Monthly Archives: October 2012

Late bloom before the storm

One daylily, Hemerocallis ‘Macbeth’, sent up one last bloom in defiance of the weather to come.


The shades of this rebloomer are slightly less intense than they were during summer, when the center glows in deep maroon in contrast to the raspberry hues of the outer edges of the petals. Still, this flower is no less lovely than its summer version.

What a welcome sight with hurricane Sandy promising to wage her fury on Connecticut.

Last September, when Irene paid us a visit, we lost power for seven days. Sandy seems much angrier. She may knock our power out for as long or longer.

Normally, on the first of each month I share a Gardening Oops – GOOPs for short. Take a look back at some previous GOOPs here and here. If Sandy allows, I’ll add another GOOPs on November 1.

If you see no new posts for a while, Sandy is to blame.

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What a plant needs to do to be a Connecticut invasive

What a gardener refers to as invasive might really be no more than a garden thug – a plant that doesn’t understand how to play nicely with its neighbors and aggressively crowds other plants. Garden thugs may be a pain in the root to neighboring plants, or a pain in the gardener’s back – or more southerly bit of human anatomy – but a plant thug may not pass the nine point test required to be named a Connecticut invasive.

To date, 97 different plant species have been added to the Connecticut Invasive Plant list. Each meets the following criteria – all nine of them. The plant

  • is nonindigenous to Connecticut – it was not here before European colonization;
  • is naturalized or has the potential to become naturalized – it’s happy here;
  • has the biological potential for rapid and widespread dispersion and establishment – it can spread easily;
  • has the biological potential for excessive dispersion – it can spread excessively;
  • has the biological potential to exist in high numbers outside of intensely managed habitats – for example, in woods, fields, wetlands;
  • it can be found in wide regions or in particular habitats within Connecticut;
  • it has grown into large stands;
  • it can out-compete other plants;
  • and, it has the potential for rapid growth, high seed production and dissemination, and establishment in natural communities.

This photo of Japanese barberry overtaking a forest floor is a good example of a Connecticut invasive.


Japanese barberry, garlic mustard, Oriental bittersweet, Russian and Autumn olive, Winged euonymus, a.k.a. burning bush, ground ivy, many honeysuckles, moneywort, Japanese knotweed, multiflora rose and sheep sorrel are some of the invasive plants common to Connecticut gardens, as is mugwort, the most recent addition to the Connecticut Invasive Plant list. (The October 2012 update lists mugwort. As of the date of this post, the October 2011 online version, does not.) Many of these plants are so invasive they are found in every Connecticut county.

Of the 97 plant species considered invasive in Connecticut, 80 are illegal to import, move (unless for research, control, or education purposes), sell, purchase, transplant, cultivate, or distribute, according to information provided to attendees at the Invasive Plant Symposium held October 25, 2012 at the University of Connecticut. Notice I said just 80 of Connecticut’s invasives are prohibited. This means 17 can still be sold and purchased, planted and distributed in spite of their invasive label.

Becoming familiar with the Connecticut Invasive Plant list is one way for Connecticut gardeners to garden thoughtfully. It’s much better to identify a plant as invasive before giving it a chance to do its invasive thing in your garden or on your property. It’s also valuable to know how to recognize invasive plants when they first show themselves. Eradication is so much easier when plants are young.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Gardeners can learn to identify many invasive plants by clicking the plant names listed at Invasipedia! Plants are listed there by their botanical names so be sure to have a nearby reference copy of the invasive plant list, which refers to plants by their botanical and common names. You can also just Google the botanical name of a plant to quickly see descriptions and photos.

There are good identification guides, some with color photos, as well as control and disposal information available through the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group website. After all, once you identify an invasive plant on your property it’s important to know how to remove it or control its spread.

I have my list of ‘favorite’ invasives  – Japanese barberry; Oriental bittersweet; Autumn olive which produces 80 pounds of bird-favored fruit per year which birds then ‘distribute’ in excreted seed form; mugwort; multiflora rose; plus my two more recent faves, Japanese stilt grass and sheep sorrel. A good portion of my gardening hours are spent controlling this group. I strive to get to know my problematic plants when they are young, so one or two small troublemakers don’t become enormous pains to parts of my anatomy. But control also requires vigilance – you have to keep continuous watch for the invasives common to your property. They love to visit again and again and again.

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Plants on a frosty morning

Awakening early on the first frosty morning of autumn is a photographic opportunity not to be missed. October 13, 2012 brought not just the first frost to my Connecticut gardens, but the first freeze. Temperatures dropping to 28 degrees F. ceases the growing season for tender annuals. The secret is enabling the camera lens to catch frosted leaves before they begin to thaw.

Coleus hates cold, but frost crystals add new depth to the maroon leaves of this variety. The moment the sun began to warm these leaves, they turned mushy brown.



Other garden plants are a bit more hardy. They usually bounce back from the first frost as if nothing hit them. Still, a coating of frost gives many leaves a whole new look.

Fern fronds appear to have been sprinkled with sugar.



Tiny leaves of ordinary thyme take on a variegated look.



Though temporarily weighted down by a coating of frost, these mums bounced back with new vigor.



Frost highlights the intricate patterns of foxglove foliage.



The grass blades crunched under each footstep. (I don’t recommend walking on frozen grass unless you don’t mind damaging it.)

grass and leaf


Look at your landscape from a new perspective. You are likely to walk away with renewed appreciation for common scenery.

This bunch of grass grows next to an old tree stump piled with fieldstone while awaiting removal. It’s an eyesore from any other vantage point, but not from ground-level with the sunrise glowing in the background sheds new light on the ripened seed heads.



Early morning observations, such as these, allow you to identify the areas of your landscape most susceptible to frost and give you insight into how frost settles. This can be valuable knowledge when trying to find the right place for new plant purchases. Placing a more tender specimen in an open spot may doom it to failure yet the same plant, in a more protected location, is likely to thrive.

One of the many pleasures of gardening comes from watching and learning about your landscape. An early frosty morning is another opportunity to learn … even without camera in hand.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry