Archive for October, 2007

Fall Clean-Up

oak-in-color.jpgI took advantage of yesterday’s nice weather to play hooky from the computer for an hour to do a little fall clean-up in the garden. The cold temperatures Friday and Saturday nights stopped most of my perennials. The more tender plants I had in containers wilted completely. I’ve now emptied all the containers, except for three pots in a protected place on the front porch. I also raked up some of the leaves and put them in my compost pile. While things are moving steadily toward November brown, a few bright spots still glimmer.

petunias.jpgFirst, how great is the fall color on this oak? The picture was shot near dusk so it may not capture it, but the tree has turned a beautiful russet color. Individual leaves have shades of yellow, red, and brown, but together they are the quintessential fall red-orange, like a flame of a tree. I love the pyramidal shape of this tree as well. A few flowers are still blooming here and there, too. mums.jpgThe roses that were nipped by frost have opened; a brave little petunia survives (probably because it spills over on the pavement); and this sunny white and yellow mum is still blooming.

With Halloween here, the days for fall gardening are certainly numbered, but I plan to enjoy every gardening day that I can.


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current_cover1.jpgThe November/December 2007 issue of Northern Gardener is now available. I’m excited about this issue because it has something for all kinds of gardeners. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, check out Susan Davis Price’s profile of Philippe Galandat’s St. Paul garden. Philippe is one of those amazing people who see a pile of bricks or a bunch of sticks and can not only imagine what to do with them, but can create a garden structure from them. The cover photograph of sticks made into peace signs was taken at Philippe’s garden. It’s no wonder he has won the 2006 Blooming St. Paul award for art in the garden.

small-bucket.jpgThe issue also has suggestions for what gifts to buy the gardeners in your life. Rose Eggert, the CEO at the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, is especially fond of this collapsible bucket. It can carry up to 3 gallons of water, weeds, or whatever, and then foldsbrush-smaller.jpg flat for storage. It’s available at the MSHS Bookstore at 1755 Prior Ave. N. in Falcon Heights (just north of the U of M St. Paul campus). My personal favorite is this scrub brush for cleaning pots. I know you are supposed to clean your outdoor containers at the end of the season, but I’ve never been that diligent about it. With the right tool, I might be. Check out the issue for cute, as well as practical, suggestions for garden gifts.

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Frost on a Rose

frost-on-rose.jpgWe’ve had two mornings in a row with significant frost and the thermometer on my deck showed about 30 degrees F at 9 a.m. today. The flowers, especially the tender annuals, are getting nipped, but frost looks becoming on this just-opening rose.

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As I’ve been thinking about the new flower bed I’ll be installing this fall and next spring, a few plants rate as “must-haves.” One of them is Autumn Joy sedum, which is currently in bloom in my garden and in many others from Canada to the south. What a great plant!

Its scientific names is Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’ so you can see why they came up with the common name Autumn Joy. It has succulent-like leaves and when it comes up in the spring it looks like a tiny cactus or an odd cabbage; the foliage makes the plant interesting even when it is not blooming. It grows about 2 feet tall and in mid-summer develops pale green flowers, about 3 inches across. Beginning in September, these change color, going from green to pink to a rich red then almost rust, fading to brown after a hard freeze. You don’t want to cut it back in the fall, because the seedheads provide food for birds and make perfect landing pads for snowflakes. In winter, the seedheads sometimes look like they are wearing stocking caps of snow.

autumn-joy-sedum.jpgAutumn Joy is drought and salt tolerant and gets by in fair soil. It does need to be divided every few years to maintain an upright look. Mine has been in this location about four years and definitely needs to be divided. The plant is flopping over.

Plant breeders have developed several other sedum cultivars to take advantage of Autumn Joy’s popularity. ‘Autumn Fire’ is similar to Autumn Joy in color, but forms a tighter clump. ‘Black Jack’ is a sedum with purplish foliage. ‘John Creech’ grows only 2 inches tall and is used as a groundcover. There are many others as well. Sedum is sometimes called stonecrop because it grows so well around rocks. Whether you have a rock garden, or just a sunny one, sedum is a good choice.

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pumpkin-pots-part-2.jpgI had hoped my pumpkin planters would last until Halloween, but Mother Nature had other ideas. The heavy rains we’ve had since I put the pumpkins out more than two weeks ago has taken a toll, and one of the pumpkins is rotting at the bottom. Yesterday we experienced what felt like gale-force winds; I had to move our grill into the porch to keep it from blowing around the deck. So it’s no surprise the tallest pumpkin fell over. Today I’ll be planting the grass and mum and tossing the pumpkins on the compost pile. It’s too bad, because I really liked how the pumpkins drew attention to the orange flowers of the nasturtium planted nearby.

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robslovebite.jpgIndoor plants have never been my strong suit. I’m just too apt to water too much or too little, which is why I’m in awe of gardeners who can keep African violets blooming all year. This weekend, Minnesota’s premier African violet growers will be showing their stuff at the North Star African Violet Council‘s Fall Show at the Bachman’s store at 60th and Lyndale in Minneapolis. In addition to seeing some beautiful plants, visitors will be able to buy plants grown by council members. The plant at left is called Rob’s Love Bite and was named Best in Show at the council’s Spring 2007 plant show.

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rose.jpgWhile out in the garden Saturday, I noticed two more plants blooming that I would not have expected so late in October. In my front bed, a rose has more than a dozen buds on it. These are Flower Carpet Roses, a long-blooming, hardy rose, though I don’t recall ever getting buds this late. In addition, on the north side of the house, several daylilies now have blooms. These are Stella d’Oro, a yellow daylily that is known for its long bloom, but it’s usually wilted by now. Stellas are a particularly hardy daylily and I noticed several of them blooming away in a parking lot bed at Walgreens in Northfield. Sunday daylily.jpgmorning, while walking the dog, I spotted three other yards nearby with roses blooming, and a purple bloom that looked suspiciously like an iris! If I see the homeowner, I’ll ask what it is. In addition to in-the-ground blooms, my container plants continue to put out flowers and foliage. Two trailing coleus (Lava Green and Lava Rose) look great and the Fiesta Ole double impatiens planted with them are still blooming. A lovely Calibrachoa (MiniFamous Dark Blue) is also blooming like crazy.


After my last post on blooms, I decided to check out how other northern gardens were doing. Kathy Purdy, who runs the Cold Climate Gardening web site, and gardens in USDA zone 4 in New York state, recently listed the plants blooming in her garden as of Oct. 15. She also has blooms on larkspur and catmint as well as mallow and yarrow and a few stray blooms on her phlox (mine also has a few flowers). She has petunias in pots, Johnny jump-ups, and colchicum, a flower that grows from corms (or tubers) and is sometimes called autumn crocus.

One reason for the sustained blooming may be the lack of low night temperatures. September 15 the temps dipped to 30 degrees F in Northfield. That knocked out my tomatoes. The night-time lows have been relatively high since then. Perennials usually require a hard freeze, several hours of temperatures in the 27 to 28 degrees F range, to shut down for the season. The National Weather Service is predicting lows in the low- to mid-30s to low-40s this week, with highs in the mid-50s to mid-60s on Thursday. Who knows what will be blooming next.

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