Mama cardinal looks particularly regal on this snowy day.
My sister-in-law in Nashville has beautiful pots of succulents on her patio. This week when I was visiting, she was kind enough to let me raid them. (I tried to be discreet; her containers still look great.)
I snapped off some individual leaves, which I will try to propagate, but I also snipped and divided some larger sections. I used the larger plants to make this tiny container garden for the guest bedroom.
The shell planter is vintage Fitz & Floyd ($4 at an estate sale; yes, I may be a little obsessed with vintage FF). It has no drainage holes, so I added rocks before topping with cactus potting mix. I’ll have to be careful not to overwater.
Okay, the title of this post should definitely be “Collecting the Seeds of Stokes’ Aster,” but I’ll be darned if this dead stem with tightly clustered seeds at the end doesn’t look like it belongs in the hand of an itty, bitty witch. Also, it’s almost Halloween, so bear with me.
Stokes’ Aster (Stokesia laevis) is a perennial, full-sun plant. It earns the nickname Colorwheel from the changing color of its blooms, a pale pink-purple that ages to a deep mauve.
Even after it’s finished blooming, the foliage is quite nice. It did well in the scorching summer sun, and next year I’d like to cover a larger area with it. Though the plant should spread over time, I hope to speed things up by growing more plants from seed.
Collecting the seeds is pretty simple. The flowers leave behind a dry husk. Strip off the loose outer husk; then gently peel away the inner husk. What’s left is a cluster of seeds attached to a stem that looks like a tiny broomstick. (Note: I did not deadhead the blooms until late September; next year I will do it earlier to encourage more flowers.)
The seeds easily fall away from the stem with the brush of a hand. I’m storing mine in a paper envelope in a dry place until it’s time to sprout seeds. With a little luck and attentiveness, I’ll have many more Stokes’ Asters next year.
“No, my aunt wasn’t much of a gardener,” said the visitor.
“Oh,” I said, trying not to look disappointed.
Flame-haired and cheerful, the visitor chatting on my carport was the niece of the original owner of our 1960 home. She had popped by while driving home to Virginia from vacation in Florida. I wasn’t expecting her. I was in leggings and an old t-shirt and in the middle of laundry, but when she introduced herself I was curious to glean some house history.
Her aunt, now passed, was like a second mother to her, and she spent a lot of time at the house growing up. Her dad built the backyard patio and terraces; I took a photo of her there.
“This has always been a happy home,” she said. “You will make a lot of good memories here.”
“Thank you,” I said. “We love it here.” And we do. But I am convinced she was wrong on one point. A gardener once lived here, I know it.
We are only the second long-term owners of the home, following brief ownerships by two others. The yard still needs a lot of work, beginning with the weedy front lawn and ending with privet, wisteria and other invasive plants in the wooded back, but its potential is a big reason why we chose this house.
The patio and terrace walls, though in need of some TLC, are lovely and dappled with shade. Purple and white irises bloom in spring. Sprawling four o’clocks grace summer evenings with hot pink blooms and attract the occasional hummingbird in the morning before their petals close in the sun. I can’t plant anything without finding shards of broken pots or some other remnant of a garden past.
I have conjured up the idea that the past homeowner and I share a vision for this yard and garden. I did not want to hear she was not a gardener. Recently, however, I received a small sign that maybe my visitor had forgotten a few things about her aunt in her younger days.
When tall, leafy stalks shoot up on the western edge of the front yard in summer, I usually pull them up, taking them for weeds. This summer I did not (laziness), and then late September came.
What I thought were weeds turned out to be goldenrod. The vibrant yellow flowers attract honey bees, bumblebees and other pollinators. At a time of year when summer flowers have faded and the leaves have not yet changed color, goldenrod is simply beautiful.
Now that I have found this established perennial, I will not forget it – at least as long as this garden is mine.
Work some garden zen into your Wednesday. If you have an oak tree, you probably have lots of acorns on the ground this time of year. Collect a couple of handfuls of the loose caps, and use them as decorative mulch. It spruced up this pot of succulents quite nicely.
This 1970s Fitz & Floyd kangaroo toothbrush holder was a $2 estate-sale find (thank you to the best estate-sale-scouting friend I know for taking me along on a lunch break). I figured the (C) FF mark on the bottom stood for something, but I was surprised to find it was Fitz & Floyd. The Kangaroo pattern is a bit whimsical, but it’s not – how shall I say this – as loud as the Fitz & Floyd I know, 1980s to present.
I could not find a listing or another example of the Kangaroo-pattern toothbrush holder online, though my search did turn up examples of soap dishes, bathroom tumblers, teapots and salt-and-pepper shakers in the pattern.
This arrangement includes:
- Boxwood trimmings. It was time to trim them or the neighbors might start giving us sideways glances.
- Creeping Jenny. Living up to its name, it’s never in short supply.
- Zinnias. The two seed packets I planted this spring just keep kickin’.
Right now this arrangement is hanging out in the guest room, with the door shut and no one to enjoy it. Let’s just say cats and flower arrangements do not mix…and never will.
Add the Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) to the list of butterfly visitors to our zinnias.
When I showed this photo to a co-worker at our frequented “cheap Mexican” lunch place, I learned she grew up calling zinnias “old maids.” It might not be the most PC nickname, but it makes sense. Their blooms last a really long time and even age gracefully, as is the older-but-still-beautiful bloom in this photo.
Here are a few more pics of the Gulf Fritillary butterfly to show the nuances of its wing pattern.