Growing Things

Going to Seed

It's the time of year for garden clean-up.  Time to prepare the plants for winter and maybe even get a head start on next year's garden.  

But . . . I'm kind of a lazy gardener in the fall.  I've grown tired of weeding and the more tedious garden chores.  I want to just sit back and relax at this point.  (And, besides, I still have plenty of things blooming!)

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Really, though, I do a lot of garden "prep" in the fall.  I move plants around.  I weed (it never ends).  I cut back some of the plants that really need it.  I plant bulbs.  I make a lot of notes for next year.  I bring in all my little garden tchotchkes.  I pull out the annuals and empty my hanging baskets.

But.  I don't tend to cut back my perennials.  I don't mind a garden (even in the off season) that is . . . less than tidy.  I leave seedheads that are . . . interesting.  Or that provide food for the birds.  Or that will seed in a way I want them to seed.  Or that will collect snow in a particularly beautiful way (when that happens) (because it will).

Besides . . . I find seedheads to be quite lovely all on their own.  Here are three that have caught my eye this week:

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Penstemon.  When at it's peak, this penstemon - called Husker's Red - features white blooms on reddish stalks.  I often cut these stalks with seedheads for fall flower arrangements. 

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Butterfly weed.  At it's peak, the blooms are bright orange and a staple in butterfly gardens.  Butterfly weed is in the "milkweed family," so is especially beneficial for Monarchs.  I often share the seeds with friends (intentionally)*, and with my neighbors (unintentionally, but purposefully).  (They love me so.)

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Clematis.  At its peak, this particular clematis ('Tranquilite') sports huge white blossoms with a burgundy/purple center.  Although I go a little weak-in-the-knees for pretty much any blooming clematis, I also love their interesting seedheads once the blooms have faded.

How about you?  Are you a neat-and-tidy gardener come fall?  Or, like me, do you let seedheads . . . do their thing?

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Be sure to visit Carole for other Three on Thursday posts today.

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*If you'd like some of my butterfly weed seeds for your garden, send me an email or let me know in the comments and I'll mail you a batch.

 

 


Public Service Announcement

Back in the deep, dark days of last winter . . . when nearly every blog post featured an amaryllis in bloom . . . many of you asked me to remind you to order bulbs when it was time in the fall.

Well . . . IT'S TIME!

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I ordered my amaryllis bulbs from White Flower Farm over the weekend.  Some of them will be shipped soon (for holiday blooming), but most of them won't be shipped until the middle of November (for dead-of-winter bloom).

Although there are plenty of places to order amaryllis bulbs (just do a quick search of The Googles if you're interested in shopping around), I highly recommend the bulbs from White Flower Farm.  They have a huge variety of lovely, easy-to-grow amaryllis -- and they perform just the way you want them to:  big, long-lasting blooms . . . when you think winter will never end.

(If you're interested in WFF bulbs, you can use this link to get to their site.  Once you click in, a pop-up window will appear with a code for a $5 coupon.)

There you have it!  My order-your-amaryllis-bulbs-now Public Service Announcement.

 


My Very Hungry Caterpillar

For many years now, I've had a thriving butterfly garden.  (See my post from earlier this summer about my garden and how easy it is to plant and certify your own Monarch Waystation.)  And over those years, I've seen many a Monarch butterfly, flitting among the blooms.  But I had never actually seen the Monarchs laying eggs on my milkweed plants.*  And I had never seen a Monarch caterpillar.* Until this summer!  

* (I'm sure they've been there, doing just those things.  But I had never been there to see it.)

In July, I happened to be out in the garden and noticed a Monarch laying eggs.  I was thrilled!  (I posted this video on Instagram.)

And early last week, I found a very hungry Monarch caterpillar.

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He's gone now . . . off becoming a butterfly!  I look everyday to try and find the chrysalis, but so far?  No luck.  If I do find it, though, it will be the true triumverate of butterfly gardening:  eggs, caterpillar, chrysalis.  (I'd be over the moon. . .

To celebrate my caterpillar, I thought I'd share three quick facts about Monarchs with you today:

  1. Monarchs can produce four generations during one summer. The first three generations will have life spans from 2 - 6 weeks and will continue moving north. During this time they will mate and have the next generation that will continue the northward migration. The fourth generation is different and can live up to nine months. These are the butterflies that will migrate south for winter.  (My caterpillar falls into this fourth generation.)
  2. In their larval stage, Monarch caterpillars feed almost exclusively on milkweed, and as adults, get their nutrients from the nectar of flowers. The monarch will always return to areas rich in milkweed to lay their eggs upon the plant. The milkweed they feed on as a caterpillar is actually a poisonous toxin and is stored in their bodies. This is what makes the monarch butterfly taste so terrible to predators.
  3. During their migration, Monarch butterflies can travel between 50 - 100 miles a day.  It can take up to two months to complete their journey to winter habitats.

Beautiful, fascinating creatures!  I'm so happy to share my garden space with them.

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Be sure to visit Carole today -- to find more Three on Thursday posts.


Instrument of Grace

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.  Gardening is an instrument of grace."
                                                                        --- May Sarton

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Gardening is so easy in the spring.  Everything is exploding into green and foliage and colorful blooms.  It's exciting and fresh and new . . . everywhere you look.

In the fall, it's a bit harder.  Enthusiasm wanes.  The garden is tired, dying back, preparing for the dormant season.

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I love my bedraggled, heading-into-dormancy late summer garden, though.  It has a skeletal beauty that can only come from age and wisdom.  Successful young flowers turn into future-thinking seedheads.  Dead stalks shelter overwintering insects.  Spent foliage and grasses become cover for birds and rabbits and other woodland creatures.

Slow circles of nature.

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A garden . . . as an instrument of grace.

 


Late Summer in the Garden

"A late summer garden has a tranquility found no other time of year."
                            ----- William F. Longgood

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I saw the quote above the other day, and it made me smile.  Because truth!  By this time in the gardening season, things are ... what they are.

Things worked.
Or they didn't.
Most flowers have bloomed.
But not all of them.
Explosive growth has slowed.
The butterflies are everywhere.
Weeds will be weeds.
Always.
And everything is on clearance at the nursery!

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This is the time of year that my garden looks it's raggedy-ist.  It's still lovely, I know.  But there's a raggedy quality to it now.  And that raggedy-ness brings a tranquility that is liberating for me.  It allows me to . . . step back.  

Enjoy what's left of the season.  
Not worry so much about what needs doing.  
Let things go!
Just sit on the patio and sip . . . something.

I'm coming to terms . . . with the reality that summer is winding down.  (I might not like it, but I can deal with it.)  As always, my garden helps me weather the changes in the seasons.
 


Garden Delights

My garden is full of things that make me happy . . . flowers, foliage, birds, pollinators.  (You know the drill.)  But there are also little hidden "garden delights" that bring a smile.

Like . . . my little stone turtle peeking out from his home in this succulent bowl.

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Or . . . . this little yellow house with the stone chimney, standing sentry at my patio doors.

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And . . . this little kitty, hidden in my herb garden.

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Gardens delight . . . in so many ways!

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Head over to Carole's to read more Three on Thursday posts today.

 

 


Outside Inside

During the gardening season, I love to bring what's blooming outside . . . inside.  You can usually see what's blooming in my garden -- right there on the kitchen counter near the sink.  Or on the dining room table.  Or even in my bathroom.  

Today, we've got . . . 

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Heliopsis

Ornamental onion.

Purple coneflower.

Flowers are magical . . . outside and in!

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Be sure to head to Carole's today to read more Three on Thursday posts.


Out in the Garden

"When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, there is always the garden."
                                    --- Minnie Aumonier

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I hope you have some time to dig in the dirt (or whatever your soul-filling equivalent may be) this weekend.

See you Monday!


Waystation

I'm up north for a couple of days -- with Tom and my Dad.  The scenes here are much the same as always . . . the lake, the woods, campfires, loons.  

Instead of sharing more photos and stories of the same old thing, I thought I'd take the time to share something a little different. Today, I'm putting in a plug for the monarchs!  And I'm going to tell you how easy it is to help them along their way.

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This tangled mess of a garden . . . is my butterfly garden -- and a certified Monarch Waystation.  It's full of flowers especially appealing to pollinators of all kinds, and three kinds of milkweed for the monarchs.  (The bright orange flowers you can see blooming now?  That's butterfly weed, one type of milkweed.)

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When we first moved to our house 15 years ago, I was thrilled with the gardening possibilities in our new yard.  We were moving from a house with deep, deep shade.  Only shade.  No sun to speak of at all!  And here - in my new house - I had both.  Shade on one side, sun on the other.

I immediately set out to create the English cottage garden of my dreams.  I planted delphinium and foxglove and hardy geraniums.  Clematis and lavender and phlox.  It was lovely.  For about two weeks in early June.  And then it just faded!  Because, really, that sunny location wasn't right for those gentle plants.  Too hot. Too dry. Deer. Rabbits.  

I was so discouraged.

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About that time, I started learning about pollinators and following along as the plight of the monarch butterfly was unfolding.  (You can learn more here.)  I decided to turn my (failing) English cottage-style garden into a pollinator garden -- and, specifically, into a monarch-friendly garden.

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After doing a little research, I discovered that there were published guidelines for creating monarch habitats.  Home gardeners can easily create and certify their gardens as Monarch Waystations by providing:

  • dedicated space (while there is no minimum size requirement for certification, butterfly gardens are most effective at 100 square feet or larger)
  • sun exposure (a minimum of 6 hours of sun each day)
  • shelter from predators and the elements (plants close together without overcrowding)
  • milkweed plants (at least 3 varieties to attract monarchs during their breeding season)
  • nectar plants providing continuous blooms throughout the growing season and into the fall (which is migration time for the monarchs)
  • regular maintenance (weeding, thinning, eliminating pesticide use, watering, etc.)

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When I first certified my garden as a Monarch Waystation, Tom and Brian used to call me and pretend they were monarchs, trying to make reservations in my Waystation.  (Do you have any rooms available tonight?) (Haha. Very. Funny.

My garden does attract lots of monarchs -- and many other types of butterflies, as well.  Swallowtail.  Red and White Admiral. Skippers.  Glassywing.  Fritillary.  It's also popular with various moths, hummingbirds, and bees of all types.  The birds are thrilled with all the seed heads after bloom.  It is a VERY happy place!

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If you have a little space in your garden -- and if you're interested in saving the monarchs while attracting any number of cool pollinators, check out Monarch Watch and see how easy it is to create and certify your own Monarch Waystation.

(And then just get ready for all those monarch calls . . . asking if you have any reservations available!)