posts tagged with 'flowers'

the seasonality of chrysanthemums

A few days out from the official start of fall, it seems like everyone in our neighborhood—everyone but us—has potted chrysanthemums adorning their front porches. Lot of them! Like they must have been on sale somewhere. Since I'm a contrary old cuss, I have some thoughts.

Now don't get me wrong, mums are lovely. We have a few in our garden, and I love the half-wild ones along the side of the bike path. They're a great sign of early fall; it's so wonderful to see flowers starting to bloom just as most of the others are fading away. The coppery and deep red ones in particular are great fall colors too. But!

Never mind how sad I find it when people buy perennials in pots—daffodils or tulips or easter lillies or mums—and then toss them when their "season" is over. That's their prerogative, and if I don't like it I can just grab the cast-off plants to put in the ground myself (I have, too!). But when you have these plants, forced and trimmed to within an inch of their lives, signifying fall... it just doesn't make sense! They're all greenhouse-grown; they could just have well been forced for any other time of year. And worse, the same way you get mums you could just as well have, oh, I don't know, petunias! That is to say, there's no horticultural reason for people to be buying mums—they're just doing it because that's what one does in the fall.

It's like the plastic pumpkins that have started to move from basements to front lawns over the past couple weeks. Why are pumpkins a sign of fall? Because they don't ripen until well into the fall, when everything else is dying. So it maybe doesn't make so much sense to put them out in early September when the sweet corn and summer squash and tomatoes are still going strong. There's nothing wrong with early pumpkins—either plastic or genuine—but their connection with the season is artificial and so less meaningful and interesting.

And that's true of so many things. We celebrate the turning seasons, but we're completely insulated from any real affects as they change. Our homes are heated and cooled to the same temperature all year round; our jobs are completely season- and weather-independent; we can eat watermelon and peas and raspberries all year round. So I guess it makes sense that we need to resort to artificial means to bring back some sense of seasonality. For sure, I agree that seasons are great! And to appreciate them even more, I suggest some slightly more intensive gardening: toss those potted mums into a hole and water them a little until it freezes, and they'll come back next year—at just the right time to celebrate the fall!

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for the birds

When we moved into this house ten years ago, it was in much better shape than it is today in lots of ways, but it was seriously short of flowers. The landscaping we inherited could boast of no more color than rhododendrons a couple weeks a year. Bit by bit, I'm working to change that.

a riot of flowers up against our fence

various types

We appreciate the variety, and I hope the neighbors enjoy it a little bit—in compensation for some of our other landscaping failures—but the biggest winners are the birds. The headliners the last few weeks have been the hummingbirds that feed from the bee balm (those red flowers in the picture above). They're always thrilling to watch, even when I see them every day (they're also completely unphotographable with my skills and equipment, and really tough to point out to the kids). I've also been noticing goldfinches enjoying the seeds of the black-eyed susans, and house sparrows are currently nesting in the wisteria vines. Blackberries aren't flowers, but they're another aspect of our landscaping that attracts birds: specifically some sort of gray jay-like bird with a call that sounds like a cross between an upset baby and an upset cat. Anyone have any idea what it might be?

None of these birds—with the exception of the house sparrows—would have had any place in our yard of ten years ago. It's not a big deal, and I didn't set out to make a bird-friendly environment, but I like having them around. Just like we want to offer hospitality for people I'm delighted to extend it to birds as well.

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wisteria

the wisteria flowering on the trellis

May flowers

Gardening is all about waiting for the reward, and some things make you wait longer than others. Like asparagus. Or, even more so, wisteria. It took ours ages to get established (slower because I didn't give it anything to climb for years) and, of course, it only blooms for a couple weeks of the year—the rest of the time it tries to get in the windows and tear the siding off the house. But the flowers are nice.

And not only for the visual impact: they smell wonderful too. It's been warm enough to have the fans on most nights lately, and their perfume blowing in through the windows is just the thing to fall asleep to.

Leah smelling a wisteria flower

perfume

And when they're done in a few days there will be something else to enjoy.

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unplanned beauty

a close-up of a pink hollyhock blossom

who wouldn't want this in their garden?!

Among the many plants in our gardens this year we have a pair of beautiful pink hollyhocks. Aside from enjoying them because they're quite pretty on their own terms, I also appreciate their old-fashioned look. The only problem is, they both self-seeded and they're perhaps not in the most convenient locations. The one next to the driveway is fine, but the other one...

the whole hollyhock plant in amongst the tomatoes

maybe not the best spot

It's right on the edge of the bed where I put many of the tomato plants, and the only positive is that it's alongside the determinate varieties—the ones I'm growing in cages and mostly leaving alone, from a pruning point of view. But still, it'll be in the way soon, if it isn't already. I may have to take it out some time soon, but what a shame that would be!

Oh well, at least it isn't as bad as the year I left one to grow out of a crack in the walkway right in the middle of back steps.

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