Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sheffield Pink Mum

If you like garden mums, the hardy Sheffield Pink (AKA Chrysanthemum koreanum ‘Single Apricot’) is hard to beat. It’s one of my favorites.

It is a reliable and showy bloomer here in zone 6. It may flop but given enough room in the garden,it puts on a tremendous show. I pinch it back until the end of June. Once it is established, it requires very little care. I’ll cut it back to the ground after a hard frost and leave the stems on top of the plant until spring.

Resting on the Japanese Laurel (Aucuba japonica) at The Miller's House Garden in Bethlehem, it is full and bright after only a few years. It’s planted in full sun but will also bloom in some shade.
Fine Gardening Magazine’s article “Not Your Average Mum” calls it a “workhorse perennial that performs year after year.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More Fall Color

Red Maple.

The colors are so brilliant right now that I have to post a few examples from my garden. I’ll stop with these, I promise.
Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus floridus).

The large maple that shades our house.

Dogwood leaf (Cornus florida).

PJM Rhododendron with its fall purple hue and one over-eager flower.

(For more check the comments in Fall Color Project on The Home Garden Blog .)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Color of Autumn

The fall color in Monroe and Carbon Counties peaked this week according to Pocono Mountains Fall Foliage Reports.

The only day we had available this week turned out cloudy and cool. Even though the colors were not as bright as they might have been in the sun, we enjoyed passing fields and hills covered in bright red, orange, magenta, purple, yellow and gold as we drove north. The view from Penn’s Peak (above and right) was spectacular. We had an enjoyable day taking in nature’s blazing finery.

The variety of species on the mountain is responsible for the mix of colors. Oak, sassafras, maple, walnut, ash, chestnut, locust, hickory, birch, aspen and elm among the evergreens add their glowing color to the mix.

Local color is just starting. The view from Bethlehem’s City Center Plaza shows some bright color mixed with green looking toward South Mountain.

The current view of the Lehigh River is peacefully green with just a slight touch of color.


Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum ‘Patriot’), planted this year, is an excellent substitution for the invasive burning bush (Euonymus alatus). The fruit is wonderful and the brilliant fall color is a nice surprise.

Next week the Lehigh Valley should be as colorful as the Poconos. Raking, shredding and composting will begin shortly thereafter. The brilliant show will be over and my world will turn brown until spring. I plan to enjoy the color while it lasts.

(More information on the process of fall leaf color change "The Miracle of Fall" from the University of Illinois Extension.)
(For fall color around the world check out "The Fall Color Project" at The Home Garden )

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Japanese Anemone

Anemone x hybrida

One of my favorite plants seems to be a favorite of a garden rogue.

As I was planning to write this blog, I checked to see if I had blogged about anemone before. In the September 24, 2008 post I said, “The flowers are almost 3 inches in diameter. They are rabbit and deer resistant.“

I don’t remember where I got that (mis)information. This year I have had a terrible time keeping the critters away from the anemone. Several times during the summer the leaves were chopped off and left lying on the ground uneaten. Deer, rabbit, groundhog? That meant war.

Like some kind of demented gardener, I regularly kicked the nearby patch of ivy to watch a rabbit run out of the garden. I sprinkled cayenne pepper on the leaves. We had a lot of lovely rain this summer so sometimes I didn’t always get around to reapplying the pepper promptly. I carried cayenne pepper in my tool bucket all summer.

The white anemone made it through and started blooming in the middle of August. It is still blooming. Lovely white, delicate blooms in the partial shade of the French lilac.

The pink anemone was not so fortunate. Just as the buds were forming, they were cut down. My heart sank when I saw the carnage. A growl came out of my throat.

Then, several weeks ago I noticed a few buds and conscientiously began the pepper sprinkling. I finally got a couple of raggedy pink blooms.

I’ll be ready to continue the battle next year. I’m beginning to feel like Carl Spackler in Caddyshack.

(Historical Japanese anemone information from University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What I learned about orchids.

Thomas Puviance, owner of Parkside Orchid Nursery in Ottsville, PA, spoke at the Bethlehem Garden Club meeting this week.

I knew orchids were epiphytic (a plant that grows on another plant but does not depend on it for nutrition.) I knew that Phalaenopsis orchids were one of the easiest to grow. And that’s about it.

Here's what I learned:

- Orchids are not difficult; orchids are different
- Orchid roots need air
- The roots take up water – think rain – absorbed passively through velamen (epidermis of roots)
- Water only when needed – you can judge by weight of the plant or take the whole plant out of the pot and look at it. When in doubt, don’t water.
- Leaf color should be the color of a lime – buy a lime and compare
- There are orchids that need low light, medium light and high light – all orchids need proper light to bloom
- Orchids need a balanced fertilizer – feed weakly, weekly

I visited the Annual Summer Orchid Fest at Parkside several years ago and was blown away with the beauty and profusion of orchids.

As beautiful and exotic as they are, it is not an area of gardening that I am ready to try. Maybe someday.

Photos of Parkside on flickr.
Information for 2010 Parkside Annual Summer Orchid Fest TBA. Includes links to plants for sale, newsletter and more.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - October 2009

I’ll share a few October blooms with you and peek into other gardens through Carol’s May Dreams Gardens. Thank you, Carol, for hosting this monthly event.

The snapdragons and alyssum (above) fill in between Dusty Miller and herbs.

An electric blue Lobelia volunteer at the end of a window box of parsley

Rose colored mum – another volunteer

Mom’s mum - transplanted from her garden years ago

Dead Nettle (Lamium)

Purple Cleome

White cosmos

Pink Cosmos


"Just before the death of flowers,And before they are buried in snow,There comes a festival seasonWhen nature is all aglow."- Author Unknown

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Japanese Holly

I can’t resist a bargain – especially bargain plants. I have ‘Sky Pencil’ Japanese holly (Ilex Crenata) on my list to add some winter interest in the narrow strip along the blank garage wall. At the 50% off sale at Lowe’s this week, I bought three at $3.99 each. I couldn’t pass up that deal.

That started a chain of events.

First, I divided and moved the yellow ‘Autumn Sun’ rudbeckia (Rudbeckia nitida 'Herbstsonne'). It had grown too big for the spot and had to be staked every year. I dug it out and planted one section where I think it may be OK. I put the other two pieces in a temporary bed near the compost bin. (Am I doing the same thing I did with the Red Hot Poker and Liatris? I hope it doesn’t take 4 or 5 years to find them a permanent home.)

Second, I cut off and pulled canna tubers. I need to put them in a bin for the winter as soon as they dry and I can clean off most of the soil. I posted my canna overwintering method (and madness) in the November 10, 2007 post.

Then it was time to plant the holly. They look a bit inadequate now but the slender, slow growing shrubs can grow to 8 feet.

A lump of roots fell away from the soil when I took the holly out of the pots. Roots girdled the pot. I scored the roots and planted them as best I could. I watered them in well.

I hope they grow an adequate root system to survive the winter. I'll use an anti-desiccant spray to keep them from loosing too much moisture through the leaves in the winter winds and keep them watered until the ground freezes.
Sometimes, it's the chance you take when you buy plants late in the season. But the price is hard to resist.

(More information on Japanese holly from University of Connecticut . Scroll down for specifics of ‘Sky Pencil’.)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Dreaming of Spring

OK. I’ve started lists for spring. I love making lists. I find great satisfaction in checking off items one by one. It also keeps me from trying to do everything at once, organizes priorities and helps me remember what I want to get done. So here are the lists I started for spring.

To move list:

- Pink azalea to new garden – I put this pretty azalea in a shaded area about 4 years ago. I meant to find a permanent place for it. This past spring it looked dead – broken branches looked gnawed. The other day I saw green growth peeking out from under the hosta leaves. I’ll put a wire fence around it this winter and move it to the new garden in spring.

- Blazing star (Liatris spp.) – another plant I stuck in the ground about 5 years ago until I could find a permanent place. I’ll move this lilac colored flowering plant next to the white liatris near the new Casablanca lilies.

To give away list:

- Red hot poker or torch lily (Kniphofia uvaria) – an extra plant that I don’t have room for. I’ve got a taker for this one. I love when that happens.

- Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) I’ve had a request for a piece of this ferny leafed herb so I’ll dig some out for my friend in spring.

- Perennial Forget-Me-Not (Brunnera macrophylla) - The mass of pretty blue flowers in spring is getting too crowded. They have spread and reseeded throughout the area. I don’t have a taker for them yet. I’ll have to find someone who wants Brunnera or they will become compost.

To divide list:

- Hosta - The hosta is overgrown. I’ll move some to the front of the new garden.

- Liriope (Liriope muscari) – As the hydrangea grows, it’s getting a little crowded. I like liriope’s winter color – deep green leaves with black berries. I’ll see what it looks like over the winter and decide if I will divide and spread it out at the edge of the garden or pot some up to give away – probably both. I’ll need to use my hatchet to divide this tough little clumping plant.

So there are the lists so far. I’m looking forward to another busy spring!

Saturday, October 03, 2009


As garden cleanup continues and I dream about spring and next year’s garden.

Last week I cut the old iris leaves and dead foliage. It’s what I do at the beginning of October.

This week I covered the bed with a light layer of compost. It will be a tidier bed for the winter and I won’t have to worry about clean-up in spring or rotting foliage over the winter. The new leaves are beginning to grow.

I look forward to next May and the big display of yellow iris.

Most gardeners I know have this wonderful obsession. We dream and plan and look forward to another gardening season. Next year’s garden is always the best.