed where you'll never find it.

Black-Eyed Susan Vine

Successful Perennials:

Not every seed produces a seedling; not every seedling survives to maturity-- but I've been surprised at how easy they are to grow from seed.  Of course, I don't believe I've yet seen a single of my seed-grown daylilies bloom.  Usually, you can't expect to enjoy flowers until at least the third year (which would be next summer for the first batch and the summer after that for this year's seedlings).  These seeds take patience!

Achillea ('Summer Pastels').
Mixed results.  Some finally bloomed, but they took their sweet time about it.  I've read that fancy-color achillea (yarrow) will often revert to its "wild" white form.  That's ok, I guess... I'd rather have the pastels, but it can still be a nice filler plant in white.

Blue Bedder Sage.
They're marked as perennials, but I read that they're often grown as an annual.  Maybe they'll come back for us, next spring, if we're lucky.  This is one of the few perennial seeds I tried that seemed to "work" with our weather.  They've bloomed and a few of them have gotten to a decent size, but it took them a long time to get established.  I don't think I'll be planting these from seed again.  If they come back on their own, there won't be a need to do so-- and if they don't return, I don't think they're worth the effort (and long wait) for an annual.  Not when there are so many other, showier annuals that are faster to grow.

Blanket Flower.
These took a while to get going, but once they did, they performed very well.  I see them described online (not on the seed packed, incidentally; hm, I wonder why...) as "short-lived perennials", which sounds discouraging-- but other sources say that once you have them, you'll always have them, because they're so good at reseeding themselves.  I'm happy about that.  I can see these filling in a number of blank spots.  I already have more of these seeds that I didn't get around to planting (accidental duplicates), so I'll definitely be planting them, next season.

Indian Blanket and Blue Bedder Sage

The photo above has seed-grown blue bedder sage and the latest Indian blanket/blanket flower to mature enough to bloom.


It looked like was going to do well (against my prediction)-- and then the heat really kicked in, and these little seedlings were not having any of it. 

Cupid's Dart.
I had a few that held on (in tiny, pathetic form) until the middle of summer-- but they finally succumbed.  I think they need a more arid climate.  They're pretty, but I don't think this one's worth trying again.

Butterfly Flower / Butterfly Milkweed.
(Asclepias tuberosa) I'm not sure what happened with these.  By all accounts, they should do well here, but I don't think a single one survived to maturity.  Disappointing.  I might try this one again, sometime, as I'm convinced it should grow here.  (I was probably too slow to plant them out...)  I like the idea of growing milkweed because it attracts monarch butterflies and feeds their young.

I think that in this area, we may be better off starting them in late summer than in spring.  I meant to try a few more in August/early September, but then I never got around to it.  Maybe some other year...  This spring, I had good luck getting them to sprout, but they never bulked up, and by the middle of summer, they were goners.

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I'm probably forgetting something, but at least this covers most of the flower seeds I've tried this year.

It's always a bit of a gamble, starting seeds.  Even the ones that germinate well have to contend with rabbits and insects and damping off and drying out and late frost.  It's a scary world out there, for a seed.