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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #403- Once again the amazing Colchicum are lighting up the autumn garden
September 26, 2023

I know that I show you this every year but it just so delightful to have this much fresh bright colour in September. These are Colchicum. They are flowering bulbs just like Tulips or Narcissus but they flower in the fall. They produce a mass of green leaves in the spring that fade and disappear by late June. Buying these bulbs can be a bit tricky as they will bloom sitting in box in the store so many garden centres will have them in a refrigerator. They will also appear somewhat expensive, they are listed by Botanus in B.C. for $6.25 each but they last for many years, multiply rapidly and are not eaten by any of the usual bulb lovers. I planted about three bulbs in a clump, probably about 12 years ago and have dug and divided them once and now have several clumps like the one pictured producing hundreds of blooms along my fence line each September.

The Colchicum are a wonderful sign of Autumn but these fading Veggie plants are always a bit sad. They have fed us wonderfully for several months and the sweet Habeneros in the picture are Roulette another of those All America Winners. There is already a large bag in the freezer and these last few will soon be added. They are available at William Dam Seeds I have to confess that the vegetables growing in my sub-irrigation containers are quitting early this year but they did also produce noticeably earlier and in great quantity. I used an organic fertilizer this year, for the second time, and I think I might not have used enough. The same plants in the soil are still green and producing but they did start producing much later.

I do get several new winning varieties to trial from All America Selections and this lovely Antirrhinum/Snapdragon Doubleshot Orange was one of this year’s winners. I had just a few of them and planted them in a small space just off the deck that was partially hidden by the containers on the deck. They are a great cool season plant and they are now making their presence known as the containers fade and they flourish. They are flopping into the little river as they are trying to find the sun that the deck and containers were keeping from them. They are now a mass of bright orange double blooms and should get a more prominent location next year.

My advice to people who want to sow grass seed, is, to do it in September when we have cooler temperatures and a bit more rainfall to help with germination. Was I ever wrong this year. We haven’t seen significant rain since early September and lately the temperature keeps topping 20C. Great weather for spending time in the garden but my small area of turf that flourished all summer is now going dormant. This picture shows some interesting things. The foreground is lush green grass but as you get further out it becomes drier and drier. A little close inspection shows the drying areas are a great indicator of the drip line/roots of that Maple in the background. The big guy is being a bit of a bully and taking all the water for himself. Mother nature is fascinating to watch. Maybe October will be good for seeding grass this year.

This empty container in the foreground had some lovely tiny Cucumbers all summer but they finished and we have seeded some late lettuce. Apparently we actually created a Squirrel sandbox as they keep digging it up. Amazingly on one edge a little Coleus started to grow and seems to be thriving despite the squirrels. If you look just beyond that empty container there is a large Coleus in flower that has obviously produced some seed that has somehow found enough moisture to germinate and grow. Left to her own devices Mother Nature does some wonderful things. I will help her tomorrow by transplanting that little coleus into a small pot and bringing it into the solarium for a colourful winter houseplant.

This shot of the main front perennial bed has a delightful mixture of things that are at their best as the season winds down. The fluffy seed heads of the Clematis aromatica are as lovely and interesting as its mass of blue flowers that it offered us in July. The rich red Sedum is a solid and reliable standard in the autumn garden and comes in a variety of shades as well as a white variety. I also have what is supposed to be a yellow one that doesn’t really deserve much garden space. The waving Verbena bonariensis is an annual that I love to sprinkle throughout this garden to provide colour and interest when most of the perennials have faded.

Brussels sprouts are a favourite fall vegetable in our house and they have always been a reliable producer. This year does not appear to be their year. The plants in the sub-irrigation containers are almost finished, see above, and their actual sprouts are quite tiny. These leafy monsters are growing in the soil and are thriving but the sprouts that we are looking for are almost missing in action. They appear to be developing and we can only hope that the weather continues to encourage them or else our Christmas dinner is going to be missing a regular addition. I did chop out the tops of the plants to encourage the sprouts but it doesn’t seemed to have helped. Interestingly, while visiting the local farm stand this week their stalks of Brussels also had noticeably smaller sprouts. Every year something excels and something else seems to take a bit of a rest.

Canadian Shield was the first of the 49th Parallel Roses developed by Vineland Research and Innovation Centre as they carried one with the tradition of hardy Canadian Roses. This one has been in my garden since the spring of 2018 and has continued to perform wonderfully. Lest you wonder about its growth habit, everywhere I’ve seen it, it is a tall upright plant but mine is planted at the edge of the shade from the giant Walnut and is reaching out to the south to find more sun. It has never had a sign of any black spot and had a minimum of Japanese beetles this summer. Those rich red blooms have been constantly appearing all summer and unlike many shrub type Roses they are quite full and double. If you want a great, easy to grow, Rose this one should be near the top of your list.

You may have noticed that this edition of “Dallying” features two Annuals. I have come to appreciate the rapidly growing variety of annuals and the many uses they have in providing continuous colour in our gardens. I am working on a new presentation about those varieties and their uses, for all of the clubs that give me an opportunity to speak to them. Follow this link to see all of my presentations and just fill out the speaker request form and we will find a suitable date and topic.

If you have any gardening questions just “reply” to this newsletter and I will attempt to answer them.

Diane Asks? I would like to know if you start your verbena inside or direct sow.

Ken Answers!I started my Verbena under the lights in my basement about 6-8 weeks before they went outside. Several people have told me that they frequently self seed in their gardens.

Lynda Asks? I have been a big fan of verbena bonariensis for many years: once you give it space, it never leaves! Im curious about yours. Is it in full sun? When it goes to seed, will you have enough to share seed?

Ken Answers!This is the first year I have planted it so I’m unfamiliar with its self seeding tendencies. This is a new Hybrid variety, Vanity, so I’m not sure if it will produce seed, no sign of any as yet, or if those seeds will come true. It is in full sun.

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