November 23, 2020

Secret Places and Simple Pleasures

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Recently the dog and I hiked at one of our favorite places. Several things about this location are special, starting with the fact that I wouldn't have known this beautiful place existed if I didn't have a dog. It's a designated dog trail at a Wisconsin state park near my house. When the park's other trails are closed during the cross-country skiing season, this trail remains open to dogs and hikers. While I've hiked at the state park many, many times over the years, I didn't discover this particular path until last winter!

Every time I've visited this trail since January, it has revealed new gems of beauty.

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During our recent mid-November hike here, I found myself awed by the mature trees that line the trail.

ferns

Ferns, mosses, lichens, and sedges are still evergreen among the carpet of Oak leaves.

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A particularly magical patch of the trail is hard to describe in photos and words, but I'll try: It's a little opening, about 3/4 of the way through the path, where the woodland opens into a meadow. My impression is that this section illustrates the movement of the glacier that formed the nearby lake.

woodland hill

On one side of the trail, there's a hill that appears to be a glacial drumlin.

meadow and lake

On the other side of the trail, at the woodland opening, there's a beautiful meadow with a view of the lake. One senses how the retreating glacier formed this area.

seedheads and trees

The light is magical in this meadow--in all seasons, but particularly in spring and autumn and late afternoon, as the oblique light hits the grasses, sedges, wildflowers, and seedheads.

meadow

On this recent day at the park, the sky was beautiful, too. Seedheads of asters, goldenrods, and other autumn-blooming plants were sparkling--backlit by the low-hanging sun.

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seedheads 1

sun

meadow view

I love this place. I'm thankful I discovered it, and I'm thankful that Nicky and I can walk here just about any day we wish. Simple pleasures are so important during a global pandemic. I hope you all are finding simple pleasures, and I wish for those who celebrate it, a very Happy Thanksgiving!

November 15, 2020

Surprise November Blooms

Dog Park View Landscape
The November view at my favorite dog park.

It's mid-November and most views in the surrounding landscapes are brown and gray, with spots of green grass red barns here and there. Just imagine the color in this field of native plants during summer and fall. Now most of the grasses and forbs have gone to seed.

mums

But there are a few blooms hanging on here and there in area gardens and in nature. In my garden, the blooms of note include this surprise potted Mum (Chrysanthemum morifolium) from a mixed planter we received earlier in the year. I plopped it into the ground with low expectations, so I was thrilled to see the pretty blooms in early fall. They've lasted through several frosts and freezes now.

mistflower

Most of the Blue Mistflowers (Conoclinium coelestinum) are gone to seed, but these blooms in a vase on the screened porch still sport that lovely shade of lavender blue. I have to admit the soft, fluffy, "warm" seedheads slay me even more than the flowers.

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The 'Autumn Joy' Sedums (Hylotelephium telephium) are transitioning, too. I found this one chewed off by a rabbit, so I plugged it back in among the autumn leaves.

calamintha

This tiny fighter is Calamintha (C. nepeta). Again, most have gone to seed, but a few stems near the warm house still bloom! Actually, this pollinator favorite blooms from late spring until the very end of the growing season.

What's blooming in your garden? Check out those highlighted for this November Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

October 17, 2020

A Vibrant End to the Growing Season

asters and goldenrod

It's been a colorful October...

prairie plants at dog park

...starting with the bright pastels of the New World asters and the goldenrods, brightening up the prairies with colors that seemed unreal in their vibrance, like a child's watercolor painting.

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angelonia

cosmos

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The annuals in the cutting garden seemed to glow, too, including cultivars of Zinnias, Cosmos, and Angelonias.

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monarch 3

monarch 6

About a week ago, when I thought the monarchs were long gone, I saw one floating on the breeze and then landing on the Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia 'Goldfinger'). The light was pleasant as the butterfly seemed at home on the bright orange blooms.

maple leaves

maple leaf

grasses

fleabane

rudbeckia

wild parsnip

A hike this past week at the nearby state park shared its beauty of the warm maple foliage, rainbow-colored grasses, and a few remaining blooming forbs, including the lovely, but toxic-to-humans Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa).

maple trees

Now, mid-month we've hit peak fall color and the maples are aflame.

This is one of the most beautiful months of the year in my part of the world. The autumn season is too short, but it pops with color just before the freezing temperatures and winds take out what's left before winter sets in. I'm trying to live in the moment.

October 09, 2020

Happy 10th Anniversary, PlantPostings!

Ten years ago, I started this blog. I'm reminiscing lately: So much has happened in our world in that time, and so many plants have come and gone from my garden. I've learned so much in the garden and beyond. And as long as I garden, I'll learn something new every day and every year, which is a pleasure.

It's fun to look back and compare. One of my first posts describes the setting here, and that hasn't changed much. We've lost a few trees and so have our neighbors, while other trees have grown taller.

This all has changed the garden frame a bit, but the basic setting is about the same.

2010: More grass, fewer groundcovers, same and different trees

2020: More plants, less grass, a pond, same and different trees

In another early post, I decried the rabbits and mentioned my future dog ... which we did adopt eight years later (in December 2019). As described in that post, I'm still sticking with daffodils instead of tulips (except in pots).

Reminiscing is fun, especially with 10 years of posts to glance through. I'd say I'm looking forward to 10 more (and I am!), but who knows what blogging will look like 10 years from now. Will people still visit? Does it matter?

Which brings me to the most important part: Developing friendships with other plant-loving bloggers and communicators. These are among the most fulfilling friendships of my life because we share the same hobby/passion/pastime. As long as blogging (or something like it) is still alive and people are continuing to share ideas and updates about their plants and gardens, I want to be part of it.

Back in December 2010, I wrote about these special people:

"As I look ahead to 2011, I do so with hopeful anticipation. And a good portion of it is due to the new plant-loving, pleasant, lovely friends I’ve made through garden blogging. I’ve always known that gardeners are generous people. But I had no idea how many great people I’d meet through ... reading and commenting on fellow bloggers’ posts.

It’s interesting, actually, how most of our blogs are not about people at all, but about our garden successes, failures, and tips and tricks. But it’s the sharing of these that makes the gardening and the blogging so very rewarding."

Yes, this is what it's all about. Thanks, friends, for all these years of fun and garden-sharing conversations!

September 23, 2020

Surrendering to Seeds

lobelia
Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), one of several plants I'll try to grow from seed for next year's garden.

In this season of senescence, I've made a decision about one of the garden plots on our property. It's an area where the wild woods meet the cultivated garden beds. It's an island and focal point in the middle of the backyard. It's filled with an evergreen ground cover of Pachysandra (P. terminalis). It offers dappled sun/shade to plants throughout the day.

And it's infested with rabbits.

I say this because I've spent too much time and money trying to get plants started in this part of the garden. The list of consumed/destroyed plants, gallons of rabbit repellent, and rabbit stories is too long to include here. So, let's just say it's time to surrender.

First of all, I'm not unhappy with the basic framework of this garden area.

ferns

The ferns are lush and lovely in the late spring and early summer.

alliums

Especially when joined by the giant Alliums in late May through early July.

swamp milkweed

In mid-summer, Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) has shown promise here, too, although the past couple of years have been marginal for this plant in this particular spot.

bugbane

This graceful, towering native plant, Bugbane (Actaea racemosa), will always have a summer place here. Rabbits don't touch it.

hyacinth bean

Hyacinth Bean vine (Lablab purpureus) is happy here, too, growing in a pot protected from rabbits with caging at the bottom, and growing up an obelisk.

monarda

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is a new addition to this part of the garden. It grows fine here, but the rabbits ate most of it. I scattered seeds from the few flowers that survived. Stay tuned.

surprise lilies

When summer starts to wind down, the Surprise Lilies (Lycoris squamigera) pop up through skirts of hosta foliage. Rabbits never seem to eat Lycoris.

mistflower

And as summer turns to autumn, Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) adds pops of violet to the area. Of course, the rabbits eat this plant voraciously, so it, too, must be caged. The fortunate thing about this plant is that it propagates easily from seed.

goldenrod

ZigZag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis), another rabbit favorite, has somehow found a way to survive by a thread.

My point? From now on, I will only plant species in this part of the garden that I know repel rabbits, already exist in my garden and can be transplanted, or can be grown in pots. No more investments in plants. Even the ones that rabbits supposedly don't eat often get munched to the ground. I want more color in the middle of summer, and I'm pleased with a few things that happened this year--things I'll repeat and expand on next year. 

green pots

For example, I added two pots of Impatiens and Coleus. You can barely see the green pots amid the Pachysandra. I'm planning to use more pots (and hopefully fewer rabbit-repelling caging devices) in the garden next summer.

fountain

A few new decorative items are adding color midseason, too. I really like this new glass birdbath, and I added a solar-powered fountain to it for more visual interest. Next year, the potted annual plant colors will complement it better.

I'm taking a chance with one new plant--several plugs of Golden Groundsel (Packera aurea). Everything I read about this plant says it forms dense colonies and is mammal-resistant. We'll see.

In late fall, I'll also be scattering seeds of several native plants for partial sun or shade--plants that rabbits generally don't eat, including:

Flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata)
Dutchmen's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)
Downy Wood Mint (Blephilia ciliata)
Midland Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia)
Great Blue Lobelia (L. siphilitica)
Hoary Skullcap (Scutellaria incana)

Seeds are less expensive than plants and can cover a wider area. The investment in time, effort, and expectations won't be as great.

I've surrendered to seeds.

September 06, 2020

Reflecting on Gardening Mentors

painting

Dear gardening friends: I've been holding off on blogging and visiting my favorite blogs for some time now. My mom passed in July. I won't go into the details because there's just too much. Plus, we all face death at some time or another, so you all know how difficult it is to lose someone you love. She didn't die from COVID-19, although that certainly complicated things.

Anyway, my emotions are a little ragged, life has been a little crazy, and we're still busy with this and that. I'm just now getting back to thinking about blogging. I love it, and I love your blogs, too. I do plan for many plant conversations in the months ahead!

My mom, my paternal grandmother, and my dad were my first gardening and nature influencers and mentors. Mom was a gardener (she always had beautiful borders and interesting plants) and Dad was a Boy Scout executive (he helped me appreciate nature at a very early age). (Dad is still with us, and he certainly is facing adjustments of his own.) Grandma was a gardener, plant-lover, and painter. The vase with flowers shown here was one Grandma painted, Dad framed, and Mom appreciated enough to hang on her bedroom wall. I am honored and blessed to be able to display it in my own home now to remember them all.

Thank you for being patient with me. Garden bloggers and writers are truly special. I appreciate you all!

July 10, 2020

On the Bright Side: Pots of Plenty

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Several personal and professional activities have kept me away from gardening and blogging lately, and the garden and my lack of blogging activity show it.

Fortunately, the potted plants are doing pretty well with heat, sunshine, and plenty of watering. The old standbys—potted English Ivy (Hedera helix), Purple Shamrocks (Oxalis triangularis), and 'Red Threads' Alternanthera (A. ficoidea)—are happy to be outside after overwintering in the sunroom.

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They're part of a grouping around the fish pond on the patio that creates a happy little outdoor "room" during the growing season.

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It's always pleasant when the groupings work better than expected—this one includes New Guinea Impatiens (I. hawkeri) 'Magnum Magenta,' a pot of 'Supercal Premium Bordeaux' Petunias (Petchoa cross), and 'Splish Splash' Coleus (C. scutellarioides). Surrounding foliage of Gerbera jamesonii, Chasmanthium latifoliumLamium maculatum, and ferns frame the flowers. (Also, blooming Spigelia marilandica in the background—although it clashes a bit).

The big pot also includes Marigolds (Tagetes spp.) and scallions (I need to trim them back!) around the edges to discourage squirrels and chipmunks.

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For some reason, I had trouble getting Coleus going this spring/summer, which has never happened to me before. I'm not sure why, but this pot worked out, with a variety of Coleus and some bright pink Impatiens (I. walleriana). 'Splish Splash' Coleus, by far, has performed the best for me this year, and I'm adding cuttings of it to other locations.

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Not the best stage for the 'Super Cascade Pink' Petunias, but there will be more in this pot as they bloom until the first frost. I like them surrounded by the Impatiens, which also have many months of flowers and foliage to share. Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) foliage in the background.

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This pot is mostly Coleus, including 'Vino,' which struggled at first but came back, and more 'Splish Splash.'

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This is probably my favorite pot, although rain damage has it looking a little ragged. I like the idea of combining native plants and annuals in planters. In this case, I added a native sedge (I think it's Calex lurida) that I found in the yard and a tiny sprig of Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) that I found in the sunny garden. This pot gets dappled sunlight all day, since it faces south and has the benefit of bright sun for a portion of the day. Hopefully, the milkweed will survive the winter in the pot and expand next year. Again, more 'Splish Splash' and Impatiens.

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Next to the sunny garden, I have a pot that's hard to photograph as it's surrounded by fencing and the air conditioning unit. But it certainly brightens its spot, filled with Marigolds, 'Bandana Rose' Lantanas (L. camara), and 'Angelface Blue' Angelonia hybrid.

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I couldn't capture it in the above photo, but a volunteer of Borage (Borago officinalis), from last year, seeded itself in the pot. I'll cut it back after it's finished blooming, but I like it here. That blue!

I hope you're all doing well in spite of the strange times. Gardens are always good therapy—even when we wish we had more time (or more quality time) to spend in them.