When I travel country roads in early September, I see what I term the hargingers of fall. Last weekend in mid September I did just that, and viewed a magnificent array of wild flowers in fields, ditches, and peaking out of woodlands. I saw Goldenrod swaying above and below the elegant and stately iron weed with its flat panicles of brilliant purple; rusty red leaves of sumac; the light blue chicory plant; black-eyed susan; other types of helianthus or yellow daisy flowered plants; blue perennial ageratum; the clear yellow flowers of the coffee plant; and the last blooms of the red cardinal flower. Nautres' color mix for these wild flowers are just the color mix we may want to imitate in our home gardens. Mums are an easy choice in order to obtain the fall colors, because they incorporate the whole range of fall shades--reds, golds, yellows, mauves,and whites. Other longer lasting flowers can also do the trick. Think marigolds in yellows and golds; zinnia lineraris, also yellows and golds; snaps in all shades of reds, yellows and whites; and petunias in deep and light purples. Last year I planted pansies in October with mulch, and they bloomed until frost, and bloomed again from March until June. Other fall blooming perennials include Perovskia or Russian sage with blue flower spikes; salvia leucantha or Mexican brush sage with large deep purple and white velvet like blooms; aster with its lavender daisy type bloom. All of these mix well with lime green sweet potato vine(impomoea batatas 'Marguerite').
OCTOBER CHORES FOR THE GARDEN
I attended a gardening seminar in Savannah, Georgia several years ago. The speaker was the city's Arborist, and he stated that the best fertilizer for trees comes from their own leaves. So instead of having to bag up all the leaves, rake most of them at the foot of the tree. tThis certainly makes common sense.
As far as what I am doing in the garden, my beds are getting an overhaul. Many of the perennials such as phlox, iris, daylilies, salvias, coreopsis, will be dug out and divided. I have purchased many 5 cubic foot bags of soil and commercial 8-8-8 fertilizer. My experience that in the fall and winter months the commercial type works best not only because it is cheaper, but the time released type has less potency than the commercial. Always water the area fertilized well after the application.
The overhaul also includes new plans for winter, spring and summer beds. Since I intend to seed some areas for poppies, zinnias, larkspur and others, I purchase spray paint of different colors to identify each seeded spot so that I will not inadvertently over plant that area later. This plan or scheme becomes my map and purchase plan for annuals, perennials and biennials as they come on the market. Armed with the laundry list, I am ready to buy the Johnny Jump Ups, pansies, dianthus and snap dragons and know how many trays I will need of each.
Other chores include the annual cleaning out of weeds, and dead plant material, cleaning up dead leaves on lamb's ears, cutting the canna lilies back to the ground, trimming back the trailing verbena, and using Round-Up judiciously to clear up any remaining weed issues.
PLANT OF THE MONTH.....BULBS
First I will define the term, "bulb". They all are an organ whether a bulb, corm, rhizome or a tuber in which reserves of energy are accumulated, allowing it to produce flowers in their season. The real bulb such as an amaryllis, tulip and lily is formed by a floral bud and enclosed with successive layers of fleshy scales which function as a storage reserve. The bottom part is composed of a basil plate where roots emerge. The paper thin brown covering of the bulb is called a tunic. All bulbs do not have this tunic. Corms have the same function as bulbs but their body is not formed by scale-like leaves. Gladioli, crocuses, and freesias are some examples of corms. Tuberous roots are characterized by thickish roots that multiply each year and eventually form buds. The best know tuber is the potato, along with calla lily and caladium. And lastly the rhizome is a special kind of stem that grows horizontally along the surface of the soil or just under it. There is no uniformity or separation. Cannas, trilliums and certain types of iris fall into this category.
In my garden center wanderings, there seems to be many tulips and daffodils for sale now. Tulips need at least 6 weeks of cold before you plant them. The refrigerator crisper is the best place as they can not freeze. Purchasing tulips now would give one plenty of time to chill the bulbs for planting in mid-December.