Friday, October 2, 2015

Fall Garden Walks And Surprises

October has arrived and the weather has definitely changed.   I turned the furnace on for the first time today.  A few days before we were running the air conditioning, but that's Wisconsin.  If you don't like the weather, stick around for an hour or two, it's bound to change.  (Except for winter which hangs around a tad longer.) 

I'm so far behind on posting and all the activities that went on around here that I'll play catch up in reverse; starting from where we are now.  

My five year old geraniums, still putting out the flowers in October
On Tuesday, the last of the garden walks came and went.  Phew!  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy them very much, but it is a strain on this ol' gal to keep everything looking tip-toppish into late September.  I had a group of six ladies tour this week.  When they asked for directions on our exact location I said, "Just look for a little white house with a brown roof and a lot of pink."

There are about twenty Supertunia 'Pink Bubblegum' plants here and even with the difficult weather we've had this summer, they are still cranking out the blooms in October.
 One of the things I normally do every day is walk through the gardens and assess what needs attention, especially on the days when I'm expecting company.  Then I always make sure to move weed pails and hoses, wheelbarrows and whatever else may trip an unsuspecting visitor.  But on Monday night after I mowed the lawn, I decided I could skip the Tuesday morning inspection because things were fairly picked up.  I spent the morning doing my daily exercises, vacuuming the house and cutting up vegetables for soup in the crock pot. 

The ladies arrived on time and said I was right about the pink since you can see it from a half mile away.  After introductions, I started on my well-worn tour spiel and route again; we've had a few hundred people come through the yard again this year so I have it down to a science.

  However, there are always surprises with every group, as I'll get to in a minute. 

This group was very interested in everything, especially the reclaimed junk yard art.  (Some groups are in a rush/disinterested, so I try to read their faces and skip ahead a bit so as not to bore people. ) This last garden walk of the year was genuinely fascinated, so we started at the end of the driveway and had a lively discussion about the tree grate entrance.   

Blue Salvia 'Victoria', 'Oh So Easy' Rose, calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' and of course, Supertunia 'Bubblegum'

There's a tree grate in there, somewhere.

 Some of the ladies knew what the tree grates were and others didn't.  I try my best to explain that they were originally used in sidewalks flush with the ground with a tree growing in the center hole but apparently not everyone has seen them, so it leads to confusion, but they all said they liked the effect even if some of them were still mystified.

Frank the Urn with Dragon Wing Begonia and sweet potato vine.
Leaving the tree grates and Frank the Urn behind, we walked through Petunia Land.

One lone purple 'Wave' petunia in the sea of pink.

 Then we moved on to the Pachyberm which is also, yeah, you guessed it, pink. 
Pachyberm dripping with yet more 'Bubblegums'.
I know that I should work on a different color scheme one of these years, but I've yet to find any flower that can compare to 'Bubblegum' for sheer flower power and stamina.  I do not fertilize these plants in the ground; I do fertilize those in the urns, but in the ground, they are on their own.  We had a very dry spell here for over a month and even with that stress, they performed beautifully.  I did apply a heavy hay and pine needle mulch which does help. 

I did plant one section of the Pachyberm with nasturtiums which also flourished though you can see the 'Bubblegums' were advancing on them, too. 

We advanced through the garden at the usual pace, across the front of the house and then through the garden gate.
Bring your machete, it's a jungle in there.
I was at ease with this group; for those of you who don't know me personally, I'm a bit of a Nervous Nelly. I'd try to create another catchy name for me, but far too few words start with the letter 'K'...the closest I can come is Kantankerous Karen, but that's taking (poetic?) license with the word.  But anyway, they were all very friendly and I was happy the tour was going so well.

Hey! Something else that's not a petunia. 

Here's something I don't think I've written about yet:

Carl's Pipe Ball
Carl made this ball out of 2" pipe cut offs salvaged from the recycling bin at work.  He often jokes that half of his paycheck goes to buying the recycling, but in this case, it was worth it.  He spent weeks and weeks on this ball which was all completed on his 30 minute lunch hour. 

It weighs about 60 pounds but it's easy to roll for lawn mowing.
As is usual, I identified the Hyacinth beans, 'Dolichos Lablab' for my guests.  They started blooming very late this year which is unusual.  But I'll take any blooms they care to provide.

In late summer I'm always amazed at how the plants take over.  It happens so gradually but I bet a time lapse of their growth would be phenomenal to watch.
A few zinnas that weren't what the seed packet said, but that's ok.

The tour made their way down the lawn.
Frazzled hostas and more petunias.
Another new addition was some flower pots on risers in the garden. 
Where's Gardenia?
There's three flower pots here with begonias surrounding a bust of a lady we call 'Gardenia'.  We found Gardenia at an antique store, she's made of cast iron and I know she's not an antique per se, but that's ok.  Do you see her in the photo?

Lady Gardenia
There she is!
There's a new trellis in there, too.
I planted a whole lot more potted plants this year than ever before, but that's because Joel and Abby were married in June.  We had to have more color for the wedding!  Though it's hard to see, there is also a new recycled railing trellis in the picture above.  We took out two overgrown cedar trees to brighten up the area by the formal garden and Carl welded this structure.

(Speaking of the wedding, we're still waiting on the photographer's professional photos.  As soon as I get them there will be a Wedding Post.)  And I forgot to add that not all of my petunias were pink this year; in honor of the wedding, I planted another Supertunia 'Bordeaux' in the driveway lightshade planters.

They look a bit tired here, but this is October.  I have some pictures of them in July and August I'll share later.  But look on the ground; yep, those are more 'Bubblegums' sprouting in the gravel driveway.  What an amazing plant, not too many could live in dry gravel.

And then there's Ernie, we can't forget him:

Ernie's also a little worn from the weather, but still pretty flashy.

Where were we?  Oh, yes, the ladies progressed to the Quarry and I whipped out my three-ring binder filled with construction photos to explain the sight they were beholding and how it came to be.
There's a Quarry in there somewhere.

Bubblegums in the Quarry, hopefully they'll stick the rocks together.  
We toured the dome in the Formal Garden and I showed them the new table and chairs we were given by our friends Briana and Cody.  The set belonged to Briana's late grandfather and it fits perfectly in the dome.

We so appreciate this addition to the garden!

After leaving the Formal Garden, we proceeded past the Escarpment.

Hang a left at the top of the ramp, please.

We're still on the route around the Quarry and headed for the Quarry Bypass for those people who do not like to be mountain goats and climb the hill.

Hostas and shrubs on the Quarry Hill
Going around the corner

We put this bypass in last summer.  It's basically just the backside of the Quarry Hill, but it's got potential.  I have a few plans for this area in the years to come.

I planted a bunch of our unnamed hosta seedlings here, most of them are blue.

Going around the corner, almost out of the woods
One of the ladies jokingly asked if these were cannonballs.  Can you imagine the cannon that would launch them?  I explained what they were made out of but one of the questions was, "What are they for?" 

"They're for looking at," I said.  "Art."

"And the pyramid?"

"Same thing."

Ok, that part of my spiel could probably be more eloquent.

The East Quarry Hill and a Weeping Norway Spruce
 People often ask about that Norway Spruce tied up with a stick and strips of cloth.  I know it looks silly, but we're trying to get all the height out of it we can before it weeps over.

Pinus koreansis 'Winton' and Tidal Wave Silver petunias

And then the tour continued past the pallets of rock and the stone house construction.  By the way, we're back mortaring again, hopefully we'll get another foot or two done before winter.

So there, three-fourths of the garden tour was over.  We were now heading for the Egress Gate and the hosta garden.  Remember when I said there is always some surprise when we have visitors?

The ladies were very interested in the coleus and white begonia combination in the urn and I was trying to remember which cultivar it was and took a step behind the urn so they could all come through the gate.  

And then the surprise happened.  I'm standing there, blathering on about coleus and begonias and hydrangeas and all of a sudden I hear:

"Look at the raccoon!" one of them said as she pointed behind me.

Raccoon??  What raccoon? 

"It's right behind you!"

Time stood still.  I looked down and less than an inch from my bare ankle was the biggest raccoon I've ever seen.  I took a slow and deliberate Giant Step to the side.  A Very Giant Step, believe me.  I almost sat down on my prat in a heap of hostas.

  "Oh, I think it's asleep," the lady said.

"What's asleep?" the others asked as they gathered around to see what the fuss was about.

From my vantage point I could tell the raccoon wasn't asleep, though it did look that way at first.  I stared and there was absolutely no movement, thank goodness.  My heart was pounding and I was really jumpy now, time to think fast.

Can you imagine having six nice ladies chased around the garden by a sick raccoon?   I did, and it wasn't pretty.

To paraphrase David Letterman's old Late Show:  "Oh NO! We're gonna get sued!"

"Ladies, come this way quickly, don't get too close to it, oh my goodness, this is a first," I'm babbling on like an idiot. 

"Oh, well, look at that!  I wonder what's wrong with the poor thing?"

"Um, well, I think it's dead, actually," I stammered.

"What happened?"

"That's a good question, I have no idea, I guess it could have gotten hit on the road and made it this far.  Gosh, I'm sorry about this!"

I tried to pick up the thread of the rest of garden walk spiel but lost my train of thought.  We just cruised through the hostas and on to the end of the tour while I silently berated myself on not walking the garden in the morning.

Fleeing the scene of the Unknown Crime, step away from the body!

Yes, this was the last tour of the year for 2015.  And it was a Doozy.  The ladies did seem to recover from the shock, though I don't think I have yet.  They came in the house afterward to see our burgeoning stained glass obsession and we all parted as friends.  I thought maybe the stained glass would help them forget the surprise in the garden.

But somehow, I doubt it.

 I'm sure my guests will never forget this garden tour.  I know I won't.