Wednesday, September 20, 2017

All for Fall!

Fall officially begins Friday, September 22, 2017. With that, I'm all for Fall!
I love seasonal decor changes, but typically use just a light touch (Christmastime being my exception). Front porch decor is an easy transition for me. Our farmers' market is open year round, and pumpkins started showing up the last week of August. I got a good selection of those (and mums) the first week of September. Other than those items, everything else was on hand.

I had already eased into warmer neutrals in the sunroom with browns, yellows and creams in pillow covers, along with sunflowers and cotton bolls in mid-August. These will stay until November or so.
Outdoors, I'm still harvesting lavender and maintaining plants, but I'm dividing my attention a bit toward indoor plant health, too. I divided and replanted my succulents neglected through prior months.
Changing up the stepback hutch in the sunroom is fun, but putting things away from summer season? Not so much fun. A few transitional items remain from summer decor, but the rest are now stored. The neutral and fall seasonal items are out for everyday use: ivory dishes, bronze flatware, harvest and hunt plates & pitcher.
The dining room is a bit more formal and dramatic, especially on a cloudy, rainy day. It sort of has an appearance of a library in there with the woods, leather and darker paint.
A little whimsy is found in the garden with a scarecrow couple, seated at the far end of the landscape, barely noticeable from the curb. I divided sage and transplanted gaura plants, as well as a few black-eyed Susans into a bare section between my Autumn Joy sedum bunches. While readying the hose for watering one day recently, I noticed my spare nozzles were full of strands of grasses....unused materials stockpiled by the birds of summer. {smile}
It's just the start of fall, but the mood is definitely turning toward cozy. For some, it can be a melancholy season, but I found a phrase - "good words" I call them - which I like very much, and has a more positive tone for the autumn months. I added it to one of my favorite seasonal photos (below) just a reminder.
Happy Fall, Y'all!

Rita C. at Panoply

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Miscellaneous Musings No. 8

Welcome to miscellaneous musings no. 8! Time to share the odd, the curious, the silly, and the other miscellaneous things that have captured my attention since my last musings update.

Here's a collage of some award-winning tree trimming done this year by our power company's contractor. 😠The three trees pictured front one of the nicer homes in my neighborhood. If it's proven nice landscaping can add to the value of a home, then is it logical that bad work like this can take away from a home's value? I would venture to guess yes, it takes away. I call this the slingshot trim.
I suppose the contractors were trying to spare us all from ending up like this little guy did in my neighborhood (below). The photo was taken with an old cellphone, and it's not pretty, any way you look at it.
This next guy was spotted in the backyard of a recent estate sale. I'll call him Herbie. Cute.
My little book reader in my garden - I call him Augustine - was standing amid my black-eyed Susans this summer, and I'm always snapping photos while outside. Besides the light and shadows in the side-by-side image below, do you notice anything of major difference? It's the weed in front of him!
Weeds that grow that high - seemingly overnight - are a constant source of hilarity to Mr. P. and I, since we both patrol for weeds on a daily basis. I was actually readying the left frame for a garden post when I noticed it, and went back out to pull the weed and re-take the shot, lol.

Okay, here's one for the books. My neighbor bought a house a couple blocks down river last year, and he is building his own dock and deck. Very cool, he had the state's shape worked into the design of the dock, which he built first. While working on his deck one hot, summer day (it will be the same shape, extending out and over the riverbank), he felt like he had water in his ear, thinking it sweat.
His family enjoyed some time on a nearby lake that following weekend, but the 'water' in his ear worsened, with pain and a sense of loss of hearing. An appointment with his ENT doc revealed - get this - a TICK, attached to his eardrum! Oh, yes it was. Removed by what he said was the most painful procedure he's ever felt in his life, and a strong dose of antibiotic drops, he still has a slight loss of hearing (selective, he says, depending on whether his wife is talking, hehe). When asked how he's doing a month later, he responded, "I bet I'm known as the tick guy with your friends and family, aren't I?" Well, yes, as a matter of fact, you are.

Another tick grown nephew and his wife were desperately trying to remove ticks from their furbaby a few weeks ago. Three days in a row, they had to muzzle her while attempting tweezing the nasty things. Ultimately, they had to take her to the vet, only to find they were trying to tweeze her - get this - NIPPLES! Poor baby, she got ice cream as a consoling gesture, and tweezing privileges have since been revoked from her people.
I've mentioned before I plant angelonia in my annual flower beds for summer. It's a sturdy, drought-tolerant plant.  I noticed something when you cut it, as I sometimes do when the plants get leggy. (It's the purple spires in the background of the photo below).
You know the residual smell that asparagus can leave behind once you've eaten it and later pee? Well, that's what angelonia smells like when it's cut. If you don't know that smell, that doesn't mean you don't produce it, but rather you lack the genetic ability to smell it. It's a DNA trait. Well, I must've been first in line when the sniffer trait was handed out, because I don't miss much at all when it comes to odors. Just ask my kids (or first husband) if they could ever past my sniffer.

As if that last topic wasn't gross enough, here's the clincher, pictured below. You know what that is, don't you? That's the ultimate cleanse, my milestone birthday gift. Holy moly. I'm the girl who likes to eat breakfast as soon as my feet hit the floor, and eat well over 2,000 calories daily (typically more than Mr. P. any given day). So, having a diet of just applesauce, chicken broth and water the day before the procedure was brutal enough. (the Clorox was for my OCD throughout).
My last colonoscopy (10 years ago) called for tablets and Gatorade to drink, but this year's was simply to drink enough antifreeze (just kidding, not really) to down a giant. Seriously, I was told to take 4 Doculox and then two hours later start drinking that entire 8 oz bottle of Miralax in 64 oz of Gatorade. Miralax is polyethylene glycol, which is made from ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in antifreeze. Needless to say, I was glad when it was over. Now get this: after the procedure (and Mr. P. was there, so he can attest to this), my Dr. came in and said he's never seen a colon as long, especially for a person my size (!?). So, I guess one could say I am certifiably full of you know what!
By the way, polyethylene glycol's in a lot of other things we drink, eat and use daily. Do we have rocks in our head for drinking, eating that stuff or what?!

Speaking of rocks, are they doing this thing in your town, where rocks are painted and hidden? Below is the first one I found, sometime in July. Mine had specific instructions polycoated on the back, noting the page on Facebook to post and then rehide. It seems to be a fun pastime for many, whether crafting, hiding or finding. Though mine is somewhat plain, I've seen some spectacular artistry on many rocks. Kids, especially, seem to take great joy in finding them, although I was pretty excited too.
Apple season...the Golden Delicious apple was originally discovered in West Virginia, first called "Mullins Yellow Seedling". In 1915 the Stark Brothers Nurseries bought the tree and the rest is history. History, that is, until late in 2016, when the original property on which the apple was discovered was sold at auction. This link tells of the apple's history. I don't how much the property sold for.
For many a West Virginia coal miner out of work (and that's a lot), this link spells hope for potentially many. It's an initiative called Green Mining Model Business Programdesigned to turn formerly black gold (coal mining surface mine sites) into purple gold (fields of lavender).  I hope you'll take the time to click on the link and read it. I hope it succeeds.

I'll leave you with this little clip below. May you always enjoy learning something when given the opportunity. And just like this little girl learning to hula hoop, may you always feel free to use your creative license as you choose.

Rita C. at Panoply

Monday, September 4, 2017

As the September Garden Goes

Early September and the garden is still pushing a tired sort of way, but still plenty of beauty for the attentive eye. This post is full of pictures of my garden in early September.
Like many of you, I get tired of the daily grind of watering, weeding, and deadheading come late August (sometimes even sooner). But the garden goes on, working away for at least another 2-3 months in my Zone 7a region!
Hosta leaves may get crispy, but their fragrant white bloom spikes stand like soldiers in front of the hibiscus and hydrangeas in the back landscape.
Nandina leaves are turning coppery in color, while berries are beginning to form.
Endless summer hydrangeas continue pushing new blooms, while old blooms both fade and dry.
While the sun moves to a more southerly position, the angles cast a more golden light, enhanced even more so by plant and structural shadows.
Hard to see, but if you look closely to the left of my flag in the photo below, there's a dwarf re-blooming lilac plant. It's directly beside the flag pole, behind the hostas, and in front of the limelight hydrangea.
I've had this re-blooming lilac for at least four or five years, but it's never really done well, and never re-bloomed. This past spring while moving some plants around, I brought it forward only about two feet, and it's seemingly made a real difference. Next spring will be more telling, when the first flush blooms appear, but it has a few blooms right now.
My Jack-manni clematis is also a re-blooming variety, but it never pushes many blooms on its second go round in late August, early September. Its lack of second blooming is likely due to position of sun now, and obstructing growth surrounding it.
Here it is September, and my Mexican sunflowers are just now taking off. I had a time with these this year. Not one seed I germinated survived replanting, so I received pass along plants to put in the ground in late June. They will continue blooming through first frost.
I've already cut back my bee balm, as it was literally falling over into the black-eyed Susans, looking really messy.
Just beyond the black-eyed Susans, knockout roses continue growing up the wall, and dwarf butterfly bushes are spread out just in front them.
Tree form butterfly bushes are totally messy, just beyond the black-eyed Susans in the opposite direction of the kockout roses (see photo below). Pictured are three mature plants all grown together at this point in the season. They will be cut to about 18" come late October. The hummingbird feeder pictured comes down in a day or so, encouraging my little buddies to move on for the season. It's best not to keep feeding them much past mid-September in my region.
My containers, though full of roots by this time of the season, are still pushing many blooms. I'm watering them using the wilted Sunpatiens as my guide to tell me when. I had to stake the purple fountain grass, as they toppled from the weight, height and last rains.

Courtyard climbing roses are blooming again, though not as full as first flush. I hard pruned them in early June. If lucky, I'll get one more flush in November.
Lavender continues to produce, and I typically harvest in evenings before predicted rain, which otherwise drenches the buds prime for cutting (sorry, my camera was obviously focused on the rose).
The lavender I transplanted earlier in spring fared alright, but never pushed blooms once replanted (it's the scrawny one in the photo above, just beyond the first trellis). Below is a before and after of that lavender plant transplanted. You can see it had blooms, but those, as well as the leaves of the stems themselves, simply withered. Simultaneously, new growth emerged as seen in the lower frame. It has the blue-green appearance in its leaves. They seem stable, but next year will be more telling.
Annual beds are still looking good with angelonia, vinca and geraniums, and I'm not even watering them. The boxwoods have wild hairs growing.
Every day I come outside to find the same webs spun in the same places, which I either walked through or necessarily had to take down to get through gate or unwind a hose. Most likely those webs are created by the same busy spiders in those places the night before.
Spider webs among the boxwoods
Liriope mounds are now blooming, and dark berries will soon follow.
Liriope blooms
Some crazy little mushrooms are also blooming.

The mushrooms seemed a perfect backdrop for the little self-contained, tabletop fairy garden I've had the pleasure of enjoying in my sunroom this season. The little gnome, wheelbarrow, birdhouse, fountain, trellis, bench, rocks, lamb, fence and box were all just $10, spotted in Aldi's seasonal aisle in spring.
The visiting butterflies in the garden this year have been both ordinary (skippers) as well as extraordinary. Those shown in the collage (from clockwise, top L - monarch, tiger swallowtail, swallowtail and zebra swallowtail) are what I consider extraordinary.
I enjoyed the numerous monarch which visited this year (more than years past!), but my favorite was the zebra swallowtail, with beautiful, aqua coloring!
On eclipse day (August 21, 2017), right at the 90% totality for us, I paid attention to the plants and visitors, as seen below (clockwise, top L: ruby-throated hummingbird, clearwing moth, swallowtail butterfly, and honey bee). While definitely present around me, they seemed more intentional, slower. It never was dark for us, but rather a greenish yellow tint in an otherwise sunshiny day.
Walks in the neighborhood during the morning are crisper, cooler. The views below are looking in opposite directions along the river (west and east, respectively), standing in the same place.
Neighbors along our path have fig bushes - not trees because of how they're pruned - and I love to sneak up and pull one, and bite into it when it's warm and juicy.
While Mr. P. retired from grass cutting this year, he does still pull weeds for us, regularly. We are fighting wild violets with a vengeance (by use of  Speedzone) and, after a two-year hiatus from having our lawn professionally treated (weed & feed applications), we've decided to go back to that regimen. 
We're also taking back our yard from critters such as voles and/or ground squirrels. I bought the sonic repellers pictured below and just installed them last week, and will see what happens. We have little tunnel holes all over our landscape beds and lawn, but no heaved up piles of dirt in the lawn. They've eaten several of my plants from the roots, and it's gotten totally annoying.
While the temps are cooling down, I'm thinking of replanting a couple of things that seemed to either be eaten from the voles, or ones that have simply played out their life cycle over the years. Sage and asters are just two which come to mind.

Autumn Joy sedum (depression plant, as my sister's mother-in-law used to call it for its sad foreboding of summer's end) is beginning to turn mauve on the flowertops. I always cut my sedum no later than June by at least one-third; otherwise they topple with weight from their height.
On the last evening of August, I caught the fledgling (below), chirping away in my courtyard. He was having trouble scaling the courtyard wall, and mama bird kept calling from atop the brick ledge. I hoped the bird would make it out but, sadly, he was expired on the courtyard ground, near the wall, the next morning.

Do you know what breed he is? If you guessed cardinal, you were right. :) He was probably between 11-14 days old. We hosted at least three cardinal broods this year.
It's soon time for pumpkins and gourds and scarecrows. At home, I follow the seasons fairly closely with the calendar. Other than a few pillow changes in the sunroom, I haven't even begun to dress the house for the colder seasons. 
Thanks for joining me as I journal my 2017 garden to early September. Are you anticipating fall, or have you already settled into it in your home and garden?
Rita C. at Panoply