After several weeks down in the grading pit, I am thankful to be finished with first drafts of student papers and to have climbed out into the light. I still have two more weeks of school this semester (one last week of classes and then final exams), but the hardest work is behind me. I’m hoping to get back to a more regular blogging schedule in the weeks to come.
Two days after I finished the last of the first drafts, I got home to Maine for Thanksgiving. When I arrived on Tuesday night, it was slowing lightly, with about 1/2 inch of snow on the ground and a coating of white on trees and plants. But when I woke up the next morning, it was raining hard, the temperature was about 50 F, and the snow had disappeared. The rain was followed by another cold front, bringing unseasonable cold (high temperature here today was in the low 20s).
It was fun to get out in the sunshine yesterday and tour the garden to see what was happening. All the flowers in my garden are gone, of course, but I found this evidence that Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ kept blooming to the bitter end. And buds on rhododendron are already whispering promises of spring.
At this time of year, when they are not competing with colorful flowers, the pine and hemlock trees seem especially beautiful.
In addition to being thankful that the hardest work of this last heavy teaching semester is behind me, I am also thankful to have this wonderful spot in the Maine woods to come home to. I am looking forward very much to being able to live here full time in just a few short months.
|Even as the outdoor garden goes to sleep, however, indoor blooms are waking up. All of my Cyclamen plants are making new blooms, and the first flower on my holiday cactus (Schlumbergera) opened just in time for bloom day.|
Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see what’s in bloom this month in indoor and outdoor gardens around the world.
I spent quite a lot of time during my summer months in Maine making plans for a new addition to the front of my house to be built next summer. I signed a contract with an architect and had several meetings with him as we worked our way from conceptual drawings to measurements to pricing drawings. I also interviewed several contractors (most recommended by the architect); and hired one of them after talking with several of his references (all of whom gave rave reviews).
The addition will add a new master bedroom and bath, a new foyer at the front entry to the house, a screened porch at the front of the house, and a small deck off the new bedroom. And all this will be accompanied by a new front garden. For more than a decade, I’ve been focusing my gardening efforts on the area at the back of the house; and during that time, I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with the way the front looks.
This addition provides an opportunity to take out almost everything I’ve done before and start over with a clean slate. The row of scraggly lilacs that never really got established along the front of the property will come out. The too-small and crowded iris bed will come out.
The frequently reworked border under my bedroom window that just never got beyond the hodge-podge look will come out.
The overgrown forsythia and mock orange shrubs in the front yard will come out. The only planting that will remain is the Circular Bed at the turn into the driveway; the rest of the landscape will be completely rethought and redesigned.
Excavation for the new addition is going to begin in the spring, probably several weeks before I am able to get home to Maine at the end of the school year. For that reason, many plants had to be moved out of harm’s way before I left for Gettysburg in August. I spent three intensive weeks on these first steps toward a new front garden. First, I removed the sod and moss from an 6’ x 15’ area and dug soil amendments in to create a temporary flower bed as a holding area for plants. (This took two weeks of heavy work, even with the help of my friend Joyce who came and put in several hours working with me one afternoon.)
Once the new holding area was prepared, I spent another week moving plants. All the daylilies from the row at the front of the property were loaded into the wheelbarrow and moved. (This took several wheelbarrow loads.)Then I moved all the plants from the bedroom border. Finally, I moved tradescantia and Siberian iris plants from the Iris border. Even cramming in as many divisions as I could, I still had to leave about half the Siberian irises behind in the old location. I may be able to dig some of these up in the spring and set them aside to give away or to be replanted elsewhere.
I came right down to the wire on this job, getting the last of the plants moved to the new holding bed the day before I was to leave for Gettysburg. When the planting was done, I hooked up a soaker hose and asked my next door neighbor to come over and turn on the water a couple of times during the coming week.
When I was home in September, I was relieved to see all the plants looking happy and healthy in their new location. Some were even blooming. Next fall, after the construction is done and the new front garden has been designed, I will be able to start moving many of these plants to their new homes.
I’m late posting for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day because I was in transit yesterday from a long weekend in Maine back to Gettysburg. But the same travel schedule that kept me from blogging also allowed me to visit both my gardens on bloom day.
I have only a few plants still in bloom in my Gettysburg, Pennsylvania garden. Pink pelargonium and osteospermum are blooming bravely on in the container at the front of my house. In the nearby flower bed, Sedum spectabile ‘Neon’ has turned to deep russet tones.
The big show in my Gettysburg garden is in the back, where the morning glories (Ipomoea tricolor ‘Blues Brothers’) are putting on an exceptionally lush floral display on the patio fence. I have never seen these bloom so luxuriantly before, and it feels like a precious gift in my last year of growing them here.
I was surprised to find more in bloom in my Maine garden, 600 miles further north, than in Pennsylvania. The fall has been mild in Maine and frost has yet to touch the garden. Here, too, containers still have blooms – not only pelargonium and osteospermum, but also petunias.
Even in Maine, morning glories have been blooming on the fence. I didn’t manage to photograph them while they were in bloom, however; and as the days get shorter and the nights get colder, their buds are struggling to open.
In the Deck Border, the seemingly unstoppable Heuchera x ‘Raspberry Ice’ continues to bloom, and sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is a rich wine color.
In the Blue and Yellow Border, the delphiniums of September have faded, but I was delighted to see new flowers (even if a bit ragged) on Coreopsis x ‘Full moon.’ The tall rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ continues to light up the back of the border and has even enticed a few bees to hang out there.
And, of course, my favorite color in the October garden is the colorful foliage of maple trees.
Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see what is in bloom this month in gardens from many climates.
For the past 15 years, I’ve been managing to get home to Maine about once a month during the fall semester. My first trip back since I left for Gettysburg in August happened two weeks ago, just in time for the fall equinox.
I never know what I’m going to find in the garden at this time of year. Will sensitive plants have already been nipped by frost? Will the fall-blooming Hemerocallis still be in bloom? What about the summer phlox? Will the reblooming daylilies be in bloom again? Will the delphiniums be enjoying a second flush of flowers?
I arrived too late at night to really see what was going on; but when I went out to the garden first thing in the morning, I found that frost had not yet visited and a number of plants were still blooming. The fall-blooming sedums were, of course doing well, both “’Autumn Joy’ (pictured above) and ‘Matrona’ (shown here). It was more of a surprise that two delphinium varieties had flowers – even if some of them were lying on the ground because no gardener had been around to stake them.
I was also happy to see the last few flowers of Phlox paniculata ‘David’ and ‘Blue Paradise.’ These were a special treat because the plants were repeatedly eaten by the resident woodchuck early in the summer and had not yet begun to bloom when I left in August. Other “last blooms” were found on Heliopsis helianthoides and on balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus).
I was surprised not to find any daylilies blooming, although there were still a few unopened buds on ‘Final Touch’ and ‘Autumn Minaret.’ I also did not find any morning glories blooming on the garden fence – but I could see the seed pods of flowers gone by on the vines. These provide an encouraging promise of morning glories to enjoy next year, when I will be living here full time.
The late-blooming Rudbeckia x ‘Herbstsonne,’ on the other hand, was still going strong. And so were the flowers of Heuchera ‘Raspberry Ice,’ which have bloomed continuously all summer long.
Elsewhere in the garden, I was delighted to see all the plants in the new raised bed looking happy and healthy and as though they had grown since I left. I think this bed may fill in nicely by next summer.
Here and there around my property, patches of pale lavender wild asters were blooming. Other signs of fall included the seed pods of Platycodon and Liatris and the first hints of fall color in the foliage of rhododendron.
Fall is my favorite time in New England, and I’m looking forward to an upcoming October visit to my Maine garden. What I’m looking forward to far more, however, is the promise of all those New England falls to come as I retire from teaching and go back to living year-round in Maine.
The morning glories (Ipomoea tricolor ‘Blues Brothers’) blooming on the patio fence are the glory of my Gettysburg garden in September. I love the two different colors of flowers in this seed mix. My morning glory seeds never germinated in 2012 and I missed their gorgeous presence in fall, but this year they have outdone themselves. By the time I returned to Gettysburg in late August, the vines had long ago topped the fence and were well on their way to taking over my neighbor’s patio. Having been corralled back to their proper side of the property line, they have grown around one another, forming thick ropes that are flowering profusely. Having such a wealth of morning glories this year is a special gift because this is my last year living in Gettysburg, and the tropical morning glory vines will never bloom this luxuriantly in the colder climate of my Maine garden.
The other plants that are blooming profusely this month are varieties of Sedum (stonecrop). S. telephium ‘Matrona’ is the first of this genus to bloom in my garden and has already begun the transition from flowers to seedheads. This plant, with its maroon stems and red-tinged foliage, is intended to be a tall, elegant presence in the fall garden, but mine was forced by an overhanging forsythia branch (since removed) to grow prostrate this year.
|S. spectabile ‘Neon’ is rapidly becoming my favorite of this group. Growing in my front flowerbed, it is at the height of its bloom and is showing a range of colors from palest pink to red.|
|Other flowers in my garden include a few scattered blooms on Geranium x ‘Rozanne’ and some blooms of Pelargonium (annual geranium) and Osteospermum still soldiering on in the half-barrel container at the front of the house.|
Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see what is in bloom this month in gardens around the world.
[I apologize to my readers for my relative absence from the blogosphere in recent weeks. I’ve been having trouble juggling the 70-hour-a-week demands of my heavy fall teaching semester, various home and financial projects demanding my attention as I prepare for retirement, and two blogs. I have made a resolution to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep per night this semester, and blogging has been sacrificed in favor of sleep. It is likely that, from now until the semester ends in mid-December, I will only find time to write one blog post per week, alternating posts to this blog and my retirement blog every other week. I’m looking forward to being able to devote more time to blog writing and reading when my time crunch eases in spring. Thanks for your understanding.]
When I first began planning my Serenity Garden, I was inspired by a secluded woodland-edge area, dominated by two large white pine trees (Pinus strobus), that sat at the back of a mossy clearing behind my house. The clearing was surrounded on three sides by woods, and I had begun to enclose the fourth side by planting a line of shrubs to separate the quiet mossy clearing from my clothesline area. By the time I was ready to make the Serenity Garden a reality, however, the nature of my clearing had changed dramatically. The septic system leaching field beneath the clearing failed, and the whole area had to be excavated for the installation of a new leaching field. When the new septic system was completed, my line of shrubs had been removed and the secluded mossy clearing had been transformed into a wide open grassy swath. (See My Not-So-Secret Garden.) The problem that then presented itself was how to recreate a sense of seclusion without plantings that would send roots down into the leaching field.
The new woodland garden (the Serenity Garden) has been in place for two years now. After looking into possibilities and considering the suggestions from my wonderful garden blogging community, I decided to recreate the sense of enclosure I originally envisioned by using a large raised bed (essentially a 4’ x 12’ planter) to close off the fourth side of the (now larger and grassy) clearing and to separate it both physically and visually from the clothesline area.
In order to create the raised bed, I used raised bed corner brackets from Gardener’s Supply Company and 5/4” x 6” white cedar decking planks. The corner brackets are designed to hold 2 x 6 boards, but I did not want to use pressure-treated lumber and rot-resistant white cedar dimensional lumber is not readily available in my area and is prohibitively expensive. Instead, I used pieces of exterior vinyl trim to shim the 5/4” planks so that they fit snugly in the corner brackets. Gardener’s Supply does not recommend using their corner brackets to connect boards longer than 8’ and I was using 12’ planks on the long sides, so I cut a couple of lengths of 1/2” diameter PVC pipe, sunk them a few inches into the ground and strapped them to the center of the cedar planks to stabilize them. Here you can see the progress of the raised bed as it was constructed:
Once the raised bed frame was finished, I covered the bottom with cardboard to smother the sod and then filled it with a mixture of loam left over from the leaching field project, inexpensive bagged topsoil, compost, and composted cow manure.
This raised bed is intended to create both a physical and a visual barrier between the Serenity Garden and the clothesline area (and the driveway beyond). The physical 4’ x 12’ cedar structure creates an effective physical barrier; although it is possible to squeeze by it, the only obvious entrance into the quiet clearing is now through this narrow neck between the Blue and Yellow Border and the Fence Border, which effectively creates a strong sense of entering a separate garden “room.”
The raised bed structure is not large enough, however, to provide a visual barrier; for that, it needs architectural plants that have visual mass and will call attention to themselves. At the same time, though, I don’t want large flashy blooms for this planting; it needs to share the Serenity Garden’s emphasis on foliage. With these considerations in mind, I decided on a combination of amsonia (blue star flower) and hardy geraniums.
The focal center is three Amsonia hubrichtii. If these behave like the amsonia that I planted in the Blue and Yellow Border 10 years ago, they will grow to a height of about 3 1/2’ (4 1/2 – 5’ once you add the height of the raised bed) and a diameter of more than 4’ at their crowns, and they will provide a mass of attractive foliage from spring through fall. The smaller Amsonia x ‘Blue Ice’ plants provide lower-growing foliage for the edges of the planting and prominent blue flowers in early summer when the raised bed will be in bloom. The plants of Geranium x oxonianum will provide a contrasting foliage shape and texture, and its pink flowers will drape themselves over the foliage of the large plants behind them in a charming way. On the back side of the raised bed (facing the clothesline and driveway), Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’ is a low-growing groundcover that will fill in the spaces between other plants, spill over the sides of the planter, add a mass of quietly lovely flowers to the mix in early summer, provide attractive foliage throughout the garden season, and visually tie this planting to other nearby flower beds (the Deck Border, the Fence Border, and the Serenity Garden) that also have Geranium x cantabrigiense growing along their front edges.
Right now, the newly planted raised bed looks a bit sparse and scraggly. My hope is that, within a few years, it will fulfill my vision of lovely closure for the Serenity Garden project.