Tuesday, October 11, 2016

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.

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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.