Late Season Sights

My front-yard azalea seems much happier since I started raking out from under it in the fall. It used to be a brown mess, eaten to pieces by azalea lace bugs. Now there’s not too much damage, though spots where the leaves have been eaten still show. I’ve never seen an azalea produce this much fall color.  

This is the outer wall of my garage. I’ve got several things in the nursery, all cuttings, divisions, or dug-up volunteers. With the exception of the foxgloves, in the square pots, right, that seeded themselves. (If you have a perennial that’s reliable for self-sowing, you can place a pot underneath, topped with potting soil, and the new starts will arrive.) I dug up a couple of good columbines, and divided my goatsbeard. I also have a buttonbush, some Russian sage, Baptisia australis, and some actual mountain laurel cuttings. They should root themselves over winter, enjoying this spot where the warmth from the garage keeps them above a hard freeze. It’s my theory (probably not mine alone) that plants evolved to go dormant in the winter and wake in the spring need weather cues and shouldn’t be wintered indoors. The windowbox in front is just there to provide insulation. 

Some plants, in late fall/early winter, go into a growth phase. The upper photo shows the primroses, putting on lots of new leaves. The lower photo shows a hellebore that seeded itself from the parent plant. Fingers crossed that it will bloom in ’22 and I’ll see what kind of flowers it has. They can only be different from the parent if they’ve reverted in some way, though the parent is a fancy hybrid. But I only have one hellebore, so only someone’s else’s could have provided new genes.

Wishes for next Gardening year

Above, a hart’s tongue fern, and its interesting way of sporing. The second photo shows how the callery pear tree, that had a section of bark cut out by a yellow-bellied sapsucker, has coped by growing the same sort of collar a tree makes when it loses a branch. I had a fledgling sapsucker, in its juvenile plumage, come to my suet feeder this year. So, the callery pear may be an invasive foreign species, but it does provide sustenance for one type of bird.

I cleared away the pile of brush that was stacked under my sweetgum tree, and the area left, that has very rich soil, I plan to build into an understory habitat, with shrubs, small trees, and wildflowers. I’ve planted lots of jumbo daffodils around my path edges. One thing I decided, based on observation, is that daffodils are better planted along borders than inside beds, because their foliage lingers for a month or so after they flower, and takes up good planting space you want to use for other things. Of bulbs, I’m adding crocuses, tulips in containers, anemones, ranunculus, hyacinthoides (bluebells). 

Next year, I want to plant some conifers, a blue spruce for color, and a mugo pine for its nice size, even thought neither are native to Ohio. I do have a small white pine that appeared in the yard by itself. I have several things in pots, that I’m wintering sheltered against the garage wall, cuttings from shrubs and perennials. I may get a genuine mountain laurel, a second button bush, a cypress, and an azalea—the last two started from root layering. I have a few perennials potted, some columbines, hellebores, goatsbeards, and baptisia. I’ve moved several coneflowers from the front bed to new ones I’m building out from the sides of the paths, turning more of the yard into flower gardens, less remaining lawn.

I would like to get a caryopteris, an Itoh peony, and a blue lace-cap hydrangea. For perennials, I need more pulmonaria (I saw a great, inspiring, multi-variegated planting in Garden Gate magazine, that I’d like to emulate with pulmonaria and brunnera). I need more ferns of different types, and I want to add more primrose and some tiarella. I’ve collected seed of several good annuals and native perennials, but of seed to buy, I’d like to get celosia, cosmos, sweet william, viola, blue centauria, more annual phlox. 

 

 

Fungus

This pearlescent white jelly is probably rarely seen. It made an ephemeral appearance after the heavy rains from Ida, on the side of the dead ash tree, and when the weather dried up, it disappeared.

 

 

These shelf mushrooms were especially golden, saturated with rain. Using logs to edge beds does more than give you a chance to see how many types of fungus can sprout in your area. The life that exists in this dead wood also helps sustain a mini-climate. The ground under and just around the logs won’t freeze (unless winter temps are severe). Under every little shelf is a place for an insect or spider to hide.

 

 

A new rose I bought, called Cinco de Mayo. Its flowers are coral with areas of dusty purple. And it puts out new leaves in this bright red hue.

 

I said in an earlier post that my yard habitat lacked any reptile or amphibian species (that I had seen), and that these creatures migrating to your yard is a real proof of progress. After Ida, I got a little frog in one of my bog tubs. That’s how pond frogs move from place to place, traveling when rain is falling and their skin stays wet.

 

 

This grass, probably a sort of pennisetum, makes a great show in late summer and fall. 

 

 

A Few Things Linger

Photo of small bird's nest

A small nest uncovered when the leaves fell off the beech (that I originally thought was a birch, but I see it’s starting to develop some distinct eyes on the trunk.)  The nest is probably a song sparrow’s.

Photo of blue veronica bloom

One bright blue-purple veronica bloom. A few things will pop a random flower in the late fall.

Photo of catmint growth

Catmint, having a fresh spate of leaf growth, in the cooler weather. 

Photo of iris blooming in fall

An iris, that may slip this one past the deer. All my bearded iris are rebloomers, but last summer they didn’t bloom at all.

Photo of foxglove bloom

A foxglove, with a warped little flower, and others it’s trying to open before it freezes.

Photo of poblano pepper

One last poblano pepper. There are three ways to preserve a pepper, one of the few vegetables that may survive wintering over in a pot. You can start one from a stem cutting, pot the roots after trimming back the topgrowth, or save seeds from one of the fruits and start them in the late winter, or early spring, depending on your zone.

Photo of ruffled lichen

Closeup of a ruffled lichen, growing off a twig that fell out of a tree.

Fall Arriving

Photo of oak galls and fly

A few of the oak galls. (And a visiting fly.😉) Probably the number of oak galls says something positive about the health of the local environment.

Photo of wild asters with wasp

The wild fall asters are covered with pollinators, though this photo shows clearly only one little wasp. These flowers appear on each plant in hundreds, but as you see, once they’ve been pollinated they turn pink, while the ones with something to offer stay yellow to guide the wasps and bees.

Photo of cleome flower with seedpods

Here’s a view of the cleome, which just goes on blooming until frost, and its entertaining spray of seedpods.

Photo of foxglove flowerstem eaten by deer

The deer are not supposed to bother foxgloves, but one bit off the flower stem of a late bloomer. As you can see, it still has buds at the leaf axils. But I hope it may act like a perennial and come back next spring, since its blooming was thwarted.

Photo of achillea foliage

Pretty nicotiana blooms, and a view of why achillea is a great perennial (easily grown from seed). In the fall, these plants will put up a thicket of lacey foliage.

Photo of burgundy elephant ear with purple veins

Sunshine through an elephant ear leaf. You can see the beautiful late-season color and the interesting vein pattern.

Photo of callery pear fruit

The tiny fruits of the callery pear, which in closeup definitely have the characteristics of a pear. The tree makes thousands of them, which are much relied on by all sorts of unnoticed critters. They also draw robins in late winter.

Homes for Creatures

Photo of woodpecker hole in dead ash tree

This is a dead ash tree, that gets a lot of woodpecker traffic. My yard has nesting sites used by Hairy, Downy, and Red-bellied woodpeckers; also Northern Flickers. Just this past summer, I’ve been seeing Pileateds visit the tree, so with luck they’ll be the ones excavating this out next spring.

 

Photo of animal burrow

This is a burrow in the ground under my Callery pear tree. I’ve never seen what lives there, but I see a long passage of sunken ground coming off this hole, so the complex must be spacious. It may be only rabbits, but it would be nice to have a badger or a weasel.