October 25, 2010

A Rainbow of Pumpkins with Speckles, Stripes and Warts

As a child, I thought all pumpkins were mid-orange in color with blocky-rounded shapes. Boy, was I wrong! Last Friday we took the family up to Knapps Farm in nearby Greenbluff, WA. While the children enjoyed the straw bale maze, miniature horses, blackberry picking, and Punkin' Chunkin' (shooting pumpkins out of a giant rocket launcher), I busily snapped photos of the amazing variety of pumpkins, squash and gourds. Centered in the picture above is a blue 'Marblehead' pumpkin.

Since I'm obviously not a pumpkin expert, I'm not sure if all of these squash are classified as pumpkins. For more information on pumpkin and squash varieties, see this website.

There were many types of cute miniature pumpkins for sale, like the white ones above.

Some of the orange pumpkins showed different shades that reminded me of a sunset or a bonfire. There were plenty of warts on display.

The blue pumpkins were my favorite. I looked for blue pumpkin seeds last winter and couldn't find any.

These 'Turk's Turbin' pumpkins were amazing! The variety of vivid colors and the unusual shapes reminded me of a circus.

Above is 'Rouge vif D'Etampes', also known as the Cinderella pumpkin.

This blue cinderella-shaped pumpkin was my favorite, and I found out its name: 'Jarrahdale'. Armed with this information, I'll be able to find seeds and grow some in our garden next year. Stay tuned next week for pictures of the warty, wacky squash we found at the farm.

October 19, 2010

Fall Flowers

I have had some pretty flowers blooming this fall in my garden. Unfortunately, the Colchicum 'Waterlily' shown above is not among them. This photo was taken last fall, when only one of the three large (and expensive) bulbs bloomed, putting out three flowers. None of the plants sent out leaves in the spring, so they died from either the cold winter or the gallon of bubble solution my children spilled nearby. Hmm.

This autumn I planted three Colchicum cilicicum, described as 'vigorous and easy to grow' in the White Flower Farm catalog. All three bulbs sent out flowers, but I discovered that slugs like to eat them. This was the only bloom with petals left, and it's not very impressive. Next year the show should be better if I make sure to keep the slugs and bubble solution away.

This poor 'Farmington' double flowered aster was planted in a half-shade spot when I was hurriedly preparing to leave town during the summer. I never made time to transplant it to a better spot, and by now the sun is so low in the sky that it never gets any sun. Next spring I'll move it to a full sun spot and hopefully enjoy more than two flowers next fall.

I am undecided about how much I like the color of these daisy-form rose-colored chrysanthemums, available from Bluestone Perennials. They have certainly put out plenty of color, though, even though they were just planted this spring.

I had to cut back six of the nine mums yesterday, as hard frost hit last weekend and turned most of the garden to mush. Somehow one clump of three mums escaped damage, but all the dahlias turned black, the hostas and hydrangeas look melted, and the coneflower blooms turned brown (although the coneflower leaves still look fine).

The Crocus speciosus, or autumn crocus, have shrugged off the frost and are sweetly blooming in little clumps around the front yard. I just planted them last month, so it has been fun to see them bloom for the first time.

It's nice to have something fresh in the garden while most of the plants are tattered from the summer heat or succumbing to frost.

Many of the fall crocus are hardy only to zone 6, so I can't grow them. But C. speciosus is hardy all the way to zone 4. What a tough little flower. It's supposed to be a good naturalizer, if I can keep from digging it up when transplanting perennials. And if I keep that blasted bubble solution away.

I couldn't resist posting one more picture of these cute fall crocuses, so here it is.
Yesterday I planted about 100 more bulbs, and I still have somewhere around 300 left to get into the ground. They include parrot and Impression tulips, hyacinths, miniature daffodils, chionodoxa, scilla and several types of crocus. Stop by in the spring to see plenty of cheerful pictures of their flowers.

October 13, 2010

'Munstead Wood' English Rose

Last spring I planted the new David Austin english rose, Munstead Wood, in my backyard garden. I happily looked forward to chocolate-crimson colored flowers.

You can see in the first photo that I did get a few deeply colored roses. But then the flowers lightened up to the same color as 'William Shakespeare 2000', another crimson english rose that I have planted nearby. Above is a photo of the lighter Munstead Wood blooms with a double campanula in the background.

The color remained lighter during the summer months, then darkened again as fall approached. None of the flowers on my bush were quite as dark as the photos in the David Austin catalog. But they were still pretty.

As the catalog says, there is a nice 'old rose' fragrance, though it isn't as strong as Shakespeare's. And the size is very manageable, at 3 ft high and 2.5 ft wide.

Even in its first year of growth, and despite being planted in partial shade (morning sun only), the shrub put out regular flushes of blooms throughout the season. It didn't have problems with disease, though of course a few aphids found their way to the new growth.

If you are thinking about adding this rose to your garden, I'd recommend it. Just don't expect all the flowers to be as dark as the pictures in the catalog - especially if you live in a climate with very hot summers.

Regardless of the color, isn't that a gorgeous flower? I just love these english roses!

October 5, 2010

The Many Faces of Pink Double Delight Coneflower

Some people don't like double flowered plants, but I'm a fan. When it came to selecting a coneflower (Echinacea) for my front yard, I felt that the single types with their brown center cones were not in keeping with the look I'm trying to create. Don't get me wrong, coneflowers look fabulous in prairie style gardens. But I'm not making a prairie here.

I looked at Pink Double Delight (PDD) coneflower for months - years even - before buying any. Part of the delay was the cost of this new and popular hybrid - how could I buy enough to make an impact without spending hundreds of dollars?

I decided to buy several small pots of PDD and divide them up into even smaller clumps as I planted them this spring. I ended up with nine plants, and I fertilized to make them grow faster. I think the fertilizer might have made some of the stems floppy, so I'm not going to do that again next year.

Floppy stems is a problem with some coneflowers. With a mature height of just 16 inches, PDD is supposed to be compact and sturdy. If you plant them in full sun with good drainage and don't give them much nitrogen, I think PDD will be fine, as most of mine were.

Part of the fun of PDD is how the flowers change as they mature. At first they look like daisies, then they fluff up and start to look like cushion mums. Unfortunately, because they have petals in the center instead of stamens with pollen, the bees don't visit these flowers. But I've planted enough catmint nearby to keep the bees busy.

I was worried about how the vivid mauve-pink flowers of PDD would blend with other colors in my front gardens. But I've come to love the combination of cool lavender and warm rosy-peach with the true pink of PDD.

Of course a nice feature of PDD and all coneflowers is their tolerance of intense sun, heat, and drought (once established). Another perk is their bloom time, which starts just as the roses have taken a break - but well before chrysanthemums start blooming - and continues until frost. The picture above shows the fall flush of blooms on the rose behind PDD.

I noticed that the White Flower Farm catalog recommends that this coneflower be planted in the spring unless you live in zone 6 or warmer. I'm planning to transplant some of these coneflowers to make more room for the oh-so-vigorous clumps of catmint nearby, and it's hard to wait until spring instead of just getting it done now. But since I live in zone 5, I'll try to be wise and wait.

Actually, I have PLENTY of work to do already this fall. With just 125 bulbs planted, I still have 405 sitting here waiting to plant. How did I end up with so many?! My back is getting sore just thinking about it. Thank goodness only 40 of the ones to be planted are tulips, which have to go deep. All the others can be planted more shallowly and so will take less work.

But back to Pink Double Delight coneflower. If you can afford the price (or if you find a good sale) and have a sunny, hot, well-drained area, I'd give this plant two thumbs up. Just be skimpy with the fertilizer, and you should be very pleased with these sturdy plants.