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Growing a Cottage Garden: Our First Autumn

Earlier in the spring, I stressed over many of my perennial seeds that didn’t seem to be germinating. Nearly two months later, they began to sprout… the catmint, coneflowers, and hollyhocks… though I tried to exercise patience as several websites told me that perennials do not bloom until their second year.
So, I have a garden full of coneflower foliage, but I must wait until next summer to see the purple flowers.

Coneflower foliage, allysum, and stringy stonecrop

A few of the hollyhocks, however, have surprised me with vigorous growth and even blooms! Of course, if they bloom this first year, they will die as annuals, but there are plenty still in early stages of growth to enjoy next summer. I am just thrilled to finally see my garden taking shape!

Pink Hollyhocks

Pale pink white hollyhock

Dark pink hollyhock growing in allysum

In this image above, you can see my half-grown hollyhock blooming alongside allysum, which is called “Carpet of Snow”, but in MY garden, I affectionately call it “Buffalo Blizzard” ~ in reference to the heavy snowfall in upstate New York. (Technically, Syracuse has won the Golden Snowball Award for most snow in recent years, LOL!)

Seriously, I encouraged allysum to grow when my garden was new and very sparsely planted. It is a vigorously re-seeding annual, and it quickly took over, skipping across the sidewalk, and sowing itself everywhere.

It was pretty for awhile… until it started growing taller and swallowing my walkway. Apparently it needs a weekly buzz-cut! I’ve chopped it down several times this summer, and it grows back even bushier. After a recent trim, I measured the stems at 24″…. that’s a far cry from “the low-growing carpet-like groundcover” it proclaimed to be!

Allysum is a beautiful, sweet-smelling, EVIL plant! >:P

Cabbage White Butterflies on Allysum Catmint

On a side note: I’ve been enjoying the little white butterflies (pictured here), dancing among the allysum and catmint, even though I found out they are “cabbage butterflies” whose caterpillars will eat vegetables, and are considered pests! Ah well, I grow weeds, too! What do you expect from me? ;)

Another prolific grower has been the blasted catmint (shown below with lavender).

Being in the mint family, I shouldn’t be surprised, right? They took forever to establish themselves, at first, I didn’t think the seeds were going to germinate at all. Now they are growing all over the place and getting bigger every day! I jokingly told friends on Facebook that anyone who wants to trade plants for catmint, they will also get free allysum seeds in the deal. ;)

Allysum, catmint, lavender

I do love to smell the mint, though, when I’m pruning it. It does make an effective groundcover for bare spots, and it has been blooming faithfully all summer. :)

Another late starter was the hyacinth bean vines that I planted, expecting them to cover my ugly metal (temporary) fence. They are annuals, and are reputed to grow 20′ or more in their season… but I was having serious doubts about that. My vines were disappointingly small in the first half of the summer, and then one day, they took off running…. I mean, climbing!

Hyacinth Bean vine growing on fence

They began growing a foot per day, and now my fence (and the shepherd’s hook nearby) are laden with purple flowers and seedpods.
They look so wild and pretty! Neighbors walking down the sidewalk have stopped to admire them. I will definitely be harvesting seeds to regrow them next spring. :)

Hyacinth Bean flowers and seed pods

Late in July, a gaping hole appeared when my Bleeding Heart monster started dying back, so I purchased some annual cosmos seeds and scattered them around. Only a few germinated, but they grew quickly! Now I regret not planting them sooner to enjoy their blooms all summer.

Pink Cosmos Flower and buds

A couple of the seeds migrated from the spot where I tossed them, and I noticed tiny cosmos flowers blooming among the clusters of allysum. The effect is really pretty, so I think I’ll scatter cosmos seeds throughout my garden next year and hope for happy accidents!

Cosmos growing in Sweet Allysum

White Cosmos flower

I’ve been trying to envision what my garden will look like come winter, when all the herbaceous plants have gone into hibernation, and I’m staring at a yard of bare earth with a birdbath in its center.

I’ve gathered chopped wood from neighbors’ fallen trees to add some structural interest to groups of plants.

Sweet Allysum, Dianthus, Lily Turf

Joe, the kids, and I visited the canal in Williamsport, gathered some loose river rocks, and I’ve been artfully arranging them throughout the garden.

Garden rock, English Daisies, Hostas

One of my favorites is a large, flat rock that birds and insects use for sunbathing. I’ve surrounded it with English daisies, catmint, hostas, and a couple of coneflower plants. It resides near the birdbath, so the spring hyacinths and crocuses will bloom around it, too! :)

English Daisies, Rock, Coneflower foliage

While my friends are teasing me about adding garden gnomes and flamingos, LOL, I must confess that I’ve imagined a garden full of cat statues, watching me from underneath shrubs and hiding behind plants. In winter, little feline faces would be peeking out from snow drifts.

I think this year I’ll paint a Victorian choir of cats singing Christmas carols to hang on my front door… while I wait for spring! :)

Tara Fly

About Tara Fly

A Crazy Cat Lady ... who divides her time between painting portraits of cats dressed in period costumes, watching BBC mini-series, growing weeds and wildflowers, and baking pumpkin pies seasoned with cat hair. Would you like some fur-flavoured coffee?

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