More digging

I spent some time digging more elephant ears and cannas yesterday just before dark. I left some cannas in the ground as an experiment, and thought I would remove half or so of one large planting.

But the planting decided that it wanted to stay in one piece.


Digging the tropicals, finally

Because it's been so mild, there has not been any urgency in digging up the tropicals. Yes I dug and brought into the garage some of the papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) and the upright elephant ears (Alocasia macrorrhiza) quite a while ago, but the plants with tubers or rhizomes I've not worried about. Elephant Ears (Colocasia esculenta and others) and various cannas have been fine out there -- the ground has not yet frozen.

With temperatures falling well below freezing and not coming much up above it again for a few days beginning tonight, I had to start some digging yesterday. Above is a bucket of mixed Colocasia tubers, straight from the ground.


What follows the rain?

Eleven inches (28cm) of rain this month in St. Louis (officially), with at least 9" (23cm) of it coming in the last four days. What follows heavy rains in late December?

Well, two things. The first is fungus, or at least fungal blooms. My wife noticed these crazy orange/reddish things from the window.



So much of the country is having a bad time with extreme weather, it seems wrong to complain about our own weather here in St. Louis. No blizzards, tornadoes, or anything else violent, but we have been getting more than our fair share of rain.

It's been raining pretty much non-stop since Christmas day afternoon, when we had quite heavy storms -- the dry creekbed on the south side of the house will get a makeover this summer, letting it carry much more water. Or maybe there's another solution. I enjoy spreading pretty river gravel around, but carrying it up from the bottom of the hill more than once every year is getting old.


Christmas Sunrise

Merry Christmas! or so the sun seemed to say yesterday morning.

It was a beauty...


A little pond work

The other day after cutting down the bananas and preparing them for winter I decided it was also time to remove the pond netting.

I usually don't leave it up this long because it will get frozen into the ice, but since we haven't had any of that yet I've been able to keep it in place extra long. Hopefully this kept more leaves out of the water -- there seemed to be a lot of them in there last year!


Wednesday Vignette: Aloe question

My Wednesday Vignette this week is a question...

...a question about aloes. Specifically, one type of aloe. More specifically, the one potted plant that is too close to my desk chair and hence gets a fleshy leaf snapped off once in a while when I move back too far.


Boldly Green

Sunny winter days are when I really appreciate the bamboo in the garden the most.

Especially on a day that alternates between grey and stormy then sunny, the green is so uplifting!


Finally putting the bananas to sleep

Although temperatures still don't have me concerned -- it's just been so mild, just barely getting below freezing a few nights -- I figured that it was time to get the Musa basjoo banana ready for winter.

I've just left it alone so far, except for the effort I went through to save the leaves that will insulate it.


Looking back: Kauai

Not much going on around here recently, so I thought I'd take a look back to a time before I had this blog, to a place that I'd much like to visit again: Kauai

It was our first and only (so far) trip to the Hawaiian islands, and it was amazing in so many ways. Since I don't remember every detail, I'll let the photos do the talking.


Random Thursday

Why does it seem like I've been doing the "random" posts more often lately? Probably for two reasons: the first being that I've not been doing much in the garden lately of course, so there's not much to post about out there.

The second though is that I seem to be snapping more one-off photos of interesting things while out and about lately. Those photos pile up and then it's time to wrangle them into a post lest they be forgotten. I'm starting today with a mosaic of the St. Louis skyline...


Terrarium produces

The other day I did some pruning of the terrarium succulents, leaving me with lots of propagation material.

Here's what I did with this pile of trimmings.


Totem pole cactus: not doing it right?

One benefit of having to bring so many non-hardy plants indoors for the winter is that I get to look at them a lot more than I did when they were out in the garden. One plant that I'm looking at a lot (and loving what I see) is the totem pole cactus (Lophocereus schottii f. monstrosus).

I picked up a small one of these a few years at the Missouri Botanical Garden, where the Henry Shaw Cactus and Succulent Society were having their annual plant sale. I was so excited to find one of these locally, as it had been on my want list for a while!


Invasion apparent

This is one of the times of the year when the invasion is most apparent here in Missouri, at least in the St. Louis area.

The invasion I'm talking about is of bush honeysuckle, the shrubby Asian plant introduced to this country 100 years or more ago, which is now the predominant understory shrub in much of Missouri.


Terrarium refresh, step 1

It's time again for my annual (or biannual?) terrarium refresh, where I do some pruning, digging, planting. I have to warn you, the images in today's post won't be so pretty.

That's because the terrarium is quite overgrown. A few light-loving plants have hogged the "temporary" lights (that are taking a long time to replace) resulting in a tangled, ugly mess.


Wednesday Vignette: Fire?

Anna at Flutter and Hum hosts the Wednesday Vignette meme, and today's vignette is a scent. For whatever reason the last few nights we've been out later than normal, and entering the house each night gives me quite a shock.

It started on Friday evening, when opening the front door I was met with what seemed like the smell of burning plastic -- my first thought being that there was an electrical fire in the attic or in a wall somewhere.


A little bit of sun

Today is at least partly sunny, with temperatures reaching about 15ºF above normal.

Since I have little time today, this sunshine was the perfect excuse to jump outside and snap a few photos of the light's effect on the front garden.


Thinning out the seed stores

Like many gardeners, I buy a lot of seeds -- especially in the mid-to-late winter months, when seed catalogs hint at the excitement that next season's plants will bring. The problem is, I rarely use more than a few seeds from any packet each season -- maybe half a packet in a crazy year.

So I end up with a lot of old seeds packets, partially full, sometimes 8 years old (or more). I decided to clear out my seed stores this weekend, or at least make a start on it. First step: the flowering plants.


Inside aloe

One of the pre-winter tasks that I did get done is bringing the potted succulents indoors. Because of some furniture rearrangement since last winter, there's not the room for these upstairs that there was before.

This means that some of the plants are in strange, temporary places right now. A little of a hassle to walk around, but it gives me a chance to see some of them in a new light -- literally.


Not enough curves

I realized something this morning when looking out the bedroom window over the garden.

I don't have enough curves out there. Something bold that catches the eye yet harmonizes with the surrounding plants and structures.


Wednesday Vignette: Morning Sun

It's been a while since we've seen the sun in the morning. It seems like it rained for at least five days straight, and has been overcast and grey. Yesterday afternoon was nice and sunny though, in that wintery way.

The sunrise this morning gives me hope that there will be more sunshine today. The shadows of my garden (part of it at least) are the subject of this week's Wednesday Vignette, hosted by Anna at Flutter and Hum (not a car blog).


So random

Time for more random observations.

I had such a hard time keeping this pot wet enough this summer. Now I can't keep it dry! (I want to get some of the water out so I can bring this indoors, but it just keeps raining!)



I overwinter a lot of succulents indoors: agaves, aloes, euphorbias, cactus, and most of them are quite easy as long as they get a little light and are kept relatively dry.

Echeveria too -- I had taken their ease of overwintering for granted until a comment by Loree in her post today saying that her echeveria never last the winter indoors. Strange, because this one I have is so easy!


Thankful and thinking of food

In the US we had our Thanksgiving Day holiday yesterday. This for most of us means making lists of things to be thankful for, a gathering of family and/or friends, and big meals.

It's that last part that got me thinking. With so many millions in this country not getting enough to eat, and with food waste such a significant problem, was there something I could do to help?


Wednesday Vignette: woodpile

Anna at Flutter and Hum brings us weekly vignettes, and this week I chose something that sort of illustrated how I feel right now:

My wood pile. It's a project half-started (some of the wood is split), not yet finished (the wood isn't stacked), has been sitting around for a month or more, and there's no real urgency to complete it due to mild weather. It's still quite interesting though.


Cold-damaged, but pretty

I always have mixed emotions about going out into the garden after the first hard freeze -- and we had a hard one on Saturday. After previous lows that just barely dipped to freezing or a degree (F) below, it was 19ºF (-7ºC) Sunday morning when I awoke.

The tender plants turn to mush with those temps, and at first I hate the sight of their droopy, clearly dead leaves. But then I start looking more closely and realize that even this weather-murdered foliage is still quite beautiful.


Something missing this year

As I bring in all of my non-hardy plants for overwintering in the garage, basement and house, there's something missing this year.

Something that has caused me much pain but also much excitement over the last few years. If you know what it is, you've really been paying attention!


It's time

With a hard freeze a day away, it's time to take some drastic steps. This hurts every year I do it, but this year less than usual since it's so late.

That's right, it's time to preemptively do what the weather will do in another day or so.


One last look: castor beans

With the first hard freeze expected Saturday evening, I thought give you one last look at the stars of my late-season garden: the castor beans (Ricinus communis).

Also papyrus and a little canna, because they also impressed me so much this year. I'm glad that I was able to enjoy them until almost the end of November (an extra three or four weeks this year), but I'll miss them for the next nine months or so -- the castor beans won't be impressive until late July at the earliest.


Wednesday Vignette: Cramped

Anna at Flutter and Hum hosts the Wednesday Vignette meme, and today I thought I'd showcase my jam-packed, overgrown succulent terrarium.

In a corner of the basement with lights on a timer, this thing gets ignored for at least six months of a year, and then I pay attention to it again once temperatures drop and I start using the treadmill again.


What I haven't yet done

This mild autumn is helping me to procrastinate, so I thought I'd remind myself of the things that I have not yet done that I need to pretty soon. Our first hard freeze is coming this weekend, and that means that I really do need to get moving.

1) Dig up the tropicals. This means two dozen Elephant Ears (Colocasia), a few papyrus, some cannas, and at least one non-hardy banana.


Shelter from the rain

Last week I talked about the leaves in my front yard, and how I needed to get them out of the cactus bed at least -- even if I wasn't going to rake them all up right now. Gerhard agreed that the leaves had to come out of that bed to protect the cactus from winter rot. (They're all cold-hardy but only if they stay relatively dry.)

I mentioned in reply that I had some special plans for this bed for the winter. Want to see what I came up with?


Friday Spider

Friday the 13th, a good time for a post about a scary (for many) gardening topic: spiders!

You do know that spiders are by some measures the most important beneficial insect in the garden, don't you? They're not nearly as scary as bamboo mites, or Rose Rosette Virus, or Aloe mites, or glysophate, or neonicotinoids, or Colony Collapse Disorder, or even tetanus. Still I think this hairy and colorful little guy that I found indoors on one of my windows is appropriate for this unluckiest of days.

(Note that I used the least-detailed image above in case you're not very fond of spider images -- just scroll past the next five down to the comments if you're not an arachnid fan!)


My solution

Yesterday I wrote about my dilemma with regard to the bananas and my leaves. Most of the suggestions in the comments were in line with what I was thinking already... today I'm showing you what my solution was.


My dilemma

I've got a problem this year. It involves the maple leaves that currently blanket half of my front yard.

The problem is that I don't know what to do with them. Rake them up sure, but then what?


Even this year, procrastinating

Every autumn brings with it not just the colors that we all love, but for me, a scramble to get non-hardy plants indoors. You'd think that this year with its lingering mild temperatures I would have things under control, getting the growing tables in the basement ready in time, having a place for everything.

But no. I still procrastinated this year, getting the tender plants into the garage or basement the afternoon before the first frost. Placement isn't important during these scrambles, only getting the plants inside. Hence they end up in "bad" places -- like in my more-important-than-ever workshop area as seen above.


Going back, looking at cats

I tweaked my back recently moving a too-large load of soaking wet leaves, so I have no desire to go walking around the garden with the camera. Also last night I had a very strange dream about my cats shrinking, so I thought that I'd go "back" in time and collect my garden cat posts for you.

I loved it when I had stray cats hanging around in the garden watching me work, and the kittens were, well, kittens


Why color, now?

For most of us, autumn means color. We look for it, remark on it, share it. Why is color so important to us, especially at this time of year?

Is it that we know that it could be the last chance to see this vibrance before the reduced palette of winter sets in?


Random tidbits from the phone

I was looking through the photos on my phone this morning and realized that I had quite a few things that were worth mentioning but didn't warrant a post by themselves. So they piled up.

Lumped all together though, there's some interesting stuff here. For instance, this photo of a small tree planting ringed by pavers at my mother's neighbor's house. Not really interesting in itself (and not very attractive in my opinion), but...


Let's talk mold again

At about this time last year I posted about mold

Let's talk about it again today, but from a slightly different angle.


Nimble Mill

Although some of my earlier posts have hinted at this news, I'm excited to report that today it's official: I've got a new company and website, focused on garden furniture and related items -- the kinds of projects I've been posting about every so often this summer (like this, this, this, and this)

My company is called Nimble Mill, and you can find the website here.



I've been hearing that this winter in the Midwest (remember that I'm in St. Louis) has a high probability of being a mild one. As a zone 6 bamboo grower I hope for a mild winter every year, as it's important for the plants to keep their green leaves in order to have any chance of a "size up" next year -- meaning larger, taller culms emerging in spring.

The last two winters were tough on bamboo here. Two winters ago was the worst, when all of my plants defoliated -- you can see the results in the image above. At -8ºF (-22ºC) I was literally one or two degrees away from "topkill", where even the culms are killed -- probably the worst-case scenario for bamboo lovers. The winter before that (which would have been 2012-2013) was quite mild though -- is this what I should expect for 2015-2016?


Leaves freshen things up!

The leaves are falling in my garden, which makes me happy in some ways and sad in others. Rather than lament the end of the growing season, I'm going to look at the leaf carpet as just another aspect of the garden.

Like a good snowfall, the leaves give me a fresh way of looking at everything.


Wednesday Vignette: reminders in terracotta

This summer I traded some muscle power for clay pots -- terracotta of many different sizes.

There are two or three dozen of them, in different shapes and sizes. Nothing fancy, but to me there is no plant pot more perfect than a small one made of terracotta so I'll almost never pass up the chance to own more.


Autumn randomness


Favorite views

I'm on the road today, but thought I would show you some of my favorite views of my garden before autumn eats it.

Not really a tour, but you'll see the same plants from different angles which may help orient you.


Alocasia seed pod or goofy halloween face?

I'm quite happy with the Alocasias this year:

There are two main plants there, although both have multiple pups now. So full, so perfect in this corner! I made a discovery the other morning, perfect for the season...


Little late season surprises

I've started bringing some potted plants indoors, and since I haven't really looked closely at some of these for a month or two (or all summer really), there are some surprises.

The first hasn't been outdoors at all yet but since it's already on the overwintering table (where I can baby it) this is a good time to show it to you: it's the Tetrapanax that Loree sent me earlier this summer!


Snake! Wait, snake? (and other questions)

I noticed something momentarily exciting yesterday:

What certainly must be a snake climbing high up in my pine tree! I haven't seen a snake in the garden for a few years, and they're one of the things that I've been trying to attract -- any reptiles really. So this sighting was exciting!


It starts with a dragonfly

A dragonfly is to thank for today's post. Strangely enough you won't be seeing any dragonfly images though, but what was to be a moment's stop at the edge of the pond after bringing some perilla cuttings to the compost pile became a half hour of exploration of the garden.

All thanks to a dragonfly that was laying eggs around the pond. She wasn't laying in the water though like this previous one was -- she was targeting areas above the waterline. By the time I got my camera and came back she was gone, but I knew where she appeared to deposit some eggs.


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