Fall flower garden dance

Centratherum punctatum, Brazilian button flower given to me by Cindy from My Corner of Katy blog.

A week ago, when I started this post, it was cold, bitterly so, after a very long and warm fall. Any tropical I didn’t get moved into the greenhouse froze. Deciduous trees and shrubs started their leaf fall and began pulling in their sap to wait until spring to rise again. The asters, garden mums and other flowers are all finished too, but they had their moment of glory. Let’s look back at their reign.

Tagetes lucida, Mexican tarragon is truly a thug so plant it in an area where it has room to roam.
Tagetes lucida, Mexican tarragon is truly a thug so plant it in an area where it has room to roam. It does bloom school bus yellow, but the smaller pollinators love it so much, and it’s great for fall color. Plus, the leaves taste good, like tarragon.

Summer in Oklahoma is hot and usually dry. The sun bakes the sky until it’s only a soft and hazy blue. In fall, that same sky is the most glorious color. Fall reminds me that God loves us. Autumn color is astounding against the green grass and blue sky.

It's not just about the flowers. Fall color in the front border from a 'Viridis' Japanese maple and 'Cherokee Chief' dogwood behind.
It’s not just about the flowers. Fall color in the front border from a ‘Viridis’ Japanese maple and ‘Cherokee Chief’ dogwood behind.

I can’t get enough of fall. It’s when I enjoy the garden most of all. I don’t worry too much about garden chores or spend my time working. Instead, I take my time walking around and gazing at the flowers and foliage before everything dies back to become one with the ground once more.

Variegated plectranthus and coleus were two tropical plants I grew this summer on the east side of the house. The plectranthus lost much of its variegation by the end of summer. I don't know why.
Variegated plectranthus and coleus were two tropical plants I grew this summer on the east side of the house. The plectranthus lost much of its variegation by the end of summer. I don’t know why. I probably won’t plant it next year.

Fall is usually balm to my weary nerves. It’s been hot this year all the way into November. I’m ready for hot chocolate or tea, cookies and sitting around the fire. Instead, temperatures remained in the mid-80s, and I had the air conditioning on in the house as late as two weeks ago. When I heard it was going to be a hard freeze last week, I thought, finally!

'Jessica Louise' mum with another mum friend. I lost the tag to the other, but I'm trying to locate the name in my purchase orders. If I find it, I'll update it.
‘Jessica Louise’ mum with another mum friend. I lost the tag to the other, but I’m trying to locate the name in my purchase orders. If I find it, I’ll update it. I bought them at the same time, but I don’t remember where. I should keep better records.

I never wish for winter, but if I wanted summer temperatures for Christmas, I would head to Australia. Rather, my winter heart resides in Vermont. I’ve not been to Vermont. Never been to Australia either, but there are other places I would go first, like Italy. We plan to go there in March.

Mexican bush sage up close and personal reveals its velvety texture. I find that the solid purple variety is more cold hardy than the one with the purple calyces and white flowers.
Mexican bush sage up close and personal reveals its velvety texture. I find that the solid purple variety is more cold hardy than the one with the purple calyces and white flowers. This is a photo from 2015, but it’s representative of what’s blooming in my garden until the freeze.

Back to the fall floral display. All of my gardens are designed with fall flowers in mind. If we get a hot summer, there won’t be much blooming then so I choose tropical plants to fill in those empty spaces. Then, I plan and plant for fall.

Centratherum punctatum, Brazilian button flower given to me by Cindy from My Corner of Katy blog.
Centratherum punctatum, Brazilian button flower given to me by Cindy from My Corner of Katy blog.

When I spoke last spring in Sugar Land and Tomball, I spent time with my friend, Cindy From My Corner of Katy. Cindy and I have been friends for almost nine years, and she never lets me leave her home without giving me some wonderful plant. This year, it was Brazilian button flower, a/k/a Brazilian bachelor’s button. My plant grew to be about two feet tall and wide, and I have it planted in clay. It simply shrugged off the terrible dirt and began blooming in mid-summer. Then, in fall it really hit its stride. I love this tender perennial which isn’t hardy in Oklahoma, but I’m sure it will deposit plenty of seeds for next year. Cindy says it can be a bit of a thug.

“Bring it,” I say. Not many plants are thuggish in Oklahoma. Garlic chives and autumn clematis are two thugs I can think of off the top of my head, but not many others.

Symphyotrichum laeve 'Bluebird' with a small bee.
Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Bluebird’ with a small bee. One of the best “asters” I have in the garden.

In past years, I’ve written several times about favorite fall flowers and trees. You can plant fall-blooming flowers for pollinators like the Mexican tarragon, above. Remember, simple flowers are always best. That way, small insects can really get their nectar fix. You can also plant fall eye candy for yourself. Mums and asters make good companions. And, while you’re going around admiring your gardens, don’t forget that planting bulbs is an act of faith. I’ll be outside on Friday planting the rest of mine, 200 or so. I planted some tulips, but I waited for a couple of cold snaps to let foliage die back and give me space to work. It also helps cool the ground off. We had a very warm fall, and we’ve had to wait. Wait no longer. Get your bulb on now so you’ll have a beautiful spring. Remember that good gardens take planning, and bulbs are part of that too.

'Emperor of China' mum in the border along the garage.
‘Emperor of China’ mum in the border along the garage.

Much love to all of you. Thank you for reading my blog in this, its ninth year. You don’t know how much I appreciate you still stopping by and leaving a comment. It makes the writing and photography worth it.

Easter garden

Violas in the garden overwintered from last fall. So beautiful.

Happy Easter my friends! I hope that all of you who celebrate Christ’s resurrection have a joyous and blessed day. We’re headed to church this morning, and I’m excited lent is over. For everyone else, I hope Easter whispers spring’s message of rebirth, and you hear it in gentle warm breezes.

Apricot tulips, part of the Van Engelen blend. I like these blends a lot.
Apricot tulips, part of the Van Engelen blend. I like these blends a lot.

This morning, at 5:00 a.m., a cold front roared through Oklahoma and Kansas bringing rain, hail and cooler temperatures in my garden. I’ll be wearing a sweater to church this morning.

In Kansas, they got snow. I’m sorry.

Found the name of this daffodil in an earlier post. It's Narcissus 'Geranium.'
Found the name of this daffodil in an earlier post. It’s Narcissus ‘Geranium.’

For Kansans and everyone else who is battling cold and snow, I want to share some of my Easter garden. I took these pictures yesterday when the wind didn’t blow for the first time in over a week, and the mercury sat at 72. It was a perfect day in the garden. A perfect day for picture taking too.

In the greenhouse, my ‘Republic of Texas’ orange is covered in blooms. I’ve been leaving the greenhouse door open for the pollinators to more easily find it, and find it, they did. Someone in the neighborhood has honeybees–I wish I knew who. (Click on the gallery, above, to make the photos larger.) I would buy some honey from him or her. Local honey is the best. Anyway, Watching the girls as they went about their work was exciting. This orange tree provided the most wonderful fruit over Christmas. I bought several other fruit trees including a dwarf ‘Meyer’ lemon. It has two buds on it too. I can’t wait to smell them. The orange tree smells so sweet. Claire had a friend over, and I called them into the greenhouse to smell the orange and watch the bees at work.

Garage border full of tulips and narcissus. It's probably at peak bulb bloom now.
Garage border full of tulips and narcissus. It’s probably at peak bulb bloom now.

In the garden, I’m starting to see small pollinators at work. When Kari and I cleared the garden, we stacked the hollow stems of the perennials in a pile nearby.Kari only comes one day a week, but we get so much done on that one day. I work in the garden every other day alone. A lot of native pollinators overwinter in those dead sticks, and we try not to disturb them. We’ve been systematically working bed-by-bed weeding and then placing shredded leaves on top as mulch. Earthworms will work that leaf mulch down into the soil making the soil friable. I’ll probably need to mulch three times over the growing season, and I’ll use something different each time: shredded leaves, Back to Nature cottonseed compost and fine pine bark. This is my plan. We’ll see what happens.

I was very pleased with the yellow pansies I planted last fall. They came through the mild winter, and the lemon yellow with the dark faces is so cheerful.
I was very pleased with the yellow pansies I planted last fall. They came through the mild winter, and the lemon yellow with the dark faces is so cheerful.

The yellow pansies were a complete accident. I used pansies to fill in blank spots and provide some color for the tour last fall. Since the tour was in October, I didn’t have much blooming. Kari suggested yellow as one of the colors, and these were the only ones I found. Although I liked them for the tour, I love them for the spring garden. They are the perfect shade of lemon yellow, and the patterned faces are also perfect. The shot, above, shows one of my favorite spots in the back garden now. I think the yellow pansies blend so well with the gray/green lamb’s ears and yarrow. Blue Phlox divaricata doesn’t hurt either. Woodland phlox paints the entire garden blue and purple. You should grow it. Buy seeds from one of the nurseries that carries native plants.

In the meantime, I’m trying to enjoy each new garden discovery as spring unfolds day-by-day. Baptisias will soon be blooming, but only a few emerged from the ground in the last couple of days. Iris will also follow, but today, the Easter garden is full of bulbs which are my spring favorites. Planting them with the drill auger was very effective. It went faster than I expected, and I’m happy with the results. I pull the tulips as they fade, making room for other plants in the garden. I’m also taking stock of perennials crowding out other plants. I noticed that our mild winter was great for the pansies and violas, but the cannas also loved it, spreading way beyond their spaces. Next week, in between work assignments, I’ll dig the cannas and separate them.

Violas in the garden overwintered from last fall. So beautiful.
Violas in the garden overwintered from last fall. So beautiful.

Spring in the garden is full of work, but don’t forget to slow down and enjoy spring’s ephemeral flowers too. Happy Easter my friends.