Early October Garden

Days of cool rain marked the year’s transition from September to October. The harvest moon remained hidden behind deep clouds.

Yesterday, temperatures and humidity rose dramatically. This afternoon the sun broke through the clouds lifting the temperature to 86F, quite a change from highs in the mid-sixties at the weekend.

Certain signs of autumn belie today’s warm weather. Berries now adorn the Flowering Dogwood, whose leaves had already browned in July’s extended dry spell.

Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood)

A windblown spire of Salvia uliginosa ‘Blue Sky’ (Bog sage) rests against of Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’ Autumn Joy (Stonecrop). The Salvia’s pink calyx reflects the ruddy, rusty hue of the flowering Stonecrop.

Salvia uliginosa ‘Blue Sky’ (Bog sage) and Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’ Autumn Joy (Stonecrop)

A multicolored flower petal of ‘Blue Sky’ Salvia sits suspended in a spider’s complex world.

‘Blue Sky’ Flower In Spider’s Web

The burgundy Chrysanthemum in the background has bloomed most of the summer and now complements the rose-colored wisps of fall-blooming Muhlenbergia capillaris (Pink Muhly Grass). In the foreground stands a spent stalk of Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage).

Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage), Chrysanthemum, Muhlenbergia capillaris (Pink Muhly Grass)

Blue-violet Ageratum brightens a dark corner of the garden.


Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower), became very aggressive and was theoretically removed from the garden a few years ago. Unaware of its banished status, it displays brilliant yellow blossoms annually.

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

The annual, Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon), has bloomed throughout the summer among the stepping stones of the meditation circle.

Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon)

The meditation circle itself is soggy this week and needs attention.

Pine-bark mulch now sits in drifts, having been swept across the stone paths during the recent heavy rainfalls.

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) still performs satisfactorily, while generous green mounds of Thyme surpass expectations.

Unfortunately other evergreen perennials that were chosen specifically for their drought-tolerance, Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft) and ‘Pikes Peak Purple’ Penstemon (Beardtongue), are brown and may not recover. ‘Purity’ was beautiful all winter and spring and ‘Pikes Peak Purple’ was lovely in spring, but both choices will need to be reevaluated for long-term performance.

8 thoughts on “Early October Garden

  1. Christina

    There are still lots of beautiful blooms to enjoy in your garden. I’m surprised that Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’, which I always thought needed lots of water is performing better than the other penstemons; I lost several penstemons in the drought this year, I will have to take a lot of cuttings from the one remaining plant. Christina

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Christina, hope you can get enough cuttings to replace the plants lost in your drought.

      I think you are right about ‘Husker Red’ needing a water. (I probably watered it once or twice during our driest weeks in July. Since July though we have had unusual amounts of rain.) The other penstemon, ‘Pikes Peak Purple,’ is the one that is supposed to be so drought-tolerant–I am guessing it is getting too much water. Guidelines on it say, “Avoid too moist (wet feet)” and the drainage in my meditation circle definitely is not as good as it should be.

  2. Cathy

    I think the meditation circle is looking pretty at the moment – those pale green pillows on the inner circle are effective – is that “candytuft”? I have the same problem with those helianthus… they spread like mad if I’m not careful, but then I’m still always glad to see some come September!

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks Cathy! The green is actually a fine-textured thyme. It has no scent and I almost pulled it up this spring but never got around to it–now it is one of the few things doing well! Sadly the only thing left of candytuft right now are a few brown tufts.

  3. paulinemulligan

    Still lots of lovely flowers, even if the weather is telling us that autumn is with us. There is still beauty to be found when plants are dying back, always something to photograph. Love your helianthus, a super patch of sunshine even when the sun is behind the clouds.

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks Pauline. You captured the helianthus perfectly. I’ll have to watch it though or it will take over, but it’s so hard when it adds sunshiny cheer.


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