A simple project

Now that the pond project is finished for the year, I can "relax" a little bit and do some easy tasks. Pretty much everything I'll be doing in the yard in the next few weeks will be related to overwintering, helping plants make it through the winter. For the last two years I've had the temporary greenhouse, but I've decided not to bother with it this year. Not that it matters for today's post, so I'm not sure why I mentioned it now.

I've already brought most of my tropicals and non-hardy plants into the garage -- the ones left outside are "extras" that I just don't have room for. So today a simple project: protect my hardy banana.


Final pond update

This past weekend I finally finished building the pond -- if "building" is the right word. "Finished" is probably not the right word either, since this project -- like most parts of the garden -- will constantly be evolving, changing, and maturing. The bulk of the work is done though...

Ask me which is better: working with stones and water when it's 65ºF (18ºC) and sunny, or 35ºF (2ºC) and windy and drizzling and muddy. Actually, it's a tough call, since the colder one was the day I finished, which made the day much more pleasant despite the conditions.


I look at rocks

I've been looking at rocks quite a bit recently as I finish up my pond project. I love everything about rocks (except hauling them around): their texture, colors, forms.

I especially like looking very closely at them.


Grass on fire

There's a beacon in my garden right now. It's large, it's colorful, and it is shining so brightly -- especially on an overcast day.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' is my oldest, biggest ornamental grass, and I can't keep my eyes off of it today.


Pond progress

After almost a week of delays due to weather, the holiday, and other projects that I was involved with inside the house, I finally was able to work on the pond again yesterday. You may remember from the last pond post that I finished up in the near darkness by creating the pebbled beach, but was unable to take a photo of it. Here's what it looked like yesterday morning, which is exactly how it looked that evening of the previous post:

I started with the beach because it was the one area of which I had a well-formed idea -- the rest of the edge would have to be designed later. Well, later is here, so let's get started!


Where did you come from?

Earlier this autumn I had a late-season discovery on my parsley: another black swallowtail caterpillar! I had already rescued and raised some of these caterpillars this summer, and was surprised to see one so late in the season. Knowing that as soon as this youngster got big enough for me to spot him the raccoons would also see him, I put him into my caterpillar jar and watched him pupate.

I assumed (correctly I think) that he'd overwinter in this form, then complete his transformation and emerge in the spring once it warmed up. This happened as I expected, at least the pupating part. What I didn't expect was to find a fly in the closed jar weeks later.


Plumeria update

Two springs ago I tried growing plumeria (or Frangipani) for the first time. I bought a couple of dormant cuttings (sticks), potted them up, and watched them flourish over the summer. Then I brought them into the garage for the winter and both died and rotted instead of going dormant as I was expecting. Then late last spring I decided to give it another try, bought three more less expensive cuttings (received six!), potted them again, and waited.

One of the cuttings rooted and leafed out pretty quickly, but the others just sat there. A few of them eventually rotted, but two of the cuttings remained healthy -- but wouldn't root. I left them alone though, as I didn't have enough experience to know what to do. Into our warm fall they seemed like they were finally starting to wake up.


I did something else!

A few days ago I posted about my success in remembering to plant garlic at the right time of year for once, and titled that post "I did it!" Well, garlic wasn't the only fall-planted "bulb" that I've been wanting to plant for years and finally managed to this year. (Does that sentence make any sense?)

Every spring I look around my yard and wonder why I don't have any spring-flowering bulbs planted. Technically I shouldn't say "any" because I do have some crocus that I planted in places in the front yard, but they're slowly dying away -- there were only a dozen or so blooms this past spring. Still, why don't I have more?


Slow progress

I've been off work for the last few days, and I had expected to get the pond project pretty much wrapped up by now. Unfortunately another (indoor) project and the weather have combined to move work on the pond farther down the priority list.

This means that I've made very little progress since the last update, but any progress is welcome.


more color, more

Just when I think that the autumn colors are done for the year, a few of the smaller plants in my garden crank up the vibrancy.

I know I post about this barberry every fall, but I can't help it. It's not very large, but produces a fantastic array of colors, making this back corner of my garden glow for a few days.


I did it!

Every spring I lament the fact that I didn't plant any garlic in the fall. I love garlic, and it's dead-simple to grow from what I've read, and I grow lots of other herbs and vegetables, but garlic is something I've never managed. Garlic chives, yes (loads and loads of it). Actual garlic? No.

This is probably because of the planting time. It's the time of year that I'm winding things up and getting everything ready for winter, and I don't think about planting, or I think about it after it's much too late.


A bag of bamboo

If you're a regular reader, you know that I grow bamboo. In fact, like many who grow it, I'm a bit of a bamboo nut. I have plenty of bamboo plants of all sizes, both in-ground and in pots -- too many some may say. Still, when the opportunity to get some bamboo seed comes up, I can't say no!

Bamboo doesn't flower very often, with some species going 100 years or more before producing seeds, so it's not like you can just buy a packet of bamboo seeds whenever you want. When a species starts flowering though, often every plant of that species will flower (and usually die), so there may be a period of several years in which the seeds of a species are widely available. Such is the case right now, and I got some more seeds about a month ago and decided to give them a go.


Frozen hair

When I was in school there were always kids in the winter who came to the bus stop with wet hair. When it was cold enough, there'd always be somebody who said something like "your hair will break off if it freezes". I personally doubt this will actually occur, but I'm pretty sure I know who started this rumor (if it in fact is untrue).

It was a gardener, somebody who loved growing tropicals and annuals in cold climates, in a surly winter mood. Once the first freeze hits these plants suffer greatly, losing all of their "hair" (okay, leaves) and go from the lush wonders that we relish through the warm months to crispy or mushy, brown or black reminders of the long winters ahead.



As happens every so often, I take photos of things that don't merit their own post. Sometimes those photos are forgotten, or intentionally ignored, but sometimes I feel the need to combine them into a "catch up" post. This is one of those posts -- a collection of unrelated recent observations.

Starting with an early morning storm. Some mornings I get to see the sunlight painting the clouds. Sometimes it's just clouds though, and these were dramatic ones.



As we move into the colder, darker part of the year, I get to see and photograph more sunrises. The location of the sun as it peeks over the horizon, the time at which it does so, the almost-constant presence of clouds -- all of those things combine to let me see mornings like I never seem to be able to during the summer.

The other morning as I was working on a last-minute blog post, my wife came down and asked if I had seen the awesome sunrise already. Since it was still quite dark when I woke up (or should say was awakened -- stupid cats) I wasn't aware that there would even be a sunrise to view that morning. She was right -- it was a nice one!


More work on the pond

I had some time this weekend to continue working on the pond. The weather was dry, warm, and I was eager to keep this project moving forward. If you remember from the last post, I had filled the pond about 80% or so, but couldn't go higher because the retaining wall needed to be finished.

I've found that I usually have great expectations when it comes to weekend projects. My first thought was that I wanted to finish the retaining wall, backfill with soil, then start trimming and hiding the liner -- maybe get some rocks in place too. My second thought was that I have lots of other garden chores to take care of (like digging up bulbs and tubers) while the weather was nice, so I reduced my goals to just building the retaining wall and filling. Still a lot of work, but doable in the time I had.


Passion (fruit)

As you may recall, I have two passion flower vines in my garden this year. One potted that that the raccoons stripped of fruits, and one growing on my pergola which has been untouched. I've been checking those fruits every week or so, but haven't noticed them getting any riper -- although I don't have much experience with knowing a ripe fruit from an unripe one.

A few days ago with our first freeze imminent, I pulled a couple of the fruits down to sample them and see if they were as sweet and delicious as the one fruit I tried earlier.


Frosty, first time

Two mornings ago after our first hard freeze of the year I woke up to a frosty world. As the forecast was calling for pretty warm temps of 65ºF (18ºC) for the day, I had to act quickly.

So I grabbed the camera, got out my rubber mat (for kneeling), and started looking for frost-lined leaves, miniature crystalline views.


Color won't stop

For me nothing says autumn like falling tree leaves, and the often vibrant colors they take on before dropping.

In the deciduous tree world, the Japanese maples must be pretty close to the top of the list for fall color.


Different autumn color

Yesterday I posted about some of the last remaining blooms in my garden, adding their spots of color as only flowers can.

Today it's a look at the "classic" autumn colors provided by one part of my garden, mainly due to the grasses. This, I hope, shows how it all blends together and creates a warm, wonderful view.


A few last blooms

As the forecast temperature tonight is 29ºF (-1ºC), our first freeze should take care of any remaining blooms in my garden. I've been taking a few photos over the last week or so (in between pond digging sessions) and it seems like an appropriate time to share them.

I'm starting with the scarlet sage - Salvia coccinea. It's an annual here, but it's a permanent part of my garden now. It grows pretty much everywhere, right up until the first hard freeze takes it out.


One-word Wednesday: Orange


Datura: say goodbye

The Datura inoxia that I've let grow in a crack in my driveway is now gone, removed as one of the first steps in my driveway cleanup before winter arrives.

If you haven't been following, I discovered this plant early this year and recognized its leaves. Not having planted any of these purposefully I let it grow, knowing that the potted specimen I had the year before produced some beautiful white flowers.


Hole becomes a pond

Saturday morning I was eager to get back to my pond project, but it was one of those hard-to-get-moving mornings. The weather wasn't helping, as it had rained overnight and although it was supposed to be a relatively warm day it started out damp and foggy. Luckily I had prepared by covering the hole with a large plastic sheet.

I weighed the edges down with some nice potted bamboos, with the unintended consequence of it looking rather attractive (for a plastic sheet). I had big plans for the day, so I had to brave the dampness and get outside.


Random observations

As you hopefully already know, I'm busy with creating a pond right now, so I don't have too much time for other things in the garden. I did take several photos the other day, so here they are.

An almost random collection of observations. Starting with the Semiarundinaria okuboi bamboo. I just love the leaves on this species, and although some of them are yellowing before falling (many of the temperate bamboos drop some percentage of their leaves in the fall), they're still big, textural, and beautiful.


Sunning bug, identified

Yesterday on my daily mantis hunt I got excited for a second because I glimpsed a largish bug sunning itself on a bamboo leaf -- my first thought was "mantis!" but then I saw the coloring was wrong. As was the body shape. So not a mantis.

I just had to snap some photos though, as this was a pretty attractive and very willing subject.


Long-awaited project, start digging!

For the last few years I've been thinking about what are probably the last three major projects in my back garden: a nice garden shed, a deck underneath the maple, and a small pond. None of these are one-day or weekend projects, so they tend to get pushed to the bottom of the list, and another year passes without them.

I decided late this summer that I don't want to go another spring without the sound of frog calls in my yard, so I resolved to get the pond created before the winter. I had the spot picked out already (shown above), and this week started digging.


A visit to Shaw Nature Reserve

At least once a year my wife and I go to Shaw Nature Reserve. This 2300+ acre conservation area was formed in 1925 when the Missouri Botanical Garden (which I visited a few weeks ago) purchased five farms southwest of St. Louis to preserve the natural beauty of this part of the state.

We've never gone this late in the year before, but I'm glad we did, as it was beautiful! Many of the trees were still quite colorful, and the overcast day was perfect for photos.


One-word Wednesday: Seed


Bird's-eye survey

Last year I took photos of my yard from above for the first time. I mounted my small camera on a 10' pole and held it as high as I could while walking around, with the camera taking photos at intervals. My goal was to stitch these together to create a big "map" of my yard. That didn't work out, but the photos turned out great.

So I've decided to repeat this again this year. Ideally I should have done it a bit earlier in the year (maybe in addition to doing it now), but things in the garden don't always go as we plan, do they?


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