September 28, 2015

The Last Perfect Day Before Winter


For this perfect day, my only option was to swing wide the windows and steal little moments of nature's glory.

Projects, dirty dishes, dinner, Facebook, unanswered emails ... all waiting.

But I delayed ...


Dawdled on the front porch glancing at the green Maple that will soon be amber,


No longer denying that the Honey Locusts are proclaiming autumn.

Listened to the last cricket songs of the season,

Snapped mediocre photos with my phone, too enchanted to try to capture perfection with a better camera ...


And toasted a most excellent summer, and the last perfect day before winter.

September 21, 2015

A Season of Goodbyes (and a Few Surprises)


If you live in a place that changes with the seasons, you know the tug of realizing--at some point each autumn--you've probably seen the last [fill-in-the-blank] of the year until next spring. Migratory species leave; perennials dry up and go dormant; the picture-perfect, carefree, comfortable days are numbered.

But if you're like me, you occasionally experience a surprise, or two, or three ... or more.

Like the time last October, when I decided to drive around town to capture a few photos and memories of the autumn colors before they faded. I figured I'd seen the last Monarch butterfly of the season, since I hadn't seen one for at least a week.

And then I saw one, as I drove up to a city park along Madison's Lake Mendota.


I clambered out of my car and carefully inched over to the beautiful stands of Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), to snap a joyful photo of the little beauty.

And then I noticed another one.


And a couple more.




And then a few more.


I looked across the parking lot and saw more.



Gosh, they were loving those Asters.



They weren't moving very fast, because it was rather chilly and the skies were cloudy, so it was easy to photograph them.






Apparently this grouping of Asters and other fall-blooming plants was placed at just the right spot for Monarchs flying off the lake--a way-station of nectar for butterflies on their journey south.



A few bumblebee friends joined them.


I was captivated by this unexpected, late-season gift of grace. I took it all in, snapped a few photos, and observed.

















Until it was time for me to leave,


And time to wish them safe travels,


Until their great-grandchildren returned the next year.

monarch display

I'm linking this post to Donna's "Seasonal Celebrations" at Gardens Eye View, and Michelle's Nature Notes over at Rambling Woods. Please visit their beautiful blogs for more seasonal inspiration.

Happy autumn (and spring to those in the Southern Hemisphere)! And may you have many more butterflies and [fill-in-the-blanks] in your future!

September 15, 2015

Late-Season Vignettes and Fab Foliage

succulent collage
Scallions, hot pepper flakes, cinnamon, thorny sticks, and a croaking toad are all attempts to
repel chipmunks from these succulent pots.

As the growing season winds down and the plants are starting to fade, there are still several vignettes that I'm finding relatively pleasing to the eye. The succulent pots are filling in nicely, although I'm occasionally finding Sempervivums and Sedums upended by chipmunks.

porch pots
Yes, more cinnamon to repel the chipmunks!

I'm also pleased with the chartreuse, magenta, pink, and green of Coleus, Impatiens, Oxalis, and Alternanthera (although I think they looked better in July).

pond pots

The pots by the pond have improved as the season has progressed--filled with variegated Coleus, Hedera, Alternanthera, a Cordyline and a few Marigolds (Tagetes spp.) blooming in the dappled sun.

whiskey barrel
Lava rocks to discourage digging, and a fake snake to scare away critters.

I've finally figured out what works in the north-facing whiskey barrels--various Sedums that spill out the front and Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadenis), which blooms in the spring, goes dormant, and makes a repeat appearance in late summer/early fall.

dwarf forsythia

Sometimes I curse this dwarf Forsythia (spp. unknown), because it's impossible to rake around it. But it's growing on me. The spring flowers are unimpressive, but the low-growing shrub/hedge makes a nice ground cover in the summer, and the foliage turns to variegated fiery hues (starting to show here) in the fall. This time of year, it complements the blue/green of its neighbor large-leafed Hosta.

cushion spurge

Finally, the Euphorbia polychroma has performed well this growing season, forming a pleasant ground cover. While the surrounding ferns are fading and the Hostas are nibbled away by the rabbits, the blue/green of the Euphorbia still looks relatively decent.

I'm linking this post to Pam's Foliage Follow-Up at Digging, and Anna's Wednesday Vignettes at Flutter & Hum. Visit these excellent blogs for more garden inspiration.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There's still time to participate in the "Garden Lessons Learned" meme. Feel free to write a post or share one you've already written about your "Lessons Learned" during the past season. Then share your links or simple observations in the comments at: Garden Lessons Learned, Quarter 3, 2015. The link will be available always under the "Lessons Learned" tab at the top of this blog.

Please also join in Donna's Seasonal Celebrations at Gardens Eye View! You can join in with a post that fits both memes, or separate posts for one or both of them. I'll include wrap-ups on PlantPostings' Facebook page, starting within the next few days and leading up to the equinox.

September 08, 2015

Yellow and Blue Special Deliveries


Some of the greatest joys of having gardening and blogging friends are scenes like this:

package 1

package 2

plant 1

plant 2

When you plant-swap and garden-share, it's as much fun to give as it is to receive, of course. But that exciting day when the plant package arrives is definitely a high point.

Over the years, I've plant-swapped with many friends. In this post, I'm highlighting two plants I received several months ago from generous benefactors. I've watched these plants now for enough time to adequately report on their progress in the garden.

double blooms

The first plant is a yellow Walking Iris (Neomarica longifolia), a plant native to southeastern Brazil where, according to The Pacific Bulb Society, it grows in light shade in the Atlantic Forest. This plant is hardy to USDA zone 10 (or 8 or 9 in microclimates).

screen porch

It's been very happy this summer on the southeast corner of my screen porch, where it gets bright morning sun and indirect afternoon light.


I'll bring the Walking Iris into the partially heated sunroom at the first sign of frost. That's where it lived the first few weeks after I received it in early spring.

Imagine the excitement of seeing it bud for the first time, and then watching each flower bloom in stages over the course of a few hours.

walking iris (2)


opening 1

opening 2

open details

Each bloom lasts only several hours, so it's easy to miss. Fortunately, the plant puts out new blooms for weeks or months, and then ...

baby plant

Over time, new "baby" plants form from the mother plant, then bend down, and "walk" into the surrounding soil. Hence the name "Walking Iris."

open side

This is a stunning bloomer, and one of the easiest potted plants I've had. It enjoys moist soil and partial shade. The donor of this plant prefers to remain an anonymous benefactor. I am deeply thankful for the gift, which I'll treasure for years to come.

mistflower blooming 2

The second plant I'm sharing is Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum), which is native to most of eastern and central North America. I purchased several of these plants, and then Tammy at Casa Mariposa helped increase my collection by sending me several starts from her garden.

mistflower caged

My vision was to have large drifts of them surrounding my Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) patch, but that was before I discovered rabbits will eat Mistflower, along with the Asters and ZigZag Goldenrod I so lovingly planted to provide nectar for butterflies. Mistflower and Goldenrod are listed by many sources as rabbit-resistant. That didn't work in my garden, so I had to put fencing around the area. (Long story. Maybe I'll share it in a future post.)

In any case, if I can keep out the rabbits, the Mistflower will naturalize into a cloud of blue blooms within the next few years. Some sources say it can be a "pest plant," but I don't think that will happen in my garden with all the long-eared "pest animals."


Blue Mistflower grows best in sun and part shade, and prefers moist soil, according to The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It's hardy in USDA zones 5 to 10, blooms in midsummer to first frost, and grows to a height of one to three feet.


mistflower stages

misflower blooming 1

This is a lovely plant, and I'm hoping that adding Alliums around the perimeter will help keep the rabbits away. Then maybe I can get rid of the ugly fencing. I'll let you know next year. Thanks to Tammy for sharing some of her lovely Blue Mistflower plants!

Stay tuned for more plant-swapping results to come in the next growing season. Do you plant-swap? Any particularly special plants you've shared with or received from friends?