What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Fall container close-up

As I continue to winnow down the outdoor plants, I’ve managed to consolidate the containers in two areas where the remaining sun is. I do this for a few reasons. First, it gives color to a concentrated spot.

Next, if I choose to protect any of the tender plants–or move them for a night or two–I don’t have to scramble to find them or worry that I’ve missed some. It also concentrates the watering chores.

And finally, as the Spoiler gears up for his leaf blowing, he will begin to start whining that he can’t blow because my containers are all over the place and in the way. Funny how something that brought beauty all summer suddenly becomes a nuisance. Anyway, these are mostly out of the way of the blower and therefore out of the way of being beaten and battered into oblivion on a regular basis.

Those of you that have followed me over the years know that you haven’t seen a lot of mums on this blog. As a general rule, I hate them (hate being a really strong word, but I do reserve it for mums). I can’t even tell you why I feel so strongly. It may have something to do with my years of retail gardening.

“Do these mums match? Will these colors match my brick house? Why don’t you have any more of ____ color?” And on it went. It was the same thing with the annual geraniums in the spring, except it was worse with the mums because we were perpetually deadheading them.

Anyway, mums and geraniums were my nemesis. I’ve gotten over the geranium thing because I get the fancy leafed kind. The mum thing, I still shudder every time I see them appearing in the fall!

But this was a really nice pot and I know the Spoiler loves them so I indulged him.

But what’s wrong with this photo? It may be hard to tell from the shot above (and no, it’s not that the mums are in a hanging basket and I’m not hanging them–who on earth would hang a container that full (although I have a neighbor that’s doing it so it just goes to show that it does take all kinds!)

Fall (?) tableau

Here’s the wider shot where I have the mums. You see the begonia that I removed from the planter the Spoiler loved, drying out. The dracena is already inside. What’s interesting is that the begonia looked very autumnal until I got the mums there–now it looks very summery. Maybe that’s why I don’t like mums–they don’t fit in my remaining color scheme–eek! They don’t match! I’m as bad as the rest of them!

It’s Time To Plant Bulbs When….

On Monday I mentioned that I would share some tips from my friends at Colorblends about how to know when it’s time to plant fall bulbs. I’ve linked to the whole list, of course, but I wanted to share some of my favorites because ever since they sent some excerpts to us as Garden Writers, I’ve thought about them and they made me smile.

I think perhaps my favorite is “you don’t hear crickets anymore.” Ever since I read that, not only am I more aware of the crickets around me, I am actively listening for them.

What? So what? And big deal. But we all have our favorite sounds. I love bird song (I think most of us–at least those of us reading this blog–do). But I can’t say I’ve ever been attuned to the crickets much. I’ve noticed them–particularly if they get into the house, where the chirp can be deafening. But now I’m actively listening. I shut off the radio at night and fall asleep to it. It’s really nice.

I’ve always watched the squirrels in their little nut burying frenzy (some folks think of this as squirrels destroying the lawn. Try to think of it as planting future oak trees).

And I’ve always been fascinated by the different bird groups as they congregate.

Some of the other things just make me a little sad: things like closing the windows, putting on the heat anywhere, and fall foliage past peak.

But of course, without autumn coming–and passing–there would be no rest for the gardener, and no beautiful spring bulbs.

I urge you to read the list and to browse the whole catalog. It’s full of lovely bulbs and great planting ideas and combinations!

Wordless Wednesday–Why Do You Have Crocuses Up Now?


A visitor to our house over the weekend asked why we had crocuses in our garden now. She made the mistake of asking the Spoiler who looked at her blankly. Luckily I was nearby and told her they weren’t crocus but colchicum, an autumn flowering bulb that some folks do call autumn crocus.

I took the above photo as the bulbs were just coming up–when we’d had just 3/10s of an inch of rain. After the weekend’s generous soaking of almost 3/4″ of rain, they now look like this!


more colchicums

This photo is the same group of bulbs as the top photo.

These are deer and rabbit proof and reliable even in my heavy clay and polar vortex winters (although I am considered a zone 6). I heartily recommend them!

Is It Time To Plant Bulbs Where You Are?

I mentioned in my post about bulbs on Friday that it took a special kind of gardener to plant bulbs–one that was willing to work in weather that was usually at least cool but might also be damp, cold and nasty.

Well, that’s a pretty vague reference to the weather one needs to plant bulbs. If one buys them from mail order sources, one can be reasonably assured that they won’t come until it’s pretty close to the correct time to plant (and I always remember being shocked at how late that was for me–it’s usually early October!)

Mind you, all the stores and garden centers have had the bulbs on display for 6 weeks already–and unless you (or I) are planting fall flowering bulbs, what that means is that I should not be doing anything but trying to store those bulbs that I buy (to get the best selection, if I purchase locally) in a cool dark place until it is the correct time to plant.

Why does this matter? It matters for a lot of reasons, the first and most important being that bulbs need a period of dormancy, in place, before they bloom. Get them in too soon and with our wild and wacky weather (and don’t tell me you aren’t having some of that where you are–I think every part of the United States, at least, will own up to some wild and wacky weather this year at least!) you’ll be fretting when they come up too soon.

Now most bulbs are well able to protect themselves unless of course the flower itself has opened. And some bulbs–like grape hyacinth–immediately send up a shoot of green leaves. If you don’t know that because it’s your first time planting them, it can cause mild to moderate hysteria.

These same grape hyacinths have an annoying–or fabulous–habit of sending those same green leaves back again every fall. Some folks plant 1 in every clump of bulbs to remind them of where they are. So that habit can be useful if you use it to your advantage.

On Friday, I’ll share some hints from my friends at Colorblends about how to know when it’s time to plant bulbs in your part of the country. And the hints are great. They make me smile when ever I think of them.

Fall Is For Planting Bulbs

I mentioned in my “I’m Too Old for Fall Gardening” post that I used to plant mass quantities of fall bulbs. Bulbs are special things. They require a special kind of gardener–one that is willing to wait until it is cooler and damper (usually)–or sometimes downright cold and nasty–and then the gardener goes out and plants in this weather, not seeing any result until 6 or 8 months later. Talk about delayed gratification!

But of course for those who do plant fall bulbs, the result is so worth it! There’s absolutely nothing like seeing the first bulbs of spring pop up–and we can debate what those first bulbs are. For me it’s snowdrops, although some folks plant winter aconite, and they may be first.

Others don’t plant either, so their first bulbs may be the lovely crocus, whether its the very early light purple “tommy” crocuses, or the slightly later dutch varieties that come in shades of purple, blue, white and yellow. They never fail to make me smile–sometimes they’ll even make me stop the car and just enjoy, if I can safely do it on a side street.

Once the crocus are up, it’s a virtual riot of bulbs that follow: daffodils, tulips, grape hyacinths and hyacinths being the most common. I’m seeing more and more “minor” bulbs like blue and white scilla, which are early–with the crocuses, and puschkinia (a mouthful of a bulb, but pretty). Even the looser, more open Siberian squill, which looks like hyacinths gone amok, in shades of blue white and pink, are occasionally pooping up in my neighborhood.

I don’t see much snowflake or giant snowflake–perhaps its name is too off-putting. It’s a shame, because it’s a lovely white, later blooming bulb.

The alliums are becoming more popular–perhaps because they are great for pollinators. And it is possible to have alliums in bloom for 5 months in my climate so that’s a definite plus.

I also almost never see fall blooming bulbs here. That’s a terrible shame. What’s better than the unexpected in the garden? Most are deer proof as well. They too are planted in the fall although earlier than the spring blooming ones.

This year, my fall-bloomers have not yet bloomed. It’s the drought. As soon as we have a few good rains–if we do–they’ll be up and blooming their fool heads off. I know they weren’t winter killed because the foliage came up in the spring.

Some great places to buy bulbs–besides your local garden center–are the catalogs. But don’t delay because the best selection will be almost gone shortly. My favorites are always “local” catalogs for me. I like Colorblends of Darien, CT, John Scheepers, of Bantam, CT and for very unusual bulbs, Brent and Beckys of Virginia.

Wordless Wednesday

I remarked last week that I had brought in all the house plants and that I was out of windows.

Well, that’s never the end of the story, is it? I’m still moving things around and shifting things and deciding what’s staying and what’s going–a few last-minute tweaks before things settle down for the season.

As all of this is going on, the Spoiler keeps asking about something that’s still outside. I can’t for the life of me imagine what he means. He keeps referring to it as “that nice pot with the matching bottom,” or something vaguely similar.

As more and more plants came in, I figured whatever it was had come in as well–but no. Once again, over the weekend I got the question about the pot with matching saucer, this time.

Finally I asked him to show me what he was worried about. This was what he pointed out.

The "forgotten" planter

What’s interesting about this is that I do bring in and over-winter the red dracena because I can’t always find one when I want one. But everything else? The begonias go dormant–and need to do that to rejuvenate themselves for next year. The torenia and calibrachoa are true annuals and won’t over-winter, particularly in my chilly house. So even were I to bring in that planter just as it is, it wouldn’t look like much in a month or two!

Still, it’s sweet of the Spoiler to care. Some years I guess he doesn’t want summer to end either!