What’s still in bloom

It’s the end of November and we are surprised that we still have a few blooms that haven’t been zapped by frost. Yes, it is a November that has been pretty mild — it had to have been in the 60s today, and sunny to boot. But even so, two salvia stalks,  that blanket flower and cardinal lobelia are holding on.

Salvia in November
Salvia in November
Fading blanketflower
Last of the lobelia

First plant for 2010

A friend just dug up some elephant ears from her garden and dropped them off. These are hardy to zone 8, so they will spend the winter in the basement. Think of them as giant-leafed, very tall hostas. One Web site says they can grow to eight feet in the tropics but two to three feet is more what we should expect. I would say my friend’s plants were taller than that!
I’m sure we’ll debate all winter where to plant them. They like partial shade and wet areas. Maybe down by the iris bed? Perhaps as an archway into the “secret room” that still needs to be created?

Even the root ball is huge!
See how large the root ball is!

Life is short–plant everything

One of the books I’m reading now is “From the Ground up; the story of a first garden” by Amy Stewart. The title of this entry is one of my favorite lines in it, and one that goes well with my motto of exuberance in the garden.
She was renting a house in a California beach town and was describing some of the neighborhood gardens. “Forget about manicured lawns, they seemed to say as I walked past them. Avoid anything that looks too much like ‘landscaping.’ Life is short–plant everything.”
Later on, she says “there is an old saying that if you have a dollar and garden, spend 90 cents on the soil and 10 cents on the plant.” And then she admits she hadn’t heard it when she started gardening. Instead, “I walked into the nursery every weekend the way a friend of mine used to walk into Tiffany’s–helpless, her credit card sliding onto the jewelry counter from between trembling fingers.”
Better that I am reading this book than debating which bulbs to buy in Van Engelen’s end-of-season 25% off sale!

Garden dilemma

Today I attacked some of that awful mock strawberry that invades the lawn and some grass-like weeds (in my view) that had died back for the winter. I covered the newly bare patch with newspaper to smother remaining weeds and then used mulch left over from the spring. I’ll now leave it alone until next spring, by which time the newspaper and some of the mulch will have decomposed, adding nutrients to the soil.  This is what it looks like now:

What to plant instead of this awful "grass"?
This mulched-over patch of bad "grass" could easily grow

The question: what to plant there? This patch (which I could easily expand to between six and 10 feet long, by my guess) is on the steepest part of our sloping backyard and is a pain to mow. It runs into what we have called the iris bed, though this year I thinned out the irises. It is packed with daffodils in the spring and we have added other flowers for other seasons, though they aren’t yet as eyecatching as I would like. We can see that bed from the kitchen window and French doors to the deck, but we can’t see this newly mulched section. The slope faces north and anything planted there must contend with deer, groundhog and squirrels.

Do we go for some sort of groundcover or short plants? Shrubs that would obscure everything behind them? (Eventually we want to use the iris bed as one “wall” in a “room” that would be hidden from the house and deck, but that is a longer-term project.) Annuals in the spring and then reseed in the fall, when grass seedlings fare better because the soil is warm and they don’t have to compete with weeds for sun and space?

Offer your suggestions! And pass on any tips for eradicating mock strawberry!