Monday, September 15, 2014

Gaze Into the Cosmos

It is now September.  Gone are the multitude of Purple Coneflowers, but in their place are now one of my favorite cottage annuals - Cosmos!

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Picotee'
I read on a garden website somewhere that if you have trouble growing Cosmos, well, you might just want to take up golf!  I, for one, am thankful for such easy to grow plants that put on such a great display with very little effort from me.

the front garden
Cosmos bipinnatus are ridiculously easy to grow from seed.  In the spring I went around the garden throwing seeds all over right before a good rain, and that was pretty much all the care I gave them.

a Cosmos bud about to open
Cosmos bipinnatus are part of the Aster family and are sometimes called Mexican asters (since they are native to Mexico).  They tolerate poor or dry soil.  Just give them plenty of sun.

The bees love them, and soon the Cosmos will be bursting with seeds and attracting Goldfinches in droves (as well as a couple children that like collecting the seeds for their next year's garden).

center of Cosmos 'Versailles Red'
If it is possible to stop gazing at the Cosmos (they are mesmerizingly beautiful), there are other things going on in the garden.  The chilly weather we've suddenly been having turns a gardener's mind to Asters and Mums, both of which went into my whisky barrel planters.

The Nicotania is still going in the mailbox garden.  
(That stuff is seriously like the Energizer bunny of the plant world!)

The Caryopteris 'Worcester Gold' is in bloom, to the delight of many different types of bees.

Carpenter bee on Caryopteris
This time of the year is also when the Goldenrod blooms.  I didn't personally plant any Goldenrod in my garden (in fact I weeded some out), but all the wild areas around the yard are full of the beautiful golden flowers.

Plasterer bee on Goldenrod
It's hard to believe that the summer is pretty much over.  There's a nip in the air, and newscasters are already talking of possible frost.  I refuse to believe it!  

I'm going back to gazing at my Cosmos and thinking summery thoughts!
I hope you all are enjoying the last few days of summer gardening!

To see what other garden bloggers around the world have blooming in their garden, visit Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day over at May Dreams Gardens blog.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Leaves of Three, Let It...Bloom?

Growing up, I was never allergic to poison ivy, so when I started gardening as an adult, I never bothered to learn what it looked like.  After an intense weeding session several years ago, however, all of that changed.  I was apparently no longer immune to poison ivy - and I was bound and determined to never suffer such a bout of itchy miserableness again!  I quickly learned to spot the infamous 'leaves of three'!

This area is known for having copious amounts of poison ivy (as many fellow gardeners told me after moving up here to the Northeast), so I was dismayed but not surprised when many 'leaves of three' popped up this spring in the shady area under my back deck.

Every few weeks I went into the backyard carefully armed and protected with gloves and plastic bags and removed all the offensive seedlings.  My kids were not allowed to play there under the deck, and when we had to stain the wooden deck supports this summer, Mr. Red House and I wore protective boots and dreamed about our future patio that would smother all of this poison ivy.

Then the other day I noticed a very curious thing.  I spotted a poison ivy plant that I had missed in my weeding, and it was... blooming?

All those plants under my deck weren't poison ivy at all!  Those impostors were actually Bidens frondosa - I had been most carefully pulling up a harmless native wildflower.

Bidens frondosa
An annual native to North America, Bidens frondosa is also known under such descriptive names as Devil's Beggarticks, Common Beggar-ticks, Devil's Pitchfork, Sticktights, Bur Marigold, and Pitchfork Weed.  I somehow get the impression people are not very fond of it...

This Bidens has been introduced into other parts of the world, such as Europe, Asia, and New Zealand, and has proved to be a noxious weed there, as it grows so readily.  The seeds of this Beggar-tick are much like all the other similarly nicknamed plants - they cling onto animal fur or clothing or anything that brushes up against them and can be a pain to get off.  (That, and the fact that the seeds are shaped vaguely like a pitchfork, is probably what earned it the nicknames 'Devil's Beggarticks' and 'Devil's Pitchfork'.)  As you can see, this is one of the non-showy Bidens, as it doesn't have outer yellow petals like some other Bidens have.  Thus the flowers are not really noticeable or that pretty (unless you are a pollinator, anyway).

Bidens frondosa prefers moist soil and will grow easily in light shade or in full sun.  It has compound leaves, usually with either 3 or 5 leaflets.  Thus it can sometimes be mistaken by certain gardeners for poison ivy...

So how can you tell the difference between this wildflower and poison ivy?  Well, apparently the leaves of poison ivy alternate along the stem, while the leaves of Bidens frondosa are opposite each other.

Aha! Leaves are directly opposite each other = not poison ivy!
Well, I am thankful that our backyard is not as infested with poison ivy as I thought.  I do wonder about this plant in the front yard though...

It looks rather suspicious...
What do you guys think?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


To the delight of my kids, Dewberry season is upon us!  In our backyard, Dewberries grow rampant in the open, sunny parts surrounding our detention pond.  Closely related to blackberries, these small berries are a little on the sour side, but still a delectable find to small children who like to roam the wild places and forage for food.

Swamp Dewberries
There are several different types of Dewberries, but in our yard we have Swamp Dewberries, Rubus hispidus.  Also called Bristly Dewberries or Swamp Blackberries, they are native to the Eastern half of the U.S. and Canada.  This Dewberry plant is a low-growing, trailing vine that is covered in prickly hairs and spreads to form a low groundcover.

As indicated by the name, the Swamp Dewberry likes swampy places.  They are frequently found on the edge of wetlands (such as my detention pond).  In early summer, the plants are covered in white flowers, small but pretty.

As with so many native berrying plants, Dewberries are beloved by wildlife.  Native bees use the leaves for nesting material, and the flowers attract many different kinds of bees, small butterflies, and other assorted creatures in search of pollen and nectar.

Honeybee on Dewberry flower
The berries that result from the pollinated flowers are an important source of food for a large variety of songbirds and gamebirds.  Small animals such as chipmunks, mice, and raccoons also eat Dewberries.  The leaves of the Dewberry plant are also eaten by rabbits and deer.

a tiny bee on the Dewberry flower
I honestly would not grow Dewberries in a garden setting, as it spreads quite rapidly and would become weedy and take over.  If one needed a groundcover for a large wild area, however, this would do the trick.  Dewberries are one of those pioneer plants that are first to reestablish after a fire or after an area has been cleared.  They prevent erosion of soil and establish conditions for other, larger plants to move in.

I am glad to have a lot of Dewberries in the backyard, however.  I like having plants for the enjoyment of wildlife, as well as for the enjoyment of two (sometimes wild) children!

Happy Wildflower Wednesday!  
To see native wildflowers growing in other bloggers' yards, visit Clay and Limestone's site.

Friday, August 15, 2014

An August Turn About the Front Gardens

It's been a nice, cool summer this year, and while that hasn't been so great for all my spicy pepper plants, the flowers are loving it.

In the front of the house, the Purple Coneflowers and Nicotiana are still going strong, and the Cosmos are starting to bloom.  The rockstar of the front garden right now, though, is my Hibiscus 'Cranberry Crush'.  Is it possible to outshine this?

'Cranberry Crush' Hibiscus
This Hibiscus is a hybrid cultivar.  Its parentage includes various hybrids of the native species H. moscheutos, H. coccineus, and H. laevis.  I absolutely love the billowy, cupped shape of the flowers, and the foliage is even quite pretty, with a reddish tint to the leaves.

On the other side of the driveway, though, my blue garden is trying it's best not to be outshone.  The blue Balloon Flower has been blooming nearly all summer long, and next to it is blooming some amazingly blue Salvia.  (The seed packet was labeled 'Sky Blue' Salvia, but I'm guessing it is the same as Salvia farinacea 'Victoria'.)  They look absolutely beautiful next to the 'Worcester Gold' Caryopteris with its contrasting golden leaves!

Sadly, the blue Salvia are so little that they really need a mass of plants to make more of an impact.  Very few of the seeds in the packet even germinated so I didn't get too many plants, but what can you say?  It was one of those impulse seed packet buys from a grocery store.  (You know we've all done it!) Thus the moral of the story is to stick with seeds from reputable dealers only...

Thankfully, my Balloon Flower has quite a presence!
In addition to working on the bed around my new red greenhouse, I've also been determined to do something this summer with the strip between the road and the sidewalk (known in the gardening world as 'the hellstrip') next to my mailbox.  I've planted some grasses, more Purple Coneflowers, Coreopsis, Nicotiana, and Yarrow there.  I can't wait until my plants get large enough to choke out all the weeds that have been constantly springing up!  (The weeds love this weather, too!)

I've also transplanted a few rocks that I found growing in my yard.  So far out of everything they seem to grow the best here, no matter the weather.  The rocks do quite fine with transplanting - the gardener, not so much.  It seems anytime I move rocks around my yard, it irritates the tendonitis in my wrists, so I am back to being good for a few weeks.

I hope all of your gardens are enjoying the summer weather as much as mine is!  For more of what's blooming in gardens around the world, check out Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day over at May Dreams Gardens blog.

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My New Red House

Well, I didn't even realize, but last week marked the third anniversary of the Red House Garden blog!

I can't believe it was only three years ago that I started this blog, as so very much has happened since then. I was sure that I would be gardening there at my first Red House for many, many years, but life does always have a way of surprising you.  As most of you know, last spring we moved to the Boston area.  I was sad to move, and I missed North Carolina and my Red House.  However, a project has been in the works ever since we moved, and I think my three year Blogiversary is a great time to unveil it...

My new Red House!

Mr. Red House (in the effort to get me to move up to the cold North) promised me that if I moved, he would get a greenhouse.  I honestly thought it would be a couple more years before we would be able to get one, but Mr. Red House was determined.  (After this very long winter, he was probably very motivated to do anything to help his cabin-fevered wife regain her sanity.)  And of course, if we were going to have a greenhouse, we knew it just had to be red!

my red greenhouse
The project started as soon as all the snow had melted after winter.  As handy as Mr. Red House is, a greenhouse was a little too big for him, so after a lot of research he found a company in Maine that builds hobby greenhouses. We first had a couple guys come out and help build a base for the greenhouse.

Tubes were buried in each of the corners and filled with concrete in order to bolt the timbers in place and avoid the problem of frost heaving.

Sticking out in the middle are lines for power and water.  After the base was done, I stained it red, and then the greenhouse was ready to be built!

The greenhouse company built the pieces for the greenhouse in their factory up in Maine, and then they assembled them in our backyard.  The assembly only took a couple of days.

Of course, my new Red House needed a garden around it!  Needless to say, my garden budget is shot for the next few years, however, I've still managed to start a garden around it using plants grown from seeds and pass-a-long plants from other gardeners. (Gardeners are some of the nicest bunch, don't you think?)

I am beyond excited about my new greenhouse.  I think we all know where I am going to spend this coming winter... 

Do you think I can plug a coffee maker in here?
And since I can start my seeds in the greenhouse, I'm sure my parents and other visitors will be very glad they won't have to share our guest room with hordes of seedlings and grow lights anymore :)

Some of you have wondered why I didn't change the name of my blog, and this is why - I knew we would eventually have some sort of Red House again. 
(And I'm so very excited to have it before the next winter hits!)

Happy Gardening from the new Red House Garden!
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