Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October Flowers

This has been an extremely dry month, so far, and quite a bit warmer than our average October.  A side effect of the dry weather is that humidity has been relatively low, which at least keeps most of the day in a comfortable range-- particularly if you can find shade.

Some plants are suffering from the drought, and though I've gone out and watered some things a time or two, there's a large part of the garden that hasn't gotten any supplemental watering.  I'm just hoping those plants can pull through on their own.  If not...

I haven't been doing much gardening at all, for one reason or another, but in the past several days, I did repot some houseplants.  The tender "angelwing jasmine" I bought earlier in the year (because it was mislabeled as confederate jasmine) has moved from its ugly nursery pot into something a little nicer and is waiting its turn to come indoors, too.

I also took a few cuttings of purple heart, 'Pizzazz Purple' salvia, and dwarf butterfly bush.  (It may be a little late in the season for taking cuttings, but it doesn't hurt to try.)

In order to free up the pot it was occupying, I planted the bougainvillea into the ground in a somewhat sheltered spot.  It may not survive our winters, but it didn't exactly thrive indoors, either, and I only have so much space by our sunniest windows...  I'll keep it watered until the weather cools down and/or the rain returns, but other than that, it's on its own, now.

What I really need to do more than anything else is get out and do some weeding.  Maybe next week.

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Given the state of the garden and my own lack of interest, I've decided against an October "survey" post, but I've taken some non-survey-style photos, instead.

'White Cloud' Muhly Grass.
This was a clearance purchase I made online, so it got a late start, but it still managed to bloom this year.

'White Cloud' Muhly Grass

I love it!
I'd like to add more ornamental grasses to the garden, but I'm trying to walk the line between "tough enough to make it (almost) on its own" and "won't take over the world".

'White Cloud' Muhly Grass

'White Cloud' Muhly Grass

Purple Muhly Grass.
The purple one has been in the garden longer (by a year or so?) and has started to put on some size.

Purple Muhly Grass

Swamp Daisies.
They're still blooming away.  Some of the flowers are starting to shrivel, but they've put on an enthusiastic show.

Swamp Daisies

Swamp Daisies

Here they are with the seedheads of the 'Autumn Sun' cutleaf rudbeckia in the foreground.  I've cut some of these off and will be trying to wintersow them in the coming months.  I'd love to have more of this tall rudbeckia to spread around the flower bed.  It seems like the kind of thing that should grow easily from seed, but I don't take those things for granted.  (Too many failures under my belt!)

Swamp Daisies and 'Autumn Sun' Rudbeckia Seedheads

Swamp Daisies

Perennial Mistflower.
I took some seeds from a wild mistflower down by the pond, last winter.  The plants that grew from those seeds are still in pots, but if they come back in spring, I'll have to find a permanent spot for them.  They have a reputation for being somewhat invasive, but I haven't noticed them taking over too much in the wild, so maybe that won't be a problem in my garden, either.

They bloom better with a bit more sun, but they don't like to get too dry, either, so they might be tricky to accommodate...

Perennial Mistflower

Madagascar Periwinkle. 
They come back year after year from self-sown seed.  This year, they didn't make an appearance until fairly late in the summer.  I'd begun to think they weren't going to return, after all.  But they did, and as always, they're a nice late-season filler.  Considering that they get zero attention or care (beyond any spillover benefits meted out to adjacent plants), they are beautiful and carefree additions to the garden.

Madagascar Periwinkle / Vinca

Madagascar Periwinkle / Vinca

They only look good in parts.  There are other parts that look dreadful-- bare, brown, dead-looking stems.  The parts that look good do look good, though, and if you're careful with the composition and cropping of a photo, that's all you have to see. ;o)


Reindeer Moss.
This is growing on the grass-less wild strip just inside the southern fence.  The tall pines to the south protect it from direct sun.  These are tiny little pieces, but I still like to see it growing...

Reindeer Moss

The two lantanas Mom gave me earlier this summer are still flowering.  Something has been at the leaves, but that doesn't seem to have discouraged the plants much.


Confederate Rose.
The big confederate rose that I transplanted from the garden beds to the side of the shed is still very much alive.  It's even blooming.  However, the sparseness of the leaves and lankiness of the plant suggest that it would be happier in more sun.

Confederate Rose

I'm not sure yet what I'll do.  I could leave it where it is and plant the small rooted cutting I have in a sunnier location, then just see what this shady-spot one does, for another year or two.  I could also try to take more cuttings (this year or next), against the possibility that this plant eventually fizzles out because of a poor location.  (It won't matter so much if it fades away, so long as I've had a chance to get one or two good clones going.)

The other option is to move it again, but I don't look forward to that.  It was a difficult job to move the first time.  One thing's for sure-- if I do go to the effort of transplanting it yet again, I will be giving it a place with plenty of sun and room to stretch.

Confederate Rose

Pink Trumpet Vine.
Still blooming a little at a time.  Here it is sneaking its way through the neighboring "banana fuscata".

Pink Trumpet Vine

The back garden arbor is still waiting for some finishing touches.  The viburnum is withering from the drought (and probably the shortening days), and the cannas are going into dormancy, but the gold of the swamp daisies looks wonderful with the light green of the cypress in the back and the paler yellow 'Sunshine' ligustrum.

Back Garden Arbor

(Trixie wanted to be part of the picture!)

Back Garden Arbor (with Trixie)

Back along the gravel path, many plants are going into their yearly decline, but there are still enough flowers to keep the bees and butterflies happy-- and there's enough color to keep me happy, too, when I can forget (or ignore) the weeds and the plants that have not survived the summer.

Along the Gravel Path

I try to remember that plants die, and this is not necessarily a sign of failure on the part of the gardener.  It's a learning experience and a natural consequence of working with living things.  Even the best gardener has killed plants along the way-- and continues to do so.

Along the Gravel Path

Show me a person who hasn't committed the occasional "plant murder"-- uh, non-criminally negligent herbicide?-- erm, involuntary plant-slaughter?-- and I'll show you a person who has never really gardened.  (That's what I tell myself, at least, and sometimes it even helps!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Swamp Daisies

Swamp daisy...

Swamp Daisy

Also known as "swamp sunflower" or "narrow-leaf sunflower".

Swamp Daisy

Helianthus angustifolius is a perennial native to the US-- a wildflower that is well-adapted to use in the home garden, provided that the gardener is aware of a few important facts...

Swamp Daisy

First, they are foliage-only until very late summer/early fall.  When it does flower, the blooms are up to a few inches across and numerous.

Swamp Daisy

Second, it can be potentially invasive, so it bears watching.  You may need to curb its spread by underground rhizomes (...and self-sown seed).

Swamp Daisy

Third, it wants to grow tall, and it has a habit of flopping over.  Providing a support may help, but it is also common practice to cut them back at some point in the summer to promote a bushier growth that is less likely to topple.

Swamp Daisy

I cut my biggest clump back at least twice this summer.  It still looked fairly good a month or so ago, but I was concerned that it was growing too tall.  Gradually it began to "open up" in the middle, the tall stems leaning out from the center of the clump.  Then we got a couple of heavy rains, and that was the signal to flop and "lodge" (which apparently is the technical term for a stem that bends/breaks under its own weight).

Swamp Daisy

The flowers are still glorious and plentiful, but the plants look messy.  (Fortunately, the macro lens allows me to focus in on the flowers...)

Swamp Daisy

I still enjoy the flowers, but it's disappointing that the plants are collapsing.  I guess I either didn't cut back hard enough or didn't time it right.  I'll try again next year!

Swamp Daisy

In the meantime, the stalks are going to die to the ground in winter, anyway, so there's a fresh start just around the corner.

Swamp Daisy

...And there's no denying the beauty of those golden flowers.

Swamp Daisy

It's easily propagated.  Just dig up one of the little plantlets that pop up in spring.  (Remember, it will want to spread ever outward from wherever you originally plant it, so there will probably be new baby plants every year.)  You can also wait for the seeds to mature, harvest them, and plant them in spring (or by winter-sowing).  I grew some from seed earlier this year, with little trouble.

Swamp Daisy

Maybe these late-season bloomers have the right idea... Why flower during the hot, humid middle of summer when you can wait for the dry, pleasant days of early autumn?  Life is sweeter, this time of the year!

Swamp Daisy

Around the October Garden

I think I may skip the October "survey", this year... The truth is, what with one thing or another, I haven't put much time or work into the garden for quite some time, and it's showing!  There are many weeds to pull, annuals begging to be put out of their misery, perennials past their yearly prime, and a few other eyesores, too.  Also, it's already so late in the month... It's possible that a mid-to-late October survey post will materialize, but I make no guarantee.

Instead of taking wider-angle survey photos, last week I took a walk around the garden with the handy-dandy macro lens.  The macro lens is wonderful in that you can always find something worth photographing with it, and it is useful for editing out the less pleasing parts of one's surroundings.  It's by far my favorite of our lenses-- not ideal for photographing large groups of people or vast landscapes, but perfect for portraits and the more intimate setting of a home garden.

- - - - - - -

Heliconia 'Lady Di'.
This bloom has been looking good since August!  Of course, it helps that the showiest part of it isn't really the flower at all-- it's the red bracts that hold the yellow flowers (which may now be setting seed).  This is an amazingly long-lasting "flower", and there's another getting ready to open, too.

It's too bad this is a tropical plant and can't be left out all year.  I'll keep it indoors over winter, again, but I don't always have the best luck with house plants.

Heliconia 'Lady Di'

Japanese Shrub Mint 'Golden Angel'.
Speaking of bad luck, my in-the-ground Japanese shrub mint has withered.  We've been having a dry spell, and I guess it just went too long without water.  I've watered it a couple of times since noticing that it was suffering, and I'm still hopeful that it will recover, but even if so, it probably won't be in time to do much more this year.

Fortunately, I happened to have taken a few cuttings of this plant, earlier in the summer.  Though they're still in small nursery pots, the cuttings are doing very well.  Maybe that's a consequence of their slightly shadier location (under the shade cloth).  Maybe they got more water during the recent dry weeks (though I wouldn't have thought so...).  As is so often the case, it's a bit of a mystery, but I'm just thankful to have a back-up, in case the mother plant doesn't return in spring.

I may try to keep a pot of the shrub mint on the covered patio, since it seems to like it there...  (It may not seem like much to look at, at the moment-- maybe it's an acquired taste-- but when the foliage is new, it glows.)

Japanese Shrub Mint 'Golden Angel'

Assorted Seedlings.
Some of the seedlings are still hanging in there, despite sporadic care.  Most of the ones in the photo below are pineapple lily (eucomis).  There are also a couple cuttings of (full-size) gardenia that have really taken off (not in the photo).  I hadn't realized they could grow so quickly from cuttings.


Passionflower Vine & Caterpillar.
The passionflower vines are still defoliated.  Every time I take a look, there are at least a couple of caterpillars in evidence.  I don't know if they can live off the vines, but if not, these caterpillars are doomed, because there aren't enough leaves to support them.  I consider that we've done our part for the Gulf fritillaries, this year, so if a butterfly is foolish enough to lay her eggs on a leafless vine, that's on her.  (There aren't any other passion vines around, even if I were of a mind to move them by hand to another food source.)

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

Purple Coneflower.
Most of the purple coneflowers were done blooming long ago, but there were still a few in flower.

Purple Coneflower

Mexican Petunia.
It seems like it took it a long time to start blooming, but once it starts, it stays in flower until the cold nips it back.  I plan to thin it out, eventually-- probably this winter/spring-- which I hope will encourage it to bloom more freely.

Mexican Petunia 'Purple Showers'

Pink Trumpet Vine.
After a slow start, this vine has put on a lot of growth during the summer.  I've been surprised by just how far some of the vines stretch!  It seems to be just as happy trailing along the ground as climbing the trellis and nearby tree.  Actually, its habit of snaking along the ground lends it a slightly sinister  air-- in my mind, at least.  (The fact that I always see a mean-looking wasp or two near it may have something to do with that, too.)

The flowers do have a perfume, but in my limited experience of it, it hasn't been love at first sniff.  It's not terrible-- and it's not overpowering, in any case-- but I wouldn't list it as a real favorite.

Strange how much opinions differ on the subject of fragrance.  Earlier this summer, I took another sniff of the night-blooming jasmine and confirmed that I really don't care for it.  Garden scents I do enjoy include gardenia, rose, honeysuckle, butterfly ginger, "damp forest floor", freshly-cut grass, and some mysterious fragrance that is permeating part of the garden right now, but which I haven't been about to conclusively link to any particular plant.

Pink Trumpet Vine

Spanish Flag.
This is the only "mina lobata" to make it to flowering age, this year-- and it's a very small specimen.  I hope I'll get a few seeds from this one, but it's getting a late start...  I'm not sure how many annual vines I'll try to grow, next year.  I haven't had the best luck with them, this year.  Even of the ones that grew to flowering age, the majority of the vines looked ratty most of the summer, with bug-eaten leaves or sparse foliage.  The flowers are nice, though.

Mina Lobata / Spanish Flag

Gulf Muhly Grass.
This grass (which I believe is also known as both "pink muhly grass" and "purple muhly grass") had only begun to bloom when I took this photo.  If it flowers more spectacularly this year than last, I'll try to get a better photo.

Muhly grass is one of those plants that sit quietly most of the year, drawing little attention until autumn, when it can undergo a dramatic transformation from an unassuming clump of thin-leaved grass into an eye-catching cloud of pink-purple inflorescence.  Looks its best when backlit by the sun.

Pink Muhly Grass

Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
When I was taking photos, I heard the tell-tale thrumming of a hummingbird's wings.

"Our" hummingbirds typically make only a couple of different sounds.  One is a high-pitched squeaking, commonly heard when a hummingbird is defending its territory (or feeder) from other hummingbirds-- but also when a human being pops up unexpectedly.

The other sound that is a dead giveaway that a hummingbird is near is the humming of its wings as it darts here and there.  Ruby-throated hummingbirds beat their wings from 40-80 times per second, and all that movement makes some noise, even if they are very small creatures.  The sound sometimes reminds me of that of a lightsaber (à la Star Wars).

...Well, anyway, I heard a lightsaber-- er, hummingbird, and soon located the source of the humming.  The bird was investigating the red, star-shaped flowers of the cardinal climber, one of its favorites in my garden.  The bird's green body blends in with all the leaves, but if you look long enough, you'll find it...

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

After sipping from a few blooms of the cypress vine (another common name for cardinal climber), the hummingbird checked out another long-time favorite, salvia 'Pizzazz Purple'.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

There aren't as many flowers on it as there were earlier in the year (and as you can see, I haven't been deadheading in a while), but it's still worth a look!

This bird doesn't have a ruby throat.  It's either an adult female or a juvenile; I'm not informed enough to say one way or the other, conclusively, but my hunch (based on its size and the white tail markings) is that it's an adult female.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Mexican Bush Sage.
Salvia leucantha has begun its big autumn show.  Those fuzzy purple flowers are so distinctive!

Mexican Bush Sage

I took some cuttings earlier in the year.  They took easily, but I haven't looked at my pots of cuttings closely in a while, so I'm not sure if they're still there or if they've faded away from lack of attention.  In any case, maybe I can start some new ones, next year.

Mexican Bush Sage

The only downside to this plant (that I've come across so far) is that it doesn't do much until so late in the growing season.  The slightly silvery foliage is nice in a subtle way, though, and by some estimations late-season flowers may be worth more than those of mid-season, because they can be harder to come by.

Mexican Bush Sage

In the photo above, that's Mexican bush sage in the foreground, salvia 'Pizzazz Purple' behind it, and blurred into the background are the golden flowers of the swamp daisy, which will be the subject of my next post.