Friday, September 30, 2011

Autumn Harvest

Although the calendar showed the first day of Autumn a week ago, this week has really featured some fall-like rains, winds, cool temperatures and leaves fluttering down. I'm a big fan of October which starts tomorrow. "Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposite miseries of summer and winter." Carol Bishop Hipps. Heavy winds hit our area last night but we had surprisingly little damage out in the gardens. Marv cleaned up the majority of the larger branches and while we had a brand new layer of twigs and leaves to collect, at least there weren't any downed trees. The top picture shows the large planting of over 50 'Karl Foerster' feather reed grasses (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster') that were really swaying in the breeze today along the edge of the Smelly Garden. The black and white waterfall shot is another of Kris K.'s nice photos. To the right is the showy heath aster (Aster ericoides 'First Snow') which is smothered in very small white flowers this time of year and is quite noticeable even from a distance. To the left is the flower cluster (umbel) of 'Tin Man' ornamental onion (Allium hybrida) still blooming strongly in the terrace garden. This shorter ornamental onion (15") has a long period of bloom with a nice addition of late season flower color.

We had a good crew of volunteers here today. Dr. Gredler was even here on his 87th birthday! Doc mowed and worked on our turf amongst other duties. Bill O. was in to help collect debris and we appreciate him mowing the arboretum yesterday afternoon in those heavy winds! We had plenty of rain this week and the grass is looking quite green. Thankfully we've not had to do much watering recently and are able to move on other vital gardening tasks. Kay was in today as well and did a nice job continuing her clean-up efforts near the gazebo garden and in the shade garden. Both of these areas have larger trees dropping leaves already and we'll continue to try and keep up with our collection efforts. Today was the last day for voting for the American Garden Award program which we've been involved with for the past two years. To the right is one of the seven entries this year. This is the Uchu ornamental pepper (Capsicum sp.) that has such a nice blend of cream-variegated foliage and fruits that have aged from cream to this nice orange-red. Although only 9" tall and wide, this variety (from Takii Seed) would be ideal for the container or windowbox. Directly below are two stonecrop varieties that were new to the gardens when planted last fall. Directly below is 'Plum Perfection' stonecrop (Sedum hybrida) that has maroon-tinted leaves and these showy pink flower clusters in late summer/early fall. Further below is 'Pure Joy' stonecrop (Sedum hybrida), also with darker foliage (hint of blue too) and a nice profusion of evenly spaced, star-like blossoms on wide umbels. Both of these varieties have visual interest from May thru October.

Some pictures below show the wide range of squash that Janice and her Thursday crew (below right) harvested yesterday. The diversity was amazing and it was a fun collection to observe and ultimately photograph at the end of the season. We're still debating our vegetable collection for next year but will definitely have another "Ornamental Edible & Compact Vegetable" collection somewhere out in the gardens. Our planning for next year started months ago but gets more intense as we head in to winter. To the left is the interesting striped squash (Cucurbita mixta) called 'Pipian from Tuxpan'. I think I've shown this one on a previous blog. As per Janice's description of this variety, "This Mexican variety is grown for the tasty seeds that can be eaten raw or roasted..."

Although Terry and John were off today, we had some significant gardening accomplished by Marv, Marianne and Janice. Marv loaded up our dump truck, prepared our storage area for incoming containers, touched up some of our patios with more filler sand and did a nice job purging two beds of annuals that were ready to go. Marianne worked on testing lights to start the day and moved on to her cutting display and general garden clean-up all over the gardens. Janice was also involved with lights testing (with Marianne), did some container watering and was also out collecting debris throughout the gardens. I had a brief walk around the gardens and sized up some projects for next week. Few know how much desk work has piled up for me and I made some major headway today on that pile. Much of my work right now is related to 2012 and trying to keep ahead with preparations. Directly below are the increasingly red stems of the 'Flame' willow (Salix hybrida) that has long been a staple of our west bank facing Lion's Beach. While the summer stems and leaves are green, the combination of yellow fall color along with the red stems late in the season really brings out the character in this vigorous woody plant. The stems look good all winter becoming increasingly red every week. We chop these shrubs down to 12" in March to encourage vigorous new growth and another cycle of nice autumn stem coloration. At the bottom are two of our Adirondack chairs facing the fountain. What a nice view.

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