Four acres of meadow and garden, and this is all the flowery goodness I could come up with Bloom Day this month. I suppose it’s not too bad, considering. We’ve been blessed with rather mild weather until two days ago, which has been good for the last few blooms but also good for tackling garden cleanup, and I’d been chopping away until I thought of a way I might be able to pull together one last GBBD post for this year.
After all, I never did get around to showing the October garden shots last time.
So, yeah, about those sheared grasses in front…well, I’ve been a fan of ‘Cassian’ fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) since I started with a half-dozen plants over a dozen years ago, because it has such a lovely, soft look in bloom and seed.
I’ve divided those original clumps quite a few times and spread them around as fillers in many beds and borders. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that they are starting to spread themselves around, as well.
There are now a half-dozen or more flowering-sized volunteers in the lower meadow, and who knows how many more that haven’t matured enough to bloom yet. Not a good thing. I have the visible clumps marked and plan to dig them out this winter or spring, and then deal with any others as I can identify them. I’ve also started replacing some of the garden clumps with prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), but that’s a slow process, so this year, I decided I should at least deadhead the clumps so no more seeds would spread; thus, the sheared clumps. They’re quite a contrast to all the other billowy stuff in the fall garden.
Anyway, since the last Bloom Day, there have been some new bits of beauty to enjoy.
I always look forward to the weeks of flowers on ‘Sheffield Pink’ mum (Chrysanthemum).
And there’s ‘Golden Starlet’ winter heath (Erica carnea), which starts flowering in October and will keep going into April.
Even as of this week, there are a few interesting bits of fall color left, such as this cute clump of ‘Tom Thumb’ (a.k.a. ‘Little Gem’) cotoneaster, which is over 10 years old but barely 1 foot tall.
This is also a good time of year for leaf interest on many of the hardy geraniums (Geranium). ‘Brookside’ is my favorite for autumn color.
Cold weather also brings out the richest purple color on ‘Redbor’ kale…
…and a nice blush on the leaves of many creeping sedums: pink on the blue leaves of dwarf Spanish stonecrop (Sedum hispanicum var. minus) and rich red on ‘Elizabeth’ two-row sedum (Sedum spurium).
Cutleaf staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Laciniata’) is also stunning in mid-autumn.
Ghost bramble (Rubus thibetanus) doesn’t have any appreciable fall color change…
…but its white stems become much more visible now.
There are loads of seedheads this time of year, of course, but here are just two that caught my eye this week.
I’m pretty hands-off in the garden in September and October: Other than collecting seeds and harvesting the edibles, I mostly just wander around and revel in what the plants manage to surprise me with. It’s glorious, but it’s also a lot to take in, and by early November, I’m almost relieved that it’s over for another year. Cutting it all down makes me feel involved again, instead of just being a spectator. I particularly appreciate the all-perennial areas this time of year, because I can zip through them with the brush mower.
This area could easily take several days to cut down by hand. Now, I walk through the area first to collect any praying mantis egg cases, then mow, then do a little manual cleanup, and then rake. So, this part gets done in less than 2 hours.
The same process for the TDF Border out front takes about an hour.
That cutleaf staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Laciniata’) really needs to be rejuvenated, but I’ll wait until the birds are done with the seedheads.
They’re already starting to peck them apart. I used to think that they were eating the seeds; I understand that many species do feed on them. But then I heard at some lecture that many times, the birds are actually pecking the seedheads apart to get at spiders and other critters that are hiding inside. And sure enough, when I look closely, I can see signs of insects and even some tiny white larvae inside the heads, and the seeds are scattered on the ground.
Inside the fence, where shrubs and trees are mixed in with the perennials and annuals, mowing isn’t an option, so the cleanup is a much slower process. Some areas are still untouched…
…but Mom and I had fun working together on some other sections this week.
In the process, I found that the voles hadn’t yet reached the inner borders. For the first time, there were some really nice roots left from the ornamental sweet potato vines (Ipomoea batatas): white ones from ‘Blackie’ and pink ones from ‘Sweet Caroline Red’.
I’ve always wondered if roots of the ornamental kinds were any good, so I microwaved some of each. ‘Blackie’ was white inside, while the ‘Sweet Caroline Red’ roots were a very pretty peach color. Both cooked up far more starchy than sweet, but I thought their flavor was quite good: easily comparable to the white ones you can buy for cooking in the grocery store. The boys approved of their samples, too, but I may decide to keep the rest of these for me and Mom. Sorry, guys!
Back to the point of Bloom Day, though: the blooms. Here’s the best I could do with the pan of flowers I managed to scrape together.
I knew it was worth saving all of those little essential-oil bottles–that I’d find a use for them some day. Gathering the mini-bouquets into a small, clay seed pan so I could easily carry them inside created another, unplanned, arrangement.
That’s it for the last Bloom Day of 2014 from Hayefield. We had our first snow two nights ago…
…and bitter cold is on its way, which means no new blooms here until March.
I am passionate about collecting and growing seeds. In the links below, you can find out more about why I started my own one-person seed company and how it works. The library page is a collection of articles I’ve written on seed-related topics.