Solidago Acres

I have always wondered about folks who named their houses. How on earth did they come up with their names? When you look at the names–because inevitably, if you name your house, you put it up on a plaque over the door or out on a post by the road–most of them seem very appropriate.

There is one that befuddles me. There’s a large stately house with “Margate” out front. The only thing I can think is that it’s a family name. I can’t imagine what “Margate” has to do with an giant white colonial style home otherwise.

But other than that, names seem to fit homes. I’ve never been into that much until this year when my garden finally got away from me and I am completely over-run with goldenrod. It’s just everywhere. Mind you, I am delighted about it–I could be over-run with some noxious weed!

So as I was walking back to the house with the dog the other day, I said to her (and yes, I chatter to her a blue streak the entire time we’re walking), “Amie, we have to call this house Goldenrod Acres. No, let’s make it Solidago Acres.”

And thus, I have become one of those people who names a house. But no, you will not see me putting a plaque up on it–or around it–anytime soon.

20190925_171315

How did all this goldenrod–the solidago–get here? I have no idea. I suspect this first patch was brought in–as all my plants, wanted and unwanted are–by birds. I have a very robust bird population.

Why it suddenly exploded this year beyond this patch to almost every other garden I have–including some that are literally almost an acre away (yes, I garden on almost an acre of property–but not acres!) I have no idea. Did birds, bees or butterflies spread it? Something must have. Or did other birds drop in new populations? That could be the more plausible scenario for the “rogue” clump that is literally almost as far from this original patch as you can get.

So far as I am concerned, like my “hibiscus hedge,” it can take over a lot of this property. it’s good for wildlife and it’s pretty. And it doesn’t spark allergies. So, as I always say, what’s not to like?

Fall Containers

20190916_074851

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.

20190916_074819

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.

20190916_074939

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!

Planting for Pollinators

20190304_081638

I hope that by the time you read this I will be in a part of the country that’s a little closer to planting time. I am taking a week to visit family in Oklahoma City–if I can get out of the frozen north in between snowstorms, This is what it looked like when I drafted this post. Needless to say, I won’t be planting outside anytime soon!

But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t planting time where you are. And since many of you are at least able to plant something right now, I thought that I would continue my garden planning posts for a bit.

Planting for pollinators is actually a little more involved than you might think. Don’t worry! Anything you can plant–so long as it’s pesticide free– will help them.

But different pollinators have different needs. And if we are talking butterflies, you actually have to plant for two different stages: the larval (caterpillar) stage and the adult butterfly stage. More about this in another post.

Bees are easier but even bees have certain needs. Ideally you want to make homes for ground nesting native bees as well as have a watering spot for them. Again, more in a later post.

Finally, read up on and consider the “unconventional” pollinators. All sorts of flies, beetles and other insects, including ants, are pollinators. As we try to better our gardens, and plant more native plants, let’s try not to accidentally kill some insects that are actually pollinators by using insecticides indescriminently.

Spring Garden Planning

The Connecticut Flower and Garden Show a little over a week ago was a great reminder that thankfully, yes, spring will soon be coming to my frozen climate whether I personally believe it or not. And even though spring does come slowly to Connecticut–and sometimes not at all (something I often talk about when I show photos of my tree peonies. I can guarantee far above normal temperatures on the day that my tree peonies open so that they flame out spectacularly and only last for a single day. They are an over-rated waste of space in my garden–or perhaps it’s my climate), it is still something that has to be planned for in the garden unless you want to be like everyone else and just go rushing off, willy-nilly in the spring to buy the first thing you see at the garden centers.

While there’s something to be said for exuberance at garden centers (I know that I am all too guilty of that one!), at least do it with some sort of thought or plan in mind. What is your overall idea for the garden this year?

Will you be adding more natives?

Are you planting for pollinators?

Maybe you want to grow your own vegetables? Or add a few berry bushes? Or even start more simply with a few herbs (I was describing most of the Mediterranean herbs last weeks as “basically weeds that can grow in rocks.”) They’re not quite that easy–but almost!

Or maybe this is the year you start your own tomatoes/lettuce/peppers/fill in the blank from seed because you just can’t find what you like any other way.

Whatever it is, do go out and start shopping, by all means, but do it with some sense of what you hope to accomplish. You’ll be happier, you’ll have better results in the garden, and maybe you’ll even help some wildlife or pollinators as well. It’s all up to you–that’s what’s great about gardening.

Color Can Be So Subjective

So on Monday I ranted a bit about why I find succulents–and in particular, Gold Sword yuccas (although this could be true for any yucca; it just seems that all we grow here now are the “Gold Sword” variety) completely out of place in Connecticut.

While I’m ranting, let’s take on color, shall we?

And please remember, what I like (or don’t like) doesn’t matter. I’m just posting to get folks thinking about their own ideas about color.

I remember back when I first started gardening with perennials. I think I did what most people do–I chose softer colors of blues, pinks, whites and purples. It’s easy to do. There are lots of plants in that color family and many of them bloom over a long season.

plants for the blank spaces

I still have whole gardens like that. My “hydrangea hedge” is primarily blue and pink–because let’s face it, hydrangeas don’t come in really shocking colors (at least not the ones that do well in my climate, anyway!)

20170711_191200

But as I have gotten older I find that I like colors that are a little brighter.
I will often choose colors that are near opposites on the color wheel like yellows and purples. I also love reds and purples together.

Do not, however, ask me to put red and yellow together unless orange is also part of the combination. The red/yellow thing just reminds me too much of McDonald’s.

Habitat Garden in full bloom

In fact, while you’ll find quite a lot of yellow in my garden, I am quite particular about what I will mix it with. I only like it with certain shades of blue or purple–hydrangeas are fine, coneflowers are fine but you’ll never see me mixing it with rhododendrons, for example.

But, as I said, these are my “rules” not anyone else’s. What drives you crazy in the garden?

Happy Memorial Day!

_20180520_162737

Memorial Day is usually all about the planting of my vegetable garden–something I do to honor and remember my Dad, who was a World War II veteran. But this year, that garden is still contaminated with pesticides, I fear, so I’ve had to plant flowers.

So here is that look, above.

20180526_114357

And here is my “vegetable” garden, instead. It’s going to have to suffice.

20180525_122004

At work, we plant a vegetable garden as well. It’s a little unusual because there we garden with a woodchuck (aka, a groundhog, or a whistle pig, or whatever you might call them in your part of the country.

20180525_122112

Interestingly enough, usually he/it/they leaves the tomatoes and peppers alone–as well as my herbs that I plant to try to protect all that (and for the pollinators, of course!)

This year, something nibbled one of the tomatoes. I think it was a rabbit. We are too “urban” to have deer, and quite frankly the nibbling was too delicate for a deer.

Whatever it was, it didn’t care for the tomato leaves. It just left them there, and didn’t try any of the others. Whew!

So I end my post with a huge than you to all who served. You are not forgotten.

Planting a Pollinator Garden

On Friday I talked about the Million Pollinator Challenge and I linked to the site. Today I am going to get more specific about one aspect of that challenge, planting your garden.

You may already have a garden that is a habitat garden of sorts. Or you may have a garden full of native plants. You may have one that you have designed to attract butterflies or bees or birds–or perhaps all three. These may already be pollinator gardens.

 

To decide, go to resources about planting your garden.

If you’ve ever done any sort of habitat garden, it’s very similar to that. Pollinators need exactly what any other “wildlife” needs: food (i.e., nectar), shelter, cover (in this case, it would be protection from wind, because they are sensitive to wind) and places to raise their young (so in the case of butterflies, you know that that means caterpillars and tolerating chewing damage–and not cleaning up the garden in the fall and cleaning it up very late in the spring, say). A nice sunny site is also desirable because in the case of butterflies, for example, many can’t fly until the temperature reaches 70 degrees.

A couple of other things–common sense to me but not always to everyone. If you read my “intro” at the top tab of this blog you’ll see that I became an organic gardener because when I moved to my property (24 seasons ago now,) there were no butterflies. A little bit of research told me that butterflies were highly susceptible to pesticides, so we went organic.  Within 2 years, we had 27 different kinds of butterflies and moths–a success story if ever there was one! So it is critical to avoid pesticides to every extent possible. That clover and those violets in your lawn are actually butterfly nectar food sources. And bees love them too!

Finally–and I talked about this when I talked about “don’t try to “get the garden done in a weekend!” It’s critical to have something in bloom for the longest time possible. At my house, it starts with snowdrops–or maybe hellebores–and it goes through to goldenrod and asters in late fall. Try your best to keep something in bloom during all the months of your growing season.

Our pollinators need–and deserve our help. With some of these tips, we can not only help them but grow some beautiful gardens as well!