Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, Dateline October

Cestrum 'Orange Peel' with 'Pink Preference' autumn sage is one of my favorite plant combos. Both are hardy here. I'm planting them on the other side of the path next spring for symmetry.

Hello gang! I bet you thought I would be MIA for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Nope, I ran outside this morning to take a few photos of what’s blooming at RDR. I restricted today’s pics to the back garden and the back borders. I didn’t go out to the potager, or to the beds out by the street, although they are blooming with abandon too. I recently wrote about those beds as I mused about an October state of mind, and there’s a photo with Maddie, my dog, sulking in front of the pink muhly grass.

Before we get started, here’s an overall view of the back garden.

Overall view of the back garden in October. Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
Overall view of the back garden in October.

I think it looks pretty good because we’ve worked all year keeping things tidy for the garden tour this Saturday. I hope those of you who can will come. I want to help horticulture students–ticket proceeds go to scholarships–and I want to meet you. Bill and I worked yesterday to finish up the landscaping around the new pond. I’ll post on the pond after the tour. Today is all about blooms, and we have quite a few.

Two favorite trial plants from Suntory Sun Parasol Garden Crimson mandevilla and Sur Diva Blue scaveola in a bright blue pot.
Two favorite trial plants from Suntory: Sun Parasol Garden Crimson mandevilla and Surdiva Blue scaveola in a bright blue pot.

I’ll be taking this pot into the greenhouse after the tour. This mandevilla is the most scrumptious red, and I want to overwinter it.

Chaise longue on the deck surrounded by blooming coleus, and other fab plants still hanging tough.
Chaise longue on the deck surrounded by blooming coleus, and other fab plants still hanging tough.

So, pull up a chair, grab a cup of something delicious to drink, and let’s stroll through the October flowers. It’s going to be a long ride.

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium 'October Skies' or maybe the species. I don't remember, and honestly, they look alike to me.
Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘October Skies’ or maybe the species. I don’t remember, and honestly, they look alike to me. Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ is blooming behind.

Native asters are still blooming which makes the pollinators very happy indeed. In fact, some asters like ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ haven’t even started blooming. I had a talk with ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ this morning and explained it needs to bloom by Saturday. I can’t remember if the aster above is ‘October Skies,’ or the regular species. I can’t really tell them apart. This was marked ‘October Skies’ years ago when I bought it.

Aster tataricus, Tatarian aster.
Aster tataricus, Tatarian aster. This is just the species, not ‘Jindai.’ I’d like the shorter ‘Jindai’ one day. Still, mine isn’t very tall. You can see the trees just starting to turn in the background.

Roses are also blooming. I still have several roses, although I removed twelve plants this year that had Rose Rosette. So far, ‘Carefree Beauty’ is unaffected. I took cuttings last year and planted another ‘Carefree Beauty’ on the other side of the main path in the rose garden. It got big enough, even with all the competition from surrounding plants, to bloom this year. Only the larger plant is blooming now though. Click the gallery below for larger photos.

Rosa White Meidiland® is also blooming again in the tiered beds. I like her when she blooms, but I hate the brown spent blooms that hang around. White flowers do that a lot. Oh, give me a white flower that just falls to the ground when it’s done.

Rosa White Meidiland® is a steady performer in the tiered border. I wish the flowers didn't turn brown and hang on though as they die.
Rosa White Meidiland® is a steady performer in the tiered border. I wish the flowers didn’t turn brown and hang on though as they fade.

Rosa ‘Belinda’s Dream’ takes my breath away. How about you? October blooms aren’t perfect, but I think their imperfection and the threat of frost are what makes them even more special.

'Belinda's Dream' in October is ethereal.
‘Belinda’s Dream’ in October is ethereal.

Continuing with our pink theme, below is Gaillardia ‘Punch Bowl.’ Yes, it’s pink. Truly. And, you can grow it from seed, or buy plants. I bought my plants this year from Bustani Plant Farm, but I’ve also started it indoors from seed in the past. It just depends upon how organized I am in March. Several people have asked me if it comes back. I don’t find blanket flowers very reliable perennials, and ‘Punch Bowl’ has never overwintered for me. However, with deadheading, it blooms all summer and fall so I don’t care.

Gaillardia 'Punch Bowl'
Gaillardia ‘Punch Bowl,’ my favorite blanket flower.

Autumn blooms are often about small flowers, but that doesn’t mean they have to fade into the background. Take Cestrum ‘Orange Peel’ and Salvia greggii ‘Pink Preference’ for example. The brighten up any space where they’re planted together.

Cestrum 'Orange Peel' with 'Pink Preference' autumn sage is one of my favorite plant combos. Both are hardy here. I'm planting them on the other side of the path next spring for symmetry.
Cestrum ‘Orange Peel’ with ‘Pink Preference’ autumn sage is one of my favorite plant combos. Both are hardy here. I’m planting them on the other side of the path next spring for symmetry.

Dahlias are making quite a splash now too. I like to think ‘Juanita’ was named after my grandmother. It wasn’t, but who cares? I bought ‘Juanita’ from Old House Gardens. I just shopped with OHG for fall bulbs this week. I’ll write on bulbs–you guessed it–after the tour.

Dahlia 'Juanita'
Dahlia ‘Juanita’

‘Juanita’ is very heat tolerant which is a must for Oklahoma. Dahlias may come from Mexico, but they grow in the mountains. Always consider where your plants are originally from and try to mimic those conditions if you can.

Unnamed dahlia I bought at a Tulsa nursery.
Unnamed dahlia I bought at a Tulsa nursery. Love that dark red.

Trout lilies, why don’t you grow them? Is it the name? The Chicago Botanic Garden thinks so. Look at those sweet orchid-like blooms. They ask for so little. Grow them. Click on the gallery below to see the photos larger.

Trial Sunpatiens® are hanging in there. I planted these together because it’s easier to trial them that way. In the videos about my garden and the upcoming tour by The Oklahoman and OETA’s Oklahoma Gardening, the Sunpatiens® were featured even though I think they’re way past their prime. It just goes to show that human beings are extremely attracted to color. We can’t help it. We’re just made that way.

More trial plants hanging in there. Sunpatiens Spreading Tropical Orange (variegated foliage,) Compact Lilac and Compact Magenta. I like all of them. I like Sunpatiens period. Great summer plants.
More trial plants hanging in there. Sunpatiens® Spreading Tropical Orange (variegated foliage,) Compact Lilac and Compact Magenta. I like all of them. I like Sunpatiens® period. Great summer plants.

Another great plant still blooming is Senorita Rosalita® cleome. I cut it in half about a month ago, and it has roared back for fall. No, it doesn’t overwinter. No cleomes do, but not everything has to be perennial. Plus, the fair senorita doesn’t have those nagging thorns, and it stays leafy all the way up the stem because it doesn’t produce seeds.

Senorita Rosalita® cleome, a great plant from Proven Winners®.
Senorita Rosalita® cleome, a great plant from Proven Winners®.

I have more, but my fingers and brain are tired. What is your favorite plant for October Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day?

Some days are diamonds

Tattered blooms on 'Cramoisi Superieur'-21
Tattered blooms on ‘Cramoisi Superieur’

Some days are diamonds. Others don’t glitter with promise. Instead, they are as jagged as rocks jutting out from a precipice. This summer, with its steady rainfall and cooler than normal temperatures, created beauty and surprise, but not all surprises are welcome. More rain means more weeds. Those I can handle with a tug and pull at their base. On the days I don’t drive to school, I spend early mornings writing and weeding, weeding and writing.

Rose Rosette Disease on 'Cl. Old Blush.' I guess sweet autumn clematis did win in the end.
Rose Rosette Disease on ‘Cl. Old Blush.’ I guess sweet autumn clematis did win in the end.

Rose Rosette Disease returned late summer with a vengeance. It staked a claim on the ‘Cl. Old Blush’ on one side of the arbor. I noticed the telltale signs a few days ago. I hope it hasn’t spread to ‘Cl. Old Blush’ on the other side. I can’t remove the sick rose until Clematis terniflora, sweet autumn clematis, finishes blooming. The clematis which was once my nemesis may now become a garden savior as it ambles up the main arbor in the lower garden. For one thing, it is a boon to pollinators. Before all the little flower flies, wasps and bees dream their big sleep, we need to give them nectar. C. terniflora does just that. After the first freeze, I’ll be out there with my shovel and Sawzall to take down a rose I’ve loved as long as my husband, over twenty-four years. More than a small death, it is like losing an old friend. Rose Rosette is consuming my roses one-by-painful-one.

Rose Rosette on 'Souvenir de Malmaison'
Rose Rosette on ‘Souvenir de Malmaison’

This morning, I saw infested canes on ‘Cl. Souvenir de Malmaison.’ Losing ‘Souvenir’ is especially bittersweet. Being a young and new gardener when I planted her, I made the mistake of buying the climber instead of the floriferous original. It sat there and did nothing much until the last five years. Once as ugly as one of Cinderella’s stepsisters. I would threaten to remove it, and suddenly, one spring, fat buds opened up to this. Oh my . . . .

Rosa Cl. 'Souvenir de Malmaison' When the weather is just right, she is quite the beauty, a beauty gone too soon.
Rosa Cl. ‘Souvenir de Malmaison’ When the weather is just right, she is quite the beauty, a beauty gone too soon.

I then realized why people wrote odes to it like this one by Peter Schneider, “an exquisitely beautiful confection of pearl and cream, with short petals quartered in a perfectly symmetrical arrangement.” Unfortunately, ‘Souvenir’ is placed very close to my favorite rose, ‘Carefree Beauty.’

'Carefree Beauty' in 2013. Her blooms are smaller, and there aren't as many of them.
‘Carefree Beauty’ in 2013. Her blooms are smaller, and there aren’t as many of them.

All summer, I’ve anxiously watched ‘Carefree Beauty’ because she hasn’t been well. You just know your plants when you’ve lived with them so long, and it’s as if a cancer is hiding somewhere within her stately canes. Her blooms are “off,” and she is no longer the robust lass who frolicked all summer.  She and ‘Souvenir’ were bedding mates for a long time, and it will be sad to see the garden without either of them. Pardon me while I go into the corner and have a cry.

I am as weary as these old chairs.
I am as weary of Rose Rosette as these old chairs.

While there are other beautiful things in the garden, roses were once its backbone, the very essence of its Englishness in the Oklahoma countryside. Without them, it grows wilder everyday. While I like wild, I love the scent of roses too, and their essence is evaporating in the dusk of a long summer day.

Ornamental millet 'Purple Majesty' with three colors of globe amaranth and Stachytarpheta frantzii, pink false vervain. I grew the millet and amaranth from seed, and I bought the false vervain in three colors from Bustani.
Ornamental millet ‘Purple Majesty’ with three colors of Gomphrena globosa, globe amaranth, and Stachytarpheta frantzii, pink false vervain. I grew the millet and gomphrena from seed, and I bought the false vervain in three colors from Bustani.

There are some who will say the garden is returning to itself and becoming one more in tune with its surroundings. Perhaps, but that doesn’t make me feel any better. Today is not a diamond. It is a stone, and not a smooth one.

Here’s the tricky thing about working with and loving plants . . . no matter how good you become at recognizing subtle signs and making changes based upon observation and soil tests, nature nearly always throws you a curve ball. Rose Rosette is one I will never hit out of the park. There’s a lesson here, but today I am grieving too much about the roses to think anymore about it. I know diversity is the key to everything whether we are talking about gardening, our careers or even life.

Red Gomphrena globosa, globe amaranth, with 'Haight Ashbury' hibiscus. Doesn't it look like marijuana?
Red Gomphrena globosa, globe amaranth, with ‘Haight Ashbury’ hibiscus. This hibiscus doesn’t overwinter in my climate so I’m going to bring both plants into the greenhouse.

Things aren’t as simple as they seem either. Another sneaky trick is the grasshopper population. My word, those little creeps are still eating my  cannas down to the nubbins.

Zinnias. Part of the beauty in this shot is the zinnia bending its head. Sometimes weakness is strength.
Zinnias. Part of the beauty in this shot is the zinnia bending its head. Sometimes weakness is strength.

I have noticed they favor the dark cannas like ‘Australia’ and ‘Black Knight’ over variegated green and gold leafed cannas such as ‘Bengal Tiger.’ How nice of me to plant so many dark beauties for them. The grasshoppers are getting slower though. Nolo bait is taking a toll, but it is a slow process. In addition to the cannas, grasshoppers are gorging themselves upon my ornamental grasses, dahlias, the banana tree and ‘Purple Majesty’ and ‘Jester’ millets. They like ‘Jester’ best here. It is so wrong that the dahlias bloomed early because of the mild temperatures, and the grasshoppers ate them. Nothing I grew turned out quite the way I planned it.

Sunflowers nodding their heads at the end of the season.
Sunflowers nodding their heads at the end of the season.

Some things turned out better though. Planting seeds of three varieties of Gomphrena globosa, globe amaranth, made me deliriously happy, and the garage garden is as seductive as ever. By starting three different colors of seed and carefully labeling them, I could plant drifts in various colors, and I had more control over how they look in the garden. Next year, I’m going to try sowing seeds of the Audray series. I read great things about them. I tried starting seed for ‘Fireworks’ gomphrena, but it didn’t germinate very well. You can buy ‘Fireworks’ from Bustani Plant Farm next spring if he doesn’t sell out again. A hint: order early.

Don’t worry. The garden and I are okay. I harvested loads of veggies out of the vegetable patch and potager. We ate like kings.

Swallowtail on 'Bright Eyes' Phlox paniculata
Swallowtail on ‘Bright Eyes’ Phlox paniculata

Much of the garden is glorious from all the rain, and butterflies are starting to visit in a flurry of whispered wing. Each year the garden and I face challenges, but I also learn new things. What other hobby/passion/obsession can inspire us to work so hard I wonder?

What curve balls did nature throw you this year? How did you deal with them? Do you have Rose Rosette? If you had special happinesses this year, I’d love to hear about those too. Misery is fleeting. Life is about growth, and gardens are full of metaphor. No wonder Jesus talked about fig trees and mustard seeds so much.