Days that start out with a bone chill, draped in the gray cloak of fall fogs that mean to me that we're going to have winter this year as I dig around in my memory of years past. Then crisp, bright sunny days cut thru the fogs and by mid-day the temperatures have warmed up to where the sweatshirt comes off at work with just enough wind to make the jeans not too much now.
The windows were wide open until Sunday and then we closed off all but the bedroom one to let in the night's chill. As I was looking at the colors of fall around me in the fairy gardens, they reminded me of what a hilarious mess my gardens truly are.
Magenta 4's are now fading to a soft blush color that I can't describe, and the yellow ones tease me with visible seeds that haven't slipped out of the calyxes yet. "Gather us!!" they beckon, different from the little wrinkled 'grenades" of the magenta ones. these yellow seeds are more oblong, smooth and pointy. And smaller. Put them both in yer pocket and you can tell them apart easily.
Standing in the driveway, I was able to hear the hummer as he busied himself with sipping the last of the summer's blues. He absolutely adores my Blue Enigma salvia. It's still blooming. Not as heavily as it has, but with enough of them on both plants that resemble bushes to satiate them. The bamboo broke in half that held the two super sugar water bottles and they refuse to come to it now. I rehung it on a bent green rebar tied to the center support post of the nook's walkway, but he's not buying it.
Next to the blue salvia's, the pink blossoms of the hardy begonia are still shining up at me from various places. I now have four patches of it, and given time and seeds like fine dust particles, plus those little tubers I've never looked for, I will have great swaths of them next year. I draw my memory of what Mary Emma's patch looks like. <g>
The gardens look like my tangled hair that I had taken down to rebraid before stepping outside. I opened up the door for Rose and Sugar and had headed down the driveway to stop several times to gaze at the incredible scene that lay beyond and below me to the south. The sun was just right as I looked at the textures of the trees against the slopes of English Mountain. Just behind that, the bluish layers of the Smokies was just defined enough to give dimension. I could see wisps of smoke as someone else was clearing land to build yet another house somewhere beyond me on the opposite shores of those hills that nestle against Douglas Lake.
Rose limped and ambled along, feeling the pains of the cold seeping into her arthritic hip as she didn't bother to keep up with Sugar whose legs are springs and who finds pleasures of bounding like Tigger thru the high grasses left behind by Mr. Hammer when he mowed the pasture hay.
The mail hadn't come and as I turned on my heel to return to my place, I looked at the Zebra grasses on the north edge next to the gate. The pounding rains we had Saturday weren't too much for them and now the plumes rise above the striped leaves just right. The new clump of striped Miscanthus I tucked against the foot of the sherbet orange trumpet vine already seems to be pulling itself into the rocky soil. Next year will be interesting to see the two textures of grasses slug it out with the thick, sinew of the vinca major vines that tangle at the feet of the grasses.
The trumpet vine looks like a silly, green umbrella, shaped by my oldest son, Michael who with my direction and some hand pruners, used the step ladder and his six foot four height to clip every pod that was on that vine and throw into a bucket. Then I showed him he could cut the woody vines to where they wouldn't hit HIM in the face if he walked under it and pointed out that last year his shorter brother had trimmed it up to accommodate him, and I didn't mind if he pruned it higher this year. He got into it and did a great job. And it looks like a whacky green umbrella.
Through the arching leaves and seed plumes of the Zebra grass are the spikes of the white crape myrtle with lingering white frilly blossoms holding tight at the ends of the twigs beside the blackening berries. Inside thru the opening between the trumpet vine and the forsythia I am determined to remove, the shorter grasses are pleading with me to ignore them so they can get a last toe hold before killing frosts. The fig tree to my right shows me thru the fuzzy green leaves that it has a handful of ripe figs for me if I'll stop and slip thru the branches and endure the itch of the leaves on my back and arms as I touch and gently feel each darkening fig to see if they're ready and sweet. This time, they're cold to the touch and I get seven. Sunday I had almost a pound and a half and I had to put them in the fridge to keep from losing them. Next year if the tree sets fruit like this again, I have to have either a dehydrator or a good fig jam recipe.
The tiredness of the beds is showing. This year was a year of triumph for the pink anemone fairy. No blister beetles at all to much to the bones, my fall beauties. There are three area's of them, and all three bloomed. Not the double, creamy white ones, but the pink ones with the yellow powder puff centers. The ones in the western bed are prone but still blooming, with spots of remnant foliage telling me who they are. Leaves of ferny dusty gray/green tells me the yarrow might come back better next year. Crinkled green leaves of the solidago that defies images of it's kissing sister, the Lambs ear.
The galvanized tub that is full of catmint is flowing up and over the edge of the tub and is still blooming. To trim around it will interrupt the pattern it has woven with the grasses beneath it. Spent stems of hollyhock, broken but resistant to completely breaking off hang above the mound of mint leaves, and I decide to grab a shovel and plant some pots.
The colors of my gardens are pinks and purples with a spot here and there of yellow to get your attention. Sir Winston Churchill asters are hot pink and almost completely open. Without thinking I grab the trusty shovel where son had dropped it after he buried our sweet little kitten Pixel Saturday morning, and without hesitation or thought, sliced into the soil next to the Crispa spirea that is still blooming little hot pink flower clusters. Tucked the little mum into the hole and tamped it down with my foot and moved on.
The three pots of hens and chickens deserved to be laid on top of the western bed tucked between the yarrow and the Solidago. As I sat the mounds of succulents on top of the dry beds, I knew that next spring the bulbs would poke thru the tight little semps and thrill me with something unexpected. Then for good measure, I grabbed the little gallon pot of Little Sweetie goldenrod and tucked it into a spot where I knew bulbs would come up around or thru it. Sweetie is just now filling out here blossoms, mocking the same intense sulphur yellow of it's mother plant that fills the pastures and edges of roads now with hot yellows.
Everywhere there are berries and seeds of every type. Seed heads of the Husker's Red in my mother's concrete urn tell me to leave the plant where it is, it's finally happy. The lemon smell of the Lemon Verbena swirls around me as I tuck the other two asters into a bare spot where they will get better sunlight, despite the lilac bush.
Thinking of berries, I go down the slope, around the tomato boxes that now are home to various perennials in hopes of another raised flower bed where I've tucked in spirea's, Veronica's, perennial foxgloves, dianthus and many daylilies. If only the spirea's, dianthus and daylilies survive, I will be happy. I have plenty of spaces in this box to tuck little bulbs in amongst these trials.
Next to these two boxes on the edge of the first true drop off and terrace are the beauty berry bushes. This year they wowed me with returns after being pummeled to the ground by the felling of two stories of jack pine. The branches are literally lit up by the intense purple berries that number in the hundreds. I snipped off two branches for Miz Mary who loves such things and see I have my first successful blackberry lily berries this year. Two plants I had stuck into the entrance boxes to the woods room quietly bloomed when I wasn't watching this spring and now the weight of their blackberries has bent them over. If they behave true to what I've seen at Mary Emma's, I will have more of them as they reseed themselves.
On a berry hunt, I climb the slope back up to the top of the gardens, and make my way east to the other jewel in these gardens. The Glory Bower tree. This year she has proven herself by loading down with those absolutely incredible metallic blue berries with the deep rose calyxes. they don't hold up after you cut them, so you have to admire them on the tree.
The Jackmanii clematis has those great silly bad hair day seed heads. Tufts of hair like tendrils on every tip where all those incredible flowers were this year remind me of the deep purple beauty of them.
Beneath the clematis on the grapevine trellis is the new Hypericon bush, the one that has larger berries after the powder puff yellow flowers like it's mother bush, the St. John's wort. This ones leaves are darker, with edging towards red, and the berries are huge and black and linger longer. Just over in my line of vision the dangling triangular seed pods of the hardy Begonia on many threads with promises of more next year. Triangular seed pods. They are truely amazing. Each one is perfect in it's angling. The opening is in the center and when they ripen, the seeds will converge and fall out like tiny grains of brown dust thru a teeny funnel to blow just past where the mother plants are.
Already the stems of these wonders are darkening up, the red veins on the backs of the leaves can't get more pronounced as they already are, and the flowers keep pumping out.
The colors in my garden are still rich with leaves adding to the beauty. Frakartii asters with soft lavender blue and yellow eyes, deep rose pink shorty asters, tired pink asters that have been blooming since June from Mary Emma's, the soft pink of a few Obedient plants poking thru here and there but not enmasse like I'd want. And NO Turtleheads! Not a bloody one. How I so wanted the variety , Hot Lips to tuck in and take over.... but I have a couple of struggling sky blue heads of Eupatoria, "Blue Myst" in two small places, hopefully they will rebound for me.
Tired pale, white/pink of a phlox that Mary Emma gave me that I never remember to cut back when it first appears is still cranking out those rounded star like flowers. Those awesome deep blues of the Enigma. Pink butterfly bush, a few false coreopsis but I desperately need to pull out these plants before I wind up with thousands of plants taking over my front beds next year. Each flower produced at least 50 seeds, which the finches and chickadees are having a blast with at the moment.
Pink and whitish pink Cleome's at the tops of loaded thorny multiple branches. No Boltonia either. Every plant I plugged in resisted where I put it and demised with great finality. This would be the time for her showing. And sadly I lost my Japanese aster, or Orphanage plants. I will get more from BlueStone perennial next year. I adore those plants and am determined to have a clump of them like I saw at the Holbrook Nursery years ago in North Carolina.
In the BBQ pit bed, the blue myst flowers have popped up where I had tugged a few out of the bed a few years ago and tucked into the pot that housed the primroses, sedum and former English irises. The English irises have long gone, the sedum is blooming a soft white flower at the moment, flopping about like some tantrum filled child, and the primroses have blushed up to a dark burgandy leaf with promises of creeping slowly forward where I plopped the whole pot of everything in when I first made this bed.
Daylilies give up their tan stems of spent flowers now, and the Silver Queen Artemesia shines like gray ferns. Over next to the spent Sweet Autumn Clematis vines that drape over the tired and nonproductive Wisteria, the blue and white Bog Sage catches my eye and is a nice rest from the pinks and purples.
What's this?? RED??? I realize that red isn't a fall color in the garden much and to my delight, the canna that Beverly (Pottingshed) gave me last summer that I sat in the pot of dirt into the fountain's water trough is blooming. A delicate red blossom that makes me think of more tropical places. And that makes me swing back towards the north side of the house where the great striped Bengal Tiger canna's are still blooming their magnificent orange flowers atop huge leaves of soft lime green, lemon yellow with edging of burgandy red along each leaf. Beneath their knees, the darker leafed Wyoming canna I plugged in this summer that was reduced has grown another two foot. It will catch up next year. And behind THAT, the Tropicanna Canna with it's burgandy purple with striped reddish and orange yellow leaves just a mere six inches higher than it was when I planted it. I hope it too returns for me next year to make a decent clump of canna's. It might freeze and if it does, I will buy another as I adore those leaves of textures.
Above the seven and eight foot Bengal's, rise my dad's old Indian Shot green leafed canna's, tipped with end of summer red flowers that escaped my eyes, I am grateful for bringing the clump with me, as his memory will always be there. and if I could reach the seeds that are as hard as old round bullets (they used them for shot in guns back in the older days). I have since discovered that if you run those thru tornado winds, when they fall, they germinate like poppy seeds <GBSEG>
There are berries everywhere. A tribute to the hard work of the little no see-um's and pollinators that we, as gardeners don't take for granted. The fairies little helpers. Nature's insurance that things will continue on, as well as feed her wild children and small flying dinosaurs...
As the day's end approaches earlier than before, I looked towards the south once more at English Mountain's slopes that are facing me. The sun's rays struck them perfectly, outlining each rivulet and gully washed face with textures that have to be seen to appreciate the beauty. The thickness of the trees still clothes the mountain hill enough to give the old hills and ridges beauty. You can spot even at this distance the burgandy leaves of the many dogwoods that have already started turning.
Around me the sounds of crickets and birds fills the air with busy quiet. Not raucous, but more subdued, as if there was a hush ordinance issued to everyone to go about their day quietly out of respect for the leaving of summer and the arrival of Fall. If you listen a bit more, you can hear a hawk keening over the larger area of woods to the west of me on the next hill over.
The air has gotten a chill in it and finally Sugar has slipped inside the house, so I can close the door (she's a teenager at the moment and refuses to come when called) and Rose has long abandoned her for the warmth of the house and carpet.
Thank you for your time, I hope everyone is having a good fall so far. We're not having the colorful leaves this year because of massive rains, but the air is crisp and it still feels right.
madgardener up on the ridge, back in Fairy Holler, overlooking English Mountain in Eastern Tennessee in zone 7, Sunset zone 36