Gardener’s Log – October 2022
What a month of extremes. The first two thirds of the month thought it was July. Almost no rain and for two days we almost hit 90F. Then the weather broke. We very rapidly descended into the type of weather that is more typical for this time of year. Rain and much cooler temps. While there was no hope that we would finish with anything like average rain for the month, it is certainly tried to make up for lost time!
Marginal construction progress this month. There were a few areas that got finished off, or tidied up. One example is the pathway to the compost bins. Sand can be very messy when the ground is wet and there was a short area between the emergency supply dump and the compost bin that was unpaved. Wet sand sticks to your shoes and then gets tracked into the house, so this area was finished off. That also means that the very top portion of the staircase down on this side of the house was started.
While many people see this as being the end of the gardening year, it is also a beginning. It is when all of the bulbs arrive. While parts of the garden are being put to bed, others become part of the great anticipation of spring, making the garden the bridge between the past and the future. We garden for the anticipation of the future and the glory of today. This can be on many time scales. When we plant a tree, we are anticipating what it will look like 10 years, 20 years or more down the road. When we plant a bulb, we are anticipating what it will look like in a few months.
Bulb Planting Time
This year, one of the new garden areas was clamoring for bulbs – the winter garden. For this area, I wanted all of the earliest of bloomers I could find. In went daffodils that are normally considered for indoor forcing, such as paperwhites, along with what I think are the harbingers of early spring – Iris reticulata and histrioides. I bought several new varieties for this year – half of which were planted in pots to be displayed by the front door as they start blooming in January and February, and the other half in the Winter Garden.
I am often asked about my gardening philosophy. Am I an organic gardener – well sort of but not quite. How about a naturalistic gardener – nope, environmental gardener – yes, but with reservations. I try and be a responsible gardener, but I am not resolute about any of them. Let me explain.
Organic is perhaps the easiest. I do not use chemicals in the garden where there is a suitable alternative. I have never used insecticides, apart from natural ones when I have an infestation that I cannot control in the greenhouse. Same with herbicides and fungicides. Fertilizer becomes a little more difficult. Proteas require a very specific fertilizer regime which is absent of phosphorous. That eliminates most natural fertilizers with the exception of kelp fertilizer – which I use a lot, but the analysis on this is 0.3 – 0 – 0.6. It is a tonic and useful for seedlings but not really a fertilizer for mature plants. I find a need a slow-release chemical fertilizer suited for this purpose.
I love to attract wildlife to my garden, so long as they don’t do too much damage. That means I attempt to exclude deer, but do everything I can to attract birds, bees, butterflies- even when they eat the plants. Do I only plant native plants – no, although I do have an area of the garden that is reserved for natives. Even then, I may go for a cultivar rather than the species, meaning that I am restricting the DNA distribution of the plant. Many of the plants I do grow are the opposite of native and in many cases are endangered plants in their natural habitats. I do try and make sure that there are critters here that can enjoy them and given the choice between two similar plants – I will generally pick the one that provides the most value to wildlife.
Being a Good Citizen
I want to be a good citizen of the planet and to me that means first and foremost – doing as little harm as I can while enjoying the little piece of it that I can influence and derive pleasure from. My attitude on this has changed over time. I would never plant something as bad for the planet as a lawn today – which I did in the past. But I perceive the planet has many needs, and it is my choice how I choose to respect those needs – I hope she agrees that I do try and show respect.
One thing I do enjoy at this time of year are the clearance sales at the nurseries. Who doesn’t love a bargain? That meant a few Mangaves at great prices, as well as some more shade loving plants, such as ferns, Pulmonaria, hellebore and more.
What’s in Bloom
The shimmery, silky pink of Hesperanthus ‘Sunrise’ has been a delight this year. This is another South African plant, but it does require a little more moisture than is available in Gondwana. The plants I tried there have fizzled, but those in pots that get more summer water have done really well this year.
The autumnal bulbs have been putting on a grand display. Autumn Crocus, Colchicums and Cyclamen have been adding pops of color all around the garden.
One plant I picked up in the nursery sales is a new one to me – Lisianthus. The blossoms look something like a rose although it is on a succulent type of growth. These are apparently somewhat difficult to grow, so I may be treating it like an annual, but it sure has put on a marvelous display for 3 weeks now and is still going strong.
In addition to plants that are in bloom, many of the Grevillea are packed with buds that are bursting to open. ‘Coastal Gem’ is one such example that is becoming a beautiful carpet in the corner of Gondwana. It is difficult at times to believe that this plant is only 2 years old. I am sure it will look even better as it cascades down over the rock wall.
As I said in the opening paragraph, it has been a month of two extremes. The high this year was a lofty 89.8, compared to 67.8 last year. The lows and averages were comparable. We did manage to get 6.55″ of rain this year in a little over a week. That compares top a much more even rainfall last year that totally 12.5″