Tag Archives: Garden

Fall forage

I admire perennial, prairie gardens that have been cultivated to bloom throughout the growing season. When I see most of my perennials have gone to seed, I especially notice examples of flowers that that are still or for the first time in full, glorious bloom. I don’t have the time or energy to add anything to my garden right now, but I hope to eventually bring in the first and third on the list. I know it isn’t going to save us from climate change and mass extinction, but it is still so encouraging and sweet to see bumblebees floating from flower to flower this late into the fall.

Canada goldenrod, Tall Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) – this flower has been planted as a companion to fruit trees in the Fonticello Food Forest near my house. I am a little worried that the goldenrod is actually crowding out the trees at this point, but I don’t care because it is incredible on its own and appears to be attracting all kinds of insects.

Panicled aster, Lance-leaf aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum) – also at the food forest, I noticed this aster completely buzzing with activity. They have it planted in a wet, low lying area of the property and it has thrived. When I got home, I was kind of thrilled to realize that I had two clumps of it growing in my garden also (last picture), a surprise gift from the native wildflower mix that I spread in 2020.

Blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) – I was at the Barboursville Vineyard last week for a wedding and noticed for the first time the Allegrante Meadow just below the tasting patio. Its acres of flowers had clearly faded from their peak summer color, but the blue mistflower was thriving. It’s color pops brilliantly against the browns and blacks of fall.

Sulfur cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus) – Another gift from a seed mix in the past, Sulfur cosmos have started to take over a corner of the garden. This summer I saw one bloom and go to seed. Then I saw several more. Now there are dozens of these flowers adding a really nice pop of orange. It does scare me a little how prolific this flower seems to be so I may add in some other flowers that will start to compete for space. Or just let the cosmos completely take over and be happy about it.

Update (10/25): yesterday I walked by a lovely mound of Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), probably ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ and realized it needed to be on this list. It was already on a lost somewhere in my garden plans, but this was an extra dose of motivation to add this plant some day.

A walk around my early fall garden

Just some photos and thoughts to remember early fall, 2021. The first winter we lived in our house, I terraced and seeded the side of our yard to create a wild edge. I have received so much joy from the plants that have come up now two years in a row in this section of the yard. I keep filling in gaps, but the bulk of color and life come from the seeds planted on turned soil a year and a half ago.

New England Aster has taken the place of first coreopsis then coneflower in the wild edge. Bumble bees and other insects have enjoyed this late summer bounty.

Russian Sage that struggled this summer, but I hope will thrive in the fall and come back with full strength in the spring.

I filled half a “supercan” with weeds from this dog run a week or two ago. I let it go to seed last year and paid the price. I plan to put down cardboard and mulch to turn this into a walking path around the side and down the hill to the back of the yard.

I have already seen one small, extremely fast bird feeding on these spent purple Echinacea/coneflower seed heads. I’ll leave all of this up through early spring.

Agastache has been a fun, repeat blooming, addition and now is home to a Yellow Garden Spider, building the perfect place to lay her eggs. I remember when I was six or seven we had a “zig zag” spider web like this outside the window of the kitchen of the house where I grew up and I have loved them ever since.

On a recent visit to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens I saw large sections of chives blooming and it encouraged me because I thought I had just been lazy not harvesting the herb. I plan to add more of these for next year.

The blue basil in the front of the house was inspired my dad’s pollinator garden. It has been a summer-long source of entertainment for me as a steady parade of wasps, bumblebees, and honey bees have spent hours floating from one flower to the next.

Another garden spider in between the sedum Autumn Joy. It’s devastating that the second search result for Orb-weaver spiders is a page on the Orkin website. Why anyone would fear, hate, and kill this insect is truly beyond me.

My mother has connected with her birth families over the past several years and we learned that her birth father’s last name was Fothergill. This plant is Fothergillia Gardenii (dwarf Witch Alder) and I feel like I have a special connection because of my new-found heritage. This one is looking great, filling out and nice and green, but the next one is not doing well, possibly struggling because I planted it in partial sun instead of full sun (it’s on the transplant list).

I can’t wait to see these Rosemary bloom in the spring. They were both maybe 5″ x 5″ x 12″ when I planted them in early 2020.

Achillea/yarrow that has naturalized well and continues to bloom.

This third bloom of the Verbascum (wedding candles) is not as glorious as the first and not nearly as much of a bee magnet, but still gives me joy and nice visual interest.

Liriope in full bloom has been making this circle pop for the last few weeks. The purple Irises in the middle are divided originally from my mom’s childhood home in Dallas. They were transplanted to California by her step mom, then again to Arizona, back to Texas, and finally flew on a plane to Richmond. It is a constant battle cutting back the suckers on the Crape Myrtle in the middle, but I finally feel like I have it in a good place. It shows off the evergreen shape of the Iris which is also a nice backdrop for the Liriope.

The newest flower bed has thrived for the most part. Roses and Hidcote lavender in bloom along the fieldstone path and near the peonies that I hope to see more from next year.

An impulse buy near the cleaning supplies section of Lowe’s, I have really enjoyed watching these Elephant Ear stretch out and claim their piece of territory.

I had dozens of volunteer tomato plants sprout this year to affirm me in my lazy composting methods. Here is one I left to grow along the ground. Newsflash, you don’t have to trellis your tomatoes! I watched a YouTube video once of an Italian family harvesting piles of tomatoes from their yard, none of them were staked. Of course there are benefits to staking, but this is a reminder to me to relax. Here are three perfectly good tomatoes grown near the ground near some faded Anise Hyssop.

Volunteer tomatoes on a trellis between two trees.

I had some extra sprouts so I tried out some different sections of the yard for tomatoes and will definitely be doing more up the deck next year.

Late summer bounty:

I believe this is a Praying Mantis egg case on this fig tree containing dozens or hundreds of eggs that will turn into those amazing predators of the garden.

Insects tucking themselves and their babies in for bed all over the place.

Parsley ravaged by Yellow Swallowtail caterpillars that I watched over the past week. I haven’t seen a crysalys yet, but hope to see the butterflies when they emerge.

Something, I think underground, is destroying what was for months a beautiful white-blooming salvia. I’m depressed about it, but will probably post this picture on a local NextDoor gardening group and see if anyone has suggestions.

When I planted this butterfly bush it was tiny, maybe two feet tall. It grew all winter long with shiny green leaves and bloomed for most of the summer until the main trunk wilted. I cut it and pulled the side trunk to the middle, but as you can see below, it is also dying. I think I have root rot and will have to remove the entire plant, but for now I’m leaving the branches that are still alive to bloom while I cut out the dead.

I don’t know what this is. It’s beautiful, but also invasive? TBD …

Growing little fruit trees

I recently finished a book called Grow a Little Fruit Tree — a great, easy read for anyone interested in starting a home orchard. I learned about the book through NextDoor, my favorite social network of the last year. When I posted a photo of peach blossoms to celebrate early spring, I got a comment that it looked like I might not have pruned the tree recently and this book was suggested as a guide. I didn’t take it personally at all — this is a hobby and I am always learning from others.

I realized pretty quickly that I had done nearly everything wrong with the fruit trees I had purchased so far. Most importantly, I did not fully respect the full-grown size of these trees. Here are my notes:

  • The key to maintaining a small fruit tree is to prune every summer around the solstice. This keeps the tree small by reducing its vigor (typically this is the reason to avoid a summer prune)
  • Winter pruning increases vigor, use to thin out a fruit tree
  • Maintain 3-4 major limbs, the “scaffold”
  • 1 Apple requires 30 leaves
  • Compost goes on top, not in the hole, when planting trees
  • Planting a potted plant: as deep as the pot, 2x as wide, no soil on the surface, 4-6 inch berm around
  • The tardy prune (my situation for selecting tall trees and nit pruning last summer): at summer solstice cut the central leader down to knee height
  • 45-degree angle is ideal for an unsupported branch of a fruit tree
  • Too much water suffocates roots
  • Yellow leaf that falls easily = too much water
  • Yellow leaf that holds on = micronutrient defficency
  • Let surface soil dry at least a couple of inches (moisture = disease)
  • Water rarely, thoroughly
  • Add worm castings to mulch (compost) and apply each year
  • Figs fruit on new wood

And now, some before and after photos of my first solstice “tardy” prune. It’s all a learning exercise so I’ll watch these over the years to see how they do.

On that last Pawpaw I am hopeful one little sprout will get more nutrients as a result of this prune and add a third branch to my scaffold.

The next time I plant fruit trees I’ll start with bare root trees so that I can make this first hard prune right away. I’m still hopeful these trees will grow well, but probably not as well as they might have if I’d started from the beginning. Now I just watch and wait.

Early summer color pop

I’m enjoying this corner of the garden especially right now for its early summer pop of color.

I planted the anise hyssop (purple) and the mountain mint (silver/green) as plants from a nursery, but the echinacea grew from seed and has been prolific. I am amazed by how well it’s done considering my neglect – I honestly don’t even remember when I planted it.

Hedge design (Sweet Bay Laurel)

Just sharing something I put together for a friend that wants to block the view of a neighbor’s house from their back patio. It’s not totally correct with spacing and siting, but could be tweaked pretty easily. I chose Bay Laurel because it’s evergreen and the leaves can be used in the kitchen (bay leaves) and the shrubs and perennials provide a nearly year round color mix, attraction to pollinators and birds, and are low maintenance once established. If I were to actually install this I would follow the instructions in this “How To Create A Privacy Hedge” video by Urban Farmstead.

Good mornings

Yesterday morning I shared a sugar snap pea with my 18-month old while we watched bees forage on some Verbascum (Mullein) that I planted earlier this month. I’ve had some flops this year so far including beets, fennel, poppies, bachelor’s button, etc. I’ve already rearranged several plants that were either crowding each other out or not getting the amount of sun they require. So often, all I can think about is the work that still needs to be done, but in that moment, thinking about the benefits to nature and our quality of life, I was grateful for something going well. And considering the ease of use and the quick reward I will definitely be doubling down on these peas next year.

A is for Allée

I believe that the beauty of D.C. is the simplicity of a good plan: symmetry, long vistas, and grand terminals. All of these qualities are found in the allée.

Here is a photo I took while walking the National Mall:

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What I love about the allée is that it’s so simple. With a straight path and some lovely trees we could turn any formless green space into a memorable experience.

With the allée, a simple path becomes dramatic. A walk becomes an journey.