Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wild Marijuana?

While looking up some information on Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia),  I discovered that some confuse this rambling native vine with "Ditch Weed" or wild marijuana.  Although a bit curious, I didn't google further any information on the wild intoxicant, but did wonder who would be so desperate as to smoke a weedy vine growing in a ditch.

The vibrant red leaves look stunning against the white building

But back to my main search.  I think I was most interested in confirming that the vine that I had studied all summer climbing outside one of my office windows was not the five-leafed poison oak which it resembles, but actually Virginia Creeper.  Now with brilliant burgundy-red leaves, this vine catches my attention each time I pass by.   I was excited to verify that it was indeed Virginia Creeper and, thus, a candidate for my own Hamptons Garden next year.  My pool equipment shed would look gorgeous cloaked in this autumn red some day.  

I am so relieved to learn that this vine is just an ornamental beauty and not an itch-inducing weed.   However, a few may be disappointed to learn that it isn't that other kind of "weed" either.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

It's Not Over Yet

Bigger than ever
Around here, it seems that most don’t see fall as a garden season.  Many homeowners have already covered their pools, cut down the flowering ornamental grasses and emptied their containers of annuals.  And we haven’t even had a frost yet.

To me, it’s just too soon to shut things completely down.  It’s a time in my garden when the lawn returns to vivid spring green.  No longer just a backdrop, shrubs in the screening hedge step forward with blazing colors.  The autumn sky becomes a magical periwinkle blue.  And after the fall equinox, the lower sun begins to highlight instead of washing out all of these marvelous colors.

Nursery-grown Chrysanthemum fill an end-of-season void
My back patio containers have seen better days, but they aren’t done yet either.  In fact, the summer chartreuse and purple Coleus is fuller than ever and the perfect colors for fall.  Some of the annual Verbena and Salvia are still shooting off cheerful violet blooms.  To add a bit more seasonal color, I’ve replaced a few of the dead or fading annuals with fall-blooming Chrysanthemum from the local nursery.  This should keep things going until the first hard frost decimates the less hardy container plants.

I know that freezing weather is just around the corner.  And that in a week or so the fall foliage will drop like rain just as it hits its peak. But I also remember how bleak and colorless winter can be.  I know that when I stare out those frosted windows during winter,  I will yearn for my garden in leaf.  So for now,  I will try to stretch out the garden season for as long as possible.  For me, it isn’t over until the last deciduous leaf drops to the ground.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fashionably Late

Crisp white against the dark green leaves
I had meant to blog weeks ago about my favorite late-blooming hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata 'Tardiva', but I, like this shrub, am a bit tardy.  Actually, my Tardivas began blooming in mid-August (and still a few presentable blossoms a week ago).  Just as the garden was winding down and the other hydrangeas were past their prime, Hydrangea 'Tardiva' provided fresh, white color opposite the pool.  Blended among my mixed shrub hedge, this bush's vegetation helps create privacy and a lush background for ferns and anemones well before the blooms appear to steal the show.

This species and particularly this cultivar is easy to grow with limited maintenance.  Since they bloom on new wood, I did read that you should prune these in winter to remove old blooms, improve structure and open up plant.  Unfortunately, I did this after their first season with poor results.  The new branches that popped out the following spring were weak and contorted into wildly crooked shapes.  I have since limited my pruning to cutting out only the most odd-growing limbs.  I would suggest holding off on any pruning (except deadheading) for a season or two. My shrubs are now about 6 feet high with mostly straight branches.

A colorful addition to the privacy screen around the pool

In my Hamptons garden, the Hydrangea 'Tardiva' bloom with partial sun, but they supposedly are more floriferous with full sun.  They are pretty drought tolerant once they are established.  I've noticed that limbs touching the soil root easily so you could propagate these easily.

And while I'm a little late sharing my adoration for this late summer shrub, now is a perfect time to plant some for next year.  In fact, I added several more to my collection this autumn so they will be well acclimated by next summer.  The added benefit to late season planting is that most shrubs are heavily discounted at the local nurseries.  Just goes to show you that being late isn't always that bad.

Ostrich ferns fill in at the base