Iam looking out the window of my office at a lake that I used to call ‘front yard.’ It has rained for what seems like an eternity but I guess it’s been more like a couple of weeks. Still, only a few spots of sunshine have popped through in that time. I had to get the Happy Lite out. Thank God (and my mom!) for that thing. And for the cold, I have this in my lap. My daughter knows I’m a total winter wuss and gave it to me a few years ago.
Besides the rain, deer have been going nuts out there, and the first frost burned a few things. Still, it’s fall and the color has been lovely. The dogwoods in particular look really nice. I noticed from an old photo that dogwoods can hold color until into December. I might not have noticed that if not for blogging and taking pictures. I’ve especially enjoyed seeing the asters bloom and the spicebushes berry up and then turn yellow. What a great shrub for the Piedmont. If you don’t have one, consider looking for it.
I squeezed in a trip to the coast last week, which reminded me of some pictures I took a while ago but never posted from the nature trail on Ocean Isle Beach. Its subtle beauty is stunning this time of year. That post is up now if you want to take a look.
One of the biggest events of my year is the Garden Bloggers Fling. Back in May, I attended the 10th anniversary in Austin, Texas, along with nearly a hundred other garden bloggers. We spent three days visiting thirteen private gardens, two large public gardens, and a wonderland of an organic plant nursery.
“We are all different flowers from the same garden” McGill Rose Garden, Charlotte, NC
Isn’t the light pretty just before the sun sets? My deciduous azalea, ‘My Mary’, has been beautiful this year, but now she’s nearly bloomed out. Looks like she decided to wear Fuchsia earrings as her going away outfit.
On the way in is a white peony at her feet. The buds have burst; there must be a million petals. I posted about it years ago when it was a total surprise — all my peonies prior had been pink. Now it has many blooms every year and it may be my favorite of all.
Baby sweetshrubs and spicebushes have leafed out, and painted buckeyes are coming along, in pots for now. I was really excited when some Georgia holly seedlings I planted in January 2017 started sprouting this spring, just when I was about to give up and compost that soil!
A little project between our porch and the storage room was to add some stone and under plant a Japanese maple we have there. I like the idea of native ground covers so I had already put green-and-gold in that spot a couple of years ago. I recently added the spiderwort, though, and I do like how they look together.
Once the oak trees have dropped all their pollen we will finish with the gravel, which will make a bit of a service area back behind the tree. Can you see all those pollen strands all over the ground? It was a big blooming year for the oak trees. In some spots we had clumps of spent catkins six inches deep.
On the windowsill, I’ve been amazed by my fall blooming cactuses — the Christmas, or Thanksgiving, cactuses (Schlumbergera truncata hybrids) — which have not stopped blooming since November. They aren’t showing any signs of slowing down yet, either.
On the other hand, I got all my amaryllis bulbs into dormancy either way too late or not at all. Only the butterfly amaryllis (Hippeastrum papilio) sent up a big, fat bud and bloomed anyway. I jumped up and down over that.
I had a birthday recently and my daughters took me to the McGill Rose Garden in Charlotte. It was such a nice time together, and the roses (and the baby grandson) were wonderful.
A neighbor asked me what the tree with lavender blooms was in an empty lot near us. Paulownia blooms this time of year, frequently along road sides and in empty lots. The leaves can look a lot like catalpa, which is what you might guess if you didn’t know otherwise, but the flowers of paulownia are purple, catalpa has white or yellowish flowers. And the leaves are in opposite pairs along the stems, not whorled like catalpa. Paulownia is common here (a potentially invasive exotic), catalpa is not. It’s not difficult to tell them apart once you know these things.
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) Fall is beautiful and lasts a long time in the Carolina piedmont.
How is autumn treating you? I usually have a hard time with the shortening days and the cool temperatures, and do not look forward to this time of year. But this year I started walking at the beginning of November, using the “happy” light my mother gave me a few years ago, taking vitamin D, and drinking the occasional vitamin dense smoothie to try to keep ahead of the doldrums. It seems to be working! Now the trick is to avoid getting overwhelmed through the holidays, but so far, so good.
Sweetgum tree against the bluest skies we’ve had in weeks!
During my daily walks, I’ve been trying to identify all the leaves along the sidewalk. I’m getting much better at distinguishing the oaks after initially deciding they were impossible. Many of them hybridize readily which means you might have trees that look like more than one species — frustrating! It doesn’t help that there are 45 species listed for the Southeast in Weakley’s flora, and though not all of them are likely to be found in my area, most of them are. So I’ve had to study my guides and then compare quite a bit.
Now I know that my neighborhood is full of willow oak (Quercus phellos), water oak (Q. nigra), post oak (Q. stellata), and white oak (Q. alba), but there may be just as much Spanish oak (Q. falcata) as any of those. There is also plenty of red oak (Q. rubra) and scarlet oak (Q. coccinea). I found a swamp chestnut oak leaf (Q. michauxii) along the road today, which was pretty exciting. It’s the first time I’ve found one around here. It was probably planted, as were these live oaks in a median along another part of my walk. And yesterday I found these:
Any guesses? I’ll let you think about it and tell you at the end of the post. Or maybe you know right off the bat? I had to look it up. Hint: Click the picture and check out the leaf edges in the big version. And the leaves are around six to eight inches long.
Aside from the botanizing lite going on, I’m not doing much of anything outside right now — we’ve had so much rain that everything is a muddy mess!
But the indoor garden. Love! My houseplants are all starting to bloom — now that the deciduous trees have decided to gradually shed. How convenient that they do that every year, letting in more and more light with every lost leaf.
Orange Holiday Cactus, Schlumbergera truncata
My pink twinkle orchid has a few blooms now, and smells so good that I sniff it several times a day! The twinkle oncidiums are tiny-flowered sweethearts with a chocolatey scent that is just divine. All the African violets are either blooming or full of buds. My favorites, Hiroshige and IsaBelle are still going strong. The holiday cactuses are blooming, too. Caribbean Dancer still has flowers and a no name light orange one is going nuts. I have a white one with no buds, and a magenta one in the same shape, but I still have hope that they’ll rise to the occasion soon.
Excitement of the morning was the new butterfly amaryllis bloom, which just opened up today! I bought the plant as a very small but leafy bulb at UNC Charlotte’s winter orchid sale one year, and kept it green for a couple of years before finally letting it go dormant late this summer. In October I repotted it and it wasted no time sending up some leaves and a big fat bud. My thumbs may be slowly turning from brown to green!
Showy Lady’s Slipper model, photo via northamericanorchidcenter.org
A link I ran across this week that I thought you might like to see –
The U.S. Botanic Garden and the North American Orchid Conservation Center are working together to produce a series of punch-out models of native orchids. The thought is that they will be used for various educational activities, but anyone is free to use enjoy them. You can download the Showy Lady’s Slipper printable here: Orchid-gami
Cool, huh? It will be fun to see what else they come up with!
By the way, the mystery leaves are sawtooth oak (Quercus acutissima). Sawtooth oak is from Asia, but according to Weakley, it was often planted here for wildlife. He finds this amusing given the great number of native oaks we have. It is a conundrum.
You know how it was with Christmas when you were a kid? That excitement that went on for almost a month? Well the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference is a lot like a grown up version of that. Not that we’re much like grown ups, more like overgrown kids at camp, and it’s not a month, more like a week, but you get the idea — it’s fun! The 2015 conference (July 14-18), as always, had memorable speakers, fabulous hikes, and great plant vendors.
And books! This year I got Tim Spira’s new one, Waterfalls and Wildflowers in the Southern Appalachians: Thirty Great Hikes. The book describes what you can expect to see along the trails to 30 notable waterfalls, with plant lists and color-coded flower pictures for ID purposes. There is info about plant communities, and the Southern Appalachians in general, too. I’m excited about this book, because first of all there is a lot of juicy information in there, but also because it will be easier to convince my husband to hike to a waterfall than to drive all the way to the mountains just to look at plants. (I don’t know what’s wrong with him.) But, I think with this book we have a win-win!
Besides books there were lots of plants and knowledgable plant vendors selling them. It’s fun to make the rounds between sessions to see who’s growing what and chat about plants you’re not familiar with yet. I took four plants home this year, of which I purchased only two. It took a lot of restraint! 2015 has been a demoralizing year garden-wise, and I didn’t want to make things worse by adding to my collection of slowly dying plants! But a tiny bit of inspiration might motivate me to remedy this situation, right? Worth a try, I thought. Here’s what I got:
Tiger Eyes® sumac (Rhus typhina), which I’ll put in a pot. It becomes a beautiful small tree as it grows, with yellow-green leaves in spring and intense red-orange color in fall; it makes a lovely feature plant. But apparently it can sucker to beat the band, and I’d rather not have to deal with that in a couple of years.
Darrow’s blueberry (Vaccinium darowii ‘John Blue’) is a really cute mini-shrub that grows to about two feet tall and wide, and has blueberries that are small but still edible. I can’t wait to see how this one does! It’s a zone 8–9 plant, but I believe if I situate it near my stone wall, it might do okay. I’ve been able to push plants a zone or two that way sometimes.
St. Andrew’s cross (Hypericum stragulum) grows in the woods around me, so my only concern with it is deer. I’ll have to protect it for a while, at least until it gets established. It is also a mini-shrub, could even be used as a ground cover, and has blue-green leaves and adorable yellow flowers that are four-petaled like a cross. I won this plant at the “Plants of Promise” session on the last day of the conference. Every year nursery owners and others tout their pick and then give it away to the person who catches their attention first. This time, me!
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). You know this one already, I bet — bright orange flowers that butterflies love and monarch caterpillars survive on. Cure Nursery in Pittsboro, NC, provided these for free to whomever wanted them. I also won the St. Andrew’s cross from them. Thanks, Bill and Jen!
Meanwhile, at home the big news was heat. Weatherman Keith Monday said the other day that we’re having the third hottest summer since the 1800s. Very little rain on top of that is the most miserable part. Good grief.
Incredibly some plants have done well with these conditions. Especially houseplants. ;) But Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) has shown no stress whatsoever either. Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) has done very well. Basil LOVES the heat. My cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is just budding up, and looking very promising right now. Who would’ve thought a bog flower could do so well with so little water? This plant has held its own, too.
Some rain fell yesterday and relieved the worst of the wilting. Halleluia! How do you like my stunted coneflower there with the (finally revived) golden oregano? The garden creatures (deer, rabbits) mowed down all the coneflowers this year. Too bad this creature didn’t scare them away first, because none of them managed to grow as much as a foot tall!
I hope you’re enjoying (or at least surviving!) summer wherever you are! What’s looking good in your garden?
May is one busy month, isn’t it?! Anyone with a garden is lucky to have time to do anything else, but nearly every group, organization and individual has something special to do or celebrate in May as well.
Mother’s Day Flowers for Mom and MIL, Rountree Plantation Garden Center
And Sunday was Mother’s Day! I had missed the Wing Haven Gardeners Garden Tour and the Herb Society of America’s conference in Williamsburg due to the NCNPS trip, but still got to visit with my mother, eat fried chicken and homemade potato salad, read plant-themed Mother’s Day cards, and FaceTime with my older children! That’s what counts, right?
Senior prom for my youngest child—the blondie on the right—was Saturday night. Aren’t they a cute couple? Dinner was great, the dancing was fun, and everyone enjoyed being together—best prom ever, I heard.
The weather was fabulous this week, so I finally pruned some shrubs. It made such a difference! Pruning is one of those things that is fun to do once you get started, but it’s kind of intimidating at first. Tovah Martin once pleaded in a workshop I attended that we “just do it.” Now I hear her voice every time I look at a plant with crazy branching or overgrowth, and plow ahead. She was right.
National Pollinator Week is coming up June 15–21. Both Botanical Interests Seeds and BBB Seeds have seed collections you might be interested in for attracting pollinators to your garden.
Botanicals Interests has three 4-pack collections, grouped by plants suited to your region. You have the choice of either Eastern, Midwest, or Western gardens. All include appropriate milkweeds and other wildflowers that are host or nectar plants for monarchs and other butterflies.
BBB has a Bee Rescue Mix which will “provide nectar and pollen for full season support of both native and introduced bee species.”