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 24, 2010

Old Friends and Unexpected Guests

The past week has been an especially busy and long one for me with work. On Thursday we got in our Christmas trees and spent the next four days getting them cut, put in stands, sprayed with Wilt Pruf, graded, priced and tagged. Our trees come from the mountains of North Carolina where the grower told me they had an ideal summer for Fraser Firs (it was good to here that at least someplace in this country had a nice summer). Monday our wreaths and roping came in, which all had to be sorted as well. Everything is ready now, and all we have to do is sell them, which judging by this past weekend's activity should be no problem (I say with crossed fingers). Though I am feeling every week of my 50 years, I can at least take a breath for a few days.

Since I have been so focused on the upcoming season, I guess it only appropriate that our beautiful fall is starting to morph into "the big drop" when color is shed from the trees. While not completely gone it is definitely on its way out. Fortunately my garden is offering other distractions right now. I got my pansies in about a month ago, and so far none have been stolen. I will spare you pictures until the cold time when I have nothing else to show. One of my favorite companions for the pansies is Giant Red Mustard (Brassica juncea var. rugosa), and I am at the point now that I could not garden in the winter without this plant. I love its color, crinkled foliage and resilience.

Brassica juncea var. rugosa

Brassica juncea var. rugosa (2)

The only perennial I have ever planted for its fall foliage is Amsonia hubrichtii or Bluestar. In fact I do not really care for its flowers which are skim milk blue, one of my least favorite garden colors. But the foliage texture and fall show make me forget the flowers.

Amsonia hubrichtii

Yesterday I also noted that my Hime Quince (Chaenomeles) had its first bloom of the season, prompting me to make note this year of just how long it will bloom.

Chaenomeles 'Hime'

We have yet to have a frost which is fine with me, so I can still enjoy the foliage combo of my Golden Jasmine (Jasminum officinale 'Aureum') and Big Red Judy Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Big Red Judy'). I have already made a date with Judy for next summer.

Jasminum officinale 'Aureum'

I was also surprised to see one of my new additions blooming so early. I was under the impression that Algerian Iris (Iris unguicularis) would bloom in late winter, but I will not deny this blossom.

Iris unguicularis

You would think that with its lush tropical foliage that Tetrapanax (T. papyrifer 'Steroidal Giant') would have suffered through this summer's drought, but it grew every bit of 10' and a few weeks ago it started to flower. Never having seen it bloom, I was surprised by the flowers, though I am not ready to declare them beautiful.

Tetrapanax papyrifer 'Steroidal Giant'

I hope each of you has a chance in the next few days to reconnect with friends and family and perhaps meet someone new as well.

Please have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!


  1. Those are some wonderful colors in your fall garden, especially the brassica and that iris - what a lovely sight, now or later.

  2. Great photos! Love the Mustard shots. I grow Amsonia hubrichtii as well. It colors up nicely in our warm climate surprisingly.

  3. Great post, so interesting to see how other gardens in different parts of the country are faring. Love that mustard, I'll definitely have to look that one up in the future. I agree about Amsonia, the flowers are nothing special, but the foliage is unbeatable.

  4. I want the Tetrapanax. But it's not likely to survive a zone 6 winter, is it?

  5. Stunning photographs Les!! Stellar!! I love the colors. Ah, to have blooms beginning now . . . I look forward to watching your Quince along with you. Very striking blooms of your exotic even if you cannot call them beautiful. I would not be any good to your Christmas tree sales, as I prefer the twelve days of Christmas, thereby getting a tree much later. Usually a local fresh cut one. Good luck with all your sales! I hope the trees find good homes and are much loved. Happy Thanksgiving to you too!!

  6. Les, I LOVE your photos. Every one of them is so beautiful. Amsonia is one of my favorites and the red giant mustard is one I've been looking for but have been unable to find down here.

    I looked for an email for you on your blog but couldn't find one. I'd love to talk to you about whether or not you'd be interested in blogging for VA Gardener Magazine. Please shoot me an email at jean [at] statebystategardening [dot] com.

    Thanks so much and have a great holiday,

  7. Gorgeous, gorgeous leaves in the first shot. And Big Red Judy is a stunner. I loved on her real good the summer of 2009 but couldn't find one this year. And you have an iris blooming? I exclaimed out loud at that and scared Mr. Sorry, who's wrapped up in his basketball game. LOL

    Happy Thanksgiving.

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  9. Happy THANKSGIVING to you and thanks for being a cyber friend.

    Good strong purples and that precocious Japanese Quince ( a cheery 'headbanger' of Spring no doubt).

  10. Just stopped in to say "happy Thanksgiving!" and of course, got lost in the photos!!! Best wishes to you and yours, Les!

  11. I think the tetrapanax incredible in flower! It is such a neat plant. That iris-awesome to get one this time of the year too.

  12. What a busy time of year! I'm keeping a list of my favorites from your garden photos. Some day I hope to have a dazzling fall garden like yours.

  13. Les, all of your photos are beautiful, but the one of Jasminum officinale 'Aureum' and Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Big Red Judy' was awesome! Here's to a successful and festive holiday season. I need to head to my local nursery and buy a poinsettia next week before all the unique ones are gone.~~Dee

  14. Les, hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, too.
    Your photo of the quince bloom brought back pleasant memories of a quince outside my living window when I lived in Berkeley.

  15. So beautiful! I've been thankful for the treat of your photos this year.

  16. Beautiful color in your garden right now Les. We had a heavy frost here last night and my summer annuals are done now. Hope you had a wonderful holiday with your family. Don't work too hard! :)

  17. Les, I'm growing the Tuscan kale and swiss chard for winter color but will have to try that beautiful mustard. My tetrapanax is also blooming, which gives the plant such a different character.

  18. Skim milk blue? My my. I personally like my Amsonia, skim milk blue and all.
    I do like your Golden Jasmine, is that a new Coleus you have it paired with this year?
    The flower stalk on your Tetrapanex looks like the Fatsia flower...sort of. Really neat that it is blooming.
    I have asked about the onion for you and will keep on it.

  19. Cyndy,
    Thanks for stopping by. I am pleased with all the color still in my yard, especially since we had our first frost on Monday.

    I was pleased with how well the mustard photos came out, but they are easy to shoot.

    The other nice thing about the mustard is that it can be eaten.

    I am affraid the tetrapanax is a zone 7b. Maybe you could grow it in a container and drag into a warmer spot for the winter.

    I hope to be out of trees by the time you start looking.

    I will be in touch, and thanks for stopping by.

    This was the first year I met Big Red Judy, but it was love at first sight.

    My headbanging days are over, unless it is due to frustration from being a parent.

    Thank you for the holiday wishes. I hope yours was a good day too.

    I have never seen them flower. I hope they have a chance to open all the way so I can see what they should look like.

    Thank you for that very kind comment. I think in this area that fall is like a second spring.

    I was not not going to include that plant combo in the post, but it caught my attention heading into the house and I grabbed a shot.

    I am glad I tickled some old brain cells for you.

    Right back at you!

    We had frost Monday a.m., the first one and the the temp went down to 30. It must have been brief, because most of my annuals are still among the living.

    Add the mustard and all three could be stir fried at the end of the season.

    The Jasemine is planted at the bottom of the front steps and has been there for a while. It came from Big Bloomers in Sanford NC (a must stop if you ever find yourself there). Judy is in a pot so I can move her wherever, but she has stayed on the steps all summer.