Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fall's Fading Blooms.

Today felt like autumn. A gray dreariness hung low in the sky. I waited for a bit of sun to peek through the clouds before I headed out to the garden with my camera for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, hosted by May Dreams Gardens. At 6 p.m., though, I decided that waiting any longer would mean that I'd need a flashlight to photograph the flowers. So out into the grayness I went, hoping to find a few blooms to share.

tropical hibiscus, http://growingdays.blogspot.com

My bargain tropical hibiscus continue to add a splash of color to the front garden. At the low, low price of $5 for two, lovely huge hibiscus, how could I pass them up? Granted, I have greenhouses to tuck them into for the winter, otherwise they wouldn't be very happy in our zone 7b frosty temperatures. I love a good flowering bargain!

fraise des bois, alpine strawberry, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
Yes, I'm once again singing the praises of fraise des bois. The plants are still covered in their darling little blooms, and even better--they're producing another nice showing of their incredibly sweet fruit. What's not to love about these little edible beauties? They are darling in a pot, plus they make a lovely, non-creeping boarder in shady beds. Truly, they will always be one of my favorite plants.

Japanese anemone, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
The Japanese anemones put on quite a show for the past month. Now, they're slowly winding down, with a few dozen blooms remaining. It's definitely time to thin and transplant these beauties.
pansies, violas, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
If it's fall, then you know it's time for pansies and violas--hooray! Just as I'm beginning to feel blue about the lack of blooms in the garden, the cheerfulness of pansies erases my grumpiness. The violas found their home in the potager this weekend, but the many, many flats of pansies are anxiously awaiting the blister on my palm to heal so that they, too, can get tucked into their new garden home.

hardy hibiscus, katydid, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
One of the best things about photographing the garden is that you never know what you might find, like this katydid hiding in the hardy hibiscus...

praying mantis egg case, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
...or the praying mantis egg case on the lemon tree. We're anxiously awaiting our new beneficial arrivals to the garden.

camellia, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
Also surprising are the camellias. Years ago, I planted half a dozen camellias along the south side of the house, an area we rarely pass on our way to the forest or the kitchen garden. It's a shame, because the camellias are spectacular right now. We need to add something to the area to make it a destination instead of an after-thought. The blooms shouldn't be missed, but often I do.
 yellow mums, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
I'm not typically a mum fan, but somehow it doesn't seem like fall without a few bursts of bright cheerfulness. The tired garden certainly benefits from the mums' overwhelming sunniness.

tea olive, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
The microclimate by the pool garden continues to encourage blooms. The tea olives smell divine...

Encore Azalea, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
...the Encore azaleas provide a great burst of showy color...

peach Drift rose, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
...and the peach Drift roses burst with new blooms. 
snail flower, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
The containers by the pool continue to send out new blooms. I keep searching for seeds from my favorite heirloom, snail flower. At $1 per seed, I'm hoping to harvest a few seeds for next year. Nothing yet, but I'm crossing my fingers.

mandevilla, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
The mandevilla seems to enjoy the cooler temperatures, which seems counter-intuitive to its nature. Soon, I'll be keeping a close eye on the weather for freeze warnings to make certain these babies and my other warm-natured plants are safely nestled into the greenhouses before it becomes too chilly.

viburnum, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
Ah, the crazy viburnum. How can you not love a plant that blooms...and blooms...and blooms some more? What an incredible workhorse of a plant. We've trimmed and pruned, and still this shrub is heavy with blooms.
marigolds, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
Talking about workhorses...holy marigolds! What began as a few plants tucked into the kitchen garden beds to repel pests turned into a sea of orange and red as the weather cooled. The butterflies and bees adore the blooms. I've never been a fan of marigolds, but how can you argue with a profusion of blooms like that? I may need to show marigolds more respect!
basil, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
The herbs provide blooms for several pollinators. Tiny wasps and bees enjoy the basil flowers. Our basil struggled this summer. I think the enormous amounts of rain caused it to suffer from a fungus, although it's looking better now that it's cooler. Again, for a heat loving plant, I'm perplexed.

scarlet runner bean, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
While I've cleared most of the kitchen garden beds for fall crops, I left the scarlet runner beans. The multicolored blooms add a bit of color to the beds, and the vines continue to produce.

small red morning glory, wildflower, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
For the first time, I found small red morning glory, a native wildflower, in the clearing near the river. 

goldenrod, http://growingdays.blogspot.com

I also don't recall finding goldenrod in previous years. This year, however, we have several patches of it, which I love.
shiitake, mushroom logs, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
Our heavy rains led to an amazing season for mushrooms. The shiitake logs are producing like mad. We ate delicious risotto ai funghi a few nights ago, and I'm frantically searching my cookbooks for more recipes that can include shiitakes. The mushroom logs are truly one of my greatest garden success stories. Growing mushrooms is so easy that I'm not sure why more people don't do it. Shiitakes and fraise des bois--I'm equally enamored. 

Tomorrow, I must finished planting the potager and work on the large kitchen garden. What are you planting in your fall garden? What's your favorite fall flower or vegetable?

Happy October Bloom Day to you!



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Social Studies and Seed Saving.

Three Sisters Garden, http://growingdays.blogspot.com

As a gardener, I sometimes wonder why. Why am I so driven to tackle weeds, battle squash bugs, and fight the forest in its effort to reclaim our asparagus bed? As a mom, there are days when I wonder why I dragged the kids out to the garden, invading my garden zen with their complaints and fussing as they weed the strawberry bed. What's the point? We have an absolutely fabulous Farmers' Market nearby if I'm so determined to feed the family vegetables. 

Then, once in awhile, it all makes sense.

In South Carolina, third grade students study our state's history. Incorporated into social studies lessons is a student project about Native Americans of the Carolinas. Kids can choose to create a model of a tribe's home, draw a poster, or write an essay. (Truthfully, the term "student" should probably be substituted with "parent." Many overzealous parents build architecturally correct renderings of Cherokee, Catawba, or Yamasee homes. In fact, one student in Mikey's class grumbled that his mom only let him make the campfire for his model. Seriously.)

Thankfully, Mikey chose the essay. Sure, building the model seems like fun, but since he recently broke his arm on the soccer field, a one-handed model-making fest did not appeal to either of us. 

So, he researched and wrote the rough draft of his essay.  Then, I made him go back and write more. Let's just say, it was pretty obvious that he rushed his research and writing to play Minecraft.

Much grumbling ensued.

To top it off, I sat with him while he typed it one-handed. I know, I know...I'm such a mean mom. The reality is that even without a broken arm, he still would type with one hand. He's in third grade, after all.

As he finished the paragraph about the vegetables planted by the Cherokee--including squash, beans, and corn--I reminded him about our garden. 

Our "Three Sisters" garden, based on the companion planting techniques of Native Americans.

Three Sisters Garden, http://growingdays.blogspot.com

Suddenly, something clicks--there's history right in his backyard! He helped shuck corn from the "Three Sisters" garden. We're still eating beans from the garden, much to his dismay. (I think everyone is a little tired of beans. We've harvested a lot of beans.) Sadly, our squash succumbed to the overly wet summer, but we talked about how and why the plants work together.

Luckily, as a garden blogger, I had a photo of the "Three Sisters" garden. He took the photo  to share with his class to show the Native American's farming techniques.

As he finished writing about the discovery of gold on the Cherokee's land and their subsequent death march to Oklahoma, I realized something else.

We planted several heirloom varieties of beans in the garden, including 'Cherokee Trail of Tears,' a bean reportedly carried by the Cherokee on the march, which survived and passed to following generations.

Mikey realized that not only did he help grow an historical garden, he ate beans rich in history. (He may not have liked it--but he did.)

Watching how history came alive for Mikey through our garden, I decided to share Native American history with his friends, too. I sent in 20 envelopes with 'Cherokee Trail of Tears' beans and 'Cherokee Purple' tomato seeds.

Native American seeds, http://growingdays.blogspot.com

Hopefully, history will come alive for other kids in the garden. You can grow a love of learning through a garden, don't you think?

Do you grow anything historical in your garden? Please share!



Each month on the 4th, You Can Grow That! features garden advice and tips for growing great gardens.