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Bloom Day Photo Challenge

Flower bed at a community garden

Back in August and September, I started telling the story of my Community Garden experience: Small Kitchen Garden Goes Community and Tilling in the No-Till Garden. Many long-time renters at the garden plant ornamental borders around their vegetable plots, and I found this combination quite pleasing.

It’s the last Garden Bloggers Bloom Day of winter and there are flowers in my garden. However, the day is overcast and I’m still wincing my way through recovery fully six weeks after having a Whipple: surgery to remove a pancreatic tumor and re-route my digestive tract.

Shortly after surgery, I gave myself three of those “7 days, 7 photos” challenges and I haven’t delivered. I’ve been working on them; got one posted. But I’ve spent bits and drabs of time over many weeks selecting photos from 2015 and organizing them into categories. Now, rather than just three challenges, I’m working on seven.

Last night I got really close with seven landscape photos, but I didn’t finish, and today it’s Bloom Day. Coincidentally, one of my challenge categories is “blossoms.” So, from many hundreds of flower blossom photos I created in 2015, I’ve chosen seven to feature for my blossom photo challenge on Bloom Day. Captions may not identify the types of flowers, but they provide background on where I found them.

Kylee's garden

Not a remarkable photo, but it’s special to me because I captured it while visiting Kylee Baumle at her home in Ohio. I “met” Kylee away back when on Twitter, and it was a great privilege to meet her in person and tour her garden. Kylee blogs at Our Little Acre.

Giant Magnolia blossom

In June of 2015, Garden Writers Association sponsored a regional meeting at the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. It was an unseasonably hot day, but the arboretum was well worth the sweat. Among the many amazing trees, there was a Giant Magnolia in bloom, with several blossoms low on the tree (though inconveniently shaded). The blossom in this photo would easily cover a dinner plate.

Magnolia in bloom

Two doors north of the Cityslipper ranch stands a vacant house once owned by a WWII vet who shared stories with me about his combat experiences and about the character of the neighborhood—he had lived here many years before we moved in. There is a robust magnolia tree next to the driveway, and I’ve taken liberties over the years to capture photos of the gorgeous pink blossoms in early spring. I could fill a photo album with magnolia blossom photos, but this one from spring of 2015 is one of my all-time favorites.

Hydrangea blossoms

Here at the Cityslipper ranch, I’ve acquired several hydrangeas over the years and have had miserable luck with them. Each has grown vigorously in its first season, and then gotten chewed back to the soil line in early winter. This particular plant got eaten two or three years in a row before I finally put a fence around it and several other hydrangea and rose bushes. Starting on second year growth in 2015, the plant didn’t add much bulk, but it produced this single cluster of blossoms that hung on for at least three months. I loved the variety of delicate colors and captured, perhaps, 30 or more photos of it throughout the season.

Climbing bean blossoms

Also at the Cityslipper ranch, I make a concerted effort each year to capture unique photos of my food plants. This photo is of bean blossoms. I grew climbing beans in the garden annex extension where they received direct sunlight sporadically throughout each day. One day when most of the annex extension was in shadow, these blossoms caught a bit of sunshine and begged me to take some photos.

Water lily in bloom

I see a lot of photos of water lilies. No doubt these flowers are popular subjects because they’re gorgeous. I go a bit gaga when I have an opportunity to capture photos of them because they’re not common—it’s a great pleasure to visit water gardens that feature these delicate beauties. This summer, my wife and I enjoyed a day at the legendary Longwood Gardens. Among the many sights there is a large courtyard of pools hosting all kinds of water plants including both day-blooming and night-blooming water lilies. This is one of my favorite photos from that day.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Bloom Day Photo Challenge

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Winter Not Here, Too

Typical mid-December snow in central PA

For contrast, behold December 14, 2014. This wasn’t the first snow of that season. In fact, we’d had an otherworldly freeze in November that foreshadowed the miserable sustained cold to come.

Nearly every gardener in the United States in winter of 2014-2015 marveled at the crazy weather. Some areas—the Pacific Northwest, for example—experienced crazy, spring-and summer-like weather in what are typically the coldest months. In the Northeast, we had an unbroken string of days so cold that perennials thought they’d moved two hardiness zones north.

Here we go again. But this winter’s reports are different. Gardeners everywhere have been reporting on annuals going strong well into December—annuals that would typically wither and die in October and November. Gardeners have also reported perennials in bloom either way later than they should be, or way earlier.

It’s my turn!

Hardy perennials in a mild winter

While I garden to grow food, I’m paying more and more attention to ornamental plants. In the past few years, my wife and I have added quite a few. My flowering perennials have been just as confused by the weather as so many other perennials across the country. Photos tell the story.

Early winter viola bud

This year, eight days farther into December than last year’s snowy photo above, the newest variety of viola I set in the garden in autumn was still producing buds.

Early winter viola blossom

On December 27, my three-year-old viola patch sported blossoms. It didn’t give up until biting cold arrived in early January.

Jolt Pink Dianthus blooming in winter

The All-America Selections winner I acquired at a trade show in 2015 is a dianthus (Jolt Pink F1) that didn’t come with a cold hardiness rating. It looked good in the garden all summer and fall, and had a few blossoms on December 27. Even after low temperatures in the teens, it is holding onto blossoms. I suspect it will continue producing in 2016.

Early-blooming hellebore

Not a late blossom, but rather a very early blossom. I started with hellebores three seasons ago and added two new plants last summer. In my experience, hellebores (you might know them as Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose) bloom about when crocuses bloom—perhaps lagging by a few days. However, I’ve seen hellebore blossoms poking out from snow banks with no crocuses in site. I’d guess different varieties of hellebores blossom at different times. Seeing mine in bloom on December 27 was a surprise. One of my older plants has already put out a dozen or so pink buds, but it did that last winter as well and none opened until March.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Winter Not Here, Too

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Frost Flowers for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Frost flowers on lilac twigs

My lilac bush last flowered many months ago. Five days ago, freezing temperatures and saturated air combined to decorate every lilac twig with water crystal blossoms.

I seriously cheated for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day this month. That’s ironic because for the first time ever, there are blossoms in my garden in December. I have photos of those flowers, but I’m not posting them.

You see, a few days before Bloom Day this month, we experienced an unusual two-day atmospheric event: the air was cold and saturated. Nearly every leaf and twig remained at about 32F degrees for those two days, and fog hung heavy. The combination brought dead flower stalks into full bloom.

I captured dozens of photos of these delightful frost flowers, and present a few here. I hope you don’t mind too much that I cheated for Bloom Day.

Frosted cone flower

Expired cone flowers in the front ornamental bed captured ice crystals and barely resembled their summer selves.

Ice blossoms on basil

A stand of purple basil plants flowered hard in early autumn, dropped seeds, and dried out. Fog and cold 3D-printed frost petals on the spent blossoms.

Frosted goldenrod against a frosted meadow

Every meadow plant, though dead and dry, sprouted ice blossoms, turning the meadow white. The foreground here is goldenrod.

Icy aster blossom

Asters bloomed profusely in summer, and captured a lot of ice crystals last week.

Goldenrod frost flower

Frost flowers on goldenrod.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Frost Flowers for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

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November 2015 Bloom Day

Late season pak choi blossoms

One of two annuals still abloom in my garden: a volunteer pak choi plant probably self-seeded from one of last year’s volunteers. Several of these popped up in random places throughout my various planting beds in 2015.

Autumn has taken its time in central Pennsylvania. It was slow to arrive, its colors lingered for weeks, and it has held off frigid winter temperatures well into its second month. But for a handful of nighttime lows, autumn hasn’t been itself. In fact it is tallying an impressive count of warm days reminiscent of early or late summer.

And, there are blossoms. Sure, the cold-sensitive plants have melted away after freezing through on frosty nights, but a few stalwart annuals, and even more perennials continue on as if expecting autumn never to yield.

To celebrate Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I captured photos. I’m a tad late in posting, but what you see is what was in bloom on this November 15. I hope I don’t find flowers in my garden in December.

Late season petunia blossoms

Petunias along the south wall of the house continue to show healthy foliage and blossoms… though the blossoms are only on stems very close to the house. Guessing the wall of the house holds heat into the evening providing a sub-micro climate just warm enough to coax blooms.

Late season viola blossom

Under the lilac bush, barely sticking out above autumn leaves, a small clump of violas is till pushing up blossoms. These plants have been spreading for a few years, but a patch died back last winter; I’m hoping for a better outcome this year.

Late season viola blossom

Across the yard from the clump of tiny violas, I planted a new bed with two different varieties—both producing larger blossoms than the older clump. The plants aren’t well-established, but they’ve been in bloom since I planted them in July.

Late season pinchushion blossom

I must have found some Pincushion flowers on closeout in July. I don’t know the plant but photos online hold promise. So far mine have been dramatically unimpressive; my wife has spoken derisively about them. Still, there’s a blossom. I hope the plants spread a bit next year.

Late season echinacea blossom

This is most certainly my last Echinacea blossom of the season. I set the plant out in July. It hasn’t put out much growth but clearly it’s healthy. There’s one more bud behind this one, but it shows no signs of opening. This variety, Cheyenne Spirit, was an All America Selections winner in 2013.

Late season rose blossom

In my yard, Drift roses and Knockouts live up to their marketing hype. They’ve been in bloom for months and there are still many blossoms, though not all are in top form. This is on my only red rose plant; the rest are pink.

Late season dianthus in bloom

Still amazing me, this dianthus has been in bloom nearly continuously since I brought it back from a trade show in July. Sold as an annual, I’m hoping it survives central Pennsylvania winters. For blooms it has been a top performer. This variety, Interspecific Jolt, was an All America Selections winner in 2015.

Late season rudbeckia in bloom

Several of our Rudbeckia plants shriveled as summer ended. I suspect they’re not coming back next year. Several others continue to produce flowers. I guess the plants are deciding among themselves which are better suited to our garden.

Late season yarrow in bloom

Guessing this is Yarrow. I’ve often wondered whether my wife planted it some years ago; it appears each season not quite in a flower bed, but it’s so pretty (and insistent) that it seems intentional. This flower head lies on the most traveled pathway in our yard. The plant has been in bloom for several months.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – November 2015 Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

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Garden Bloggers Bloom Day in Central PA, September 2015

Ageratum up close and personal

I assembled a hanging planter this spring and included in it ageratum and begonia. It was cheaper to buy a six-pack of small plants than to buy a single pot holding a large plant. I bought the six-packs and extras ended up in our front planting bed. Ageratum, I think, looks best up close.

It was a beautiful day and I spent quite a bit of it in the garden taking photos. To participate in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I selected a mere fraction of those photos to post here. These blooms are from all over the Cityslipper ranch—both the vegetable beds and the various (and increasing) ornamental beds.

The vegetable garden is still going strong, but with diminishing sunlight and cool nights, things must certainly be slowing down. I’d love to harvest another half bushel of tomatoes and a bit more winter squash before frost shuts things down. In any case, I hope you’ll have a my blossoms. Maybe you’ll agree I had a pleasant time in the yard.

Begonias as bedding plants

I don’t think I’ve met a begonia I didn’t like. This variety is super common in area gardens. The blossoms are spectacular though tiny. Planting a whole lot of these close so they grow together would make a dramatic display. Two or three of them in a large planting bed are no more than a color bump.

Flox blossoms

This is crazy. Flox plants in our south-facing planting bed are still putting out gorgeous flowers. In past years, flox has blossomed copiously but for a limited time; plants usually look rather ratty by mid-September.

Jolt Pink Dianthus

This dianthus won’t quit. I brought it home from Cultivate15 in July when it was in full bloom. By the time I set it in the garden, the blossoms had finished but a few weeks later it was back in full bloom! Since then, it has continued to blossom less dramatically but impressively. It hasn’t been tested for cold hardiness, so I can only hope it winters over and puts on another show next season. The variety is “Interspecific Jolt Pink” and it’s an All America Selections award winner.

Gaillardia in shadows

Hiding in morning shadows, the gaillardia has thrived in its second year. My wife had planted gaillardia several times over the years, but this is the first time any has survived a winter in our garden.

Gladiolus

We have three or four gladiolus beds. Blooms in the main bed finished almost a month ago. These blooms are from bulbs I planted late.

Viola blossoms

Just three feet from the gladiolus, violas are spreading in the shadow of a young hydrangea. I brought the violas home from Cultivate 15 and have been impressed at their enthusiasm to display blossoms even as they divide and conquer the planting bed.

Russian sage and photo bomber

Our Russian sage plant lacks the form of ones I see in photos on line. It puts up spindly branches that seem to fall every which-way which works for me cuz every which-way is an excellent description of our garden design style. I love the delicate blossoms and the silver-purple colors… and apparently they appeal even more to cabbage butterflies.

Gaillardia hanging on

I’m calling this gaillardia though it only vaguely resembles the gaillardia my wife planted. I sprinkled a bag of “instant wildflower meadow” on the bank of my rain garden and this is the only plant that emerged. In its second season, I don’t want it where it is… but I love having it in the garden.

Holly blossoms

We have a holly bush “next to” our front walk. It overhangs the walk, blocking about 1/3 the width. Clearly, it doesn’t belong in the space it was given and I’m afraid moving it would require removing some of the walkway. We’ll probably continue to abuse the poor plant for years. That said, it’s in bloom. The blossoms are gorgeous but you really have to lean in to get a look.

Sedum in bloom in the rock garden

Sedums in the new rock garden are in full bloom. I love the red here, and in the way back a pink that barely shows in the photo. There are clouds of white blossoms in a corner you can’t see… but still plenty of bare spots I’ll fill in with new additions next spring.

Late-blooming lavender

The lavender blossomed months ago and faded. I was a bit surprised to find several spikes of fresh blooms today.

Tomato blossom

Tomato blossom! It’s too late in the season for a tomato blossom to produce harvestable fruit before first frost. I guess the plants don’t know it… there are plenty of fresh, hopeful blossoms.

French Gold pole bean from Renee's Garden

By far my favorite bean is the French Gold Pole Filet Bean. The vines don’t overwhelm trellises as some bean vines do, but they produce well and the beans taste great. I’ve found seeds for these only at Renee’s Garden, and I plant them every year. These flowers hang below a trellis; that’s the tip of a ripening bean entering the frame from the top right.

Canna and humming bird

The most awesome moment in my garden today came when I was taking photos in the rock garden. A soft buzzy hum made me look up to see a humming bird drawing nectar from the canna flowers. The little photo-bomber managed to get into several compositions.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Garden Bloggers Bloom Day Sept 2015.

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Garden Bloggers Bloom Day at Longwood Gardens

Zinnia blossom in the Longwood Gardens trial gardens

Zinnias grew in several places at Longwood Gardens. This variety was common. I captured the photo in a trial garden among many where visitors vote for their favorite plant combinations. In the right light, you can see a purple tinge on the inside ends of the petals. If I grew zinnias, I’d track down this variety; it’s eye-catching.

I’m cheating a lot this month for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. I’m posting flowers, but I’m not posting my flowers.

My wife and I recently spent the day at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. We toured just about every venue there, and I captured at least ten photographs (posted about the Meadow Garden here).

A whole bunch of my photos are closeups of blossoms. I didn’t take notes, so I can’t tell you much about the plants. Some are easy for a layperson to identify, others might challenge well-trained horticulturists. Seriously: I took no notes. If you see any blossoms here you like, maybe they’ll motivate you to visit Longwood Gardens.

Purple flower spike in the Longwood Gardens Meadow Garden

Along the path through Longwood Gardens’ Meadow Garden, we saw several spikes of purple wispy blossoms. This one had drawn attention from a butterfly that was a bit camera shy. Everywhere in the meadow garden was alive with insects of many varieties.

Fruit cluster and flower in a student garden at Longwood Gardens

A cluster of fruit, sporting a single blossom, grew in one of the “Student Gardens” at Longwood Gardens. There are four such plots, each created by a student of the institution (Longwood trains future horticulturists).

Trumpet flower at Longwood Gardens

This trumpet flower was among several growing along the Flower Garden Walk at Longwood Gardens.

Quite likely a dahlia at Longwood Gardens

I remember enjoying a blossom along the Flower Garden Walk, leaning down to read the plant marker, and marveling that I’d been admiring a dahlia; it didn’t vaguely resemble any dahlia I’d seen. This photo might show the blossom, but if you know better please provide insight in a comment.

Dahlia at Longwood Gardens

No doubt this is a dahlia. There was a patch of these along the Flower Garden Walk. I probably took ten photos of these alone.

Purple and pretty on the Flower Garden Walk at Longwood Gardens

Not going to guess about this one. It was purple and pretty along the Flower Garden Walk.

Gorgeous on the Flower Garden Walk at Longwood Gardens

Can’t imagine why I didn’t take notes about this one. The plants grew densely and the flowers were stunning. I’ll probably track down the proper ID some day… I hope they turn out to be perennial in hardiness zone 5.

In the Palm House at Longwood Gardens

The Palm House inside the Longwood Gardens conservatory offered a few exotic blossoms. Several clusters of this type peaked out from among the palms.

A most exotic tree at Longwood Gardens

The name of the tree sporting these otherworldly pink blossoms (I assume they’re blossoms) was so intuitive, I knew I’d remember it later… but I don’t. There were two of these trees in the conservatory, and both displayed more pink flower snakes than they did foliage.

Yellow Hibiscus in the Longwood Gardens conservatory

Dazzling hibiscus blossoms drew attention inside the conservatory. By the time we were there, light was fading so the yellow blooms especially popped against the darker, poorly lit background.

Purple Hibiscus in the Longwood Gardens conservatory

Blossoms of a particular hibiscus in the conservatory were sublime… but then I’m a sucker for purple.

Yellow and pink cannas in the Longwood Gardens conservatory

Longwood Gardens has a pipe organ that plays into the ballroom of the conservatory. Just outside the ballroom, there was a stand of yellow and pink blossoms I’m quite certain were cannas. I like!

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Longwood Gardens: Meadow & Green Roofs

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