fall

Familiar scene of rustic bench near the pond in autumn (fall) with hardy cyclamen and hostas

New and Different: Garden Changes

I think it’s time to get away from book reviewing and rule quibbling. Whatever else might be happening, there’s always the garden.

It’s fall in the garden. Rain and imminent plant dormancy eliminates the need to water (except for a few pots). The gardener is energized. Plans are made and a few are carried out.

Hosta "Stained Glass"
Hosta “Stained Glass”

Nurseries put plants on deep discount at this time of year, rather than carry them through the winter. So I bought a rather nice hosta (called “Stained Glass”) for half price. Its leaves are a translucent yellow with blue-green margins. It complements the other hostas (dark green with white margins and medium green with yellow margins; you can see them in the featured image above). I also got a late summer/early fall blooming gentian (Gentiana septemfida). If it settles in and blooms well, I’ll have glowing blue trumpet-shaped flowers at both ends of the season, since I already have spring-blooming Gentiana acaulis.

Gentians, Gentiana acaulis
Flowers like these, only in fall.

A few days ago, I weeded the pond. Yes, ponds need weeding at times. I’ve had an oxygenating water plant (Elodea canadensis) in the pond for years, but for some reason there was way too much of it at summer’s end. There’s also duckweed (Lemna minor), a small, lime green surface floater, which can be sort of pretty, but not if it’s wall-to-wall. So I hoicked out masses of both and added them to the compost pile.

I have two compost piles. By mid-October I have to make room for the leaves that are about to descend. Usually I stack the old pile of not quite finished stuff on top of the current one containing fresh material. By the following spring it’s all pretty much rotted down enough to be distributed among the planted areas. But this year’s old compost (mostly last fall’s leaves) looked so finished that I decided to spread it around immediately, at least in spots where that could be done without damaging plants still in good shape.

Compost area half empty with removed blue fescues
Compost area awaiting the annual deluge of leaves. Those blue fescues on the left are awaiting composting. I removed them from the main path, where there were too many of them.

The Boulevard Project progressed well this summer. The chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace looked great together and several clumps of California poppies bloomed and produced seeds, and therefore more plants. A couple of them are an unusual creamy pink colour; the rest are the usual bright orange. I happened to obtain seeds of two native plants — consumption plant (Lomatium nudicaule) and seaside rein orchid (Habenaria greenei) — and scattered them around before a week of rainy weather. If they take hold, I think I’ll dig out some of the chicory and QAL. My original idea was to emulate a country roadside, but I think it’s better to encourage plants that belong here, rather than hearty imports.

Chicory flower
Chicory flower

The other day, I pulled out the last of the soaker hoses, rolled it up, and stashed it in the shed. (Wrestling hoses can be an exceedingly trying process; don’t do it if you’re feeling crabby or are in a rush.) Were the soakers effective as watering devices? For perennials, I would say yes. But not so much for shrubs.

The Chinese Witch Hazel (to the right of the bench in the featured image at the top of the post) showed drought stress from early summer. Its leaf edges began to turn orange-brown as early as June and it once again has no plans to bloom. It really isn’t a suitable choice for this climate, unless planted in a naturally damp area or given deluxe irrigation. I haven’t been able to bring myself to remove (i.e. kill) and replace it, though.

A much better choice of shrub is Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor), which I recently planted in one of the mixed beds. It’s a native plant of the region, a graceful, early summer blooming shrub that’s definitely at home here. It should outperform the witch hazel without any extra help once established (but unlike the witch hazel, it doesn’t bloom in January with an enchanting perfume — but then, neither does my witch hazel).

Speaking of failures, I’m declaring 2020 the Last Chance Year for Meconopsis (blue poppies) in this garden. The two plants I purchased in March bloomed well in May, but dwindled and died in August. I thought crown rot in winter was the main hazard, but it turns out that powdery mildew is another. It strikes in hot, dry weather, despite diligent watering. Although these prima donnas didn’t even last the summer, they did produce seeds before they turned up their toes.

Meconopsis sheldonii "Lingholm" (grandis) Himalayan blue poppy
Gone but not forgotten. Not yet.

That gives me a chance for one last shot. In January, I will deposit those seeds on damp, sterile, seed-starting mix and keep them at indoor temperature for a week or so. Then I’ll cover the pot and set it in a safe spot outside for exposure to frost and cold temperatures. Seeds should begin sprouting by March. I’ve had fairly good luck with this process in the past, even to the point of a dozen or so plants in bloom (a glorious sight!). After that, the trick is getting them through the following winter. Or even, it seems now, the following summer. One last try.

Sunflower and chickadee
Chestnut-backed chickadee going for sunflower seeds.

This year I finally got around to growing sunflowers. I had seven or eight plants. They were okay, I guess, but not nearly as impressive as some I’ve seen. In rich soil and full sun, with adequate water, a sunflower grows branches that develop buds, resulting in something like a tree. In soil that’s poor, sandy, and often dry, they stick to one skinny (although tall) stem with a single flower. (Guess which kind I had.) They did produce enough seeds to attract chickadees, who diligently pecked them out and ate them.

Hardy cyclamen blooms with ferns and fallen leaves
Hardy cyclamen flowers, a spring-like sight in fall.

Some plants are totally reliable without any extra effort at all, like these hardy cyclamen. They’ve increased well over the years and now form nice carpets of pink flowers that mingle with other plants and the falling leaves. Their own beautifully patterned leaves are starting to emerge and will last into next spring.

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autumn crocus, fall crocus

Summer into Fall

Here are some photos from my garden taken from mid-September to early October. Asters start blooming here in early September and continue through October.

Asters "Pink Cloud" and "Monch" with last few Rose Campion and Linaria flowers

Asters “Pink Cloud” and “Monch” with last flowers of Linaria purpurea and Lychnis coronaria

 

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, blue leadword, plumbago

Blue leadwort, aka Ceratostigma plumbaginoides or Plumbago

 

Hosta plantaginea flowers and foliage

Hosta plantaginea in bloom. The flowers smell like jasmine.

 

Thalictrum foliage turning yellow

Thalictrum foliage and fallen maple leaves

 

Stipa gigantea in fall

Ornamental grass Stipa gigantea in the front garden

 

Rosa rugosa foliage and hips with cotoneaster foliage and aster "Pink Cloud" in background

Rosa rugosa foliage and hips with Cotoneaster, and aster “Pink Cloud” in the background

Into Winter

November departs and winter approaches…

Front garden late November

Goodbye, November!

Persicaria foliage with garlic chives seed heads

Brown foliage of Persicaria with starry seedheads of garlic chives.

Cotoneaster with berries December

Cotoneaster bush full of berries.

Yellow chrysanthemum and Cineraria foliage

Chrysanthemums and Cineraria foliage.

Euphorbia and fallen seed head of Allium christophii in front garden

Euphorbia and fallen seedhead of Allium christophii (plus all kinds of other foliage, fallen leaves, etc.)

Sunset December 9, 2017

Winter-ish sunset.

Christmas lights on house

Lights in the darkness.

maple leaves, orange leaves, yellow leaves

More Autumn Glories

I couldn’t resist posting a few more photos from the autumn garden…

autumn crocus, fall crocus

Autumn crocuses among fallen maple leaves and hellebore foliage.

 

smoke bush, cotinus, fall foliage, senecio foliage

Smoke bush and Senecio foliage.

 

Pennisetum alopecuroides "Little Bunny" ornamental grass in autumn

Pennisetum alopecuroides “Little Bunny” and old stalks of Digitalis lutea.

That’s it for now — we’ve had some cold winds and even a taste of snow (!). All those coloured leaves are on the ground, and the season is shifting toward winter.

 

tall purple aster fading

Final Flowers

The last blooms of the season…

Purple delphinium

Purple delphinium (although it looks blue in the photo). Grown from seed last spring.

 

autumn crocuses

Autumn crocus, lavender purple (true crocus, not Colchicum)

 

"Fragrant Cloud" rose fallen petals, fruit bowl, purple African violet

Last bloom from rose “Fragrant Cloud”

 

Moving forward…

cotoneaster leaves and berries

Cotoneaster berries.

 

pumpkin

Happy Halloween!

campion, fireweed and mixed fall foliage closeup

Fall Fever

I love fall. The season of active gardening is winding down, for better or worse. The triumphs and tragedies are in the past, to be fondly remembered or recovered from. It’s too soon to think about next spring. This is a time to savour.

Which is what I’ve been doing, camera in hand, taking snaps of anything that looks even fleetingly beautiful. Actually, most garden beauties are fleeting. A few seconds later, the light has changed. A day later, those leaves have faded or fallen. Now is the time.

We’re moving from early to mid-fall —  60 mm (more than 2 inches) of rain and lots of wind. The garden is changing even as I write this.

So here are the best of my recent photos, carefully “curated” (my first chance to use that word in a sentence):

bergenia

Bergenia foliage turning colour.

 

bergenia, purple asters, front garden, fall

Front garden: bergenias and asters.

 

IMG_2530

Nerines, bergenias, curry plant and senecio ‘Sunshine.’

 

santolina foliage and plumbago flowers

Santolina foliage and plumbago flowers and foliage.

 

pond water dark fallen leaves and duckweed

Reflections, fallen leaves and duckweed on the pond.

 

black mondo grass (ophiopogon) and other foliage

Black mondo grass, lamb’s ears and various leaves.

 

Chines witch hazel foliage

Chinese witch hazel turning colour.

 

pond area, fall

Pond area (the pond is behind the big fern).

 

Western Screech Owl on trellis

This Barred Owl paid a visit one afternoon.

 

maple leaves turning colour

One of the maples coming into fall colours.

 

 

The Fall of the Year

This is my favourite time of year — the months of September, October and even November. And yes, I usually call it Fall, not Autumn. Apparently this is a bit of a dilemma for us Canadians. As the article says, “autumn,” in conversation anyway, sounds a bit pretentious to my ear. Like so many English words, these came to the language from two sources — “autumn” apparently from Etruscan via Latin, and “fall” from a Germanic source (although in German, the season is “Herbst,” from words relating to “harvest”).

OK, “fall” sounds a bit blunt. “The fall of the year,” however, sounds poetic, elegiac and exactly right for this season of downgoing.

Anyway, now that the days are warm instead of hot, and we’ve had a little rain, and the late-blooming flowers are out in force, I’ve been running around the garden, snapping pictures. They’re the same scenes I’ve delighted in photographing for years, but when I see the witch hazel turning rusty gold, and a haze of purple asters with contrasting pink nerines, I can’t resist doing it again.

Pond area, late afternoon.

Pond area, late afternoon.

 

Purple aster, nerines and senecio.

Purple aster, nerines and senecio.

 

"Pink Cloud" aster and fading peony foliage.

“Pink Cloud” aster and fading peony foliage.

 

Nerines, plumbago and senecio foliage.

Nerines, plumbago and senecio foliage.

 

Plumbago and santolina.

Plumbago and santolina.

 

"Monch" aster, blue fescue and "Jack Frost" brunnera.

“Monch” aster, blue fescue and “Jack Frost” brunnera.

Final (and Future) Flowers

Autumn has been pretty benign here so far, which perhaps explains the extended bloom season some plants are enjoying. At least, I hope they’re enjoying it, after the 130 mm (5+ inches) of rain we have had in the past few days. That would also explain the soggy appearance of some of these plants.

 

White Lychnis coronaria

White Lychnis coronaria

 

Last bloom on rose "Fragrant Cloud"

Last bloom on rose “Fragrant Cloud”

 

Late blooms on Gentiana acaulis

Late blooms on Gentiana acaulis

 

Some plants appear to be getting a really early start, such as this clump of Iris unguicularis, the Algerian iris. I think of it as a pre-spring bloomer — January or February — so imagine my surprise when I noticed three or four flowers peering out from under some yellow maple leaves last week. Sadly, I didn’t get photos of them, but here is a lone straggler that bloomed after the rest.

 

Iris unguicularis

Iris unguicularis

There are predictions of a “monster El Nino” this winter, but I’m starting to get suspicious of hyped-up weather predictions in the media. So often we hear about a “superstorm” or “hurricane of the century” that turn out to be run-of-the-mill seasonal weather events. What has happened here so far is a relatively warm fall with quite heavy rains in the past few weeks. Heavy rain also occurred in a previous El Nino winter (1997-98), so perhaps this will be a repeat. At least the regional reservoir will fill up, a good thing if next summer is as dry as the past one was.

However messy, this mixture of plants — in decline, or still in bloom, or putting forth fresh foliage — shows that here, at least, gardens don’t close down for the winter.

Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum

 

Ornamental grass "Little Bunny" still looking good

Ornamental grass “Little Bunny” still looking good

 

Persicaria foliage

Persicaria foliage

 

New foliage of Arum italicum

New foliage of Arum italicum

The Garden in November

November is perhaps the “deadest” month in the garden, or maybe “dullest” is the better word. The leaves have fallen and faded and even the autumn lingerers have finished blooming. After the usual wind and rain storms, chaos and ruin prevail — wet leaves, withered stalks and tired looking greens. We don’t usually get snow here, so there is no white blanket to cover the wreckage.

November 9, 2013

But this is the West Coast and climate zone 8, so not everything is dormant. Kale struggles on in the vegetable/herb patch.

November 30, 2013

A green and white grass is bright against a broad-leafed Carex and evergreen Euphorbia.

November 9, 2013

The last maple leaves decorate the pond. (Let’s not think about the layer of oozing muck they form when they sink to the bottom).

November 9, 2013

The smoke bush (Cotinus “Royal Purple”) goes through its gorgeous colour changes before losing its leaves.

November 9, 2013

November 9, 2013

November 9, 2013

And on this last day of November, a dark and rainy one (with snow and serious cold — minus 5C or 23F — predicted for next week), the winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum, is in full bloom on the trellis, and snowdrops are poking their noses up here and there. In fortunate Zone 8, the growing season never ends, just slows down a bit.

November 30, 2013

But it’s too early to think about spring.

The Garden in October

After 148 mm. (nearly 5 in.) of rain in September, 93 (3 in.) of which occurred in the final week of that month, October was curiously dry and foggy. From the 11th to the 27th, there was widespread fog nearly every day, sometimes thick and persistent, to the point that flights were cancelled, both short hops from Victoria Harbour and regular flights from Victoria International Airport.

I love fog, but didn’t enjoy it as much as usual because I was scheduled to fly to Toronto on October 23. Early that morning, things looked very thick here at home, but the fog thinned out around the airport and I departed without delay. By the time I returned on the 29th, it was gone. I came back to a garden full of fallen leaves and late blooms finishing up — blowzy is the word. I still haven’t reconnected with the garden, regarding the mess with detached unconcern from the window. That will change once the rain stops and I get out there.

The garden I left 11 days ago was quite a different place. Most of the leaves were still on the trees.

October 6, 2013

Asters were in glorious bloom.

October 12, 2013

Graceful decline prevailed in the herb garden.

October 6, 2013

There were interesting fungi, including a giant black mushroom.

October 12, 2013

October 12, 2013

The garden shed was re-shingled with artisanal hand-cut cedar shakes.

October 12, 2013

And the autumn crocuses were at their best.

October 13, 2013

October 13, 2013

But now we’re in November, a less frivolous month. Grab that rake, tote those leaves. Pens to paper, fingers to keys, noses to the proverbial grindstone!