Friday, August 31, 2007

Versatile Verbenas

Verbenas are my reliable "fill-ins" for color when autumn arrives and perennial blooms are beginning to be a little tired looking. Every year I buy about 2-3 flats of these little gems and scatter them throughout the gardens. These are annuals called "Serenity Mix." Love the name too. I can use plenty of that about now. This year I was disappointed to find that most of the seedlings were rather tall and lanky, where they are usually small and compact - just right for planting. I was concerned when they seemed to struggle this year, but I think I just forgot how they love the hot weather and really don't come into their own until late summer and early fall...which makes them perfect, as far as I'm concerned. Right now they are beginning to spread and produce more blooms. By the end of the season some of them will have filled in a good two feet. I usually don't take the time to deadhead them (which gives them a one-up on petunias), but if I happen by with a grass shear I will give them a little trim. This produces more blooms, but these little gems are happy to bloom away, however much neglect they receive.
Another GREAT thing about the verbenas is how they attract butterflies way into the fall when other plants have stopped being much of a food source. Especially the Painted Ladies. So, if you are looking for a very well behaved, versatile, and happy little bloomer, verbenas can't be beat.

They go well in rock gardens too. Here with Corsican Violas and Victoria Blue Salvia.

The Serenity Mix has beautiful pastel colors

I love this combination of Bubble Gum Petunias, Violas, and Verbenas

Here they love to weave in and out of California Poppies

And they love to snuggle under most any perennial...May Night Salvia

Easy to care for and very drought-tolerant. You can't ask for much more from this pretty plant.

Here it is finally(!) beginning to do its little "spread" thing. It will easily get to 1 1/2 - 2 feet wide.

Next year I may try these flowers from seed. I would like to see what happens if I direct-sow them.

Monday, August 27, 2007

GB Book Club Aug/Sept

I couldn't readily put my gloved hands on Carol's selection A Hoe Lot of Trouble but I was able to get another book by Heather Webber from my library. So I read Trouble in Spades. Nina Quinn owns a business called "Taken By Surprise Garden Design," where she specializes in garden designs called "Minis," or In-And-Out-In-A-Day Redo's (think of HGTV). In this instance, her sister Maria, is getting married and Nina is designing a Japanese-themed garden for her reception. Maria's fiance disappears, which halts work on the project. To fill the gap Nina accepts a "Mini" design for a local philanthropist. In the process her crew unearths a body where a pond is being installed. Another body turns up in her sister's pond, and as usual, Nina is involved in solving the crimes and finding Maria's missing fiance.

This book is full of colorful characters, from Tam (Nina's assistant), a new "macho" employee who is very suspicious, several funny neighbors, and a dysfunctional family (don't we all belong to one of those?). Not to mention Nina's hunky husband, Kevin, from whom she is separated. Her stepson Riley, lives with Nina, and she becomes involved in a "flirtation" with his school vice president. I'm sure we have not heard the last of this relationship, as the book leaves us anticipating the next development in Nina's love life. She has a difficult time (trying) to resist her estranged husband Kevin as he tries to lure her back.

There is non-stop action as Nina and her cousin (and best friend) Ana, work to solve not only the murders, but hunt for a pantie thief who is roving the neighborhood. Some of the funniest moments involve a small Chihuahua dog named Daisy, given to Nina by one of her employees. The little dog is not housebroken and is always running off and getting in trouble. Daisy eats some morning glory blooms and falls ill. Thus, the subject for the author's article at the end of the book. I had no idea sooooo many plants are poisonous to animals. Some of them are: holly, hydrangea (darn), oleander, azalea, foxglove, morning glory, bulbs such as amaryllis, lily of the valley, tulips, daffodils and day lilies. She offers suggestions for garden planning to keep animals away from these culprits. One of her suggestions is to sprinkle granular laundry detergent around the plants. That's one I haven't hear of!

I plan to read some of Heather Webber's other Nina Quinn series, as they make a nice break while sitting in the shade with a glass of tea on a hot August day. I love mysteries and I love gardening and I love animals. It doesn't get any better than than!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rainy August Morning

This was the scene as the day ended yesterday. A large thunderhead, one of many that have been dropping lots of rain and hail in the northern part of the area. We woke up to .1" rain, which made it a lovely morning for a stroll through the gardens and taking photographs.

I couldn't stop taking photos of the Japanese Anemone. The moisture made the buds a darker color than they usually are, and many of their pretty backs were turned toward the light. You normally don't see this view from the front when you walk by.

The roses are beginning their last beautiful flush for the season, and a lovely sight it is.

Yellow Dream with Russian Sage

Outstanding - Sharifa Asma


I have been adding to my collection of Heucheras this year. This is Creme Brulee.

This came in a hanging basket. It looks like Marmalade, but I'm not sure what it is.

Sunset Hyssop 'Acapulco Gold'

Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is beginning to bloom. Here with Salvia 'Blue Cloud'

And here with Russian Sage

And finally, a flower head in "Grandmother's Cutting Garden"

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Corner Curb Appeal

Here is a photo of the corner of our property. I've actually let my husband plant whatever he wants here (pretty much without my "advice") and I must say, this is the best year yet. He is really making a showpiece out of it. Now that the mum's are blooming they look so great with the other flowers. I see I've passed on my purple obsession to him. Good job hubby!

I've been away from posting and gardening this week, taking care of my Dad, and yes, I do have a part time job that I plan to blog about one of these times. That has kept me busy this week. And it has been WAY TOO HOT to do much of anything except try to keep things alive. Gardening the Inferno Strips, I realize, can be very challenging because of the hot asphalt and cement that surround these areas. The ground may be somewhat damp under the plants, but the air temperature on hot days seems to bake the foliage. It is difficult to determine how much to water and what would be best for them. Last night we had a quick downpour that gave us .3" in 10 minutes. With pea-sized hail. I will be glad when August is over, to tell the truth.

Friday, August 17, 2007

"Entry" Garden and Guard Cat

Okay, put your shades on if you want to view this garden! Near the front entry I have a spot that I struggled with for several years. Half of it is in deep shade most of the day from the porch, and the other half is in hot sun most of the day. I wanted something bright that would lighten up the shade. Yowzie!! Did I do it or what???

The fence in the background covers up the hose reel, etc. My husband found these boards for free at the recycle yard and I gave them a little white wash. I decided I wanted to have some more heucheras, so they are the mainstay of this area. Plantings in this garden include: Coleus, Creeping Jenny, Heuchera 'Crimson Curls,' 'Green Spice', and 'Dolce Cream de Menthe.' Other plants are: 'Charmed Wine' Oxalis, Brunnera 'Variegata', 'Cardinal' Lobelia, and Celosia. I'm sure I stuffed a few more things in here as time when on, including Golden Dewdrop Duranta erecta 'Lime,' Lysimachia Lime, Victoria Blue Salvia, with the ongoing Sweet Woodruff and False DragonHead that were already there. Whew, can it get any more crowded in here? Oh, and a Jacob's Ladder in the middle.

And don't be coming up to do anything naughty at my house, because the Big Blue Red-Eyed Cat is guarding everything!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

August Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Determined to be more organized this month, I toured my gardens and divided plants into four groups: New Blooms, Reblooms (plants cut back that are on their second bloom), Continuing Blooms, and Annuals. I also decided to highlight the "Top Ten Newbies" for August. The above plant is a new one purchased only yesterday from Ace Hardware, and leads the list. It's a spectacular, large plant with several blooms: Black-Eyed Susan 'Cherokee Sunset.' Rudbeckia hirta.

This "vignette" was replanted recently with some new selections, my favorite being the Echanacea Sundown "Evan Saul.' It is a beautiful companion to the Sunset Hyssop. The other new plant in the middle foreground is a Mojave Sage Salvia pachyphylla. I have tried previously to grow this, so I hope this one makes it this time.

Echanacea Sundown 'Evan Saul'

Just barely making the August list, I have two blooms on the Japanese Anemone. This is now a huge plant in it's fourth year and gives me so much pleasure until the first frost.

Lobelia Cardinal Flower


Salvia greggii Autumn Sage Purple

Aster New York 'Alert"


Also (not pictured) purple, white and bronze mums, and Blue Mist Spirea.
REBLOOMS include: Salvia Blue Cloud, Salvia May Night, Salvia Royal Crimson Distinction, Blue Montana, Dianthus Firewitch and others, Wild Geraniums, Beacon Silver, and Clematis, and Rose Campion.
CONTINUING TO BLOOM: This is quite a list. Cosmos, Coreopsis, Sunset Hyssop, Coneflowers (purple and white) Rudbeckias (three kinds), Russian Sage (lots of it), Agastache, Roses, Daisies, Penstemons, Yarrows, Sedums, California Poppies, Orange Carpet Hummingbird, Corsican Violas, Blue Bells of Scotland, Hollyhocks, Baby's Breath, and Hollyhocks.
ANNUALS include Cutting Garden mix, Pink Bubblegum and other Petunias, Zinnias, Marigolds, Celosia, Wax Begonias, Impatiens, Verbena, and Salvia Victoria Blue.
It will be interesting to see how many will be in the "New" category for September. This list continues to get smaller. I have decided that one of my goals for next year is to plant more fall bloomers.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

America The Beautiful Park...Fountain Follies

Waiting for the fountain to be fixed.

We have a beautiful new park in the Pikes Peak area called America The Beautiful Park. Named because of the view of Pikes Peak where Kathryn Lee Bates wrote America The Beautiful. The City has done a wonderful job planning this large park. It's highlight is a $1.6m fountain named for the wife of Spencer Penrose, one-time owner of The Broadmoor. The funds were provided by a philanthropic organization, donations, city taxes and state grant money. It is HUGE! Water drops from 344 jets that line the ring, is captured in a 13,000-gallon basin, treated and then recycled. The circle, or ring, revolves and frames Pikes Peak (when clouds are not covering it). Concerts and held here, as well as a farmer's market, and it is fast becoming a central gathering place for people and entertainment.

The problem came on opening day June 7, when the new fountain was dedicated. Within ten minutes of opening, a hordeof about 200 children (and some animals) descended upon the structure that soon became a prime wading spot. Almost immediately the filters became clogged with grass, dirt and pet fur which overwhelmed the fountain's water filters and clogged the water jets. It was back-to-the-drawing-board as City officials put their heads together to work out a solution. Many solutions were considered, including not allowing waders. Hah!! Good luck with that, I say. A new filter was installed for $20,000 and it took about $3000 to repair the fountain. A compromise was reached allowing people to wade in the lower part of the fountain, but not the upper edge.

Now, I say, what were they thinking when they designed this? Do you know what happens when children and water mix in the same area?" Enough said. As for me personally, I'm really not anti-children...I'm just "old" and want some peace and quiet in my old age. Is that too much to ask? I guess so. I've done my part as a den mother, school volunteer, mother, and now grandmother (funny how my own grandkids don't bother me??). I just want to go to a park, enjoy the scenery, a concert, a picnic, the bees, the flowers and more scenery. As large as this park is, you need to go pretty far to avoid all the kids that descend upon the it... I'm talking hundreds of children from local day care centers that use the park as their headquarters... I'm not kidding! I thought if I went there during the week it would not be so crowded... NOT. There is a huge state-of-the-art playground and covered picnic area, not to mention the fountain that the waders control. Yet, it is difficult to find a spot along the trail of cozy shelters and seats without running into yet another day care group or their leavings of smashed sandwiches and potato chips that are now large grease spots. Okay, I'll stop ranting before I get pelted with wet diapers. But, damn, I wish there was some place where adults could go for some peace and quiet (other than the old folks home). And I wish developers would allow areas for older adults as well as children. Rant over.

An attendant must now be on duty when the fountain is running to keep the public from climbing on the top concrete lip around the base.

There are walking and bike paths that wander along the edge of the park. They did a good job of installing some seating areas to get away from the main area of the park and enjoy the many native and xeric plants. That is, if you can find one without a day care group.

There are areas containing native grasses and stonework running diagonally. These were very distinctive and mirror the red sandstone formations found in this area. I loved this idea. It makes me think of mountains and grasses and how important they are to us. This is truly a beautiful park and spread out enough that you really can get away from the crowds if you wander away from the public facilities.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Free-Spirit Gardening...Is It For You?

My Free-Spirited Garden

The other day I stumbled across a book in my library that I had forgotten about. It's the free-spirited GARDEN: Gorgeous Gardens That Flourish Naturally, by Susan McClure. Funny how books appeal to me differently from time to time, depending on where I am at the moment. This one jumped right out at me as I realized that this is pretty much how I garden. Susan describes a free-spirited garden as, ...a carefree blend of flowers, herbs, and vegetables that reproduce themselves, arise impromptu from seeds, or spread into bold masses and drifts. She goes on to say that, "free-spirited plants multiply without need for your help or money, they fit perfectly into modern lifestyles."

So, I take a mental look at my gardens. Now, is this free-spirited.... or are these invasive plants run amok?? She does a good job of defining the difference, but I'm not sure... where do you draw the line? Susan explains that "among the exuberant free-spirited plants are tyrants..." One of the examples she uses is spearmint. It's all how willing we are to manage the "more rambunctious free-spirited plants."

This is an enjoyable and informative book with glossaries and photos scattered throughout. I recognized many of the free-spirited perennials in my gardens: Common yarrow, Bugleweed, Clustered Bellflower, Snow-in-Summer, Plumbago, Creeping Jenny, etc. Most of all, it gives me permission to defend my kind of gardening. I tend to let things creep and leap, but I also keep an eye on them. And when they get to the point that they are, in my opinion, getting out of hand, or taking up too much of their neighbor's space, I "rearrange" them.

That's just what I did yesterday. I grew tired of looking at several plants that were too leggy and covering up a nice little Blue Mist Spirea that was beginning to grow. I cut back and yanked out a lot of stuff and instantly felt better. But it was funny. I found myself having this conversation with my plants:

(Me) Okay you guys, you've outgrown your limits and as much as I hate to I'm cutting you back and getting you more under control. Consider this tough love.
(Plant) Suurrrre, when you didn't have anything growing here you thought we were just fine! It was okay for us to spread all over that empty space where you needed something green. Now that you have some fancy new plants you are cutting us back. That's gratitude for you! We feel soooo used. Humphh!!
(Me) No, no, no. I really do appreciate what you have done for the garden. You were there for me when I needed you and I want you to know that I really do acknowledge how beautiful you have been. Look how pretty you will look with your new neighbors and your new hair cut.
I must say I ususally feel a little guilty, but it did need to be done. I see many Free-Spirited gardens on the garden blogs I read. I think most of us gardeners are just free-spirited people anyway.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

My Husband's New Yard Art

My husband surprised me the other day with his creativity. He bought some plastic wine glasses on sale at Wal-Mart. They were scratched and a very cheap. He put eye screws in the bottom and hung them with small chain rope. Walla!! Not only to they catch the light and add a touch of color to my "Critter Corner" but, the real reason for their being, they help add some weight to the branches, giving us a little more shade on the picnic table. Pretty neat, huh??

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Astonishing Agastache 'Ava'

I have received some comments asking about the 'Ava' Agastache that I featured with the sleeping bee. Since this is one of my VERY favorite plants (gosh, what isn't) I decided to do a post dedicated to it.

This is the third year for this plant. It is getting shadowed by a large Russian Sage next to it, which I keep cutting back so that 'Ava' can get more sun.

Two seasons ago I purchased four plants from High Country Gardens. The 'Ava' was their 2005 introduction and they are their specialty. I couldn't resist when I saw the photo in the catalog. The first year, of course, they pretty much slept, but the next year (last year) they were spectacular!! I was in love for sure. Last year, I'm afraid to say, they didn't do so well. Do you think it might have been the 1-2' snow drift that covered the area for weeks on end?? Huh? You think? It is highly unusual for snow to stay on the ground that long in this area. But then, it certainly was an unusual winter. I lost two of the plants. But I love them so much that I'm going to replace them next year.

'Ava' seems to be a bit temperamental, but as the catalog states, "This plant takes two to three growing seasons to reach mature size and will live for many years when happy." They go on to say what it is that makes them happy. Being buried under 2 feet of snow for weeks on end wasn't one of them. They are fairly expensive ($9.29 each for 5" deep pots). I think they are worth every cent. I really think they would continue to do well if not for so much snow. Also, some of the Russian Sage are invading their territory, so I need to do something about this. But I love the combination of the two. I am going to order some of their "Yum Yum Mix" winterizer fertilizer to help them out this year. I love these plants so much that I feel they are worth it.

This is 'Ava' in her second year (2006). She was spectacular. Unfortunately both she and the beautiful Rabbit Brush behind her succumbed to heavy snow drifts last year. I was very sad to seem them go. It was just one of those bad years.

Another view of 'Ava' in all her beauty before the winter storms. This plant remains lovely way into Fall if it can withstand the winter. (Two out of my original four survived).

And here she is in 2006 with Russian Sage (Perovskia) and Sedum 'Autumn Joy.'

This "vignette" from last year (2006) includes the Russian Sage, Agastach 'Ava,' Agastache 'Sunset Hyssop' and Sedum 'Autumn Joy,' together with other companion plants.