In my Maine garden, October is turning into November. Last week brought a string of cold, rainy days that provided a preview of November and a reminder of why no Mainer has ever declared November their favorite month. By the time the storm passed, most of the vivid fall foliage for which New England is famous had been stripped from the trees.
But as I walked around the garden yesterday doing my weekly inventory of what’s in bloom (the last for this year), I found lots of late fall color. Although many leaves, including the scarlet and orange maple (Acer) leaves, have already turned and fallen from the trees, color can be found on other trees that hang onto many of their leaves through winter. The leaves on the oak (Quercus) trees mostly have muted russet tones.
|Here and there, though, an oak tree shows brighter colors against a clear blue October sky.|
|The beech (Fagus grandifolia) leaves turn from green to gold to copper.|
These colors are mirrored in the colors of hostas going into dormancy and in the yellows and golds of Amsonia foliage glowing in the slanted rays of the afternoon sun.
Some scarlet hues can be found in the foliage of hardy geranium and of Spirea japonica.
There is also a surprising amount of green to be found among the foliage of late fall perennials, including hardy geraniums, Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), and Heuchera.
Here and there among the foliage, there are still some flowers providing late fall color. These include some tiny blooms of Spirea japonica ‘Magic Carpet,’ red clover (Trifolium pratense), the amazingly long-lasting Heuchera ‘Raspberry Ice,’ and flowers on chives that have somehow been fooled into thinking its spring.
All too soon, the predominant color in my garden will be the white of snow. But I’m enjoying these late fall colors while they last.
In the blue and yellow border, the last fading flowers of Phlox paniculata ‘Blue Paradise’ and Rudbeckia x ‘Herbstsonne’ are looking a bit frost-bitten.
|The flowers of the cold-hardy aster (Symphyotrichum laeve) ‘Bluebird’ have fared much better.And the flowers of Sedum spectabile have darkened to the deep wine color that signals their transition from bloom to seedhead.|
|Last, but not least, my stalwart Heuchera ‘Raspberry Ice,’ which has been blooming continuously in the deck border since early June shows no signs of slowing down, seemingly unfazed by cold temperatures or whispers of winter to come.
Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Links on her blog can provide a virtual tour of gardens around the world, including southern hemisphere gardens that are boasting spring blooms.
Throughout the summer and fall, the much-anticipated addition to my house has been proceeding – albeit slowly. This addition will provide the opportunity to create a whole new front garden, which I will begin working on next spring. Meanwhile, in response to popular demand, the following slide show provides a time-lapse few of the project.
One of the splendors of the Maine landscape is that so much of it is wild, including the great north woods and other undeveloped rural lands. As autumn settles in and the plants in my Maine garden go dormant, my attention turns more and more to what I call the “wild garden” – the (mostly) native plants blooming vibrantly along the edges of the woods and the sides of local country roads.
Late varieties of Solidago are still glowing with the bright golden hues that give them their common name of “goldenrod.”
And this is the prime season for native asters. Most are fairly demure, with small flowers in shades of white, lavender and lilac.
|But the clear star of the fall aster display is not at all demure. Whenever I see the blooms of New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), a tall (4’-7’) plant with big showy flowers in shades of deep pink and violet, my heart beats faster.|
Spirea japonica x ‘Magic Carpet’ continues to make new flowers, as does Heuchera ‘Raspberry Ice.’ Both of these have been blooming continuously since June.
Much of the bloom in my garden these days is actually at the edges of the garden, where it borders the woods. There native asters and goldenrods are happy to welcome autumn.
Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see September blooms from gardens in a variety of climates.
One of the challenges of gardening with perennials is that, unlike annuals, most do not have long periods of bloom. Some, like peonies, are notorious for a flash of glory which can end almost as soon as it begins when the blossoms shatter in the heat or are flattened by heavy rains. While most are longer-lasting than peonies, perennials are not generally known for providing color all season long. Some strategies for dealing with this characteristic of perennials include mixing perennials with annuals, designing gardens that focus more on foliage than on flowers, and mixing a variety of flowering perennials with a succession of bloom times.
But a gardener who is in love with flowering perennials might also be interested in finding perennials with long bloom times. In my Maine garden, I consider perennials that will bloom for eight weeks or longer during the garden season as long-blooming. Achieving this is easy at the genus level. For example, I grow more than a dozen different species and hybrid varieties of hardy geranium, and one or more of these has been blooming in my garden since the first week in June.
Hemerocallis (daylilies) is another genus that provides bloom in my garden for much of the season. This year, my first daylily to bloom was the reblooming variety ‘Happy Returns,’ which opened its first flower the last week in June. I have had daylilies in bloom somewhere in my garden continuously since then. Currently, there are three late-blooming varieties — ‘Autumn Minaret,’ ‘Final Touch,’ and ‘Sandra Elizabeth’ — providing a beautiful display in the fence border. The very late daylily‘Sandra Elizabeth’ did not begin blooming until the first week in September.
But what about individual plants that bloom for eight weeks or longer? This is a greater challenge, but I do have a number of such plants in my garden. One of my long-blooming stars is Geranium x oxonianum; its lovely clear pink flowers first appeared in my deck border the second week in June, and are still blooming there more than 12 weeks later. Another plant of this hybrid in the circular bed bloomed for 12 weeks before going dormant, and new plantings in their first year in the raised bed bloomed for 10 weeks. Various cultivars of Tradescantia virginiana are also long-blooming in my garden. Particularly notable for its longevity is the variety ‘Osprey;’ one self-sown plant of ‘Osprey’ in my deck border has been blooming continuously for the past three months and still has a few unopened buds. Other long-blooming perennials include Astrantia major, which has been blooming in my serenity garden since the beginning of July, and varieties of Heuchera. Heuchera ‘Raspberry Regal’ bloomed continuously for 12 weeks, and one plant of H. ‘Raspberry Ice’ has been blooming in the deck border for the past three months and is likely to continue blooming until frost.
Geranium, Tradescantia, Astrantia, and Heuchera are all plants with small flowers and prominent foliage. Their display in the garden is often a subtle one, especially since their big first flush of blooms is typically followed by sparser flowering. There are other long-blooming perennials in my garden, however, that put on a big showy display for eight weeks or more. Chief among these is the false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides), which begins blooming in mid-summer and often continues until frost. One clump of this plant blooming in the holding area, for example, began blooming during the second week in July (9 weeks ago) and are still going strong. Another big, showy plant that is often long-blooming is the tall Rudbeckia lacianata x ‘Herbstsonne’ (‘Autumn Sun’); this plant began blooming at the back of my blue and yellow border 6 weeks ago and is likely to continue until frost.
It’s not possible to create a list of reliably long-blooming perennials, because which perennials will have long bloom periods depends greatly on local climate and conditions. Many gardeners in warmer climates than mine swear by the hybrid Geranium x ‘Rozanne’ as a long-blooming champion, but this plant is not reliably winter-hardy in my zone 5a garden. By contrast, some of the long-blooming perennials in my garden, especially Geranium x oxonianum and Tradescantia virginiana are not heat-tolerant. In warmer climates, these will bloom in late spring and then go dormant in the heat of summer, perhaps to bloom again in autumn. (This is how divisions of both these plants behaved in my zone 6b Gettysburg garden.) But in my cool Maine garden, these will often bloom continuously all summer long. Micro-climates within the garden also matter; several plants that I have growing in different parts of the garden seem to have longer bloom in cooler, slightly shadier locations. Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne,’ for example, blooms longer in the partial shade at the back of the blue and yellow border than it does in the sunny fence border, and Astrantia major has bloomed longer in the deeper shade of the serenity garden than in the light shade of the deck border.
It seems likely to me that, with some trial and error, most perennial gardeners can identify perennials that are long-blooming in their conditions. Which perennials have long bloom periods in your garden?
My sense of time has been so thrown off this year by the fact that I am not returning to school to teach that I forgot about the five-year anniversary of Jean’s Garden until I was alerted by a congratulatory email from WordPress. The first post of this blog went online on August 22, 2009, and I have used each ‘blogaversary’ as an opportunity to stop and take stock of where my gardening journey and my blogging journey have taken me. This year, that accounting is a bit belated.
When I look back over these five years, I see growth. The blog has grown, accumulating readers and followers – this despite the fact that I have not been a very faithful blogger during this past year. As I get settled into my new life in the months to come, I hope to get back on a schedule of 5-8 posts per month. I have also grown as a blogger, and that growth includes my growth as a writer and as a photographer. The photography for this blog inspired the Jean’s Garden gift calendars that I have produced for friends and family for the past five years. (See A Year of Gifts from the Garden, A New Year in the Garden, A Doubly Good New Year, A New Year in Jean’s Garden, and A New Year in Two Gardens.) I was thrilled this past year when Gettysburg College’s Musselman Library mounted an exhibit of some of the best photos from these calendars.
This blog also provides a record of the growth of my garden. When I began blogging in 2009, my back garden consisted of two flower beds, the deck border and the blue and yellow border, facing one another across a central walkway. Blog posts from fall 2009 (Garden Alchemy: Turning Sand to Soil and The Pleasures of Planting) record the creation of the fence border. This was followed in 2010 and 2011 by posts about the plans for (My Not-So-Secret Garden, Planning the Serenity Garden, and The Plan) and creation of ((Finally!) Breaking Ground and Birth of a Garden) the serenity garden and also the addition of a raised bed in 2013 to create a stronger sense of enclosure for that part of the garden (Closure). In 2012, I was inspired by my blogging experience to go back and re-read the hand-written journals I had kept for many years to recover the pre-blog development of the garden (The Ghosts of Gardens Past) and to create a new History of the Garden blog page. As I enter a new stage of my life, I am also entering a new stage of garden growth as I plan and develop a whole new front garden – a process that I have begun to document here (First Steps Toward a New Front Garden and Working with a Landscape Architect).
The most important growth this blog has seen is my growth as a gardener. In many ways, that growth is a result of writing this blog. Blogging has introduced me to the gardens, knowledge and ideas of many other gardeners, and they have been an important source of information and inspiration. Many of those gardeners have commented on my blog posts, raising questions and making suggestions that have helped me enormously. And writing about gardening has forced me to be much more self-conscious about what I am doing and why. Reflections on my own practice have led me to a deeper understanding of garden design. (See, for example, What Makes a Garden “Room”? and Serendipity in Garden Design.) Trying to explain what is happening in my garden and why has also increased my understanding of garden science (Blue Is a Cool Color and Botanical Identity Crisis). Because I was science-phobic in my younger years, I am particularly proud to have mastered some of this botanical science; and I am looking forward to learning more of it when I enroll in the Master Gardener’s course next year.
I expect that my blog, my garden and my understanding of gardening will all continue to grow in the years to come.