If the temperatures did not hover in the high 90s most afternoon, you could easily guess it was already autumn. In my neighborhood there are large drifts of dry leaves blown to the edge of the street.
The squash plants are suffering after various injuries, including heat, drought and the onslaught of about 3 million tiny, gray insects. Almond harvest is in full swing and the rice fields are beginning to turn from green to amber.
Another sign of fall is the appearance of bulbs for sale at places we shop for eggs and milk.
Gardeners are forward-thinkers. In the fall we think of spring-blooming bulbs. In winter we pour through seed catalogs. In spring we plant pumpkin seeds.
Other forward-thinkers include the merchandisers for Costco. Those big warehouse folks are apparently fixated on Halloween.
Right now, if I had the inclination, I could buy a five-foot long, hairy spider and throw it into someone’s swimming pool.
I could also stuff a black plastic bag with the scary plastic skeleton and toss it into the bed of my boss’ pickup truck.
Costco is also wagering that most boys age 2-10 want to be an Avenger for Halloween. If those spiffy get-ups are sold out soon, a fireman or storm trooper will do.
I don’t have kids, so I’ll trust Costco to know the secret yearnings of young people. They caught this gardener’s attention somewhere between the giant spider and the gal who gives the blender demonstrations.
A rack taller than me in high heels was filled with big bags of bulbs of most colors.
I needed to be reminded to buy and plant paperwhites.
In just 3-5 weeks, the package states, I can have a lovely bouquet growing on my kitchen table.
The illustrated instructions explain to place the paperwhite bulbs about halfway beneath the soil in a pot about 3-4 inches deep. You can also opt to place the bulbs in a dish filled with pebbles and water.
I’ll avoid this route because standing water is just one more excuse for the cat to jump up on the table.
According to the Costco written instructions, “Rementhe la terre en place pour couvir les bulbes et arroser abondamment.”
An article by C.L. Fornari, at gardenlady.comsuggests putting the bulbs in a tall, glass vase with the rocks and water at the bottom. This sounds fun because the stems will be supported on the sides, and the cat would have a more difficult time getting her tongue to the bottom of the vessel.
While I’m looking forward, I remembered to plant Foxglove by seed.
I don’t remember until its too late.
The plant is “biennial,” and I’m not exactly sure what that means.
If you think of an annual — you think of plants we put into pots on the front porch. As soon as it gets cold, these plants die. Perennials are your permanent plants, which live for years and years.
Biennial means a plant that takes two years to grow from seed to flowers.
However, every time I’ve purchased a six-pack of small plants in the fall, they bloom in early summer.
But for the most part, I’ve bought foxglove from the nursery and then watched as the plants reseed themselves.
The plants need light to germinate. This means the plant can release seeds without our help, and the seeds can germinate without being buried by soil.
If you had plants this summer, you can put a paper bag over the top of the dried bloom and cut the stem. Pinch in the bag at the bottom to capture the seeds.
I moved last year, and there are no foxgloves plants to reseed themselves. Instead, I took two empty plastic six-pack containers and filled with some coarse potting soil. After watering lightly, the seeds from Renee’s Gardenseeds sprouted within a week.
Now the job is to keep them alive by not watering too much or forgetting to water.
Foxglove are a big favorite with the carpenter bees in my neighborhood. Those are the huge black bees, so large they seem like they should beep when they back up.
The bees climb all the way into the glove-shaped flowers on the tall flower spikes.
We will see if it takes two years for these foxglove seeds to grow and bloom.
The plants grow tall flower spikes, 4-8 feet tall. The spikes will flop over or bend if not protected from the wind. On the other hand, you don’t want to protect them so much that they need to lean out to catch enough sun.