Fall in the garden

I love to take my morning coffee out into the garden and see what’s up. With all that’s been going on, from kooks stealing from my site, to wacko payment processors, to hurricanes and ridiculous heat and floods, I haven’t been doing too much of that. But today I got out there again and brought the camera. This isn’t the most glorious time of year for the garden, but it’s interesting. Something that really heartened me was looking at the wild sunflowers (Helianthus maximillianii), a native perennial. Last year I had a lot more of them flowering, but this year has been a tough one plant-wise. I love these things–and this morning, so did three honey bees! I haven’t seen too many of them around this year. Goldfinches also love these flowers when they make their seeds and will hang off them, picking them out and chattering to each other. Funny how both the bees and the birds match the color of these flowers.

I’ve always loved morning glories, and last year planted both Kniola’s Black and an expensive Japanese morning glory in the same pot. I saved seeds of both but never got around to planting them. The Kniola’s Black planted itself, however, in the pot where I’d moved the hops. I like this morning glory and would like to add their seeds to the selection at Alchemy Works. I’m a sucker for purple flowers. Yes, my shutters really are that hideous fluorescent green.

Last year one little nettle plant decided to grow next to the patio right through the bean trellis. I didn’t want it there and ripped it out. Well, this year it came back in spades. I have cut it back once already this summer, and here it is roaring back. I’m going to try cooking some, since they are nagging me with their presence. Nettle is definitely a handsome plant in my garden. Nothing seems to bother it. It’s always a refreshing green color, and I like the scalloped leaves.

Finally, something to tempt you all. Mountain Valley Growers, which supplies mainly herb plants, has got a sale going on, and they carry dittany of Crete (Origanum dictamnus). I’ve bought from them before, and they have nice healthy plants and ship them very securely. Yes, the shipping is steep to the east coast from there (they’re in CA), and they have a minimum of six plants per order, but if you have some money lying around, check them out. I got more lavenders hardy for my zone, a germander, a Russian comfrey, and a rose attar geranium. I’m not big on indoor plants, but I really wanted a rose-scented geranium to help make being closed up inside for winter more pleasant.

13 comments to Fall in the garden

  • Faustianbargain

    And it’s very easy to propagate attar of rose geranium(not a true geranium). Just stick a cutting and 10 times out of ten, you’d get another plant. I have five now from just one plant. Flowers are pretty and edible. I am usually at a loss for ideas when I trim them. The dried leaves aren’t as fragrant..I wonder if their oils are still there? I have a tubful of dried leaves in the shed..I don’t have the heart to throw them away. Upon sara’s advice, I made some rose geranium(and lemon verbena and lavender) scented vinegar for the floors one year. Stuck them in the sugar jar for scented sugar. Baked a cake using leaves as cake pan liner. Don’t know what else to do…enjoy. Its my favourite!

    • Alchemist in Charge

      Sounds neat, faustian! I forgot to mention that dittany of Crete can be propagated the same way, just by cuttings stuck in the dirt. They take about 3/4s of the time.

  • nightfire

    Mountain Valley Growers […] shipping is steep to the east coast from there (they’re in CA)

    Thanks for the tip! I’m in California myself.

  • petoskystone

    well, the green does make a lovely backdrop for the morning glories….maybe you should plant a great many more thereabouts 😉

    • Alchemist in Charge

      There’s actually a bunch in front of the window, which I planted to shade it from the sun in the afternoon and because my cat Blackie loves to hide behind foliage when looking out the window. The vine on the right-hand side of the photo is actually growing from some seeds that fell into a crack in the asphalt of the driveway. When I saw them growing there, I strung up some jute to the little roof over the doorway. It’s so neat the way plants have that dogged persistance. “Hell, I’m just going to grow through this asphalt crack!”

  • Wulf

    You’ll probably find it’s too late in the year to eat the nettles, as they get gritty (even the tender young ones) after early summer. But they’re still good for tea! I’m a big fan of nettles and we eat a lot in the Spring. Any left get frozen for later in the year. There’s never any danger of over-harvesting – as you found, you can’t kill them!

    Plan carefully where you’re going to plant the Russian Comfrey. It starts out so small and innocent in the Spring and by late Summer is HUGE!

    You can grow Dittany of Crete here? I didn’t know. That’s another I’ll have to try!

    • Alchemist in Charge

      Hi, Wulf,
      I will definitely try drying some of the nettle leaves. Re the Russian comfrey, I have heard about its thuggishness.:) I had some in my last place that had roots like mangroves. Totally woody and you could not dig it up and it spread like the Blob every year. Still, I am going to plant it on the border of my yard. Fool that I am.

      Dittany of Crete cannot be wintered over in upstate NY. It can grow in pots and then be taken in to grow under lights in winter. That’s what I’m going to do, because I’m going to be bringing the mandrakes in for the same treatment, so I figured why not add some of these in. I’m hoping their strong aroma will help keep the aphids down on the mandrakes.


  • Greetings!

    Beautiful photos{as always}.

    I think the morning glories look tremendous against the turquoise shutters, and I
    do also share an affection for all flowers purple.

    While doing some research for butterfly food plants, I found that nettles are
    incredibly important for quite a few species of our winged brethren.
    So, even if the nettles aren’t a favorite for the human appetite {an acquired taste I’ve heard}, the winged folks should be happy to have them about.

    Slightly off topic, the cosmos I planted here in Denver in the spring are now topping off at close to seven feet in height and are providing a metropolitan bee-port.
    We have bee traffic jams in the morning.
    There was also a beautiful gold finch that came to feast on the seeds one morning.
    Maybe the world isn’t coming to an end after all?

    Thanks for the blogging, always a pleasure to read, always informative.


    • Alchemist in Charge

      Greetings, Alphestra,

      I love cosmos, especially the tall pink and white ones. I had a bunch of those in my garden in northern Minnesota–as well as the shorter orange ones (Coreopsis sulfureous) and some dyer’s coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria), which I actually had a few of in my front yard this year. I’m planning on adding them in much larger numbers next year. They are so cheerful.


  • Love the sunflowers! I planted a mix of organic ones this year in reds and yellows and I’m adoring them and so are the bees and birds. I definitely want to grow more next year.

    I didn’t know you could grow dittany of Crete here either! I wonder how well it would do on my oven-like terrace garden…

    • Alchemist in Charge

      I’ll bet you can grow dittany of Crete outside in your climate, esp. in pots. It’s a Mediterranean plant, and I’ve seen pics of them growing to enormous bursting-with-life size in CA gardens. Talk about your cash crop…

  • faustianbargain

    you know, harry..i got dittany of crete and its flowering right now! i thought it was one of those herbs that would die after a season. now i can propogate cuttings..:) thanks!

    btw..i have the nettles in a wine barrel. keeps them controlled. supposedly companion plant for nettle is dock.

    interesting..i have all the plants in your post in my garden atm too…with the exception of russian comfrey..:)

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