JOURNAL: Pictures, After the Heat

Ian Spomer, Number One gardening collaborator, has an application on his phone that stitches related photographs into a panaroma. This shot is in the back yard, facing east. The tree alley is at left, then the round herb bed, the elliptical bug bed, the kitchen garden behind the garage, the bean teepee and the catnip bed at right. Click on the image and then enlarge it for a detailed tour.

“Don’t knock the weather. If it didn’t change once in a while, nine out of ten people couldn’t start a conversation.” – Kin Hubbard

The nights are in the 40s and 50s now, with a low of 38 in the forecast for Saturday. Daytime temperatures are in the high 70s and low 80s. Fall is here. The Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is starting to color, as are the imported Amur Honeysuckles (Lonicera maackii), loathed for their invasiveness but nevertheless beautiful twice a year. Masses of unscented white flowers in spring become pea-sized red berries in fall, which hold as the leaves turn a clear yellow. And, in one of Nature’s countless serendipities, Clematis terniflora, the Sweet Autumn clematis (another rampant, naturalized foreigner), comes into bloom at the same time the honeysuckles put on their fall finery.

The Sweet Autumn clematis, Clematis terniflora, weaves its way through the Amur honeysckle, Lonicera maackii.  The clematis fills the evening garden with a sweet scent that some people liken to root beer. Photo Dayton Segard.

Sweet Autumn clematis along the north bank of Burroughs Creek. Photo Ian Spomer.

The big, five-parted leaves of Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia, top center) will soon turn crimson and the Hosta plantaginea (bottom right) are beginning to sag. The round-leaved Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia “Aurea”) is reverting to chartreuse-yellow as the weather cools. Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei, bottom left) is another introduced thug, though with attentive pruning it can become something of an asset in the wilder garden. It remains evergreen through winter, taking on a dull red hue. Photo Dayton Segard.

In the kitchen garden behind the garage, a couple of nights in the low 40s took the determination out of the okra. No complaints–I ate well of okra this season, one of the few plants that sailed through the unprecedented heat. Eggplant did fairly well, particularly the long, slender Japanese types, but the tomatoes and peppers shut down when temperatures exceeded 95 degrees for two months straight. Now, with temperatures in the 80s, the tomatoes and peppers are blossoming and setting fruit like mad, racing to make seed as the days grow shorter.

Tomato “Sungold” heavy with fruit, tangled with soft yellow Thunbergia alata and Ipomoea tricolor “Flying Saucers.” Photo Dayton Segard.

The garden was plagued with rabbits until this year’s heat, and old wheelbarrows make bunny-thwarting, moveable substitutes for permanent raised beds. Smaller barrows hold spinach, kale and salad greens. This barrow was home to two kinds of Japanese eggplant, Thai basil, edamame and Scarlet Runner beans (which gave flowers but no beans). Four five-gallon, bottomless buckets (two behind this barrow), each hold one okra plant (Clemson Spineless), and three or four zinnia plants. Photo Dayton Segard.

In the front barrow, Lolla Rossa lettuce has reseeded. Photo Dayton Segard.

Malabar spinach, Basella alba, also took the heat in stride as long as it got a good soaking every couple of days. I thought I was buying the purple-stemmed form, Basella rubra, as the seed packet advertised, but B. alba was just fine, too. The vines weren’t self-twining–I had to weave them through the trellis. The raw leaf is too dense for many palates, too slimy when cooked, but I find it tasty in all applications and certainly a useful and nutritious food plant for hot-weather cultivation. And bonus points because it looks wild and weird. Photo Dayton Segard.

Ian Spomer picking beans. The bean teepee was good in theory, but only fair in practice. Yardlong beans (actually, a cowpea), yellow wax beans and Kentucky Wonder beans were planted in late June. The Yardlongs were extremely vigorous, loving the heat, and gave well before shutting down at the end of August. The yellow wax beans didn’t make it (on the shadiest side of the teepee), and the Kentucky Wonders just started producing about two weeks ago. If we try the teepee again, it will have better sun and plantings of bush beans between the poles to hide bare ankles and maximize usage of space. Photo Dayton Segard.

Q: Know why they call them “Wonder” beans?
A: You spend all summer wondering if you’re going to get beans.
Old farmer joke. Real old.

Plantsman and photographer Dayton Segard in the kitchen garden. Photo Ian Spomer.

Concord grape and morning glory climbing a sculpture by Jordan Briceland on the back wall of the garage. Photo Dayton Segard.

Long shot of the kitchen garden behind the garage. Herb bed on the left, and the bug bed behind. Photo Dayton Segard.

Long, long shot of the kitchen garden, standing in front of the wild cherry tree and looking east through the tree alley. Photo Ian Spomer.

Looking west through the tree alley to the wild Black Cherry tree, Prunus serotina. The twigs and leaves of P. Serotina are highly poisonous, containing prussic acid which converts to cyanide when consumed. Butterfly caterpillars eat the leaves and birds love the fruit, and after several prunings, the tree reveals a beautiful form. This past Tuesday, Winky the Cat, the garden’s monoscopic exterminator, was buried under the cherry tree. Bon voyage, sweet friend. Photo Ian Spomer.

Winky’s grave under the cherry tree, looking south to the creek. The stones will be removed in Spring and replaced with a low, quiet shrub. Photo Ian Spomer.

Looking north this time, to the tsunami of honeysuckle along the fence line. Underneath the honeysuckle? A plush carpet of poison ivy. Photo Dayton Segard.

Many happy hours are spent in the seating area next to the bug bed. Ten people sit comfortably on the stumps, chairs and hay bales. The view is to the south, with the kitchen garden on the left. Most of the plants in the bug bed are highly attractive to pollinating insects: Hyssop, Monarda, Agastache, Liatris, various culinary mints, Asclepias, Lantana, Cleome, Sedum, and Zinnias for the butterflies. Photo Ian Spomer.

View of trees from seating area, looking south. Photo Ian Spomer.

A winter holding bed for seed-grown Munstead lavender, calamint and silver thyme. When the pond on the back patio was installed, excess sand was dumped in this area. The soil drains well and has a slight slope, which should keep the Mediterranean plants happy until final placement in spring. Photo Ian Spomer.

The bug bed’s last hurrah. The blue plumbago is tender, so it gets potted up and taken in for the winter. The soft pink heads of Sedum spectabile “Autumn Joy,” a staple in Kansas gardens, are covered with an amazing variety of insects. Photo Dayton Segard.

Cleome on the fade. Photo Dayton Segard.

A robust Datura inoxia pierced by the ultra-thorny Solanum atropurpureum “Malevolence.” Photo Dayton Segard.

Look at those thorns! I found seeds of “Malevolence” from Rob Broekhuis of Rob’s Plants this spring, and set out a dozen plants in different locations around the yard in June. All were stunted by the heat–reaching only two feet tall, not the standard four–but they’re setting fruit now so I’ll have seed to try for better results next year. Photo Dayton Segard.

Had I sown three times the seed, the Cardinal Climber, Ipomoea sloteri, might have put on quite a show on the old lamp at the front of the house. Still, the idea holds promise. Photo Dayton Segard.

Potted up and ready to spend the winter in the sunny back porch. Photo Dayton Segard.

Winky (2007-2012), keeping an eye on her garden. I hope she always will.

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4 comments
  1. Love the photos and love the useful, beautiful, productive spaces. I am sorry to learn of Winky’s passing, I liked knowing there was a one-eyed cat somewhere patrolling for varmints.

    • My Education of a Gardener said:

      Thanks, Calvin. A tough year in the garden but no shortage of beauty. Hope you’re doing well.

  2. Phil C. said:

    That is one sublime patch — nature well nurtured. Okra was the champ for us, too, this year…everything else just held on, despite the spigot. No mushrooms in the forest, but a decent yield of paw paws even though very few leaves made it thru August. Another strange season in Kansas. Sorry to read about the Winkster~

    • My Education of a Gardener said:

      Thanks for visiting, Phil. I’ve heard several stories about good pawpaw yields this season. Boog is having his annual International Pawpaw Festival in early October–I’ll keep you posted. It has been a strange season indeed, though I’ve never seen the crabgrass so happy. Best to the family.

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