An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

November 15, 2010

Bloom Day - Frost Free, For Now

It has been a delightful fall here, which is especially appreciated after this summer's horrid weather and after what we went through last fall at this time. I have given up on trying to determine what factors influence good fall foliage, because just when you hear some plausible explanation along comes a fall show that defies prediction. Yesterday on the way to work I marveled at the colors that were on display, wondering if anyone else speeding down the road appreciated what I was seeing and how special it was, even if it was just from trees that grow wild along the interstate. The other factor making this fall delightful has been the fact that we have yet to have a frost here in the city, although outlying areas have. So my garden is still full of color from those things that do not know any better and are blithely ignorant of what will surely come soon, and I have blooms from what ought to be in flower now as well.

Although I have already planted annuals to get me through the winter, I hadn't the heart to pull out my Zinnias (Zinnia marlandica 'Zahara Fire'), which have not stopped blooming since I planted them way back in May.

Zinnia marlandica 'Zahara Fire'

Like the Zinnias, my Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) have similarly been spared, but I know they will be the first casualty of frost.

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Alabama Sunset'

What few Roses I have are all enjoying a second wind. This is the ubiquitous Knock Out.

Rosa x 'Flower Carpet '(2)

Miss Huff (Lantana camara 'Miss Huff') has become quite pushy with her neighbors, nudging everyone else around her out of the way, but her comeuppance should be soon enough.

Lantana camara 'Miss Huff'

A very recent addition to the garden surprised me by blooming just a few weeks after planting. I was intrigued with Sternbergia lutea after seeing it at Stratford Hall last year, and so I nagged my fellow manager to stock the bulbs this fall.

Sternbergia lutea

My Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) and Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious') have waited all summer to bloom, despite being nearly trampled to death by an agent of the United States Postal Service.

Salvia leucantha (2)

Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious'

Ajania pacificum

Ajania pacificum

Parthenocissus tricuspidata’Fenway Park’

Parthenocissus tricuspidata’Fenway Park’

Perhaps the most welcome sign of the changing seasons are the blooms from Camellia sasanqua - they help make cold weather bearable here. The pink one is 'Kanjiro', and the white is 'Autumn Rocket'.

Camellia hiemalis 'Kanjiro'

Camellia sasanqua 'Autumn Rocket' (2)

I came across this sign of fall last week and took it as strong reminder that I was overdue for bringing my houseplants in. This onerous chore was finally finished on Friday and once again our house is greener, but seems much smaller.

Timely Advice

If you would like to see how fall has been in other people's gardens, you can visit Carol at May Dreams Garden where she hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of each month. While you are there, please thank her for me.


  1. Beautiful photos. The zinnias are spectacular. The ajania pacificum (never heard of it before) is so cute.

  2. I have made a note of that zinnia. I pulled out the basil plants which I used for edging in the vegetable garden and thought that next year I would use zinnias, the short ones. Did you start these from seed?

  3. Les, I was really hoping we would avoid a frost as long as you have, but , I am not complaining. We are lucky in our warmer zones to get to see the late blooming salvias~How frustrating would it be to have it zapped while full of buds! Love your photos~the zinnia is a keeper, but the camellias really are a delight. gail

  4. Wow! Im surprised your garden still have gorgeous flowers with their vibrant colours to show us. Lucky you!

  5. Wow! Your zinnia's really steal the show! We grow different varieties of zinnia's and they are def bloom machines here in Alabama.

  6. We have enjoyed the fall colors so much. It is like a scavenger hunt, finding out all the different trees that are in the landscape.
    So far the only plant that is toast in my yard is the basil in the pot on the deck. (Other than all the deer food)
    I do think the Mexican Sage Bush needs to go in my garden in the spring.

  7. I love your sign, a little late for up here, but appropriate none the less. I am officially jealous now. That is beautiful blooms and lovely images. I am missing the color already.

  8. Les,

    I just purchased 13 camellias and am unsure exactly where to plant. We live in Oxford, NC, almost in Virginia. The tags say morning sun, but I read online that if in the morning sun, the sun will cause buds to burn if there is frost on the buds later in the season. I would hate to lose these beautiful buds. I bought both fall blooming and spring blooming shrubs. Another problem is we have a walnut tree in our woodland area where I want to plant these shrubs and I read you should not plant any shrubs closer than 80 feet to a walnut due to toxicity from the tree. However, the previous owner has a camellia growing about 10 feet away and it did bloom this spring. The soil is tough clay and I do have shady areas, but all closer to the walnut. Is it OK to plant where they will get full morning sun until about noon? Thanks so much.


  9. I don't blame you for not wanting to pull your annuals up. Let Mother Nature do her thing first. :) Beautiful blooms this month Les, I especially love the Mexican Bush Sage. Need to add that to my garden soon.

  10. Fine November color, Les. I didn't know that chrysanthemum is now ajania! No wonder I can't find it in catalogues anymore. Next year it's zinnias, zinnias, zinnias. I should make myself a sign to remember!

  11. You still have such beautiful color in your garden. I am always amazed at what plants linger... blossom late into fall. Interesting also is looking around at the foliage on our trees: Dogwood- half gone; Magnolia stellata, bare; A. palmatum 'Bloodgood'- still holding; Ginkgo- totally golden...

  12. That is a sweet Zinnia. I need to remember to grow some Zinnias next year.

  13. Love the foliage on the Ajania pacificum, and the blooms at that stage, perfect!

    I know what you mean about the house feeling smaller. When I lean over these days to turn on the floor lamp by the fireplace I get jabbed by an agave spike.

  14. I can't ever bring myself to pull things out until they are totally and completely dead...and even then, I leave it until spring :-) Those zinnias look amazing, so perfect for fall.

  15. Mac,
    The Ajania was once known as Chrysanthemum pacificum, and that is what I know it as best. Thanks for stopping by.

    I am not patient enough to start anything from seed. These came from single cell packs. Zahara's would make a good edging plant as they do not get tall, and I have not deadheaded them once all summer and they still bloom.

    The Camellias delight me as well, they are one of my favorite plants.

    Sometimes I am surprised as well. Thanks for stopping by.

    Redneck R.,
    They are blooming machines here as well.

    Here is my insider's tip: look for the Mexican Bush Sage in the herb section of your local garden center next spring. They are usually sold in small packs at a much cheaper price than buying a gallon container, and by bloom time you will not be able to tell the difference.

    Sorry you are missing color already, good thing the holidays are right around the corner.

    Morning sun until 12 will be fine for both the fall and spring blooming Camellias. However, I would avoid the walnut area if possible, but it is a good sign that one is living there. I would also try to amend the soil with as much organic matter as possible. Fertlilize them with anything labled for Camellias or Azaleas in April. If the non-blooming Camellia is still shy, try a little triple phosphate around them in May.

    I know a nice little garden center near you where the Mex. Bush Sage can be purchased.

    I hate it when they change the names and the Ajania has gone through several.

    There is nothing more lovely, nor more fleeting than a totally golden Ginkgo.

    I can not say enough nice things about the Zahara Zinnias. I really wanted the Profusion series, but could not get them, so I reluctantly got these, and have found they are a winner.

    I have to keep my Agaves way up high out of cat range or they will not chew the tips. So my butt is spared.

    I usually wait until the last minute as well to pull out the summer bloomers. I did have to make room for some winter bloomers and pulled a few things.


  16. You still have quite a bit blooming. I really like those zinnias, and interplanting them with daylilies is a good idea that I might have to "borrow" next year.

  17. i love how much greener plants seem when you bring them inside after being outside for a while. we have less room, but it feels fresh.

  18. Thank you so much for your response. I cannot believe how beautiful the camellias are here. I will be planting dozens of Limelight Hydrangeas. I can now get my plant fix for plants I could never grow in St. Pete, FL. Although, I must admit, we never had the weeds like I have found here not the horribly rocky soil. But, all things are possible and it is a blank slate, so I am excited.

    After much research, I discovered the tree is not a walnut, but a hickory. So, all that angst for nothing.

    Thanks again for taking the time to give me a response.


  19. That sign is most cute. A good reminder for sure. Your plants are stunning, especially those zinnas. They are surely doing well.

    I was in a Louisville nursery this past weekend and was seriously thinking of you because there they had a tetrapanax and it was going to town and then some! It was Beryls nursery and they specialize in tropicals but I didn't buy and tropicals. He tried to get me to get some tetrapanax but I'm not sure I'm ready for it yet. The outside cluster was killed back but in the greenhouse-wow!!! I had never seen it before just on your blog. The only way it was in the greenhouse is that it went under the wall and came up inside and had some blooms (at least I think they were). It was pretty incredible.

    I have a question, how do you get your pictures the different sizes? Many readers are telling me my blog is slow and I'm wondering if it is the way I load as I can't think of any other reason. I check my links occasionally but that could be it too. I'm wondering about the coding on pics and if I'm messing it up the way I make mine larger. Can you email me if you get a chance and help a bit?

  20. Dear Les, The fall colors were stunning here in PA too, defying reason. But it is over now and the landscape is looking very bare. I really envy you your camellias. Pamela

  21. Wonderful report before the frost begins. I like the following flowers a lot: Ajania pacificum and the Camellia sasanqua. They are beautiful!
    Have a great blooming weekend!

  22. Kelly,
    Borrow as needed!

    They all look green an lush right now, but after a few months in our dark chilly house they will be ready for a trip to Florida.

    You are quite welcome. I am glad that your tree is a hickory, it will make gardening easier on you.

    My Tetrapanax is about to bloom, but I am not sure it will happen before we have a freeze. I will email you soon about the photos.

    There should be a few Camellias you could grow in a protected spot. Look for any of the Ackerman hybrids developed at the US National Arboretum. Most of them have the words winter, snow or ice in the name.

    Thanks for stopping by.