September 28, 2010

Fall Colors: Crimson and Gold

I've been hurriedly snapping shots of the garden lately, hoping that I'll have enough to illustrate this blog until spring. I don't have gorgeous red maple or pin oak trees turning colors in my garden, but I do have some smaller plants sporting fall hues. I thought I'd post these colorful leaves today after focusing on green ones last week.

These first three shots are of peony leaves. Funny, but the first two pictures show divisions from the same mother plant. The crimson plant was less water-stressed than the golden one.

Here is a 'Limelight' hydrangea bloom in front of the ruddy peony plant. Despite being planted in a challenging spot, this hydrangea has put on new growth and flowers each year. I can't say the same about my bedraggled 'Endless Summer' hydrangeas. Of the five bushes, only one plant put out a single bloom this year.

These last two shots were taken on the same day from the same tree. The great news is that this is the transplanted dogwood, which survived the summer! Now if it can just make it through this winter, I think it will be 'out of the woods' and sure to survive its recent move.

Fall is a last burst of fiery color before the greys and whites of winter. This week has been sunny and warm (up to 80 degrees F), and I'm soaking as much in as possible. Then hopefully I'll survive the coming winter, too!

September 21, 2010

Plain Green is Not Boring

Is it because winter is approaching that green seems more beautiful than ever? Above is a picture of corkscrew rush, Juncus effusis 'Spiralis'. This plant is part of the grass family, and you can see its small brown flowers hanging from the spiraling blades.

I've heard that this winter is supposed to be especially cold and moist. That means it will be a long, long time before my hostas - like 'Blue Angel' above - show their heads again above ground.

Tiny Sagina subulata, or Irish moss, looks like a magical forest up close. Supposedly this plant is evergreen, but I'm learning that evergreen perennials aren't very attractive during our cold winters. They look just half-alive, which is worse than fully dormant in my opinion.

This is the biggest hellebore leaf in my garden, on 'Velvet Lips.' Most of my hellebores are still getting established and aren't even close to full size. I'm hoping to see pink 'Kingston Cardinal', peach 'Apricot Blush', and yellow 'Golden Lotus' bloom for the first time next spring.

Here is lady's mantle (Alchimella mollis) blooming earlier in the year. Doesn't it look like ballerinas in tutus swaying about? It's much too pretty to call 'plain.'

And here is a rosette of blue-green Lewisia cotelydon leaves. It would look better without the hard water stains all over. But it's still an interesting plant, even when out of bloom and just 'plain green.'

September 8, 2010

Dahlias or Daybeds?

With frost fast approaching, the dahlias haven't much time left. So I'm enjoying them while I can. These pink ones are 'Excentric', which I ordered from Swan Island Dahlias this spring.

Swan Island has an excellent selection and good prices, and if I ever decide to try dahlias again I'll definitely order from them. If you live in a climate with a longer growing season then Spokane and you like dahlias, you should check them out (by the way, no one pays me to say anything on this blog).

This vibrant dahlia is in the same flower bed as all the similarly-colored petunias (in the background) along the flagstone path. It's pretty and cheerful around there.

This 'Giggles' dahlia is in the front yard. Anyone who has read me ranting about how I hate construction-barrel-orange will laugh when I say that I love the color. But the hints of pink and the different shades of orange are so intriguing. I always stare at them when I walk by.

And now we come to the reason for the title of this post. The bumblebees think these dahlias make perfect beds! I've seen half a dozen bumblebees lounging at once on these dahlia flowers.

When I walked by the other day, a bumblebee was sitting on a dahlia and lazily waving her leg at me. I had to chuckle at that. Was she thanking me for planting her favorite flowers?

The bumblebees are crazy-busy on the nearby catmint. Maybe they tire themselves out so much that they have to rest on the conveniently located dahlias. Whatever the reason, it has been very amusing to see them all lying about.

Speaking of crazy-busy, I've been neglecting to answer comments lately. We've been busy getting back-to-school shopping done. But school finally started today for the older two (hooray!), so I should have more time to spend here. Except that I've got several hundred bulbs to plant soon . . . well, we'll see.

September 2, 2010

Front Landscaping Project: End of Summer Views

After our major landscaping project this spring, I was excited to see how the plants would fill in by the end of the summer. Here's an update on the progress with some wide view pictures. Sharing wide view shots is a Big Deal for me with such a young garden! Above is an 'Autumn Wood' daylily with daisy-form rose mums and 'Rozanne' geranium. I like how this color combo turned out. The five 'Rozanne' geraniums I planted this spring have grown quite large and have bloomed all summer long. I'm very pleased with them.

Here is a 'Giggles' dahlia with 'Walker's Low' catmint in the background. I planted a dozen of these dahlia tubers in the front yard and have been disappointed with their flowering. Half of them aren't blooming yet, and the first frost is coming up fast. I think dahlias aren't a good investment for my cold climate unless I buy them already in bloom. The tall, narrow form of the dahlias doesn't work well in my flower beds, either. Of course the catmint is growing by leaps and bounds and already needs to be divided. The bees love both of these plants. They busily buzz around the catmint and appear to take naps on the dahlias.

This is another shot of the dahlia, mums, 'Autumn Wood' daylily, 'Rozanne' geranium and some lavender lobelia in the background. I planted the lobelia to fill in some blank spots around the beds, but the little clumps just make the beds look cluttered.

My vigorous 'Abraham Darby' rose is in the middle of its second heavy flush of blooms. Unlike my experience with this rose in California, I haven't seen any rust on the leaves since planting.

Here is The Wide View shot for the post. I like the color scheme - warm peachy pinks, rosey pink and lavender. The foliage is a nice mix of glossy dark green (Otto Luyken Laurels, dahlias, creeping phlox), steely blue (Blue Star junipers), warm mid green (daylilies, lilyturf and Sagina subulata groundcover), and light blue-green (bearded iris).

Speaking of greenery, I am especially pleased with how my 'Green Tower' boxwood is growing (you can see it on the right of the shot). I was nervous that it would get crispy with all the sun and heat reflecting from the south side of the house, but it still looks perfectly fresh and green. Monrovia states that it will stay this color all winter instead of turning 'bronze'. That's great news since my winter lasts six months. This boxwood stays very narrow and can grow up to nine feet tall. It stands as a welcoming sentinel by the entrance to front veranda.

In the above shot you can see three types of filler annuals (they're the really short ones): double pink petunias, warm lavender lobelia and cool lavender fanflower (Scaveola). Like I said, it's colorful but cluttered. When the 'Blue Star' juniper reaches full size there won't be room for annuals anyway. Too bad it's a slow grower.

Although I'm not pleased with their contribution to the overall scheme, the double pink petunias are really pretty up close. You can see a touch of lime green at the base of the petals.

I'll end with this shot of 'Pink Double Delight' coneflower and 'Evolution' salvia (which grows as an annual in my climate). So what do you think of the end of season product? I think it turned out pretty well overall, though I'm planning a few tweaks here and there. Next year I'm not planting annuals, so no dahlias, petunias, fanflower, lobelia or salvia. But everything else should get bigger and fill in better. Eventually you won't see any bark. This fall I am adding a couple of 'Coral Supreme' peonies and six 'Just Because' lavender siberian iris to replace the ones I killed. But the overall color scheme and design will stay the same. It's nice to have one part of the yard mostly settled.