Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fall Change Is In the Air....

Well folks, at this point, I think I've just about navigated to the end of denial river, and am beginning to bargain reluctantly with Fall, trying my best to enjoy the unique pleasures it does afford the melancholy gardener at this time of year. After all, we have enjoyed a fairly decent harvest of garden goodness from the tomatoes, corn, onions, leeks to the inadvertently planted pumpkins. As you can see, preparations for the grand Halloween season have begun (thanks to Fernymoss for picking up the slack while I was sick this past weekend) with the arrival of the Punkin Dude! Even though he's usually a harbinger of colder times to come, so far this year we've avoided a hard frost, though it's just a matter of time before it happens and all the remaining color in this part of the garden will be a mere memory until next year.... Still, we'll enjoy it until the bitter end, and I'd just like to point out a few flowers that can provide you with some late fall firepower until that moment comes.
I know I've sung the praises of Calendula officinalis previously, and here's yet another reason why I value this humble 'Pot Marigold' so highly ... just check out those fresh, cheery yellow and orange flowers blooming late into October! Just think ... this particular patch of Calendula has been blooming since June! What more could one ask of an easy self-seeding annual ... over five months of bloom time? If you want more, then you're a more demanding gardener than I am! They've been putting on seeds for a few months now, and though that usually means the end of most annuals, these lovelies just keep on blooming! And only a very hard frost will kill them and stop their show....
Here's a nice close up of an appropriately colored (for the season) Calendula cascading over the edge of one of the front boulders near the steps approaching our house. I'll repeat (ad nauseum) just one more time that I haven't replanted these Calendulas for about five years, and just scatter their seed after frost to ensure their reappearance next spring. If you're interested in growing these no fuss beauties, now (or very soon) is the time to plant them, once the ground has cooled (generally after a killing frost) and they're unlikely to germinate until the ground warms up next spring. Your only other option is to get them out very early in the spring, when, honestly, few gardeners are thinking about digging around in the dirt while it's still cold and lifeless (at least I don't care much for that activity). Sow them liberally where you want them to grow, perhaps raking up the dirt a bit just to cover them and let them winter in place, where they'll pop up in early spring and start to bloom in late May to early June through frost. As Ina Garten would say, How easy is that? Then just either let them fall in place after frost or break up the seedheads and fling them around an area where you'd like them to colonize and your work is done!
On a quick visit today, I saw that Gail is still enjoying her Celosia 'Caracas' down in Nashville, and I suspect that ours will succumb to the cold before hers, but now is a great time to be gathering seed, as the color recedes from the blooms (I'd better get busy doing this myself soon!). But they also provide some great colorful fall accents when everything else is looking pretty ratty, worn out and drab in the garden, and I've noticed that as the weather has inevitably cooled lately, the foliage is taking on an even deeper shade of red, changing along with the leaves on the trees as the season progresses, until they are soon snuffed out by a killing frost and their seeds will go dormant until early summer next year when we'll hopefully have many more popping up in this area....
This is a wider view of the area where 'Caracas' was planted near our stand of 'Porcupine Grass' (Miscanthus sinensis), and as you can see, both have been beaten down a bit by some of the heavy rains and windy storms we've had over the past few weeks. Normally, my inclination would be to stake up the Celosia a bit, but at this point in the season, we tend to just let Nature take her course and let things fall where they may ... besides, Halloween is nearly here and it just seems to add to the generalized spookiness the front garden takes on for the holiday, with its scattered bones and tombstones....
As I wandered around to the Woodland Garden after work today (when I took these photos in the late afternoon), I saw that the Daturas are still hanging in there and blooming away, so I had to pause and get a few shots ... Fernymoss remarked --for a reason that escapes me-- that this one was very 'Georgia O'Keefe.' Ok, I'll go against the grain here (bring out the pitchforks and torches) and say that I've never quite "gotten" the whole enthusiasm for her work. Yes, she did some pretty paintings of flowers, but honestly, her paintings usually just leave me cold. It's not that I don't like women painters (au contraire!), but give me some Remedios Varo or Frida Kahlo any day, because I find their work infinitely more fascinating than O'Keefe's. But I digress ... this is a lovely Datura bloom, isn't it?
Ah yes, the ever present, now weed status Zebrina Mallow, which became quite the pest in the corner boulder bed this year ... despite my aggressive hacking away at it a few months ago, I did allow a few well behaved plants remain (they are really pretty after all), and as you can see here, the cooler weather also has its effect on the late season blooms ... they become darker, bordering more on the magenta hue than their pure purple and white of the warmer months, and what's more, they often bloom past the 'bitter end' of a hard frost and only a hard freeze finally sends them packing for the year, after they've dropped their multitudes of seeds. But as you all know, I'm a really mallow kind of guy, so it's difficult for me to try to eradicate them completely, but then again, check back with me next spring as I labor plucking out all the unwanted ones....
Finally, believe it or not, the Castor ricinus 'Carmencita Rose' plants we grew in a big pot this year are actually setting on some seeds! Though these plants haven't reached full size (7-8 ft) because we grew them in a container, they have been blooming profusely lately, and we may just be able to collect some viable seed to save (are you interested, Marnie?) for next year. These seed pods are very strange, as you can see, and they remind me of some kind of sea anemone or sea cucumber, or one of those weird denizens of the deep. Of all the Castors one can grow, this is by far my favorite (although Zanzibariensis comes close), due to its striking architectural look and the brilliant bronzy foliage that positively glows in the late afternoon sun (of which we are sorely lacking these days). It's well worth planting as a specimen plant in the garden where you have an area you want to accent a striking plant (in full sun) that you won't see in just any garden. Then again, we kind of pride ourselves on being 'not just any garden,' for better or worse!

Yes, there are more Toad Lilies to come, but I'm still behind a bit in posting of late, but there will be more soon!


FARfetched said...

LOL… Pumpkin Dude is literally a Scary Liberal!

No frost at the manor yet, although it got really close yesterday morning (some rooftop patches) & it looks like we might get all the way to the end of the month. On rare occasions, we've made it to mid-November before our first frost. But we'll be breaking out the pansies soon, I think.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Love Pumpkin Dude, where did he get the cool shirt.

We've escaped the frost so far too. It's coming.

Annie in Austin said...

You have freaked me out completely, IVG, and not with the Halloween decoration.

An inexpensive print-on-canvas of the "Creation of the Birds" hangs on our bedroom wall but no one ever seems to have heard of Remedios Varo when Philo says the name of the artist.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

First toadlilies opening and think they're the species rather than a hybrid or selection. Will post a photo eventually.

Gail said...


You know that this Sunday is World Zombie Day in Nashville? We will be at the parade but not participants...that is probably a younger crowd!

Fantastic bloom in your garden. I love the pesky Zabrina mallow...very nice colors and it could hold it's on with the assertive Susans! The Calendula has interested me for awhile! So many to go on the list of must try.

Sometimes I think it would be better if all the plants slowly disappeared and then there was a frost. Having a frost wipe out perfectly lovely flowers offends my senses;-> Especially when the temps rebound a day later...that is here, not up north!


boran2 said...

Obamkin Dude! I love your holiday display, IVG!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey there FAR!
He's not scary at all! (Well maybe a little at night when we put a glow stick in his head, hehe.) He's just our friendly neighborhood Obamakin. :-)

Just looked at the forecast and we may get zapped this weekend, so time to get the rest of the houseplants in!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
LOL on the cool shirt comment... that's an old flannel one of mine that shrank a bit and the sleeves got too short, so it got relegated to Halloween duty several years ago.

Looks like we may get a frost Sunday night, but who knows at this point, because sometimes the city insulates us a bit, but not looking forward to it!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Annie,
Hope that was a pleasant freak out. :-) I love Váro's work, and discovered her painting when I co-sponsored a student's senior thesis years ago, where I learned most of what I know. I was fascinated because I already was a fan of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanner and that whole crowd.

I dug out my book on Remedios tonight -- Unexpected Journeys: The Art and Life of Remedios Váro (Janet Kaplan, Abbeville Press, 1988)-- so I could look up your painting. That would be a wonderful print to have in the house! Can you tell I'm a not so closet Surrealist? lol

Can't wait to see your toad lilies! Glad you are getting some blooms this year ... I'll have more of ours soon (if the sun ever shines again) because one of them is practically a small shrub just loaded with blooms right now!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Gail!
I saw that reference to World Zombie Day over at your place when I stopped by after work. That sounds like lots of fun, and I hope you'll take photos... would be great Halloween week fare at C&L!

I've just about collected all the seeds for you and included some Zebrina in case you want to brave it.... they'd look great with Susans and have a very long bloom time too. I also am going to include some Calendula seeds as well as a few other surprises. :-)

Yep, I'm the same about the zapping of the flowers, one of the most depressing aspects of the inevitable winter, alas.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey B2,
This is just the start, but glad you like what I previewed here! Wait till you see the boulder cemetery and all the fun stuff on the porch to get set up this weekend! Think you'll like it, hehe.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Something I forgot to mention to you (and maybe you've seen this?). I saw on Manny's site that he did a fabulous Barack O'Lantern and he tipped me off to this site:

www.yeswecarve.com ... some great punkin art on display there!

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