Over the last few years of this blog’s existence, I’ve spent some time on a number of November occasions (in 2007, 2009, 2010) extolling my surprise, if not bragging at little, at the beauty my Zone 5 Iowa garden boasts in the penultimate month of the year, while also reporting such joy from the road (again in 2009, 2010). The point is all the same–even for cold-climate gardeners, the opportunities to enjoy the garden well past the first few frosts are abundant. As I wrote on Facebook earlier this evening, I’m always amazed at the beauty that persists into November. The roses, heirloom chrysanthemums, gentians, and so much more seem to saturate the garden with their farewell drips of color, stains against the fading of the fall. It’s these persistent reminders of warmer days and fonder toils that make the end, the finale bearable.
Extending the seasons is one of the biggest things I teach people in my lectures on garden design. Take cues from plants, their sundry characteristics, the little things so easily overlooked. As with asters and so many composites–their seeds. As with dying perennials, their flaming foliage. The little things easily lost to pumpkin carving, raking leaves, and football games extend the joy of gardening well into the early holiday season. I’ve taken a colorful tour of the garden for the last four years on Thanksgiving, and I hope I’m so fortunate again this year.
Here are three images from the garden today–undownable perennials still blooming with conviction despite nightly flirtations with the upper 20s.
Chrysanthemum x rubellum ‘Will’s Wonderful’–Let it be known: I’m a mum hater. There I said it. I know, you probably buy two or twenty every year at the grocery store, bed them out with your scarecrows, and crow about them with pride at neighborhood fall socials. Bah. I want a mum that’s everything but mum. I want a hardy, hot, garden heavyweight that earns its keep season after season. That’s how ‘Will’s Wonderful’ was billed to me when my Twitter friend, (the inimitable) Margaret Roach tweeted about it a few falls back. It’s a surefire winner for those long depressed by the bushy, boxy things in plastic pots masquerading as “mums”. Plus, it’s just starting to bloom NOW. Absolutely the last plant in this 7-acre garden to bloom, not including aberrant reblooming irises.
Gaillardia x grandiflora Commotion® ‘Moxie’–A hybrid gaillardia that’s earned my respect. (As an aside, I’m also on the record for hating many gaillardias, though I found redemption in the hills of South Dakota this summer, which I still owe you a story or five about). Blowsy, semi-double, flaring, and loud-mouthed, this yellow yowler does everything right to earn the name moxie.
Kniphofia ‘Mango Popsicle’–I’m betting I’ll mourn its passing come spring, but until that dark day, I’m enjoying the fact that this new hot poker has bloomed twice this season. What color! I’d say it’s good enough to eat, but I wouldn’t advise licking it. Your health aside, the neighbors might wonder.