November 30, 2012

Lessons Learned: Autumn 2012


I joined the ranks of the self-employed in September. Like all work arrangements, there are benefits and drawbacks. One of the biggest benefits is that I have a little more time to devote to garden blogging. That makes me happy.

With the change, I've noticed a lot of my "lessons learned" this autumn have paralleled life and career lessons. Most aren't new, but are more like personal reminders. So, my entry for this season's meme is a little less practical than usual, and a little more introspective. For example:


No use crying over [fill in the blank] ... spilled milk, garden potpourri, you name it. When life takes you in unexpected directions, particularly pleasant ones, don't lament the road you previously expected to take. Just enjoy the new path. Life is too short to look back.


Really simple pleasures are absolutely the best. Why am I so pleased when I observe a brown, plain Echinacea seed head? Well, who isn't? But beyond that, I've learned to enjoy the simplest miracles--they never let me down.


Diversity is a good thing--whether we're talking potpourri, people, or special projects. I'm pleased to be working on several extremely diverse assignments. And they're keeping life fascinating and challenging.


Sometimes a dormant dream is nothing more than a promise waiting for the right time and opportunity to blossom. (Do you think this Cosmos seed head will germinate and grow if I plant it in the spring?)


Planning ahead is helpful, but be open to new experiences. If you approach life with a spirit of curiosity and hopefulness, you're more likely to be at peace with the peaks and valleys.


Take time to simply appreciate what you have, and share your joy and blessings with others.


Sometimes the seasoned, faded [fill in the blank] is just as pleasant as the first blush.


And one very practical, but sweet, new discovery: Dried seed heads from my garden create a lovely potpourri.

What lessons did you learn this autumn? Please share them by joining in this "Lessons Learned" meme. You can click here or on the tab at the top of the page, or simply share your link in the comments. Even links to past posts about your techniques, joys, and challenges are welcome.

To gardeners in the Southern Hemisphere: Happy summer!

This meme will be active until the solstice, when I'll post a wrap-up. Please also join my friend, Donna, at Gardens Eye View for her "Seasonal Celebrations" meme! And feel free to combine the two memes in one post.

November 26, 2012

It all depends on your perspective

Inspired by a post by Frances at Fairegarden about the view out her window onto her beautiful garden, I decided to show you what I see when I look into my house from my garden. (Apologies for the messy, damaged screens that I must replace next spring! But this is what I actually see.)

In the photo above, doesn't it look like Ginger is eyeing a tasty treat of miniature squashes?

But when you pull back a bit, you see that Ginger is sitting in the window, and the table with squashes is in the background.

Pulling back even further makes the true perspective clearer. (Oreo, get off that table!)

No, you can't come outside and join me in the garden. I know you're licking your chops thinking about flying and crawling critters, but you will always be an indoor cat.

Sorry, guys. The garden is for the birds, the plants, the wild animals, my guests, and me to enjoy. But you can watch! And I'll feed you when I come inside.

November 20, 2012

Plant of the month: Hibiscus

You know a plant is destined to be in your garden someday when it keeps showing up on your camera's memory card.
  • A plant you didn't think you particularly cared for, but it keeps catching your eye.
  • A plant you notice on the way to photograph another plant, but you just can't ignore it.
  • Oh, and it's photogenic.

Obviously I don't have any Hibiscus growing in my garden right now. Not much is growing in my garden right now. And actually I've never planted or tended Hibiscus. But for some reason, I can't ignore them anymore. No better time to celebrate a flamboyant plant than when the garden outside is drab and dull. These golden beauties planted near a park bench in New Orleans were an afterthought. I was snapping photos of other plants, while these guys were screaming, "Look at us! Take our picture!"

I didn't know much about Hibiscus before writing this post, since I've been trying to ignore them all these years. Why? I don't know. Maybe because I considered them too showy and bright. But now I'm surrendering and admitting they're simply...spectacular.

According to American Meadows, there are two main types of Hibiscus--tropical and hardy varieties. The tropicals are native to Asia and the Pacific islands, and can be grown in some areas of the U.S. as shrubs or annuals. The hardy varieties, on the other hand, survive as perennials in climates as cold as USDA zone 4!

There are hundreds of species of Hibiscus, according to an article about Hawaiian tropical flowers.

I believe this vibrant showstopper is a tropical variety of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, commonly known as Chinese Hibiscus.

It was growing as a hedge between the sidewalk and a stately home in New Orleans' garden district.

This graceful beauty looks to be a variety of the hardy Hibiscus moscheutos, commonly called Swamp Mallow or Rose Mallow. Although it can be grown as a perennial in cold climates, it also tolerates extreme heat. I photographed these Hibiscus blooms on one of the hottest days of the summer in Branson, Mo. I believe the high temperature was 107 that day, and these shots were taken in the late morning.

All Hibiscus plants prefer sunny locations--in short supply in my garden. But maybe I can find a spot with dappled sunlight. Or maybe a sunny spot in my next garden...

I'm linking in with Dozen for Diana at Elephant's Eye. Check out her blog for plant recommendation from gardeners around the world.


Happy Thanksgiving!

November 15, 2012

November: more vibrant than I remember

If I had to rank the months in my Wisconsin garden, generally November would be toward the bottom of the list. But sometimes I'm bowled over when I set low expectations.

For example, the sun glinting through the layers of an ornamental Kale (Brassica oleracea) caught me by surprise the other day. This is the first year I've planted it, but I'm thinking this will be a recurring late-autumn choice from here on out. The colder weather brings out the more vibrant colors of the Kale. And I've seen these beauties around town through December in previous years--brightening up the landscape until the subzero weather hits.

Surprisingly, I still had enough Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) blooming the other day to pick a small bouquet. They're not at their prettiest, but they're nice enough in a small bud vase. We've had a lot of overnight frosts and freezes, but these beauties are planted near the house on the west side--where the afternoon sun bakes the soil and sustains life even under the winter snow.

If you live in a cool climate but want blooms for most of the year, Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum) is a sure bet. I probably should stop mentioning this plant in my Bloom Day posts. But it's among the very few plants in my garden that actually flower nine months out of the year.

As the more exposed foliage of Lamium meets the frozen wind, it shifts to interesting shades of burgundy and brown.

Autumn Joy Stonecrop (Sedum spectabile) pleases the eye even in the depths of November. Its delectable wine-colored flower heads complement the golden and fading stems and foliage underneath.

Another Stonecrop (Sedum kamtschaticum) shifts from green to shades of gold, peach, and pink before taking a winter rest.

I have no Rose buds or blooms to offer, but this healthy branch of foliage is stunning in its simplicity.

Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) and Lupines (Lupinus polyphyllus)--residing with the Snapdragons in the warm western microclimate--appear confused. Should they go to sleep, or stretch out with new growth?

Bishop's Weed (Aegopodium podagraria) is still green, blanketed in the embrace of fallen Oak leaves.

Dwarf Forsythia (Forsythia viridissima) and Alpine Currant (Ribes alpinum) are tinged with frost damage and losing their battles with the cold. But their golden hues are brilliant in the afternoon light.

Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) has lost most of its leaves, although a few still cling stubbornly to delight the eye.

Rockspray Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis) is at its loveliest--with bright red fruits adorning its multicolored branches.

Evergreen Iris fans anticipate a warm blanket of snow.

And the glorious Barberry (Berberis vulgaris), that I probably should dig out because of its invasive reputation, seems to plead for its place in my garden. No other plant is more brilliant in this November landscape.

I guess November is more vibrant than I remember. I might have to move it up in the rankings.

Special thanks--particularly appropriate this month--goes to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and Pam at Digging for hosting Foliage Follow Up.

November 10, 2012

Announcing the results of the Italy garden tours survey...

Nearly three months ago, I wrote a post about Italy. I announced that a friend who provides guided tours to the land of great food and wine was interested in planning a garden tour. I posted a survey asking fellow gardeners to express their interests in such a trip.

I'm happy to report there was enough interest that we're moving forward with the planning!

Here, my dear gardening friends, are the results:

Italy Garden Tours Interest Survey

On a scale of 1 to 10 how interested are you in a garden tour of Italy?
Rating average: 8.11

Which dates work best for you?
Summer 2013
Spring 2014
Summer 2014

Please suggest gardens/locales you’d like to see.
Gardens of Ninfa.
Classic Italian gardens. New ideas in Italian gardening.
Mediterranean coast.
I don’t have any in mind. I would be flexible.
I’d like to see Ninfa.
Ninfa. Hanbury. Villa San Michele.
Sicily, Sienna, Pompei…
Amalfi coast, Tuscany, Lakes area.
I really want to see Tuscany/Umbria area, but am open to anything really…I do not know much about the gardens in Italy. I also wanted to see the Venice area…I have a couple of blogger friends there, so we might get some ideas from them if you want me to ask.

In addition to garden viewing, what other activities would you like included in the tour?
Historical sites and museums
Wine tours
Cooking classes
Other comments:
A spa day.
I think shopping just happens and some hiking, but a nasty knee and ankle limit it now…hoping to be able to hike a bit by then.

Which accommodation option do you prefer?
Stay in one hotel and take day trips to our destinations.
Stay in 2-3 hotels to cover several distinct areas of Italy.
Other comments:
Changing hotels is no big deal if the day trips are too long.
I had always thought about the one hotel but that does limit you to one area…we may need to go to a couple of hotels if we want to expand our locales.

Thanks for this feedback, which will help us plan the trip. If you completed the survey, you'll automatically receive news and updates. If you didn't complete the survey, but would like to stay up-to-date, please send me a note at plantpostings[at]gmail[dot]com.

It's looking like the trip will occur in spring or summer of 2014. Most of the other logistics are still pending. But take a look at this video about the Gardens of Ninfa, and let me know what you think:

November 01, 2012

Garden confessions

Do you neglect any of your plants or sections of your garden? Of course you don't!

But, alas, I must confess that I do. One example is a grouping of Chrysanthemums I've sorely neglected since we moved here 13 years ago.

I know I'm supposed to pinch, divide, and winter-protect Mums, but...well...yeah, I've pretty much ignored them beyond a little watering and cutting back in the fall.

I don't know why. Maybe it's because I take them for granted and they've always survived. Or because they're so underappreciated by many gardeners (kind of like Hostas that way). Or because they flower when I'm spending most of my time inside reading books or preparing for the holidays.

OK, enough with the excuses! I'm just a poor Mum gardener!

So, it surprised me this year when I noticed how pretty they are--maybe the prettiest they've ever been. When we moved here, they were all bright yellow. The kind of sunny, perky color that you can't witness without smiling.

But as I reported in a previous post, these Mums have developed "sports" in amazing varieties and forms! The mutations are as luscious as the original plants.

And the colorful foliage is as pretty as the flowers.

The pollinators love 'em.

The grouping looks like a planned collection of mixed varieties--but it's truly pure chance!

I'm not featuring these Mums as "plant of the month" because I have no idea what variety they are, and of course with the sports, that's even more uncertain.

Since they pleased me so much this fall, maybe I'll have to take better care of them next year.