Through The Seasons: Chinese Witch Hazel ‘Arnold Promise’

Just a photo journey of one great shrub, Chinese Witch Hazel ‘Arnold Promise’:

'Arnold Promise' in bloom in the winter

The  spider-webby flowers are beautiful, especially against the grey stonework  and grey sky of the Pacific Northwest in the wintertime, but here is what it looks like in the autumn:

'Arnold' in October

Go;den foliage of "Arnold Promise' Chinese witch hazel in November

We have had rain, so it has dropped some leaves, but what a beautiful plant.


Autumn Color At Minerva’s Garden

I walked around the garden yesterday and took a few pictures.  It is getting later and colder in the year, and yet we still have a lot of flowers in bloom.  I’ll show you what I mean, starting with light colors and working toward deeper hues:

Viburnum in October

Fuschia in October

I love these white flowers with just a flush of light pink–so pretty.  Now here are some in slighter deeper shades:

Glossy Abelia with pink blooms and 'Lochinch' butterfly bush in October

Pink hollyhock in October

I like the pink and grey colors together.  Now a little more color saturation and moving into the yellows, golds and oranges:

Nasturtiums and dahlias in October

Yellow hollyhock in October

And a little comic relief:

Forsythia in October--what?

The forsythia decided it must be March, and shot out a few blossoms!  I’ll take ’em whenever I can get ’em!

Okay, back to business.  Some yellow to gold tones in evergreen foliage:

'Rheingold' dwarf evergreen conifer in October


Another gold dwarf evergreen conifer in October


And some yellow to gold deciduous leaf color:

Chinese Witch Hazel 'Arnold Promise' starting to turn yellow in October


Pergola covered with golden 'Einset' grape leaves in October


Now moving into some cooler shades–sometimes there are plants that combine warm and cool colors in fruit and foliage, such as:

Beauty berry in October

The beautyberry is surrounded by winter jasmine foliage.

This next vine has finally matured enough to really come into its own.  I speak of:

Ampelopsis vine with turquoise and purple berries in October


Ampelopsis in a different light

I am so in love with this vine–I adore turquoise and purple in a plant!  The only other one that I know of that combines these two colors as well, but not in bloom at the moment, is:

Cerinthe major 'Purpurescense'

I love this plant so much, and so do the hummingbirds!  This was taken in May, if I remember correctly.

Anyway, back to October color.  As long as we’ve introduced cooler colors, here is:

Ceratostigma plumbago in October

I am sorry this picture does not do this plant justice, because it is so beautiful now.  I love the deep burgundy stems, dark green leaves with a touch of burgundy around the edges, and then these wonderful deep blue flowers.  Here is another shot:

Dward plumbago in October

This was a hard plant to get situated properly in my garden–I ended up moving it three or four times until I finally put it here on the walkway toward the kitchen door.  It now seems to be happy.

More purple:

Morning glory and verbena bonariensis in October


Clematis 'Haku Oakan' reblooming in October


And onto the sprightly shades of orange-red and red:

Hybrid tea rose 'Camelot' buds in October


Hibiscus 'Sweet Caroline' blooming away in October


Jupiter's Beard in October--a hummingbird favorite! The golden marjoram and daylily foliage in the background help to set off these red flower clusters.


Zinnias 'State Fair Mix' with raspberries in the background in October

And even deeper red:

Blueberry 'Herbert' with striking red foliage in October


 I love how blueberry plants look this time of year–such gorgeous color.  Now on to some of the deepest shades in the garden:


Red raspberries and dark purple/black Aronia berries in October


A few red raspberries and those amazing Aronia berries.  I also love the foliage of this shrub–every day causes it to turn more red and orange–beautiful!

I could see color combinations from the flower garden and fruit garden being used indoors at this time of year–imagine deep purples and scarlets for a dramatic Thanksgiving table, for example.  Possibilities are endless–just get creative and find the inspiration that is all around you!

What is blooming for you now, and are you still eating from your garden?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


Hibiscus, Morning Glory and Tomatillos–Oh, My!

End of lovely September, and with it has come some wonderful flowers and produce from the garden:

Hibiscus 'Sweet Caroline'

Meet ‘Sweet Caroline,’ a very pretty, late-blooming hibiscus.  This plant is around four and a half-feet tall, and the flowers are huge–bigger than the size of my spread palm!  I love this bright flower–it makes me happy when I walk outside and see it.

Another September pretty:

Morning Glory 'Heavenly Blue'

My favorite morning glory, a variety called ‘Heavenly Blue.’  That shade of blue is just right–and I love how it looks with the waves of purple Verbena bonariensis below it, and one sprightly orange nasturtium, ala Van Gogh, for a pop of contrasting color to set everything off.  Nature planted the nasturtium there for me, but I had the common sense to leave well enough alone!

In between rain storms today, I ran out and picked these:


I love tomatillos.  I planted two plants, so that they would cross-polinate each other, and the result was that I got much larger tomatillos than I did last year with just one plant.  However, they did not produce as heavily as last year–was it the cooler summer temperatures, was it the particular variety of plant–who knows?  All I know is that they got turned into a great salsa verde, inspired by a recipe by chef Rick Bayliss.  It gets heated up in a pan, and sliced greens are added so that they wilt, and into that goes some shredded cooked chicken.  This is a wonderful taco filling, which we are having for dinner tonight.  I also spent time today making a big batch of homegrown tomato salsa, which will go into the freezer, and I snacked on a few fall-bearing raspberries while I was out and about in the garden–have to keep up your strength, ya’know.

I hope you are enjoying your garden right now–let me know what’s growing and producing well for you now at the end of September.  And visit the Garden Party.

The garden fairy says goodbye.

Garden Fairy fond farewell!


How To Make An Inexpensive Fall Wreath

I decided, even though it was ninety-two degrees yesterday, to start decorating the house for the upcoming autumn season.  I wanted to be a little bit ahead of the game this year, so started a little earlier than I have in the past. 

Here is a little seasonal tablescape I created using flowers from my garden:

The autumn table

This is a little dark, but essentially I got a dark blue sheet from Goodwill, and fashioned it into a tablecloth. 

Here is a daytime shot:

Daytime tablescape

I was totally inspired by that shade of blue of the tablecloth, and I have had my eye out for things that would work with it. 

I next found these fun table mats at Dollar Tree, and loved the shades of dark blues and greens that were in them, and that got me going on the rest of the table vignette. 

Close-up of flower arrangement

I created a flower arrangement using blue and smoky purple hydrangeas as the base, and added dark burgundy dahlias and pink zinnias, and for an accent I added sprays of white clethra.    I put a ruff of purple sage all around the bottom.  I like the look of dark wood in the fall, and thus I added the wooden pepper mill.  I have been collecting leaf plates at Goodwill for a while now, and decided to pick one of the hybrid acorn squash from the garden to place in a green leaf plate.  (Those hybrids are stringy on the inside and no good to eat, but I let them grow so I have lots of squash to use for decorating in the fall.)  I thought they all went together nicely, and for me this is a table look, because of the blue tones, that make a good transition from summer into the fall.

Here’s the mantle:

Love those bright leaves!

And all from Dollar Tree!  I love those felt leaves, especially the cut-outs that allow the late afternoon light to shine through.  And I have become more in love with tall things in front of the mirror over the mantle–all of this, in smoky dark blues, (to pick up the table cloth color) and some bright warm colors, with tall sticks all came from Dollar Tree, which I put in a vase I already had.

Then I decided to get crafty and fashion an autumn wreath for the front door.  Have to say, I am not a big “crafty” person, not really where my skill set lays, so this took me a lot longer–about two hours and change–than it would for someone who is more versatile in this area.  Having said that, it was not hard to make, and quite inexpensive as well, because I used what I had around the house and augmented it with items from Dollar Tree.

Here are the supplies I used:

Ingredients for an autumn wreath

I had the grapevine wreath form, thin wire and a little wire cutter, hot glue gun and glue sticks, and the sunflower garland was already attached from years past–yay.  I purchased from Dollar Tree a fall leaf garland, some small mini gourds and pumpkins, a roll of wire-edge fall ribbon, an over-the-door wreath hanger, and some other larger leaves that I didn’t end up using in this project, but thought I might at the time.  (I’ll use them inside somewhere instead.)

Also . . .

Lots of purple sage

I liked the idea of smoky purple indoors, and wanted to extend that look outdoors as well, particularly because we have turquoise trim on our screen door, so I thought that would look good, and wear well hopefully all the way until Thanksgiving.  I used about 3 buckets of purple sage cuttings.

Turning sage into a garland

I took several little sprigs of sage, clumped them together, and used thin wire to wrap around the stems to hold it together.  This I continued to do, just wiring little groups of sage along their stems, and this created a long garland of purple sage.  (As an aside, I saw this originally done with wiring maple leaves together to create a swag to put on a wreath form, but there are no fallen maple leaves around here yet–I told you I was early doing this project!  But you get the idea–you could use fallen leaves with stems on them in the same way.)

clump of purple sage

Okay, the next pictures are not my best, because I was trying to hold and wire sage with one hand and take a picture of it with the other, so just deal with it, ‘kay?  Here I am clumping sage, and notice there are some stems sticking out at the bottom. 

sage with wire

Here I’ve started to put several tight wraps of wire around the stem grouping,

sage on the wreath completed--whew!

And here I’ve taken the garland and wired it in several spots (about 5-6)  to the grapevine wreath form.  I made the garland pretty thick, because I didn’t want the wreath form to show, and also I know that the sage, as it dries, will shrink a little bit.  I also decided to wire in a clump of hydrangeas in a spot that looked a little thin with sage leaves when I got the thing done.  (Another wreath I saw used hydrangea flowers, although silk ones, in crafting a wreath to go from Thanksgiving to whenever you want to decorate for the winter holidays, so I swiped that idea as well for this wreath.)  The real hydrangeas should dry nicely in place.

Next step:  leaf garland

leaf garland added

I love how these bright fall colors play off the smoky purple.  I just wraped this through the sage, so as to hide the fake plastic “vine” that holds the leaves together.  I wired it to the wreath frame in a couple of spots.

Now for the fun part:

Fall Decorations!

Adding the decorations is the easy, and to me at least, the fun part!  I knocked a few of the sunflowers off as I was wiring the sage to the wreath form, but no big deal.  I used a glue gun, and for the plain-jane green leaves that were on the sunflower garland to begin with, I simply hot-glued on a decoration, be it a sunflower or an orange mini-pumpkin or gourd, and arranged them in an artistic fashion.  The fall ribbon bow I tied myself–Martha Stewart on her website has all kinds of how-tos for tying a variety of bows, and I did her simplest one, because again, these craft projects are not my strong suit.  This picture also shows the nice metal wreath hanger I got at Dollar Tree as well.  I love the grey color, and that it will blend in with the screen door.

Decorations hot-glued into place

Now we’re almost done, but first we have to get the bow ready:

I ran some wire through the back of the bow, so it wouldn’t show, and just wired it into place at the top of the wreath.

All done!

A pretty (and inexpensive) autumn wreath for the front door

I like how the purplish tones play off the blue of the door frames.

Since I was sprucing up the entryway, I found some bright yellow chrysanthemums for sale, so added those to window boxes and containers along the front steps leading to the front door.

Yellow mums say "Welcome!"

I hope I’ve inspired you to add a fall wreath to your front door.  You don’t need to spend a lot of money to end up with something fun and festive to celebrate autumn!

And visit the Garden Party.    

September Garden Harvest

Just a quick post to show you what I picked out of the vegetable garden today:

We’ve had glorious hot weather for a bit now, and everything is ripening rather nicely.  I’ve got pictured a bunch of bush and runner beans.  This year I grew ‘Royal Burgundy’ bush beans, which are lovely and prolific, as well as ‘Scarlet Emperor’ and ‘Violet Podded Stringless’ runner beans (excellent hummingbird flowers, and then you get the beans, too!).  I planted them as seed outdoors on June 21st, and I finally picked them today and froze several bags.  Very easy to do–after you clean and cut the tips off, you boil them for 3 minutes at a rolling boil, and then drain and rinse with cold water to stop the beans from cooking any further.  Put in zip lock bags, being careful to remove as much air from the bag as possible (I take a straw and suck the extra air out of the bag–be careful when you do this so you don’t get lightheaded), and then label and pop them in the freezer.  If you want to learn more about preserving foods, I highly recommend the Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving–a slim volume that gives clear instructions for safely canning and freezing just about anything you can imagine.  Also pictured are some ‘Harmonie’ pickling cukes, and a few ‘Green Slam’ slicing cukes.  Tomatoes are ‘Costoluto Genovese’, a ‘Gardeners’ Delight’ cherry tomato and the very first of the ‘Super San Marzano,’ which look like a larger Roma tomato.  Also the last handful of the ‘Oregon Sugar Pod II’ snow peas.  In the background of this picture is a yellow-cupped ‘Bill MacKenzie’ clematis, as well as some bright orange nasturtiums and a white fuschia.

I kept a small batch of the green beans out for dinner tonight.  Made a simple recipe that I got out of an old Bon Appetit magazine:  steam the beans, then rinse with cold water, drain and put in a large bowl.  Add a couple of chopped fresh tomatoes, some fresh basil, some feta to your taste, and then season with salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Mix and enjoy as a salad–so easy and wonderful with homegrown produce.

Hope you are enjoying a great harvest this year from your own garden, or are taking advantage of all the wonderful produce at your farmers’ markets now.  What are you cooking with your fresh veggis–I’d love to hear about it in the comments.  And visit the Garden Party.

Reblooming Amarylis and Autumn Decorations

In Southwest Washington, for the most part, we are settling in to a rainy and fairly warm weather pattern.  With the exception of lettuce and a few other salad and cooking greens that are growing under plastic and hoops, the vegetable garden is done for the winter, at least outdoors anyway.  I have tomatoes that I picked earlier in the season that are still ripening inside nicely, so we do get to still have some wonderful fresh tomatoes on salads and sandwiches on occasion.  I am still working on cleaning up garden beds, weeding and getting them covered with plastic, but no real rush, so that can happen the next time we have a break in the rain.

I continue to feed the birds.  They are enjoying the black oil sunflower seed and hummingbird nectar, along with nectar from a few surprisingly hardy plants that are still blooming, such as the viburnum, borage, verbena bonariensis, glossy abelia and the start of the ‘Tuscan Blue’ rosemary.  The coleus are also still blooming (!), and the hummers feed away on their columns of tiny flowers, as they do from nasturtium flowers that are growing in containers and hanging baskets.  Some of the verbena bonariensis has also gone to seed, and the little birds attach themselves to the flowers to eat seeds.

I grew Rouge Vif d’Entemps pumpkins, also known as Cinderella pumpkins again this year.  The results are adorning the front steps to the house.  I’ve paired them with containers in blue with yellow grasses and sedums.  Because they are living under a covered stoop area that is warmer than just being out in the garden, this tends to keep the containers alive all year, so there is a little something fresh outdoors that is fun to look at.

Here is a little indoor flower arrangement I did for Halloween.

I also potted up paperwhites on November 7th in a large clay pot, watered the soil, and then put the pot in the dark garage.  It will stay there until December, when green shoots will appear, and then I will bring it into the house and eventually it will bloom.  If they are started by Nov. 7th, they will usually be in bloom by Christmas and Solstice.  If you plant them now, they will still bloom after the holidays, giving you something wonderful to look forward to after the holidays are done.


                                                                                                        Paperwhites in bloom from last year.

I started, at the beginning of November, to start watering and feeding my amarylis bulbs, which are inside in bright sun-facing windows in the house.  Here is a little recap for you from last year on how to get the amarylis bulbs you buy now and have bloom this winter, rebloom next year:

Growing amaryllis indoors is a great way to have luxurious, large flowers indoors during the drab winter months.  It’s actually fairly easy to get them to rebloom year after year.  Here are the steps if you are starting out now with a new bulb, which typically go on sale at hardware and department stores as well as gardening centers sometime in the month of November.

1.  Plant the bulb.  The bulbs like snug containers, and the pointy top 1/3 of the bulb needs to be above the soil level in the pot.  The little plastic pots that come with the bulb that you purchase have no drain holes, so you will not need a saucer beneath them, but you also have to water carefully so you do not waterlog the bulbs.  Water so it’s moist but not soggy, and place the pot in a sunny window.

2.  Continue to water and fertilize with a complete organic fertilizer every two weeks after planting.  Eventually leaves will sprout from the bulb, and a thick stem will emerge, from which the flower head will grow.  With a smaller bulb, this may or may not happen the first year, but should as the bulb matures.  I have read that for every five leaves on the bulb, you will get one flower stalk.  My younger bulbs have bloomed with as few as three leaves.  My bulbs are not mature enough to have more than five leaves at this point, but we will see if this is true as time goes on.

3.  After the bulbs have bloomed, hopefully around or just after the winter holidays,  continue to water and fertilize every other week all winter, and through the spring and summer.  In the summer, if you wish, you may move the pots outdoors in a protected spot like a porch  in July when it warms up, but they also do well hanging out indoors in front of a sunny window.

4.  In the beginning of September, stop fertilizing the pots, and cut way back on watering.  You want them to dry out a bit, but not die from lack of water.  Very little is needed.  Foliage may wither and die at this point, and that is fine–simply use a scissors and cut off any unsightly browned foliage as it occurs.  If the pots were outside for the summer, in the beginning of  September bring them back inside to their sunny window.    Keep the pots barely moist and no fertilizer for the months of September and October.

5.  Starting in the beginning of November, resume watering and fertilizing every other week, and keep them in a sunny window.  This will help to wake up the bulbs, and they should start eventually to send out new foliage and flower stems.

Another note:  The flower stems can get very tall, and so I like to keep very slender stakes, even a thin skewer or chopstick can work, and slide them into the pot and use twine or even ribbon to tie the stem to the stake, so that it doesn’t break.  I had a cat knock one over, and the stem was hanging over.  I  used scotch tape to wrap around the stem and stake to get the damaged stem back up into an upright position, and it actually bloomed, but your mileage may vary.

That’s all there is to it–as you can see, a very easy process.  You can place plain pots together in decorative baskets found very inexpensively at thrift stores, and cover the top with Spanish moss to hide the pots, making a lovely holiday decoration for your home.

‘Appleblossom’ amarylis about to bloom last year.

‘Appleblossom’ in bloom.

Stop by the Oregon Cottage Garden Party for more fun gardening posts!

Cleaning Up Garden Beds

In between rain squalls, I have been running out and weeding, finishing up planting bulbs, pruning back dead perennial tops and in general trying to bring order to the chaos outdoors in the garden beds.  We are down to three good-sized and 2 small salad greens beds, and hopefully that will see us through until spring, barring horrible deep snow like last year.  On one hand, it is nice to not have all the work that comes from tending a garden in the busy summer months, but I don’t like to give things up entirely just yet.  And I have not been super thorough, because the black-cap chicadees and other birds have been enjoying the seedheads of several of the annuals that I have left for them out in the garden.  Dahlias are still blooming a bit, and a few roses on the shrubs.  I noticed a bit of blue borage, California poppy and a bit of ‘Jupiter’s Beard’ blooming.  There is a little bit of annual feverfew blooming, as well as the viburnum shrubs, with dark evergreen foliage and clusters of white flowers that the hummingbirds appreciate during the winter months.  Still a hardy fuschia flower or two hanging on as well.  A few nasturtium and chamomile flowers in the hanging baskets still carrying on, and primrose blooms.  The ‘Tuscan Blue’ rosemary (one I highly recommend–the flowers are gorgeous, and it is a wonderful evergreen plant that is edible) is starting to send out a few blue flowers very early.  The plumbago was lovely for quite a long time this fall.  With burgundy leaves highlighting the bright sky-blue flowers, it has alas succumbed to the colder temperatures and excess rain.  I still need to bring the few pellargonium I still have outside, inside for the winter.  If they are placed under lights, they will bloom all winter long.  I do a bit here an there as I have time, and it is an ongoing process for a while.  I also need to collect some maple leaves to shred and then use on the beds as mulch–if it ever stops raining long enough.  I also like to add them to the compost pile.

Autumn Decorations From The Garden

The deciduous trees are turning luscious shades of orange and burgundy now, the grape leaves and witch hazel leaves are spun gold, and so it is time to spruce up the front of your home with some easy autumn decoration from the garden.  I’ve started to plant corn, and even if it doesn’t yield edible ears, the stalks and baby ears are lovely grouped together  in pots by your front door.  Combine with them rosy and blue hydrangea blooms, and bind them together in bouquets using garden twine.

I also grow ‘Rouge Vif d’Entemps’ pumpkin, also known as Cinderella pumpkin.  These are rather expensive to buy, but you can easily grow them yourself for a fraction of the price.  These look beautiful at all stages of growth, so I have them gathered near the top of the steps by the front door.  I also mix in any of the squash that are growing–anything that has perhaps grown beyond a size that will make it good to eat will work well for decorating, and especially if the skin is a different color from the pumpkin, like dark green or creamy white.  I ended up with some plants that turned out to be a pumpkin and danish squash hybrid that was stringy and not very good to eat, so those squash were put to use as decorations.

To add some contrasting color to the orange, add something blue to the mix.  I have pots that are a great shade of deep turquoise, and I placed a two-gallon turquoise pot behind an orange pumpkin.  The pot was filled with yellow grass of unknown origin, as well as black mondo grass, a gorgeous filler for containers, and a yarrow with grey filagree leaves.

None of this cost anything except for the cost of a few seeds, but it offers quite an impact to the front of the house.  These decorations can go up now, and can stay up through Thanksgiving if you do not carve the pumpkins or squash.

Start A Garden Notebook Now

It’s the start of a new year, and this is an excellent time while the garden is kicking back for you to put together a garden notebook. I actually have two that I use constantly. The first has two main sections–Bloom Sequence and To Do. Behind each of these sections I put a blank large-square calendar, with a separate page for each month. I also put a few blank pieces of notebook paper behind the current month. The second notebook focuses on the vegetable gardening that I do, and it also uses blank calendar and notebook paper pages.

On the “bloom sequence” calendar pages, you will write down when your plants start blooming by date. On the notebook pages, you’ll do a separate page for each type of plant that you grow–one page for roses, one for perennials, one for shrubs, one for evergreens, one for vines, one for bulbs, etc. On this page you go into a bit more detail, by making columns for bloom start and end dates, plus the name of the plant and the color of the flowers. By keeping close track of this, after a couple of years you will see which plants you can group together so you will have a spectacular display with things blooming at the same time, or in sequence to prolong the display. You can also see what color plants would set off what you already own and can also see when you might not have anything in bloom and need to plug something in that blooms in those empty times, so you can be more selective when you go to the spring plant sales or purchase seeds.

The “to do” section is just that–you write down garden chores that need to be done, and by date when. You might try the first year simply writing down the chores you did and when. Next year you can refine it even more, and jot down notes to yourself to do things at certain beneficial times, such as caging and staking plants early in the spring, for example, before they get gigantic and it’s hard to do. I bring forward notes that I make to myself during the year on my next year’s calendar, and it helps me to not forget to do things at the appropriate time in my garden.

The vegetable garden notebook has a wealth of info. in it. Every day you can start to record the high and low temperature in your area, and at the end of the month note the highest temp. and the lowest temp. at the top of the calendar. This will help you loads in figuring out when is the right time to plant certain plants and seeds that need a certain temperature in order to grow or germinate. I also list all of the seeds I buy, and the brands. I note whether I start the seeds inside or plant them outdoors.   I note whether they need darkness or light to germinate–you can find this out online via any search engine.  I also make a column for when we actually can eat the food from the plant, and a final column–would I do this again? This info. is invaluable in helping you figure out which seed companies have good seeds, and which varieties work well in your particular microclimate in your garden. On the notebook paper, I keep an informal journal pertaining to growing vegetables as needed, giving more detail to quick notes that I write on the calendar pages so I won’t forget the next year. I always jot down on the calendar when I  plant my starts outside and the date they start producing food that I can pick and eat, and I always note the last killing frost in spring and the first killing frost in fall. This lets you know approximately how many growing days you have in your area, and whether you can grow short-season or long-season crops.

This sounds more complicated than it really is. I probably spend five minutes a day at most on updating these notebooks. But it saves me a lot of time and money when I can refer back to my notebooks and not make the same mistakes in my garden twice, and can repeat successes many times over.

Try it–you and your garden will like it!