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!

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!

Planting for Pollinators

I’ve done a lot of posting over the last week or two about what I’m planting–my herbs, both for me and for the pollinators, the annuals in the herbs garden, my indoor succulent corner (which no pollinators can get to, of course, unless they accidentally get inside the screened porch–and why would they want to?

As I was thinking back over this and thinking forward to Pollinator Week, which occurs this year June 17-23, I realized that for all my talk about native plants, I hadn’t planted any native plants.

Is this a catastrophe? No. I already have a lot of native plants in my yard. But as someone who talks a lot about native plants, I do like to add them when I can.

But one thing I didn’t do this year was add any trees, shrubs or perennials–the sorts of plants that are native plants. So that’s why no natives this season.

So should I consider my whole season a loss? I guess that depends on what you are trying to accomplish. This season, I am lucky that I can get a little gardening in. I am hoping to be able to harvest just a few tomatoes and some green beans–and to have some fresh herbs to cook with.

I’d like a few pretty flowers to look at and I have chosen those flowers with pollinators in mind. In the past, I have seen both hummingbirds and sphinx moths on impatiens so I chose those for a semi-shaded spot.

For the sunnier spots, I chose annuals in colors of blue and yellow, primarily to attract bees and butterflies. One of the containers has some lantana, which I know the butterflies in my area love.

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My earlier spring container, which was a Wordless Wednesday photo, was violets and alyssum. I have watched honeybees and smaller bees on that until I moved it to a shadier spot where I don’t get to observe it so readily.

So I am not feeling too sad about the gardening season so far. I am just hoping that the deer don’t eat the green beans, as they have in some years. Time will tell!

Memorial Day is for Planting

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This is my “vegetable” garden, the garden that I traditionally plant on Memorial Day. The only problem, which I simply never foresaw 10 years ago when I sited this bed, is that the magnolia nearby would grow so enormous! So now it only gets about a half day’s worth of sun. It’s still fine for most things–green beans, some herbs and annuals–but I can’t really get a good crop of tomatoes out of it. So I do those in pots.

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This was the cover crop–pine needles from my abundant pine trees. Since nature doesn’t like uncovered soil, I leave the pine needles there over the winter and then compost them when I am ready to plant in the spring.

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And here’s the garden, mostly planted with herbs (parsley and dill for the pollinators along with the existing lemon balm, sage, chives, thyme, and tarragon), dianthus, marigolds and celosia (which have proven to be surprising bee magnets in the past!) and that large open area is for the pole bean tower yet to come!

I’m all ready for summer to begin!

Herb Garden

Door yard herb garden
Door yard herb garden

I grow a lot of herbs. I grow herbs in the garden that I call my “wildlife garden.” These have been there for years and while I probably could eat them, I don’t–I just leave them there to flower and attract pollinators. (It also makes a difference that this garden is over half an acre from the house).

I also grow them in a garden that I’ll show you on Monday–but despite the fact that it’s primarily my vegetable and herb garden, I grow those too for pollinators. If I need something special that I have out there–like sage or tarragon–I might go out and get some, but for the most part, those herbs are there for our pollinators. They need them more than I do.

But these herbs are for me. As you can see, they’re just outside my door. And this porch is just off my kitchen and breakfast room. So this is a very convenient set up. Do I mind if the pollinators visit? Of course not, although I try not to let these flower.

I have 3 kinds of basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, chives, the bay plant that some of you may remember from my over-wintered “polar Vortex ” post and the mint plant from that same post. The other over-wintered herbs have been planted out in the garden you’ll see on Monday. I want the freshest herbs here.

But if a swallowtail butterfly finds the parsley that’s here, you can be sure that the caterpillar can have it! In my gardens, pollinators win every time!

Gardening–or Not–Again This Year

On Monday I had some photos of a few annuals and herbs, and a couple of tomato plants that I hope to get planted in the next few weeks. When (or maybe if) it warms up, I will get a couple more warm weather herbs and plant green beans as well. Ideally, the weather will cooperate on one of the days of Memorial Day weekend to allow me to do this.

It’s been a crazy spring. It’s been raining just about every weekend–the professional weather folks just announced that we had our 6th rainy weekend in a row.

To top that off, a colleague–my only co-worker–abruptly left our office so I am getting by currently with a part time volunteer. When my colleague announced that she was leaving, I went home and announced to the Spoiler, “well, there goes the summer.”

The next week, my right arm was biopsied and at the end of June I have to go back for another “excision.” It’s not more melanoma so it’s all good but it will put a dent in the gardening, of course. I just need to find a way to get my pond cleaned between now and then.

So whatever gardening gets done, gets done. And that’s really the least thing I have to stress about. Because when gardening becomes a stressor, that’s a problem!

Almost Ready to Plant

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Although the oak leaves are the size of little mouse’s ears, we are still going to get some very cool weather this week. Our average high this time of year should be 70 degrees. Today it won’t reach 60 and tomorrow it might not reach 45.

It’s a bit easier to understand why I joke about “winter and July” being the 2 seasons in Connecticut. Or, as Mark Twain used to say, the coldest winter he ever spent was his summer in Connecticut.

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These lovely looking tomatoes are now indoors on my glassed in sun porch. No point in setting them back who knows how long by keeping them out in 40 degrees!

Memorial Day is usually warm enough to plant around here–although the way things are going this year, I may have to wait until July 4th!