Archive for Autumn Gardening

My Favorite Picks – 2019’s Best Hardy Plants

What a crazy year this has been! Extremes of all kinds, but through it all there were some clear winners. In this year’s picks I want to talk about some of the hardiest plants in the garden.

Boxwoods have gotten some bad press of late, due to the blight that has been going around, but by following some simple, clean gardening practices, they are one of the best and most beautiful of all the plants in my garden.

I’m going to start with one of my all time favorites, the boxwood. The boxwoods in the photo above are about 45-50 years old and are the true stars of the garden. I prune them in early December each year and use the trimmings for Christmas decorating. Beyond that annual pruning, I hardly need to do anything to them. They have weathered every kind of extreme in their lives and continue to look amazing!

For several years, there has been a disease affecting boxwood plants called boxwood blight. The boxwood blight is passed by using infected tools. Just by cleaning your tools thoroughly before pruning or trimming, you will protect the plants from getting the disease. I clean my pruners with rubbing alcohol prior to using them. Another tip would be to have a pair of pruners dedicated strictly for use on these beauties, but I would still recommend swabbing them between cuts with alcohol to be ultra safe.

Here’s another surprise entry in this year’s top plants — grass. In the early season, when this photo was taken, we had just gone through the wettest spring ever! Everything was green beyond measure, and then by the end of June, we entered a severe drought. For four months we didn’t really have any measurable rain. I did not water, except for the trees, and let the grass go dormant all through the summer months. It turned completely brown, and the dirt was like dust. I was truly worried that I’d taken the no–watering thing too far. In September, I started watering, although we were still having 95-100 degree days and no rain, my hopes were to at least save the roots. Nothing greened up at all. Then finally as October started, we had 5 beautiful soft rains, and like a miracle, the grass came back into health again, like nothing ever happened!

Which brings me to the point of this story: there’s nothing like real rain! What comes out of a sprinkler just doesn’t compare. When you water in the triple digit heat of the summer, it encourages weeds. Grass doesn’t grow in extreme heat. I will stand by allowing the grass to go dormant in that kind of condition. It’s much kinder to the roots, than to stress grass into trying to grow — which can kill it. Another giant help to the health of this year’s grass was dethatching the lawn and applying a root stimulating turf builder last fall, which gave us a thicker and virtually weed free yard this year. I highly recommend working your way around your yard using a dethatching rake. It’s very hard work, but pays off in a beautiful way, allowing water and nutrients to easily get to the root system.

Here’s the same area again just last week. You would never know how harsh a summer the grass weathered! It’s hard to not water and to watch it go dormant, but it’s the best thing you can do for the health of the root system. Have faith in Mother Nature, she will bring it back in the fall.

I also want to point out one of my all time tried-and-true flowers: my pansies! After the summer of gorgeous color from the vincas, I wanted to continue with some hardy winter flowers. With any luck they will provide color until the end of April.

This year the pansies in the ground were joined by the pansies I planted in this wreath that my sister gave me! It really brings the whole Fall theme together! Thank you, Tracy!

The beautiful mums have some competition this year. I was so happy when the weather finally cooled down some, I put in 125 pansies across the front. A fresh start to celebrate the season. And gives the frontage some great fall curb appeal. I was thinking ahead to Christmas when I chose the colors — gold, burgundy red, purple, and white — to complement the traditional fruit wreath I’ll be hanging in December.

I know I’ve given props to the knock out roses in the past, but they were really beautiful again this year. We had a swarm of June bugs that came in with the 100 degree heat in the summer, and they did interfere a bit, but I use a granular three in one formula that kept their dirty work to a minimum. It fertilizes, prevents diseases, and for the most part deters bugs- Bio Advanced- worth a try next year, if you have these issues. (I am not paid to endorse, but this is really great stuff in my opinion.)
Another stunner this year were these emerald euonymus. They are incredibly easy to grow and maintain, really no special treatment other than to shape them after the spring growth. This is only two plants! They provide privacy to our back yard from the cul du sac and make a gorgeous living fence, don’t you think? They are beautiful year round, too, and are a favorite nesting place for our flock of cardinals and bluejays.

Before I say good night, I hope that next year’s growing season is not as harsh as this one has been, but just in case it is, here’s hoping that we can all adjust to our changing climate by seeking out the most hardy plants. Let me know what changes you are planning; I’d love to hear!

Happy Fall, everyone!

Autumn Joy!

The calendar says it’s autumn, but wow is it ever still hot! We have now had almost double the number of over-90 degree days in a normal summer and almost no rain since June. Drought has taken hold even though we had a massive amount of rainfall for three full months in the spring. The poor heat-stressed grass is having a hard time bouncing back, so I’m really happy to have at least one stalwart perennial to count on looking beautiful. Sedum, or Stonecrop — also known as Autumn Joy!

Despite the ultra hot weather and drought conditions, I can always count on these beauties this time of year! They look beautiful all summer ranging in color from green to white, then in late August to early September they start their transformation into every different shade of pink and onto a lovely shade of coral.



They are beautiful mixed in with other plants, or in waves or borders of all sedum. I love the look here mixed in with the knock out roses.
If they grow too fast in the early season, they can sometimes get very top heavy and split open from the center. I have two remedies for this. First, you can always pinch them back to about a foot tall before July, but if you love the taller look, here’s a solution to that: Place six or so garden stakes in the ground an inch or so in from the outside diameter with another circle of three or four of the stakes about half way in to the center of the plant. From there wind some really strong twine or coated wire carefully from stake to stake on the outside and drawn in to the (hidden) stakes in the center. Lift the branches carefully above the wire as you go. (Think about how a spider web looks.) Sometimes you need to do this in stages an inch or two at a time while raising the branches, as too much at one time can split a heavy branch. Another tip is to use black coated wire. (I use old, recycled wire from a former invisible fence.) It almost disappears even up close, but six feet away you can’t see it at all!
When I moved here 19 years ago I brought only two sedums from my last garden. Every two or three years I split each one into 2 or 3 plants, and now I have masses of them here and there throughout the garden. I’ve turned the original two into probably 60! It is a definite main staple in the garden here, and with so many extras to give to away to friends. Gardening gold! Another big plus is that the pollinators and butterflies love them!

A question about these fantastic perennials from a friend a few days ago inspired me to make them my feature plant for this blog segment. Thank you, Cathi!

If you are looking for a plant that does well in virtually any climate, even the harshest of summer weather, there is no more perfect choice than Autumn Joy!


One last look from the other direction-

Happy Gardening!

The Queen of Autumn – Beautiful Mums – Long May They Reign!

Happy Fall !

Happy Fall!

It seems autumn has finally arrived! In celebration, I always am drawn to the nursery to bring home a few of my favorite harbingers of autumn, the beautiful chrysanthemum. I am going to give you some tips today to give you at least DOUBLE the blooming time on these beauties. Sometimes I have kept them going for almost three months of flowers using this strategy.

Here goes–

 

 

 

 

When purchasing mums, look for plants that are just showing color, but in a bud stage. This will give you the longest amount of time to enjoy-

When purchasing mums, look for plants that are just showing color, but in a bud stage. This will give you the longest amount of time to enjoy.

First, when choosing your mum, buy one that is still in the “color showing bud” stage. This way, you will have the opportunity to get every minute of flowering time.

 

 

Instead of planting the mums in the garden, plant them in pots at least four inches larger than the nursery pot that they come in. This allows you to pull them under cover of a porch, garage or even into your house during fall rainstorms — their biggest enemy!

 

 

 

 

Mums in all their glory are one of the most beautiful sights of Fall. I love to have some by the front door to great visitors.

Mums in all their glory are one of the most beautiful sights of fall. I love to have some by the front door to great visitors.

 

When watering the potted mums, just water the the root zone from under the foliage. This is very important. Water on the flowers after they open will kill the flower. It breaks my heart when I see a well-intentioned gardener plant their mums and then water from above with a hose, only to see that the mums are dead the next week. Watering only the soil keeps the foliage and flowers dry and protects them. Using this method should give you at least a month and half of bloom time.

 

 

 

Deadheading your mum after the first set of blooms have bit the dust will expose a second set of blooms. You can have double your bloom time!

Deadheading your mum after the first set of blooms have bit the dust will expose a second set of blooms. You can have double your bloom time!

 

Now to extend that month and a half of blooms for a month or possibly even more, here’s my final tip: deadheading. If you remove the first set of blooms when they have finished, you will see a second set of buds hidden underneath. These are smaller, but will provide you with a second bloom cycle of flowers. Double the fun!

 

 

 

 

 

Second set of blooms opening! Gardener's gold-

Second set of blooms opening! Gardener’s gold…

 

 

I hope you will give this method a try if you love mums as much as I do. Happy autumn gardening everyone!

Lawn Renovation Even in Sauna Weather – Got to Get it Done!

Hi everyone! We had an unbelievable amount of rain here this year, almost double our annual rainfall total. The air feels like a sauna even in October. It’s been hard to spend more than a few hours outside at a time in the heat and humidity — but you know I can’t stay inside, and there’s work to be done!

This type of steel rake is my favorite choice for de-thatching the lawn and preparing the soil for overseeding. Just look how much debris it removes!

This type of steel rake is my favorite choice for de-thatching and preparing the soil for overseeding. Just look how much debris it removes!

My priority now is renovating the lawn. Normally, I would finish this completely in September, but the weather has put me behind schedule. To do this right, I started by weeding the entire lawn by hand, as opposed to using an herbicide. When planning to overseed, one needs to make sure not to have any chemicals on the lawn which could interfere with the new seed sprouting.

I am using a specialized steel rake to get every bit of thatch out of the lawn — a tool I inherited from my grandfather. This is THE most grueling step. After de-thatching two-thirds of the lawn, I have collected more than a dozen full bags of debris (don’t worry — you know it’s going to the compost heap). I’m impressed with how effectively this steel rake pulls out the thatch — and it loosens the surface, which makes for great new seed contact into the top soil.

Everyone who walks by while I’m working asks me why I don’t just use a machine for this, but if you saw how much better this works you’d know why!

This is a photo of what the plugging machines do. They really don't get any thatch up, and compared to the steel rake- well, there is no comparison-

This is what those plugging machines do. They really don’t get any thatch up, and compared to my steel rake — well, there is no comparison, not to mention that the plugs of soil the machines leaves behind look like, um, something else we don’t really want to see…

I bought a premium seed that has a variety of grass types: some that sprout within a week to stabilize the bare spots, and additional varieties that will be sprouting over the next few. This mix also had a seed-starting fertilizer mixed in, but if the variety you purchase doesn’t have this, I’d recommend using some.

Keeping things moist while the seeds are doing their magic is key, but with all the rain we’ve had, I’ve only had to water the new seed a few times.

With the combination of sod, seed and fertilizer you can hardly see where the old tree stumps used to be!

With the combination of sod, seed and fertilizer you can hardly see where the old tree stumps used to be!

 

I’m happy to say that I finally was able to easily pull out the last of the roots from two pear trees which used to grace the front yard. Now those areas are much smoother in elevation. The vast majority of the surface roots came out with the tree, but a few deep ones remained. On these areas, which were quite large, I used a couple of pieces of sod and more seed around the edges to completely fill it in. Now you’d never know that those were trouble spots!

 

 

 

 

Once the new seed reaches three inches tall, you can start mowing. We gave our newly-seeded lawn its first mow this week.  I have a tip for this, too: Set your mower to highest level first, because after a few weeks of not mowing, the existing grass will definitely be quite long and would clog the bagging chute. In a couple of days, set your mower to the normal level and cut it again. This way your lawn won’t be stressed as much — and you won’t create new thatch by using a clogged mower!

Yes! Nice new seedlings emerging. What a good feeling that is-

Yes! Nice new seedlings emerging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The front yard is finished, now on to the back-

The front yard is finished, now on to the back…

 

I’m hoping the weather will cooperate so I can finish up my raking this week, but (if you can believe it) we have a new hurricane bearing down tomorrow night, and two more in the Atlantic pipeline. Hope everyone stays safe, and best of luck — I’ll be back with some pretty fall flowers next week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Fall !

Happy Fall!

Happy Fall-

Wishing all my readers a happy and healthy Fall!

Wishing all my readers a happy and healthy Fall!

Save

Save

Sharing Buttons by Linksku