Thursday, October 27, 2011

A plant I fancy: Lobelia cardinalis

As it gets colder and rainier, I seem to be kicking into planning mode.  The plant this week is related to the two previous plants I coveted (toad lily and chelone).  All three of these, along with astilbe, some bulbs, and maybe a couple of shrubs, are the makings of my rain garden.

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden Plantfinder
Conveniently, chelone, toad lily and lobelia (or cardinal flower) are all late summer/fall-flowering.  They will add some interest to my backyard, where there is absolutely nothing going on right now.  They all prefer slightly moist soil and cardinal flower is even recommended for stream banks.

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden Plantfinder

Scientific name: Lobelia cardinalis
Common name(s): cardinal flower
Height x Width: 2'-4' x 1'-2'
Growth rate: Medium - can be divided and may self-seed.
Hardiness: Zones 3-9
Soil: Rich, medium to wet soil
Light: Full sun to partial shade
Bloom Time - July - September
Reasons I like it:
  • grows well in shade
  • provides late summer/early fall blooms
  • is native to the south east
  • it's supposedly deer resistant*
Where would I put it?
  • In the backyard, in a damp spot that will become a rain garden or anywhere between the understory and the lawn (I'm starting to sound like a broken record!)
* As with the toad lily, I did actually purchase a lobelia last year.  I got Lobelia 'Monet Moment' from Bluestone Perennials.  It's planted in the general area of my future rain garden amidst the pachysandra.  A deer, or something, has really enjoyed chewing on it.  I'm hoping it will come back next year, when I'll be much more diligent about spraying tasty plants.  I'm not really a pink person (although my most recent bloom day would lead you to believe otherwise), but I think this shade would match toad lily, chelone, and astilbe (if there's any overlap) better than red would.  If it doesn't come back, I might also consider Lobelia fulgens 'Queen Victoria' -- I love that dark red foliage!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fall Foliage - Week 2

The days are getting shorter and it's usually dark by the time I get home from work.  I didn't think I'd be able to get foliage pictures this week, but I was able to snap a few pictures from my deck this morning.

On the left, you can see a yellow buckeye just starting to turn yellow.  On the right, the native dogwoods are still the highlight of my fall garden.  They seem to get even more red every day.

Most of the "filler" trees in the backyard are tulip poplar.  On the left, you can see they're starting to turn yellow.  The white pines are also losing a lot of their needles.

While I was snapping a close-up of the dogwoods, I noticed a smallish tree with delicate yellow leaves (see left).  It would have been hidden behind the juniper bushes in the spring...I'm planning on going out this weekend to try and identify it.  On the right, you can see the oaks in the backyard are still fairly green, but do have some clusters of leaves that changed.

I will try to get better pictures next week.  I think the next few weeks will be really colorful.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A plant I fancy: Tricyrtis

I recovered, completely, from my funk last week.  I was a little under the weather on Sunday so I spent the whole day in bed with gardening books and looking at all of the Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day posts.  As a result, it's quite easy to come up with a list of plants I would like for my fact, the difficulty is deciding on just one to talk about.

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder
Scientific name: Tricyrtis
Common name(s): Toad Lily
Height x Width: 1'-3' x 1'-2'
Growth rate: Clumps gradually increase in size, may also self-seed
Hardiness: Zones 4-9
Soil: Prefers rich, moist soil
Light: Prefers partial shade
Bloom Time - Late summer through fall 

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder
Reasons I like it:
  • grows well in shade
  • provides late summer/early fall blooms
  • supposedly deer resistant
Where would I put it?
  • In the backyard, in a damp spot that will become a rain garden or anywhere between the understory and the lawn
Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder

A lot of people have tricyrtis, or Toad Lily, blooming in their gardens right now.  Technically, I should have one as well.  I bought one at the William Paca House plant sale earlier in the year, but it seems like the deer ate it.  Between the chelone I posted about last week and the toad lily this week, I've got quite a few things planned for my non-existent rain garden.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Exfoliation usually refers to the removal or loss of leaves from a plant, either as part of the plant's natural life cycle or due to some other cause (pests, disease, weather, etc.).  Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting a lot about exfoliation!

Peeling Bark

Some trees also have exfoliating bark.  These photos show my crapemyrtle, but other trees with exfoliating bark include river birch, paperbark maple, and shagbark hickory.  As these trees grow, the outer layer of their bark is split and eventually replaced with then new bark underneath.  The difference in color and the texture of the bark adds interest, especially in winter.  The process also helps the tree rid itself of scales, insects, bacteria, fungi, lichens, and mosses.

Bark Debris

As far as the bark on my crapemyrtle goes, I don't find it nearly as appealing as the exfoliating bark on a river birch.  It's, honestly, pretty messy.  You're not supposed to peel the bark off to help the tree along, so a lot of times, the bark on my crapemyrtle just hangs there.  When it comes down, it piles up in the joint of the trunks or makes a mess in the bed.  However, the patterns that are left once it comes off are really beautiful and add a lot to the already attractive multi-trunk structure.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Look what I found: Hydrangea quercifolia

The oakleaf hydrangea is probably my favorite shrub.  My parents got me one while we lived at the old house and I was hooked.  I put it in a dry, shady spot where nothing else would grow and it seemed to double in size every year.  It also provided multi-season interest: lush greenery in spring, flowers all summer, colorful foliage in fall, and exfoliating bark in winter.  I loved it so much that I got two more...and with a couple of hostas and a handful of bulbs, a problem area became an attractive and low-maintenance bed.

The oakleaf hydrangea at the new house looks more like a tree than a shrub.  It's quite tall (at least eight feet) and has a single trunk for at least three or four feet.  I'm not sure if it was pruned that way, purchased that way, or if grazing deer had some hand in the matter.  It's in the backyard, in the forest understory, between two viburnums.  The only thing growing under it right now is vinca minor and a couple of columbine plants.

I've enjoyed watching the flowers change from cream, to red, to brown and I can't wait to see what the leaves look like as they turn.

Do you have a favorite shrub?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bloom Day - October 2011

I finally got around to posting another entry for Bloom Day.  Let me tell you, it's looking pretty sad out there.  If I sound like a broken record about fall blooming plants or multi-season interest, it's because these are the ONLY things blooming in my garden right now.  I'm making a solemn vow that next fall, my garden will have a lot more going on.

Clockwise from upper left: Potted chrysanthemum,
re-blooming azaleas, volunteer chrysanthemum,
potted coleus, and volunteer impatiens.
My thanks to Carol, at May Dreams Gardens, for hosting the Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day each month.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fall Foliage - Week 1

Today marks the six month "anniversary" of this blog.  I realize I essentially missed two of those months, but it is still pretty amazing that I have stuck with something for so long.  Hopefully, I'll be able to come up with enough garden-related stuff to talk about over the next six months.  When I started the blog, I didn't really consider what to talk about over winter!

Until winter gets here, and all of the deciduous leaves are gone, I'm going to try to document the fall foliage in my garden on a weekly basis.  This should help future garden planning.

The big oak tree out front was the first to start dropping leaves.  It seems like the leaves turn and fall in giant clumps.  The bright yellow clusters look nice on the tree, but not so nice on the lawn.

The native dogwoods (left) and the Kousa dogwood (right) are both starting to change color, although the natives are a little farther along.

The leaves on the viburnum (left) are changing to a rich, chocolaty brown.  An azalea out front (right) has a handful of bright red leaves.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bag Worm Damage

As I mentioned on Tuesday, over the weekend I finally got a chance to take care of a lot of little things that were bothering me in the garden.  I finally picked off the bag worm cases from the evergreen shrub out front (which I think is a bird's nest spruce).  There must have been 80 cases - I stopped counting at 50!

Just a few of the bag worm cases I picked off and put in a garbage bag.

At least half of the shrub is defoliated, but there are new needles coming back.

The pictures below show the difference between the affected area and the rest of the shrub.

Next year, I'm not going to waste any time in addressing any sort of insect problems.  I think I left this too long, so I'll probably have to spray for bag worms next June.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pruning Azaleas

Another busy weekend!  

On Saturday, as soon as I got home from gymnastics with my daughter, I handed her off to my husband and got out in the front yard.  A few things were really irritating me:

1. The re-blooming azaleas were getting really straggly.
2. The bag worms were still on the evergreen shrub.
3. There were quite a few volunteer trees poking up through the mugo pine.

I started by pruning the azaleas.  I did this by holding the long branch and then looking down into the bush to see where the last branching place was, and cutting there.  This takes a little more time than using a pruning chainsaw, but the effect is more natural.  Overall, there are less cuts as well, so it makes for a healthier shrub.



One day I will learn to take "Before" and "After" pictures from the same perspective, I promise.

I'm really pleased with the results.  I still can't believe these azaleas are still blooming.  Between the wonderful weather, the blooms, and the bees, it felt like spring.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A plant I fancy: Chelone lyonii

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder
Scientific name: Chelone lyonii
Common name(s): turtlehead
Height x Width: 2'-4' x 1.5'-2.5'
Growth rate: Spreads slowly by rhizomes, may also self-seed
Hardiness: Zones 3-8
Soil: Prefers rich, moist soil
Light: Full sun to partial shade
Bloom Time - July - September
Reasons I like it:
  • grows well in shade
  • provides late summer/early fall blooms
  • is native to the south east
Where would I put it?
  • In the backyard, in a damp spot that will become a rain garden or anywhere between the understory and the lawn

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder
It has been a while since I posted about new plants.  I just haven't been interested in buying new plants, making new beds, or (honestly) gardening in general, and I'm not sure why.  Maybe I'm just over the normal "spring fever", maybe this blog is causing me to put unnecessary pressure on myself...or maybe I'm still just a little upset over my Mom's illness and passing.  Today marks two months since my Mom passed away and I feel like it's only going to get harder over the next few holiday-filled months.  I've decided to try and "fake it until I make it", so just bear with me in the meantime.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Look what I found: Chrysanthemums (?)

These are still pictures from a couple of weeks ago.  The mums are fully in bloom now, but I like the way the new buds looked.

I  put a question mark next to the name in the title because I'm not totally sure these are still called chrysanthemums.  It looks like the botanical nomenclature for them may have changed to dendranthema...and possibly changed back again.  I've always just called them mums and I had never even heard of 'dendranthema' until I started today's post.*

I'm a huge fan of mums.  I enjoy seeing them this time of year and something about them just screams "Fall is here" to me, even more than pansies, decorative cabbages, or even pumpkins.  My wedding anniversary is on November 1st, so I've adopted white chrysanthemums as our official flower.  It works out quite well - they're cheap, plentiful, and not carnations. 

I'm not crazy about the colors of the mums we have...I would have chosen white, cream, or maroon.  We have three total (all orange-yellow) and two of them are poking up in the weirdest places: under an evergreen shrub and halfway in-between a bed and a lawn.  I'm not sure if they were quickly put in the ground one year or if the garden beds look drastically different from when they were originally planted.  They'll probably end up being moved next spring.

Lately, I've been reading about asters as a sort of mum-substitute.  Like mums, they provide late-season blooms, but are hardier, are native plants, and don't require extra pruning.  Have you ever grown asters?  Do you prefer them to mums?

*I take it back - it looks like Carol at May Dreams Gardens wrote about this, so I must have heard of dendranthema before.  However, since her post is over 5(!) years ago, I guess it slipped my mind.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Look what I found: Acer palmatum

What a weekend!  We went camping and got rained out almost immediately.  I was a little relieved -- since we came home early, maybe I would be able to get some work done in the yard, right?  Of course not.  The bag worms are still out front.  I still have plants to divide/trim/bring inside.  It looks like we need to rake already...

For the last few weeks, it has been ridiculously gray and rainy.  Fall is here with a vengeance and it will only be a matter of time before the leaves start to fall.  My native dogwood trees look like they're starting to change color.  But I can't show you because I haven't taken pictures outside in at least two weeks.

 So, here are some older pictures.  This is a Japanese maple tree from our front yard.  It is a really nice, mature, specimen tree.  In the spring, the leaves are a deep maroon.  Over the summer, they lighten until they are almost green.  I'm excited to see what they do in the fall.


The tree has a really nice structure and bark.  It's right next to the crapemyrtle and their multiple trunks kind of echo each other.  This is also my daughter's favorite tree.  She's able to swing on the lowest branch and has even been able to climb up it quite a bit.  As a former tree-climber, that just warms my heart.

I hope to get out sometime this week to try and capture some of the changes fall is bringing as well as finish some of the "clean-up" that needs to be done.  Are you starting to see signs of fall in your garden?