What Looks Good Now-September 2010


The garden is usually a source of great joy. But recently it has been simply depressing to go about the paths, seeing worrisome droopiness in mature trees, shrubs and struggling perennials. Several days passed without any photos being taken, something heretofore unheard of. It was the heat and drought that was the cause of the sadness. Some rain, not nearly enough, has fallen to perk things up and the sprinklers have been running for many hours, water bills be darned. But there have been bright spots, despite the conditions of garden and gardener.


One of several new plants added to the redesigned Gravel Garden, click to read about it here-Redefining A Garden Bed From Flat To Gravel, has risen to the challenge of soil and weather. An order was placed online from Annie’s Annuals, and yes, they do have more than annuals. Among the selections purchased was Verbascum chaixii ‘Album’, shown in macro in the opening image and above in the bed. Annie’s is located in California, where conditions are so very different from southeast Tennessee. We have found that ordering plants from desert type locales has not been cost effective most of the time, many die immediately. But we do it anyway because of the varied selections offered. It is a risk, but sometimes it turns out swimmingly.


Pulling back for a longer view, the Verbascum looks healthy and happy in the bed. The best thing in this venue is always the blue chairs, we even wrote about that here-Photographing The Blue Chairs, but the large leaves of the new resident have helped with the dreaded Little Leaf Syndrome. I was so pleased with how this plant has taken to its new home, four more were ordered from Annie’s.

In full disclosure, there was a free replacement plant sent for the Asphodeline lutea from the original order that died after I may have overwatered it. It arrived happy and healthy in the well packed box. It was my fault it died. I did not ask for it to be replaced, but did send an email to Annie’s asking what might have been done differently on my part. They offered to replace the plant anyway and even filled the shipping box with three other plants, all annuals in my zone. After the offer was made to replace the plant, I mentioned that I had a gardenblog and would say a few words about the excellent customer service I had received. My contact at Annie’s turned out to be a fellow garden blogger! Read Kelly’s blog by clicking here-Floradora. It is so nice to make new friends. (And help send business to companies with such a kind spirit and fine plants.)


Moving on around the Gravel Garden towards the west, there are hopeful signs that the growing season will rise to new heights with the buds appearing on Aster tataricus. A hostess gift a couple of years ago from my dear friend and fellow traveler, Gail of Clay And Limestone, this promises to be a really big aster, or non aster as the taxonomists now insist. This fall will see its maiden blooming. This stalk is already over my five foot almost four inch height.


Despite no supplemental watering, Hydrangea ‘Lady In Red’ looks full of vim and vigor. ‘Lady in Red’ is the first protected (patented) release from the University of Georgia plant improvement program: ‘Continued Adventures in Plant Improvement in the Department of Horticulture and Center for Applied Nursery Research’ by Michael A. Dirr, UGA-Dept. of Horticulture. This breakthrough hydrangea is an open-pollinated seedling of ‘Otaksa’. Behind The Lady, Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Alison’ looks perky as well. ‘Alison’ grows 8′- 10′ high and is a clone discovered by Michael A. Dirr, on the Geogia campus and named after Alison Arnold, one of his master of science students. Both of these Georgia belles are growing in the magical soil of the deceased maple tree Ferngully.


On the slope behind the main house, the view from the lazyboy in the addition from whence all Fairegarden blog posts emanate, there has been watering, almost daily. The backlighting that occurs at this time of year as the sun lowers its searing angle for kinder and gentler rays of illumination has been noticed and noted in the journal. The large leaves of Heuchera villosa ‘Brownies’ look like pink tinted Fudgsicles with the stems as the sticks of this yummy frozen confection. Also growing in the area but struggling some with the lack of moisture are H. ‘Citronelle’. We are looking for year around leaf interest from these plantings. Perhaps some nice fluffy mulch will give them a boost.


Cuttings from the Coleus ‘Henna’ are growing near the Heucheras and have hung on just enough to catch that flattering light as the sun sinks towards the south on its daily arc.


Another coleus, name unknown has been added to the wheelbarrow planter along with white Angelonia when some of the original plantings went into organ failure with the lack of rain. Click to read the story of how this piece of equipment became a garden container here-Inspiring Wheelbarrow And A Little Guest. .


Another container whose appearance was unacceptable was revamped with recent purchases from the big box store. Cordyline australis ‘Coral’ and unknown sweet potato vine livened things up considerably. These plantings are not winter hardy here, but will last long enough to fulfill the vision for the dramatically reduced price for which they were purchased until something better catches our attention.


Ruth, owner of our local nursery Mouse Creek, gave me a cutting of this Verbena rigida ‘Polaris’ last fall after I remarked upon its beauty in her gravel pathways. That small stem has increased in size and brought a smile every time we entered the pathway leading to the back gardens. It will be spread about here as pieces become available from this mother clump. You might notice the little California poppy from a free packet of mixed seeds from Renees Seeds, Eschscholzia californica ‘Rainbow Mix’ also looking good at the moment.


Here is a closer look at the beautiful flower. The entire packet of seeds was emptied in this spot, but flowers have been scant, few and far between. But when one does decide to bloom, oh la la!

This is the second post of the theme what looks good now. The first can be seen by clicking here-What Looks Good Now-Early August 2010. It might become a regular feature here at the Fairegarden. Or not. That is what I love about being the author of this blog, freedom!

Frances

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20 Responses to What Looks Good Now-September 2010

  1. gardeningasylum says:

    That opening verbascum shot is a stunner Frances! I agree it’s easy to get a bit discouraged in the face of drought – it’s affecting us in Connecticut too. So happy you ventured forth to record all the things that are looking good now!

    Hi Cyndy, thanks very much. I am always surprised at the images resulting from sticking the camera nearly into the flowers, seeing things my poor eyes do not reveal. While so many things are just plain sad, it does seem good to record what laughs in the face of difficult conditions. More of those! 🙂
    Frances

  2. Nice array of blooms and foliage, Frances. I know the late-season meltdown is always a source of exasperation to many gardeners, but we also know that you’ll be joyously celebrating the pink muhly grass very soon. We’ll celebrate too, even though we’ll be also coveting just a little bit.

    I have a similar verbascum, though the species name is long lost as it’s one I bought from a long-defunct company about a decade ago. It selfseeds around my yard but not in a tiresome way, and the bees absolutely adore it. So you’ve made a wonderful choice, both for flowers and for its impressive texture and leaf size.

    Hi Jodi, thanks for stopping by, so nice to see you. I am tickled to hear about your Verbascum. We had tried to grow Southern Charm before and it dwindled and died quickly. This one started growing nicely as soon as it was planted. A huge surprise and thrill. I am hoping for seedlings, according to the literature online, it will happen. Those large leaves really make a statement in the gravel. Yes, the Muhly is coming along. I look forward to seeing it in bloom next month. 🙂
    Frances

  3. Edith Hope says:

    Dear Frances, Looking around your garden today I can scarcely believe that we are at the onset of autumn – so much colour and so much of interest. I do hope that your very splendid Verbascum ‘works’ for you. I have always found them on the tricky side, short lived and not totally reliable when it comes to self-seeding. However, I should imagine that it is enjoying the open, well drained situation of the new gravel garden.

    Oh, how I sympathise with you over the extreme heat and shortage of adequate rainfall. Such a worry, particularly where mature trees are concerned.

    Hi Edith, thanks for stopping by. Some places in the garden do look fallish, with changing foliage color and falling leaves, but those are the exception. We still have quite a bit of warm weather left, with highs near 90F for this week predicted. But there is most definitely a change in the air. I fear the Verbascum will be short lived, but have found gravel to be an excellent medium for volunteer seedlings. I worry for the trees.
    Frances

  4. Layanee says:

    I like the title and it sounds like a good topic for a meme (I dislike that word). I will take a walk and see what is looking good here. Mostly the annuals and the containers. My gravel bed needs some plants. It is still waiting!

    Hi Layanee, thanks so much. It makes for an easy way to tie together the photos of what looks good at any given moment. There are always a few happy spots, no matter the season. I didn’t know you had a gravel bed! We shall have to compare notes! 🙂
    Frances

  5. Gail says:

    My dear I know your pain! Days without taking photos was the primary symptom. But the verbascum is fantastic, I have a Verbascum chaixii hybrid that I love~It is blooming in a container~the safest place here for a plant that needs a gravel garden! I had no idea “Lady In Red” was so perfect a hydrangea~It has to be Ferngully soil! I like the euphorbia mixed in with the heuchera and you are SO fortunate to have Mouse Creek practically around the corner. Have a wonderful day! It feels like September. xxgail

    Hi Gail, thanks for the sympathy! It is cooler this morning, but the highs will be climbing back up to summer like all week, so they predict. I must dash outside to plant! I was surprised by Lady In Red, it is huge! That ferngully soil is the best on the property, dry or not. Come shop at Mouse Creek with me! The pansies and violas are nearly ready! 🙂
    Frances

  6. Nicole says:

    That Coleus ‘Henna’ is striking! I’d definitely love to get that.

    Hi Nicole, thanks for visiting, so nice to see you here. Henna has been small, but beatiful. There is a mother plant that will be brought inside the greenhouse soon for cuttings for next year.
    Frances

  7. commonweeder says:

    I love the verbascum and I am going to look through the Annie’s catalog. I also commend your wisdom in living where you can have town water. We have a well and for the first time in 30 years I nearly ran it dry last week.

    Hi Pat, thanks. Yikes! about your well. Our water supply seems okay, even when we were in extreme drought a couple of years ago. We have not been on restricted water use here, even then. At our first TN house, we were on a community water system, about 50 homes, from a well. It was somewhat scary when there was a drought. People in my town do not have irrigation systems. Few would even think about watering their lawns, much less gardens. We normally had very high rainfall. I believe that is changing.
    Frances

  8. catmint says:

    dear frances, I really enjoyed this post. It’s a good idea, like having a chatty garden tour. Makes sense to do it regularly. The verbena polaris is in my garden too, wonderful plant. cheers, catmint

    Hi Catmint, what a sweet thing to say, thank you. 🙂 I am so glad to find someone else growing this verbena. The references all said it grows upright. Mine is nothing like that, sprawling on the ground. I wonder if that is really what it is. Does yours look like the one in my photo?
    Frances

  9. Dave says:

    I really do like my Lady in Red but maybe it hasn’t been growing here long enough. The leaves took a beating this year and it didn’t seem to enjoy the drought. I like the Henna coleus too. I have one or two of those hanging around! And that is a nice cordyline you have there!

    Hi Dave, thanks, so nice to see you. I am trying to think how long Lady In Red has been here. The first two years it was by the pond and was terrible. I thought it was dead. It was moved to the ferngully area, with all the other hydrangeas in 2006, the fall before the horrid late freeze in ’07. It has taken until now for them to recover. All bloomed nicely this year with last year’s rainfall and no late killing freezes this spring. Lady In Red was the star. Maybe yours needs to be moved to a better location, although I don’t know if you have anything like that ferngully soil, it has super powers, even in drought! 🙂
    Frances

  10. Leslie says:

    I really enjoy the long shots and getting to have a feel for the overall effect of things. That said…lovely photo of the poppy!

    Hi Leslie, thanks for stopping by. I feel the same way, wanting to show what the garden really looks like, but those macros are too much fun! 🙂
    Frances

  11. Hi Frances

    That Hydrangea ‘Lady In Red’ looks like it’s been fed and watered like relatives at Christmas. It’s really stood up to the droughty challenge!

    Love the verbascum. I’ve got seedlings of V. Bombyciferum ‘polar summer’ on the go at the moment. Not sure quite where I’ll put them, but aside it has to be said they were really easy seeds to germinate.

    I think you’re right to mention Annies annuals. Good service makes all the difference.

    Hi Rob, thanks so much, so nice to see you again. How funny about the relatives, are you sure you aren’t from southeast TN? That sounds like something the locals here would say. I like the V. bomby, it grows wild all over around here, the yellow one. I wanted something a little shorter. Good to hear the seeds germinate easily, that bodes well for ours too, I hope. I was impressed with Annie’s, very much so. 🙂
    Frances

  12. gittan says:

    I look good in September! I’ve just had a hair “make-over” (cut) – so I’m the one who’s good looking now! LOL
    Love your pictures (as always) Your garden is filled with good looking plants through the whole season I believe / Kram gittan

    Hi Gittan, with the new hairdo! I’ll bet you look marvelous! Thanks for visiting, so nice to see you. I have tried hard to have something that looks good in each season. Late summer is very difficult with the heat and lack of rain. Anything that can be pretty then is wonderful.
    Kram,
    Frances

  13. Phillip says:

    The lack of rain is very depressing. I had high hopes on Saturday for predicted rain but it never happened. Very discouraging! My “Lady in Red” hydrangea has to be watered at least every 3 or 4 days or it starts to wilt badly.

    You too, Phillip? I am so sorry to hear it. We did end up with two inches over the weekend, but everything is back to droopy now. Lady In Red has been remarkable. The Oak leaf is usually better with drought anyway. I moved it several years ago to the ferngully spot and it really is happy there. All the hydrangeas were moved back there at the same time, but none look as good as those two shown. Hope rain comes for you soon.
    Frances

  14. Robin Ripley says:

    Things look really good to me, despite the dry conditions! The blue chairs do add a bit of POP, particularly this time of year, don’t they?

    I am putting on my rain dancing shoes for you.

    Hi Robin, thanks so much. Those silly blue chairs, they show up in so many of my photos of that area, and make them better! We need all rain dancers to boogey for us! 🙂
    Frances

  15. I don’t know about the potato vine, but that Grass is Terrific! 🙂 Your verbascum looks as though it’s growing in “the nursery!”

    Hi Shady, thanks. I had been watching that Cordyline, and another with more yellow in it, for the price to drop enough to warrant their purchase. It finally happened although they will not survive the winter here, they will look good in the containers at least until December. Good enough. The Verbascum is lovely. I can’t wait to add the others to the gravel bed for more impact. I hope they do as well as the first one! 🙂
    Frances

  16. Gela says:

    I love the first and the last picture. Lovely colour. Have a nice day/Gela

    Hi Gela, thanks and I hope your days go well too. It seems you are attracted to those macro shots, they are fun, aren’t they? Getting right into a flower for a better look at its beauty can be transporting! 🙂
    Frances

  17. I loved looking at your garden today. I was getting discouraged with mine as everything seems to be drying up even though I’m watering. You made me think that maybe this is just the way Fall is in the plant world. I bought some mulenbergia grass because of seeing yours and planted it 3 weeks ago. It is all brown and I am wondering if it is supposed to be at this time of year or did I get bad plants.

    Hi Valerie, thanks so much. The garden has parts that are still very sad right now, but we have done all we can for them. If there are things that didn’t make it, well, that is room for new plants later on. The muhly should not be brown now. It takes a lot of water when first planted to get settled in, even though it is very drought tolerant once established. I would look very carefully for any signs of green blades. If you see green, it should be okay.
    Frances

  18. Sunita says:

    Oh wow! You really know how to make a reader sit back and gasp! Those photos are gorgeous, Frances. I wish they would grow for me too.

    Hi Sunita, thanks so much, you are very sweet. 🙂
    Frances

  19. Kathy says:

    Always tempting to wallow in ‘Oh my garden looks dreadful right now’ when in fact there are always things that can redeem the unsavory sights of late summer. And , I am here to say Annies rocks, being both a retail and wholesale customer and having the good fortune to live less than an hour away, I’ve experienced the stellar customer service, and downright plant-love at that establishment.

    Hi Kathy, thanks for that testimonial for Annie’s. You are very lucky to be within driving distance of that wonderful place. I would certainly spend some quality time, and treasure there if the Fairegarden was located in California! 🙂
    Frances

  20. Pam/Digging says:

    I feel for you about the drought. I know exactly what it’s like to watch your beloved plants crisp or wilt and your water bills rise. Not fun!

    But I’m glad for your shout-out about Floradora. I discovered it a few months ago and fell in love with her photos and did a little shout-out of my own. I hope lots of people discover her blog.

    Hi Pam, thanks. Even with xeric type plantings in the garden, large trees and looking terrible, I don’t know if they will pull through, even with constant watering. It might be too late. But on the happier note, Floradora is fabulous! Her photos are miraculous, as are yours of course. 🙂
    Frances

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