The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making


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What’s Blooming: Sage is the Rage

My husband turned to me last evening and said “frost warning.” WHAT?! I am definitely not ready for THAT – not ready at all. I shrugged it off – it was a warning on his cell phone. We live close to the river. Though, I must admit the first thing I did this morning was check the temperature on my cell phone: 46° F, whew! So, let’s celebrate another Garden Bloggers Bloom Day while we can, eh? I credit Carol at May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of each month for making me stop to smell the flowers so to speak.

Last year around this time I remember thinking my Helianthus Microcephalus was declining – not so. This year it is bigger and badder than ever and full of bumbles. A little floppy with recent rain.

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Last year around this time I remember thinking to myself I will divide those Black Eyed Susans – not so, never happened. Believe it or not my husband dragged a ladder through here to finally patch the hole near the roof of our garage/workshop the Starlings were kind enough to point out to us one Spring, and to clean out the gutters. He patched not one, but two holes. I’m thinking we should maybe patch a few things with impenetrable Black Eyed Susans.

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Another patch that needs my DIvided attention, is Obedient Plant along the nice driveway. Last year it flopped over and this year is a repeat performance. The bees don’t mind as much as I do.

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Indian Grass, in contrast, stands tall. I love the spikelets (a new word I just taught myself which refers to the flower clusters on grass florets) on this grass!

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And surprise! The False Sunflower given to me by a friend last fall is now blooming. I didn’t think it made it as it is on the edge of the Nice Driveway which receives the brutal brunt of the weather. It’s not attracting bumbles right now but a different kind of insect.

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Another bumble friendly plant this time of year that I don’t give enough credit to, is Garlic Chives now blooming in the Potager.

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Also in the Potager, Lemon Gem Tagetes. I was supposed to eat more of these (and those garlic chives now that I think of it)! I think they also help keep Mosquitos away.

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Leaving the Potager and strolling down the yet unfinished Hosta Row, Heuchera ‘Pinot Blanco’ is blooming again! Have to love Pinot!

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Hydrangea Quickfire’s beginning to burn – the creamy blooms now turning a burnished pink.

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Which will bring us to the Nice Driveway again and my container of Pineapple Sage and lime – Nicotiana and Zinnia. I used to grow Pineapple Sage in Maine and marveled at how large it became for an annual – shrub size. Then just before frost its tips catch fire with fiery red blooms that no hummingbird can resist! I snatched it up immediately when I saw it at our local nursery. I enjoy watching the hummingbirds hover around this container just as I imagined when I dragged it up from the bottom of our driveway to dress up our sea of pavement.

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We’ll continue on to the Riverfront which is showing signs of my neglect. Still, Russian Sage impresses with a backdrop of Black Lace. Black Lace made an amazing comeback this year after our last harsh Winter. And no, I have not cut back the dieback yet. Someday, someday …

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I hate to be reminded of our last Winter but hear that this Winter will also be quite severe. There are signs also that what I hear is true – fruit. Lots of food.

The Purple Prince Crabapples out front are loaded.

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I thought this was a crabapple tree also planted out front, but now I’m beginning to wonder. These are some pretty large crabapples and there are lots of them.

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The grapes on our front porch are dripping and just beginning to form. I love when the leaves yellow and the dark berries burst.

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The Cranberry Viburnum is also loaded up. Really spectacular this year.

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Next month there will be less blooming but it will be ALL about foliage! The Kopper King Hibiscus is just starting to show off and with that I’ll leave those of you who pine for Fall in the Northeast, anticipating …

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What’s Blooming: Amaranth Rockets into Cosmos

Whoa! October? Wasn’t it just September?! Scary! Please join me once again on the 15th of this month for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

A beautiful, misty morning here in North Country. Mojo’s (the furry dood) sniffing at the “early worms.”

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Most of my flowers have faded but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some color out there in the gardens! How about a duo? Please also join me for Foliage Follow Up hosted by the lovely Pam at Digging. Let’s take a closer look …

Panicum Dallas Blues blooms in the Bird & Butterfly garden. Perennial Sunflower Helianthus Microcephalus, looks pretty even without its yellow petals. The Forsythia, yes Forsythia, has beautiful color this Fall.

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The Woodland Edge begins with the turning of native Virginia Creeper. I am in love with the yellowing Spicebush against the Blue Spruce. Amsonia also turning golden yellow and sporting some nice webs this morning.

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Rounding the bend, the Marigolds are still going in the Potager. A few Nasturtium and Calendula hang on. The “Amazing Amaranth” is like a rocket shooting into space and just soak in that color!

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Only to be rivaled by the hot pink blooming Cosmos through the Tulip Tree which brings us around to Hosta Row. The Amur Maples in back of our garage/workshop never disappoint (invasive, however).

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Through to the Nice Driveway where the fruits of flowering labor are evident on the Cranberry Viburnum and Blackberry Lily ‘Hellow Yellow.’ Goldenrod ‘Fireworks’ is in full bloom against Indian Grass.

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In the Riverfront, late sedums are in various stages of bloom.

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That completes our tour for this October Bloggers Bloom Day. Join our wonderful host Carol at May Dreams Gardens for a bouquet of blooms across the world!


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Blooming Blades

I’ve added quite a few grasses to my garden of three years – though I’ve removed much of the lawn. I can’t imagine a garden without at least a couple varieties of (no-mow) grass. Grass is structure, filler and foliage. More than that – those blades bloom! And this time of year, they are the stars of the Northern garden. In the Bird & Butterfly Garden, the first area I planted, Maiden Grass Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ and Switch Grass Panicum ‘Dallas Blues’ have matured into sweeping drifts. The Maiden Grass bloomed last year for the first time, is blooming its little blades off right now, and the Switch Grass will turn a beautiful gold color come winter.

Maiden Grass blooms.
Switch Grass blooms heavy with rain.

Grass is also movement and sound. It is meditational to watch and hear grass rustle on the waves of the wind. Out front, Feather Reed Grass Calamagrostis ‘Karl Forester’ does just that. It is tall enough now to watch when sitting on the front porch and its sound does remind me of waves along a shoreline.

Blue Fescue Festuca glauca weaves texture into my front garden, catching light and leaves. I will be planting more tufts of this wonderful blue shade along with some native grasses when I finally focus my attention on a real front garden design – hopefully in the Summer of 2012.

I moved clumps of this variegated grass from the back deck area this past spring to the back of our garage / workshop before our porch redo. I love that it is extremely low maintenance – grows in sun or shade – and that we no longer have to “edge” along the garage foundation. I acquired it from a plant exchange and do not know the exact name of it. It is now one big drift. I love how it sets off the changing color of the leaves. Its new growth is more green and gradually becomes more variegated over time. It also has nice blooms.

I acquired another mystery grass when I purchased a clump of Switch Grass Panicum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ for the Nice Driveway. You can see a couple of the ruby blades of the Switch Grass just beginning to turn, but those blooms do not belong to Ruby Ribbons! I really love the mystery blooms, but I should probably try to separate the two.

Also along the drive, native Indian Grass Sorghastrum Sioux Blue is nearing its mature height of 5′-6′. Truly a screen of green, er blue, er yellow …

Tall they can grow, but grasses can make a wonderful see through veil. I love peering through the blooms of this native Big Bluestem Andropogon gerardii, but I’m not so sure I’ll be able to next year. This was just planted in spring and will eventually mature to 7′ tall.

Also added this spring, native mound-forming Northern Dropseed Sporobolus heterolepis. Native grasses are even more than blooming blades – they are shelter and seed. Many birds will eat the seeds of Switch, Fescue, Bluestem and Dropseed Grasses throughout the winter. Indian Grass provides nesting material for birds. Game birds, Finches, Sparrows, and even small mammals will eat its seeds. It is the host plant for the Pepper-and-Salt Skipper Butterfly. Bluestem is the host plant for the Delaware and Dusted Skipper Butterflies. Sparrows, Sedge Wrens and the Western Meadowlark eat its seeds. Hopefully I will be able to add some of these Skipper Butterflies to my list of insect sightings in the garden.


Sources: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Butterflies and Moths of North America