Sunday, November 30, 2014

Garden Cleanup and a Cold Sunny Day

Today I went down to the big garden for the final clean-up of the year. I still had in the ground nine varieties of dahlias that I chose not to dig and save this year. All of these varieties displayed some unusual markings on their leaves, most likely the tell-tale signs of dahlia virus. In reality, I should have pulled these plants as soon as I noticed the first sign of virus. But instead, I waited until I had safely dug all of the other dahlias, just to be certain that I wouldn't transmit any virus from contaminated plants to healthy plants as I dug. Then I tossed them all over the fence. Again, I didn't want to toss them in the compost pile and risk further contamination. Then I covered the compost pile for the year and the garden was officially put to bed. A blank slate - except for the weeds - once more.

Although the high temperature was only 41 today, it was sunny and a very pleasant day to be working outside. As you can see, all of the cats were enjoying the late Fall sunshine.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Emerging Bulbs

I was very surprised, as I walked by the west end flower bed, to discover that some bulbs are already pushing through the soil. It's only late November! So far this month, we have had 21 day with the high temperature registering 50 degrees or more. 3 of those days were above 60 degrees. So it's no wonder that the plants are ahead of schedule. Pictured above, a nice clump of "Kokopelli" narcissus. Below, the first emerging tips of narcissus "Topolino".

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tuber Digging - Weekend #5

Today I dug the last 3 rows of dahlias! I had 37 clumps to lift, most of them Collarettes, Orchids, and Singles. I was pleased to see that, even this late in the year, and after a few spells of heavy rain and cold temperatures, the tubers seemed to be in good shape. The new system that I used to dig this year, lifting out the tubers in the middle of the garden first, appears to have saved me the heartache of lifting rotted tubers.

Now all I have left are the dahlia plants that I fear have contracted a virus. I will come back next weekend and dispose of those plants and tubers. As hard as it is to toss so many tubers, I don't want to risk spreading the virus to my other plants or to some other garden. So I have now completed the cycle once again, beginning with plump tubers in the Spring and ending with a heaping pile of dahlia foliage in the Fall.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


This is the second year we have had our Acer Palmatum "Emperor One". For most of the year it is covered with lacy, finely cut, dark red foliage. I am not a huge fan of red acers but I must admire this one. No matter how scorching and relentless the Summer sun, the leaves never fade. They were the same blood red color in September as they were in the Spring.

What I didn't remember from last year though, was the beautiful Fall color.

Suddenly, last week, the red leaves begun to turn lovely shades of orange and yellow. Within days the whole tree had transformed. Even nicer, the tree has only dropped a few leaves, allowing us to enjoy the full impact of this seasonal display.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hard Frost

We had our first hard freeze overnight. The temperature early this morning at our house read 22.7 degrees and one of the cars, on an early trip to town, displayed 19 degrees. Brrrrr!

The whole world was covered in a heavy coast of hoarfrost.

Intricate patterns on blackberry leaves.

I especially enjoyed the patterns that the frost left on the Queen Anne's Lace pods and on the fallen leaves.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tuber Digging - Weekend #4

A sunny but COLD day to work in the garden. The reported high was only 44 degrees. There was a fairly constant, nasty little wind that made things feel much colder. I was fortunate that most of the garden was bathed in the late Fall sunshine as I worked digging up tubers today. Since tonight's low is projected to be in the low 20's, I made the decision to dug up 4 rows. The buried tubers shouldn't be damaged by just a few nights in the low 20's but I wanted to have as many dug and stored safely in the shop as I could. I ended up digging 51 clumps. Working in the sunshine was actually quite pleasant. It wasn't until I got back up to the house, and hosed off the clumps in the shade, that I really got cold. Once again I have a busy after-work week of dividing, washing and storing tubers ahead. But the end is in sight. There's only 3 rows left to dig!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

First Freeze of the Year & Freezing Rain

We had our first killing frost overnight, along with some freezing rain around 7:00 AM as I ate breakfast. The reported low was 32 degrees but I think it might have been a little colder down in the big garden. All of the dahlia foliage is now brown and the Zinnias and Marigolds have expired too. The growing season is officially over.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Tuber Digging - Weekend #3

With rain in the forecast for Sunday, I decided to skip my "dig 2 rows each day" program this week. Instead I tackled 3 rows today. The weather was fine - cloudy, overcast and cool. I sort of jumped around the garden today with my digging. I dug a row of Poms, a row of purples & pinks, and one row plus 4 of orange dahlias. After I got back to the house I trimmed all of the clumps and washed them with garden hose. They all went inside the shop to await final cutting, washing, bleaching, and wrapping.  I have now dug 59 varieties and roughly 10 rows. That leaves 8 rows to go!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Thunbergia Alata "Orange Beauty"

For the second year in a row, we planted a small Thunbergia Alata "Orange Beauty" start in the mudroom flowerbed. This year we planted it a few weeks later than we did last year, so it has been slower to climb the trellis and come into bloom.

But just like last year, once it did begin to bloom it put on a great show! The native of East Africa has completely covered the trellis with its vigorous vines. It has bloomed non-stop since mid-Summer and shows no sign of letting up.

One bonus of our late frost this year is the intense color of the blooms the last few weeks. The Summer sun has a tendency to wash out the orange. But now, with cool weather and cloudy days, the blooms are an amazing, deep, rich shade of orange that we have never seen before. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Early Moonglow Watermelon Harvest


Yesterday I harvested my "Early Moonbeam" watermelon. It was certainly an interesting learning experience growing watermelon for the first time.

I couldn't have had a better Summer for my first attempt. It was extremely hot and dry for the Pacific Northwest; we set a record for the number of days over 90 degrees. But I learned watermelon plants need more than heat. I needed to provide my plants with more water and more fertilizer than I first thought.

Without daily watering, my plants only set 4 fruit and the leaves started to curl. The plants were very much alive but essentially stopped growing.

Once I began a regular fertilization program and watered everyday, the plants took off again. The vines started branching like crazy and I had a strong second flush of blooms. From that mid-September flush, the plants set 9 more fruit that grew faster and larger than the fruit set in the first flush. None of them hit the 5-8 lbs. mark that the catalog described, but they were closer! Unfortunately, since they set so late in the season, they didn't have a lot of hot weather to help produce sugars and sweetness. Still, I was happy with my first try at growing watermelon. Here are the final numbers. I harvested a total of 13 watermelon this year. The largest was 3 lbs. 1.3 oz and the smallest was 12.3 oz. The average size of the watermelon harvested was 1 lbs. 14.70 oz. and my total harvest weighed in at 24 lbs. 15.6 oz.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Tuber Digging - Weekend #2

This weekend I was busy down in the big garden digging dahlia clumps once again. While the garden is a bit of a mess with all of the sprouting weeds and falling over dahlia plants, there is still a lot of pretty color to be found. It does make cutting down some of the dahlia plants difficult but there is still no hard freeze in sight on the 10-day forecast. If I want to have the whole garden dug and stored by Thanksgiving I need to keep going, pretty colors or not.

Here are 3 late season "Harvey Koop" blooms. Their form has fallen apart but their color is vibrant.

Before I cut down my one "Kelgai Ann" plant I had to cut off this bloom. It is just perfect, even in early November.

"Clearview David"


"Tahoma Hope"

"Alpen Chips"

On both Saturday and Sunday I dug two rows. The weather was so much nicer than last weekend. It was cloudy and cool but dry! I still have a long way to go on this project but I am finally getting some bare spots in the garden.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

November Color

Since the rains finally returned in late October, we are starting to see some decent Fall color here and there. The Big Leaf Maples have a bit of color now, after getting fairly stressed last month. They aren't too pretty up close, but from afar the browns and oranges are nice.

Our little Ginko bush has put on a nice display. That's what faithful hand watering will do for you!

I always forget what pretty Fall color the Witch Hazel plants have. This is the red Witch Hazel by the front steps. After the first frost we need to move it to a better location where it will have more room to grow.

Each leaf has all of the colors of Fall.

The three Sweet Gum trees are also doing well.

It is interesting that the leaves on the far right tree are turning a strong purple/red color while the leaves on the other two trees are turning red/orange.

It is so nice to finally see some lovely colors in the leaves. It wouldn't be Fall without colorful leaves, mild days, and cool nights.

I also discover a few other bits of color walking around the property. Scarlet certainly jumps out against the muted brown tones of Fall. Pictured above, one last wild blackberry hanging on the vine. Below, a spray of wild rose hips in the hedgerow.