Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Mostly Sunflowers

Hello and happy September, everyone. I hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend (that's with a U if you're reading from Canada, of course...). I find myself breathing a sigh of relief on a couple of fronts this morning.

First, I'm relieved for the good folks of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, who seemed to have come through the landfall of Hurricane Gustav with minimal worries (well, besides that minor business of having to evacuate a couple million people)--schoolkids from NOLA are no doubt annoyed to hear that school will be in session next week.

Also, now that this last holiday weekend of the summer has come and gone, the roads here on the Cape (and the beaches, too, no doubt, though I've not had the chance to confirm this one) are emptier now, much easier to navigate. While we enjoy (don't we?) the hub-bub and chaos of high summer, it's always a pleasure to get our wonderful Cape Cod back for our own pleasure.

While the calendar page's turning seems to have brought slightly cooler temperatures and lesser humidity, we know that September and the Gulf Stream will conspire to bring us some delightful weather to let us have our last hurrahs of summer without much traffic.

Of course, we are keeping our eyes on the latest tropical activity. There's a storm called Hanna we're especially keeping an eye on, as she seems to be stalking the east coast a bit. And after her are Ivan and Josephine.

We'll keep our fingers crossed...but maybe do a thing or two to make ready, just in case.

Morning glories are back in the picture today. Not only are those early blue and pink ones still going strong, as you can see above, but yesterday morning I was caught off-guard - in the best possible way - by this all-white morning glory. I didn't remember there being any of those suggested as included in the mixed seed pack these came from, but as we've seen before, every now and then something unexpected happens.

As surprises go, it's a pretty sweet one.

Now I know I've been showing you a lot of sunflowers this summer, but let's be clear on this point: there's LOTS of sunflowers to show you. I've tried to work them in here and there with other flower shots, so as not to saturate the market...but the truth is, at this end of the season, the sunflowers are really dominating.

So today, I figured I'd give in and feature a whole bunch of them, so you can more easily see the variety of them I'm enjoying. Plus, Kelly will recently have or be about to return to school, and as she is the godmother of these fantastic beauties, why shouldn't she (and you) get to enjoy them some more?

Perhaps you will think I am being needlessly humble, but I can't help be a little amazed at the smashing sunflowers successes I've enjoyed this year. Many of you have written to say that you've never had that much success with them, and before this year, I was solidly in that camp with you.

I haven't ruled out the idea that the Garden simply knew that I was going to need all these cheery faces as the season wore on, and that all this is merely a bit of good fortune, but for the sake of perhaps duplicating this success in the future, I figured I'd consider the factors which probably also contributed.

First, FULL sun. We simply cannot underestimate the value and power of those warm golden rays. Just about everything I've grown this year has done moreso than ever before, thanks to the bright rays of Ra, or Apollo, or Al Gore, or whomever it is you think might be in charge of the sun.

However, the full sun exposure will quickly bring an end to even the hardiest of plants without the other key ingredient in this recipe, which hopefully, is obviously water. Two thirds of the fence garden here in this year's Midnight Garden is underlaid with a soaker hose, and except on or just after truly rainy days, I have let it run for about ten to fifteen minutes every morning, to make sure all the plants out there have gotten a nice deep drink down by their roots.

The last third, the end around the lamp post, has no soaker hose, though, and I've tried to do some careful top watering of that end of things to keep the balance. That bed is planted more heavily with sulphur cosmos, which is a little more drought tolerant, but sunflowers are also thriving and climbing toward the sky there, as well. I think that might be where some of the luck thing comes in.

Other factors which are no doubt contributing to the show are the quality of the soil. When I dug in this garden almost a year ago, I was pretty pleased to discover that there was some nice rich looking black soil, always a good place to start in the garden.

As spring began to flutter its wings, you may recall I amended the area with lots of coffee grounds...and once the garden got going, I fertilized a couple of times, usually about once a month through mid-July to give everything that extra shot in the arm...or stalk, as the case may be here.

So many people tell me that they actually have success getting the sunflower seeds to grow. That really is one of the easiest bits. They germinate quickly and their seeds are pretty distinctive, so unlikely to be accidentally weeded out of the bed. But they are often the prey of squirrels or chipmunks or bunnies...and so we can't under-value the Liquid Fence treatments in all this.

Those are the secrets, as I see them. I've certainly been happy for the success, since it's hard not to smile when you look out the window and see all these guys. I hope you'll find yourselves a sunny patch and give some a try next year. I think I'll be doing the same.

And so now we've gotten through the last busy weekend of the summer at work, which is also a bit of a relief. Time to turn my attentions to other things for a little while.

I hope your first week of the after-summer (even though the season lingers for another three weeks, I know it starts to feel like its over pretty quickly now that September's here...it's a slippery slope to Autumn, it seems) isn't a mad one, and that you're still able to find a few echoes of the summer...reasons to take a moment to sit in the sun, or admire a few flowers or have a good laugh at the antics of birds and bunnies and the like.

And don't despair: September has treasures just barely imagined yet to come.

"Spring flowers are long since gone.
Summer's bloom hangs limp on every terrace.
The gardener's feet drag a bit on the dusty path
and the hinge in his back is full of creaks."

-- Louise Seymour Jones


TigerYogiji said...

I'm glad that you have the Cape back! Enjoy your week, Hon! :)

Jenn Thorson said...

Ah, it's sounding a bit like our very own gardening ray of sunshine-- dear Greg-- is back. :) Happy sunflowers to you-- long may they reign.

Butch said...

Your garden was ( and is ) such a success this year. It has been a delight coming to your blog and taking a peek to see what's flowering on that day. Thanks.

The Hunky Gardener said...

I like the white morning glory. I have grown one that is white with blue stripes but I have never grown a completely white one, except for moon vine. I love it when the unexpected strikes in the garden!

September is here but I am excited this year. I start the Master Gardener Program tomorrow and begin to study for my pest applicator license. I am also looking forward to starting my indoor garden.

Java said...

That white morning glory is beautiful!

Is Al Gore in charge of the sun these days? I guess if he hasn't got any vice-presidential business this year, controlling the sun is the second best thing.

Congratulations on having your Cape back. Enjoy the peace.

dykewife said...

i can't remember, are you going to harvest your sunflower seed heads this year for drying out, or are you going to leave them for the wintering birds? a friend of mine would just leave them on the stalk for the birds in winter. she loved watching them pluck the seeds out and it tended to be somewhat more tidy than a regular bird feeder filled with seeds.

Greg said...

Thanks, Tiger! Hope you're having a good week, too.

Hiya Jenn. Yah, I'm in a better place, it seems, the last few days. The sunflowers get some of the credit...

Thanks, Butch! It's great fun to share the garden with all of you. BTW, those columbine seeds arrived today--so there's something to look forward to for next year!

Hunky G, good luck with your classes. I look forward to you sharing some of that learning at your blogspot!

That white morning glory is pretty great, eh? There was another one, today, so it wasn't a single flowered anomoly...or however you spell that.

Java, I wish Al was in charge of the sun, or other aspects of the environment, anyway.

Dykewife, I will be harvesting some seeds for my use next year...but most are out there "for the birds", as they say.

Sadly, I won't be able to watch them feed through the winter, since I'll moving to new digs shortly...but at least I'll have some seeds with which to see about duplicating the experience next year!

MartininBroda said...

I’m a little late, I had to answer your questions before, thanks for visiting (a German Blog, you are a hero). You have earlier written about your past gardens, seems there will be shortly one Garden more, but there will be always one more Garden, your Midnight Garden in our hearts, sorry I'm sound a bit kitschy.

Anonymous said...

With how much watering you do, particularly with the soaker, I wonder how high that water bill is yours. But the water has helped create beautiful results. I so recall when you made mention of the use of coffee grounds earlier this year and I thought to myself, "What's he thinking?" Now that the shasta daisies are almost gone, my salvis are about to burst. Looking forward to your fall collection!

lostlandscape said...

Sounds like the end of summer has some bonuses like it does here. The locals who live on the waterfront have a big blowout after Labor Day to celebrate getting the place back to themselves and a select few hundred people each day instead of sharing their beach with tens of thousands. But the end of the summer is always a little sad. The garden is still decorated up, but it all feels like a party after the last guest has left..it's all weirdly quiet, and you feel a tad exhausted after the party preparations.

Thanks for the sunflower tips. Maybe I can justify some space in the well-watered parts of the veggie garden for a few. The seeds are edible, after all.

Greg said...

Hi Martin! You're no White Rabbit, you're right on time. Thanks for your reminder about the garden; you are right, of course...I'm about to have one more...and always, it will be the Best Ever!

Afod, I usually only have the hose about a quarter turn on, so pretty low pressure...and the soaker is WAY more efficient than the same time spent in over-spray watering. So hopefully the bill's still reasonable, as I had to be wasteful with the precious stuff.

There is a bittersweet quality to the end of the season at the shore. I do like being able to visit the beach...(tho parking spots are still at a premium at this early September date...)...and the driving's a little less frustrating.

We don't loose the last of the seasonals until Columbus Day, when things really quiet down around here.

I like your imagery about the garden being party decor for guests who've left. But actually, the party I'm decorating for are the migratory birds who'll be passing through over the next month. When they've come and gone it will truly be over...for a couple of months.

Robin Easton said...

Your morning glories are like none of I've ever seen. Just AMAAAAAZING!

And, yes sunflowers are such "happy makers" for me as well. I think it's why I HAVE to grow them. I'm a lazy gardener so I grow a lot of marigolds, sunflowers and cosmos. I love the "cos because" they are so ethereal and yet really hardy and need little care.

And yes again, the photos on my site of flowers and bottles in my windows are my garden. I hope to post more soon.

PS I'm still thinking of you and sending you lots of courage and support to trust your heart whatever that means for you.