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Fall Flowers

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I get more strange looks about these flowers–which are right by the road–than almost anything else in my garden. They are blooming right now.

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Here are more of them, peeking out from beneath some roses.

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And more yet, some fully open and other just coming up. These are colchicum, a bulb that should be planted now. Some people call them autumn crocus, but there is a true autumn crocus so I don’t like to confuse the 2 species.

They are incredibly hardy for me, come up reliably without fail, even in drought, aren’t bothered by any sort of critter, and increase in clump size, even in my clay soil. The only one that I have failed with is the double variety, ‘Waterlily’.

Something to be aware of though: like other bulbs, you will have foliage to deal with. It comes up in the spring and persists for a few months. Usually I don’t care. At that point, I am looking at roses here!

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Then there is this–the hardy begonia you see above the little bowl of succulents. This is really a fall star. Its botanical name is begonia grandis and this variety (the white one) is called ‘alba.’

It too is very easy but it’s very late to come back. Just about the point at which I think I’ve lost it, it finally appears. So if you find it and plant it, don’t give up on it early in the season.

Also ignore the jagged tears in the leaves. That’s from a rare hail storm that we had earlier this year. It doesn’t usually look like that.

Flowers in the garden this late in the season are a joy to behold–and true perennials are even better.

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Container Renovation for Fall

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This container has sat next to my driveway since early May. This photo is from June 9, about a month after we got it.

We bought it pre-planted because I had surgery May 18 and there was only so much gardening that I could do. It worked out fairly well  considering its location and the fact that the Spoiler,  who was responsible for dragging the heavy hoses around for a lot of the summer,  didn’t get down to this container nearly as often as he should have.

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But this is what it looks like now. It’s not pretty and clearly it needs to be redone.

So I hemmed and hawed and thought about what I could do. You’re not going to find me planting mums. I think they are a waste of money. At this point in the season,  their life span is too short–& they offer nothing to wildlife.

Asters are a better choice but even those are about past their prime for containers. I wanted something that would look reasonably good until a hard freeze–and possibly thereafter.

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That left me with very few options.  I was happy to find the foamy bells (heucherellas) and a coral bells (heuchera).  At the moment, the heuchera, Palace Purple, is buried under the foliage from the red spike but I don’t expect that to last long. That left me with just one “annual,” the cabbage, which will take a lot of chill. And when it starts looking ratty, I’ll turn the pot so that’s at the back.

This should survive nicely until I get my Christmas greens.

And in the spring, I will have some nice perennials for the garden.

“Fall” Colors

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This is a close-up of the shot of my steps from the Friday post. You can see the crotons better,  and you can see the calibrachoa, or million bells, in the pots beneath the 2 larger ones. They are a mix–great variety called Dreamsicle that I planted for the first time this year, and a double yellow.  Not only do they nicely highlight the colors in the crotons’ leaves, but for this time of year, they are great fall color. Dreamsicle is a mix of salmon, and orange flowers.

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Here’s the back wall of the steps, where the  sweet potato vine is. You can see it, along with the little bowl of succulents  (which has been there all summer,  but was overshadowed by the hibiscus and mandevilla) are now color-echoing the begonias.

It doesn’t take much to make these changes.  Look around your own yard to see what you have to work with.

Is There Something Wrong With My Hosta?

 

20170806_131212Hostas are wonderful shade and even occasionally sun plants–bone hardy in the cold, increasing in size every year so that you can divide them and either spread them around your garden, share them with friends, or have plants to sell at your garden club’s plant sale (but do be aware of those patented varieties!)

But what happens if you notice a hosta that’s not behaving like that?

 

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Well, first thing first, take a closer look. Might you have a pesky underground rodent like a vole nibbling on the roots?

Are deer or rabbits nibbling at it from above? Is a woodchuck eating it from both sides?

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If none of those things seems to be occurring, take an even closer look at the leaves. Do they exhibit anything out of the ordinary? If so, you may have a hosta infected with hosta mosaic virus, otherwise known as hosta virus X (HSX).

How does this  virus manifest itself? It can appear any number of ways. The leaves can appear puckered or stippled or stunted. The color can appear broken–in fact, when the virus first appeared, many breeders thought they had new unique variations among hostas on their hands before the virus was recognized.

This fact sheet from the University of Wisconsin not only has some great information about the virus, but has some great photos of infected leaves.

HSX has been around since 1996 but I know when I was working in retail gardening (from 2001-2008) it was only beginning to be recognized as an issue so that tells you how long it took to catch on, even in the trade.

Thee is no cure for HSX. Infected plants need to be removed–carefully–from your garden and destroyed. Do not compost them! And now, after re-acquainting myself with these photos for this post, I need to go out to take a hard look at a couple of my own hostas!

 

 

 

 

A Little Certainty Please

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You may remember this photo from a few weeks ago.  It was in the post about the composed flowers. At the time,  I was using the photo to illustrate various types of composite flowers, like the cone flowers shown.

Today, I am going to use those 2 same cone flowers to talk about epic failures in plant breeding, and why it is important for plants to be around awhile before you put them in your garden if you are attempting any type of longevity.

I suspect anyone who has planted any of the yellow cone flowers over the years knows exactly where I am going with this.

Needless to say,  I  didn’t plant either of these two cone flowers. I would never plant a white one–I don’t like them.

I might once have planted a purple one, but not in this garden. In this garden, I only planted yellow and harvest type colors. And you see what remains: purple and white.

I can tell you exactly what has happened.  The same breeder that is dumping out all the strains of heuchera that are dying on you left and right is also dumping out poor seed quality cone flowers that revert to their parentage.

That breeder shall remain nameless.  The plant world thinks he’s a big deal. I am not fooled.

Bonsai As I Have Never Seen It

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A few decades ago, I used to practice (and I do mean practice in the most rudimentary sense of the word) the art of bonsai. I had several–mostly tropicals, but a few evergreen types like satsuki azaleas and even a few nursery specimens that I had turned into bonsai myself. I was fairly proud of those.

(And no, that is not one of my bonsai. All of the images in this post are from the bonsai show at Elizabeth Park in Hartford July 8-9 of this year.)

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What happened? One exceptionally bad house sitter. I came home and found–despite extremely careful watering instructions, and plants grouped together by watering needs–over 33 of my plants dead. Returning from a lovely vacation is difficult enough. Returning to a massive plant die-off is devastating.

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So that was the point at which I decided that either my bonsai hobby had to go or I had to stop traveling. So I no longer practice bonsai with the exception of a couple of ridiculously hardy plants which I am not particularly attached to.

The photos I am including in this post are photos of perennials–an alpine strawberry,  a true geranium (pelargonium species) and three hosta, all of which are done in bonsai style called mame.  It’s bonsai in smaller pots, or miniature bonsai.

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What’s interesting about this is that I don’t remember any of this when I belonged to a bonsai club several years ago. But I absolutely love it!

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I am still not necessarily willing to attempt it on any sort of large scale. But if I find a hosta seedling, I might just begin training it. What have I got to lose?

Oh, Hail!

I can count on one hand the number of hail storms that I remember.  My particular part of the state and the country is blessed not to receive such weather.  Hip deep snows, yes, on a regular basis.  Hail, not so much.

So a couple of weeks ago when it started hailing,  my immediate worry was the plants.  Everyone else worries,  naturally enough,  about their cars. I figure that my car is insured. But I am not going to make an insurance claim for my plants, most of which are annuals or vegetables.  The perennials will recover and grow back. The house plants too, eventually.

But this presumes that you don’t need all those containers that are planted for a lecture any time soon–as I do. And even I am not crazy enough to go running out into a thunderstorm with hail to try to save them. If need be, I will find–or plant–something else.

So, after a hailstorm,  how do you distinguish hail damage from insect damage?  I guess it depends on the size of your hail.

Back in 2009, our last significant hail storm, there was no doubt.  Everything was shredded.

But this time, we had small hail.

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Here it is in one of my pots. At best, I would call this “pea” sized. But don’t be deceived.  It can still do a lot of damage.

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This hosta leaf survived pretty well because it was under a Japanese maple. The force of the hail was broken.

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Contrast the hosta leaf with this begonia grandis which was out in the open (just above the pot full of hail, in fact).

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These violet leaves are showing both hail damage  (the leaf to the far right of the photo) and insects chewing  (the top leaf in the photo). Contrast the way the leaf is chewed irregularly, and down to the ribs of the leaf, with the small circular holes caused by the hail.

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Here’s more insect damage,  this time on some small bean shoots. They are the plants nearest the bamboo stake–there are a few plants in the photo.

The bean leaf nearest the parsley has clearly been chewed. Do I know by what? I haven’t a clue. Since I am not seeing slug slime trails and I am seeing lots of earwigs, I will guess that it’s earwigs, but it’s just a guess. It also could be slugs.

I will watch closely just in case it turns out to be bean beetles but I have seen no evidence of those either and they are a daytime pest, so I should be seeing those.

In any event,  it’s only two leaves. It’s hardly a crisis.

But at all times, it is important to be watchful in the garden,  to know what’s causing plant damage,  and to take action,  if necessary.