Posted on 20 Comments

Mid-Autumn Miscellany

Autumn rainbow at

Apart from two light frosts in October, the weather has been mostly quite mild here in southeastern Pennsylvania, but we’re getting a taste of Novembery chill today. Knowing that the bad weather was coming, I took advantage of lingering blooms and fall-colored leaves a few days ago to have fun with some scans. But first, some odds and ends.

The Sweet Potato Experiment


Back in the spring, I bought slips of two kinds of edible sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) without thinking about where I was going put them. I ended up sticking them in some containers. The boys enjoyed snacking on the vine tips I trimmed off for them through the summer, so it was worth having the plants even if they hadn’t produced anything. I did find some decent roots when I dumped the containers this week, though. The ‘Beauregard’ vines produced surprisingly well, considering that there were three plants in a relatively small (1′ x 1′ x 2′ deep) container.

Sweet potato Beauregard at

The two containers of ‘All Purple’ yielded what looked more like a harvest of entrails than of sweet potatoes!

Sweet potato All Purple at

Fortunately, the cut roots are pretty, and they really do live up to their name. I microwaved and fork-smashed a few of the smaller ones, and unlike many purple veggies, their color was even richer after cooking.

Sweet Potato All Purple raw and cooked at

I didn’t care much for their flavor, but Duncan and Daniel like them, so they’ll be getting more sweet potatoes than carrots for their bedtime snacks this winter. Other gardeners seem to enjoy ‘All Purple’, so I’d say it’s worth giving them a try at least once. I bought mine from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (they’re not listed now but may be again next spring).

Mystery Peppers


Does anyone remember sending me seeds of this pepper?

Mystery sweet pepper at

It looks like a really hot one, but the relatively small (roughly plum-sized), thin-walled fruits are sweet enough to eat right off the plant.

Mystery sweet pepper plant at

I received three seeds in a brightly colored packet that I’d have sworn was in Italian, so I wrote only “Lantern pepper?” on the label. The person that I thought sent them won’t accept the credit for the gift, though, and I wish I knew who to thank, because it was tastier and far more productive than any other sweet pepper I’ve grown here. Failing that, if anyone has an idea of what the true identity might be, I’d appreciate any ideas. I managed to get three fruits ripened, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to grow it again next year.

Mystery sweet pepper ripe at

Black Cotton Seeds


The early October frost nipped my black cotton (Gossypium herbaceum ‘Nigra’ or ‘Nigrum’) plants before the seed ripened, but fortunately, I’d already scored ripe seeds for next year, from a new-to-me source: Cotton Acres. They’re selling it as ‘Black Beautiful’. They offer another dark-leaved one as well, which they call ‘Red Beauty’.

Black Cotton seeds at

I look forward to comparing the two strains next year. It’s really hard to find black-leaved cotton seeds for sale, so if you’re looking to get some, I’d suggest ordering now. They have some cool-looking brown and green-fibered cottons too. It’s not clear if they ship outside of the U.S. and Canada, but you could ask or try ordering if you’re interested.

Went to Mow a Meadow


As much as I’d like to enjoy all of my plants’ seedheads and skeletons through the winter, the voles have already moved into the garden and are busily tunneling into and under the bark-mulch paths on their way to the inner borders.

Vole tunnel at

So, I decided I’d better get an early start on mowing the meadow areas that are closest to the garden. There’s one big advantage to mowing in mid- to late October: being able to spot the fall-colored tree and shrub seedlings, so I can avoid mowing them.

Quercus seedling in the meadow at

Are you familiar with the Robert Frost poem “The Tuft of Flowers”? A man went to turn the cut hay in a mown meadow, and the flight of a butterfly drew his attention to a clump of flowers that the mower had spared from his scythe. An excerpt:

And once I marked his flight go round and round,
As where some flower lay withering on the ground.
And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.
I thought of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;
But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,
A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.
I left my place to know them by their name,
Finding them butterfly weed when I came.
The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,
Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him.
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.


Using a brush mower creates a much noisier setting, but the result is somewhat the same as I can envision from the poem: a relatively neatly mown meadow with tufts of stems left here and there, marking the location of plants I wanted to spare from the blade.

Mown Meadow at

I’ll need to get out there again soon to clip around the tiny trees-to-be so the voles don’t nest in the tall grass around them. It’s worth the effort, though. This flowering dogwood is a seedling that I spared maybe 10 years ago. Here it is in 2007:

Cornus florida seedling 2011 at

…in spring of 2011…

Cornus florida seedling 2011 at

…and last month.

Cornus florida seedling 2014 at

Not bad for a free tree!

Three Neat Links (plus one)


Some miscellaneous links I thought you might enjoy:

  • Really cool MRI images of flowers and veggies: Inside Insides.
  • Absolutely breathtaking pictures of amazing natural wonders: Dusky’s Wonder Site. Be prepared to spend a lot of time scrolling through these collected images!
  • While you’re stuck indoors this winter, expand your horticultural education through the many free webinars available on the Seed Savers Exchange site: Seed Savers Webinar Archive. Check out the entire playlist for the full range of topics, including collecting seeds, saving seeds, germination testing, starting seeds, and even garden photography. Also, everyone can now browse through all of the vegetable, fruit, grain, herb, and flower seed listings from SSE members, at SSE Seed Listings. (You still need to be a member to order, though.)

For Pennsylvania Gardeners


PGSGG coverThose of you who also live in Pennsylvania might be interested to know that there’s an updated version of the Pennsylvania Gardener’s Guide. The just-released, all-new version–Pennsylvania Getting Started Garden Guide–written by PA garden writer and designer George Weigel, is now available on his website and on Amazon.


Bits and Pieces


And finally, some of the scans I created with the last of this season’s garden gems. I hope you enjoy them.

Ginkgo Scan at

Autumn Composites at

Autumn Yellows at

Autumn Reds and Oranges at

Autumn Purples at

Autumn Blues and Grays at

Autumn Pinks at

Autumn Whites at

Autumn Fruits at

Posted on 20 Comments

20 thoughts on “Mid-Autumn Miscellany

  1. Hi Nan, thanks for the Cotton Acres address, seeds have been just ordered !

    That’s great, Nicole! I guess you’ve answered the question of whether they’ll ship to other countries. Enjoy!

  2. Hi Nancy
    You are such a talented woman I astonished after each blog but this one even tops it. Your scans are B E A U T I F U L !!! The last one is my favorite. Thank you for sharing all that with us.
    Helene from Switzerland

    So nice to near from you this morning, Helene. I hope you and the dogs are well. It is so much fun doing those scans, though a bit messy. I’m still finding petals and berries in odd corners of my office and among my papers. That last one is my favorite too. Since you’re building the image backward, it’s hard to know how it’s actually going to turn out until you do the scan.

  3. As usual I love your photos and I will visit the other links too, but not today. I have that chili also and its called Jamacian Bell Pepper, hope its the same in US.

    Thanks so much for the lead, Susie. It looks like Jamaican bell peppers are usually hot, though, and this one is sweet.

    Edit: Turns out that you are right with that ID, Susie; it’s one of the many common names for this spicy-in-the-middle pepper. Thank you!

  4. Nancy, I was wondering if you provide any barrier for voles or rabbits during winter. The scans are wonderful. Are they for something you will be marketing?

    Good morning, Nancy. I have a short fence around the veg garden, but otherwise, it’s really not practical to have any sort of above-ground barriers. Clearing everything to the ground seems to work best, so the hawks and the neighbors’ cats can keep a close eye on anything that moves. I’m glad you enjoyed the scans. No, they’re really not good enough to do anything with; they were just for fun.

  5. Nan!
    Oh my… Love, love, love your scans. They would make wonderful notecards and it would only be fair to offer them in your etsy shop….just saying…. :-)

    You’re so kind, Julie! They’d have needed a lot more time and work to be worthy of charging for them, though. And anyway, there are other folks doing really nice scans. I’ve always enjoyed seeing what Craig at Ellis Hollow comes up with for Bloom Day.

  6. Agree! We need more note cards from you and the scans would be perfect! The last one is my favorite too, but they are all gorgeous and so creative.

    Thought of you and your brother today as I was cutting back some of the garden with my Jakoti shears. They’re my go-to tool and make such short work of clean up. Thank you so much for mentioning them on your blog.

    Wow! The boys are sure lucky to have such nice snacks. Very interesting how the purple got so intense after cooking.

    Thanks again for another informative, beautiful post!

    Greetings, Susan! My Jakotis have been getting a workout too this fall, and I haven’t yet needed to sharpen them. I’m happy to hear that you’re still pleased with yours. I’ll be sure to let the boys know that they should consider themselves lucky. From their perspective, nice things are nothing more than they deserve. At least the sweet potatoes will save me some money. They won’t eat home-grown carrots, only store-bought ones, and they go through them pretty quick during the winter!

  7. Once again I’m wowed by your post, Nan. Interesting about the sweet potatoes. Tempting to try next year, esp. pot grown. We had some tomatillos volunteer and thrive in our raised veg. beds this year and yielded quite a nice little harvest, something I would never have attempted in our cool, coastal climate.
    As for the scans, I think if I had to choose it would be the fourth one, the red Cordyline with hot to trot pals. Thanks so much for brightening up this November morning. Barbara. Victoria, BC.

    That’s really interesting about the tomatillos, Barbara. It’s always great to get a harvest from something you didn’t put any work into. I bet you too would have good luck with sweet potatoes in containers, especially if you choose a variety to match the length of your growing season. ‘All Purple’ needs a really long season, which is probably why the roots didn’t get as big here as the ‘Beauregard’ roots. Thanks for your vote on the scans!

  8. A fun post. Are you making notecards from your scans? The scans are so intricate and beautiful. You must have a lot of patience.

    Good to hear from you, Lisa! I hope you’re enjoying a prettier day than we are. No, I hadn’t done these with the thought of selling them. But there does seem to be some interest, so maybe I’ll try some next summer, when there’s more to work with, and put more care into making sure things are better aligned and more evenly spaced.

  9. Wow!!! Love the “entrails,” the lantern peppers, the scans, and all of it. Just browsed through the “Trees” section of Dusky’s Wonder Site–incredible. Thanks for sharing!

    I’m so glad that you enjoyed those images too, Amy. The other sections are just as stunning. It’s easy to spend many hours scrolling through there. Thanks for visiting here as well. I hope you have a great weekend!

  10. Great stuff Nan! Love the scans and the links — have been following Inside Insides for a couple of years.

    Hey, Alan. So far I haven’t been about to get the interactive 3-D images to load; I bet they’re really cool. But the regular images are really neat; such a different way of looking at plants.

  11. Regarding the pepper, some digging on the web led me to a Wikipedia page for Bishop’s crown peppers: “The bishop’s crown, Christmas bell, peri peri, or joker’s hat, is a pepper, a cultivar of the species Capsicum baccatum var. pendulum. It is named for its distinct three-sided shape resembling a bishop’s crown.”

    I think you’ve got it, Jacki! I did find my way to “bishop’s cap” but had dismissed it when I saw references to it being spicy. But on further reading, it appears that the flesh is sweet, with the heat being in the pith and seeds. Since I ate it like an apple, I didn’t get any of the spicy bits. Thank you so much for the help!

  12. I always enjoy looking at your scans. Such beautiful works of art! I’ve scanned some pretty leaves, but nothing as elaborate as yours. My experience trying to grow sweet potatoes has been similarly disappointing, and I had no llamas to feed them to.

    Hi Alison! Yes, it’s very handy having almost-instant recycling for the garden leftovers. It saves a lot of space in the compost pile, and the results come out in a convenient pelleted form that’s neatly deposited in one spot for easy scooping.

  13. The floral – and fruit – mosaics are wonderful, Nan. Thanks for another great post.

    Thank *you*, Kris. They’re a really good way to take advantage of all the little bits of bloom that are left this time of year. You can do a lot with just a few handfuls of flowers and berries.

  14. How cool that trees volunteer in your garden. The dogwood is so pretty. I have trouble with voles too, my approach in my vegetable beds is to add lava rock to the planting holes, it does seem to help keep them out some. I would have to grow sweet potatoes in containers too, it might be interesting to try. It’s great that you have the boys to clean things up for you. Your scans are so incredible, it looks like it would be so much work to do so many elaborate designs. I like the red ones and the last checkerboard the most.

    Hey there, Hannah! Now that you mention it, I think I did buy a bag of something called PermaTill or VoleBloc but never used it. I will try it next year when I plant the ornamental sweet potato vines in the front garden; they are magnets for the voles. Thanks for the reminder! And, I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed looking at the scans. I figure it took about a hour for each, including time to collect the materials, set up the image, do the scan, and then clean up. It doesn’t feel like it takes that long, though; it’s a very absorbing project.

  15. Another breathtaking post! Yes, I do remember Frost’s poem, “The Tuft of Flowers,” from teaching it to high school sophomores a long time ago. Like all the others who commented, I think your scanned designs would be lovely not only on note cards but also on silk scarves!

    Oh, yes – of course *you* know it; that’s how *I* know it, my teacher! Thank you for the praise about the scans. You’re right that they would look pretty on fabric. I wish I hadn’t waited so late in the season to do these, because now I’d really like to do some more. If I get caught up with my other work, maybe I’ll be able to do a few with seeds and seedheads when the weather settles down. I hope you are snugly indoors on this blustery day!

    1. Reading your posts and enjoying the photos, I feel the tables are turned–*I* am learning so much about plants and garden design from *you*! I look forward to each “lesson” as the monthly post appears in my email.

      Good to know that I’ve picked up a few things over the last 30 years. Gardens are great teachers too, though in many ways, I feel like I know less now than I did when I was just out of college. The more I see plants do unexpected things, the harder it is to be sure about anything.

  16. The scans look like fun, I love the last one!
    I’ve had sweet potatoes on my list for a few seasons now and this might be the encouragement I need. The ornamental ones often put on nice roots, how hard can it be to get a few going in the garden? You haven’t eaten any of the ornamental ones, have you? I’m halfway tempted :)

    That’s what gave me the idea to try the edibles in pots this year, Frank: I got a couple of nice-sized roots from ‘Goldfinger’ in one of my containers last year. I fed them to the boys before I thought to try them myself, though. The boys seemed happy with them, so they consider them edible, at least!

  17. I googled peperone lanterna, and found this site that sells the peppers you have…

    That looks like yours, but it says that they are spicy.

    Those sweet potatoes sure look like intestines…

    Great collages.

    You are brilliant, Laura; thank you! That is the exact packet I remember. Now I know where I got the “lantern pepper” ID from. It also explains why the plant didn’t catch my eye until just last month: I was expecting tall, upright stalks loaded with tiny, brightly colored fruits. You’d think I’d know better by now than to believe glossy pictures. “Lanterna piccante” could well be another name for the same plant as “bishop’s crown” and “Jamaican bell pepper,” since they too are said to be spicy, but only in the middle. I really appreciate your help!

    1. Glad I could help with the Italian. The tagetes seeds you sent me turned out to be beautiful plant, they are still blooming in SF bay area garden, I will enjoy them for years to come! I love how the color of the flowers change as they age.

      So good to hear that, Laura. Thanks again for your help with the pepper; I still can’t believe you found the original source!

  18. Love the scans!

    Thanks, Susan! I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed them.

Comments are closed.