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, 2014

Bloom Day - A Peck on the Cheek

     Winter tried to pay a little visit last night. It was the first time this season that temperatures dipped to freezing, fortunately they did not stay there long, and we had enough wind to put off our first frost for some other day. Honestly I am never ready for cold weather, and if weren't for colorful fall foliage and a big feast, the month of November would be tied with February as my least favorite. A co-worker and I were discussing weather preferences this week. She is from Yorkshire, and I remarked that this week's wind and cold must have reminded her of home, to which she agreed. She also added that cold weather does a body good, but I suspect that's just something people living in cold dank places tell each other.

    Anyhow, let's get on with this month's entry. My first plant is also my newest, Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Golden Arrow' (mountain fleece). I found it on sale at Linden Hill Gardens in Pennsylvania when I was visiting last month. My head turns at the sight of chartreuse foliage, and I liked the strong raspberry-red flowers. As usual, I had nowhere in mind to put this moisture lover, so it was repotted and relegated to the front steps where I can keep an eye on it.
Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Golden Arrow' (2)

Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Golden Arrow' (1)

     Down by the sidewalk, my Ajania pacifica (silver and gold chrysanthemum) is coming into bloom. I am sure I have said it before, but I love this drought tolerant, über easy perennial. Close by are two more favorite fall perennials, Amsonia hubrichtii (Hubricht's blue star) and Salvia leucantha (Mexican bush sage). Cuphea ignea 'David Verity', has been blooming here since May.
Ajania pacifica

Ajania pacifica, Salvia leucantha and Amsonia hubrictii

Cuphea ignea 'David Verity'

     My Leonoitis leonurus (lion's tail, wild dagga) was sacrificed during last winter's Arctic vortex. I love its unusual form, and I love orange in the garden, so I replanted one in May. It spent all summer getting established and bloomed late in the season. With Salvia leucantha 'All Purple' in front, a party broke out.
Leonoitis leonurus

Leonoitis leonurus and Salvia leucantha 'All Purple'

     Despite the mockingbirds, berries still persist on my Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry). Even though they are no longer fresh, I like the color against Cotinus and Euphorbia.
Callicarpa americana (1)

Callicarpa americana (2)

     One great big disappointment for me has been Abelia x grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope', mainly due to its lack of vigor, and grow-anyway-I-damn-well-please attitude. I know other gardeners have had no such problems, so I cut it way down this summer and was more attentive as to watering to see if that might help. Time will tell.
Abelia x grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope'

     In my rant against November, I forgot the other thing that makes the month bearable; it marks the beginning of camellia season. All of the sasanquas in my side garden are budded and blooming. In the backyard my favorite, 'Yuletide', has many buds but few flowers, mainly due to a pesky squirrel who has taken to eaten the about-to-open buds. The situation has me questioning my commitment to veganism.
Camellia sasanqua 'Autumn Rocket'

Camellia sasanqua 'Showa-no-saki'

Camellia sasanqua 'Kanjiro'

      Most gardeners only think of Fatsia japonica as a foliage plant for shaded areas, but the flowers are fun and remind me of Sputnik.
Fatsia japonica

     The biggest star of my November garden is Tagetes lucida (Mexican marigold, Mexican tarragon). For two years it languished in the side garden never getting enough light. I moved it to a sunnier spot this spring, and in gratitude, it has been covered with flowers since mid-October. According to, the Aztecs "...would sprinkle a powder of the plant into the faces of prisoners of war who were to be burned as sacrifices so that they would be sedated during the ordeal." This makes me ponder how squirrels might react.
Tagetes lucida (2)

Tagetes lucida (1)

     Later this week winter is supposed to make another visit, and this time she will not be here for a quick peck on the cheek. Overnight lows are predicted into the mid-twenties. I shouldn't complain, because I know she has already put her big fat lips all over many parts of the country, but I will complain anyway. It makes me feel better. If you want to see how the early arrival of winter has treated other gardeners, then visit Carol at May Dreams Garden, who hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of each month.


  1. Oh boy, you are in a fighting mood. I've followed your blog for many years and I'm convinced the squirrels are safe despite of your wicked ideas.
    How long you've been vegan? I was sure in a recent photo you seemed much slimmer.
    I love purple in the garden, with orange in particular but against the bluish-silvery tone of the Euphorbia, it's magical.

  2. I love the orange / purple combination of Salvia and Leonitis leonarus. Your camellias are absolutely gorgeous.

  3. It is at the blogs of others that I realize what my garden is missing. I need pink and red C. sasanquas.

    I need Fatsia japonica -- that has been a running theme through gardens this bloom day.

    We've already had a bit of frost, as near as we are to the Gulf. I am hopeful this is not a sample of another really cold winter.

  4. Lovely flowers!
    Have a beautiful week-end!

  5. Mexican Bush Sage and Hubricht's Amsonia make a great combination.

  6. Love the Amsonia! And I totally agree with you about February and November. Except now November is feeling like December here--with a couple of inches of fresh snow on the ground. Happy bloom day!

  7. Here we do not say "cold weather does a body good", but rather, "A hot summer does no one any good." We thought it was a near perfect summer with consistent rainfall just when it was needed and temperatures that rarely broke 80F. My hardy hibiscus weren't that happy, but we humans were.

  8. Oh that Ajania Pacifica, you've done it to me again! That foliage is just to die for and you manage to make those yellow flowers not look so bad. Whenever you show it I think "okay, I'm going to buy it" and then I see another image of those flowers (one not taken by you) and I just can't do it...

    So November and February huh? I'm curious what keeps January off the list?

  9. I grew some Persicaria amplexicaulis in a past Washington-area garden and liked the way it covered a lot of space, yet wove in nicely with the other plants.

    Love the Mexican marigolds!

  10. Les:
    That Persicaria can probably thrive in the rest of your garden - I use them in regular soils and they do beautifully. They divide very well too!

  11. Your display of berries on the Calicarpa is very appealing. I have a dwarf variety of the Asian Calicarpa, so far the berries don't look like much.I do like that Lion's Tail, I don't think I've seen it before.

  12. Wonderful November show. I had no idea that nice tagetes was complicit in war crimes.

  13. I love your description of winter's "big fat lips." Too true. Your amsonia is gorgeous; mine is too new to do much, so yours gives me a foretaste of what I hope to have in a few years. I always enjoy a visit since you have so many plants that I can't grow that I can just luxuriate in your garden's beauty.

  14. Amsonia is one of my favorite shrubs. It works so hard! As do the salvias. Very nice.

  15. I love the photo with the Amsonia. Mine was cut back so I missed that great color. Salvia is still blooming here too.

  16. Thanks for another essay & photo journal entry. One day I hope to travel down your way to see the garden where you work. A kindred soul.

  17. Love the lions tail/salvia combination. You have lots happening, considering you are heading into winter. It's also amazing given our different climates that we have quite few plants in common. I get a lot pleasure from the sasanqua hedge my neighbour has grown on our boundary; I have a similar salvia; and the Mexican tarragon ran wild in my garden a year or two back. I regret having pulled it all out and will definitely start another after your photos reminded me how lovely it was.

  18. I love Japanese Aralia and have three plants in my garden. They are blooming now. You are so right - they do remind sputnik, ha-ha! I've never thought about this. Thanks!

  19. So many beautiful plants! I really enjoyed your blooms!

  20. We have snow on the ground here. We have no feast in November, our Thanksgiving coming a month earlier, so November and February are my least favourite months for sure. There are many pretty things in your garden Les. What a treat it must be to have camellias coming into flower at this time of year!

  21. What an amazing color of the berries. Lovely blooms too.