Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween (Garden) Horrors

I found some scary stuff around the neighborhood today.

Deer Damage
The now banned burning bush - this might be the source of all those plants that are choking the understory in the woods behind my house

Who planted this bush? It's way too close to the house, allowing sheltered access for termites and holding moisture close to the house to allow mold growth

This one didn't make it

This tree shouldn't have been planted under power lines

The roots of the street tree in front of my house have pushed up the sidewalk

How many structural problems can you find in this image?

I hope this didn't scare you too much to get out in your garden today.

Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Welcome to the Hell Strip

What's a Hell Strip you ask? Does this have something to do with Halloween? Only if you are scared of aggressive garden plants! The Hell Strip is the patch of earth between a sidewalk and a street. In some areas homeowners are required to maintain this area as grass. Fortunately that isn't the case here (or if it is no one has come to arrest me yet, I'm sure if they do The Husband can be relied upon to bail me out, it's one of the jobs listed in his pre-nup). My section of Hell Strip contains a street tree that I can't do anything about (and that's a rant for another day. I do not recommend the American Linden or Basswood tree near paved areas) but is otherwise free gardening area.

So why is is called a Hell Strip? Because it can be hellish to try and garden there! The strip is narrow, the dirt is sometimes quite shallow and full of road rubble, people sometimes try to park there and, in my neck of the woods, road salt can accumulate in the soil. The ground usually drys out fast and because of the proximity to pavement it can be warmer than neighboring areas. Add to that the fact that everything growing there must stay short so it doesn't interfere with sight lines when pulling out of the driveway and you have a few limitations.

But where others see limitations I see opportunity! The perfect place for those aggressive garden plants!

Love fresh mint? If you put it in the ground it will take over your garden. Most people pot it up. I put it in the hell strip.

This Artemeisa schmidtiana 'nana' (Silver Mound) has been cut back a couple of times since it got planted in the spring. Good thing it's not near any other plants.

One of my favorite natives, Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum), will act like a mint and try to take over so into the hell strip for the perfect growing spot.

Other plants that will hopefully do well in these conditions include plants that are frequently chosen for rock garden locations. These plants are hardy and drought tolerant (very important). Plants like Sea Pinks (Thrift or Armeria maritima).

Or Dianthus.
This thyme (Thymus sp.) is thriving.

Lavender Cotton (Santolia chamaecyarissus) is well known for it's liking of dry, hot situations.

I'm still waiting to see how the Lamb's Ear does (Stachys byzantina). I've heard mixed reviews about the plant but I thought it was worth a try.

Not shown but also thriving are my Sedum matronum (Autumn Fire), Aquilegia canadensis (Columbine), oregano and some pockets of hen-and-chicks.

And if the salt level gets too high? I'll keep adding compost and maybe add some more aggressive plants like catmint (Nepeta sp.)...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Random Fall Thoughts

Hunting season is now open. Got to remember to wear the blaze orange when I'm out in the woods.

Fall color is at it's peak in my area but it's past peak just a few miles inland. It's amazing how much of an affect being close to the ocean has on the local climate.

The number of garter snakes in the yard is declining (I think I saw about half a dozen different individuals when the in season female was hanging around) but the dogs found one today. [It managed to get out of the fence alive and unharmed.] Garter snakes are pretty tough. It's only in the mid 40s today.

Got to remember to water the houseplants more often now that the inside air is so dry. I wonder if The Husband would notice if I set up a humidifier in my plant room to help with the spider mite problem.

The wood the previous homeowner left us looks well seasoned. I don't think we'll use this in our fireplace this winter.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fall Photo Essay

Between the fall colors and the frost in the mornings I've been enjoying the views in the garden this week. There's still a lot of work to be done - putting away the vegetable garden, mowing, the perpetual weeding and mulching, bringing in lawn furniture for the winter. Fortunately we're having a warm spell and after spending Tuesday getting over 200 bulbs in the ground I've still got time to do a few more chores this week. Of course that gives me a good reason to procrastinate on the job hunting chores and the winter clothes shopping (new climate, new wardrobe, not as much fun as it sounds). So for today, let's just enjoy.

I really enjoyed my image of the frost covered zinnia from last week. The zinnias are fading fast. I guess it's probably time to pull them out so I don't end up weeding thousands of zinnias next spring.

Just a hint of frost on this parsley

Frost on oregano. Interestingly Blogger insists on changing the orientation of this picture each time I upload it. Sorry if it publishes sideways. It's still a nice image.

Mountain Mint with a light dusting of frost

Liatris Kobold - I've been very happy with this variety, it managed to stay mostly upright without supports, something I have had a problem with in other varieties

Frost on a Dianthus (I forgot to note which one, I have several growing in my 'Hell Strip')

These tomatoes probably froze this past week. I think the patterning that resulted is interesting.

Spirea Magic Carpet

The faded blooms on Sedum Autumn Fire

Lemon Grass showing the beginnings of fall color - this is a great grass to grow in pots

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Not a Good Sign

If you've been following this blog you know that up until this year I've always lived in warmer climates. This will be my first full New England Winter. I'm a little worried. I haven't even gotten my bulb order from Brent and Becky's yet!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Save your Garden, Save the Earth

Do you like to eat? Do you like to breathe? Do you like natures? If you answered yes to any of those questions than Global Climate Change is an issue to which you should be paying attention.

Today is Bloggers Action Day and the topic is Climate Change. As a nature lover and biologist I consider this to be an important topic. There are a great many sources out there that discuss the evidence that the global climate is changing. And there are a great many blogs out there that talk about ways to limit your carbon footprint and therefore reduce your personal impact (check out Garden Rant for other garden bloggers' views). I tried to come up with something a little different.

Global Climate Change is happening. The optimistic, objective biologist in me believes that nature will survive and wonders how it will adapt. The pessimistic, way too human side wonders which species will go extinct and mourns for species that are going extinct. Both sides want to do something to help and have come up with some less tradition things to recommend. Most of these will be easy for the conscientious gardener.

Your yard is a component of the natural environment. Many, many creatures depend on your yard for their livelihood. They take shelter in your foundation shrubs, drink water from your gutters and raise their families high up in the trees (or under the rocks or in burrows under the soil). The things you do in your yard impact your local environment.

1. Diversity provides strength in an environment. If one component fails there is something else that can takes its place. Strive for diversity in your yard. A monoculture lawn is highly vulnerable to pests and disease, that's why it requires so much in the way of pesticides and reseeding. Diversity your lawn and garden by adding some native plants, and then add some plants that aren't so common in your area, and toss some clover seed down on that lawn (and don't worry so much about the dandelions). Just like in an uncontrolled environment if one component of your garden fails there is something else there to take up the slack. Diversity in your yard will increase the diversity in the local environment, leaving it more able to handle the pressures of climate change. (Just avoid plants that are invasive and will spread to neighbors' yards an natural areas).

2. Don't mow so often. Thursday is the day the lawn service comes to my block and mows, edges, and blows several lawns whether they need it or not. I let my grass get pretty high before I mow. Less mowing means less CO2 produced by my mower. And I hand tidy the edges with a hoe rather than a powered weed whacker. And I leave the glass where it falls rather than blow it or bag in and drive it to the landfill. I don't fertilize my lawns (except for mulching in place the leaves that fall on the grass this time of year). Less fertilizer means less watering and less mowing. And my grass stays just as green as my neighbors' lawns.

3. Accept wildlife in your garden. You may not like those slugs eating your hostas but those slugs provide food to other animals. It seems like no big deal to remove a pest species but everything in the local ecosystem is interconnected and the ecosystems around us are being put under increasing stress by various pressures, including climate change. Remember what I said about diversity? Those slugs are part of the diversity. Remove them and you may remove a crucial food source for their predators. Do you know what their predators are? Do you want to live without them?

Lastly let me mention one very controversial thing you can do to help save the Earth. Have fewer children. Take a minute to get over your shock. Do you need to breath into a paper bag? Breathe! Feel better? OK. Here we go. The planet's population is too high to be sustained given the ecological costs of modern living. The footprint of a human living in a first world country is quite large. I for one don't want to give up modern amenities like heat, the Internet, refrigeration, being able to buy exotic and out of season produce at the grocery store (and I live in New England so eating locally won't get me through the winter), traveling to exotic places, and the all important hot shower. If you want these amenities for your children and grandchildren you need to have fewer of them. The Earth has limited resources and the more people who want those resources the fewer of them there is for each of us, human, plant and animal.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

African Blue Basil

It's that time once again when bloggers follow the lead of Carol at May Dreams Gardens and post what is blooming in their yard.

Today is also Blog Action Day where the topic is Climate Change. I will be posting on some things you can do locally to help save your local environment and help the planet. If you like to eat you'll want to read this! Check back this afternoon.

On to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

We had our first frost this week. It wasn't much of a killing frost, just a light dusting. Still I don't think I'll have many more blooms off of these zinnias unless we get one last warm spell this fall.

My Pineapple Sage has managed to bloom before dying back. It's turned out to be a huge plant, covered with blooms (not in a good spot for a big picture, unfortunately). I may try to overwinter it in it's pot down in the basement.

My other Salvias, like Maraschino here, are also getting a good bloom in before winter hits. Salvias are not common garden plants up here in New England, we'll see if they come back in the spring. I have my fingers crossed (excuse the typos).

October means October Skies, like this Aster (Symphotrichium) oblongifolis, also known as an aromatic aster. Just look at all the blooms. It's great to have a prolific bloomer like this just before winter sets in. I think I'll plant more next year.

My Caryopteris Dark Knight has also finally started blooming. I'm not sure if this variety starts late or if mine started late because it's new but I certainly saw other blooming earlier in the year. But now mine is making up for it.

I've also got a second bloom on my Society Garlic. It looks good next to the dark colors of the African Blue Basil (which has survived the frost so far).

The Gaura is winding down for the year. It has bloomed prolifically all summer. The blooms are held up in the air by thin stems. I haven't been able to get a bloom shot until this morning when the air was abnormally still (three miles from the coast - it's a bit windy here).

Many grasses look good without blooms so it's easy to forget that they, too, bloom in the fall. Like this Panicum virgatum Dallas Blues (Switchgrass). The birds will eat the seeds from this grass.

It's time to bring the Dahlia in for the winter, before we get our first hard freeze. That's hard to do when it's still blooming.

The Cosmos is looking worse for wear. It's about time to put this into the compost heap.

These pansies will last a bit longer. Down in North Carolina they would bloom all winter. Up here they're just a nice fall filler for some of those annuals that don't tolerate any cold weather.

This will be my first full New England winter so I'm not sure what I'll have to post next Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Maybe house plants. I hope I still have something interesting outside to show but I'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Say it isn't so!

I got up this morning and looked out the windows and saw... FROST on my neighbors roofs. NOOOOO!!!! Winter is not my favorite season (in fact it comes in dead last) and frost really brings it home that winter is on its way.

Fortunately the last of my basil was in a sheltered spot and was protected from the frost so I harvested it today. I haven't decided if I'll make it into pesto and freeze that or just freeze it as whole leaves. The down side to freezing pesto is aesthetic - it turns black. But it still tastes good. My husband muttered bruschetta when he saw the days harvest so some of the basil may go to that.

I also picked tomatoes. These late season tomatoes aren't in the best shape. Many of them split after the last big rain. Still, they are garden fresh tomatoes and they may be the last ones of the season.

I got a bunch of bulbs in the ground. I'm still waiting on my order from Brent and Becky (due to ship later this week, they'll probably arrive about the same time the temperature is predicted to drop significantly. At least I'm not in Colorado, though!).

Just as I was wrapping up yard work I noticed some of my pots have started to line up by the bulk head door. They like to winter in the basement. I'm glad to see they're empty. I need to pot up some bulbs for forcing to get me through the winter. And they thought they'd get to rest all winter. Wrong. I need some type of gardening to get me through the winter.