October 27, 2011

Blue Pumpkins for Halloween

This year we grew blue pumpkins for Halloween. They're not bright blue - more like a ghostly greyish-greenish-blue, but that's a perfect color for the holiday, is it not?

After seeing blue Jarrahdale pumpkins last year on our trip to the pumpkin farm in Greenbluff, I found seeds online and ordered a pack. We planted a few in the mound of good soil left over from our front yard landscaping.

Due to a cold spring, the seeds sprouted and then sat with just a couple of small leaves until the end of June. Once it warmed up, they grew like gangbusters. Every day we'd look outside and the vines would be bigger. Honestly, they almost seemed to grow a few inches every time you glanced away! Above you can see how they tried to climb up and take over the trees. We had to cut those parts off, as well as the parts that grew onto the lawn.

After the yellow flowers were pollinated, little pumpkins started forming. My kids thought it was great fun to go out and count how many pumpkins were growing.

First they grew into large, mottled green pumpkins with cool ribs running up and down.

Then, instead of turning orange, the pumpkins turned blue! Eventually we had sixteen full-sized pumpkins to harvest.

We sent a couple with the kids to school to show their classes. We gave most of the rest away, which was great fun. But we kept a few to admire. If you want to grow some yourself, you can find seeds to buy when you do an internet search for 'Jarrahdale pumpkin seeds'.

October 20, 2011

Fiery Peony Foliage and Cut Flower Storage

The trees and shrubs are flaunting fiery fall foliage around here, and so are my peonies. Since they bloom for just a few weeks in June, it's nice to have a second season of color from them.

All of these photos were taken of herbaceous peonies in my yard. The Intersectional peony leaves are still completely green, but you can see there's a big range of color from the herbaceous types. By the way, I've got my two new 'Capitol Red' tree peonies planted. They look like a couple of twigs right now but will be pretty in a few years.

Although it's a strange time of year to talk about peony cut flowers, I just found this link from the Martha Stewart Show and Peony's Envy farm. It talks about how to store cut peony flowers in the refrigerator for up to six months!

The video is 15 minutes long and covers peony flower shapes and how to plant them as well as cut flower storage. The cut flower portion is in the last few minutes of the video.

Here's the basic process - you cut 1 to 1.5 foot long peony stems when the flowers are showing color but still tightly closed. You put a bunch of them into a cellophane wrapper (you can get them from your grocery store or floral supply store), set them in a vase filled with a couple of inches of water, and put them in the fridge. Or you fold the dry stems with newspaper, secure with a rubber band, and lay them in the fridge.

I assume you'd have less luck storing the peonies if you have apples or other ethylene gas producing fruit nearby (ethylene gas makes flowers and fruits ripen and eventually rot).

I'm excited to try storing some peonies next year! This is great information if you're wanting to have peonies for a late-summer wedding.

This is yet another reason to love peonies. Meanwhile, I'll enjoy their fall foliage before winter sets in.

October 12, 2011

English Roses in the Fall

My english roses are putting out their last flush before winter. Above is 'Abraham Darby'.

In the fall, english roses often send out really tall stems with roses at the ends. My 'Eglantyne' bushes, above, have a few of these super tall stems right now.

'Sister Elizabeth' had more flowers this fall than it did in its first flush in July.

Here's another shot of 'Sister Elizabeth'.

'Teasing Georgia' looks more peach than yellow in the fall.

This picture shows how 'Lady Emma Hamilton' fades as the flowers open.

'Princess Alexandra of Kent' had enough flowers to make a bouquet . . .

. . . so here's what I brought inside. I also included white 'Claire Austin'.

The 'Claire Austin' roses shatter quickly, but 'PA of K' holds up well in the vase. They both smell delicious. It's nice to have this cheery arrangement to enjoy while the weather outside is cold, grey and rainy.

October 4, 2011

Cosmos Double Click Cranberries

This year I ordered seeds for a new color of cosmos in the Double Click series - cranberry. Even though our very cool spring slowed down germination and growth - and they were planted in part shade, which slowed them down even more - I finally saw some flowers starting last month.

The deep crimson color is almost exactly the same shade as my 'William Shakespeare 2000' roses. Very romantic.

While most of the flowers are large and very double, a few of the small plants in shady areas put out simple flowers like the one above.

A few years ago I grew Double Click Rose Bonbon cosmos, which were a lighter pink. They grew like crazy since they had plenty of sun and warmth that year.

All of the cosmos in the Double Click series get to be 4 ft tall by 2 ft wide and bloom from summer until frost. They do best in full sun with regular water, but can handle most any type of soil.

I'm hoping that a few of these flowers have time to form seeds for next year. This is a flower I'd like to keep around.

October 1, 2011

Fall Flowers 2011

As much as I appreciate the long-blooming perennials that have been in flower all summer, it's fun to see some new blooms appearing just for fall. Above are a couple of Colchicum 'Waterlily' flowers coming up through bellflower (Campanula) foliage.

Here are some asters that came from my friend Kathy's garden.

They're blooming cheerfully despite being transplanted this spring and getting too little water from the sprinklers.

Diminutive flower spikes are popping up on 'Big Blue' lilyturf (Liriope) all over the front yard.

Here are some pink chrysanthemums, which also came from Kathy's garden.

I love this color of pink and hope to find more spots for this type of mum in the front yard.

This was the only flower on my tiny Japanese Anemone, which was also lacking in water this summer. I think this plant came as a start from Kathy's yard, too. I guess this post could have been titled "Thirsty Plants from Kathy".

These lavender flowers are from 'Farmington' double aster.

You can see a bit of mildew on the leaves, which tells me that these plants should have had more water this summer. Many types of asters get powdery mildew when they're water-stressed. Maybe next year I'll keep up on the watering better and get a better show.