Sunday, December 23, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas for the Birds


birdseed-ornament-and-orange-cup on a tree


Christmas is for the birds or at least it should be when it comes to treats. With all the holiday goodies popping up in offices and homes everywhere this time of year, our feathered friends in the garden certainly deserve their fair share.

I’ve always wanted to make holiday treats for the wild birds and finally got my act together this past weekend. After all, I live in a subdivision where all the streets are named for birds. What could possibly be a more appropriate way to celebrate the season?

The treats I recently made are described below. Several are suitable for children while others, such as the edible bird seed ornaments, definitely require parental guidance.

Orange cups
 
orange-cup-for bird-seed

Cut oranges in half and scoop out the middle. Poke four evenly spaced  holes around the edge of the orange using a wooden or metal skewer. Cut yarn or string in 12" pieces. Poke the string through each hole and tie it so the string doesn’t slip out. Repeat with the remaining holes. Knot the top ends together. Fill with bird seed and hang on the tree.

These are especially colorful although the process can be a bit messy. You may want to do these near a sink or on some towels. I used red cotton/hemp string to make it a bit more colorful.


Bagel feeder
 
bagel-with-peanut-butter-and-birdseed
 
Cut one stale bagel in half.  Mix together 2 teaspoons of peanut butter and 2 teaspoons of shortening. Spread the mixture on each bagel half. Pour bird seed on a plate. Press each bagel half, peanut butter/shortening side down, onto the plate. Put a string through the middle of the bagel and hang on tree.


Peanut butter pine cones

 

pine-cone-bird-feeder

 

Find plain pine cones. Wrap a string around the bottom so it can be hung from a tree.  Mix peanut butter with a little bit of vegetable oil. Spoon it into the pine cone’s crevices. Roll in bird seed and hang. You can also add raisins, other fruit or nuts.  I used some of the leftovers on the bagel feeder shown above.

Log feeders
 
Bird-log-feeder

Don’t forget that some birds are ground feeders. I mixed some peanut butter with oatmeal and spread the mixture on the rough bark side of a split log. The log was placed under the tree where the rest of the ornaments were hung.


Bird seed Christmas ornaments

bird-seed-Christmas-tree
 
These are probably the most complicated treats as they involve some cooking.

        1 package of unflavored gelatin           Drinking straws cut in 2" pieces
        ½ cup hot water                                   Cookie cutter or cupcake pan
        ¾ cup of flour                                       Cookie sheet
        3 tablespoons of corn syrup                  Waxed paper
        4 cups of birdseed

Pour flour into the birdseed and mix.  Heat the water and dissolve the unflavored gelatin in it. Add corn syrup.  Pour water/gelatin mix into the birdseed /flour and stir. It will have the consistency of newly mixed Rice Krispie marshmallow bars.

Put wax paper on the cookie sheet and choose a cookie cutter that does not have a top. Grease the insides of the cookie cutter and place on the wax paper. Fill the cookie cutter about halfway full or put a thick layer in the bottom of the cupcake tins. Press down hard and I do mean hard! Use the straws to poke a hole where you want the string to go. Refrigerate at least overnight.

This made 6 rather large gingerbread men. I also made some Christmas trees with a second batch, but the weight of them proved to be too much for the hole. I ended up tying them up with colorful string and hanging them on the tree that way. (See photo above.) When I make my next batch, I will probably use a smaller shape, like a star, and put the hole in the middle.
 
 
The Finished Tree
 
tree-with-birdseed-ornaments
 

It took the neighborhood birds a while to realize the treats were there. By the time my son came home from school today, though, he found the pear tree had turned into Party Central! (Now if only I can figure out how to attract a patridge....)

I hope you’ll try making at least one of these treats with wild bird food this holiday season. They make a colorful display in the yard and also make great gifts for the bird lover on your list.  Either way, the birds will thank you.

By Karen Geisler

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Meet Me Under the Kissing Ball

Kissing Ball
 
I’ve never cared much for mistletoe at Christmas. A kissing ball, though, now that’s a different story.

Not that I need a kissing ball in my life, mind you. (Although after 25 years of marriage, it probably wouldn’t hurt either.)

No, I like the idea of a kissing ball. Festive greens hanging on a colorful ribbon. An excuse for smooches, hugs and a little PDA (Public Display of Affection) around the holidays. What’s not to like?

Somehow I’ve just never gotten around to buying or making a kissing ball. I've vowed to shake things up a bit this Christmas, though, so it went straight to the top of my to-do list.

Mistletoe goes way back to the ancient Greeks and the Druids. Both used mistletoe -- thought to symbolize fertility and power -- during their celebrations of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

The tradition evolved. Evergreens were added. During the Middle Ages, anyone standing under the mistletoe could not object to being kissed. And anyone who wasn't kissed under the mistletoe supposedly wasn't going to be married in the next year. Or so the story went.

The Victorians updated the tradition a bit more, adding herbs. The kissing ball reached the height of its popularity although it has made a comeback in recent years.

So how to get a kissing ball? I thought initially about trimming the boxwoods in my back yard.  But they’re only a few years old and I loathe cutting back anything that’s still green in my garden this time of year. So it was off to my favorite nursery/garden shop.
 

Red berries for a kissing ball
Red berries, red ribbon and cedar
 
I gathered up some oregonia, which is like boxwood but with white and green leaves, and a packet of (fake) red berries. Then I visited a craft store for some ribbon and a base. There wasn't any floral foam to be found, at least in a ball shape. Floral foam gets soaked in water and would have kept the greens from drying out. I checked other stores, but came away empty handed so I reluctantly went with Styrofoam.
 

Kissing ball base with straw and skewer
The process of making a kissing ball turned out to be much more involved than I had anticipated. I put a metal barbecue skewer through the middle of the ball, then used the skewer to guide a drinking straw. That, unfortunately, was the easiest part.
 
Next, I  cut some transparent ribbon, enough to make a loop at the top and have some dangling below the ball. I pushed the ribbon through the straw using the same metal skewer. Then, I put a knot on the bottom where the ribbon came out in order to secure the ball.

I started cutting oregonia and putting it all around the foam ball. Using a toothpick to make a hole before inserting the evergreen sprig made things go much faster. The more oregonia I put on the ball, however, the more the bottom knot in the ribbon seemed to slip. I ended up putting a toothpick in the bottom knot to make it hold better.

A toothpick at the bottom helped
keep the knot tight
After I had covered the entire ball with a spotty layer of oregonia, I added some cedar leftover from my winter container and some trimmings from the Frasier fir we had bought as a Christmas tree.
 
Then I went back and filled in the bare spots. And filled in the bare spots. And filled in even more bare spots.
 
The final touch: Adding berries all over and some thin gold and light green ribbon at the bottom.

Total time elapsed: 5 hours

Well, I had been halfway watching some of the Sunday morning political talk shows when I started but the total amount of time did take me aback. Maybe it was because I hadn't made a kissing ball before. 
 
I'm happy with the result although the jury is still out on whether or not it boosts the amount of kissing in our household this Christmas. Even Nate Silver probably couldn't call this one.

By Karen Geisler

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ten Steps to Great Winter Containers


Winter container garden with fresh evergreen (Photo credit: Karen Geisler)
 
With the start of December, it's time to go full speed ahead on everything Christmas -- even if the temperatures in Chicago are near 60 degrees. For me, that means decorating the front door with a container full of fresh evergreen branches.

I still customize and hang a wreath as I've done for more Christmases than I'd care to admit. A winter container garden, though, is a recent addition and has proven to be a nice complement.  It was a bit intimidating at first, but with a few helpful hints from my co-workers, the pots have started looking better and better.

Tip #1 -- Use many different types of evergreens. Spruce and pine are all well and good, but other evergreens can add different colors, textures and fragrance. The more the merrier!

Tip #2 -- Use topsoil, not potting soil, in your winter container. Topsoil is heavier and therefore much better at holding evergreen stems upright.

Tip #3 -- Make it your own. Add berries and other natural materials. Throw some glitter in the mix. Or omit red to make it more of a generic winter pot. It's all up to you.

Below is the official Chalet Nursery winter container "recipe" formulated by horticulturalist Jennifer Brennan. Its 10 easy steps will help you add a classy touch to your home's entrance in no time flat.

Ingredients:            Spruce tops, small or medium
      White pine tips
      Noble fir tips
      Port Orford cedar
Blueberry juniper
Incense cedar
Winterberry and red twig dogwood 

Tools needed:         Top soil, placed in container and watered
                                    Polyurethane container
                                    Pruning shears
                                    Wire cutters
                                    Wilt-Pruf
 
Step by step directions:
 
  1. Select a spruce top that is twice the height of your container and insert into the middle of the container.
  2. Insert 3 more spruce tops that are shorter than the first, placing one in each third of the surrounding area. This is your “foundation,” the basic form of your arrangement.
  3. Select 5 white pine cuttings to insert through out the spruce top foliage for texture and color variation.
  4. Add 3-5 Noble fir tips.
  5. Accent with 3-5 Port Orford cedar tips for an arching soft shape and for the lemon scent it provides.
  6. Place 3-5 incense cedar tips throughout the arrangement to accent with the yellow color; one in the middle of the arrangement, 1-2 cascading over the edge of the pot, and 1 echoing the central spruce top.
  7. Do the same with blueberry juniper if desired.
  8. Use 5 redtwig dogwood stems as color extensions, placed throughout the arrangement.
  9. Place 3 winterberry stems for the final accent. Use as you would use lipstick – the focal point, to draw the eye into the most interesting part of the arrangement. You can also add pine cones, lotus pods, eucalyptus and other materials.
  10. Spray the entire arrangement with Wilt-Pruf (to prevent drying) and place outside to enjoy until March.
Yes, that's right -- March. A few branches may turn brown, but most of the arrangement should last until you can almost smell spring in the air. For the best results, try planting some miniature evergreen trees in your pots and generously water them in.

In the picture above, I kept the arrangement low because my container, the base on an old fountain, was shallow and already pretty high. It includes white pine, Noble fir, Port Orford cedar, incense cedar, red twig dogwood, huckleberry stems, seeded eucalyptus, lotus pods and some red balls.

A note about containers: Use one made of metal, resin, plastic or concrete. If you use ceramic or terra cotta, it could crack if the soil has water in it and freezes.

Picture below are some pictures of winter container gardens done by Chalet. How do you decorate your front door for the holidays?

Winter pot with winterberries by Chalet Specialty Garden Care staff

Winter pot with blue eucalyptus and white sticks by Chalet's Specialty Garden Care staff

Winter container garden with oregonia and orange berries by Chalet's Specialty Garden Care staff
 
 
Winter container gardens with dogwood and winterberry by Chalet's Specialty Garden Care staff


By Karen Geisler

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Poinsettias



Enduring Red poinsettias

Enduring™ Red Poinsettia

No flower says Christmas to me more than the poinsettia. It's as much a part of the holiday as Christmas trees and wreaths.

I still remember going to church as a young child and being amazed at the sea of bright red poinsettias at the front of the church. There's also the legend of the poinsettia -- how a poor child, having nothing else to offer, gathered a bouquet of weeds to lay at a Nativity scene on Christmas Eve only to see them burst into bright red blooms.

John Roberts Poinsett

It's hard to believe that they were first introduced in the U.S. more than 180 years ago after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, sent some back to his greenhouse in South Carolina.

He had many other accomplishments in his life -- Congressman, Secretary of War under President Van Buren, organizer of the first National Gallery of Art and founder of what later became the Smithsonian Institution. This amateur botanist, though, will mostly be remembered for a colorful Mexican plant.

The botanical name is Euphorbia pulcherrima, which literally means "the most beautiful Euphorbia." You'll find lots of this plant variety for sale at your local nursery each spring although they are annuals -- not perennials -- in the Chicago area.


Carousel Dark Red poinsettias

Carousel ™ Dark Red Poinsettias


What most people think of as flower petals actually aren't. They're technically bracts or modified leaves. The "flowers" are the small yellow structures at the center. And, contrary to popular opinion, the plant is not poisonous.

Poinsettias that grow in the wild are much different than what you'll find in the U.S. today. They're shrubs that are much more open and even scraggly at times. (For some pictures, click here.)

Modern varieties have been specifically developed to have a high number of blooms per stem. For years, most of these were bred and grown in California by the Paul Ecke family. That, however, has changed in recent years as production moved to Guatemala and other growers figured out ways to make the plants fuller. In August, the Ecke family announced it was becoming part of Dutch-based Agribio Group.


Visions of Grandeur poinsettia

Visions of Grandeur™ Poinsettia

Although one can supposedly get a poinsettia to bloom the following year, I've never been able to do it. It needs to be cut back, put in the dark and then brought out and put into bright sunlight, something I really don't have at my house.

If you'd like to give it a try, check out this fact sheet from Ohio State University. 

There also are two events in the Chicago area, both with free admission, if you'd like to see lots of poinsettias all at once.

The annual holiday show at the Garfield Park Conservatory opened Saturday and continues through January 6. All of the photos in this post were taken there. While repairs from last year's devatating hailstorm are still underway, the flowers in Horticulture Hall are quite lovely.

Cantigny Gardens in Wheaton also will have an open house on Tuesday, Nov. 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. featuring 3,000 poinsettias in its greenhouses.

Just the idea of raising that many plants at once is enough to give me a headache! I think I'll stick with buying one plant as I usually do each Christmas. I'm obviously not alone as poinsettias are the best-selling potted plant in the U.S. and Canada.

Here's hoping one of the many varieties available will brighten your home this holiday season.

(For more information from the University of Illinois Extension about poinsettias, click here.)



DaVinci poinsettias Garfield Park Conservatory
Da Vinci™ Poinsettias at the Garfield Park Conservatory


Pink Cadillac pointsettias
Pink Cadillac Poinsettias




Snowcap pointsettias
Snowcap Poinsettias


Sparkling Punch poinsettias

Sparkling Punch™ Poinsettias

 
By Karen Geisler

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Fall Bouquet



The last flower has faded. All the leaves have fallen from the trees. And the frost has been on more than just the pumpkins.

It's time once again for the final fall bouquet.

This has become an annual tradition for me. I'm the only member of my immediate family who doesn't live in our hometown, so I always spend Thanksgiving at the house of a relative. I usually make this bouquet as sort of a host/hostess gift using dried materials from my garden.

(Of course, there have been several years when I've forgotten the arrangement in my rush to get out the door, but I try to tell myself it's the thought that counts.)

Finding good quality materials in the garden wasn't as easy this year, courtesy of the drought. I started with the old standbys --  hydrangeas, switchgrass (Panicum virgatum 'Northwind'), coneflowers (Echinacea ssp.) and Culver's Root (Veronicastrum virginicum). I threw in some seed pods from sweet coneflower (Rudbeckia 'Henry Eilers') and some cattails cut from a roadside ditch.

Then I added some dried Queen Anne's Lace. Yes, the same wildflower/weed that spread rampantly in my garden, causing countless hours of back-breaking labor. It does look nice dried, however, with its starburst-like seedheads. Anyway, I figured it was pay-back time.

Finding some color proved to be my biggest problem. With last year's warm, extended fall, I could use some brightly colored leaves from my trees and shrubs. Not this time. The only bit of color I could find was a slight red lingering on my sedum's seedheads. I quickly snapped those up.

Eventually, I decided to bite the bullet and visit a craft store where I bought some dried yellow flowers plus some seed pods with a slight lavender tinge. Pricey, but definitely worth it.

So there you have it. I hope you'll try making your own version. You don't need anything fancy. I used a Mason jar filled halfway with river rock to hold all the stems upright. A bit of raffia tied in a bow added a final touch.

Don't sweat the details. After all, this bouquet will be fleeting, one that will quickly give way to holiday greens. It is, however, a good way to share some of your garden's bounty with your family on a special day.

Here's wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving!

By Karen Geisler

Saturday, November 10, 2012

To Cut, or Not to Cut


To cut, or not to cut: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the garden to suffer
The stalks and seedheads of outrageous foliage,
Or to take pruners against a sea of dead leaves
And by cutting end them?

 -- With apologies to William Shakespeare

Hamlet’s got nothing on me, at least when it comes to cutting back the garden each fall. I’m always of two minds.

Should I leave the foliage of my perennials and ornamental grasses up all winter? Or should I cut them all down?

I fell in love with the look of seedheads and ornamental grasses in winter after reading the books of Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf. The Lurie Garden in downtown Chicago, where he designed the perennial plantings, is an excellent example.

Ornamental  grasses along with my evergreens provide some much needed structure in the winter landscape. I also love the way the grass foliage can wave in the wind and cast shadows on the snow.

Seedheads provide food for the birds in the winter. Coneflowers (Echinacea ssp.) especially seem to be popular with my feathered friends. There’s generally nothing left on them by the time spring arrives even though I regularly stock two bird feeders.

Coneflower seedheads in the winter garden

The foliage can provide shelter to birds and other living creatures as the cold weather finally arrives. In addition, it insulates the crowns on plants I’ve added in the past season. The survival rate in my garden has definitely improved by waiting until spring to cut everything down to the ground.

With this year’s drought, though, the question of whether to cut is proving to be more problematic than usual. The remains of my peonies, for example, don’t look good – with black spots over large portions. I’m going to cut them off and bag them, just in case it’s due to a disease or fungus. Leaving them up would only compound any problem.

I'm also thinking about pruning everything around my bulbs and spring bloomers. Because the weather got so warm so early last spring, I didn't get a chance to cut down the clutter around them until they were already up and growing fast. Spring clean up was much more difficult than usual as a result.

I know that my catmint (Nepeta x faassenii  'Walker's Low), a sprawler if ever there was one, could easily stand one more "haircut" this year. Ditto for my daylilies.

Prairie dropseed foliage in the winter garden

Then there’s the question of my soil. Although I put lots of compost in my clay soil initially, I haven’t done it for a few years now. Boy, could you tell during the drought this last summer. Some newer beds especially fared poorly.

My garden obviously needs more organic matter and fall is a good time to do it. That way, the compost or other material can break down over the winter, just in time to provide nutrients to my plants in the spring. Besides, spring usually is too wet to work with clay soil. (At least I can hope that will be the case after this year's drought.)

Amending the soil will be difficult unless I cut down most, if not all of the foliage in some areas. At this point, I’m waiting for a soil sample to come back before making a decision. It might be a case where, as Hamlet said, I must be cruel only to be kind.

I've been lucky so far because the weather has turned a bit warmer, allowing me to hold off making a decision. I 'd like to do something before the snow flies, which probably won’t be long now. Let’s just hope it doesn't turn out to be, as another Shakespeare character once noted, the winter of our discontent.

By Karen Geisler

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Lurie Garden in Fall

Toad lillies in the Lurie Garden
Toad lilies in the Lurie Garden

The greens of summer have faded at the Lurie Garden in downtown Chicago, replaced by splashes of yellow, gold and various shades of brown. Yet, despite the shorter days and near-freezing temperatures at night, there's still plenty to see.

The toad lilies (Tricyrtis 'Tojen'), with their delicate spotted orchid-like flowers, are a delight. You'll also find Japanese anemones (Anemone hupehensis 'Praecox') backed by goldenrod (Solidago 'Fireworks') along the garden's easternmost edge.

And what would any respectable garden be without a few purple asters? There's the tatarian aster (Aster tartaricus 'Jindai') reaching for the skies and the much lower 'October Skies' (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium).


Asters in the Lurie Garden

Over on the other side of the boardwalk, several plants are sporadically reblooming – including the salvia that creates the garden’s famous “River” in early summer. A few coneflowers (Echinacea ssp.) can be found hiding here and there. Hyssop (Agastache rupestris) and calamint (Calamintha nepeta var. nepeta) have fewer flowers than at the height of summer but still look pretty good.

You'll also see some unusual seedheads popping up everywhere in the calamint. According to the garden's horticulturalist, Laura Ekasetya, these are bottle gentian (Gentiana andrewsii), a native Illinois prairie plant.



Bottle Gentian
Bottle gentian seedheads in the calamint

Bottle gentian generally blooms a brilliant blue in late September, although it was a month early this year, she reported. This plant is unusual in that it takes seven years to go from seed to bloom. Now that the garden is in its eighth year, visitors will be seeing more bottle gentian in the future.

Of course, the garden's ornamental grasses are in their full glory, seed heads waving proudly in the wind off nearby Lake Michigan. The northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) especially rustle in a stiff breeze. These will eventually come to dominate the garden during the winter, but for now they are content to bide their time.

The amount of life still left in this garden surprised me last weekend. My suburban Zone 5 garden is all but finished for the season. If I needed any reminder that downtown Chicago was switched to Zone 6 in the recent revision of the USDA's plant hardiness map, I certainly got it.
 
I have now visited and photographed this garden, designed by famed Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf and built over a parking garage, in all four seasons. It's been amazing each time. I'm always impressed by how a garden of this size and beauty is maintained with no chemicals using mostly volunteer labor. It shows no ill effects from this year's drought.

You hear a lot about sustainability these days. This garden is living proof it can be done. It gives me something to aspire to in my own, much more modest garden.

To see the Lurie Garden in other seasons, please click on one of the links below.

                             Winter                 Spring               Summer


By Karen Geisler

Lurie Garden in fall with amsonia

 








Amsonia allium miscanthus Lurie Garden
Amsonia 'Blue Ice' with Allium 'Summer Beauty' in front and common eulalia grass
 (Miscanthus sinensis 'Malepartus) at left back.

Arkansas bluestar Lurie Garden
Arkansas bluestar



Northern sea oats Lurie Garden
Northern sea oats


Japanese anemone goldenrod Lurie Garden
Japanese anemones with goldenrod in the background



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Ghoulish Garden

Mums, Obsidian heuchera and orange pansies

 
Is Halloween your favorite holiday? Worn out your copy of the "Little Shop of Horrors?" Then you may need a ghoulish garden.

Ask yourself, what would Morticia plant? Lily Munster? Or Elvira, Mistress of the Dark? Surely not anything ordinary, something cheery like daisies. No, any of these witchy women would brew up something wonderfully wicked.

Caroline Jones as Morticia
Photo: Gregg's Shock Theater



The most obvious choice is one with bite -- a carnivorous plant like a Venus fly trap.

Who can forget Audrey II in the "Little Shop of Horrors" yelling “Feed Me"?  Or Morticia’s special relationship with her “African Strangler,” Cleopatra?

Unfortunately, these along with a number of other plants like Dracula orchid, Voodoo Lily (Amorphophallus) and Bat Flower (Tacca chantrieri) can't survive Chicago winters outside. But there are lots of other ways to spook-ify your garden.
  
Thankfully, black seems to be the “in” color lately when it comes to flowers.  There are now black pansies, tulips, coral bells, hollyhocks, iris, dahlias and petunias -- just to name a few.

Well, they’re actually more of a deep purple or deep red for the most part, but why be picky?  They are the closest plant breeders have come so far and a lot depends on the light in which they are viewed.

Using black in the landscape can be a bit tricky although it’s a treat when done right. You need some contrast so the black doesn’t just fade into the background. White or gray foliage – think full moon -- generally works well in that regard.

Try Ghost Japanese painted fern (Athyrium 'Ghost') with its silver foliage or a Ghost hosta if you have some shade. Artemisia, sometimes called wormwood, is good in full sun. For a punch of color, add something like Orange Meadowbrite ™ coneflower (Echinacea ‘Art’s Pride’) or Blackberry Lily (Belamcanda chinensis) which has great seed pods in the fall.

 
Bela Lugosi daylily
Bela Lugosi daylily

If you’d like a more varied palette, there are a number of haunted hemerocallis. Bela Lugosi daylily has a special place in my garden, for instance, because of my husband’s love of horror movies. There’s even a Lily Munster daylily. (For a more complete list, visit The Haunted Gardens blog by clicking here.)


Black and orange pansies
Orange and black pansies are a classic.

You could take a cue from Gomez Addams, Morticia's husband, who grew roses (for the thorns), hemlock and hen’s bane (for their toxicity) and poison ivy.  My advice though, is to stick with something like witchhazel (Hamamelis ssp.) for its brilliant fall colors or Ghost ™ weigela (Weigela florida  'Carlton') which has foliage that starts out green and turns a butter yellow as the season progresses. Both are pretty and won’t get you in as much trouble with the neighbors.
 
Of course, the biggest problem with a ghoulish garden is that the Midwest's weather is so unpredictable around Halloween. Your best bet may be orange and black pansies as they can take some cold temperatures.

In the photo above, I used them with Graceful Grasses® Vertigo® pearl millet (Pennisetum purpureum) (named after the famous Alfred Hitchcock thriller no doubt) and some 'Bronzilla' sedge (Carex flagelifera). Obsidian coral bells, the blackest Heuchera, is shown in the container at the very top. You also could add some pumpkins or dead branches with spider webs just before the Big Night.
 
If you need something even spookier, consider a gargoyle or mythical winged creature of some sort. Still want more? I've actually spotted several zombie garden gnomes on the Web. You can't get much more horrific than that.
 

By Karen Geisler

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Hushed October Morning


 October
by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.



O hushed October morning mild
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.


 
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.




Slow, slow!
For the grape's sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost --
For the grapes' sake along the wall.




Robert Frost is one of my favorite poets and I especially like this poem. Rain and wind these past two days have spirited away much of the fall color but the memories remain. Happy Autumn!










By Karen Geisler

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