Friday, October 16, 2020

Autumn's last flowers


Hello, everyone! I'm sorry I haven't posted since August -- I meant to write a post in September, which was such a beautiful month in my gardens this month, but somehow that didn't happen. I'll show a few pictures from September and October in this post.

Tropical Garden

First are a few images of the tropical garden I planted around my patio for the first time this year. As you might recall, this is what it looked like back in mid-May, right after I planted all the tiny annuals and tropical plants:


If there's one thing tropical plants are known for, it's fast growth! The two castor oil bean plants (Ricinus) that I started from seed in my sunroom in March have grown into monstrously large, towering trees that are over 11 feet high (the bottom of the roof overhang at far left is 11 feet off the ground). For a sense of perspective, I'm shorter, at 5&1/2 feet tall, than the dwarf peach tree at center. The one on the left provided wonderful shade from the afternoon sun during August, when we had some friends over and ate outside at the patio table.

Here's a closeup of the "blood" banana that I bought this year from a local nursery.

Continuing around the castor oil bean plant, you can see the huge size of its leaves. The sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) that I planted at its base had to be hacked back several times over the summer.

Here you can see the plants on the back border of the area: coleus, elephant ear (Colocasia 'Sumo'), and a pink-leaved Iresine at bottom right.

And finally, the back part of the garden behind the patio table, in front of the fence. Two houseplants that I brought out for the summer are sunk in pots into the ground, interspersed with another elephant ear, a division from a papyrus plant that I had, a self-seeded tobacco plant in full flower at left, and a majesty palm at far right. This was one of the most successful, most tropical-looking parts of the area, and I'm very happy with how it grew up over the summer.

Paradise Garden

The other area of my gardens that has been successful this year is my Paradise Garden. In September I took down the Big Net that protected the roses from the Japanese beetle scourge all summer, and this garden has been absolutely magical to sit in and enjoy the brightly colored and wonderfully scented flowers, the butterflies and the bubbling fountain at the center.

Filled with flowers a few weeks ago....

Lots of roses in flower, plus marigolds and dahlias (like the red ones in the picture at the top of the page).

A view from the bench under the small pergola -- the best place to enjoy the garden in the heat of summer days, although I've been sitting on the sunny bench against the house recently, to soak up the year's last rays. The pink flowering tobacco seeded itself there from last year, and looked very fetching with the pink roses.

Frost Threatens

Alas, summer eventually comes to an end, and the threat of frost is always present in October. We haven't gotten a frost yet, although one is possible this weekend.

But to be safe, I brought in all the tropical plants a couple of weeks ago, some to my basement under lights, and some into my sunroom to be enjoyed over winter:

The Tropical Garden, minus many of the plants to be saved over winter.

Into the basement went the plants that don't flower in winter, or which can't tolerate the dry air of central heating.

My sunroom is once again overflowing with plants. It's been beautiful and sunny in there during the past week.

Plants adjusting to their new winter home.

The other end of the sunroom.

Even though we haven't had a frost quite yet, one will almost certainly come before too many more days. The weather has been beautiful over the past week: sunny and warm. But rain and cold cloudy days are forecast next week, so I'm glad much of my autumn work is done. Soon enough winter will be here, and I'll spend my time working on indoor projects (and snoozing, as shown below).

I hope you have been enjoying warm autumn days in your own gardens recently, and that winter will be filled with interesting projects for you too. Thanks for reading! -Beth

Sunday, August 16, 2020


Hello everyone. I hope any of you who live in the Midwest are recovering from Monday's windstorm, and have electric power restored.

We were quite fortunate: we didn't have much wind damage, and we lost power for only half an hour or so. We're just on the south edge of where the storm damage was worst -- only 10 miles or so north of us, people lost multiple trees and were without power for days (some areas still don't have electricity).

As you can see from the picture above, part of our old pear tree split off. Here's a few more pictures of that:

It looks like a pretty bad split -- we're not sure whether we'll leave the remaining part of the tree or not.

Pears littering the ground....

Moving around the other side of the Garden Shed, you can see a good-sized branch has fallen from the bigger tree at left.

Benches blown over....

More branches down....

But really, we lucked out compared to people north of us who had whole trees the size of the one in the last picture completely ripped out of the ground -- and often falling onto their house or car.

But onto some nicer pictures. My new redesigned area this year, the Tropical Garden around my patio, has grown as I hoped it would:

The two castor oil bean plants that I started indoors in early spring have grown even more monstrously huge than I expected -- wow! They're at least eight feet in height already. 

The surprise lilies have emerged, and look right at home among the tropical foliage. These were here when we moved here twelve years ago.
My variegated banana, known dramatically as a "blood banana"  (Musa acuminata var. zebrina) is finally growing after a slow start. It looks good behind these surprisingly big celosia that I bought as a four-pack of tiny plants from the Amish nursery near me.

The foliage on the other side of the patio is really looking pretty lush. The philodrendron is a houseplant out for the summer and sunk in a pot into the ground; the papyrus overwintered in my basement; I bought the colocasia last summer, and it's looking better than I have ever seen it, and the Majesty palm was purchased on sale this spring.

And my Paradise Garden, still under the Big Net for probably another month yet to prevent the roses and other flowers from the depredations of the Japanese beetles, is looking lush and beautiful -- and smelling wonderful in the evenings, from the scented tobacco and petunias that have sowed themselves in the beds:

Roses, dahlias, marigolds, petunias,sweet peas -- all have been flowering away during the hot summer months.

A scented daylily, 'So Lovely' smells wonderful too, and blooms quite well even in this relatively shaded part of the Paradise Garden.
'Royal Palace Prince' clothed in royal purple petunias.

Dahlia 'Jaipur' is ablaze with red-hot flowers.

My husband and I have been making a habit of sitting in the Paradise Garden most evenings, and it's been lovely to enjoy this beautiful scented flower garden after dark, looking up at the countless stars in the sky. The other night, someone nearby had a fire (likely burning tree branches downed by the storm), and the mix of wood smoke and tobacco/petunia flowers was so magical that we didn't want to go back inside and stayed out until after 11 pm. Summer nights can be wonderful....

Hope you are enjoying some magical summer nights in your own gardens, and that you did not suffer from the storm. Thanks for reading! -Beth

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Lily Time!

Hello everyone! I hope you are enjoying some beautiful summer days in your gardens -- I have been pretty busy in mine recently.

The weather is starting to get a bit hot and humid again, which shouldn't be a surprise, since it's summer in Iowa -- but it's time to turn the air conditioner back on again after a few weeks of cooler, rainy days.

But I've been using the cooler days (and a few hot ones too) to work outside to maintain and improve my garden areas -- some of which were looking pretty weedy and overgrown with grass in the last year or two. I've cleared a few areas entirely, and replanted other areas that I cleared last year (and the year before). Things are now starting to look a bit more under control.

The Pond Gardens are looking much improved this year, for the first time in several years. Two years ago I cleared them of the grass that had invaded them, installed a metal edging around the paving stones last year, and replanted them this year with annual petunias and dahlias, in addition to the roses and boxwoods that remained. This area has a well-kept, park-like feeling now (the two new benches helped with that too).

Here's another area that looks much better this year: behind my garage. This very long bed was completely infested with grass and weeds two years ago, so I cleared it and last year I planted a bunch of hostas that I moved and divided from another area (mostly from the Yellow Garden, so many of them are golden in color). This bed looks SO much better and is easier to maintain, now that the hostas have filled in to crowd out weeds.

Another area that is much improved this year is my new Tropical Garden around my patio. The plants have started to grow a bit since I planted them about a month ago. It won't look truly jungle-y for at least another month, but I'm pretty happy with it, and I've managed to keep it weeded and well maintained so far. (Please ignore the "project" waiting on the sidewalk at right....)

A closeup of the shady front border in the Tropical Garden -- complete with Jungle Cat snoozing among the tropical foliage. :-)

And this mock orange (Philadelphus) hedge is looking (and smelling) better than it ever has. I cut it down to half its height two years ago, and that has made the shrubs grow back much more thickly, and bloom heavier than the ever have before. The scent can be smelled across the yard.

Lily Show

The big current story is the lilies, though. The Asiatic lilies have been blooming for the past couple of weeks, and now the orien-pet lilies are are coming online too.

These Asiatics in the Paradise Garden look lovely in this pink shade.

These trumpet lilies (whose name I have lost) are blooming in the Paradise Garden too.

And these orien-pet lilies just opened today and have a wonderfully strong scent. They perfume the entire Paradise Garden -- and what should a Paradise Garden be, if not a scented garden? This evening  was magical outside after dusk.


But it's that time of year again: the cursed Japanese beetles have again invaded our gardens.

So up went The Big Net. This is the third year I've put it up, and I feel safer under it now that the buggers won't be able to chaw on my roses and mate to create even more of their horribleness. I wish I didn't have to put it up (it prevents the butterflies from flapping about in my garden -- at least until September, when they again have glorious free rein) but it's much better than the alternative:

Sorry to show you this hideousness, but it's important to realize just how horrible
the alternative is. This was two years ago  in early August, BBN (Before the
Big Net). Uggh.

Entering my Bedouin tent -- where roses can flourish freely all summer. Much better....

I hope you are able to enjoy magical evenings in your own gardens now that summer is truly here -- I can't believe that the 4th of July is already upon us. (I think this every year; the holiday always makes me feel a bit sad, as it marks the peak of summer, after which it's a long slide downward to the trough of January. 

But there are still many nice evenings ahead this summer and autumn for us to enjoy. Thanks for reading! -Beth

Monday, June 8, 2020

June Flowers

Greetings! June is always such a floriferous time of year, from the irises and peonies that are now fading to the roses that are in full bloom.

Here's a few scenes from around my gardens during the past couple of weeks:

First, here's my Paradise Garden, filled with poppies and pinks and pansies.

A closeup of the eye-watering clashing going on between the pelargoniums in pots and the poppies behind them -- it was much more strident in person, I can assure you! :-)

Moving on to my delphiniums: This is the first time in 3-4 years that I have had delphiniums flowering here. The bed became overgrown with grass and I had to clear it out three years ago and leave it empty until last year, when I planted more delphs that I raised from seeds. Finally they're blooming!

Another view of the delphinium bed from the front -- I always love how these look with daisies!

Herbaceous peony 'Sarah Bernhardt' -- these flowers are so huge....

Intersectional peony 'Bartzella' in my Yellow Garden.

I finally painted the posts of our pergola white, after nearly two years. (They are treated lumber, so they did need to cure a bit -- but not really for quite so long....) The wisteria 'Amythyst Falls' that I planted two years ago is now blooming better than it ever has, and looks very pretty with the Dame's Rocket that self-seeded here.

Here's our favorite view -- which looks even more beautiful with the addition of the wisteria.

And look what I spotted in this border: an eremurus or foxtail lily! I think I spent $100 to plant a dozen of these in this border -- five years ago -- and never saw any trace of any of them. I guess one of them decided it could emerge and bloom now.

I hope you are enjoying many flowers in your own gardens during June flower time. Thanks for stopping by! -Beth