December 09, 2022

Before the Snow


Autumn and winter are playing tag in my part of the world lately. We've had cold days and snowy days, followed by rainy, sunny, and relatively mild days. This morning, Mother Nature blanketed the garden with a fresh coat of snow. It will probably melt on the weekend with milder temperatures, but it's pretty while it lasts.

Before the snow, I took a quick tour around the garden yesterday to note the highlights of the late autumn garden.


Most years, the Epimediums ('Rubrum' here) are chewed to the ground by the rabbits this time of year. Rabbit activity, for some reason, is lighter this autumn.

warleyense ajuga juniper

I like the stacking here of the Juniper shrub, Epimedium x warleyense, and the Ajuga groundcover.


Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is a favorite in the garden this time of year with its colorful seed heads.


Moss on rocks and other surfaces keeps the green character going throughout the winter.


The Hellebores retain their umbrella foliage until I trim them in the spring.


I'm trying to get some swaths of Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra) going, to spill over the rock wall. I've had limited success (rabbit damage, slow growth, etc.) But this one survives with a little help from caging at the base. I hope it will fill in more in the years to come.


I leave the garden seed heads, including Echinacea, up over the winter for bird food and for insects that might be overwintering in the stems. I think they also add character to the winter garden.

echinacea and mistflower

This combo of Coneflowers (E. purpurea) and Blue Mistflowers (Conoclinium coelestinum) is fun.


The 'Ozawa' Allium (A. thunbergii) I profiled in my last post is still holding its color and form.

How is your garden faring as the seasons shift? Soon the days will be consistently cold and snowy, and winter will take hold here. Things are getting festive as we shift toward the holidays...


November 25, 2022

The Latest-Blooming Alliums

allium ozawa

The garden is sleeping now, but some plants, and even blooms, are holding on to bits of color during the transition to winter. One of those plants is the late-blooming Allium (A. thunbergii), 'Ozawa.' The photo above is from earlier in the season (mid-October), but this is the latest-blooming Allium in my garden. 'Ozawa' is hardy to USDA zone 4.

ozawa caged

It's a petite little variety, only about a foot tall, and it forms a compact clump that comes back every year, but doesn't spread much (I have two clumps). Unlike my other Alliums, this one must be caged; if not, unfortunately the rabbits will eat the buds and blooms. Although there are fewer pollinators active when it's blooming in October and November, I have seen some on it; particularly honeybees and some flies.

ozawa november

It's even pretty and colorful after the blooms fade and the seeds start to form. At this point, it tends to shift from a light lavender color to bright pink.

ozawa in snow

Last week, after our first snow (which is melted now), I noticed the Allium's sweet spot of color. Beyond the rabbit challenge, it's any easy addition to the garden for late-season interest.


I hope my American friends had a Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Holidays to all in the weeks ahead!

November 04, 2022

The Fuchsias of November 2022

bloom 4

This is an unusual November for my part of the world. We've had light frost, but it's been followed by days of very mild weather, similar to what we'd usually experience in September. While most perennials have gone dormant and many annuals have passed, some plants that can take a light frost are holding out. This includes my hanging baskets of Fuchsias.

I have many around the property, and most have not been sheltered from the cold nights or covered at all. They're actually looking better than they did during the hot summer days.

I don't know the names of most of these Fuchsias, because they came in mixed baskets without tags. The last two photos, however, are 'Markinka,' which I bring in to the sunroom for the winter every year, and the buds of 'Dark Eyes.'

bloom 1

buds 1

bloom 2

bloom 5


bloom 3

bloom 6

buds 2

We've been spoiled with this mild autumn. I'm not ready for the cold days of winter ahead.

October 30, 2022

The Butterflies of 2022

common buckeye
Common Buckeye

We've flirted with frost at my house, but we haven't had a hard freeze. There are still butterflies fluttering through the state, which is a special joy at this time of year. During the "warm" months, I enjoy tracking and counting butterflies during my hikes, and reporting my sightings to

The numbers of monarchs were down this past season, but hopefully it was just regional and we'll have more next spring, summer, and fall. What follows are a few of the butterfly sightings of the past year, in no particular order. There were many more; this is just a small sample:
mourning cloak
Mourning Cloak

tiger swallowtail
Tiger Swallowtail


eastern tailed-blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue

ss skipper
Silver-Spotted Skipper

pecks skipper
Peck's Skipper

cabbage white
Cabbage White

pearl crescent
Pearl Crescent

black swallowtail
Black Swallowtail

painted lady
Painted Lady

common wood-nymph
Common Wood-Nymph


All photos were taken in local natural areas, botanical gardens, and my own property. While there likely will be more butterfly sightings yet this fall, the season is winding down. I'll miss them during the winter, and look forward to sightings in the year ahead.

October 19, 2022

Wordless Wednesday: October Fen

autumn insets
Mid-October Fen
[Insets, L to R: New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), Velvety Goldenrod (Solidago mollis),
Small White Aster (Symphyotrichum racemosum), Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)]

late summer with insets
Late August Fen
[Insets, L to R: Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum),
Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), Sweet Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa)]

midsummer insets
July Fen
[Insets, L to R: Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Sawtooth Sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus),
Virginia Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum), Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya)]

spring insets
May Fen
[Insets, L to R: Wood Betony (Pedicularis canadensis), Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea)]

January Fen

September 21, 2022

A Passion for Experiments

first view

It's fun to grow new plants, and it's especially fun to compare different methods, settings, and conditions for the same plant. Last year, I started several Purple Passion Flower plants (Passiflora incarnata) from seed. This plant is native just to the south of us in Central Illinois and throughout the Southeast U.S.

The seeds grew well last year, and they came back this past spring. But I didn't see any flowers...

Until a couple of weeks ago! I was adjusting something above the potted plant when I saw the first flower. What a sweet surprise!


Next, I realized there were several additional buds, and it's been a joy to see them all bloom in succession.

potted plant

Here are the pot and the trellis the flowering plants are growing on. They spent the winter indoors in the sunroom, going nearly dormant and then popping back in the spring. They really took off when I put them out on the front porch facing the afternoon sun.

trellis vines

I also planted some vines in the soil on the west side of the house. They came back even stronger, but they haven't flowered. Maybe next summer? I covered these plants in the soil with heavy mulch for winter, since we're USDA zone 5--borderline for winter survival of this plant. This is probably the warmest spot in my garden, getting sun and heat from the house throughout the entire year.

It's been a fun experiment to compare the potted plants with the outdoor garden plants. I hope they'll all survive and thrive next year, too. Will they fruit?

pollinator 1

I've noticed a few pollinators on them, and apparently P. incarnata plants are self-fertile, meaning they don't need a partner plant to be pollinated and bear fruit.

pollinator 3

It's so entertaining to watch the pollinators move among the dramatic stigmas and anthers and other flower parts.

pollinator 2

Passion Flowers are so beautiful and so unique.


Every part of this plant is beautiful--from the foliage to the flowers to the sweet tendrils that wrap around the supports and curl around each other. New adventures with plants are so gratifying!