One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."

October Blooms


I don’t know exactly why it’s so, but 2009 has been a terrific year for allyssum.   Above is a close up of some of the purple variety, which grows in waves on the backside of the driveway garden.   To the side is a look at the white allyssum, which reminds me of the way waves off the ocean break into little foamy edges as the waves stretch onto the shore.


Anyone who’s looking to duplicate this look has good news coming to them.   While weather conditions in the individual season have their obvious impacts, this massive showing of allyssum came from one of the least bits of garden work I did all summer.  Once I had weeded the bed in the spring and added a few annual seedlings in between perennial plantings, I tore open some packets of allyssum seed and sprinkled them atop the soil at the edge of the bed, and in between the other plants.

As the seedlings of that sprinkling began to emerge, I seeded in a little more to fill in some gaps.   Since I tend to buy too many packets of allyssum during the course of the winter (they’re not seeds in February, so much as little envelopes full of hope, honestly) and received a few more as gifts, I also re-seeded at the beginning of July and also again in early August.    The result of that is before your eyes…and I only wish (as I have many times about a variety of flowers) that I could take a picture of the way the scent catches me as I walk out the front door.   Mmmmmm.


The imperial mums are branching and getting rather tall, some of the bud stalks now reaching above the top of the fence.   Like the garden heliotrope before it, which towered above me earlier this spring, I can’t help but wonder just what’s in the soil in this garden bed that’s encouraging such growth.   I really was pretty lazy about tending the garden this year and for my plants to be responding so very well to my “interested neglect” is a little remarkable to me.  I’ve never see this plant grow this way before.   I suppose I have those rains of June to thank.


Anyway, there’s much gratitude, as well as some anticipation:  it looks like the first of these mums will begin blooming within the week.   Those delightful purple asters are well-involved in blooming of their own by now, just about a foot away from the mums and the show will be quite lovely.


In the containers of the deck garden, things are beginning to quiet down a little.   I’d thought the morning glories were all finished, like their companions the cardinal climbers, who seem to have given up the ghost after the string of forty degree nights we had last week.   But this one bloomed in the last day or so.  I was pleased for the backlighting I was able to capture here, since it shows off the red stripes so nicely.


(Here’s a little photography lesson for you…and me, as well:   always make sure the thing you are taking a photo of isn’t the same color as the background.   Note how the dracaena in this window box sort of disappear against the canopy of still green foliage behind.  Oops.)

The cool nights encouraged me to start getting ready for the season ahead and organizing to see what plants I can try to save indoors for the winter.   Not only do I like being surrounded with the growing green in wintertime, but if I can keep alive those plants that might reasonably survive indoors until next season, then my budget for plants in 2010 (!!!) gets a little bigger, eh?

Now, you may recall that I bought a Martha Washington geranium last spring and learned at the time that they winter indoors pretty nicely.  I’d planted that with a pair of dracaenas (those spiky leaved plants), some purple petunias and white lobelia.   The white lobelia didn’t last past the second week of July, sad to say, but the petunias have bloomed on throughout the season, even when the summer heat discouraged the geranium.


I’ve never tried to save dracaenas before, so that is the true experimental part of this project.    They’re quite impressively big at this end of the season and it’d be fun to see what they might do when spared exposure to a killing frost.   They are, sadly, exactly the kind of plant the Catsby likes to munch on, so they may not survive.  I whipped up a spray of lavendar dish soap and black pepper, which I thought would treat against any plant-dwelling tiny insects (*) we don’t wish to invite inside, but more importantly, might deter His Grayness’ munching.  If not, they only cost a buck a piece in spring.   We’ll see.

[*  This is, admittedly, a sort of weak defense against insects and I’ll be keeping an eye on this planter to make sure warm indoor conditions don’t inspire hatchings of one sort or another.  I’m always a little hesitant about introducing poison into the household.   It’s that cartoon image in my head of me and The Purrmeister on our backs, little Xs where we once had eyes, that makes me cautious.  They are only insects, after all.]

In another planter, with the cosmos and margarite daisies, I’d planted a pair of small asparagus ferns, which I’ve had much success in wintering indoors in the past.  To simplify things a little, I decided this past week to do a little transplanting, and swap the petunias out for the two asparagus ferns, leaving me free to bring the entire window box indoors, where it adds a nice bank of green to the corner of our sunny morning living room.

I also repotted this summer’s hibiscus, which has found a place on the sunny windowsill inside, along with the two marine heliotropes, which are currently scenting the Nest with their pretty purple flowers.  Of course, once I’d accomplished all this, our temperatures warmed up a bit, but the short cool snap was nice for encouraging me to a little work now, which will serve all these plants better later on.




Meanwhile, in other parts of the garden, the forsythia leaves have begun to turn reddish-purple as a result of our recent cool evenings.

We haven’t had a hard frost yet; such a thing is possibly still weeks away, although one can never be quite sure.   Perhaps it is a sense of nervous anticipation which is encouraging such delightful bloom on the annuals in the garden bed along the south side of the house.    This may…or may not…after all, be their last chance to bloom and set seed to ensure that their species goes on.

In the neighbors’ yard, some Rose of Sharon saplings are offering a few tiny flowers as the season winds down.

Not far away, some calendula carry on blooming, pretending with their bright yellow blooms that they are little miniature versions of the south-moving Sun.



I’m a little late sharing this with you:  September’s last sunset.



Comments on: "October Blooms" (7)

  1. Is allyssum an annual or a perennial? I especially like that top picture.

    September ended well over the bay there, didn’t it?

    Allyssum is an annual. It’s like magic sprinkling the seeds around, especially when the results are like this. I’ve seen it seed itself back in, sometimes in pavement cracks, which is always great.

  2. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

    And now I’m sad I ripped out my morning glories before you came over. I have to find a better spot for them next year.

  3. Your mums look promising… “Imperial” no less. I think both the Chinese and Japanese regard them as nearly sacred. Queens of the fall.

    The fence is lovely, Greg. But much as I like alyssum, and the profusion of those lovely white banks, their fragrance is of a type that I find not only too sweet, but the wrong kind of sweet. Powder-sweet. They somehow evoke babies – but as rendered by Renoir, not Lautrec, heh, though I don’t think Lautrec painted babies, but maybe that’s the point…

    The Cape is New England, but I suspect the nearby ocean attenuates the blaze of color you see further inland, no? Still autumn is autumn, and there is something singularly uplifting about it.

    The Rose Of Sharon is sumptuous. No wonder it was singled out, along with the “lilies of the field” (thought to be a daylily) for praise.

    Jeaux, you’re absolutely right about our Autumn, which does go on for a bit longer than for our friends on the other side of the bridge. As for the allyssum, it’s honey fragrance is a little…powdery…sometimes. For me, it stirs memories of my great-grandma’s garden, which I otherwise barely recall, and it also calls to mind late season Provincetown vacations.

    The mums are quite regal indeed, as befits their storied background.

  4. Yes, it’s amazing how plants try to bloom in this time, I confess most of the time I opened your blog in the background as a reminder, you have to comment there, but however I prefer to read and look, I’m sorry for that, not for the reading, but this night I couldn’t go to bed before I wrote this, it’s weird I know, I’m sorry again.

    Hi Martin. I don’t see any problem with you looking and reading without comment, although, since I rarely check on the tracking software to see who’s visiting the blog, your occasional comments are most welcome!

  5. These morning forays into color are a wonderful balance for the semi-darkness in which I begin my day.

    After our cat chewed through a strand of Christmas lights (and lived!), the vet told us to paint the lower strands on the tree with Tabasco. It worked! He never did it again, and we painted it only twice. You might try misting your plants with that, although remember not to touch your eyes after handling it!

    Good tip, Birdie!! Thanks. Glad your kitty lived to tell the tale!!

  6. Lovely pics & wonderful sharing, as always.
    In Portland, it has been in the high 60s & sunny for the last 2 weeks & the garden is still going.

  7. Greg, did you ever have any luck with those seeds I sent you? ( Blue Columbine ) I haven’t seen them in any of your pictures.

    Butch, I’m afraid the first batch didn’t do so well. However, I’ve reseeded with what remained in a few outdoor beds and we’ll see what happens in the spring. Actually, it’s been a few weeks now, they may have begun growing; I’ll be sure to look around for any signs this weekend.

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