Friday, October 17, 2014

Turning Over the Veggie Garden.

We've had our first frost here at The Edge and it did a number on the tomato plants.

They started to die back.

The tomatoes that were left on the vine were also damaged.

I picked the few that were ripe and ate them (they were not as good as earlier season tomatoes). I know some people will pick the green tomatoes and try to get them to ripen after the plants die back but I have enough fresh, peak season tomatoes frozen that I don't feel the need to do that.

Since the last tomatoes were not great and the plants were damaged I just went ahead and hauled them out, cleaning up the bed for fall.

I'm not big on fall crops but I didn't want to leave the bed bare so I put in some colorful Swiss Chard to liven things up a bit until the snow flies. 

I also put in some bulbs: hyacinths, daffodils and crocus. I'm treating them as annuals that will perk things up early in the spring but will be done by the time it's tomato planting season again. The veggie bed is right near our main entrance to the house so they'll give me a LOT of enjoyment and I'll have enough that I can pick some to take to work without feeling like I'm reducing the pleasure in the garden (if that makes sense).

Now I have to teach my neighbor how to plant bulbs. Last year she bought a few and planted one in each hole, spaced out evenly like it says on the package directions. The image above is how I do it. Guess which looks better in the spring.

This year I got all my bulbs from Messelaar Bulb Company, they're about 10 or 15 minutes up the road and when you walk in you're blown away by both the selection and quality of the bulbs. Or, at least, I am. It's hard to walk out without quite the armload. I've done a tulip bulb run, a daffodil bulb run and I still have to go back for the late arriving Amaryllis bulbs (for forcing, indoors). They should be in soon.... I better dig out my Amaryllis pots!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Foliage Follow Up - October

Foliage in the October Garden is all about the changing colors, the berries, the seed heads and the loss of the gorgeous all over summer green. Sigh.

I do have some nice fall foliage in some of my shrubs, like the Clethra alnifolia Hummingbird (nicely accented by the dark green holly behind and the dark Heucheras in front),

and the Fothergillia gardenii Blue Mist,

and Amsonia Halfway to Arkansas, also just starting to turn,

as is Cornus hesseyii Garden Glow which will display red twigs (not obvious in this picture) all winter.

I don't know if anything will eat the seeds of these Asclepias tuberosa but the seed heads provide some nice interest in the fall and winter.

My Hydrangea Lady in Red (maybe) has nice dark stems shooting up above this years spent blooms. This is another plant I've been very happy with and can heartily recommend, even to a small garden.

Let's not forget the berries on the Viburnum Cardinal Candy. I hope the birds start eating those sometime over the winter.

I also have berries on Viburnum Brandywine. It's not nearly as large or prolific a plant as the Cardinal Candy but provides a nice, different look.

And let's not forget some of the starts of the late summer/fall garden - the grasses. Here are seed heads on Panicum virgatum Heavy Metal.

Thanks to Pam at Digging for this meme.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day October 2014

This might well be the last Garden Bloggers Bloom Day of 2014 that features outside plants. I better start fertilizing the Anthuriums so I'll have some winter blooms to post!

A lot of my blooms this month are from annuals.

My fall pansies (that I will leave all winter and get to enjoy again in the spring). These particular ones look almost psychedelic.

And, of course, I have a couple of mums, in bright, cheerful colors.

And this annual. I'm not sure what it is, but I LIKE it. It's had a nice lloonngg bloom period, too. If I see it next year I'll be sure to buy it again.

On to the perennials.

This Coreopsis redshift has done really well this year.

I added this Helenium Mardi Gras just recently. I have one in another spot where it's kind of hidden and I wanted one up front. Does it count if I bought it in bloom just a few weeks ago?

I hope so. Cause if not I can't count this Solidago spacelata Golden Fleece. I'm hoping it's one of the less aggressive ones. I hear such good things about Solidago as a plant for native organisms (like the tiny wasp in this image) but bad things about them taking over. This one is planted in the back yard where Piper, our dog, can potentially do damage. She does sometime like to run and dig (hence the support structure -  not because the plant needs it but for protection against the fuzzy menace.).

The fuzzy menace, herself. Unlike me, she likes the change in the weather and looks forward to spending more time outside, especially when it snows!

My Vernonia angustifolia Plum Peachy is almost done but the last of the butterflies are still finding a few blooms. Like the American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) above and the out-of-focus Monarch (Danaus plexippus) below.

And I have a very few blooms left on Buddleia. Also a nice stopover plant for migrating Monarchs (Ok, I admit it, the photo is from a week ago but I've just been eagerly waiting a chance to post it and now's a good time, right?).

My Aster (Symphotricium) October Skies is still in it's full glory.

As are most of my Gaura (which really don't photograph well except on very, very still days, which we don't often have here at The Edge).

I'm even getting some reblooming on this tiny thrift (Armeria Amada Rose) that I have tucked between the bricks edging the bed and a small bird bath.

That's it for my garden this month. Thanks to Carol at May Dreams for this meme!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Science - the Virus you SHOULD be worried about

[For those of you who don't know I am a college biology professor and a total science nerd. I speak from knowledge, not a desire to get ratings or sensationalism.] 

Some of my students have been freaking out about the Ebola virus lately. If you watch the news or read it on the internet it's easy to see why. One day this week the main page of Yahoo news seemed to be half filled with stories of Ebola.
Here are some facts. ONE person has been diagnosed with Ebola after arriving in the US. Every other case has been diagnosed in one of the west Africa countries that is having an epidemic and then evacuated back to the US.

[Update: after I wrote this, a health care worker who had direct contact with the aforementioned Ebola patient has been TENTATIVELY diagnosed as also infect. I have no information about this person so I can't comment. Still, two cases does not an outbreak make.]

Of all of the people treated in the US (about 6 now, I think) only ONE has died.

While Ebola is a HUGE problem in three west African countries several other countries in that area have managed to stop their outbreaks due to good medical care and strong governmental action.

Could there be an outbreak here, in the US? Yes, there COULD be one. But based on what happens in those countries with good medical care and a stable government I believe that any outbreak that occurred here would be small and short lived. I would be surprised if it could cause even 100 deaths.

What would you think if I told you there was a much more dangerous virus coming this winter? One that would hospitalized hundred of thousands of Americans and kill thousands or tens of thousands (or, if it's a really, really bad outbreak, up to 5% of the population). Would you worry about that one? If there was a vaccine for this dangerous virus, would you get one?

That dangerous virus exists. It's called Influenza. Yes, that's right, the flu. 

In 1918 the flu pandemic killed 3-5% of the population worldwide (50 to 100 million people). We have better medical treatment now but there is still no treatment. All doctors can do is support the patient while their own immune system fights the battle.

The vaccine is not 100% effective but it does reduce hospitalizations (and probably deaths) by around 70%. In people who get the flu after vaccination it is a significantly less severe illness that doesn't last nearly as long.

Side effects of the flu shot? Most people get a sore arm. Some people get mild cold symptoms, like a runny nose. That runny nose is a sign that your immune system is getting ready to fight off the flu virus.

Which of these viruses should you worry about? 

Have you had your flu shot this year?

[concerned about the "risks" of vaccines compared to the benefits? Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog has a nice overview of many of the myths surround vaccines and is a good place to start, an easy read and good science. The health care for parents blog Red Wine and Applesauce has a great list of flu vaccine myths and the truth about them.]

[Images are public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Ebola electron micrograph by Dr. Fredrick A. Murphy of the CDC, flu is also from the CDC via Wikimedia commons]

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rain, glorious rain!

The month of September was very dry here in New England. But with the change of month came a change in the weather. The first two days of October gave us more rain than the whole month of September. And the plants rejoiced!

This is Mexican feather grass. It just barely (usually) survives my winters but that makes this a perfect place to grow it - it doesn't get a chance to spread aggressively like it can in warmer climates.

Young Mexican feather grass. It does reseed but the seedlings do not usually get large enough to survive the next winter.

A fall planted pansy. This will survive the winter and will provide nice, early spring blooms next year.

Culinary sage. The leaves have small hairs that trap the water, causing it to form droplets.

And, of course, every spider wed in the garden is outlined. I'm really pleased to see a lot of webs this fall. When we moved in, 5 1/2 years ago, this property had a total chem lawn and the first year I did not see a grasshopper or spider (and barely any bees). Now my yard is full of life. Just the way I like it.

Friday, October 3, 2014

My favorite plant in the garden this week - "Aster" October Skies

It's October and right on schedule my Aster oblongifolium (or maybe Symphotrichum oblongifolium, depending on your source) 'October Skies' is in her full glory!

Just look at that. Four feet of gorgeous blooms.

Her blooms bring ALL the pollinators to the yard.

I'm just confused when I see that they're supposed to be about 2 foot tall. I've grown this plant in both North Carolina and Massachusetts and it's been about 4 foot tall in both places. I've also read that some people cut them back to keep them short. I don't know why. She's gorgeous as is.

As an added bonus she's a US native, not to Mass. but just to the West of us in New York state.

But this glory is bittersweet because when October Skies blooms I know it's almost the end of the garden season and the beginning of the stuck-indoors-wishing-I-could-get-out-in-the-garden-but-I-can't-until-spring season, the short days and long, cold nights season, the having to wear closed toe shoes season.

Can you tell I don't like New England winters?

thanks to Danger Garden for this meme.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


I've heard that Buddleia can be invasive. I've even seen it - in England they are growing everywhere along the rail ways, on top of abandoned buildings, in cracks in the sidewalk.

It's not something I've seen in my local woods or my own garden.

Until now. Time to reconsider my obsession with Buddleia because there is no way I can keep my 5 shrubs deadheaded.