September Successes: planned and serendipitous

I've admitted already that this year my garden adventures have been more misadventures; moments here and there with little time, budget or frankly incentive as other priorities took center stage. Thank goodness nature – and serendipity often make up for my lackluster attempts! I went out into the garden with my camera just now to see what the dog days of summer were looking like and was pleasantly surprised. My garden has to be drought tolerant, deer-resistant, rabbit-resistant, and easy care. I have irrigation in the vegetable garden and for my containers but otherwise have not lifted a hose all year – honestly! A few things such as hydrangeas got a spritzing with deer repellent (Deer Out) a few months ago but otherwise things had to fend for themselves. Here are a few late season highlights – that actually make it look as though a designer lives here!

Serendipitous Combinations

Borage and milkweed – pollinator heaven

I don't recall ever planting borage. Perhaps there was a plant in the original garden when we bought this house? Regardless, it self sows each year and pops up in unexpected places. I love the periwinkle flowers, especially as they look so pretty in my favorite summertime cocktail; Pimm's. It attracts bees, hoverflies and other pollinators in droves and thrives in average soil – or even gravel pathways. I've dug out several plants from gravel to give away but they quickly develop a tap root so it's best to do this when the plants are still quite small. I was surprised to see it behind the milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa). In fact I was surprised to see the milkweed! This perennial emerges quite late in the season, usually after I've hoed, weeded and generally stomped on top of it. Oops. I grow it ostensibly for the monarch butterflies – except that we don't get them here. But I love the vivid color which was doubly eye catching partnered with the borage.

PG hydrangeas; the epitome of a fall garden, seen here with Rozanne geranium and backed with a variegated weigela. (And yes the deer ate the flower on the far left, hence the "stub" – I sprayed shorty afterwards!)

There's no denying that Rozanne geranium is a bit of a flirt, draping her slender arms around any unsuspecting neighbor, yet she always looks elegant. Somehow she wound her way into this gorgeous panicle hydrangea. I love the way the white of her eyes repeat the pristine hydrangea blooms. As night temperatures drop, the hydrangeas will take on more of this beautiful rosy blush at which point I'll cut some to dry indoors. As always, foliage comes first, and the green and white variegated foliage of Magical Fantasy weigela echoes the colors nicely in the background.

New Additions

Baby Boo pumpkins – fall decorating will be cheaper this year

Do you find your self dropping some serious dollars for fall pumpkins and gourds to use for decorating? I realized that one pumpkin I always bought a lot of was the mini white pumpkin called Baby Boo, so I decided to see if I could grow them. They were surprisingly easy. I purchased the seed from Territorial, waited until early June when temperatures were more stable, then sowed the seed directly into the raised beds. Each plant has a dozen or so mini pumpkins that are merrily winding themselves up the fencing, into neighboring pots and across the pathways. Definitely one to repeat! And talking of edibles I tried two new downy mildew resistant varieties of genovese basil this year: Prospera from Harris Seed and Amazel Basil from Proven Winners (as a plant). Both did extremely well and my freezer is now well stocked with a winter's worth of cubes and pesto. Neither variety showed significant disease despite torrential rains earlier in the season and lower than usual temperatures. The Proven Winners variety is perhaps slightly better with larger leaves and being a sterile variety you don't have to worry about deadheading.  I can't distinguish the flavor between the two. I'd say if you only need one or two plants, buy Amazel Basil. If you prefer to grow a full bed as I do, with 12 or more plants plus enough to supply family and friends, it is more economical to grow from seed which you'll want to start indoors in late winter.

What do YOU think?

I thought this color blend of zinnia was going to be JUST shades of apricot – what do you think about the bold orange inclusion?

I love Benary's Giant Coral zinnia and have grown them from seed for a few years now. This year I decided to give Apricot Blush blend from Renee's Seeds a try and was surprised when the blend included a vivid tangerine in addition to pink, peach, apricot and coral shades. I've honestly gone back and forth all summer trying to decide if I like it or not.

Color Play

In some ways I like the way all the colors play off the Kaleidoscope abelia as well as the contrast with the burgundy foliage of a nearby penstemon and purple Meteor Shower verbena. It's just not what I was expecting. Yet in a vase it seems to work. I added some budded Elsie's Gold sedum here for texture an because they all grow together in this bed. What do you think? Go back to Coral Giant or repeat this blend?

Perennial Favorites

Old fashioned charm – Goldsturm black -eyed Susan blooming en masse is a sure sign of summers end

It's not fancy and it's not a collectors item, but I look forward to the large drifts of these Goldsturm black eyed Susan every year. Bees and butterflies love them. Deer ignore them. Rabbits have a go at a few early in the season but the plants are vigorous enough to grow out of any inadvertent trimming. I never water them. Frankly I don't deserve such a luscious display this year, but my garden has been remarkably forgiving. What's happening in your garden this week?

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I'm a serious plant-aholic. In other words I'm usually covered in a layer or two of soil, I drive everywhere with a large tarp for impromptu plant purchases and I'm truly passionate about sharing the joys of gardening.

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