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Archive for October, 2013

Happy Halloween

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Roadblock

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As I was returning home along a country road, I could see something across the road ahead. As I drew closer, I realized the obstruction was a sting of Wild Turkeys. I stopped the car and took a photograph of the flock.

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They seemed to be waiting for the mailman. I think they must have been expecting a cheque today.

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They were reluctant to leave, but as I crept closer, they took off in a flurry of wings.

Closer to home, I spotted this handsome red fox. Seems like everyone was out enjoying the beautiful day.

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We’ve had frost already, but today was the first morning when water was sealed with ice and the coating of frost silvering the plants resisted the morning sun until well into the day.

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In spite of the frost, the morning felt welcoming, absolutely still, with no cool breeze diminishing the warmth of the late October sun. I walked out and visited with the horses.

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Then I strolled through the field and garden and recorded the beauty of frost on leaves. Here are some examples of Jack Frost’s handiwork.

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We’ve had a few frosty nights recently, so this weekend RailGuy harvested most of the produce remaining in the vegetable garden. The first heavy frost is like the Great Reveal, when all the assorted squash, hidden beneath big vine leaves just the day before, are suddenly laid bare.

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We have a weird and wonderful assortment, as the squash tend to hybridize and produce some odd-looking individuals. I already gave the largest pumpkin away at Thanksgiving to Ponygirl. She lives in suburbia, and the pumpkin’s substantial girth will be better appreciated by hoards of Trick-or-Treaters there. We still have a couple of smaller pumpkins, some sizeable Hubbard squash and many assorted smaller cucurbits.

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Our celery did remarkably well this year, perhaps helped along by our rainy summer that provided lots of moisture. We’ve been harvesting stalks from the outside edge as needed for weeks now. I was surprised at how well the cabbage did. Earlier in the season, the cabbage leaves were riddled with holes from insect attacks. However, they not only survived, but went on to produce good heads of cabbage.

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While gardening on the rocky ground of the Escarpment in the GTA, I got used to seeing twisted, forked carrots. These carrots are amazing! Aren’t they beautiful? The celeriac also did pretty well. Not quite sure what I’ll do with these; I’ve never used celeriac much. This will require a bit of gastronomic research.

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Sunset Over the Trent River

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Here’s little Moey. She’s one of our senior cats. Moey and her half-Siamese brother Tonka, and jet-black Tut are all 15 years old. Moey prefers to go her own way and avoid the sometimes-rough company of her larger male peers. They’re not above amusing themselves at her expense. She usually spends her days curled up on the bed in one of the bedrooms. See her? No?

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When the temperature begins to drop off after the heat of summer, Moey disappears.

Here she is!

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During much of the summer, grasses form a backdrop for dazzling flowering plants, but come autumn, it’s their turn to shine. This is a Shenandoah Switchgrass or Panicgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’), a hybrid of a native grass. The seedhead stalks form an airy cloud of fine tracery. When the stems are beaded with morning dew and lit by the sun, panicum is as beautiful as any garden plant.

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Here’s a taller switchgrass, Panicum virgatum ‘Thundercloud’, which reaches about six feet.

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Another native hybrid is Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Prairie Blues’, or Little Bluestem. It forms a low-growing clump about 2 to 3 feet tall.

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The non-native miscanthus varieties, sometimes called Maiden Grass, are among the showiest grasses in the garden with their eye-catching plumes. This is miscanthus sinensis.

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The tallest perennial in the garden is Miscanthus giganteus. It towers over the garden at 10 to 12 feet tall. According to Wikipedia, it is a hybrid of Miscanthus sinensis and Miscanthus sacchariflorus and is currently used in the European Union as a commercial energy crop, as a source of heat and electricity, or converted into biofuel products such as ethanol, being more efficient than corn grown for that purpose.

I am content just to enjoy mine as a garden spectacle. Its tall stalks typically stay upright all winter until I cut them down in the spring.

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I’m especially fond of the pennisetums, or fountain grasses. This is Pennisetum Alopecuroides ‘Moudry’, or Black-flowering Fountain Grass. It was at its best back in September, when I took this photo. As their name implies, the fountain grasses form a gracefully arching clump.

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Finally, here are the distinctive seedheads of sea oats displayed on Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’, a variegated version of this North American native. River Mist was new to the garden this summer, but I’ve grown the green-leafed variety for some time. This grass is quite tolerant of shade and can make an interesting addition to a gloomy corner.

The plants shown here are all hardy perennials. There are also some very attractive grasses grown as annuals, but I haven’t tried any of them yet. Whether your garden is big or small, grasses can be worthy additions.

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Sometimes, in the middle of summer, when heat and drought have reduced the grass to a yellowed crisp, I think about replacing the main garden pathway with something more durable. But by this time of year, the grass is gorgeous, an emerald ribbon inviting you for a stroll in the garden.

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Most of the perennials are done for the year, but the garden is still pleasant on a sunny day, and there is still lots to see.

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I usually plant a few annuals and they are stalwarts that help to carry the garden into winter. Above are colourful cosmos, below, zinnias.

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The larch trees that form an arching tunnel will shed their needles soon, but for the moment, the tunnel is still green and inviting. It’s watched over by the garden gnome who stands to one side in a clump of hostas.

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Visitors usually refer to him as the Travelocity gnome, but I think of him as Gnome Chomsky.

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The berries on this native holly, Winterberry ‘Winter Red’ ( Ilex verticillata), brighten a shady corner and offer a bounty for birds.

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This White Angel crabapple tree (Malus ‘White Angel’), is covered in beautiful white flowers in spring, and brilliant red apples in autumn.

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Geranium ‘Rozanne’ is easily the most floriferous geranium in the garden, still blooming in October.

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Coreopsis ‘Cosmic Eye’ has been a wonderful performer too. It is one of Darrell Probst’s Big Bang introductions.

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The tall stems of autumn monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Barker’s Variety’) are all topped with beautiful blue flowers now. This monkshood is often still blooming when the first snow flies.

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Now that the Tiger Eye Sumacs have dropped their leaves, the red begonias that were overshadowed for the last months of summer have the stage to themselves and look brilliant with red bloodgrass (Imperata cylindrica ‘Red Baron’).

As ever, Joe Crow continues to watch over his patch of the garden.

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mikey

Mikey

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As I was in the barn this evening, preparing to bring the horses in for their supper, I heard the spatter of rain on the roof. A little rain shower was passing through. I hurried outside to look, and sure enough, there was a brilliant rainbow lighting up the evening sky.

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Autumn rainbows seem particularly beautiful, adding another dimension to the darkening sky and fall leaves. What a lovely way to end the day!

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