What's Blooming in October

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Posted by @LarryR on
October usually spells the end of the gardening season here in Iowa. This year we've been blessed with an extended season as there has been no frost yet. Come on in and see what's still blooming at Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens! Check out the photo contest at the end of the article and take a moment to scroll down farther to the forum to show us some of the flowers blooming in your garden right now.


Asters and Melampodium

efore we take a look at what's blooming at Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens this month, it is time to announce the winner of last month's Name that Bloom contest. Congratulations to valleylynn from the Willamette Valley, OR (Zone 8b) for being the first to identify September's mystery bloom as Lablab purpureus (Hyacinth Bean).  Her prize is the publication of a flower photo of her choice from her garden.

I asked Lynn to tell us a little about herself.

     The Changing Face of
     Sempervivum 'Gypsy'
     Photographed by
March 28, 2011
 June 29, 2011
  August 3, 2011
Lynn included  this photo so that we could see what sempervivium blossoms look like.


I happen to know that Lynn recently made a living wreath that incorporates semperviviums.  I asked her if I might share a photo of it with my readers.  Happily, she said "Yes!"  I think you'll agree that it is absolutely beautiful.   (Be sure to click on it to enlarge the image.)

How did you come to be a gardener?

Both my grandmother and mother were gardeners and I loved working beside them. They taught me the joy of watching things grow.

How long have you been gardening?

Since my earliest memories.

Do you have a favorite flower?

I love so many different plants, but my favorite is the lowly Johnny Jump-up (Viola tricolor). My mother gave me a packet of seed to plant when I was very small. I still remember the wonder of watching them come up from the dirt and turn into the sweetest little blooms.

Do you grow vegetables as well?

We always had a large vegetable garden until the children left home. The last two years we have only grown tomatoes, peppers and some herbs.

Do you have any other hobbies?

I love to do volunteer work with my two Certified Therapy Dogs (Nikki and Petrie). I also love taking photos. I am getting a little better at it. Still a long ways to go. : )

Why did you choose the Sempervivium photos?

Sempervivums have captured my heart. They are such hardy, easy care plants that go through amazing transformation in color throughout all the seasons. There is a size and texture for everyone, from mini from an 1/8" to very large at 6"-8" or more across the rosette. From smooth and shiny to velvety soft or covered in cobwebs. I love them all.


What's Blooming at Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens This Month

In the photo at the top of this article, I've combined New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae) with Melampodium (Melampodium paludosum).  Melampodium is a great, under-used annual.  Its sunny color really lights up a garden bed.  A relative of the zinnia, it starts blooming in late spring, blooms right through our hot summers, stopping only with advent of a killing frost.  It has a bushy habit and can grow to a height and width of about 18 inches.

In our gardens melampodium self-sows modestly.  For those gardeners who like to start plants from seed, Melampodium germinates easily and quickly.  Young plants often have leaves that droop a bit or are misshapen.  It seems to be a quirk of this species.  Seedlings rapidly grow out of this phase with no ill effects.

   Did You Know?

Articles at All Things Plants are released for publication at midnight (0:00), according to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in England.  If you would like to take a crack at the mystery blossom as soon as the article appears, here's how it works:

"What's Blooming" appears around the 15th of the month.  The 15th arrives earlier in England than it does in the U.S.  When it is 0:00 GMT (midnight) it is still the 14th in the U.S.  Here are the U.S. times corresponding to 0:00 GMT:

Eastern Daylight = 8 PM

Central Daylight = 7 PM

Mountain Daylight = 6 PM

Pacific Daylight = 5 PM

Readers in other areas of the world can convert their time to GMT here.


Lespedeza or Bush Clover (Lespedeza thunbergii) is another plant that deserves wider use in gardens. it is perennial and emerges in late spring, growing slowly to about 18 inches tall and a foot wide in our gardens.  The small, pinnate leaves are decorative and add interest to the summer garden.  In late summer there is a growth spurt that produces arching stems three feet long and, eventually, clusters of small pea-like flowers in shades of purple dangling from them.

What's Blooming
 Bush Clover
Blossom close-up
Giant Fleece Flower

I especially like the fact that the long, arching stems tend to cover plants nearby.  This may at first appear to be a disadvantage, but I purposely plant perennials under it that can thrive in filtered light and are done blooming by fall.  Lespedeza makes a great cover-up at that point.  The arched canes also bob in the slightest breeze and the flower clusters sway back and forth, adding motion to the display.

Finally, I'd like to spotlight two of the Persicaria species we grow in our gardens.  Persicarias are a very diverse species.  Known as Smartweeds, Fleece Flowers, or Knotweeds, they are a genus of plants with over 50 species.  Ranging in size from six inches or less to the imposing Persicaria polymorpha at 5-6 feet or more, they bloom in white, pink, bright scarlet and numerous intermediate shades.  Many are considered weeds, some even as noxious weeds.

Happily, Persicaria polymorpha is well-behaved and does not sucker nor reseed.  This imposing perennial dies to the ground after a killing frost, only to arise and rocket to new heights the next spring. True to its name, it produces fleecy clusters of white flowers, beginning in late spring and often right up to frosty fall weather.  Its hardiness designation is still evolving.  Zones 5-9 are most often cited at this point, although some growers and retailers say it is hardy all the way north into Zone 3.

Wolfgang Oehme, a well-known landscape architect--along with his partner, James van Sweden--introduced this garden-worthy plant to gardeners and landscape architects.  Its origin, however, remains a mystery.  It looks very much like a native Chinese species, so some horticultural authorities insist it comes from China.  Others beg to differ, saying that it is probably a hybrid of unknown origin.  Wherever it came from, it is a great garden plant.

As its size implies, Giant Fleece Flower needs lots of room.  Not only is it six feet tall, but at its widest point it stretches to six feet as well.  Its vase-shaped form draws the eye immediately to the fleecy inflorescence at the top.  Its shape also provides the opportunity for planting smaller perennials or annuals at its feet.

One of those perennials is Firetail (Persicaria amplexicaulis) another member of the Persicaria genus.  Like Giant Fleece Flower, it is a well-behaved clump former.  Its pinkish red floral tails are unique and always capture the attention of our garden visitors.  The plant grows to a height of about two feet.  In all other respects, Firetail mirrors its polymorpha cousin.

All plants pictured in the right-hand column do well in ordinary garden soil.  They prefer full sun, but thrive and bloom in partial shade as well.

As you peruse gardening catalogs and websites this winter, I encourage you to consider ordering and growing at least one of the plants I've mentioned.  You may even be pleasantly surprised to see them at local garden centers.  Their requirements are minimal, and they will provide you with never-ending beauty throughout the entire growing season.


These unique blossoms are new to horticulture, having made their debut in 2010 after receiving rave reviews from organizations that trialed this plant in 2009.  It is an annual and draws its cultivar name from the appearance of its globular blooms.
 An excellent choice for drying


Scroll down to the forum at the end of this article.  Click on the thread, "September Contest Entries."  Enter the name of the plant, either one of its common names or its botanical name (genus and species).  It is important to include its cultivar name, which appears in single quotes when it is cited.  The contest thread should appear shortly after publication of this article. For the timing, please see the "Did You Know" box in the text above. The winner gets to select a photo of a blooming plant from her/his garden, to be published in next month's What's Blooming article.



Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens, owned by Larry and Wilma Rettig, South Amana, Iowa, has been featured in local and national publications, on the Internet, and is listed with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., as a national heritage garden. Larry and Wilma grow over 300 varieties of flowers, trees, shrubs, and vegetables. Since 1986, they have maintained a seed bank that preserves vegetable varieties brought from Germany to the Amana Villages during the 1850s.  More...















Comments and discussion:
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Plnt Envy by Boopaints Oct 22, 2011 4:04 PM 3
October contest entries by LarryR Oct 19, 2011 7:05 PM 17
Very nice article by SongofJoy Oct 17, 2011 1:44 PM 4

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