It's officially fall. I will allow myself to use the word now, but that doesn't mean I'm happy about it. But there's nothing to be done about it, so I might as well make the most of it and enjoy what really is a beautiful time of year (even if I spend it dreading what comes next).

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First, I wanted to share this photo I snapped on my way out the door the other day and shared on Instagram. My rose in a pot is putting out great new growth (so much so that I'm going to grow more roses in pots, because I'm a sucker like that), but I just loved how these fresh leaves looked with their little water droplet jewelry.

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You know I'm a bit dahlia nutty, but growing them for show is an entirely different animal. Look at some of these utterly gorgeous dahlias Matt over at Growing with Plants shared.

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Gardenista's Hardscaping 101 series is featuring bricks, which is an option I like more and more these days. In my dream vegetable garden I envision gray bricks set in a herringbone pattern leading to the bespoke greenhouse and running between the raised beds. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

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Apparently the only closeup picture I have of our kitchen island. How is that possible?

Over at Thrifty Decor Chick, she's talking about different ways of finishing butcher block, but never mentions my favorite, which is just oiling it. I use this oil on our walnut kitchen island and I love it. It's super easy, holds up and, well, what else is there? The only down side is that any paper you set on it will pick up some oil if it's been oiled recently.

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Dale Sievert spoke to our master gardener group last night and I was so enamored with the beautiful photos of moss gardens that he showed us that I immediately ran over to his blog to see more. Check it out but be prepared to consider going full moss in your garden. But think hard first. He told us that he spends 60 hours a week in his garden in spring and fall and about 25 hours a week during summer. In fall he rakes, then blows, then VACUUMS his garden so there is no debris left on the moss over winter.

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On another note, since it's officially fall (and I swear the leaves on the trees started turning overnight, damn them) I need to ditch my unimaginative but  summer wardrobe (crop pants + solid T-shirt + sandals, literally every day) and get some clothes for fall. As I get older I find myself getting worse at cooking and dressing myself. I have no idea what that is about but I need some serious help to get my style in shape. I tried Stitch Fix and it was a complete disaster. Anybody have any good ideas for me of where I could get some help to boost my style?

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That's it for this week! Hopefully the weather will cooperate to allow lots of time in the garden this weekend. What are you doing? Moving into full fall mode or holding out as long as you can? By the way, this was one of those random two-post Fridays. If you missed my post earlier today updating  you on my plan for the circle garden, you can find it here


It's Friday, so I bet you're expecting Friday Finds. Never fear, they are coming later, but I didn't want to let another day pass without giving up an update on the oval circle garden (I feel like that's now the best way to refer to it).

When we last checked in on this garden that is the first thing people see when they come in our driveway (other than possibly the garage straight ahead), I was sharing how I had let the whole thing sort of slip into a sad state because I knew I was sick of. Upon further reflection I realized that there were design problems from the very beginning (which I'm letting myself off the hook for because it was the first garden I ever designed) and while I still like the concept, changes are needed.

I've been doing a lot of sketching and have settled into something I'm liking quite a bit.

As I've mentioned before, the chive hedge will stay and I'll rearrange it to line each segment. The paths, which are now a paltry 16 inches wide, will expand to 24 inches wide. That will eat up a lot of planting space, but it has to happen (and there's always room for plants somewhere else). The pea gravel that is currently there will be changed out for some other kind of gravel. Cobblestones will line the outside and the middle circle, but I'll do steel edging again for the "spokes."

Not that you can tell there's an obelisk under there, but there is and it supports the 'William Baffin' climbing rose (that the deer like more than I do) and a clematis.

As I previously mentioned, I'll leave the obelisk with a climber in the center circle and probably replant a few other things in there. For the rest of the planting, I'm thinking about a boxwood meatball or even a square, but something tightly clipped, in the middle of each section. Then each section would be further divided with three different grouping of plantings. If I line them up right, the effect would be a diamond shape.

Each subsection (shown by different colors on the drawing) would be completely planted with just one plant variety but not divided by any other physical barrier. I'm envisioning a combination of flowering annuals, grasses, dwarf shrubs and perennials. Planting a variety of things would allow me to accommodate for the fact that even though it's a small garden, part of it is much shadier than the rest.

Among the plants I've been playing with in my head are Mexican feather grass, verbena bonariensis, dahlias, 'Bobo' hydrangeas, rhubarb (which is the only plant staying because I don't want to move it), hakonechloa, begonias, coleaus, nepeta and alliums. None of that has to be decided now and I'm having fun playing with all the options in my head so I'm sort of saving the fun for winter.

The gardening season is rapidly drawing to a close, but my goal is to get the hardscaping finished this fall. I also wanted to get the boxwoods planted if possible but now is a great time to plant here and planting in two or three weeks isn't so great. I'm just not sure I can get it to that point in time and I don't want to risk the health of four expensive boxwoods by planting them too late.

I can't tell you how much better I feel about this garden now that I have a better concept of a plan. Frankly, it's the most excited I've been about this space in a very long time. That's good because I'll need the enthusiasm to get through some of the hard work that needs to happen before the snow flies.


There's no getting around it: At this time of year, the garden is starting to look tired. Foliage is tattered and sun faded, flowers are flopping, everything looks a bit haggard. But one plant is just now coming into its own, the ever tropical-looking Castor bean. 

This plant will surely catch your key from across the garden.

Before I go any further, this is one plant I feel requires a warning. There are a lot of poisonous plants out there that I wouldn't bother with a warning on, but this one is a biggie. All parts of the plant and especially the seed are poisonous (this is where ricin comes from, after all). Don't eat any of it let anyone or anything eat it. My dog has never shown an interest in eating plants and he's never outside unattended, so I feel comfortable growing this, but you may not be.

OK, preamble done. Castor bean (Ricinus communis) ticks all my tropical plant boxes. It has huge palmate leaves in the most lovely shade of purple or green (I've only grown purple varieties), and crazy pokey-looking red flowers. 

The flowers are unlike any others.
They can get very large, so I've grown smaller varieties: 'Impala' last year and 'Gibsonii' this year, and both have topped out in the 5- to 6-foot range. I start them from seeds in spring and like all beans they are very easy to get going. When I plant them out in early June, when it's plenty warm (they will flat out sulk on chilly nights) and they are about a foot tall and then I mostly forget they exist until all of a sudden one day in mid- to late-August, there they are, standing proud a few feet tall. From there, their growth rate is unbelievable, reaching for the sky and developing a main stem (trunk?) that is about 1.5 inches in diameter, even on the smaller varieties.

They are also pretty good about not needing staking. I suspect the secret is a good amount of water, which we've had plenty of from Mother Nature. I keep meaning to cut a few leaves to take inside to see if they hold their shape once cut, but I haven't gotten around to it and I suspect they won't. 

At a house I was at recently, a huge variety of Castor bean occupies a corner of the vegetable garden, which, now that I think about it is a little ironic.

I was at a house with beautiful professional landscaping a couple weekends ago for a party and noticed that their gardener used tall Castor beans in lots of spots, including a tricky, tiny corner of soil near the driveway and at the entrance to the vegetable garden.

I'm always torn about where to plant Castor beans, because they want sun and heat, if you can give them that, but they would look great in a far corner of the garden where their big leaves beckon and invite visitors for a closer look. Still it's a fantastic annual (here, anyway) that offers a look that's hard to get.

Have you grown Castor beans?


I had to apologize to the friend that I bounce every idea off of (she has mastered the art of gently telling me I'm crazy when I need to slow down a little) because as I always do this time of year, I'm full of so much inspiration and I suffer from some sort of attention-deficit issue related to projects. In the past week I've sent her dozens of photos I'm using as inspiration for the redo of the circle (oval) garden, random beds I like (one of these days I'd like to get an upholstered bed) and who knows what else. I'm truly all over the place. I think I am so afraid that I'm going to be bored in winter that I line up more projects than anyone could possibly do.

Still, I really have enjoyed searching for inspiration again, especially when it comes to the garden. I just wish that inspiration didn't always seem to require money to bring anything to fruition.

I've been eating up gardening shows on BBC as usual (via the Smart DNS service from Cactus VPN) and the series Gardener's World is doing on designer Adam Frost's new garden is fabulous. Watching a designer create their own garden from a blank slate is fascinating. Here's a brief clip from that series that give the lay of the land.

I've also been watching a show called Garden Rescue in which homeowners choose between two garden designs and the project is seen through its end. Sort of like every home makeover show on HGTV except with gardens.

I don't think I've told you about my monarch caterpillars. We have some milkweed growing across the road from our house and I happened to find two eggs on a leaf a couple weeks ago. I never would have looked but I've been following Kylee's monarch raising for a few years now. She's a good person to learn from as she has literally written the book on the subject.  She encouraged me to bring them in and has been talking me through the process. Unfortunately the other day one of the caterpillars died, but the other one is doing great and is really big and any moment now he should pupate.

Eric from Garden Fork had me on his podcast again recently. We have a sort of natural rapport (I think it's our common Midwestern roots), so we have a tendency to just kind of flow from topic to topic, which we did here. I'm certain we could create the world's longest podcast if Eric didn't keep an eye on the clock while we're talking. Check out his other podcast episodes when my Wisconsin accent gets to be too much. I will admit we did this one in the evening, a bit into cocktail hour so my accent was probably worse than usual.

Each Little World photo

I am so bummed that I missed this mini blogger meet-up of Midwestern bloggers. I was intending to go and then work full-on exploded on me and there was no way to make it. Looks like they had a fabulous time.

I'm getting to the age where things start hurting, possibly for no reason, and certainly for no reason that would have affected me 15 years ago. Something is all jazzed up in my shoulder and my arm is constantly numb and Dr. Google tells me it may actually be a pinched nerve in my neck. So I pulled out this crazy thing I got on Amazon that looks like a purple question mark (and more than a little like a strange sex toy). I keep it at the office and it is pretty amazing. We all use it when we have one of those knots you just can't work out. I still can't feel my arm but my neck feels better.
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This guide to the top 99 kitchens of all time on Houzz is worth a scroll through. I didn't study them all but I see two basic types and then themes from there. I also notice that the world loves an island.

I used to be an Aquarius, but now I'm a Capricorn. And my bestie who is coming to stay with me tonight is an Ophiuchus. Well, maybe, because chart of the new zodiac calendar has double days for each sign. So maybe it's a bunch of BS and I should go back to being an independent-minded Aquarius.

That's it for this week gang! I have a lot of activities on the schedule for the weekend so I'm not sure how much gardening I'll get in, but if I do get out there I can't wait to keep digging away at the circle garden.

What will you be up to this weekend?