Nothing. Well, almost nothing

"Nothing" is what's been going on in my garden. Or is it what I've done as far as winterizing goes? Or does it refer to this blog, and what's happening here?

It's a mix of all three I'm afraid, as I've done so little outside over the past several months. As the time I have available for gardening has diminished, so has the desire to write about the garden.


Something not quite right?

I haven't been out in the garden too much lately, but as I walked by this bamboo patch I realized something wasn't quite right.

Can you spot what caught my eye?


Too much?

I always let some "weeds" grow in my yard and garden, and one of the best -- especially for late-season blooms -- is, well, I've forgotten what it is. I think it's Late Boneset (Eupatorium serotinum) but it could be White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima).

Whatever it is, it provides pollinators with early autumn flowers, and I like seeing all of that white out there. I think this year I went a little overboard with it though.


View of the deck from inside

The deck gets a few planters each year, but most of the beauty that is visible late in the season is courtesy of the plants that grow up around the deck.

Here's what I see from the living room windows at this time of year.


Wet Sticks

The other morning was a wet one, and the Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' really caught my eye.

Looked even better through the vintage macro lens!


Cardinal Climber

Annual flowering vines are one of the key components of my garden, even though they really only get going late in the season. Cardinal Climber (Ipomoea sloteri) may be the slowest of the annual vines I grow, flowering not before mid-September for me...

...but it's such a beauty I must grow it every year!


Blending in?

This Green stinkbug nymph is trying to blend in with the red foliage of Hibiscus 'Mahogony Splendor'.

Not sure if he's pulling it off.


Beautiful Monster

You know I like big plants, right? Castor bean, bamboo, Colocasia and Alocasia -- those big ones fit the size of my yard quite nicely. This year I've discovered a new big one, and it was a surprise for two reasons. First, it got much bigger than the tag indicated.

Second, it has the most amazing color! It's my beautiful monster, Hibiscus 'Mahogony Splendor'.



In the previous post I mentioned how I rely on big annuals and tropicals for impact in my garden, and it's only in late summer/early autumn when those plants really start shining. For me castor bean (Ricinus communis) is one of these late-season stars, and this year I tried a new cultivar.

I don't know exactly the name of this variety, as it was tagged with just a "22" at Greenscape Gardens. It looked a lot like 'Zanzibar' to me, the type with the huge green leaves that I had seen at Missouri Botanical Garden a few years back, so I took a chance.


Walkway garden, late summer

It's here, my favorite time of year! Temperatures drop (a little), every day brings breezes (usually), it's sunny and dry almost every day, and most importantly all of the plants in my garden have reached full size. Sure, spring gardens are nice, but when you rely on big annuals or tropicals for impact it's the end of the season where things really shine.

So I'll be showing you around the garden before autumn hits, starting today with the walkway garden in front.


Mailbox Spiders

I've been so busy lately, it's been difficult to even get out into the garden, let alone post about it. Once in a while though something appears to me, visible from the office window, and I need to react.

That was the case a week ago when the early evening sunlight highlighted this mailbox web for me.


Pickle Springs Natural Area

A few weekends back we were having some decent temperatures, cooler than normal and breezy, so we decided to take a hike. Technically a drive followed by a hike. One of the regular customers at the pie shop had told us earlier in the week about this place, and after seeing her photos we just had to visit!

It's Pickle Springs Natural Area, and was a little over an hour from our house. There is no water access here, no river, no camping, although there may have been a picnic table or two next to the small parking area -- if you don't want to hike, you've come to the wrong place!


Lazy Assist

You know I didn't get around to deadheading the hibiscus yet, but guess what? Mother Nature decided to help me out a little...

...and close those split seed pods back up!


Notice and Focus

I don't know about you, but with me most gardening tasks don't happen on a schedule. Instead, they rely on me noticing something: "the grass is so long", "there are a lot of weeds in that bed", "that plant is dead", "there's a bamboo shoot coming up in my neighbor's yard", etc.

"Those blooms are done so I should deadhead before seed production starts" is one I say in my head a lot, especially with these rose mallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpos) along the front walkway. Yesterday I noticed that they're just about ready to spill those seeds!


It's Maypop Season

Maypop, Passiflora incarnata, is a native Missouri vine that is lush, vigorous, and looks oh so tropical.

It's a slow starter in my garden, not even emerging until the first week of June, but by mid-to-late August it's pretty much threatening to take the place over.


The best verbena!

I have grown Verbena bonariensis for at least 10 years, if not more. Mind you, I only planted it once -- grown from seed -- but it has been a regular volunteer in my garden ever since. A welcome one at that!

Still, this is not typically a focal plant for me, more like a filler. Until this year that is, when a volunteer showed up in a planter on the deck and has shown me what a magnificent plant this can be!


Stream rebuild part 2

The stream rebuild project is coming along slowly. Lots of days where it was either way too hot, raining, or I was just too busy meant that I didn't do much on it until this past weekend.

Sunday morning I took advantage of cooler temperatures -- albeit in 90%+ humidity -- and got some work done.


Onondaga Cave

Missouri is home to many caves (and there will be a map at the end of this post to prove it), and there are several that are open to the public. A few summers back my wife and I visited Meramec Caverns, and last month we went to another that's just an hour or so from home: Onondaga.

There's not too much narrative to this post, although we did learn a few interesting things about the cave that I'll add here and there. (This post took forever to write!)



This is the deer that wanders around our neighborhood during the day, almost fearlessly.

She is either quite bold, or has very poor eyesight -- worse than other deer. Or perhaps she's just soooo hungry? I've been able to get within 10' (3m) of her, although these photos were taken from indoors.


Totem Pole Cactus

My totem pole cactus (Lophocereus schottii) is doing great! Well, fine at least. It didn't put on much growth last year...

...but it seems to be healthy. It might need a little more fertilizer, and maybe a few hours more sun a day? I don't know if I have a better spot than the deck stairs though.


Midsummer replacement

The walkway garden has been quite nice this year with a couple of summer additions. There are a few plants that are spent though, and it's time for a refresh.

If you can ignore the white-hot spot of sunlight on the wonderfully silver foliage of the Artemesia ludoviciana, you can see the tired green of the cleome surrounding it. Blech.


Tadpole update

Remember how the stream rebuild unexpectedly turned into a tadpole rescue? Well, it's time for an update on these metamorphosing amphibians.

I thought these tadpoles looked different, not the American Toad tadpoles that I'm used to seeing.


Milkweed, why?

I've given the milkweed patch in my garden a few years to start attracting swarms of monarch butterflies, and because this is common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) which spreads from its roots... has taken over the entire "prairie" portion of my garden. I let it because it's easier for the butterflies to spot a large patch, right?



I think "ootheca" is the perfect word for... well, I'll tell you in a minute if you don't already know.

This is one of my Fargesia sp. 'Rufa' (possibly no longer the correct name as it seems to change every couple of years):

I need to clean out dead culms and also take a division of it, but doing it in the summer is dangerous -- wasps make nests in it every year. So I did clean out quite a bit in early spring, but there were still some visible dead culms poking out and a week or so ago I decided to remove them.


What the peck?

The other day I noticed this downy woodpecker on the yucca flower stalk:

Hmmm -- what's he doing there?


Summer is cool!

That's something we don't say too often in St. Louis, where we usually have hot and humid summers that end up being quite dry much of the time. For the last four or five days it's been unusually cool though, with highs in the 70-80ºF (21-27ºC) range, and we've had quite a bit of rain.

The humidity has been relatively low too, with a nice breeze. In other words, pretty awesome weather! This means windows open, no watering for several days, all the plants perking up -- and even a little bit of garden work. (Nothing on the stream project though -- too wet!)


Stream rebuild begins

It's been a few years coming, but I finally started the stream rebuild project a couple of weeks ago. It's been silent and dry (except for rain of course) since the winter, and I miss it!

Remember that I thought of a plan that would involve less work? The demolition -- which involved moving lots of rocks -- was unavoidable regardless of the plan. It's also the brainless part, so thankfully it comes at the start because there were still a couple of details of the design I needed to clarify. When I removed the "cover rock" from the reservoir though, I got a little surprise.



One of the best things about gardening in the heat of the summer is plant sales. Unlike the spring (and early fall to a lesser extent) the nurseries and garden centers around here become almost empty in the middle of summer. Much fewer visitors, smaller staff, some empty tables. Only those who really love plants (or do plants for a living) are shopping -- which I love.

Therefore surprise sales and pretty healthy plants on clearance. I've found some great bargains in the middle of summer over the years! That's what happened at the orange big box store when I went to pick up some mosquito dunks the other day: I found these.


A little walkway help

Today we'll look at the part of my garden that I see most: the front walkway. There are some good things going on here...

...but there are some problems too. I'll address one problem spot in particular today...


Lazy Summer

It's summer in St. Louis, which means hot, humid (usually), and overall just lazy.

It's not just me -- it's the ungulates too!


Just about dead

What might be the worst photo you see from me this summer...

...shows the sorry state of two plants that I thought were invincible.



If there's one thing we have in Missouri, it's rivers. Recently my wife and I have been visiting some of them. Well, a couple at least -- it's not always easy to motivate yourself on your one day off a week to brave the 95ºF (35ºC) temperatures (plus humidity!) and get out into "the country".

We did though, and the first of the rivers I want to share is the "big" river...


Hibiscus 'Mahogony Splendor'

You already know that I'm back to buying new plants this year, and that I'm not adverse to paying for annuals or tropicals -- things that are not cold hardy in my climate. It seems like that's where all of the "best" plants are... bring them on! Sure I'll have to let go once the killing cold comes, or figure out a way to overwinter at least a cutting, but it's so worth it. Here's a great example: Hibiscus 'Mahogony Splendor'.


Emerald Jumper

Saw a cool little spider on the rose the other day...

...and I just had to snap some macro shots. Note that if you're not a spider fan, you might not want to continue reading because the remaining images are a bit closer.



We're not doing any extended road trip like we did last summer and a few years earlier, but that doesn't mean that we're not getting out and seeing cool things. Just this past Sunday we drove down to Washington State Park (in Missouri), about an hour from home. What's there of interest? That's actually what we wanted to find out, knowing only that it's a heavily forested and hilly region that we've driven past several times on the way to our favorite winery.

The first thing we discovered there were the petroglyphs.


Pond update?

Yesterday we looked at the non-pond water features in my garden. Today we'll look at some deer -- no, of course we'll look at the pond. Well, sort of.

Something strange here. I don't remember planting a tree in front of the pond...


Water features that aren't the pond

I have two non-pond water features in my garden. The most prominent is the water barrel in the front garden, found at the intersection between the two front walkways.

I'm trying something a little different in it this year, as the deer visit it every night (and sometimes during the day) so it's difficult to find plants that they won't snack on.


Some Before and Afters

In general I'd say that I've been making decent progress on the garden projects this year. I've been out there at least a few times a week getting things done, and it feels good to make some progress! These projects are not always great stories though, so trying to craft a post out of them individually is not productive. As a series of before and after shots though, that might work!

So I start with some shots I took a month ago, when the unwanted volunteers (aka weeds) seemed like they would take over.


Ficus Update

A couple of years ago (or three) I got a clearance NOID fig for $10. The little thing was alive but not very impressive.

I've been growing it in a large pot and overwintering in the garage, and it's starting to become something to see.


New Plants!

It's been a couple of years since I've been able to do a "new plant" post since last year I made a point not to buy any plants. It probably goes without saying that a summer of no plant shopping is quite a bit less fun than a summer with!

I showed you the annuals I bought earlier, where I just needed to fill out several different beds and didn't have specific ideas of where things were going. This trip was different, in that I had some ideas about what plants and where.


Summer Surprise number 1

The first happy surprise I got this summer was actually discovered in the spring:

It's my Manfreda virginica, and for some reason the deer did not prune this one for me this year!


Summer Surprise number 2

I've had some surprises this summer -- good ones for the most part so far -- and today I'll show you the second of them. (Wait, what about the first? Well, I'm numbering them in the order I discovered them, not in the order in which I'm sharing.)

Those of you who grow roses probably recognized this: new growth. Maybe I should say that another way...


Monday Miscellany

Time for another catchup post of randomness from the past couple of months. Maybe I'll go in chronological order, at least roughly.

That lets me start with the clematis, which are so great for a couple of weeks and then turn icky.


The Fabulous Color of Japanese Maples

Ah, that wonderful, colorful foliage of japanese maples: browns and yellows and reds. Is there a better tree for autumn color?

Oh wait, it's only June.


Casual Visitor

We all love visitors to our gardens, right? We want them to be comfortable, feel at ease, enjoy their visits.

Well, not always. Sometimes they're just maybe a little too comfortable.


Banana update

Late last fall I put the bananas (Musa basjoo) to bed for the winter, as I do every year. I did things differently that last time, doing as little as I could to protect them. Yes I mulched with leaves, but this time I didn't create a cage to fill, cover it with plastic, or anything else. I just put a minimal amount of leaves and hoped for the best.

Well, the winter was not mild by any measure, especially if you're a tropical herbaceous flowering plant. I was curious to see how my "protection" worked, and what would emerge come spring. As seen above in a photo taken a month ago on May 24, everything is fine!


Bamboo Cleanup Number One

One of the reasons that I've been posting so infrequently so far this summer (yesterday's post was my first in about two weeks!) is that there are a lot of projects left out there, and it's either do or write about it. (Time to catch up a bit!) One of those projects is bamboo maintenance. The dry fall and winter combined with a couple of extended spells of bitter cold took a heavy toll on many of the bamboos and there are many dead culms to remove.

What makes this task tricky though is some species take a while to wake up, and it's not always easy to tell what's dead until later in the spring. Case in point: this Phyllostachys virella. About a month ago I finally decided that this one was not coming back.



There is a bit of a panic right now in Missouri, especially in parks and neighborhoods where ash trees were planted decades ago -- my own city and street included. The Emerald Ash Borer has arrived, and that means that our ash trees will soon be a memory only. I'm not too worried about our forests, as only about 7 percent of the trees in our about 15 million acres of forests will be affected, and I'm not even too concerned about my own garden.

You see, my single remaining ash tree is kind of a jerk.


Morning Surprise

Last Sunday my wife and I got a little surprise when we walked out onto the deck:

Yep, it's fawn season again!


Rose, so perfect (for now)

A couple of weeks ago my one remaining rose (Zephirine Drouhin) was just about perfect.

That foliage, those blooms -- complementing the support quite nicely I must say.


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