October 26, 2012

When life gives you Oak leaves...

Sometimes the events, people, and happenings of life--like ordinary Oak leaves--scatter uncontrollably in a messy, unkempt mass.

Other times, as we attempt to take control, life appears a little more orderly and predictable.

But do any of us really have any control over either the big picture...

or the details?

To make sense of the whole big mess,

sometimes it helps to slow down,

and separate life's elements into smaller pieces.

Because examining life's memories one by one can be a rewarding, clarifying, and satisfying endeavor.

Each day, hour, and moment has its own beauty and its own flaws.

Even the imperfections, themselves, are striking. And they can point us in exciting new directions.

Often, the splashy, dazzling, seemingly "important" parts of life...

in retrospect, aren't nearly as treasured as simple memories with our closest loved-ones.

The most mundane events of life--like unassuming, brown Oak leaves--are worth examining more closely for their greater meanings and their under-appreciated beauty.

Most of all, a satisfying life goes beyond a big rush to put everything in neat piles and take control.

Because quite often, just when we think we have it all solved, controlled, and figured out, the next day or the next big gust of wind blows our orderly plan into a messy, unkempt mass once again.

Time to surrender...

and delight in the unexpected, simple moments of grace.

* * * * * *

Today is the second anniversary of PlantPostings' existence. I recently received a solicitation suggesting I could "breathe new life into the content" I created for my "old blog." Is a two-year-old blog an "old blog"? Have any of you received this same solicitation? Perhaps it's a good topic for a future post.

(Note: After reading some of your comments, I must add a disclaimer that my research leads me to believe the solicitation is an honest attempt to try a new platform. I was just curious about the funny wording. I wasn't really offended, just curious.)

But today I'm kicking up my heels and toasting two years of interacting with so many truly incredible bloggers and gardeners. Cheers! And thank you most warmly!

October 22, 2012

Plant of the month: Sedum kamtschaticum

My garden is a mess. Or perhaps a gentler way to describe it is that it's in a very "naturalistic" stage.

We spent the weekend raking piles of (mostly) Oak leaves and hauling them into the woods to decompose. Unfortunately Oak trees have an annoying tendency to drop their leaves in stages. The ground is littered again, and some of the leaves won't drop until winter. After years of Octobers and Novembers, I've come to accept that the garden won't look tidy again until springtime.

One plant that still looks presentable is Sedum kamtschaticum, sometimes known by the common names Gold Sedum, Trailing Sedum, Low Stonecrop, or Orange Stonecrop. I can't remember how I got started with this plant, but I certainly found the perfect spot for it--growing in cracks between boulders in a stone wall.

How do plants grow in such places?

While it certainly is not currently at its best, Gold Sedum is among the few plants in my garden that aren't dormant, dead, or scraggly. In addition to the fact that this cultivar grows well on, and gives character to, the stone wall, it also helps to reduce erosion. It doesn't seem to repel the chipmunks, but I think it slows down their digging.

Here are some facts about Gold Sedum from two main sources--the Missouri Botanical Garden and North Carolina State University:

  • Plant hardiness: zones 3 to 9;
  • Lighting preference: full sun to partial shade;
  • Soil conditions: tolerates poor soils, but prefers well-drained, moist soils;
  • Water requirements: drought-tolerant succulent;
  • Bloom time: late spring in northern climates;
  • Colors: Bright, golden flowers and bright green foliage that turns reddish in late fall.

In my personal experience, this Sedum cultivar grows well on a north-facing slope that receives some morning and afternoon sun. I often transplant sprigs of it on a whim--simply lifting (by the roots) sections that seem overcrowded, and placing them in bare spots along the wall. They transplant well with next to no care.

When in bloom, they add bursts of color along the gray wall.

When the flowers fade, the fruits are nearly as interesting with their star-shaped clusters.

And the succulent foliage looks delightful during three seasons...especially when coated with raindrops or dew.

October 19, 2012

A little light reading for my favorite plant nerds

A Photographic Guide…

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: DK Publishing Inc.
Published: 2000
Price: Varies widely

Sometimes I'm amazed at the price ranges for books published many years ago. Why would people spend $141.70 USD on a book when they can get it for $0.01 USD, plus shipping?

Especially when it's a helpful reference book about perennials. Such is the case through several online booksellers for the book, “Perennials: A Photographic Guide to More Than 1,000 Plants By Type, Size, Season of Interest, and Color.” It’s a long title, but an apt description for a very helpful and enjoyable guidebook. I see that several DK updates are available, as well.

Personally, I wouldn’t pay $141.70 for it, but $0.01, plus shipping for a hardcover book is a steal, even if it is used. And last I checked, 14 new copies were available online for $1.19.

But enough about the pricing. This is one of my go-to books when I want to identify a plant, check out the zone, or read about its native habitat or preferred growing conditions. The book is organized by large, medium, and small perennials; and further segmented by color within each section.

That pattern is broken a bit when numerous cultivars are described, like the section on Daylilies.

Front and back sections describe mixed planting suggestions, propagation techniques, and routine care. The index is organized by Latin names, which is good practice for me. The book is available through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, among others.

Sometimes I page through this book (along with several other plant guides) on a cold, snowy weekend (or any other day, really) just for fun. Understandable, right?
I’m linking in to Holley’s Garden Book Review meme at Roses and Other Gardening Joys.

Thanks for hosting, Holley.

October 14, 2012

Strange tales of sun, sports, and assymetry

When I downloaded this image from my camera I thought, "No one will believe this is real." But it is.

Quercus alba

I used the camera's digital zoom for a close shot of the sun hitting and shining through White Oak leaves near the canopy of a large, old Oak tree. I did crop the photo a bit. But I didn't adjust the exposure or tint in any way. It shows how, on a sunny day and at certain angles, Oak leaves are every bit as vibrant as Maple leaves.

Quercus alba leaves and trunk

The shot above is a different one--without zoom--of the same leaves and the tree at a greater distance to show that it really did happen.

Morning sun shining through Cercis canadensis foliage

Many of our trees' leaves have fallen or blown off with the wind and rain. But not before I snapped a few images showing the effects of strange light angles, mutations, and pigment imbalances.

Uneven sunlight effects on Syringa meyeri

The Dwarf Korean Lilac bush had a diagonal line running through the middle of its foliage. I'm guessing the reason was that one side was shaded by the house, while the other was exposed to more sun throughout the day. Weird, but fascinating, isn't it?

Mixed hues on Berberis thunbergii

The same kind of thing happened with the Pygmy Barberry. Part of this might be due to stress: The rust-colored leaves are near the driveway.

Forsythia 'Courtasol' frost-nipped?

Perhaps frost nipped the tops of the Dwarf Forsythia, yielding uneven foliage coloration?

Variegated foliage on Dendranthema grandiflora

I don't know why the leaves on some of my Mums are discolored while their neighbors are still green--stress, maybe?

Dendranthema grandiflora "sport"

If you clicked on this post for sports coverage based on the headline, this flower is all I have to offer. Sorry about that. I've been wondering why some of my Mums changed from yellow to pink. Research brought me to this webpage describing this phenomenon: "Sports: Plant Mutations."

Several other links I came across while researching this post effectively explain the science of foliage coloration and autumn plant changes:

It's fascinating stuff about the chemical and biological changes that take place in "simple" leaves.

Switching gears a bit, I'm honored that Jason and Judy at Gardinacity nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger award. To accept the award, I'm supposed to name seven interesting facts about myself. "Interesting" is a subjective thing, but here goes:

1. I nearly died as an infant. I forget if it was because of a bad case of pneumonia or my allergy to penicillin.
2. I'm distantly related to former Pres. Millard Fillmore and TV journalist Tom Brokaw.
3. My maternal grandmother was a Baptist preacher when female clergy were uncommon.
4. My paternal English great-grandfather and his family had planned to sail for and resettle in Australia, but got on a ship to America instead.
5. I have strong digestive reactions to Cantaloupe, Broccoli, and Avocado, but I don't know why. All were favorites before I figured out which foods were triggers.
6. Favorite food: BLT, but only with fresh garden Tomatoes and Lettuce.
7. Favorite classical piece: Symphony No. 2 in D major, by Jean Sibelius.

I'm supposed to nominate others for this award. As my blogroll is down because of warnings on the Web about sidebar spam, I nominate all bloggers who are my favorites on Blotanical. The blogroll will be back up soon--with even more wonderful blogs listed!

Thanks for the honor, Jason and Judy!

(I'm linking in with Pam's Foliage Follow-Up with this post. Thanks for hosting, Pam!)

October 09, 2012

A salute to the survivors

I was away from home this past weekend, and thought I'd find plant devastation and carnage upon my return. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of my annuals and vegetable plants were still alive. They're not thriving, of course, after several overnight lows near freezing and daytime highs in the 40°F to 50°F range. But isn't it incredible when plants flirt with death, and somehow manage to survive?

The Cosmos seed heads are particularly lovely. The plants haven't frozen yet, so the heads seem pregnant with hope for the future. Wouldn't they be excellent in a floral arrangement or potpourri?

The potted Impatiens seem happy with the cooler temperatures as long as I keep them watered. I know we'll have a hard freeze soon...and they'll be gone. So tending and enjoying them is a bittersweet endeavor.

Fuchsias in hanging baskets are distracting me from the falling Oak leaves littering the lawn.

This poor little Tomato isn't big enough to harvest and doesn't stand a chance. Still, there's something beautiful and hopeful in its clinging to life over the wire cage.

And then there are the Zinnias and the Cosmos. I will surely miss them during the next seven months...

Fortunately, the harvested and dried Hydrangeas I nursed along during the brutal summer will remind me: Mild weather will return again someday.

Ah, that's why I watered them every day for weeks on end...