Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving cactus

I've been assuming for the last three years that my Christmas cactus was an overachiever, always blooming a month ahead of time and usually right around Thanksgiving. Who knew there is also such a thing as a Thanksgiving cactus?

Whatever it is, it's nice to see some color now that the cold days of not-even-winter-yet are upon us in Pennsyltucky.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Stick a fork in it

It's done.

Marathon season is done (and I went out with a great race).

Teaching (my second job) is done - mostly - for the semester.

Stepping outside without a heavy jacket - done.

And the garden, as far as blooms and bright colors, is done.

It was only this week that it got really cold overnight. Despite some chilly temps, my mums and caryopteris were still going strong. But now they are also done.

Garden cleanup - not even close to being done. Postponed (as always) until spring.

So now that there's not much to report on outside, I'm going to try to remember what worked and didn't work this year - or as much as I can remember as I sit here sipping an adult beverage while NOT writing out lecture notes for class next week:

What worked

Creating new beds:
Cutting out more of the back yard bed and creating a nice curve. Unfortunately, I've already run out of room back there!

Finishing sod removal on both sides of the allée. 

These standout flowers:
The climbing roses on the back fence. They were doing exactly what I wanted them to do - trailing through the trellis accent at the top of the fence - until they didn't work anymore because of rose rosette disease and I had to rip them out. So this is a worked/didn't work situation.

Coreopsis - between 'Moonbeam' and 'Mercury Rising', there were flowers blooming for months and months on end.

Hibiscus - the one outside of my kitchen window was a show stopper for months. It is clearly madly, deeply in love with its new spot in the garden.

The winecups. I am madly, deeply in love with these, though I'm sure my mailman is not. But it's my house so I win.

My peonies came back and even waited until I returned from vacation to bloom.

What needs work

So much!

The bushes:
Seriously, sitting here and thinking about them all makes me throw my  hands up and say, "God!" in a sarcastic, teenage-I-didn't-get-my-way way.

From my problems with the viburnum to my dwarf lilac barely coming back to cutting down the monstrous butterfly bush for hours - I did not have luck with my bushes this year.

Not to mention rose rosette disease destroying the roses in my garden. I still have to rip out the giant rosebush in the allée but haven't yet had the time. The red twig dogwood was too big, but Neighbor M and I plan to chop a lot of it down this winter to use its branches in seasonal decorations. The bushes next year are going to have to shape up or ship out get ripped out.

The bulbs:
In the spring I realized that I hadn't planted any new bulbs the prior autumn, so while I had some nice tulips, daffodils, and crocus there simply weren't enough.

I have remedied that this year, complete with covering each bulb area with mesh to keep away the squirrels. There better be one heck of a show next spring.

Still, the spring-planted bulbs and tubers were a disappointed. My dahlias did almost nothing. My stargazer lily grew about 2 inches. I think there were sunlight issues but I'm not totally sure. I have all winter to figure out what went wrong.

The annuals:
The good: They grew from seed started under grow lights in my basement.  The bad: They got leggy as hell and were not properly placed (up front for all the world to see their naked legs!). The good again: The marigolds and zinnia were some of the last plants to stick it out after summer left, providing some much-needed color in the back yard. If I can hone the placement and color choices next year, this ought to be a success.

Overall, I'm actually quite pleased with this year's gardens. The back yard looks pretty good for starting over just a couple of years ago. The allée has been increased by two-thirds and is already so full of plants that I think I've run out of room there, too. The viburnum and I came to a mutual understanding after we both spent some time sulking. I'm in high plan-for-next-year mode already and super excited about some of my ideas. 

The gardens of 2014 - just beginning.