Bittersweet

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I am in Oklahoma this week on a bittersweet errand. Part of it is quite joyful. I am happy to be able to celebrate my Mom’s 90 birthday.

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But for the third time in numerous years, my sister and I are helping her plan a move. She is moving from her apartment, down the hall to assisted living. At least she is able to do that and doesn’t need to leave the lovely property where she’s lived for the 7 years.

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We had a little party here for her this past weekend. Some cousins drove out from the East Coast. More are flying in this week. Turning 90 in my family is very special (I am guessing it would be in most families).

So in addition to helping Mom, we took the cousins to a few Oklahoma sights. The first 2 above are from the Land Run Memorial, commissioned for the Oklahoma Centennial in 2007.

Despite Oklahoma’s sad history, the sculptures themselves are amazing pieces of art. The details rendered in the bronze are stunning.

The absence of plants are also notable. There is, of course, the grasses (and nothing was identified) presumably designed to simulate the prairie.

There was the prickly pear cactus shown in my top photo of the leaping jack rabbit.

And there was red aloe (that I grow in containers in Connecticut) but which is clearly hardy here.

On Friday I will show photos from my other “tourist” trip (a museum I have been to many times but my cousins had not, so they took the docent tour and I went outside to see what was blooming).

The Good and Bad of Autumn

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I suspect that if you live anywhere where autumn leaves are changing, this is as common a sight for you as it is for me. I can scarcely go anywhere without seeing masses of mums, either for sale or in some display somewhere.

If you have followed me for awhile, you know that I absolutely hate mums. There are just 2 things that I reserve the word “hate” for: winter and mums.

It’s pretty obvious why I hate winter–I won’t waste time on that now. But oddly, even I can’t decide why I hate mums. It may go back to my time in retail gardening (although if that were the case, I should hate violas and pelargonium too and I don’t). So I really am stumped.

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And it’s not a question of hating all things autumn. I am fine with pumpkins and squash. I love these funky pumpkins. I don’t decorate with them. It’s a Spoiler thing. He doesn’t want to have to blow leaves around them.

And I am amazed by gourds and squash. This acorn squash, with its fluted shape, is almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Does anyone else have an irrational hatred of something that they can’t figure out?

Fall Containers

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In the past, I haven’t done much with containers in the fall. There’s no point, really. “Fall” is a very short season for us. Our first frost comes early in October and much of what goes into a container would be killed by that.

But this year, I have two lectures in October that needed containers. One was a lecture on container gardening itself and the other was a lecture on house plants.

In both my house plants and container lectures, I always like to talk about–and feature–both house plants and succulents. Why? First, because you can’t go anywhere without seeing them. Next, because I like them and I think that, despite the fact that they’re so popular, they are very versatile and great plants for a lot of gardeners in many situations (provided you have sun). So showing them–and talking about how to care for them–is important. Lots of beginning gardeners think that succulents and cactus are the same–because they are sold together. So a little education there is necessary too.

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This is my “house plant” container, where I play off the colors in the croton with the color of the flowers in the kalanchoe and the color of the sedum foliage. This type of planting is called “complementary.” It’s the same design principle as using throw pillows to pick up the color from a painting or a rug, say.

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And this is a late season herb planter with primarily tender perennials. The golden oregano at the front (my “spiller”) is hardy, even in my climate. The tallest plant, the variegated basil is ‘Pesto Perpetuo,’ a tender perennial basil, although I have never successfully over-wintered it without it succumbing to scale. The rosemary (the “filler plant”) will generally winter in my unheated sun porch unless we get a very cold winter–in which case I bring it into the house.

All of these, along with Wednesday’s show stopper ornamental container, will be traveling with me to my lectures in the next few weeks to illustrate some container design principles (as well as some fun fall containers).

I hate the see this year’s gardening season end!

Missing Petals?

I used to have a border of rudbeckia in my wildlife garden. But as in any monoculture, it gradually became a habitat for four lined plant bugs that disfigured the foliage. When other insects started chewing the petals off the bright yellow flowers, I ripped the whole thing out.

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Of course a few have self-sown, but because there is no monoculture, and because they are mingling nicely with other plants (if not actually being overtaken by my supposedly dwarf hibiscus syriacus) I don’t have the problem with insects anymore.

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Interestingly enough, the insects that eat the flower petals seem to have found a container with some annual daisies in it. Almost as fast as the daisies open, their petals are gone.

Here’s a closer look at the damage.

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What’s causing this? In my case, I am sure it is earwigs. They are about the only pest of the numerous possibilities that I know that I have in abundance.

If you are seeing this sort of damage and aren’t sure what might be causing it (and don’t think earwigs are a possibility for you) some other possible causes are the notorious Japanese beetle, or believe it or not, striped or spotted cucumber beetles, which are pests of far more than cucumbers.

I did find a cucumber beetle of the striped variety in my vegetable garden (where I am not growing cucumbers) but 1 beetle is not doing all my damage, surely. I think he ventured over from a neighbor’s yard and probably went right back.

And as for Japanese beetles, this year, I haven’t seen beetles of any kind: not our “June bug” types, nor the asiatic garden beetles or the Japanese beetles. It’s a little odd. (But I am not complaining!)

Practicing What I Preach–Sort Of

One of the things I always talk about when I lecture is the importance of foliage in garden design. Even when I am talking about house plants, foliage is the star–I will often bring 20 or 30 plants to display–and after everyone is done “oohing and aahing,” I will remark that it’s important to notice a couple of things about my display: first, how colorful it is and second, that there are maybe only one or perhaps two at most flowering plants int he whole thing (and if there are, I guarantee you one is a phalaenopsis orchid so that I can talk about proper watering technique–not the “ice cube” method.)

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For example, here’s a grouping of plants from my living room. There’s not a flowering plant among them but the grouping is vibrant and colorful. This photo is from last year so it’s changed up a little bit, but it’s still substantially similar–and still no flowers in this low-light area beneath a window.

The same results can be achieved outdoors as well. In fact, when I have the time and energy, I find that it’s almost more fun to create all foliage containers. I have not created anything at all this year–as I type, I am nursing a 3″ scar across the my arm–and I am right handed–that is preventing me from doing anything outside at all, including watering. That’s where the Spoiler comes in handy. But I knew this was coming so I didn’t make this an intensive gardening year. There’s always next year.

For inspiration, however, check out these lovely, mostly foliage containers at Avant Gardens. And then plan for your foliage containers in the future!

This Means War–Sort of

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This is my vegetable, herb and pollinator garden. I last showed it in my Memorial Day post at the end of May.

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It had been growing nicely until about 2 weeks ago. Then something decided that it was tasty.I’m not sure what that “something” is since we do host wild kingdom in our backyard. Most likely it’s rabbits or deer.

It’s sort of interesting what they will eat and won’t eat–they’re eating parsley and dill for example but not tarragon, which I thought would be mild enough to be gobbled up (I should just count my blessings!)

And my pole beans never get a chance to be climbers. As soon as they sprout leaves–chomp! That’s the end of that. That’s why I am not sure if it’s rabbits or deer. Everything is being nibbled so low that it really could be either.

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But I have my secret weapon. This should work for either deer or rabbits (in fact, according to the package, it will even work for elk, should they happen to wander in from the West, heaven forbid! Talk about a grazing problem!)

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I haven’t had to use this since 2013. Apparently other things in my yard have been tastier. This worked beautifully when I put it up in mid-July, 2013. I put it up, as you’ll see, at 2 heights, for “heavy browse,” because there’s no point in taking chances.

The instructions says to refresh it with Messina Wildlife spray after a month. I never needed to in 2013. We’ll see what happens this year.

And what does it smell like? The tape smells like herbal tea. It’s wonderful to work with and very easy to put up, and fairly unobtrusive.

The spray, however, is less wonderful to smell, so I hope I don’t need to use it. It smells like rotten eggs! But again, if it works, that’s all that matters!