October 31, 2013

Happy Birthday, PlantPostings!

A belated birthday celebration:
PlantPostings marked three years and 232 posts on Oct. 25, 2013.


October 28, 2013

I'm just a wandering homebody


I've just returned from a trip to London. If you follow Helene's blog at Graphicality-UK (and I highly recommend it, because it's an excellent blog and her garden is amazing!), you know that I had the pleasure of visiting Helene. More on that visit soon, but I want to do the post justice after I've had a chance to look through all the photos and reflect a bit.

I was thinking of  a way to tie the London trip to my monthly post about John Muir when I came across this interview with Muir about his world travels. If you take the time (five to 10 minutes) to read the inverview, I think you'll find it interesting and entertaining.

Are you like John Muir? Do you feel healthier at home or away from home? Indoors our outdoors?

I'm the opposite of Muir, and yet the same. While I love traveling and feel fortunate to have visited many fascinating places, it always takes me a couple of days to adjust after reaching my destination, and then again after returning home.

But I do agree with Muir that travel is well worth the time and investment. It opens one's eyes to new places and people (and plants), and instills a greater sense of tolerance. You realize that people in different cultures and locales really aren't that different, afterall. I also heartily agree that whether near home or far away, we all benefit from being outdoors!

We spent a lot of time outside in London, as the weather was mild and pleasant for most of the time. In addition to my visit with Helene, I plan to share several other trip highlights soon. I left home just before the first killing frost here in my garden. I figured I'd come back to brown, dead plants and flowers. So as I snapped photos of creative container plantings, unique plants, and artistic garden designs, I did so with a feeling of nostalgia and wistfulness for the growing season just passed.





But comicly (at least I thought it was humorous), when I stepped out of the terminal at O'Hare Airport ... there were more magnificent potted plants still blooming and very healthy.

Terrible photo taken at night with my iPhone, but you get the idea.

Better yet, when I got home I saw that the Begonias, Umbrella Grass, and Swiss Chard in my own planters were still alive--even though they weren't covered, watered, or cared for while I was gone. Ha!


It felt good to be home! Unlike John Muir, I feel very comfortable nestling into my comfy little home--at least until the next big adventure!

We had a great time in London seeing the sights, visiting a few gardens, and most of all--spending time together as a family in a very exciting city.

October 19, 2013

Plant of the month: Lantana camara

Warning: This post is full of hot, bright colors!



Why am I posting about Lantanas in October? Because I'm amazed they bloomed nonstop in my garden for six months straight! As I mentioned in my last post, Lantana camara already has a spot in my garden plans for 2014.



All the photos in this post were captured either in my Wisconsin garden or in New Orleans. I didn't separate them because it doesn't really matter--same plant, same beautiful shape and colors! There are many cultivars of Lantana, and many of the photos here are of 'Sunrise Rose Improved.'



Lantana is a tropical plant, winter-hardy to USDA zones 9-11, and native to Central and South America, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Sometimes called Shrub Verbena, Spanish Flag, or Bacon and Eggs, it's invasive in parts of the southern U.S. In New Orleans, I saw it growing all over the place.

Throughout most of the U.S., however, it's an easy-care, bright annual that (I now know) blooms from first planting of bedding plants to the first frost. It prefers full sun, the leaves are somewhat fragrant, and it attracts butterflies and other pollinators. Under optimal conditions, it grows 3 ft. to 4 ft. tall and 1 ft. to 3 ft. wide. It's also drought-tolerant and grows in medium to sandy soil.


Plus, it looks great planted near Salvia.


I'll be dreaming of Lantanas during the long, cold months ahead...




(Note: I'm taking a short break during the next few days. I might visit blogs here and there, but I'll be back and active in about a week. Thanks for your camaraderie, fellow gardeners and bloggers!)

October 14, 2013

October color beyond my expectations


Well, I was wrong.

Last month for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day (GBBD), I mentioned I didn’t think I’d have many blooms for October’s celebration. But my garden hasn't frosted yet!

It’s definitely getting colder around here and some of the local valleys just had a killing frost. Meanwhile some of my blooming plants are doing better now than they did all summer. The last hurrah, I guess.


Torenia 'Magenta Moon,' for example, underperformed all summer. I bought it as a substitute annual for Impatiens after hearing about the spread of downy mildew in the U.S. I’m not sure I’ll plant Torenia again, even though it's pretty right now. (Note: This was sold as a shade-loving Torenia, so it should have been happy here.)



At the beginning of the summer, I bought New Guinea Impatiens for my front-porch pots. They all died—must have been a bad lot. So, I replaced them in late June with Begonias (B. semperflorens), and they’re lush and healthy right now.


After posting about Lamium just about every GBBD for months on end, I decided to give it a rest in 2013—until now. Lamium (L. maculatum) blooms longer in my garden than any other plant—from April (sometimes March) through November.


Of course, Stonecrop Sedum ('Autumn Joy')  is fabulous now. And it will be lovely right through November. I leave the dried seed heads up all winter for the birds and for winter interest.


Marigolds (Tagetes patula 'Sunburst Yellow Splash') aren't my favorites, but they look pretty in a pot with Sweet Alyssum. Plus, they attract butterflies and other pollinators, and they tend to repel rabbits, chipmunks, and insects that are harmful to potager plants.


Have I mentioned my love for Cosmos (C. bipinnatus 'Versailles Mix')? I could go on and on, but that would be ridiculous.


A few Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) still remain, but they’re lovely at any stage--fresh, dried, buds, or seedheads.


The Fuchsias ('Marinka') are still happy, even though their winged friends, the hummingbirds, have migrated south.


Unfortunately, my Mums (unknown hybrid sport) aren’t looking good at all. After a spectacular show last autumn, they seem to be dwindling. I’ve never pampered them or pinched them or encouraged them in any way in the past. Maybe the effects of last year’s drought are showing now. I might transplant what’s left of them into one spot and rethink that area of the garden.


So many bloggers have raved about Asters, and now they're starting to grow on me. I purchased my first one (A. novae-angliae ‘Vibrant Dome’) the other day. I sort of bought it on a whim to replace of some of the Mums out front, but decided to plant it in the back garden so I’ll be able to see any butterflies that come to nectar on it next year.



I’m including Foliage Follow-Up coverage in this post, and one of the standouts is Ornamental Kale (Brassica oleracea). My display near the pond won’t win any awards, but maybe next year I’ll invest in some fancy matching pots.

And finally, I thought it would be fun to review the “new” plants I added to the garden back in May. How have they fared?


Umbrella Grass (Cyperus involucratus 'Baby Tut') is another one of those plants that looks better now than it has all season. I’m curious to see if it will hang on past the first frost later this week. It’s in the same pots with the Begonias. I recently added some Swiss Chard, too. Depending on what survives through the end of the month, it could make for an interesting Halloween display.



The lovely, lovely Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea 'Camelot Lavendar') were gorgeous during the first part of the summer. I also planted some seeds in June, which added seedling plants at the base. Since Foxgloves are biennials, hopefully I’ll have blooms again for the next few years.



I caught the Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) just in the nick of time--before it spewed seeds all over the neighborhood (not that I would mind, but the neighbors might not appreciate it). I’ve harvested some of the seeds, and I'll sprinkle some near the existing clump...without the cottony fibers, so they won’t travel.


The Swamp Milkweed in the pot didn’t do so well. It was spindly for lack of sun, and the slugs took over early in the summer. Maybe I’ll cut it back and experiment a little. The Butterfly Weed on the sunny side of the house is either dormant or dead. I'll find out next spring.



Lantanas (L. camera 'Sunrise Rose Improved') were great fun this summer, and the pollinators loved them. I will plant Lantanas again next summer, for sure.



Golden Hops (Humulus lupulus 'Aureus') is fading now, but it looked great draped around the obelisk all summer. No cones this year, but apparently it can take a couple of years for it to produce.



And finally, finally…success with re-establishing Clematis ('Nelly Moser')! The two plants trained on the trellises filled in nicely. They’re looking a little messy now as they go dormant, but apparently my multilayer chicken wire barriers worked to keep the rabbits out. Hopefully, the Clematises will be back again next year with even more vigor!

Unfortunately, many of these blooms (and green foliage) will be gone by the end of this week, when a killing frost is forecast for the entire region. But I'm happy to be able to participate this late (for me) in the season.

To see the blooms and foliage starring in other gardens around the world this month, check out Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens and Foliage Follow-Up at Digging.