Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wednesday Vignette

Sunshine and blue skies return to the PNW, at long last. I admit to leaning back a few times today with my eyes closed, just soaking in the sun, while my fingers continued to clean Arctostaphylos seeds on autopilot. But before that, the sun earlier in the morning was simply beautiful. The big, arching Eucalyptus perriniana below is one of the first things I see in the morning when I get out of the car. The low sun lit up its branches, emphasizing the warm, ruddy tones of the peeling bark and young stems. I love the long strips of bark hanging off the limbs in strands and loops. It's so exotic. Seeing this first thing in the morning took me away from the dreary cold of winter to warmer climes. I appreciate the rainy season for enabling the growth of the lush forests and vegetation the PNW is known for, and I even like it to some extent because it gives me an excuse to curl up inside with a book and take a break from gardening. But this long stretch of rain even got to me. Hopefully those predictions of a sunnier January come true. 

Wednesday Vignette is hosted by Anna of Flutter & Hum. Follow the link to enjoy more inspiring, thought-provoking images.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Plant Pyro

Growing plants from seed can be very satisfying, but most seeds have special requirements for germination in one form or another. It may be as simple as providing warmth and moisture, simulating spring and signalling the embryos inside the seeds to grow. Many seeds from temperate climates require a period of cold stratification before they will germinate under warmer, more spring-like conditions. Other seeds have hard, impenetrable seed coats or contain chemicals that inhibit germination. These have to be worn away, often by passing through the digestive tracts of animals, or going through multiple seasons until the seed coats have weathered, or the chemicals have broken down. These various types of dormancy help prevent the seeds from germinating until conditions are favorable. This may be the coming of spring, or it may be hitching a ride in a birds stomach to an area away from the parent plant, to help prevent competition.

The form of dormancy I'll be writing about today, and one of the most entertaining to overcome, is that of fire-adapted plants. Adult plants may survive fires in various ways, from succulent, water-filled leaves to thick, fire-resistant bark or underground structures called lignotubers, from which new shoots can emerge after a fire burns off the existing shoots. Many plants from regions of the world adapted to fire have seeds that don't germinate until after a fire. In this way, even if the adult plants are killed, the population will continue via the resulting seedlings. Many Californian, Australian and South African plants germinate better after a fire. Research has been done to investigate this phenomenon, pinpointing exactly what about the fire increases the germination. The heat of the flames does provide some mechanical scarification, breaking down hard seed coats, but the part that has the most significant effect is actually from the chemicals produced by the charred plant material and smoke. Various treatments have been developed to utilize smoke for seed germination. You can purchase liquid smoke or smoke paper from certain horticultural supply or seed companies (liquid smoke from the grocery store, for barbecues, is supposed to work, too). You can find all sorts of DIY smoke treatments on youtube.com, like making your own smoked perlite or vermiculite, or "fire water" (not the kind you'd drink). 

You can also do things the old fashion way and simply burn some plant matter on top of a pot of seeds. This is the most exiting method, and something I finally tried on some Actostaphylos seeds I received from plantswoman, Kate Bryant. The parent plants are Arctostaphylos pajaroensis 'Warren Roberts' and what might be Arctostaphylos hispida. Given that they are growing side by side, there might be some interesting hybrid seedlings in the mix.

So how did I go about it? First, I collected some dead plant material, mostly pine needles and other California native plant material from work. Pine needles burn easily, and I thought using west coast natives would provide a better mix of chemicals for Arctostaphylos specifically, even if the species used aren't from exactly the same region as the Arctostaphylos seeds I had.
Yeesh, that's a blurry photo! Sorry, still learning to use my smartphone for photography. It doesn't focus with the speed or accuracy I'm used to, so I've been jumping the gun with many photos. I also seem to have more trouble holding it steady while pressing the shutter release on the touch screen than I do with an actual camera. I really need to decide on a new camera, but there are so many choices!
Here is a picture of what NOT to do. Do not use plastic pots for fire-treating seeds. I wasn't thinking at first and almost used these containers. Thankfully, I realized my mistake and carefully scraped the seeds off and switched them over to non-flammable, clay containers.

 I set this up pretty spontaneously, so I didn't take very many photos, unfortunately. Piling the long pine needles on top of the containers proved to be somewhat difficult, as I had to bend and scrunch them up and they wanted to spring back into their normal shapes. Eventually, I got them pressed into 2-3 inch pads that I placed over the seeds. I also waited too long to collect the material, which I should have done before the rains started this fall. I got the driest material I could find, hanging from branches or under heavy cover, but it was still difficult to ignite. I ended up using a lot of paper, too. Thus the bits of partially charred paper in the pots. I picked most of it out because I just didn't like it, but I don't think it would cause any real problems for the germinating seeds.

So, once the fire is going, you simply let it burn out, water everything in, and then treat the seeds like any other. Mine are currently in the greenhouse, which is being kept cool enough for the winter that these likely won't germinate until spring. Seeds do involve a lot of waiting, don't they?

I had way more material than I needed for just those two little pots, so I burned most of the rest and then soaked the charred material in a bucket of water. I then collected the resulting "fire water" or "smoke water" to use later. I took most of it in to work to use on some of the Arctostaphylos seeds there, as a comparison to the smoke-treated paper we have for the same purpose. In both cases, I added either smoke water or the smoke paper plus plain water to the seeds and soaked them for about 24 hours. Hoping to see lots of germination in spring!

Frankly, even though the thought of flambeing your seeds is more entertaining, I think I like soaking them in smoke water better. In the fire treatment, most of the smoke floats up and away from the seeds, though the charred material left over the seeds should continue to provide the same chemicals, like a slow-release fertilizer. Also, the material I used was hard to keep within the rim of the pot. Making your own fire water still lets you get your pyro on, but things are a little more manageable, and I think soaking in the smoke water provides a more thorough treatment for the seeds.

Above all, if I try this again, I'll definitely remember to collect my material to burn before it rains!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Plant Evaluations: West Side Story

Ok, bad title, but this edition does cover the beds along the west side of the house. Chalk it up to scarring from my high school band days. Like last time, I won't cover everything, but will touch on a few highlights and surprises.

 Lupinus sericatus took a little damage in the bed along the west side of the house, but mostly it looks ratty because of cutworm damage. This is a tough location, as it gets scorchingly hot in summer but doesn't get any sun until around noon. In winter, the sun doesn't hit until afternoon, thawing things out during a freeze just before it starts to get dark again and things refreeze. This summer, I raised the soil level and created a slope away from the house. Fluffing up the soil improved the drainage of water, and the slope helps cold air drain away from this bed. I think it has improved the winter conditions in this bed immensely, though the afternoon thaw will always be an issue.

Geranium henryanum turned a little green from the cold, but sustained relatively little damage. The foliage of Melianthus villosus looked like it might make it after thawing out, as seen below, but later on it drooped and wilted. The foliage has had it for this year, but the stem looks fine.

 Have I finally broken the rosemary curse? I've tried planting rosemary several times, usually in this bed along the west side of the house. Typically, I buy a plant and keep it restricted in a pot all summer, then plant it too late, at which point it takes off and has lots of tender growth to freeze off in winter. And almost every time, there has been either a mild fall with a sudden freeze, or just an especially cold winter overall, or a very wet fall or winter involving overflowing gutters, resulting in dead rosemary. This year, I planted three, one here along the west side of the house, one on the southwest corner, and a dwarf variety I kept in a container and moved to the greenhouse during the freeze. All three made it through the cold snap. The variety below, 'Foxtail' showed a little bit of frost damage as darkened needles near the center of the plant, but otherwise appears fine. I think it benefited greatly from improving the air and water drainage in this bed. The hot summer also helped greatly to harden off all that vigorous new growth.

I was really excited to plant Eryngium agavifolium this summer, but I'm a little disappointed now. I wanted the leaves to stay upright all winter, but instead, they've flopped, flattened, and turned a watery, dark green. It's not an attractive look, at least in my opinion. At the moment, I don't think this plant has much future in my garden. Towards the back of this bed, it may have stayed too frosty.

Also disappointing is this Veronica spicata subsp. incana. I know I've gushed over the foliage several times this summer and fall. It started producing numerous new shoots from the center of the plant in fall, which I was hoping would fill in the awkwardly-sprawling nursery plant I put in the ground. Unfortunately, the tender new growth didn't appreciate the freeze, and the blooms that were just starting to open were all killed. Its appearance has worsened since taking the photo below. This may not be the wonderful, blue-flowered, evergreen, silver-leaved ground cover I had hoped for. However, its timing may have been off this year from growing in a nursery. It can happen, so I'll give it another year in the ground to really get settled before I pronounce final judgement.

Hebe ochracea 'James Stirling' came through just fine, with the cold perhaps intensifying the "old gold' cast of the foliage.

Hebe pimeleoides 'Quicksilver' is fine, too. I was a little worried about this one, having heard from others that they had lost this plant. Perhaps it just wasn't cold enough.

 Below is one of the Erysimum from which I collected seed and grew the seedling shown in my Monday post. All three plants have grown into large, lush plants. Being released from extremely cramped conditions in a gallon pot and receiving extra water to establish them this summer probably made them more lush than they would otherwise be. I actually miss the smaller, grey foliage they had when I first purchased them, and hope the foliage returns to something more like that next summer with a reduced watering regime. A couple weeks after the freeze, you can't even see the damage that's visible below, and flower buds are starting to appear at the tips of the stems.

Usually, my kniphofias die back at some point in winter. Not yet, though. Despite 18 degrees F., they remained evergreen, though perhaps a bit floppier than they were before the freeze.

The foliage of Bommeria hispida took a hit from the freeze, and did not recover. Hopefully, new fronds will emerge in spring.

The two agaves I planted this summer, both supposedly hardy to zone 7 according to their labels, showed varying results. 'Royal Spine', shown below, turned soft and dark green from the freeze, and continued to degrade in the following two weeks. I recently removed it and planted a new Origanum dictamnus in its place. The label doth lie. Lesson learned, I quickly moved on.

Conversely, Agave leopoldii appears to be fine, taking no damage from the freeze. Frankly, I like this one better anyway.

Dianthus 'Frosty Fire' had nothing to fear from the frost, but cutworms and slugs have decimated the foliage. I'll have to decide whether to keep this one or not. Will the cutworm population return to the normal, minimal problem it used to be next year, or will it remain a serious issue? Is it worth keeping up with regular pesticide applications, organic or otherwise, to protect this plant from voracious pests? I'm really not sure.

Unfazed by cold, Berberis stenophylla 'Corallina Compacta' even produced a few sprigs of new growth once the temperature rose. What a weird, wonderful plant. I want many more of these, but I don't remember seeing any this year. I may have to try some cuttings, though many barberries give poor results from cuttings.

Unlike the Bommeria shown earlier, these Cheilanthes remained evergreen. So guess which fern I'll be adding more of in spring?

Origanum dictamnus, unlike 'Kent Beauty' kept its foliage even through the freeze, though some of it has obviously been killed. Even dead though, the thick, slightly woolly foliage is attractive. I purchased two more of these at Garden Fever and have since added them to the garden.

Ballota pseudodictamnus has been gradually dropping foliage since the freeze, looking more and more ragged. I'm sure the record rainfall hasn't helped, as this plant requires excellent drainage.

Salvia chamaedryoides came through the freeze perfectly, and still looks good after all this rain, despite growing in somewhat clay-ish soil. I'm a sucker for blue flowers and grey foliage, so I'm really hoping this plant will survive in the conditions I can provide. It prefers drier winters and sandier soils, so we shall see.

 Salvia jamensis 'Sierra San Antonia dropped most of its foliage after this photo was taken, but still has tiny green leaves along the stems. Still, it doesn't look as full as the salvia in the previous photo. I like more leaves. It's not nearly bad enough to earn an automatic trip to the compost, though. I'll keep it and see how it does. I'm sure a heavy pruning in the spring will improve things, as it came from the nursery with an awfully gangly shape. But I have to wait until early spring, as cutting shrubby salvias back in fall or early winter can result in their death, or at least set them back quite a bit.

And that's it for this edition of plant evaluations. Next time, I'll show a couple more sections of the garden

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: Roots over branches

This week for Wednesday Vignette, I'm sharing a scene from the propagation house at Cistus Nursery. There's a hoard collection of Aeonium spending the winter there, and they are doing all manner of crazy things, and that's only what I've been able to observe. Who knows what shenanigans they get into when everyone goes home for the day. The cool, humid conditions in the greenhouse right now have these Mediterranean succulents in "grow mode," especially their roots, and not just beneath the soil. It's kind of funny to see roots hanging from the branches. We in the temperate zones of the world don't typically see things like this. They're so delicate, an almost translucent white with the faintest hint of pink, gradually darkening through amber to brown as you go further up the spray of roots. What in interesting opportunity to observe root structure, though it would be totally different in the soil. I also like this angle from an artistic sense, with the curving stems backed by the weathered wood at one end of the greenhouse, the little succulent blooming in the background, and the Sansevieria photobomb.

 If you use your imagination, and squint a bit, you can picture the roots as one of those Christmas trees made of lights strung up vertically. That's about as Christmas-y a post as I plan to do this year. The post I have planned for Friday is another installation on my plant evaluations. Wednesday Vignette is hosted by Anna of Flutter & Hum. She usually has a much deeper, more insightful post than I, so pop over to have your thoughts provoked or inspired.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Late Fall Plant Evaluations

I've been holding off on this post for a couple weeks, thinking I needed a better sampling of plants in the garden than what I already had. But I simply kept neglecting to take those photos, when I was home on the weekends and during the brief times when it wasn't pouring rain. But really, I have plenty for this post, and I can catch other things later. In fact, I have more than enough for this post. So, for my sanity and yours, I'll break them up into separate posts by sections. This time, I'll cover a few things in the driveway island, though there's more I could (and should) show if only I could have motivated myself to snap a few photos with my phone before this latest storm hit. Oh well, outdated photos, it is.

I had just finished replanting the driveway island the two weekends before the hard freeze, and the plantings included many small seedlings, rooted cuttings, and divisions made at planting time. The predicted freeze had me a little on edge to see how the new planting would handle the cold.

While my family and I vacationed at the beach, I realized the Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens' wouldn't like the freeze. Once things thawed out, they looked like this:

Still alive, but definitely damaged. However, they've recovered well enough and really don't look too bad now. Perhaps if we get another hard freeze during winter, I'll remember to give them a bit of protection. Perhaps not.

The winds have swept clean much of the dead foliage cluttering the dead stems of Origanum 'Kent Beauty', but leaving many of the hop-like flower bracts. After a relatively brief ugly phase, it's returned to something more attractive. I still want to combine it with something evergreen that will intermingle with it and make less of a bare patch in winter. I've planted a form of Sedum spathulifolium at the base of one patch. We'll see how that plays out. I'm also considering the semi-evergreen Euphorbia cyparissias 'Fen's Ruby' (a la Flutter & Hum), but am leery of spreading euphorbias, even ones as airy as Fen's Ruby. I have noticed small creeping stems forming on the oregano already, which I usually don't expect to see until late winter spring. These are still not enough to fill in the dead space left by the sprawling flower stems, though.

I planted a lot of seedling Euphorbia rigida, after seeing them in several gardens this summer. It reseeds plentifully in some gardens, while others see nary a seedling at all. I have a feeling it's more likely to reseed in exposed, disturbed soil. By the time these seedlings are big enough to flower, I'm hoping the sedges and other plants around them will have filled in and there won't be so many seedlings that this euphorbia becomes a nuisance. I love the form and the glaucous foliage. Some of the seedlings were damaged by the cold and may die, but the majority of them, like the one below, are untouched.

Earlier in summer, I purchased a gallon container with three Erysimum (see the blooms here) from which I collected and sowed the seed. The resulting seedlings handled the cold without a care. There is a bit of damage from slugs and cutworms, which I've been fighting throughout the garden this fall.

I love Aster x frikartii 'Monch', but it has a tendency to flop in my garden, since I'm too lazy to cut it back in summer to create a shorter, sturdier plant. To fight the flop, I created three similar groupings, with the asters at the center of each. The surrounding plants are Calluna vulgaris, Molinia caerulea 'Variegata', and Stipa gigantea. The surrounding plants are sturdier and more upright than the asters, and either have evergreen foliage or dead stems that remain upright for most of the winter, supporting the asters during and after bloom and reducing the empty space that the aster and Molinia leave when their stems are cut in late winter.

I took a lot of small stem divisions of Veronica liwanensis to spread this flat, evergreen ground cover through the bed. Planted earlier this spring, the main patches have grown well but bloomed sparsely. I'm hoping they'll be covered in blue blooms in the coming spring.

Ironically, the bits of rooted stem I hastily planted look better than the main patches, where the old foliage apparently suffered a bit from the frost. This happens in the PNW with many super-cold hardy alpine or rock garden plants, which would normally be covered by snow when hard frosts arrive. Warm, wet weather like we've had this fall results in growth and reduced hardiness. However, it doesn't happen every year and these tough plants recover quickly in spring. The same thing has happened to Hutchinsia alpina and Alchemilla ellenbeckii, but both have filled back in and grown to several times their previous sizes the following years.

Possibly the biggest sources of anxiety in the freeze were the small Parahebe perfoliata I had grown from cuttings this summer. The one in the photo below looks a little frost-darkened, but none of the plants show any signs of permanent damage and have returned to their normal appearance. I'm more worried about keeping the slugs and cutworms away from the tender new shoots emerging from the base of each plant. Since the cuttings I took at work in cooler fall weather did better than the ones taken in the heat of summer, I'm also thinking of taking cuttings from my main plant this winter and keeping them in the greenhouse. I want this plant everywhere.

This Sedum spathulifolium is still holding its own against the lime thyme, but I still worry about how this accidental combination will work out once the thyme really starts growing. The thyme can pile up to almost 6 inches tall once it really starts growing, if not properly maintained. This particular clone of Sedum spathulifolium is a fairly compact, low-growing one out in the open, though it does seem to be growing larger and more upright in the thyme. Still, I've been trimming bits of thyme away from the sedum and pressing it down to keep the thyme from overtaking the sedum. I'm trying another, larger form of Sedum spathulifolium and the larger species Sedum oregonense in other areas and will eventually try combining them with the thyme, because I really like this combination and want to find a way to make it work with a little less maintenance.

I planted two Seseli gummiferum in this bed, and was curious to see how they'd handle the freeze. The yellowish leaves in the photo below eventually dropped cleanly, leaving the smaller tuft of leaves in the center. I think this one is a winner both for dying gracefully and winter interest, especially after seeing the mature versions at the St. Johns Pub in Portland.

I planted four Astelia 'Red Devil' this year, one a freebie in rough shape in another bed, and three purchased for the driveway island. All handled the cold without damage, even the ones in shady frost pockets. I had worried about that a bit. I planted them on the north sides of larger, taller plants to give them cooler conditions during the heat of summer, which these and many other New Zealand and Tasmanian plants appreciate, but in winter these locations become frost pockets. The temperature dropped to 18F in my garden during that freeze. But that really isn't very cold, even for here. I love the bold texture and metallic red foliage of this astelia, and plan to add more to the garden.

The cold intensified the color of the orange heathers. I have two or three different cultivars, with minor differences in color and growth habit, but I can't remember which is which.

The Euphorbia 'Nothowlee' (aka Blackbird) remained evergreen through the freeze. Something interesting and unexpected happened with the inflorescences, though. Before the freeze, they were mostly upright. After the freeze, the stems bent down in graceful umbrella shapes.

Of course, Salvia officinalis 'Berggarten' did just fine through the freeze. I'm looking forward to these small plants filling in.

I'm excited to watch this bed fill in. The plants are a bizarre mix of classic PNW (with the red laceleaf maple, heaths, and heathers) natives, Mediterranean herbs, cottage garden plants like the asters, and New Zealand flora. It sounds strange in print, but it already looks promising in real life.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Flowers, Foliage, and Vignettes

I'm beginning an attempt at posting regularly, on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule. With life being so chaotic, I need whatever order I can impose on it. That does create a bit of a jumble in situations like this, though, where Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day (hosted by Carol of May Dreams Gardens) fell on a Tuesday and Foliage Follow-up (hosted by Pam at Digging) fell on a Wednesday, which is also the day of Wednesday Vignette, hosted byAnna of Flutter & Hum. I would have posted my GBBD post on Monday, but I don't have much blooming at the moment and thought I might as well combine all three. Also, when I went to take pictures on Sunday (which was actually sunny!) I discovered that my camera is missing, along with my case and several SD cards. Due to some other bad news I had last week, I was in a bit of a daze and can't remember at all where I may have left it. It can't have been at a nursery or garden somewhere, because I would have left the case in my car. With the case missing, too, I can only think that someone stole it, though I can think of no opportunities anyone had to do so. Perhaps I did leave it somewhere. Either way, it's gone. While I was frantically searching my parents' house and property for my camera (all the while hoping I had left it at my brother's house in Portland, which I didn't), the daylight was fading fast. I ended up having to snap a few hurried shots with my phone, which doesn't work well in low light and frequently has issues focusing. (Is there Ritalin for smartphones?)

Anyway, all this rottenness is to explain why I have so few pictures this time around and why so many are blurry, dark, washed out from phone flash, or otherwise odd-looking. Luckily, I do have a backlog of photos saved on my hard drive that I need to post before I buy a new camera. I was really hoping my next big purchase would be a new laptop, to replace my 6 & 7 year old dinosaurs, which operate as if they were trapped in tar.

 Hutchinsia alpina continues to produce a scattering of bloom all year as long as there's adequate moisture. We've had plenty of that lately in the PNW. Temperatures of 18-20 degrees Fahrenheit the week of Thanksgiving didn't faze these blooms at all.

I'll be jumping back and forth between flowers and foliage in this post, because it's late and I want to get to bed at a reasonable hour tonight. The rain greens up the foliage of Alyssum spinosum, but as soon as it dries it returns to a beautiful blue-grey. The old flower stalks have faded from gold to buff, but continues to form a spiny cloud around the foliage.

Much reviled as a ubiquitous parking lot plant by some, I find the dark, lustrous green leaves of Viburnum davidii, accented by red stems and petioles, lush and refreshing. This evergreen shrub deserves to be used more often. I watered it once or twice this summer, though it does get shade by around 2pm. Outside of an ugly, abused parking lot setting, it looks wonderful. Mine looks fantastic hugging the side of a burned out stump that has weathered to look remarkably like Mt. St. Helens.

A trick for getting phones (and point and shoot cameras) to focus when they want to look past something is to put your hand behind it. You should have seen how blurry this Ceropegia woodii 'Variegata' bloom was before I backed it with a hand. Like this succulent, many of my blooms are currently in the greenhouse or in the house.

Lapageria rosea continues to bloom in the greenhouse, surrounded here by several tillandsias.
 The last two years, I've put Blechnum gibbum through some horrendous conditions, nearly losing it two or three times. It's bounced back each time, and it is absolutely loving the cool, humid greenhouse conditions. It continually pumps out new fronds.

Blurry, but I enjoyed the color combination in this photo of the green kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), Rhododendron 'PJM', and yellow Achillea foliage with brown seed heads poking through the top of the Rhododendron. The yarrow was an accidental transplant that hitchhiked along with a Penstemon serrulatus. I had originally intended to weed it out, but it's grown on me. I really like the dried seed heads, and I'm now planning to add more varieties of yarrow to the garden.

The kinnikinnick has grown marvelously this year, and will keep looking marvelous all winter now that the deer can't defoliate it during the cold season. This shoot is growing across the side of Stump St. Helens, looking perfectly natural, as if it were growing in a burned area out in the wild. If it weren't slightly blurry, I'd be tempted to use this photo as my new banner at the top of the page. Maybe I'll try to recapture it once I get a new camera.

 The plants of Salvia offinicalis 'Berggarten' I added to the driveway island are small but already delight me with their dew-capturing grey foliage.

I've long since forgotten the name of this chartreuse-leaved Erica (aka heath) cultivar. I had also forgotten that the color intensifies in cold weather. The chartreuse brightens to an almost white-yellow, and the tips take on a coral pink blush.

Other heaths, represented by the photo below, have been opening their brilliant white blooms since October, but are really reaching their prime now.

I've forgotten the cultivar of this Calluna vulgaris, as well. It could be 'Wickwar Flame' or 'Firefly', or another cultivar that turns orange red in cool weather. How many reliably hardy evergreens are there for the PNW that turn such brilliant colors?

 Geranium robustum took the Thanksgiving frost without complaint. I was a little surprised this South African geranium didn't show more damage. It is supposedly hardy to zone 7, but I know it was killed to the ground last winter. I wasn't around then, so I'm still waiting to see how cold it can get before the foliage dies down.

Lacking in settled grace due to being divided and relocated, the basal foliage of Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' is still producing brilliant shades from yellow to dark red, and green!

The last flush of growth from summer on this Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki' is positively brilliant against the darker green older foliage.

Daphne x transatlantica 'Blafra' Eternal Fragrance is still bloooming, as is the 'Summer Ice' I added earlier this year (not shown).

 Several other plants, such as Cyclamen coum, hellebores, and mahonia, are showing flower buds, but probably won't be blooming for another month at least. The cyclamen appear to be falling victim to cut worms, which are slicing off the flower buds. The vile little worms have been an absolute nightmare this fall, chewing on pretty much everything that isn't woody. It's time to bring in the Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) powder.

This is the time of year I value my indoor plants most, and several are currently in bloom, with more on the way. Phragmipedium Olaf Gruss appears to be on it's final bloom. Flowering sequentially with one to three blooms open at a time, this round of blooms has lasted four months, starting in August. This is still a young plant. Once it becomes a clump with many growths, it will be able to produce multiple bloom spikes at a time and will last even longer.

Blooms in the works and foliage to enjoy right now! Phalaenopsis schilleriana is one of a group of moth orchids with foliage fantastically mottled in silver, purple and green, with solid purple reverses. This is a purple-flowered form.

My phone did a great job focusing on this Paphiopedilum Hsinying Alien, and the flash didn't startle it any worse than the one on my camera would have.

My Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti had been in the greenhouse until this weekend. They were looking a bit pouty in the cool greenhouse, so I decided to bring them inside. This one has been slowly opening blooms for over a month.

More blooms to be, this time belong to a dwarf form of Billbergia nutans. This form is hardy in North Carolina in zone 7b, provided it has perfect drainage and you don't mind it looking mostly dead. I'm keeping mine inside during the winter to enjoy its reliable winter blooms. It was also in the greenhouse until recently, and might already be in bloom if I had brought it inside sooner.

Vanda Moonlight Firefly (formerly Ascofinetia) is getting closer to opening its pale yellow-orange blooms. It also has two more inflorescences still hidden in the leaves.

Phalaenopsis Rong Guan Mary is putting out a strong new inflorescence after spending summer in the greenhouse. I finally cut the old spike off to force the plant to take a break. It had been blooming from the same spike for over a year. But the roots had deteriorated because the potting medium had broken down and I wasn't around to repot it, so it needed some R&R. I guess it decided break time is over.

Vandachostylis (formerly Neostylis) Lou Sneary 'Bluebird' developed three bloom stalks this summer and started blooming in August. This is the last and smallest of those spikes. I thought this would be the end of the show for now, but a fourth spike just started poking out from the base of the leaves, which you can see just above the flower next to the yellow tag. It should be back to blooming after a fairly brief interlude when the current blooms fade.

And finally, for my vignette this week, I was struck by the sharp contrast of old, brown flower stalks against bright blue-grey foliage on this Phlomis fruticosa at Cistus Nursery. Color aside, the textures in this vignette captivated me. The fan of sword-shaped iris(?) leaves takes it even further. Texture is often overlooked in favor of color in the garden, and I plan to try to overcome that tendency in my own garden.

Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I love hearing what readers think and answering questions. I also welcome suggestions for improvement!