The summer that was not much of a summer at all has come to an end, teasing us with its final beautiful days, as if trying to make up for its unpleasant beginning. The white phlox are struggling to stay alive long past their usual demise, while the tops of the mountain in the distance are already changing their greens to gold and russet.
It’s a busy time. As the vegetables are harvested and the perennials fade, there’s work to do. It’s a good time to divide the crowded phlox and share them with neighbors as you cut them down. It’s time to cut those long, sword-like leaves of iris back to about six inches and when the dahlias have passed through the first frost and their leaves have blackened, it will soon be time to dig them up and store them away for next summer.
It’s a sad-happy time. Summer is gone but the splendor of autumn is coming. Goldenrod and asters cover the hills and roadsides. Savor each perfect day. Take time to walk and look at everything. Take pictures so you’ll remember, on a gloomy day, the beauty of this day. Leaves are falling and soon the beautiful green carpet will be covered with brilliant colors. Fall in Andes is superb!
All the different shades of aster are blooming now. If you remember, next May, pinch out the growing tips of each shoot and the top two pairs of leaves to encourage bushy plants with more flowers. I love the deep purple New England asters with their bright yellow eyes.
The sedum, Autumn Joy, is truly that; from the time it begins to flower in palest cream to when it slowly darkens to shades of pink, until finally, a rich mahogany. Burning Bush is prettiest in the fall, as the scarlet leaves stand out among the evergreens.
Planting bulbs may not seem satisfying but the magic that comes from them next spring will be your reward. Plant clusters of ten or twenty bulbs tucked between shrubs or large bulbs laced with lower growing ones between perennials that will hide the unsightly browning off stage. Place markers where you’ve planted them so you won’t disturb them next spring when you plant more perennials in what you think is an empty space.
This is the time to transplant and divide perennials, bulbs and iris that are not happy where they are because they’ve become crowded out from their smothering evergreen neighbor or shaded by a tree’s growing canopy. If mice, gophers or voles are active in winter, line the planting holes with wire mesh topped with soil. A handful of naphtha-based mothballs blended into topsoil and mulch will discourage these pests. Regular feedings of bulbs in spring and fall will prolong their life.
After mums are struck by frost, cover them with a blanket of evergreen prunings. You may be lucky to have them survive the winter and bloom next year.
The weather is pleasant for gardening but so is it for other things. It’s hard to find the time to do all that you’d like to do—-don’t worry—-do just what you love to do. The garden is forgiving!~