27 October 2012

Fall Tower of Sunflower

Dwarf sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are always found in my summer garden, because, well, I have a very small house on a very small property. In addition, tall sunflowers are too overwhelming and gangly for my taste (although I have admired a tight grouping of them.)

Just about every winter, I comb through the garden catalogs searching out the shorties to try during the upcoming summer. Altogether I have tried about a half dozen varieties [posted 2009.08.25]. Last year, I never ordered any and can't remember what the reason was.

With no seed for the summer, I made a panic purchase at the local home improvement store when the tulips were blooming. Burpee's Big Blush came home and a spot was reserved along the front driveway. But, I could not find the seed when it came time to plant. "Did I really purchase them?" I wondered. I instead planted the same variety as before that I found in my tin of leftover seed, Waooh [posted 2010.09.02].

I eventually stumbled across the seeds I bought earlier in spring. The summer sunflowers were done blooming for the season in August. After they were ripped out, I thought, "Why not plant some more? Time to start another experiment." So a second crop of dwarf sunflowers (actually 3 seeds) were planted in the same spot; one came up.

I have good results to report from last week. With the frost holding off, one tower began its run. One could guess the dwarf varieties could do this since their growing season is a little shorter than the tall ones. A 40-inch high (1 m) stalk with all sorts of side flowers is blooming. Big Blush flowers are not unique, but the size of the side flowers and their associated stems is, resulting in great cut flowers from one plant.

Was this an anomaly? If not, this could become a habit from now on - something to replace the old sunflowers once they finish their summer blooming. On a second note, the Waooh sunflower seeds were harvested and are most appreciated by chickadees.

For The Record:
  • Fertile soil & organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • No fertilizer
  • Chomping pests during summer germination

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Mexican zinnia, zinnia, sunflower, echinacea, pineapple sage
  • Harvested: 1 pepper, 1 tomato

15 October 2012

October 2012 Bloom Day

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
What's blooming in the garden on the 15th of the month

Gosh, everything seems to be red, yellow, orange this time of year (or brown.) And gosh, I haven't participated in a Gardnen Bloggers Bloom Day since April. So, here are a few noteworthy stragglers hanging on as fall is teetering on the first frost.

Note the sunflower beginning to bloom. There is a story here that I will tell in a future post. You can find other garden bloggers' bloom days at the blog May Dreams Gardens.

AcidantheraZinnia elegans 'Canary Bird'

Castor Plant (Ricinus communis) Zinnia elegans 'Canary Bird'

Zinnia augustifolia

Zinnia agustifolia with dwarf sunflower

Salvia elegans 'Pineapple Sage'

14 October 2012

Radishes Forever

Why is there another post about my radishes?
  a. There is a radish fetish
  b. These are special radishes
  c. Getting old and senile, forgetting radishes were
      previously posted
  d. All of the above

Here's the story. You may have previously read about my problems with radishes [posted 2012.05.29], and my good fortune this year. I had the best radish crop yet this past spring.

However, some of the plants did not produce anything, so I let them grow and flower. The blooms attracted a small army of bees over a long period into summer.

I thought these scrawny plants would never die. They formed an ugly border for months in the front yard cottage garden for all the neighborhood to notice. Cool weather radishes appear to be rather tough and hold up to droughts and summer heat. Finally the flowers turned to plump seed pods in the middle of July.

I harvested the seeds and planted them in early September for a fall harvest - first time I planted for a fall crop of anything. Only about half the seeds germinated, either because I went on vacation just as they needed water to sprout, or many of the seeds were not pollinated. My new fall crop was pulled up (30 days just like on seed packets) just as the first frost is predicted. View one, along with some of their Hungarian buddies.

11 October 2012

Pineapple Rag

So I found myself in Delaplane Virginia for the annual spring strawberry festival. Disappointed that the strawberries bering sold were Driscoll's imported from California (and higher priced than the same in the grocery stores), I headed for the craft booths. I wandered down Booth Row and through the endless assortment of hummingbird and butterfly stained glass, country dolls, soap, and banners (I am probably insulting some readers here), and found a corner vendor selling plants.

The herb table was most interesting. I picked up a Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) and chatted with the owner who pointed out its virtues and its growing requirements. So it will grow into a small bush, cuttings can be taken, and it will die in the fall.

It was planted in my hillside, side south-facing garden and pretty much forgotten about. Once in a while, I picked off a leaf to enjoy the pineapple scent. And, I was fond of picking one off for any visitors (on a garden 'tour' before dinner) to enjoy. Internet indications are that it makes good tea and pina colada garnishments.

Leaves were always light chartreuse and stood out next to the castor and rosemary plants. Its color seemed to be a theme in the back yard without trying (St. John's Wort, hostas, coleus.) And then this month, it began blooming.

To say the red on the Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) is brilliant is an understatement. Only two other plants have this red intensity at this time of year - cosmos and crocosmia, and my crocosmia died years ago. The 18-inch high (50 cm) plant filled in without trimming. The square stems and blooms are a giveaway as a mint family member. In fact, I noticed the flowers look like salvia, which (wow) is in the botanical name.

Indications on internet sites are that the plant dies down at frost, but the root clump remains viable over winter to my zone (7A). Since I have enough going on bringing plants indoors during the fall, I think I will test out this overwinter theory and just mulch the roots for the winter.

I am please with the outcome of this purchase. And will even look at pineapple sage recipes if it comes back next year. Pineapple sage salsa anyone?

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with some organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • No fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: canna, mexican zinnia, zinnia, sage, aster
  • Harvested: 2 tomatoes, 1 radish

03 October 2012

On Deck

Come on up the stairs for dinner on the deck. That's my second year of container gardening in the corner. I started one last year after seeing all the great containers that bloggers were posting on their blogs. This year's looks better, and I even added a second container full of sweet potato vines.

That's 'Red Star Cordyline' (Dracena) in the center. I brought it indoors last winter, kept it alive, and used it to center the container again this year. Simple cream petunias and red Calibrachoa work with the color scheme, with the calibrachoa spilling over the edges. In the summer, these needed watering every other day.

Just drop in and have a seat. Every chair rocks a little. Go ahead and put your legs up while I fix a snack on the grille.
Haven't seen you in a while, and never saw you decked
out in brown before - very appropriate for this time of year.
And, pardon me, but my have you grown, (especially
around the bottom.)