More results of freeze

I started looking at the results of our recent first freeze in yesterday's post, showing the beauty in the big leaves now dead.

Today it's less pretty, showing some of the more interesting observations of a post-freezing night.


Beauty, from first freeze

We had our first freeze in the St. Louis area a few nights ago, which means that lots of tender plants get turned instantly ugly.

That's upon first glance. When you look more closely there's actually quite a bit of beauty, especially in the large, freshly-killed leaves of bananas, cannas, and Colocasia.


Fall is for planting!

At least that's what the local garden centers all remind you, as most casual gardeners plant in spring and that's it for the year -- or that's how I perceive it. Of course fall is a great time to plant perennials, shrubs, trees, and bamboo, with the ground staying relatively warm for a while still, cooler temperatures and more rainfall (in theory).

Although I pretty much plant new stuff during spring and summer too, I've been spending some time recently getting plants into the ground. Some of them have been growing from seed all summer, but others are brand-new plants picked up on sale as nurseries try to reduce inventory for the winter.


It's color time!

Although the fall color has not yet peaked here, most of the trees are starting to do their thing, turning those amazing colors for a day or two or more if we're lucky and weather conditions are right.

Still, a sunny weekend gave me lots of opportunity to see these colors, and I just had to get started on the autumn photos. Above the dark ninebark contrasts nicely with the yellowing background right now.


Bountiful harvest, unwanted

This was a pretty poor year for most harvests in my garden. Early spring harvests were fantastic with kale and swiss chard that had overwintered, and the tomato production was acceptable -- everything else was a disappointment to me.

Some things though have no trouble producing lots of "fruits". I don't want these though!


Mulching, planting, chores

A short post on a busy day. Although we had our first freeze the other night, temperatures will be in the lower 60's F today so it's a good day to get more fall chores done outside.

For instance, mulching. The free community mulch pile is just what I need...


Bamboo box refresh

Remember that first bamboo planter box I created for a friend's garden? Well, the plant that I gave him for that box is just not a "good one".

So I helped him dig it out this past weekend and replace it with a better plant. I didn't take a lot of photos, but you may be interested anyway.


Goodbye for now bananas

With a freeze expected last night I spent the last hour of yesterday's daylight digging up my tropical bananas. When I first started gardening I shunned these plants as I didn't like their ratty, shredded-leaf look.

Now I have several varieties, and really appreciate what their big leaves add to the garden, especially as contrast to the small-leaved bamboos you see everywhere you look in my yard.


pond problem prevention

After last year's experience with raking and hand pulling sunken leaves out of the pond for weeks, I decided that those who net over their ponds to prevent the leaves from actually entering the water were on to something.

Although most of the trees haven't started dropping them yet, there have been a few leaves falling into the water, so I decided on Saturday that I needed to act on the netting before it was too late.


Just one thing

This weekend I was faced with a long list of freezing-temps-are-coming chores to tackle in the garden. Rather than my usual approach of thinking about each of them and figuring out which were highest priority, then figuring the amount of effort involved in each before making a decision on where to start, I just chose the one I was most excited about.

I decided to move this beautiful bamboo from its temporary spot (planted at least two years ago) to someplace where it would contribute more to the garden. What I found out was "just one thing" isn't really possible in the garden, as this task required an ever-growing list of additional tasks.


Roadtrip: Index

Our August RV roadtrip was a wonderful vacation, although at times not as relaxing as we would have liked. Still, there was so much discovery and beauty on this trip that it has to be one of the top trips of our lives to date.

Since I wrote so many posts about this 2-week span, I decided that an "index" post where you (and I) can have easy access to all parts of this adventure would be a good idea. So this is it.

I had a hard time picking a photo to use here, as how do you summarize all that we had seen with one image? This one does a pretty good job though, saying "beauty", and "nature", and "adventure", and "exertion" all at the same time -- at least to me. 


Stages: Solanum atropurpureum

One of the most unique and vicious-looking plants I've been growing this year is Solanum atropurpureum, with common names of "Purple Devil" and "Malevolence" . You can see a hint here of why it has these names:

What makes it most interesting to me right now is that I can show you all of the stages of fruiting, from bloom to ripe fruit.


Broken Bad

Broken bad land that is. As we took our last little exploratory hike the morning we were leaving Badlands National Park, I focused my view on the land itself. Without looking into it, I suppose that although this is very rugged terrain, part of the reason for the "Badlands" label is the ground.

So hard. So cracked. So inhospitable. Also though, so beautiful.


Roadtrip ends: Leaving the Badlands

It's been a few days since I last posted about our August roadtrip, but today it ends, as we leave Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

If you remember, I chose the less-scenic route when we first entered the park. This meant that we just had to take the longer route out of the park -- even though it meant that we'd be going west for a while instead of east. I'm so glad we did though, as there were some fantastic views!


St. Louis Zoo, part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the first half of our visit to the zoo on Monday, and left you with a view of a resting giraffe.

Today we start with another giraffe, but this one was definitely not resting. This one was sparring -- with an ostrich.


St. Louis Zoo, part 1

As I mentioned earlier I had a day off Monday, and rather than spending the whole day working in the garden my wife and I decided to go to the zoo. The St. Louis zoo is one of the top zoos in the country, and I hadn't been there for at least five years, so I was looking forward to the visit.

Besides, I've never really taken many photos of zoo animals, and certainly haven't done a post that was focused primarily on animals (not counting deer or moles). So this is going to be a little different. Oh, if you're viewing this post to learn the names of lots of unique animals, you might be disappointed -- I didn't take notes (although I did look up many of the animal names later).


Little Walls

This past weekend was three days long for me, and I tackled a few projects -- some that I knew about previously (bamboo rhizome pruning), but one that I hadn't planned on.

The cactus beds have been a concern for me since I built their mounds of well-draining soil and watched our infrequent (this summer) rains chip away at their edges. This weekend I did something about it: built a little retaining wall.



It's Columbus Day, which means a day off for me!

This is one of my favorite holidays, not because of its namesake (whose worthiness of a holiday is questionable), but because it's not celebrated by most, and it comes at such a great time of year.


Observations of, but not limited to, tomatoes

Just some quick observations made in the garden yesterday, starting with tomatoes.

Overall, I'm quite happy with the tomato harvest this year. We only eat them fresh, as there's never enough to freeze or can. I have to pick early, before critters get their teeth or beaks into the fruit.


Blades and Spines and Both

Back to South Dakota for today's post, where I took a little trek out into the prairie that was 30' (9m) from the RV door -- it would have been closer but they kept it mowed back a bit around the edge of the campground. At first glance, standing here you might say this was "just grasses":

Not a bad description, unless you decide to go for a little barefoot romp through those grasses. In that case, you're in for a surprise.


Veggie Bed Refresh

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I posted that I wasn't really feeling the love for the garden, and that I had no real desire to get out there because it was in a bit of a state? Well, it turns out that it only took a couple of little projects to change my attitude, and the first of them was my veggie beds.

They got really overgrown during the time we were on the roadtrip, the two very hot weeks after, and the following two weeks of travel -- so bad in fact that I cringed whenever I caught sight of them. So about 10 days ago I decided enough was enough and I had to do some cleanup.


Free plants!

That's how I feel when volunteers pop up in my garden, and in my beds there is no volunteer that is more reliable than cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit).

Usually they're smothering trellises, perennials, fences -- whatever they can climb -- but this year they're not as vigorous. I assume that our lack of rain this summer has slowed them down, gave them a late start. I still love the punches of color they provide, even though the hummingbirds missed them this year.


Yellow Jacket Nest Removal -- Easy!

As I was doing some bamboo rhizome pruning in the rock-hard ground yesterday, I noticed something cool: pieces of a bee nest! (I almost called it "honeycomb" but I don't know if that's technically correct since this isn't from a honeybee hive.)

My first thought was that it had fallen from one of the bamboos above me. Then I looked around a little more...


Give me green!

After being in the rocky hills of the South Dakota Badlands for a few hours, I was getting eager to see some green.

And I'm not talking about the strange but wonderful mineral deposits that sliced across the trail. I'm talking about plants.


Nice, but not sure...

Remember the simple red bench I created last year? I still haven't found a permanent home for it in my garden, but recently I had an idea.

Since it doesn't seem like I'm going to be able to cross "build a small deck by the pond" off my list of 2013 projects, but I spend more time sitting next to the pond than any other part of my garden, why not try the bench here? (Ignore the half-rotten pallets in the background please!)


Vigna caracalla

As you may know, I grow lots of different flowering vines. Annuals, cold-hardy perennials, tender perennials -- it's one of that last category that I want to look at today: Vigna caracalla.

This beauty forms clusters of wonderfully twisted, fragrant flowers usually starting in mid-summer until just about now. Let's take a look at what this plant is contributing to the garden right now.


The Thing is...

When I was growing up, comic books were one of my main imagination triggers. I loved the Marvel comics (no DC for me!) and trips to the local drug or book stores so I could choose new issues were greatly anticipated.

My favorite comic was the Fantastic Four, and my favorite character? It was The Thing. There was something about that orange-rocked guy that I just loved -- and still do. The Thing toys are the only superhero figures that ornament my desk today.


More Badlands National Park

As the interesting part of our August roadtrip vacation was coming to a close, we had a rare full day in the same camping spot -- no leaving during the day for the next destination! Enjoying the sunrise on this day that promised to be warmer than we had hoped for, we made our plans for the morning.

It was similar to the plans we had made almost every morning: hiking. Only the details were different, but it's those details that are important, right? So much to show today, so I'll jump right in.


Like, or no?

When I was just out of college, a coworker of mine who was not from Chicago but had gone to school there for a few years noticed that I, like other Chicagoans he knew, often tacked the phrase "or no?" onto the end of questions. For example: "Did you watch the Bears' game yesterday, or no?"

I never noticed this myself of course, but after he pointed it out I realized that pretty much everybody in my family (who all still live in the Chicago area) do this. Today, I'm using the same approach for a quick look at things I like in the garden right now, or no. Starting with the Black Pearl peppers: like!


Arriving in Badlands National Park

Our visit to Mount Rushmore was just a couple of hours long, but the unplanned detour had us arriving at our the final real destination of our trip a little later than planned: Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

(Yes we also stopped at Wall Drug. My neighbor is from South Dakota, and informed us that this stop was required and that we would be quizzed.) We weren't sure what to expect here, as the surrounding area is mainly grassland -- as seen above.


Back to the roadtrip: Mount Rushmore

I'm back to posts that detail our August roadtrip. So far we've been to the North Dakota badlands, Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park, and Devils Tower. At the halfway-point of our two weeks, we're technically on the way back home -- but there's so much more to see!

We hadn't planned on stopping at Mount Rushmore, but since we'd be essentially driving past it as we left Devils Tower and made our way to the South Dakota badlands, it would be silly not to stop, right?


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