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Frost and Flowers: GBBD, October 2016

October 15, 2016

front garden octoberFor mid-October in Maine, there are a surprising number of blooms in my garden. I rushed around taking photographs yesterday, ahead of the killing frost forecast for last night. But, in fact, although temperatures fell well below freezing, only tender annuals were affected. Last night’s frost did end the season for the tropical morning glories (Ipomoea tricolor ‘Heavenly Blue’), and most (but not all) of the cosmos were also hit. cleome octoberThe annual cleome, however, came through relatively unscathed.

The truth is that I’m tired of the cosmos and cleome, which I planted to fill in the new front flower beds and which turned out to be way too much of a good thing. Although the cleome survived the frost, I’ll probably cut them down this week; I want to make sure that they don’t go to seed and leave me gifts of unwanted cleome plants for years to come.

I am surprised by how many perennials are still in bloom. There are, for example, a few last flowers on the tall summer phlox. Along the Lavender Walk, the lavender are still going strong, where they are still joined by flowers of Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’’.

lavender october echinacea october

Further along the walkway, there are also flowers on two varieties of dianthus.

dianthus october prairie pinks october
neon flash october I’m surprised to see a second flush of flowers on Spirea bumalda ‘Neon Flash,’ which was just planted this year and has been asked to settle in under difficult drought conditions. And these lovely blue delphinium flowers are also a special treat.

delphinium october

Perennial stalwarts that bloom continuously for month after month are particularly welcome at this time of year. In my garden, 1st place goes to Geranium x oxonianum, which has been gracing the Porch Border with its clear pink flowers since the first week in June. The runner-up is Heuchera x ‘Raspberry Ice,’ which has been blooming continuously since mid-June.

oxonianum october raspberry ice october

autumn joy octoberThe sedums seem to have transitioned from flowers to seedheads more quickly than usual this year, and only ‘Autumn Joy’ can still be counted as having flowers.
The asters, on the other hand, are enthusiastically performing their role as stars of the fall garden. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) ‘Alma Potschke’ provides a vibrant splash of color in the Porch Border. It is the more subdued flowers of Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Bluebird’, however, that seem to be most loved by the bees. When I come out to walk through the garden in the chilly morning temperatures, I find many of these bees sleeping, each curled up on its own aster blossom waiting for the warming rays of the sun. When I checked my garden records, I was amazed to find that these flowers (which grow in a protected spot near the foundation of the house) bloomed through the first week of November last year.

alma potschke october aster bluebird & bees

New flowers were added this week when the native witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) that grow at the edge of the woods along the side of the driveway began to bloom. These flowers can be hard to see against the backdrop of yellow and orange leaves. When the leaves have fallen from the trees, however, the yellow flowers will come into their own and light up the woods in the drab season between fall foliage and snow.

witch hazel blooming

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see October blooms from gardens around the world.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2016 5:40 pm

    This extended fall weather is delightful, although it carries an undercurrent of concern that it presages a long-term trend that may not be delightful at all. We have a bounty of wild asters here and I loved your description of the sleeping bees. Yesterday at the Maine State Beekeepers conference, I learned that when the forager bees find a rich source of pollen or nectar, if they need to rouse more bees, they do a shake dance, where they pounce on sleeping bees and shake them awake. The sleeping bees do a bit of grooming, ready themselves, and head on out.

    • October 22, 2016 11:02 pm

      Brenda, I too worry about our warming weather. It seems that shifting ocean currents have made the Gulf of Maine one of the two fastest-warming bodies of water on the planet.
      I had never thought about bees sleeping before I started to notice them on these asters.

  2. October 17, 2016 4:02 am

    How wonderful to have these late blooms in the garden! You have a variety of colors that are great.

    • October 22, 2016 11:03 pm

      Thanks, Bettyl. Our garden season here is relatively short because our winters are long, so I have an incentive to try to extend the season in both directions.

  3. October 17, 2016 10:26 am

    How very pretty. I too have late blooms with a hardy hibiscus just opening up today. I am sure the first killing-frost is just around the corner.

    • October 22, 2016 11:05 pm

      Denise, Those late blooms are extra-special. We have had one night of frost, but it didn’t kill most plants. We have cold weather arriving tonight, however, that will send temperatures down into the twenties on most nights in the coming week, which will probably mean the end of most flowers (with the possible exception of the asters).

  4. October 17, 2016 1:49 pm

    It’s charming to think of wandering the garden in early morning to find bees asleep in your blooms. On the occasions I find sleeping bumble bees, I’m always tempted to pet them but I usually stop myself – the ever busy creatures deserve their short periods of rest. I enjoyed seeing that beautiful Delphinium (which I’ve at last given up on growing here) and I envied you the ability to grow morning glories, leaving the chore of controlling them to Mother Nature – I love their spectacular color and robust growth but sadly they’re pests here if planted in the ground.

    • October 22, 2016 11:10 pm

      Kris, Morning glories are a bit of a challenge here, not because they become invasive, but because they need a long season from germination to bloom. This is one place where I’m taking advantage of warming temperatures to set the seedlings out a week earlier in the spring. I can remember first frosts in late August 30 years ago, but our average date for first frost is now the second week of October, meaning time for these flowers to bloom. I don’t have great luck with delphinium, but I keep replacing them when they die because I love them so much.

  5. October 18, 2016 11:30 am

    Like you I am surprised at how many plants are blooming, even after a frost. I forgot to post of GBBD but I’ll post soon about what is left in my garden. I love my cosmos, and amazingly I have dahlias that didn’t seem much bothered by the frost. My new and favorite rose, Lion’s Fairy Tale is still blooming. I was particularly struck by your beautiful and stalward Raspberry ice and the little geranium. I’m so glad you posted on GBBD.

    • October 22, 2016 11:12 pm

      Pat, That pink Geranium x oxonianum is a favorite of mine, and I’m always surprised that nurseries don’t sell it — probably because it is not heat tolerant and has a relatively short bloom period in warmer climates. I’m looking forward to having late-blooming roses in years to come.

  6. October 21, 2016 10:44 am

    those delphiniums are a lovely blue!

    • October 22, 2016 11:13 pm

      Diana, They are one of the few true-blue flowers here. I find them fussy and difficult to grow here, but the color makes it worth the effort.

  7. October 23, 2016 4:10 pm

    Hello Jean, you still have so many plants still in flower and it’s so strange seeing the Witch hazel flowering along with them as it’s a plant I associate with winter gardens, long after everything else has gone dormant.

    • October 30, 2016 8:39 pm

      Hi Sunil, Both H. vernalis and H. mollis (and also the hybrid H. x intermedia) flower in late winter/early spring. Only the species that is native to the northeastern U.S., H. virginiana flowers in autumn. I would love to grow a late-winter flowering H. vernalis outside my study window where it would provide a promise of spring when I’m ready for the end of winter.

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