Monday, September 5, 2016

Autumn approaches

Oh, bliss... we had a couple of days that were cooler with nighttime temperatures around 62F/17C. I used the attic fan to draw that fresh, chilled air into the house. While AC is a valued necessity in the Midwest, the scent of "real" air is something to be appreciated. Autumn is slowly creeping in, the yard has a settled, and established look, although my garden design skills verge on simply random growth containment. For whatever reason every plant I add to the garden grows well beyond the size parameters given on the tag, even my weeds. I have a few weeds in the lilac border that are 10' tall! I left them thinking they were bee friendly Goldenrod, but they aren't and now I am fascinated with their incredible diameters. Anyway, with the cool weather and the changing angle of the sun, a few maple leaves have fallen and some of the vegetable foliage is dying back.

The squash and gourds are fully ripened. Here are a pair of spaghetti squash ready to be picked, and I have a couple of fist-sized ones I hope will mature before the first frost. We made an arbor for them as well, so the vines wouldn't grow onto the lawn. We planted two seedlings, one at each end of the arbor, so the plants grew over the top, met in the middle and grew down the other side. I didn't have to lift a single vine off the lawn
to mow!

The bees are going nuts gathering nectar and these few cool nights have seemingly made them frantic workers. My Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) is mostly done blooming, both the Veronica (Speedwell) and Blue Agastache are fading, but the Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris)is bursting with blooms! My plan to have a seasonal cycling of favorite bee flowers is actually working! I am thrilled to see a few more European Honeybees, but this year they are definitely in the minority. I have had tons of local Missouri bees, carpenter bees, Mason bees and even Squash bees among the other buzzing pollinators. The bee hum is audible walking by this plant! Of course, this spirea was only supposed to be 24-36" tall and 24" wide, this is it's second year in the garden and it is easily 5' x 5'. I was told it wasn't going to get big and that it wasn't reliably winter hardy, so I planted it next to a big rock for winter warmth and hoped for the best. Currently, this woody shrub is overgrowing my roses! I am thinking it will be easier to move the roses next Spring.

I am also excited about the several Monarch Butterfly caterpillars I have found on the multiple clumps of Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) growing throughout the garden. Right above the caterpillar is a seed pod which dries and opens up to loose "milkweed-like" floating seeds. In a few years my garden will be probably be overrun, but I am pleased that a few Monarchs have found them to be a useful substitute for actual milkweed plants. The brilliant orange flowers are gone, but the pods and the bushy, 2-3' dark green foliage are striking and the seed fluff is attractive point of interest in the garden.

The marigolds, zinnias and St. John's Wort are still blooming so shall get some late season pix for the next post. I am feeling energized about the season change and am looking forward to a productive Fall.

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