Garden Bloggers Bloom Day October, 2013

'Gallery Pablo' dahlia as identified by Fairegarden. Thanks!
‘Gallery Pablo’ dahlia as identified by Fairegarden. Thanks!
The garden mums aren’t yet blooming.

Mid-Autumn wears her lofty crown this Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. October is a month of changes in my Oklahoma garden. We still have warm days and cool nights, but change was definitely in the air last night as the first, large cold front came through bringing rain and heavy wind. Perhaps, you can’t tell, but the garden is starting to shrink in on itself because it gets a little less sunlight each day. Dahlias, however, put on a show in late summer and throughout fall. I’m actually thinking about digging up some and bringing them in after reading Christopher Lloyd’s last book, Exotic Planting for Adventurous Gardeners. Maybe.

While Lloyd died in the middle of writing, other famous garden writers, like Anna Pavord, finished it for him. Still, Lloyd’s words ring with such an authentic love for gardening. “The canna’s simple, paddle-shaped leaves contribute firmness to our plantings, the dahlia’s foliage is generally mundane (pinnate, like a potato’s) but their flowers epitomize summer’s full glory. They are perfect team players.”

I came to a similar conclusion awhile back. Reading this was like having your favorite uncle affirm your choice. I didn’t like cannas for a long time, but now, their leaves, especially the dark ones, light up the garden from summer through fall. Note that dahlias bloom really well throughout the summer for Brits because they have mild temperatures. I suspect the same thing works here on the east coast and in Portland and Seattle. Oh, to live where rain is abundant. I can’t imagine.

Butterfly's last stand. Does anyone know which type this is?
Butterfly’s last stand.

Butterflies, especially the Sulphurs–not pictured above–I believe this is a Swallowtail of some type–are frantic on warm days because they are gathering nectar and strength before season’s end. I feel like them as I take cuttings in the garden and start seeds in the cold frame. Maybe I’ll be ahead of the curve in Spring with coleus and alternantheras overwintered in the greenhouse.

'Cramer's Amazon' celosia, Salvia vanhouttei, cannas and 'Bishop of Llandaff' dahlias make a fall garden sing.
‘Cramer’s Amazon’ celosia, Salvia vanhouttei, cannas and ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ dahlias make a fall garden sing.

I grew ‘Cramer’s Amazon’ celosia for the first time this year. While I still love ‘Intenz’ as much or more, I think ‘Cramer’s Amazon’ makes a great back of the border plant. Butterflies and other pollinators love it. We even saw Monarchs sipping nectar from this giant beauty. I pinched and cut it back all summer keeping it to six feet.

Salvia vanhouttei 'Wendy's Wish' with my purple chairs
Salvia vanhouttei ‘Wendy’s Wish’ with my purple chairs

In the lowest part of the lower garden, I planted a mix of things that was bold and a bit crazy. ‘Wendy’s Wish’ salvia is growing with abandon here. I want local growers to carry this plant so I don’t have to order it online and pay shipping. It is so lovely in fall. You know why they don’t? Because customers don’t buy plants out of bloom, and of course, this one doesn’t show off in early spring. Please buy plants based upon what you know more than what you see. ‘Orange Peel’ cestrum is also blooming in back. Follow the link for a better photo of this cestrum. Mine has overwintered consistently for years now and is quite large.

'Brazilian Red Hot' alternanthera, red Sunpatiens, purple pentas crapemyrtle Pink Velour, perennial hydrangeas, grasses all make the fall garden beautiful.
‘Brazilian Red Hot’ alternanthera, red Sunpatiens, purple pentas crapemyrtle Pink Velour, perennial hydrangeas, grasses all make the fall garden beautiful.

On the other side of the lower garden grows a mixed planting with a few annuals and tropicals mixed in with daylilies, grasses and shrubs. We need more late summer-early fall bloomers in our gardens because our weather is perfect, and we are outside more than say in July. Well, most of us anyway . . . I’m out in July too, but only early morning to keep things tidy and mulched.

Bat-faced cuphea hanging over the potager. These plants were hard to come by this year.
Bat-faced cuphea hanging over the potager. These plants were hard to come by this year. I can’t imagine why because they are among the best plants for summers in hot climates.

Speaking of the greenhouse, all is well. Because the weather is more amenable, Bill set up the flood tables. One pump isn’t working correctly, but fortunately, they aren’t as expensive as you might think. We’ll set up the rain barrels on another day. It only needs sweeping out, and then, we must work on the heating system. These warm days won’t last for long, and we must prepare. Friends from a local garden club are coming to visit on the 19th. I hope everything tropical survives the early morning temperatures, and the garden welcomes them with open arms.

Side of the greenhouse and red fountain. I'm toying with the idea of keeping it up and running this year.
Side of the greenhouse and red fountain. I’m toying with the idea of keeping it up and running this year.

Around the fountain this year, I planted two types of lantana, ‘Dallas Red’ and ‘Confetti‘ along with Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’ and pink Justicia brandegeeana (shrimp plant.) You know what else would look good here? Tropical blue plumbago. That would really set off the red.

These are the dreams we dream of during cold dark nights.

Pink muhly grass is starting to show its fall colors.
Pink muhly grass is starting to show its fall colors.

When the pink muhly grass begins its fall show, I know fall is at its mid-point, and I’m a bit sad. I will miss the colors and the pollinators until next year. However, I have bulbs to plant and plants to bring it, and that helps enormously with the fall blues. I also have the greenhouse and cold frame to keep me content.

It’s a good life. It’s taken me twenty-five years to get here, but it is grand, and I enjoy every minute of it. Thank you to Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens for Bloom Day, a long-running theme.

Planting garden bulbs is an act of faith

“It is a greater act of faith to plant a bulb than to plant a tree . . . to see in these wizened, colourless shapes the subtle curves of the Iris reticulata or the tight locks of the hyacinth.”

–Claire Leighton, Four Hedges

Iris reticulata 'Katherine Hodgkin'
Iris reticulata ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ bulbs

I am trying to entice you buy bulbs. Is it working? Maybe this will help.

A photo of Iris reticulata 'Katharine Hodgkin' from my friend, Frances at Fairegarden.
A photo of Iris reticulata ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ from my friend, Frances at Fairegarden.

You can buy a copy of Claire Leighton’s book, Four Hedges, from Amazon in a reprint. Yes, I bought one to read by the fire this winter. The ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ iris is diminutive, but it blooms when you think winter will never end. It is a small, yet mighty bulb full of hope. There are several different varieties of I. reticulata, and all of them I’ve grown are beautiful. I couldn’t find a photo of ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ to share, but my friend, Frances, from Fairegarden came through. Please visit her blog and see the peakness of pink muhly grass in her garden. It’s quite a sight.

While it is still too early to plant bulbs here, it is time to buy. You can refrigerate them if you’re worried we’ll have a warm winter, or if you’re forcing some inside. I will plant my outdoor bulbs in November. I am doing most of my tulips in pots this year like this lasagne method by Sarah Raven with further instructions on her website. Carol Klein pots up her tulips at Glebe Cottage too. I’m layering mine with ‘Peppermint’ Muscari. For those of you follow my wanderings on Pinterest, you may have noticed I went on a bit of a terracotta binge recently. I was trying to find terracotta nursery pots for the greenhouse along with those lovely pots Sarah used in her video. Sadly, I couldn’t find terracotta longtom pots in a large size in the U.S. Although Oklahoma is far too hot for terracotta in summer here–except for growing succulents–it is great in spring and fall.

Italian terracotta containers I found at TLC Nursery in OKC.
Italian terracotta containers I found at TLC Nursery in Oklahoma City.

My Pinterest board reflected my hunt for Italian pots like the ones above. Just when all hope was lost, I found some yesterday at TLC Nursery in Oklahoma City. I was quite surprised. I found several containers with rolled edges, and for decent prices too. I’m still on the lookout for larger Italian terracotta containers so let me know if you find any. I’m not buying anymore of the Mexican terracotta pots.They are a disappointment. Even with shelter, they’ve cracked after a couple of seasons. Sometimes, cheap isn’t better.

I’ll do up my bulb containers in a couple of weeks and place the pots in the garage to overwinter. I think I’ll do a quick video if Bear with hold the camera. Bulbs need cold to acclimate themselves and do their thing. I am planting tulips in pots for several reasons. My family is plagued with osteoarthritis, and although young, I am already suffering the effects in my hands. Digging in cold soil to plant tulips as annuals seems crazy to me this fall. Also, tulips don’t last here past a season, and while I’ve tried every variety, even the species type, I’ve been disappointed in a lack of return. Finally, I want to amass color, and pots are always a great way to call attention to anything you’re growing. Think of them as the high heels of gardening. They hold up your subject and show it in their best light.

I potted up yellow mums in three terracotta containers in the shady front border. Their sunshine hue brightens the space and makes me glad.

Three terracotta pots with yellow mums brighten a dark corner.
Three terracotta pots with yellow mums brighten a dark corner. Soon the Japanese maple and dogwood will change color, and this border will come alive.

So, while I enjoying fall, I’m also thinking ahead to spring. Have you ordered your bulbs yet? If not, you better hurry. I see several of the companies beginning to sell out. It would be a shame to greet spring without a daffodil or ten, don’t you think?