Yes, FINALLY, we did get some rain: a few blessed inches at the end of September. We’re still about 8 inches behind for the year, and it doesn’t look like there will be more soaking rain for a while, but it was better than nothing. It was enough, at least, to freshen things up a bit over the past few weeks.
The Side Garden at Hayefield – September 18, 2016
The Side Garden at Hayefield – October 9, 2016
Still not anywhere near the glorious abundance I expect to see this time of year, but well….even with the difficulties posed by this growing season, there were a few new stars.
The rich red foliage of this ‘Dragon’s Breath’ celosia (Celosia argentea) was eye-catching since seedling stage, and the show became even more stunning when the flowers started to appear a few weeks ago.
I owe a special thanks to reader Karen B. for sharing a bounty of intriguing seeds with me last fall, including a number of unusual salvias. Several did well, but one was a particular star: Salvia reptans. Though I’m normally not a fan of blue flowers, I was taken by overall look of this species once it started blooming in mid-September. The bees sure love it too.
It’s not a flattering photo, I know, but it’s not a great setting, either. I’d planted the seedling in a nursery bed, not knowing what to expect from it this year. I think it would be very pretty paired with companions that have bold blooms, such as rudbeckias. Salvia reptans is supposed to be hardy to Zone 5, but that’s in western conditions. Unless we continue our dry spell through the winter, our usual wet cold will probably mean it’s an annual here in PA.
I’d started the growing season with just a few seeds of ‘Ping Zebra’ lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus)–thanks, Rick! The seedlings did well until the voles and/or rabbits started nibbling on the base of the vines. I finally resorted to wrapping the stems with aluminum foil to stop the chewing, and the plants eventually took off and produced a good number of pods. Maybe next year I’ll have enough to try eating some. In the meantime, they’re pretty to look at.
Speaking of seeds…I guess I should mention at this point that I won’t be doing my usual seed giveaway this year. With the lack of rain and all, I just wasn’t able to collect much. Sorry to all who were looking forward to the supply of free seeds; maybe next year.
Though blooms were sparse for much of the summer, there are some now. Hooray for the asters and goldenrods, especially.
New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) with goldenrod (Solidago) and ‘Gibraltar’ bush clover (Lespedeza capitata)
New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) with goldenrod (Solidago)
Heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) with bitter panic grass (Panicum amarum) and ‘Cassian’ fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)
Smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laeve) with the seedheads of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) against silver sage (Salvia argentea)
I don’t know who is happier with the abundance of asters right now: me or the bees!
‘Solar Cascade’ Short’s goldenrod (Solidago shortii)
The colchicums certainly didn’t mind that the soil was so dry while they were dormant.
Colchicum speciosum coming up through pink crosswort (Phuopsis stylosa)
Colchicum ‘Rosy Dawn’ underplanted with creeping bramble (Rubus pentalobus) and ‘Angelina’ sedum
Colchicum autumnale ‘Alboplenum’ with woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus)
A few other odds and ends in the bloom category include…
‘Gibraltar’ bush clover (Lespedeza thunbergii)
‘Lemon Queen’ perennial sunflower (Helianthus)
Though the warm-season grasses are significantly shorter this year, they’re still part of the October show.
Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) with New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
‘Prairie Munchkin’ little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) with Sedum alboroseum ‘Mediovariegatum’
Flame grass (Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’)
Tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa)
Some early bits of colored foliage, along with fall fruits and seedheads, are also making it worthwhile to get out into the garden and meadow.
Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii)
Stiff bluestar (Amsonia rigida)
‘Issai’ purple beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma) just coloring up against New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
White-fruited beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma f. albifructa)
The fruits of a seedling purple-leaved peach (Prunus persica). Even with a touch of frost during the spring flowering period and practically no water during the summer, the plant was very productive this year. (And yes, they look green now, but the leaves are a rich burgundy color from spring well into summer.)
In past years, the purple-leaved peach fruits were tough and bland; this year, though, they were surprisingly tasty.
The bulbils of variegated cinnamon vine (Dioscorea batatas ‘Variegata’). Have any of you ever tried eating these?
‘Black Madras’ rice (Oryza sativa)
Black-leaved cotton (Gossypium herbaceum ‘Nigrum’)
American ipecac (Gillenia stipulata) seedheads
Round-headed bush clover (Lespedeza capitata) seedheads
The garden as a whole is nothing to brag about, but a few parts don’t look too bad from a distance.
The Side and Front Garden
Tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) in the Side Garden
The Side Garden
Perennials in The Shrubbery
Aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), flame grass (Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’), and bitter panic grass (Panicum amarum) in The Shrubbery
What pleases me most is that the pasture grass is growing, so the boys can spend their days grazing again. Bored alpacas are not happy alpacas.
Daniel and Duncan enjoying the new grass
Ah, seeing the solar panels reminds me…I don’t often endorse products or businesses, but I want to give a special thanks to the folks of Exact Solar
in Yardley, PA. After 3 years of trouble-free solar production, my panels started producing erratically this summer, and I discovered that the company who had done my installation has since disappeared. After trying to get help from several other companies, I finally found Exact Solar. With one phone call, they were able to fix the problem for me and didn’t even charge for their time: amazing! If we’re not going to get rain, at least I can be happy with sunny days again.
Since gardening as a hobby hasn’t been much fun this year, I’ve been working on some garden-related crafts over the past few months, in preparation for some upcoming artisan fairs. I’ve been finishing some more of the botanical castings I made in spring and summer, such as these two.
Botanical casting of Pulmonaria saccharata
Botanical casting of Clematis glaucophylla seedheads
Then I got intrigued by other possibilities for “printing” with plants. I made a few cyanotypes, then tried my hand at solar printing: painting wet silk with textile paint, placing bits of leaves and flowers on it, and then setting it in the sun to dry.
Setup for solar printing on silk
Solar printing on silk
Detail of solar printing on silk
Then I got immersed in a technique called eco printing: using steam to transfer flower and leaf colors and shapes. I tried it first on silk and the results were intriguing.
Setup for eco printing on silk with flowers, leaves, and turmeric
Eco printing on silk
Setup for eco printing on silk with leaves
Eco printing on silk with leaves
It’s very difficult to predict or replicate results with the process, so each attempt gives surprising results. It requires a lot of patience but is an interesting option for dyeing fabric without using chemical mordants.
I was even more excited by the results I got from eco printing on heavy watercolor paper. It was fascinating to discover which plants worked particularly well and which didn’t.
Eco printing with (from top left) blue false indigo (Baptisia australis), pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) berries, ‘Hopi Red Dye’ amaranth (Amaranthus), katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), ‘Isla Gold’ tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), ‘Camouflage’ sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas), grass-leaved goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia), and nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
Eco printing on watercolor paper
Eco printing with (from top left) orange cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus), purple loosestrife (Lythrum)–found in the meadow, not my garden!–orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida), alfalfa (Medicago sativa), and Maltese cross (Lychnis chalcedonica)
Eco printing on watercolor paper
Other results of eco printing on watercolor paper
Then I remembered something else I wanted to try, based on an idea that was featured in Gardens Illustrated
magazine a while back: an advent calendar composed of pressed flowers, leaves, and seedheads, with Lexicon cards on the back to spell out a holiday message as you turn over the mini-herbarium tags. It took ages to make two of them but I am thrilled with the results.
Botanical advent calendar
Botanical advent calendar detail
Botanical advent calendar
Those are just a few of the items I plan to take to the Fall Festival next Saturday, October 22, at Linden Hill Gardens
in Ottsville, PA. I’ll also be at their Holiday Fest on December 3 and 4.
The Barn at Linden Hill Gardens in Ottsville, PA
Besides getting ready for these shows, I’m going to be very busy for the next few months writing and gathering photography for a single-issue perennials magazine, so I’m going to be taking a break from blogging for a while (probably until March). I wish you all a glorious rest-of-the-fall and a peaceful winter. And in the meantime, don’t forget to check out the list of participants in this month’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day at Carol’s GBBD post at May Dreams Gardens