Thursday, September 29, 2011

Summer's Success

I know that I have been MIA, but I have had a very busy couple of weeks. I collected my first set of essays, which required my focus and energy to grade. I then had a bit of writer's block. The days have been miserably hot for late September--90 degrees here just yesterday. A cold front is supposed to be moving through today cooling things off. My fall bulbs should be arriving soon, so gardening hasn't quite ceased yet. To wind down the summer garden, here are my best performers for this season.

The giant Allium Christophii purchased from White Flower Farms online catalog. Planted last fall, she was a star performer in the garden. 

New this spring because I just could not resist the color, Monarda Raspberry aka Raspberry Wine Bee Balm purchased at Bath Nursery, Ft. Collins The young lady stole my heart with her deep magenta color. Even her deep green leaves have a touch of pink in them. She bloomed all summer long, not even growing faint in the 90+ degrees for most of August, unlike her companion pholx. I planted pink pholx and a raspberry delight cone flower around her, so next summer there should be a lovely pink voice in the center circle.

 Kniphofia uvaria, or Red Hot Poker, was transplanted from the old garden. A neighbor had given me a clump which I separated when I moved it to the Garden Spot. This was her best year. Her tall spears are just so grand, but they are not long lived.

Need a splash of red? Crocosmia, Crocosmiflora Lucifer, heats up a dull spot in the garden. Not only colorful, she seemed to adapt well to what I consider harsh growing conditions: crummy clay soil and miserable heat. I purchased her at Ft. Collins Nursery late last summer, again attracted to her brilliant red star shaped flowers. I've added one more to the center circle this summer. I love how her blooms start out on long slender stalks then gradually open. The blooms last for weeks and attract the tiger swallow tail butterfly.

My prized water lilies had to leave their beautiful water garden at the old house only to have live in horse tank for yet another year. I blogged about separating and replanting them and they have thrived even to bloomed in their confined tank. We did get the little water garden in the courtyard installed, so I moved a couple lilies there where they have done quite well. We will drain the little pond the end of October and the girls will return to the horse tank for their winter's nap. Hopefully next spring we get our main water feature, a 1,000 gallon pond, built.

I love love love pink flowers. Gertrude Jekyll, my only David Austin, has done so well this year. My roses suffered early in the season with an invasion of aphids. My horticulturist daughter said to use Bayers Rose food with a systemic pesticide. The roses have thrived and are at their peak of blooming now.  I love the Clematas Texensis so much that I purchased another one late this summer. They are both in my courtyard where they will grown over the brick wall. The one I planted last year has done so well, trailing over the wall for all to enjoy. Finally, the oriental lily--I've forgotten the variety--ordered from White Flower Farms was glorious. I planted 3, only regretting that I didn't clump them together. One bloom went to the Ault Fall Festival. I thought she was such a spectacular bloom that I had (all allusions aside) hopes that she would have performed better, but the judge thought not. I don't really care, I loved her.

We planted our North Star Dwarf cherry tree last summer, watered her during the winter, and prayed that she would survive the cold, dry winter. Not only did she survive, but she had fruit. Not many, but enough for a bowl full of cherries. She had a bad case of hunch back, so we have now staked her, hoping that her main stem will straighten. She is planted just outside of the master bath window where I can keep a close eye on her. As her fruit began to ripen, one morning I saw the robins and the western king birds lined up on the corral fence waiting their turn to grab a cherry. Still in my night gown, I dug out the wedding tulle and gently wrapped her to keep the birds away. 

We had our failures too: Diseased tomatoes and a cheap rose that I bought at Home Depot refused to even try to like her new home. I guess she preferred her plastic pot in an asphalt garden to her new home in a garden of love. Beats me why she failed to thrive. I bought two Home Depot roses. One thrives, one just gives up. The hydrangea my daughter bought for me struggles to stay alive. Of course, the bloody heat this late in the season isn't helping.

All in all, it wasn't a bad gardening year. Yesterday, though, I noticed that one of the big ponderosa pine trees is turning brown, not just a bit here and there, but a rather large amount of brown. It is one of three that the previous owner planted in the center circle and to lose one will destroy the balance, so I guess we call the tree doctor. We already had our trees inspected for the pine beetle that has kills hundreds of thousands of acres pine trees in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, so we really don't know what could be wrong.

So what were your garden successes? What plants performed the best for you? What should I try next year for zone 5?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Sunflower Tribute

The weather in Northern Colorado has cooled down, finally. We had nearly a month of 90+ days, making gardening an unpleasant chore. We spent most of our energy watering to keep the gardens alive and weeding. While the heat here was nothing like the heat my brother was suffering in the Texas Hill Country near Austin with temps in excess of 100 for nearly two months and the devastating drought, the dry Colorado heat did zap of us our energy. We'd wait until late evening when it cooled down to venture out, or we would try do our garden chores early in the morning, both quite pleasant times of the day; however, we then battled mosquitoes. Last week the rain came. Daytime temperatures dipped to the 50s. Today it is cool and slightly foggy. Soon it will frost, then the garden will be done, and we will do the clean up and plant the bulbs.The mountains received a slight dusting of snow, bringing on the Ski Chatter--that's all it take, you know, for the skiers to get excited. As Fall slowly descends, we welcome the cooler, golden days of late September and October with the changing of the colors. So as we say goodbye to summer, I do so with a tribute to the glorious sunflower that we all love.

Sunflower Anomalies 

A Symbiotic Relationship

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Week in Review

The garden just keeps producing and so do the hens. Here's a recap of the week at the Garden Spot.

Mrs. Bok at The Bok Flock wrote about the smallest chicken eggs. I am not sure just where this little pullet egg would place, but it is our smallest egg so far. We average 6-8 eggs a day now from the 12 hens. One of the two brown leghorns must just be starting to lay. And the silly gals all use the same nesting box most of the time. They have six to choose from, but seem to prefer a warm nest, I guess.

The little white egg is pretty tiny next to the largest egg. Yes, it is green and will probably have a double yoke. The two Americanas lay the green eggs and were the first to start laying.

We dug our first potatoes the other night. How exciting-- our own potatoes. We only planted one row of yukon gold and red potatoes. They did okay. The soil wasn't amended, so next year we plan to plant two rows and study up on how to increase the production.

I fixed fried potatoes for supper. I was a bit disappointed in the yukon golds. They didn't seem to fry up crispy. Martha Stewart says they are best for mashed potatoes. 

Cucumbers coming out of our ears. Nice red cabbage, and baby new potatoes. 

Today I made bread and butter pickles. Here, they soak in the brine.

8 pints of pickles

The garden is still producing full force, so Sunday night I pick a basket full of goodies for faculty at work. They especially love the eggplant. I had to laugh the other day because some faculty are hoarding eggplant, hiding them their mailboxes in the faculty work room. 

As late as it is in the season, there is a new face in the garden: Heidi Biscuit, I call her. She is a very late bloomer. (I guess she prefers to sleep in) So late, in fact, that she doesn't even poke herself out of the soil until around the 4th of July. When I questioned the nurseyman in the spring complaining that the hibiscus hadn't come up yet, he laughed and said that it would emerge in July. I thought he was nuts. Guess not.

One of the summer' s last blooms, a pretty, dark pink cosmos

The Rudbeckia and blanket flowers have gone to seed quite early. I think they just gave up in the late summer heat. Even my chrysanthemums have already faded.

However, I have several volunteer rudbeckia that are growing strong; of course, they came up from seed much later than the others.

So that was the week that was here in the Garden Spot. Fall is just days away. Finally the temperatures have left the 90s that were just so hard on the garden and (and humans).  I've  ordered my spring bulbs, so we aren't done gardening yet. I already have a list of projects for next spring. 

Hope you all have a fantastic week.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Update to Down the Country Road

I didn't do a very good job of explaining in my last post the situation with the farms in our area and the irrigation water.  As I wrote, a Denver suburb came to Northern Colorado and purchased farm land along with the water rights to each farm. The city's plan was pipe the water some 70 miles, rendering the farm ground usless; however, building a pipeline was much too expensive. Today the farms houses are leased out to renters and the farm ground is leased to local farmers who didn't sell to the city and who are still in business. Since the city didn't build its pipeline, the water is still attached to the farms, thus keeping those farms productive. Why would famers have sold their farms? Hard times; simply hard times.
Keep reading to see the original Down the Country Road.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Down the Country Road

I have wanted to photograph the alfalfa field down the road from the house and the corn fields, as well. So last night just before sunset, I went for a walk down the country road.

Several years ago a Denver suburb come north to purchase farms so that the municipality would have the water rights to farm water. The plan was to pipe the water south. With the water sold off of the farms, the farms became pretty much worthless. This farm down the road is one such farm. However, to build a pipeline to move water nearly 70 miles south was cost prohibitive. So now these old farm houses are rentals.

Cities don't make the best landlords, so the houses and yards fall into disrepair as renters come and go. Previous tenants here were taking some care of the yard, but they moved and the yard grew to weeds.

Each morning as I drive to work I drive past this old farm, hoping that someone will move in, cut the weeks, water the lawn, and make it a home again.

Wild roadside sunflowers.

The alfalfa has been cut and it will soon be baled.

While the old farm house is neglected, the farmland around it, part of the original farm, is planted mostly to corn that will be cut for either cattle feed or ethanol. 

While there is an old farm house south of the Garden Spot, right across from us is small subdivision. The corn rows are so perfectly straight. . .

 . . . despite this curve at the end of the field.

Corn tassels waving in the late sunset. Soon the corn will be harvested.

So now I know where my little yellow gold finches are during the summer.

We have some really beautiful sunsets over the Rocky Mountains.

Hazy mountains as the sun sets just to the north of the lens.

And another sunset over the Garden Spot, inspiration reminding us to give thanks for our abundant blessings and a truly wonderful life.

Have a great week end, everyone.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Jackson and Perkins roses have been in the garden for at least 10-12 years. This year they have been spectacular. The bushes were taller and...