October 31, 2014

Plant of the Month: 'Fireworks' Goldenrod


It's the last day of October, and I'm just squeaking by with a plant of the month post (scary!). This plant is not in my garden, but we planted it in a pollinator garden I worked on this past growing season.

This species of Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa) is "a variable species and is divided into two subspecies, the typical one subdivided into three varieties," according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. 'Fireworks' seemed to be later-blooming than many of the other Goldenrods in my area this season.


When it first starts blooming, the arching stems have just a hint of gold, and look like sparks of fireworks. At full-bloom, it forms a mound of lovely goldenness. The height and spread (depending on spacing) are roughly equal, at about 3 to 5 feet in both directions.

This Goldenrod grows best in sun, in medium-to-wet but well-drained soil. It's native from Ontario, Canada, south through Texas, U.S., and points east. Other nicknames include Rough, Rough-Stemmed, or Roughleaf Goldenrod.

Godenrod and Hyssop

The color and form make it a great companion to Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum).

But my favorite aspect of this beautiful late bloomer is its value to pollinators--as it attracts butterflies, and is listed by The Xerces Society as "special value" to native bees and honeybees, and it supports conservation control.

The pollinators were enjoying it late into the growing season, when it was in its full glory and many other blooming plants were fading.







October 29, 2014

Nearly wordless and blessed

(Actually, the four-year blogoversary was Oct. 25.
And this is also our 300th post. Cheers!)

October 23, 2014

One Tiny Corner of Kew Gardens


If the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London, is on your bucket list and you've never visited before, that's good news and bad news.

The good news: It's well worth the trip and the visit.

The bad news? You won't have enough time to see it all. A person could visit Kew every day for a year and still find something new. Covering 132 hectares (326 acres), Kew's beginnings as a botanical garden date to 1759, when Princess Augusta, mother of King George III, started developing a small (3.6 hectares) scientific botanic garden. In 2003, Kew Gardens was put on the Unesco World Heritage list.

Kew Map

When my family traveled to London last October to visit my daughter who was studying there, Kew was definitely one of the highlights. But we had only a few hours for the tour. Consequently, we saw just one tiny corner of the botanic garden (roughly emphasized in the lower right, northeast, corner of the map above). Now, of course, I must go back someday!

Palm House

We lucked out the day of our visit--the sky was partly cloudy, with enough sun to keep us warm, but not too much brightness to wash out the color. We entered the gardens at the Victoria Gate, and one of the first things we saw was the Palm House across from the Palm House Pond--a remnant of Kew's original lake.

I knew Kew was big, and I knew we had limited time. And because it was such a lovely day, we headed toward the northeast corner--my guess for areas of particular personal interest.


One of the first plants that caught my eye was this lovely specimen Mahonia plant. I believe it was a hybrid (Mahonia x media).

Gunnera manicata

Nearby was a dramatic patch of Chile Rhubarb (Gunnera manicata).

Gunnera manicata 2

Although not at its peak, I'm showing this rambling photo so you can see how large the foliage was and how large the patch of Gunnera. It was a commanding presence at the shore of the pond.

Epimedium pinnatum

From the Palm House Pond, we headed toward the Woodland Garden. Barrenworts (Epimedium spp.) of various species lined the path, providing plentiful groundcover throughout the wooded sections of Kew.

Actaea alba

In the Woodland Garden, I was surprised to see many North American native plants I was familiar with, among other plants of interest. One example was White Baneberry (Actaea alba).

Other woodland plants included:

Camelia japonica

Large hedgerows of Camellias (C. japonica);

Astrantia major 'Rubra'

Masterwort (Astrantia major 'Rubra');

Lapageria rosea

And a lovely wall lined with Chilean Bell Flowers (Lapageria rosea).

Somewhere between the woodland garden and the plant family beds, were assorted other curious and beautiful plants, including:

Cardiocrinum giganteum

Giant Lilies (Cardiocrinum giganteum var. yunnanense) which had formed commanding seedheads;

Tricyrtis formosana

Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis formosana);

Geranium himalayense

Various Geraniums, including this stunning beauty from the Himalayas (Geranium himalayense);

Nerine bowdenii

And Cape Lilies (Nerine bowdenii 'Mark Fenwick').

Fields Statue

Throughout Kew, there were numerous statuaries, including this bronze of a young farmer, titled, "Out in the Fields."

Plant family beds

A particularly fascinating section of Kew, for me, was the Plant Family Beds--originally a kitchen garden that supplied produce for the royals. Today, the plants in this section are grouped together in families, with information about those families, and genuses and species. It's a botanist's paradise. I could have spend the entire day (or more) in this section, alone.

Just a small sampling of the huge selection of plants here:

Polygonum coriaceum

Knotgrass (Polygonum coriaceum);

Trollius X cultorum

And 'Orange Crest' Trollius (T. X cultorum).

Rosa 'Pauls Lemon Pillar'

Down the middle of the Plant Family Beds was the Rose Pergola--which I can only imagine must be stunning in late spring and summer. It was lovely in autumn, too, and I saw some of the largest Rose hips I've ever seen. I may be exaggerating, but I remember these being the size of small apples--like two inches in diameter. I believe this particular Rose was 'Paul's Lemon Pillar,' if my photo records are correct.

Bonsai Collage

Next, we travelled through the Bonsai House. It always amazes me to see common trees I'm familiar with grown as miniatures in such an artful way.


We decided to eat lunch at the Orangery Restaurant, which turned out to be an excellent choice. The food was fresh, delicious, and reasonably priced. Plus, the building, constructed in 1761, previously was actually a hothouse for growing citrus plants. As a restaurant, it was a bright, cheerful, light-filled refreshment stop, with great views out onto the gardens.

Kew sign

Outside the Orangery we saw the timeline showing key highlights of Kew's history, including this sign and the stone shown at the beginning of this post, among others.

Along the paths between the Orangery and surrounding garden areas were unique tree species, including:

Araucaria araucana

The Monkey Puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana);

Wollemi nobilis

And this Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis), planted by Prince Philip to commemorate Kew's 250th anniversary in 2009.

After lunch, we spent some time in the Grass Garden, which I profiled shortly after our trip last year. (You can click on the link for that post.)


Turk's Turban

It was fun to see seasonal produce that had grown at Kew on display, with educational information for children and adults. The theme last fall was "IncrEdibles: A Voyage Through Autumn's Edible Delights."

We finished out the day winding through the Secluded Garden, the Duke's Garden, and other sections on our way back to the Victoria gate to catch The Tube back to our hotel. Here are a few of the lovelies that greeted us:

Colchicum autumnale

Autumn Crocuses (Colchicum spp.);

Dahlias and Eucomis comosa

A lovely combination of Dahlias (hybrid unknown) and Pineapple Lilies (Eucomis comosa);

S. involucrata 'Bethellii'

Rose Leaf Sage (Salvia infolucrata 'Bethellii'), which I seem to remember being popular with the pollinators;


A beautiful little statuary in a pond;


More incredibly vibrant hybrid Dahlias;

Acer and succulents

A majestic Japanese Maple (Acer palmitum) at peak color;


And a stunning wall of grapevines that looked luscious and tasty (we did not sample them, but they looked fabulous).

I didn't post about this visit until now for various reasons. But the timing seems right for the season. Looking back at these photos has me nostalgic: I do hope I can get back to Kew at some point.

October 16, 2014

Gathering sweet memories of October beauty


During the past few days, I've been attempting to capture a few memories of this incredible October we're experiencing. Words seem insufficient to accurately describe it. So, here's a nearly wordless tour of my community's autumn color in no particular order:

three flower maple



amsonia combo

apple serviceberry

arb maples

down street

green space 2


green space

japanese maple

lilac and maple

maple bluff

lilac maple2






mountain ash



All photos were taken in Madison and McFarland, Wis. I'm linking in with Pam Penick's Foliage Follow-Up meme and Christina's Garden Bloggers Foliage Day meme. Head on over to their blogs to see fabulous foliage displays from around the world.