Good morning or afternoon depending upon when I get this October edition of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posted. Thank you to Carol from May Dreams Gardens who makes this fun possible. A few days ago, I profiled plants for pollinators, and I’ll try not to rehash those blooms, but I don’t know how many more I have. The garden is becoming more sparse as winter encroaches, but some plants I would normally post in October–like the mums–are not yet blooming. What gives?
Toad lilies have bloomed for nearly a month. They are not native, but they look so good next to the native Drummond’s aster and common mountain mint that I will keep them here. Unlike other plants, they also seem to have the ability to duke it out in their corner of this shady bed full of colonizing perennials.
The roses are back and blooming. I have many left that aren’t sick, and they love this October weather. Below is a Red Drift® ground cover rose with one of my many coleus. I don’t remember the name of the coleus. Some I do, but some were given to me by my friend, Beth Teel, of Tulsa. I love how the reds complement each other here.
Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ is still really out doing itself these days. It takes a long time to gear up and bloom so some people won’t plant it. I can’t imagine my garden without it. It’s hot pink and exotic looking–like something Carmen Miranda would carry in a bouquet. Hummingbirds think it’s grand. ‘Wendy’s Wish’ puts on a show when not much else is blooming. Foliage is blue-green in the partial shade. Plus, the bees like it. All good reasons to grow this tropical.
Grasses are blooming now with abandon. Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ switchgrass is the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2014, and I think they chose wisely. This grass is nearly no care. It comes back every year getting better and better. Mine grows about five feet tall, not as tall as ‘Cloud Nine’, but taller than ‘Dallas Blues’ and some of the other switchgrasses. Like all switchgrasses, ‘Northwind’ wants full sun and well-drained soil. So, if you’re growing in clay, work in a lot of organic matter and dig a hole larger than the root ball. By next month, this grass will turn yellow as in years before. Mine needs to have some of the grass taken from the edge because it is lying in part of the path. It also may have too much fertilization. I added Back to Nature to this bed last year. Only shredded leaves for it from here on.
Another perennial grass I especially love in fall is ordinary Miscanthus sinensis, maiden grass. If I were replanting this space in this time and place, I would choose ‘Morning Light‘ or ‘Adagio’ instead, but I planted this before those selections were readily available. You can now find them at box stores and nurseries. Remember that grasses look like nothing in the spring, but that’s the time to plant them if possible. You can also plant in the fall, but if they sat in their pots all summer on a sale table, they may be very unhappy. Give them plenty of water in the South. I also know that maiden grass is invasive in some parts of the U.S. It isn’t here. Thank goodness.
If you’ve stayed with me this far down on this long post, here’s a lovely combination, Muhlenbergia capillaris, pink muhly grass, with Salvia leucantha, Mexican sage. Good things come to people who scroll.
On to the dahlias…below is ‘Juanita’ a little past her prime, but still so beautiful. Here’s the thing about dahlias, they take forever to gear up and bloom–silly things. Also, smaller flowered ones like ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ are easier to grow if you’re just starting. I still love dahlias, and I grow quite the mix in the garden. I do lift most of them. You can either pack the tubers in sand or leave them in pots in the greenhouse or indoors. I wait for the first real frost and then dig the ones I really want to keep. Some on the east side of the house stay in ground and do fine. These are the Bishop and Bishop’s children who seem to have a bit more cold tolerance here. One more thing…I like the historic dahlias best so far. I buy most of mine at Old House Gardens. They seem tougher. The dahlia in the featured photo above is one whose name I don’t remember. I bought it at TLC Nursery last spring.
Be sure to place stakes near your dahlias just as they come up. Otherwise, you’ll forget them because they aren’t doing much at first. Then, they won’t have strong stems and will flop over onto neighboring plants. The one in the featured photo was staked late and flopped onto a coleus. I took cuttings of the coleus for the greenhouse so you can’t see much of it in the photo.
When you look at an overall picture of my garden in mid-October, you can see blooms are getting fewer and fewer. The garden becomes a story more about foliage than flower. So, this post is also linked to Pam Penick’s Foliage Followup gathering on her Digging blog. Soon the trees will turn shades of golden orange and then brown as will the grasses. It will all be even more beautiful against an Oklahoma October blue sky.
Berries also become more important as the season wanes. Birds depend upon berries the same way pollinators require nectar. A good garden should have all of these so I added a chokecherry to the garden three years ago. It is a slow grower.
Rosa ‘Softee’ (syn. ‘Jefferson’) is one of the first roses I added to the garden when I laid it out over twenty years ago. Although the back garden started out as a formally designed vegetable garden, roses were always a part of things. ‘Softee’ is a miniature rose (about three feet tall) growing close to the arbor where the two ‘Cl. Old Blush’ roses, removed because of Rose Rosette Disease, once lived. I hope by removing them, I’ve spared dear ‘Softee’ which is now somewhat hard to find. I hope. Everywhere that I remove a rose though, I plant something for pollinators or birds in its place. Plenty of shrubs with berries and nectar-rich vines are now part of the garden which is a good thing.
One more plant, and then I’ll let you go. Below is ‘Haight Ashbury’ hibiscus named for the streets and region in San Francisco where the hippie movement had one of its heydays. I can’t say enough nice things about this plant. In full sun, it grows so nicely and has such great foliage. Everyone who lives in a warm climate should grow it. It won’t bloom unless you’re in a tropical place, but who cares? The blooms aren’t that great anyway. We grow it for the psychedelic foliage. So, even if you didn’t go to Woodstock or San Francisco in the Sixties, grow this plant. This plant will always have a place in my garden. Happy Bloom Day my friends.