Saturday, December 21, 2013

Welcome Winter Solstice!


In the past week I've shoveled snow from two storms and the temperatures have ranged from single digits to the 50s.  With mild temeratures and cheery birdsong today you could easily fool yourself into thinking spring was in the air.   

When it comes to seasons I follow the meteorological calendar and consider December first the first day of winter, not the solstice.  A fan of winter I'm not, but it's not so much the weather that bothers me as the abysmally short days.  During the week, it's dark when I leave for work and it's dark when I get home.  Today the sun rose at 7:14 and set at 4:23.  Despite the anemic amount of daylight though, we have actually gained three minutes of sunset time since last week.

To read more about the solstice, check out this article from The Washington Post filled with all sorts of interesting factoids.  The last sentence in the article sums up my feelings..."If you don’t like the cold, the good news is whatever the rest of winter brings, daylight is once again on the upswing.".

So light some candles and raise your glasses on this longest night of the year.  Celebrate with family and friends.  Not only is the season of givng in full swing but sunset times are on the rise!

Happy Winter Solstice!   

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It Was a Good Year

Here in my CT zone 6 garden, the beginning of November typically finds me up to my knees in fallen leaves and frost blackened foliage.  All my beloved tropicals have either been tucked into the garage awaiting a move into the house or long departed to the big compost pile in the sky.

Not this year.  All of the pictures here were taken on the evening of November first.  As temperatures hovered in the mid 60s F (unusual for this time of year), I strolled around the garden with my camera  capturing what I figured would be the last shots of the season.  And I was right.  A hard freeze Sunday night dealt the final blow to what had been an exceptionally long garden season.

The end of garden season always leaves me with mixed emotions.  Part of me is sad to see it all go-especially the mixed container gardens I spent so much time designing and nurturing.  But another part of me is relieved that I don't have to be a slave to it all anymore.

Don't get me wrong, by most standards garden season had been over for a few weeks.  Compared to July this view of my patio looks downright bleak.  However, I can't remember a year when I had bananas, Cannas and elephant ears still standing (and looking relatively decent) on November first.  Last year, a hard freeze on October 12th took everything out early.

So here you have it, the end of garden season 2013 at Idyll Haven.  All things considered, it was a good year.  





All that remains is the equivalent of a couple of weekends of dreary cleanup.  Now that clocks have been ratcheted back, weekends are the only time I have for garden activities and hiking has been taking up a large chunk of that time.  November can be bleak but my calendar is quickly filling up with fun stuff like a full moon hike, a Thanksgiving celebration with the best of friends and an out of town high school class reunion.
Somehow it will all get done.  I continue to struggle to keep all the balls in the air, but lately that struggle has less of a sense of urgency and more a sense of enjoyment.  Just be sure to call before stopping by,  Especially if you think there may be a chance that you will need to use the bathroom.
Yes, it was a good year.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October Bloom Day-Most Likely the Last Hurrah

So far October has been kind.  Last year a hard freeze on October 12th pretty much obliterated most of the Bloom Day fodder.  What a difference a year makes.  Not only have we not had anything remotely resembling a frost, there doesn't seem to be one in sight.  We have experienced many nights in the upper 40s and low 50s though so the more tropical characters are pooping out.  And a scarcity of rain coupled with my lax watering habits have left the hardy garden plants a bit parched looking.  Time to call it a year. 

Soon I will begin the dismantling process and the annual leaf removal and garden cleanup.  The first curbside pickup in town is the week of November 4th with a second pickup two weeks later.  Weekend hiking excursions have become an every weekend event since Labor Day so if I want to get everything done I'm going to have to brush up on my time management skills.  But there's still plenty of time for that :).

So...what's still in bloom?  Quite a bit actually.  Let's start with some individual shots of hardy plants, showcase some of the standout annuals and then move into some long garden views.


White Bomb mums (Dendranthema Weyrichii 'White Bomb') in the front curb garden have been tough as nails for years.

A new-to-me hardy mum, Chysanthemum 'Matchsticks' appears to be a winner.  My only complaint is it's floppiness but late bloomers usually do here as sun fades dramatically when shadows start to lengthen in September.

Fading flowers of Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' will soon be featured in winter urn arrangements.  Boo hoo!

I think I'm going to shake a bunch of Cleome seeds in the front garden this fall and see if I can get a few to grow out there next year.  Some gardeners may consider them weeds but I'm not one of those gardeners.


Hosta 'Red October', unassuming for most of the season is the latest blooming Hosta in my garden.


Another long bloomer-Abelia grandiflora.

I know I sound like a broken record when it comes to some of these plants but Phlox 'Norah Leigh' belongs in everybody's garden.

As does Phlox 'Shockwave'.

Ratty foliage aside, Persicaria 'Golden Arrow' looks better now than it has all season.

This is one of a few Tricyrtis blooming now but darn they are tough suckers to photograph well.

Another floriferous Tricyrtis with flowers so delicate they only show up well in closeups.  Unfortunately I have no IDs on any of my Tricyrtis anymore.  They were lost when my last laptop crashed.

Salvia koyame is an interesting character.  A few years ago I banished it from my regular gardens because it was such a thug.  Here it grows in my dry crappy curb garden.  Maybe I should put more of it out there.

Cheerful but often overlooked Corydalis lutea seems to pop up in the most unexpected places.

Gentiana scabra is another welcome reseeder around here that seems to prefer dry, infertile soil.

For some reason I can't get decent shots of the fall blooming Anemones but I do have a few including this light pink variety and the white 'Honorine Jobert' as well as 'Queen Charlotte' and 'Robustissima'.  All are currently in bloom.

Here is one of the dark foliage varieties of Cimicifuga or Actea or whatever they're calling it now.  Colocasia 'Black Magic' provides a nice backdrop.  Remind me to plant more Colocasias in the ground again next year.

Grasses qualify for Bloom Day this time of the year.  I love this simple vignette of Miscanthus 'Sarabande' and Hydrangea serrata 'Preziosa'.

Miscanthus 'Morning Light' tends to get elbowed out by the monster Lespedeza.  Here it mingles with more Cleomes and the dark foliage of annual Hibiscus acetosella.

Time to find a sunnier spot for Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster.  Maybe when I have the oak tree on the opposite side of the driveway trimmed that will help.  At least the cat didn't sleep in them this year.

Stipa tenuissima looks infinitely better in other people's gardens.  So far I've not been able to pull the look off here.  Let's see if it comes back in the spring and take it from there.

Calamintha nepeta mixing with the berries of Viburnum dilatatum 'Cardinal Candy'.

Another must have for fall interest-Callicarpa sporting steely purple berries.

The flowers on the Amaranthus are so big and heavy now they are dragging the plants over.  Look closely and you can see the beginning of a flower of Canna 'Pink Sunburst'.

The Caladiums have long since collapsed but that sweet little Begonia is still showy in this Bloom Day repeat container.

Dragon Wing Begonias are another ace in the long blooming hole.  So far the Red Stem Colocasia is holding up well too.

More red Dragon Wing Begonias with Coleus 'El Brighto'.  For this late in the season, many of the Coleus are still looking good.

Dreaming of a garden season gone past.

Dahlias sulked during the hottest part of the summer but have really exploded in the past few weeks.  Here 'Mystic Illusion' mingles riotously with reseeding Verbena bonariensis and red Amaranthus.

Here is a wide view of this area featuring the currently defunct fountain.  Many plants have been moved to this spot to take advantage of the fading sun.

From a different angle Mystic Illusion contrasts nicely with the foliage of Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey'.

Every morning and every night I have to step over this unknown Dahlia on my way too and from the garage but I can't bear to cut it back.

From the opposite direction you can see how variegated Alyssum 'Frosty Night' has expanded and taken over the pathway.

One small plant of Double Purple Datura has filled in a space of about three by three feet.  The daisy is some sort of Kalimeris that begins the season with variegated foliage.  Burried under there somewhere is a Pennisetum 'Hameln'.

The side entry container garden is still going strong.


Even the Twerpinator approves.

It wouldn't be Bloom Day without variegated Sunpatiens now blooming since May.  Or Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'-another annual I buy in flats every spring.

The foliage may be fading on Cornus controversa 'Janine' but not on Colocasia 'Diamond Head'.

A favorite container making yet another Bloom Day appearance.

And yet another.  Frost or no frost, soon I will have to start dismantling containers like these that feature plants I plan to take in and save over the winter.

Da Big Banana (Ensete maurelii) is getting tired.  Some years I bring these in and stash them dormant in a dark part of my basement although lifting them in and out of the containers can be a challenge.

This cool little vine is aptly referred to as the Candy Corn Plant (Manettia inflata).  I tucked into one of my large containers and let it weave throughout.

Torenia continues to be a pleasant surprise this season.

Some long views of the patio.

And the back garden.

Nick peeks out the front door.  AWhite Browillia remains as the only bloomer in my entry container.

Off the screen porch, the monster Castor Bean towers over the recently closed and soon to be covered for the season East Garden fountain.

So that's about it.  Well sorta.  Many other shots hit the edit room floor.  Maybe if I could figure out how to post less at a time, I could post more frequently.  But hey, at least I'm on time for Bloom Day this month!

In the meantime. to see what the rest of the garden blog world has to offer on this October Bloom Day, head on over to Carol's May Dreams Gardens.

Happy Gardening!