Fall is like…

“We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done”.  -Book of Common Prayer

Fall is sort of like those lines from the Book of Common Prayer, isn’t it?

I have a gazillion things to be done outside and it’s a bright, sunny day (but cold & windy), so I should be out there taking care of various fall garden chores…   “left undone those things which ought to have done”.  I know once I get out there working, I’ll get warmed up, but I’m procrastinating.  Maybe after lunch, it’ll be warmer then.

Instead I’m inside, fooling around with all the seeds I’ve collected over this growing season.  And it’s a task that could easily be done on a winter day, long after the fall garden wrap up is complete… “done those things I ought not to have done” (right now, anyhow).

I never want to buy a plant twice – – – which is not the same as not wanting to grow it again, or not wanting to have more of the same.  I just don’t want to spend my hard earned $$ on it again.  It’s about collecting seeds!  Propagation.  I do it avidly in my own gardens and have been known to collect seeds in other places, too (garden centers, public gardens, friend’s gardens, gardens that grow street-side, in the wild… you get the drift, no seed is safe from me).  I save seed from the fruits & veggies I buy at the Farmer’s Market during the growing season.  Oh, and I do actually buy seeds, too, both locally and online.  And I exchange seeds with my Flickr friends.

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Just a small portion of my bags of seeds

Just a small portion of my bags of seeds


Anyhow, I’m working on all these seeds, cleaning, packaging, & labeling.  I get to the tiny 2×3″ plastic bag where I’ve been stuffing the ‘almost ready to pop’ dry seed pods from the annual silky deep red butterfly weed (asclepias ) I grew this summer.  I mean, the unopened pods are stuffed tight in the bag.  There are easily a dozen and a half pods.  I let very few of them open in the garden.  So, I grab hold of the stems and pull them all out… you know what’s coming, don’t you?  If you know what milkweed seed pods look like and how the seed disperses, you know.

flowers and seeds

flowers and seeds

Every one of those pods popped open, simultaneously!  They’d been waiting to disperse their seeds for ever-so-long and those babies were ready, and I mean READY!  And that’s exactly what they did!!  All over my work area in the corner of the living room!  And all over me!  Oh my!  How I wish I had a video of this event to share with you!  And then I started laughing, and they blew around even more!  I’ll undoubtedly have bits of this ‘fluff’ all  over for some time to come!  I did manage to capture most of them and stuff them in a new, larger baggie.



And, yes, I’ll plant those seeds next year.  But next year I’ll collect their seed a bit differently,with a bit more intelligence and understanding of the ways of this beautiful  red and yellow butterfly weed.

My new garden shed with trim not yet painted dark brown.

My new garden shed with trim not yet painted dark brown.

I’m working (or should be) on planting the area where I just had a garden shed built.  And I need to finish painting the shed door and trim (white trim now, will all be chocolate brown when – if – it ever gets done).  All those sale plants purchased end of season will be planted there.
It’s so gorgeous out today!  Fall leaves are just exquisite, showing their crayon box reds and yellows!  I’d best get out there and quit procrastinating…

4:30 PM update – Yay me!  Got out there & got some things done.  Once I get started, I’m a ball o’ fire :-).  And, sure ’nuff, hadn’t been working 15 minutes before I shed my jacket.

Planted and mulched:

  • 1 Beautyberry (callicarpa dichotoma ‘early amethyst’)
  • 10 reblooming German irises ‘Immortality’ (soft white)
  • 2 Ilex crenata ‘Helleri’
  • 1 Pink Knockout Rose (rosa x ‘radcon’ PP#15070)
  • 10 clumps of grape hyacinths (dug up prior to removal of the driveway fence)
  • a handful of mystery crocus bulbs (were mixed in with grape hyacinth bulbs above)
  • a Eupatorium Hyssopifolium (don’t know common name, but reminds me of the wildflower called boneset, which is also a eupatorium).
  • Rudbeckia ‘Henry Eilers’ (moved from an unsuitable place; I failed to read the height on the plant tag when I originally planted it and put it at the front edge of a bed).

Also got the gutter guard put on the back gutter of the shed where my rain barrels will be located.  In a climate with below freezing winters, do you empty out the rain barrel in late fall??

And I got the path from the front of the shed to the edge of the grass ready for gravel by putting down the landscaping cloth and placing the pavers at the edges to hold it down.  Now I need to get the gravel, but not today.  Whew!  I’m bushed!

Today’s bouquet & Oct garden update

It’s been a very busy time in the Saint Claire Cottage gardens the last couple months.  I’ve barely had time to wash the dirt off my hands to eat, much less do any blogging!  I’m finally getting to the back yard area of my little quarter acre after 7 years in my home.

This summer I’ve cleared the back of my yard (with help) of the jungle that was there.  The back third was a horrendous mix of 12′ tall kolkwitzia, forsythia-gone-wild, daylilies, nasty dock, bird- seeded rose of sharons, and an ancient buddleia not worth saving (and other flotsam and jetsam of the plant world, aka weeds and ivy).  You couldn’t even see the alley.  I did dig & save a bit of forsythia and a bunch of old-timey daylilies.  What job all this was!  Then the stump- grinding guy came and ground up all the roots beneath the soil, so hopefully none of that ‘stuff’ will come back.  Then I put up an 8×12 garden shed in that area, which had to be painted inside and out…  and on and on…

I had the chain link fence that ran beside the driveway removed (it was, effectively, cutting my back yard in half, from the house to the alley).  So, between the jungle removal and fence removal, my back yard now looks gi-normous, and very empty.

Next week my local garden center is delivering and spreading four truckloads of topsoil & compost to level the area out and raise it up a bit.  They are also planting 5 hydrangeas along the back edge of the yard along the alley (3 limelights and 2 twist ‘n shouts).  Once that’s done, I have plants materials & bulbs to be planted yet.  (Please, ole man winter, hold off a bit longer)!

Sales, OMG, the sales!  I just bought 17 items from a big box store nursery at 75% off, all shrubs except for three heucheras w/dark purple leaves, all for just $29 – and it’s all great looking stock, not dead & dying.  And then one of my fave little garden centers closed forever (retiring) and I missed their big 75% off markdown sale, boo hoo.  But I still came away with 3 shrubs (kerria), a few perennials (veronica & bleeding hearts), pots, books, and some items for a future fairy garden planter, during their last week of business.  They will be so missed (Philip’s Seeds in Greencastle, PA).

So I have all these things to plant yet, not to mention a couple hundred new spring bulbs.  Oh, my aching back (and happy heart)!  Next is to moving all my gardening tools, pots, etc. to the new shed.  Still  have to put up the rain barrels, too.  Sure wish I didn’t work a FT job!

The raised veggie beds have all been emptied and prepped for next growing season.  Hanging out there til the new beds are ready are 30 new bearded irises, a couple dozen ‘saved’ daylilies, and an assortment of other plants in pots.  Um… have we had Indian Summer yet, or is that just wishful thinking on my part?

Things remaining on the project list?  An old-window greenhouse (I have all the windows, am working on the design for spring), compost bins from old pallets (have the pallets & the existing compost pile to move into the bins, also for spring), a potting bench for outside the shed (Pinning ideas like crazy, not gonna get done this fall. http://www.pinterest.com/ginnytalbert/garden-shed-ideas/), and the leaves to rake, groan…  So what am I doing in here typing??  It was cold this morn, so I stayed inside, but now I’ve gotta get out there.

Finally, here is today’s bouquet, picked a couple days ago when the forecast was for 29F overnight.  Lobelia, millet, and zinnia angustifolia.  And pumpkins I grew this year, all parked on the dining room windowsill!

Zinnia angustifolia, millet seedheads, and lobelia.

Zinnia angustifolia, millet seedheads, and lobelia.

On a closing note, in September I had the pleasure of vacationing in Maine, my first visit to that state.  Visited the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.  Oh my, it was breathtaking, just splendid, even in late Sept.  I could have stayed for days!  Pictures will follow later.  If you’ve never been there and plan a visit to that corner of the country, please don’t miss it!  I was so impressed!

Dahlias – 1st time ever!


Dahlia ‘Nick Sr.’

I’ve been gardening for more years than I care to count and I’ve NEVER ever grown dahlias.  Dunno why…  they just never particularly interested me.  And then there was the hassle of digging up the tubers (?) each year and storing them.  Nope, not for me!  Then I ordered some plants online, and when the box arrived they’d also tossed in 3 free dahlia tubers.

Well, you can’t throw away free plants – oh, maybe you can, but I have a hard time doing that.  So I planted them in a spot I use for holding plants that don’t have a home in the garden yet.

Dahlia 'Babylon Roze'

Dahlia ‘Babylon Roze’

Dahlia 'Razzle Dazzle'

Dahlia ‘Razzle Dazzle’

All three have done so well, with so little attention.  I did plant them, but really didn’t care too much if they survived or not.  All three are between 4-5′ tall.  Razzle Dazzle and Babylon Roze have been blooming since mid August.

The first blossom of Nick Sr. started opening earlier this week.  It looked like some sort of mutant, but by yesterday I picked it and brought it in to enjoy.  I’ve been carrying it around the house from room to room so I can look at it where ever I am.  As you can see by the picture above, Nick Sr. is a wild looking thing, petals of rosy red tops and pale yellow undersides.  It is the size of a small cantaloup!  The petals twist and turn in a wild array, reminding me of a piece of Chihuly glass sculpture.

The other two are more classic dahlia looking.

I guess I’ll dig them up in the fall, store them, and next year I’ll find a place in the back of the border where they can show off.  A significant plus seems to be that they take the heat, I rarely watered them, and, best of all, the bunnies didn’t show any interest in them – yay!

It’s nice to have such lovely blooms in Aug/Sept, huh?  Do you grow dahlias?  Any tips for me?

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – August 2013

Don’t have time to add words…  but lots is blooming in the August garden!

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Rudbeckias, zinnias, limon,

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shatas, abelia, hibiscus, datura, cosmos, sweet allysum

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dahlias, cleome, joe pye weed, ornamental oregano, verbena bonariensis

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morning glories! and soon to pop solidago, some lingering coneflowers, black-eyed susans

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daylilies, black-eyed susan vine, sneezeweed, hops, zinnias, pumpkin blossoms

And that really ‘says’ it all (how can a blogger not have time for words?  I’m sure you know…)  Happy August!

A tomato with a story…


Most tomatoes don’t have a story worth telling, but this one just might!

Most tomatoes are planted, grow, ripen, and are picked, sent to market or canned, sold and eaten.  Or maybe you grew it yourself & you can skip the ‘sold’ part.

This little tomato, whose identity is a mystery, has a slightly different story.

I have a pebble tray in my kitchen with all my orchids.  In January this year, a tomato seedling showed up in one of the pots.  I swear, I’m not one of those cooks who throws food around the kitchen, but somehow a seed made it to the orchid pot in the window.  I decided to just leave it and see what happened.  That orchid got more water than the rest because, honestly, orchid bark is not the best growing medium for tomatoes.  It’s quick draining.

Anyhow, the weeks went by, the seedling grew.  And wilted.  And I quickly watered it.  It perked back up.  And it grew and grew.  It was in a south-facing window with good diffused light, but there was a lot a space between each set of leaves.

By end of March or early April, it was 2′ tall and blooming, much to my surprise!  Far too early to even think of putting it outside.  And it needed a stake or something, as it kept falling over.  I leaned the stalk against the window frame and kept watering.

Even end of May is iffy for putting tomatoes outside in my garden zone.  The soil is not warmed up yet and our frost date is towards the end of May.  A small, green fruit was forming on the tomato plant.  Hang in there baby!

About a month ago, mid June or so, I re-potted the orchid and gently removed the very tall, single stem, tomato plant with, basically, water roots.  I planted it quite deep in one of my raised beds and stuck a winter driveway marker next to it.  And lots of twist ties to hold it in place.  At this point it’s 2 1/2 feet tall, this stringy, leggy, but tenacious tomato plant.  I watered and fertilized, and watched with wonder as it took off.

In the collage below you can see the wild thing it has become.  Lots of side shoots, all looking pretty healthy.  Lots of other stakes to hold up its branches.  It has lots of blooms and fruits forming.  At this point I’d guess it’s what you buy at the market called ‘vine tomatoes’.

07-28-13 tomatoAnd I never though it would survive, much less produce a crop.  The first fruit, which survived the transplant process and grew more, was harvested a few days ago and put on the windowsill to ripen a bit more.  Today I’m eating it and it tasted just like any other home grown tomato – juicy and flavorful, if a bit small.

IMG_7267So that’s the story of the tomato that thought it was an orchid… or something like that.
Remind me to tell you sometime about the preying mantis egg case that hatched in my kitchen in February (with a foot of snow on the ground outside).  Happy gardening!

End of season update:  This plant produced more tomatoes for a longer period than all the other tomato varieties in my garden this year!  Truly, the little tomato that could…  I wonder if I should start all my tomatoes for 2014 in my orchid plants in January? hmmmm

Side Note:  When I want to save some tomato seeds for next year, this is what I do:

  1. I scoop the seeds directly from the tomato and smear them across a paper towel.
  2. I set it aside to dry.  I write the type of tomato and the year collected right on the paper towel.
  3. When completely dry, I fold the paper towel & place it in a baggie to store.
  4. When I’m ready to plant, I take large container, fill it with dirt, place the seeds (paper towel and all) on the soil.  Cover the seed with soil, water, watch ‘um sprout.  The paper towel disintegrates.
  5. Transplant into individual pots when the seedlings are big enough.

The silence of early morn

Headed out into the garden very early today, almost at first light.  I love the garden when it’s so quiet, fresh.  It seems no one is about yet and the world is just mine.  Everything seems renewed by the night time, and this little bit of cool weather the last couple days is so refreshing, both to me and the garden.  I needed a sweatshirt, it must be high 50s or low 60s – chilly.  Miss Maggie, my cat, says she wants out, too.  I grab my coffee and camera, clippers in my pocket, and out we go for a garden review, the first of the day.

I was thinking about the “silence” of the early morn.  It’s not really, you know.  When I stop to listen, I hear all sorts of sounds:  (it’s amazing the noise we learn to block out)

  • The bees are already buzzing in the abelia bush (abelia x grandiflora) and in the various squash & pumpkin blossoms.  They crowd, 2 or 3 at a time into the squash blossoms, jockeying for the best spot.
  • Interstate 81, a perpetual distant hum, even this early.  Early local street traffic.
  • Crickets and some other low bug-hum.
  • My quiet steps on the path.
  • The tentative slu-u-u-rp of my very hot coffee 🙂 .
  • Maggie’s tags on her collar (no sneaking up on the unsuspecting critter for her).
  • The first bird calls (The cardinal, a catbird, robin, and a Carolina wren).
  • My very own breathing.
  • Something’s rustling around at the back of the bed in the asters – that fat brown mouse I’ve seen around, perhaps?  He’s becoming very bold, but he knows I’m harmless.  I hope it’s not the wee bunny, who does not know what he likes to eat yet, and so samples almost everything!
  • The momentary ‘fwap’ of the newspaper hitting the neighbor’s front porch.
  • A very gentle breeze is barely moving the leaves at the top of the trees.
  • A runner passes swiftly by on the side street, shoes softly hitting the pavement.
  • The very distant wail of a train whistle (what a mournful sound, somehow).
  • And the wren, scolding Maggie for merely existing.

I’m sure I’ve missed things, even though I was determined to hear everything in the “silence” of early morn.  And again…  Slu-u-u-u-rp!  Gulp!  Ahhh!  Hot coffee’s so good!  Sun’s up and Maggie is ready to go in for a real breakfast after a few nibbles of grass.

Lot’s of things blooming, as you’ll see by the following photos.

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Miss Maggie and the lambs ears (Stachys byzantina)


The pergola reflected in the birdbath

Square-89 by Skeletal Mess

Tickseed (coreopsis rosea)

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Sunflower (Helianthus) planted by the squirrels, seeds from the birdfeeder

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Morning glory ((Ipomoea), growing on an old shovel


Black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia)


Black-eyed Susans


Pink Zinnias

And I picked a handful of this and that to put in my favorite little cream pitcher.  Takes only moments to set up a little still life shot with a piece of scrap-booking paper as a backdrop, so I can share my sweet pastel bouquet with you!


Catmint, cosmos, queen anne’s lace, spirea, hosta, morning glory, dayflower, tall verbena, lobelia, blue mist spirea, a couple grass seed heads from the alley.

All so pretty in that early light!  Happy Gardening!  Go out and listen!

Side note: THE LISTENING WALK by Paul Showers is a marvelous children’s book about listening outside.  I read it to my children many a long year ago.

Datura Inoxia – first bloom

My first datura bud (aka moon flower) has bloomed for this gardening season.  So strongly scented I can smell the lovely fragrance 25′ away.  Sometimes I pick several just before going to bed and put them in my bedroom so I can enjoy the scent inside.  It’s one of the pleasures of the evening garden, as it opens in early evening.  An elegant flower, it lasts just one day.    And ALL parts of this plant are poisonous.  It seeds itself freely, so I usually remove the pods before they dry & disperse.  It’s definitely an item I love having in the garden, as it blooms well into September in my 6a garden zone!

IMG_3899This shot is an old one, taken in the fall when the chokecherry is all berried up.

09-05-09 tomats, LGbokeh12

Shown here are some of the charms of this flower: a bud, buds unfurling (love those curlicues), fully open (with bee), and a seed pod (golf ball sized).


It’s delightfully cool here this morning – 58 degrees when I got up.  A pleasant change from the last week and a half, for sure.  Enjoy your day!

A wee visitor…

7-24-13 mantis on coneflowerA tiny little, 1″ long preying mantis joined me in the garden this morn.  They’re not intimidating when they’re this small, but when they get bigger, I stand back.  In the photo on the left, I imagine him to be saying, “Whatcha lookin’ at, lady”?

They used to be considered good to have in your garden, but now the experts say they eat both good and bad bugs.  I’ll let mine stay and take my chances on how many good bugs he/she eats.  I think they are a pretty cool bug!