As you know from my posts in previous years, I grow lots of plants that are not cold-hardy and won't survive our typical winters here in St. Louis. I can either treat these plants as annuals, let them die each winter and buy them all again in the spring, or I can work to overwinter as many of them as possible.

I don't really have the budget or desire to buy the same plants every year, plus I hate killing plants. So for me there's really no choice: I overwinter them.


Starting the canna dig

Recently I've been talking about winterizing -- getting my non cold-hardy plants protected for the winter. Those two cold nights we had early this week (21ºF) were the only real problem nights, with every other night at 27ºF or higher. Those two nights were enough though to make me bring dozens of potted plants into the garage, dig up elephant ear tubers, and cover my in-ground winter greens.

After the two cold nights passed I had some time to start organizing the pots that I hastily dragged inside just a few days before, and one of the tasks was to dig up some potted elephant ears and cannas -- a stack of empty pots stores much more easily than huge pots full of soil and tubers. Today let's look at the cannas.



For the last two nights the temperature has dipped down to 21ºF (-6ºC), several degrees colder than it has been yet this year. Without those two days I'd say our winter is getting off to a mild start, with daytime temps back up into the lower 60s (16ºC or so) at the end of the week and over the weekend.

Those two cold nights ruined it though, as it meant I had to move all of my non-hardy plants into the garage, and also protect some of my in-ground plants. I've been planning on doing this some day "soon", but I'd rather do it later. Looking at the forecast and realizing you have two days to do a week's worth of work is not the most stress-free way to garden.


Another one looking good

The cardoon were looking particularly good over the weekend, and another plant that fits that same category is this Artemisia 'Powis Castle':

It seemed to be struggling for most of the hot summer (everything was) but now it's looking amazing.


Spider plant

Most people grow spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) as a houseplant, but I've never really liked it indoors. I'm not very good with houseplants in general though, so maybe that's the problem.

I do like growing spider plants outdoors though, and it's time to bring these tough but not cold-hardy plants in for the winter.


Cardoon, last look

Friday I spent most of the cold, blustery day working in the garden. I took a few minutes off from chores though to notice and enjoy a few plants that are looking particularly good right now.

The first is the cardoon. I've got two plants in my garden right now, and even though both are looking great, they sure look different from each other. (I've mentioned this before)


banana dig

Yesterday I wrote about how I protect my cold-hardy banana (Musa basjoo). I mentioned that I wasn't yet prepared to dig up the big tropical banana clump yet.

With a low temperature of 23ºF (-5ºC) predicted for last night, it no longer mattered that I was ready -- it was time to dig!


bananas, can't take cold

The weather has been pretty cooperative this fall, with tastes of freezing temps followed by warmer days. Perfect for getting the non-hardy plants to go dormant and to then get them stored for winter in the garage. Not that I've actually done any storing yet. I'm just saying that the weather has been perfect for it.

Take the bananas for instance. Their foliage has been toasted, while the pseudostems are still in good shape. Seems like a good place to start with some winterizing! (The other option is to start digging up dozens and dozens of elephant ears -- I'll postpone that as long as possible.)



Today there is a festive feeling in the air. People are gathering with families and friends, preparing feasts, indulging. Most businesses and many shops are closed, there are a couple of extra football games on TV, and there are even parades with huge cartoon balloons! I know it's an important day, but I never dreamed that the 1000th post of my blog would ever cause such excitement!

Yes, it's true. According to Blogger, this is post number 1000. Oh, and it's also Thanksgiving Day here in the US.



A month ago I harvested my potato crop. It was quite disappointing. I was reassured by several gardeners who have more experience with spuds than I do that it was a bad year for potatoes, and that I shouldn't give up on trying them again next year.

I forgot I had one more "potato" plant to harvest: my sweet potato!


Planning for next year

The butternut squash volunteer I wrote about yesterday taught me that deer and rabbits don't seem to bother that particular plant, so I'm going to grow some of them on purpose next year -- outside the fenced area.

This is where it will happen, and I decided to start the bed prep now. That will give the organics several months to break down and start making this clay soil something a squash can really love.



I didn't plant squash this year. My small veggie garden just doesn't have the room for it. I did plant butternut squash one year and it essentially covered the entire fenced area of my veggie beds. I got great squash but couldn't grow anything else. So I haven't planted it again since then.

It turns out that I was growing squash this year though. A volunteer butternut squash plant grew outside the fence this year and added a fair amount of beauty to this part of the garden. I let it grow because of this and to test if the deer and other herbivores took advantage of it. They didn't as far as I can tell -- maybe a couple of nibbles but nothing significant.


Moudry: overdue attention

A couple of months ago I posted that I was going to dig up the dozens of 'Moudry' fountain grass seedlings that have been peppering the lawn in this area for the last two or three years. Because of the summer's drought I didn't mow very often, allowing the ever-present seedlings to mature a bit.

I dug some of them up back then, but now it's time for all of them to go. I really should have done this a month ago.



As it gets closer to winter, the Opuntias are starting to prepare. Remember that this is my first year growing these prickly pear cactus, and like most things in my garden I don't start out small. Why try a single species of a new plant when you can grow a dozen, regardless of how little experience you have with them?

My several pots of these have spent the spring and summer on the deck where I could keep an eye on them (and occasionally bump into them -- good planning!) and I have been rewarded with blooms, the growth of new pads, and just seeing the differences in form, color, size, and texture of them all. Now I get to add one more attribute to the list of interest they've provided me with.


Blue? Berry

Was it just last year's spring (2011) that I finally got my first blueberry plant? Was it just last fall that I saw their first autumnal display of wonderful color? It seems like I've always had this incredible foliage in my garden.

I wasn't going to post about the blueberry leaves this year, as I had already done it. But then I saw it happen again with my own eyes and I just couldn't resist.


What do you see?

The last couple of days I've been battling a cold and just haven't felt much like getting out into the garden, but I have been doing quite a bit of window gazing.

For instance, here's the view of the driveway from inside. What do you see when you look at this? Do you focus on the greenery? The bamboo? Something else? I'll tell you what I see...


New cactus awake

Two weekends ago I visited Schlafly Gardenworks for the monthly informal gathering of gardeners. This is the time of year when only the most garden-crazy show up to these, as the weather doesn't really say "let's garden!". This post is not about that visit though.

This post is about the "Nopales cactus" that I bought as I was leaving the garden. Each year at this time Jack and Nolan take cuttings from a spineless prickly pear cactus, pot them up, sell them for $5 each, and give the proceeds to a local charity. How could I resist?



I don't want to upset anybody who may be reading this, but I have a confession. I don't really like daylilies. I  know they're dead-simple to grow, tough as nails, and can be quite beautiful when in bloom, but that's not enough for me for some reason. Maybe it's that the deer like to prune the blooms and flower buds for me -- not every time, but enough to keep me from becoming too attached to these plants.

The other day though I found something that may have just kicked daylilies a couple of spots up my "favorite plants" list: seed pod skeletons!



Although there have been three or four nights in the past few weeks where the temperature just touched the freezing point, there had been very little evidence of it in the garden. The other night though it got down to 28ºF (-2ºC).

There was no question that some of the plants felt that, and they didn't like it.






They keep growing

Remember a couple of winters ago when I grew some cactus from seed? You may also remember that I gave all of those seedlings away, as they were not cold-hardy enough for me to grow here. Then last year I started some cold-hardy cactus seed, but didn't tell you about it until the seedlings were bigger.

Then a couple of months ago I repotted the seedlings. Remember all of that? Well, they must really like their new pots because they are growing like crazy!


Sneaking a peek

Here in the St. Louis area where I live, this is the time of year when there's much to do in the garden, and the time left to do it is unknown due to variable temperatures and weather. There are trees, shrubs, perennials, and bamboo to plant and transplant. Lots of leaves to rake and drag down to the compost pile. Ponds to clean out (haven't done that yet).

One thing that gardeners here don't typically do at this time of year is start seeds -- unless you have a greenhouse or plan on doing a lot of indoor growing that is. Here's something I like to do at this time of year though: sow a few seeds from various summer perennials and annuals.


Another visitor

I happened to look out the window in passing on Monday and noticed one of my rose bushes moving, shaking back and forth. I couldn't see what was going on, but I had my suspicions.

I typically wouldn't have been able to see that rose at all from the window, but since I removed that bamboo from the planter box I have a temporary clear line of sight. The above photo is indicative of the views I normally have.


Look up!

This past Sunday I heard a hawk calling overhead, and automatically looked up to find it. It turns out there were several hawks cavorting in the sunshine of a beautiful day, but what really held my attention was the sky.

Such interesting texture for such a thin covering of clouds -- I just had to take photos immediately, even if I only had my phone with me.


Looking sad

This was my first year growing Agaves, as I got them this spring and kept them in pots. They've all done quite well (even the one I thought was in bad shape), until recently.

This one (Agave havardiana) is the exception. A month or so ago it started showing signs of rotting on some of the leaves and I brought it inside to keep it away from additional rainfall -- not that we've had very much of it lately.


leaf pile make pretty

I've always liked autumn for a few different reasons: the ever-cooler temperatures, the transformation that everything goes through, the color that surrounds us for weeks. One of my favorite things about fall though is the blanket of fallen leaves. I've loved them since I was a child when they allowed us to create soft piles to jump into and forts to use for our play.

I think I also liked the change they provided: the ground that had been grassy green for the last several months was almost overnight transformed into something brown, leafy, brand new. The first snowfall did this too, and indoors removing a years-in-place carpet to expose hardwood floors had the same effect: when what's under foot changes, the whole world seems to. (My brothers and I once had a week of hardwood floors to enjoy while the ever-present carpet in our childhood house was replaced. Matchbox cars set free!)


pond questions

This will be the second winter for my pond, but the first in which it contains major living things: plants and fish.

I have questions about what I need to do in preparation for winter. Please help if you can.


Front-yard visitor

The other day I noticed all of my cats intently looking out the front window. It was strange that none of them were sleeping, so I assumed there was a squirrel party going on out there.

I was wrong. I'm surprised that I didn't hear growls, as my one cat growls at anybody approaching the house -- and he doesn't seem to know there's a difference between deer and humans. Or maybe he does, as he was a stray that lived in my yard for at least a full year before we took him in.



Well, the freezing temperatures have held off long enough that two of the Senna alata plants in my yard have started to flower!

It would have been much more beneficial if these had bloomed a month earlier when the hummingbirds were still around, and there were more active pollinators than a few bees and ants. Still, I'm glad I got to see the blooms this year.


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