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Archive for October, 2008

Halloween Decor

It took me until 4 p.m on Halloween night, but I managed a little garden decor for the holiday. (The overturned pots kept the pumpkins out of the leaves.) We had perfect weather and a ton of cute trick or treaters. Good times.

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Last Look at Autumn Blaze

With the (ugh!) snow showers and high winds predicted for today, I took a photo of the Autumn Blaze maple in our front yard on Friday afternoon.  Good thing, too, because I doubt the maple will have many leaves left after today’s storm. Of course, the snow specks are melting the minute they hit the ground, but today’s weather is a chilling reminder of what’s to come.

One of the things I love about Autumn Blaze is the variability of its color. From a distance, the leaves all look reddish-orange, but up close you can see tones of green and brown as well as reds and oranges. The bright red veins in the leaves are eye-catching, too. With the winds as strong as they are today, I won’t have to rake the leaves on this tree–they will just blow right up to Canada.

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Monday night’s hard frost (23 F at the Stanton Airport early this morning) slayed my last standing tomato and damaged most of the plants in my containers. Covering things seemed like too much effort for the 20th of October. That said, a few things continue to bloom, including these Stella d’Oro daylilies. If you look closely at the photo, you can see the transperancy of the petals, caused most likely by frosty nights.

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Here’s something cool. One of my tomato plants sprouted roots all along its stem. I discovered this Saturday while pulling the tomato up. It was a Beams pear tomato plant I bought at the Farmers’ Market and planted late in the season. In July, we had a hail storm. The hail split the plant right down the middle at a point where the two main stems intersected. The stems were barely connected and I thought the tomato was a goner. I didn’t even bother to stake it. I just left it alone in hopes that one side would recover. Both sides continued to grow and produce fruit, and now I know why.

While surprising to uncover the mass of roots under the stems that rested on the gound, it does make sense. Many times people who have leggy tomato plants will plant them very deeply or even lay the leggy stem underground to encourage root growth. You can do this with other plants as well, although tomatoes are especially good at laying down roots. St. Paul gardener Philippe Galandat, who was featured in the November/December 2007 Northern Gardener, uses a method called layering to propagate shrubs. He pulls a branch down, nicks it slightly, then pins it under dirt with a clip. When the new plant roots, it can be separated from the parent plant. Galandat, a frequent garden lecturer and owner of Swiss Gardens, has propagated a hedge of black currant bushes using this method.

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Time to Plant Bulbs

It’s not too late to plant bulbs for spring blooming. With some help from my 16-year-old, I put more than 100 in last Saturday, and we plan to plant a few more over the MEA Weekend. One reason we planted so many is that the tulips I planted about 8 years ago have pooped out. Unlike daffodils and some of the minor bulbs that naturalize, tulips lose their flower power after awhile. Some gardeners even view them as annuals and replace them every year. I’m not willing to do that, since bulbs can be pricey, especially the bigger (and in bulbs, bigger is better) bulbs.

We needed to plant bulbs in the front yard garden I put in this year, which is another reason for the large number to be planted. Bulbs give an early blast of color, which is so welcome after a long winter.

To create impact, we planted the bulbs in groups of 20 in four spots in the front bed. This was relatively easy to do. Using a spade, I pushed the mulch aside and dug a wide hole the appropriate depth in each area. I put the dirt in a bucket so it was easy to add back. Then, my daughter moved in and placed the bulbs in a random group with appropriate spacing, added the dirt back, and pushed the mulch back in place. While she was placing and planting, I was digging the next hole. In about 45 minutes, we planted 40 Allium caeruleum, a 16-inch, blue allium that will complement the large alliums I planted in the front door bed, which bloom about the same time. We also planted 20 crocus Grand Maitre for early spring bloom, and 30 grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum), which bloom in mid spring.

In the bed near the front door, we’re planting about 50 tulips as well as 60 Allium sphaerocephalon, which has the wonderful common name of drumstick allium. It’s also a later blooming bulb. I have one problem with the tulips, however. I purchased them from the bins at Farmer’s Seed and Nursery in Faribault, and oops, I forgot to write on the bags which is which. I have 25 yellow ones (Daydream) and 25 purple ones, and it’ll be spring by the time I figure out which are planted where. Ah well, spring is a good time for surprises.

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A week or so ago, I pulled down a large morning glory vine near our garage. I like morning glories. They are easy to grow and have pretty blooms and heart-shaped leaves. Sometimes they are a little too easy to grow, however. This year I decided to save some seed for morning glories for next year, and at the same time save myself from seed.

Left alone, these Grandpa Otts morning glories will produce hundreds of seeds and drop them on the ground, where they often take root and produce vines next year. Pulling up morning glory sprouts is one of my top early summer jobs. To control where the vines grow next year, I decided to cut them off at the pass. I pulled off a pile of the seed pods, cracked them open, and stored the seed I expect to want next year in a safe spot in the garage. The rest of the vine, I pulled up, shaking the seed on the driveway. Some of the seed went back with the vine to the compost area, where I would be happy to have morning glories. The rest got swept up and deposited in the garbage. It’s a cruel world.

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Due to a busy work and personal schedule and a drenching rain last Tuesday, I failed to mark last week’s Bloom Tuesday. Not much was blooming anyway, but while walking around the garden this weekend, I came upon a couple of surprise blooms. The Penstemon ‘Husker Red’, right, which first bloomed way back in June, has several small blossoms on it. This plant does not like heat and looked pretty ragged throughout August, but the recent rains seem to have brought it back for an encore. Nearby, the wonderful groundcover Lamium ‘White Nancy’ has put up a few small blooms as well. The White Nancy had the misfortune of being planted next to the very prolific yellow pear tomatoes I’ve been growing, and it spent much of the summer covered with rangy tomato vines. I’m glad it’s getting one last chance to shine.

Elsewhere, the flower carpet roses continue to flower vigorously, as if they are trying to hold off the inevitable with flowers. Other plants that look nice are the Russian sages and the two types of sedum I have. The sedum flower heads are getting deeper and richer in color in response to the cooler temperatures.

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