Leaves Linger

As the calendar year comes to an end, winter has been quite mild so far here in St. Louis, with the notable exception in November of the few days of arctic air. That blast did something that's been causing some extra work: it froze leaves to some trees.

Instead of turning colors and falling as usual, some of them got "freeze dried", and therefore clung to the branches longer than they should have. The result is that leaf cleanup has been a more lengthy process than normal.


MBG World Exploration Open House Part 4

My final post on last weekend's research department open house at Missouri Botanical Garden takes us to the fourth floor and the library.

There's a bit more going on up here than "just books", if you're not into books -- although I don't think I know a gardener that doesn't love books filled with plant information and descriptions.


MBG World Exploration Open House Part 3

My day at the Monsanto Center at Missouri Botanical Garden continues with the rest of what I saw on the second floor. Yesterday I talked about the mounted herbarium specimens, and today I start with the answer to my question: what about the big stuff? Coconuts, banana leaves, and anything else that isn't going to cooperate by being pressed flat or put into a paper envelope.

Like this large seed capsule in the Brazil nut family (maybe Lecythis zabucajo or Lecythis pisonis) that's about the size of a huskless coconut.


MBG World Exploration Open House Part 2

Continuing with what I started yesterday (recapping the few hours I spent at the Missouri Botanical Garden Research Center open house) we now move to the second floor and the herbarium.

It may be self-evident but a herbarium is a collection of preserved plant samples that are usually dried and pressed, but may also be stored "pickled" in jars. (Not to be confused with a "herpetarium". If you find yourself in front of a historic-looking building at the St. Louis Zoo and aren't reading carefully when you walk in to see the preserved plants, you'll be in for a surprise!)


MBG World Exploration Open House Part 1

Yesterday I gave you a start-to-finish preview of Saturday's open house at the Missouri Botanical Garden's Monsanto Research Center. Today I start diving in and share details of what you would have seen had you been one of the hundreds of St. Louisans who attended.

I was informed upon entering that tour stops were available on three floors, so I think that's how I'll break up my posts -- but let's start with the building itself.


World Exploration: Preview

On Saturday I spent a few hours at one of the usually-closed buildings at the Missouri Botanical Garden, at an event they called World Exploration: Behind the Science with Garden Botanists. This post is just a preview of what I saw and learned, as I'll be going into more detail throughout the week.

I learned of the event a week or so ago through Twitter, and it promised I would be able to "learn more about the Garden's botanists and tour the Monsanto Research Center, including the library and herbarium." ("Monsanto" is a dirty word with many gardeners, but the huge amount of money that they've contributed to MBG over the years can't be disputed, and is A Good Thing.)



Goldfinches that is. I haven't seen them around for a while, but yesterday they showed up to entertain me in the front garden.

I'm not sure how many of them there were because they are active little birds and couldn't keep still, but around a dozen I'd say.


Plant trade: the long type

If you've been reading for a while, you know that I love trading plants with people through the mail. Sometimes the trade is for specific plants, but often times "surprise" plants are included.  Earlier this year I traded Amorphophalus "babes" with another bamboo grower and plant lover (Steve). I sent him Amorphophallus konjac, and he sent me an Amorphophallus titanum seedling among other things. A. konjac is dead simple to grow, and I actually had it showing up unexpectedly in other pots this year, but A. titanum is apparently more fussy.

They're especially fussy when they get ripped out of the pot by a squirrel or raccoon -- my seedling was probably 8" tall and doing quite well until it was unintentionally harvested. But the other day Steve surprised me by sending me an unexpected package.


Keeping them out

I've mentioned how my summer's crop of edibles was ruined by the deer finally deciding that my garden fence was worth jumping over. Too busy of a summer meant that I didn't have a good defence planned (I used the Canadian spelling because it's so appropriate), so I abandoned my crop.

With almost no gardening chores left, I now had the ability to think it through and react. There's still time to ensure that next year's food is eaten by humans and not ungulates.


Look closely, surprises reward

I'm not quite at the point in the winter where I scrutinize every plant that's under the lights, eager for any sort of botanical excitement. That time comes after the holidays usually, although it varies from year to year. Close examination is highly recommended though, even now, as there could be something fun going on.

Take for instance my sago palm (Cycas revoluta), which is spending the winter in the warm basement. It's getting quite large but its pointy foliage is mostly out of the way here, so nobody is going to get poked in the legs this year. It's such a carefree plant that I haven't looked at it too closely after bringing it inside a month ago.


Not looking good, or is it?

Not too long ago I transplanted some bamboo into the bed next to the driveway in my front garden. This Pleioblastus viridistriatus will look fantastic in the spring, its fresh foliage bright and vibrant.

Right now though, it's not a pretty plant. A low temperature of 13ºF (-10ºC) a few weeks ago fried the unprotected foliage. Ugly, right?


The Future Foretold

Roughly 15-20 years ago, before I had a real garden and my yard was mostly turf grass and locust trees, I was given a sign. A portent, omen. A glimpse of the future. Or perhaps it was meant to be an inspiration.

What it was exactly was a table knife (or "dinner knife") with a bamboo-themed design.
It was found buried in my yard!


Winter Pretty

There's no denying it now: winter is here. That doesn't mean that the garden doesn't hide some beauty though. You don't need blooms to make a garden sing to you during the cold months.

You don't need pristine blankets of snow to make it all wonderful either. You just need to look a little bit harder for the pretty.


Four Birds

There are only four (or five) types of birds that visit my feeders after I switched to safflower seeds. Fortunately they're some of my favorites, so I don't mind the lack of variety.

Today I'll take a quick look at all of them, starting with the Black-capped Chickadees.



Something a bit different today...

Refreshingly cold as I first stepped out onto the deck, clues that this was a holiday lost behind the sliding glass door to the kitchen, an ordinary winter night surrounding me. Full trash bag in one hand and flashlight in the other, I paused before descending the stairs. The fact that I had slipped on the wrong sort of shoes for this time of year made me focus on the patches of ice remaining on the stair treads before me, and it was in this quiet, still moment that I heard the footsteps.


Happy Thanksgiving!


Pleasant Surprises

Even though temperatures are back to normal now -- even a bit above with high 50's F expected at least one day this holiday weekend -- we had a pretty severe cold spell a week or so ago. Temperatures dropped to a low of 13ºF (-10ºC) one night, and there were a few days in a row where it didn't get above mid-20's F.

So anything that I hadn't brought in for the winter and was not cold-hardy was certainly done for, frozen and reduced to mush after temperatures got back above freezing. Imagine my surprise then when I discovered a few plants that revealed themselves to be much more cold-hardy than I thought!


Overwintering, small scale

I tend to focus on the "big" aspect of overwintering plants: dragging the towering potted papyrus inside, digging up the huge colocasia (elephant ears), mulching the bananas with 250 cubic feet of leaves or more. There's the small side of overwintering too, the little details that might get overlooked.

For instance, the first emergence of the purple fountain grass, the point at which I can relax because I know that those one or two-stem divisions were successful. Plus it's so enjoyable watching their progress every day, like spring indoors.


Overwintering looks better up close

Sun-loving plants indoors under fluorescent lighting does not make the happiest of scenes. These plants want to be basking in the sun's brilliance, not subsistent in the feeble shine of those glassy tubes.

Even so there's a beauty here, emphasized by a too-close eye. The limited view accentuates the natural geometry, magnifies the color, amplifies it all, pulling texture from the smooth.


New evidence: I started early!

I've written about my start in gardening before, where falling trees in my yard created impromptu planting beds, and the bug bit me. That was around 2002, maybe a year or two earlier. So I've been a gardener for about 15 years or so. Or so I thought.

Newly-discovered evidence has proven that my gardening started earlier than the year 2000. Much earlier indeed!


So early, but so nice

Still cold here, and getting colder (tonight's low is forecast to be 13ºF/-10ºC). The big surprise though was snow yesterday.

Not just the dusting that we woke up to either, we got a couple of inches of fluffy stuff. Snow in mid-November in St. Louis is not unprecedented, but is not too common. Checking the records, every 15-20 years or so it happens.


Book Review: Deep-Rooted Wisdom

Suppose I asked you to tell me everything you know about plants and gardening. Not the specific plants themselves -- I don't want you to create a list of plants -- but things in general: how to plant, what tools to use, where to get plants, how to create good soil, pest management, etc. Everything you can think of related to your garden. A daunting task, right? Now suppose that I asked you to include details on how you learned each of these things, especially if you learned it from another gardener.

That's how I can best describe Deep-Rooted Wisdom, "Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners" by Augustus Jenkins Farmer (2014, Timber Press). It's "everything" Jenks Farmer knows about gardening plus lots of stories about the people who taught him.



Hello polar vortex! Displaced again, are you? The middle of the country is getting an early taste of what will probably be another harsh winter, and although it made me do a lot of work in a short amount of time, I'm glad to have the cold air come in and take out the mold spores.

Still though, this is a bit too cold, too fast. In St. Louis this morning it was about 22ºF (-5ºC), and it looks like early next week we'll be wishing it were as warm as that, with 15ºF (-9ºC) lows forecast.


Just a second or two...

I've been quite busy recently, not only preparing for the cold air that's now here and is resulting in low temperatures of 25ºF (-4ºC) or less every night this week, but with some work deadlines. So I haven't had much time to think about putting together a post. I did see a few things yesterday that stood out for me though, enough so that I took a couple of minutes off from moving pots and digging up plants to capture some images.

The mixture of grasses in the prairie bed is quite nice right now, the last daylight before everything gets fried by cold. The tall grey grass is Pennisetum 'Vertigo', already sapped of color by earlier freezes. The golden grass in front is Panicum 'Heavy Metal', somehow staying upright this year. To the left is the smaller Pennisetum alopecuroides, a seedling from one of my 'Hameln'. To the far left looking a bit reddish is a Miscanthus, with the background greens and whites provided by various bamboos.


Garden slide puzzles

Do you ever feel like you're trying to solve a giant sliding tile puzzle when working in the garden? You know those puzzles: there's only one tile space available and you need to move all of the others around utilizing that one space until the whole thing is solved.

I have this feeling every so often, when a relatively simple garden task becomes a complicated puzzle. My plan for this past weekend was to remake the bed shown above. I've posted about this before, wanting to turn this struggling mishmash of plants into a unified planting. (It looks quite good now, but one month of beauty doesn't make up for the preceding months of unsatisfactory results.)


Quiet morning


My favorite plant right now: Cyperus papyrus

My friend Loree over at Danger Garden has been encouraging her readers to choose a favorite plant from their gardens every week. She does this in her "favorite plant of the week..." posts, and although I'm not organized enough to pick a favorite every week and post about it, sometimes a plant really shines and I take notice.

Right now in my slowing-down-for-winter garden it's papyrus that is the star. It's usually on the side of the house -- the perfect location during the summer -- but a strong wind blew it over this past weekend, and seeing how it missed crushing one of my cactus by inches, I decided to pull it into the front yard. It blew over there too, but when I picked it back up a day later, well, it's just wonderful!


Take 2: 1977 tillers

Since I've been writing this blog for almost five years now with almost 1600 posts, you'd think that I would repeat myself quite often. It seems inevitable that I'd inadvertently visit at least a few topics more than once, doesn't it? Good gardens change every year though, as do the viewpoints of their gardeners. Throw unpredictable weather, some travel, and pure chance/luck into the mix and you get almost continual variety in post subjects. Repeating myself hasn't been a problem (I hope).

Once in a while though I want to repeat myself, and show you some posts back from the earlier days of this blog that you may have missed or forgotten about. Things that I think are worth a second look. That's what I'm doing today, as I repost an old one. (Yep, a rerun!)


It's allergy season

Well, it is for me. Pollen counts are not very high at this time of year, so what gives? It turns out that pollen doesn't bother me too much. My nemesis in the allergen community is mold spores. The falling leaves bring beauty, but autumn rains -- as we're getting this morning -- trigger a mold spore outbreak.

Anybody care to take a guess where St. Louis is on this map? Yep, right in the "hotspot" for mold.


Review: Conant Weather Station

I've been testing another product this summer, one that is important but not essential in these modern times of connectivity: a thermometer! Is it strange that I've never had a thermometer in my garden until this year? My problem was being spoiled for choice: there are so many different types of thermometers available, how would I choose the right one for me? I knew that I didn't want to go strictly functional, so something plastic or digital wasn't right.

When this spring I was contacted by Conant, an "Annapolis, MD-based manufacturer of high-quality functional home & garden decor", asking if there was something from their catalog that I'd be interested in reviewing, I was only slightly interested -- until I saw that they have a wide selection of weather instruments.


Indoors, in a hurry

Although the freezing temperatures won't arrive until tonight, I brought in all of my tender plants yesterday. As usual, this was before I really had a place to put them all.

I brought them in a day early (at lunchtime) because we were expecting rain in the afternoon, and many of these plants would not be nearly as happy sitting in a cold garage in wet soil. Plus they're easier to move when dry -- much lighter!


Things I'll miss

With cold weather creeping into the garden, and our first sub-freezing temperatures coming tomorrow, there will soon be less to see around my yard. These are some of the things I'll be missing soon...

...starting with the castor bean. I love the bamboo -- it's a "ten" for me -- but the dark-leaved castor bean next to it turns it up to eleven. What else will I be missing?


The time for a change

I really love early autumn, when the leaves have started falling but the coldest weather hasn't arrived yet. When a cool, sunny morning invigorates you, an extra morning jolt.

It's the change in colors that I think I like most -- when the greens of the trees and the lawns get replaced with reds and yellows and browns. It's a change in the garden that I have nothing to do with (other than choosing the climate in which to garden), and I can just sit back and watch it happen.


Bananas and Oranges

Both are fruits that you won't be seeing in my garden, but the combination of the Musa basjoo hardy banana leaves and the orange fall colors of the bald cypress Taxodium distichum make this corner of the garden such a happy place on a sunny autumn day!

With a temperature in the mid-80's (29ºC) yesterday, it seemed much more like banana weather than autumn, but I'll take every sunny day I can get when the bald cypress starts to change color!


Keeping Fall out of the pond

It's the time of year when my small pond is in peril. One of the suggestions you'll read when deciding where to put your pond is that it should not be near large trees due to the shade they provide and the leaves they will drop. Of course I put my pond directly under a large maple -- I didn't have another choice!

Autumn is the time of year that this becomes a problem, as shade the pond can tolerate -- piles of leaves in the water it cannot. The first year I just let the leaves fall and then pulled them out of the water later. This was really not fun, and I won't repeat it. Now I cover the pond with a net for a week or two until all of the leaves are down. It's not easy, it's not fun, but it's better than the "pull them out later" method.


How does it happen?

The question posed in the title of this post is meant in two different ways. The first is a general "how does it happen?", and the second is actually "how does it happen to me?". I'll get to the second one soon, but first, everybody who grows plants has a favorite "type" or genus. Something that really gets them excited like no other plants do, and results in them having a collection -- even though that was never their intent when they started gardening.

For me it's bamboo. For others it's tomatoes, or agaves, or cactus, or roses -- there's somebody who is crazy about every type of plant. Why is this? How does this happen? How does "ah, that's a nice plant" transform into "I must have as many species and varieties as possible!" Maybe a better question is: why does it happen for some people, and not for others? Take for instance, begonias.


Product Review: Liquid Fence Deer & Rabbit Repellent

I don't do many product reviews on this blog, as I don't think that's what both most of you come here to read. Occasionally though I'm contacted by a company that sells a product that I think would be worth reviewing, and today you get to read about one of those.

The product is Liquid Fence Deer & Rabbit Repellent, and although I was sent a bottle of this free of charge early in the growing season, I wanted to give it a good long test before talking about it. My verdict: it works! But...


Finishing the rose removal

Recently I started removing a climbing rose that was infected by Rose Rosette Disease. At the time I just pruned the poor thing to the ground, saying that I'd remove the roots later.

Part of my delay was that I wasn't sure what plant to put here in its place. This is the type of thing I might have thought about over the winter a few years ago, carefully weighing the pros and cons of every perennial vine that would grow in my climate. Not now though -- I don't have the patience for that anymore. Now I just weighed a few choices, saw a plant I knew I wanted to grow, ordered it, and dug in.



Earlier in my gardening career I had much more time for discovery, and finding fresh mushrooms was one of my delights. I'd grab my point-and-shoot Canon set to macro mode, lay down on the grass or mulch or whatever, and snap away.

These days I'm still excited by mushrooms, especially when a big one pops up after a few days of rain. (If you don't think you have enough mushrooms in your garden, get tree chippings. The free mulch I use contains plenty of fungal spores it seems.) I noticed this one the other day, then saw it ripped out the next morning -- probably by a raccoon. So I grabbed it, flipped it over, and started snapping photos.


Keeping up with the Joneses

I have a lot of gardener friends. Not as many as some people, but quite a few. Although a few of them live in the St. Louis area, most of them live in different parts of the country in completely different climates -- which makes some of their blog posts a challenge to read for me. Sometimes it's the talk (and photos) of really wonderful plants that I've never heard of, when I'll sort of nod and think "ah, nice plant" but then put it out of my mind. If it's a zone 7 or 8 woody plant, I can't grow it (probably) so why torture myself thinking about it?

At other times though the talk (or photos) of these not-for-my-climate plants really gets to me, and I feel jealous: I want to grow those too! This is the case with many succulents: Agaves, Aloes, Cactus. When Gerhard (Succulents and More) or Gail (Piece of Eden) or Loree (Danger Garden) start talking succulents, I go a bit green -- not in the way that gardeners are supposed to -- and feel left out. Until now that is.


The bugs of Bloom Day

Yesterday I showed you what's in bloom in the garden right now, getting up-close and personal with the plants -- something that I haven't done for a while. The result is that I saw some of the inhabitants of the garden...

...and early autumn is a great time for this! Here's a carpenter bee settling in for the night on the Agastache. Seems like it could have chosen a stronger stem for its bulky body, but I guess this is fine.


Bloom Day, October 2014

Did you know that every month on the 15th, garden bloggers post photos of what's in bloom in their gardens? Carol at May Dreams Gardens is the host for this meme, and although I don't regularly notice that the 15th is approaching until it's too late (and I see other Bloom Day posts appearing), this is probably the last chance for blooms before winter sets in so I gave an extra effort.

Which meant getting outside on a damp, dreary day as evening approached, trying to get decent photos in limited light. I didn't think there would be many blooms out there to be honest, but once I got started I found more than I expected. The Verbena bonariensis above is such a favorite, blooming from early summer until frost. What else is in bloom?


Dry summer, wet fall

Summer was fairly dry in St. Louis, as my water bills will indicate -- there was much hose dragging around a few months ago. Now though, things have changed. Since September 1 we are something like 8" above our normal rainfall amount.

I've spent very little time in the garden recently because of this -- it's always raining! A few dry days are forecast starting this afternoon they say, so this morning was a good time to take a look at the damp.


Vines to the rescue... almost

Although it's been ten months since the polar vortex reminded us cold-climate gardeners that we shouldn't get too comfortable with mild winters and caused quite a bit of bamboo damage in my garden, I still have reminders of it: the dead bamboo culms that I left on three or four of my plantings.

Instead of removing them I left them in place not just for the support they gave to emerging culms, but with the plans of letting annual vines climb up them, natural trellises that would add vertical color with little-to-no effort on my part.


Planning changes

I've decided to remake one of my newer planting beds. Maybe. I'm strongly considering it. I have a hard time removing plants that seem to be doing fine, but in this case I think I've almost convinced myself it's the right thing to do.

It's this small bed next to my driveway. It's only a couple of years old, but hasn't satisfied me yet. I suppose you could say that it doesn't have a focus yet, a purpose.


Spreading bamboo

You'd think that with at least 30 in-ground plantings of running bamboos that I'd be hesitant to plant more. You're wrong of course, and having 30+ already is not a deterrent. To be honest, once you plant the first running bamboo and properly maintain it every year to keep it from spreading, adding another isn't such a big deal. Then the next thing you know you have 10. Then 20. Then you stop counting.

My bamboo gardening has moved from the "collect as many different species as I can" phase into the "let's divide some of my favorites and use them to fill out the garden" phase. (Of course the bamboos themselves are all in the "let's fill out the garden!" phase.) That's why I transplanted some of my Pleioblastus fortunei bamboo into a new part of the garden the other evening.


A focused cleanup

Cooler fall weather always invigorates me, making the horrible, put-off garden tasks look almost fun. The shorter days probably help too, as I know I can only get an hour or so of work in out there after my day job, and an hour isn't so bad, right?

Yesterday I tackled my pokeweed forest. Phytolacca americana if you're unfamiliar. Above you see the view from the bedroom window -- almost anything large and leafy you see (with purple berries if you look closely) is pokeweed. I let too much of this grow this year.


Goodbye disappointing rose

A few years back -- four I think -- I built a copper trellis and planted a climbing rose outside my kitchen window. It was labeled as 'Fourth of July' rose, which should have had red blooms streaked with white.

I say "should have" because I never saw this happen. The blooms were fully red, and the plant never looked like the photos I found. It was a disappointing rose in general, never reaching the size I had hoped for, and this past weekend I finally removed it.


Oops. What to do?

I mowed my lawn for only the third or fourth time this summer -- one of the few advantages to a drier-than-normal season.

Unfortunately, I got a little careless with the lawnmower and the wheel knocked this pad off one of the Opuntia in the cactus bed.


Portland: Bella Madrona

If you've been upset by all of the shorter posts I've been making for the past few weeks, and wish I'd do one of those 40-photo monsters, you're in for a treat! Today I show you the last garden from July's Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland, a big, mature, "anything goes" type of garden.

It's called "Bella Madrona", and it was just wonderful! Seemingly miles of paths through heavily-planted, intimate spaces, loads of eclectic garden art -- both the created and "found" types -- and many mature specimens of all sizes make this the type of garden I'd be thrilled to call my own.


Another surprise: monkshood

As the garden transitions into autumn, the grasses and foliage become more important, as there isn't too much in bloom right now. Certainly the things that have been blooming all summer are contributing: the maypop and cypress vines, Salvia greggii, Agastaches -- but there's really nothing that is just starting to bloom.

At least that's what I thought until I remembered that I have a couple of new plants this year, one of which seemed to pretty much just sit there all summer long, not doing much of anything. Until now, when it produced these wonderful blooms!


  © Blogger template Shush by Ourblogtemplates.com 2009

Back to TOP