Fabulous Fall, it’s natures little reset button, a time to return the favor to our gorgeous garden and say “thank you” for a stunning show and days of pure enjoyment, and tuck them in for a well deserved rest. So as Guardian of the Garden, it’s time to get busy and prepare for their next performance. We need to decide what to do with our perennial flower garden to protect and nurture them through the winter season.
And since “Fabulous Fall”, has arrived, and we’re suppose to have temps in the high 60’s today and sunny, in our small New England town, it will be a great day to do just that, by preparing them for the next season (no need to say the word…we all know what’s coming next).
But before we start, I just want to share this site I came across for some absolutely stunning pictures, like the one above, so try to take a peek when you have a chance, just for pure enjoyment. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
Well, believe it or not there are a lot of benefits to gardening in the fall;
The days are cooler and less stressful for both you and your plants.
September and October give us some absolutely gorgeous days to be outside and enjoy the fabulous fall colors. The skyline takes on this golden, amber hue and our cheeks get a subtle rosy glow from the crisp fall air, such a beautiful time of year.
The soil is still warm enough for roots to grow & get settled in before the ground freezes.
It’s a great time to visit your local nursery or garden center, as most need to sell off their inventory so there are bargains to be found.
Check with your fellow gardeners, they may be dividing their plants and be willing to share with you, and you in turn may need to do the same.
You won’t need to fertilize, since you don’t want to encourage tender new growth on your plants that could be damaged by the fall chill.
It’s the perfect time to plant those spring flowering bulbs, shrubs and trees.
Make sure you get all of your buddies ready for that long chilly season ahead, they’ve been good to you all season long with their beautiful blooms, fabulous foliage and let’s not forget that feeling of pride you felt for a job well done, so take care of them and they will reward you …again…that’s just good karma.
Here are two great examples of beautiful long-lasting summer into fall gardens.
Features: Pennisetum Feathertop, tangerine Dahlias and a front border of Sweet Alyssum.
Here in southern New Hampshire we’ve have had drought conditions for most of the summer, in fact our town has had a water ban since mid -July and it’s now late September and the ban is still on. The reason I’m telling you this, is because while visiting a garden center (a big box store) the other day and talking with some of the staff, they mentioned these conditions and what an impact it had on their season. With 90+ degree days, high humidity and water bans, it really put a damper on the urge to wander out and play in the garden. I then filed that conversation in my head under “Discounts Maybe” for later on.
Then while browsing through their selections I found these plants on sale and decided they would be perfect for my garden.
I’ll be able to divide the Nepeta into 4 plants…great bargain.
Then I thought, just maybe I could get a discount (sound familiar?), long story short I was able to dicker with the manager and he was generous enough to give me an additional 20% off….yes they were already on sale….what a deal ! Well ok, so the echinacea and catmint weren’t the perkiest of the group.
So when I got home I plopped them in the kitchen sink filled with water (because of the water ban), gave them a good drink, let them soak for awhile and voila’, they perked up really nicely.
The moral to the story is, no matter how big the store or nursery, etc., (or even how sad the plant may look…not sick, just sad) never, ever be afraid to ask for a discount, all they can say is no, or you just may be pleasantly surprised.
Now here are a those tips, to do’s and ideas to consider for getting your garden ready for the season ahead.
It’s a great time to plant fall perennials such as;
Helenium – “Mardi Gras” (Sneezeweed) for the fall border. Drought resistant and carefree. Summer to fall bloom. Great for cutting and attractive to butterflies. Full Sun Zones 3-8
Dwarf Fountain Grass “Little Bunny”
This is a cute little fluffy mound of joy, try planting in groups of 3 or more through-out the front border to add some texture to the garden, you won’t be disappointed. They make such a nice contrast when planted in front of the taller sedum. Mounds 8-10h spread 12-24, Blooms August to October, Zone 5-9 , Full Sun-Part sun
Here’s a picture with “Little Bunny” in the front row of my garden in late Sept. , they were just planted this May and even with the severe drought all season, they still managed to hang on.
Hope mine will look like this when they’re all grown up, I’ll be sure to keep you posted on their progress.
Peonies – WOW, what more can be said , with so many gorgeous varieties to choose from and layers of profuse color, it’s a definite must have. Just imagine these beauties in spring, with their gorgeous big full blooms. A real bonus – when flowers have faded the glossy green foliage remains and still looks showy. Their great for hiding fading spring blooms. Full Sun to Half Sun/ Half Shade Zone 3-8.
Phlox paniculata ( Garden Phlox)
Every garden should have phlox. The newer varieties have more resistance to that once dreaded powdery mildew disease, so look for that when shopping for your phlox. Good circulation is a great deterrent to that powdery mildew…so let them breath….to discourage that nasty behavior. These hardy ones can grow 2 – 3 ft. high . Full Sun Zone 4-8.
Sedum –” Autumn Joy”
Sedum should be a staple for every dry to drought tolerant garden, most are disease resistant, and butterfly and bee magnets. Their thick succulent leaves and a pincushion like topper offer brilliant color starting in autumn. They make a wonderful contrast against Russian Sage, Nepeta, Coreopsis, and others.
A real bonus, during the summer just snip off a leaf or two, place it in the soil, within a few weeks you’ll begin to see the little guys sprouting up and voila’ you’ve added to your sedum family, what could be easier than that?
I took about 8 leaves from 2 Sedums that I have, and they all took beautifully, so I’ll be anxious to see them next year as they add so much contrast and texture to the garden.
I just love bargains…can you say F R E E.
Spring Blooms – And don’t forget those spring blooming bulbs, think tulips, hyacinths, crocus and daffodils. Since fall is the only time to plant them you’ll need to make room in the garden now or just plant them in a large container. When spring arrives and these little beauties pop their heads up, you can almost hear them shout ” Ta dah…Spring is here!” and stand back and enjoy the fabulous show .
Give your garden a checkup
Divide – Check to see what plants may benefit from being divided now. But be sure to research when is the best time to divide your plants, in your zone. Also if you don’t have room for the divided sections just share them with a neighbor…. can you say Karma?
Relocate – Did the plants perform as well as they could have in this location? Are they getting enough sun, too much sun, moisture? Is their color, contrast or texture a compliment to their neighbors? If the answer to any of these is no…then time to find another home for them. But before you dig them up, check to see if they can handle the fall move, they need time for their feet (roots) to get established before the harsh winter settles in.
Cut Back – Some perennials need to be cut back in the fall, to help them survive the winter, but double check the specifics for your plant, you don’t want to take a chance and destroy it…no need to act like “Edwards Scissorhands”. For some helpful tidbits, click here.
Take Cuttings – Get ahead of the game by taking cuttings from annuals, like sweet potato vines, for rooting over the winter, it’s so easy to grow these for next year’s garden.
Since the price of annuals seem to be climbing fairly rapidly, it’s becoming a necessity to start them from seed or clippings. I will definitely do this… as I would rather spend my money on perennials…so I’ll keep you posted on the progress throughout the winter.
Clean up – As fall progresses, more of your perennials will start declining as the chill begins to set in. In general it’s not a good idea to leave debris like flowers, fading foliage, leaves, etc., in the garden bed. The debris provides a winter home for insects and diseases. Don’t let your buddies become landlords, they could end up with some pretty bad tenants which can cause havoc in the garden…don’t take chances…protect them and their neighbors.
Ditch those annuals, nothing gained by keeping them around, most can be added to the compost pile.
Make a List – for spring projects:
Some plants do better if divided in the spring. It’s hard to see them flopping, overcrowded, just not at the top of their game, but fall may not be the time to divide this particular plant. Check to see what the best time is for your plant in your zone. So do some planning, if spring is the time to divide, jot it down now, & put them on your “Spring To Do List”. Give the little guys a chance to be their best. It would be like us gaining 10 pounds over the winter and when it’s time for that big event, we won’t look as good as we could have.
Do you need to relocate any plants? Maybe spring will be the ideal time to relocate some …add them to your “Spring To Do List”, so it will give them time needed to show off.
A few cautions:
Mums – Those big beautiful pots of mums you see everywhere this time of year…… enjoy their gorgeous color while they last, but don’t expect them to return. Think of them as that sister-in-law, who only comes around to show off her latest and greatest whatever, then abruptly leaves. Sorry, but like her, they won’t survive the rough times.
So if you plant them now ….plan on ditching them into the mulch pile when they’ve finished blooming.
Note -if you want these garden mums to remain through-out the year, they need to be planted in the spring , so they have time to spread their feet and get well rooted and then you can expect to have fall blooms, and return next year. So put these on your Spring Shopping List.
Fall plantings – Don’t over water, but make sure the plants get at least 1 inch of water one time per week. Any fall planted perennials should be carefully watered until the ground freezes to get and keep their roots healthy and strong.
Take A Cruise
Now grab your IPad, phone or an old fashion pencil & paper and take a cruise through your garden. Look at the garden in sections so you don’t get overwhelmed, it’s much easier to concentrate on a small area and focus on what‘s needed. Usually a 5 to 8 foot wide section is a good size area to concentrate on, but adjust this to the size of your garden, whatever size that makes it easier to focus, it doesn’t have to be exact.
Ask yourself these questions as you go through.
Did this section look as good as it should have?
What went wrong, what went right?
Are they healthy ?
Do they need to be divided or transplanted?
Where will I plant them ?
Was this the best location for them… light/moisture?
Should any be cut back in the fall ?
Do this routine for each section of the garden and jot down your “To Do’s” as you go along, by the time you’re done you’ll have a game plan all ready.
Now that you have your plan, don’t try to tackle everything in one day, you still have some time.
Just take it easy, enjoy these brisk sunny days and all this season has to offer, pick some apples, make some pies and look forward to some hearty homemade breads, stews and chowders. There is something good to be said for this season after all.
Most of all, enjoy your well-deserved time off, for it too will pass…and just as quickly.