As spring is the most anticipated season to those cold weather gardeners whose labors lay under a blanket of winter ice and snow, autumn is the season that hot and dry climate gardeners eagerly await. And we don’t wait patiently either. We grouse, we commiserate, we complain daily about the soaring temperature, crispy plantings and the lack of rain–you would think we have actually forgotten where we live. Somehow it always seems to be ‘the worst summer ever’.
Autumn is my favorite season. Autumn is the busiest season in my garden. It is the time to reflect on how first season in the ground plantings have fared–declaring both winners and losers; plan for additions to beds and borders; complete essential cutting back and dividing of perennials; refreshing the humus topdressing everywhere and a myriad of routine maintenance tasks. If I have a productive autumn my spring must-dos are reduced exponentially. With various injuries having kept me out of the garden since late spring for all but the least physically demanding jobs, there is a great deal to be done!
Over the last couple of weeks our temps have dropped down into the eighties and nineties, allowing for a human being to actually be out in the garden for more than 30 minutes at a time. Take a peek at what’s going on.
Working this wide front bed entails dividing dozens of bearded iris–over 20 cultivars which were last divided 4 years ago. July and August are more preferred months for iris division but it is simply too hot and thus my iris seem to have acclimated to September division and replanting. Multiple salvia cultivars await their final pinch back and the Santa Barbara daisy–now reduced to wee fist sized clumps–had totally obscured the soil.
I am declaring Salvia ‘Mystic Spires Blue’ a winner! I found 3 bedraggled 4″ pots last fall and dug each one into a different spot in the garden, hoping for the best. This is one which is sited in full on all day sun.
Iris divisions are settling in; asters and salvias have been neatened up. Not much to look at right now but most of these perennials will bounce right back for another short bloom before shutting down for winter in late November.
The driveway circle bed completed early spring 2017 is looking great. The most time consuming care this bed has required through the summer is the periodic removal of the crape myrtle suckers whose growth was no doubt stimulated by all the shovel work around their huge roots systems.
Disappointingly, none of the Correa ‘Carmine Bells’ in this new bed survived. Three were planted last November and grew steadily through the rainy season and spring. Above you can see that one has already been removed, the one in the foreground is flat dead and the one behind and to its right is starting to fail. Below you see a shot of the same plant in March of this year.
I guess DEAD assumes it to be in the loser category for me. I have read a lot about these drought tolerant Australian natives trying to discern what happened. Ruling out overwatering (they grew like gangbusters during out wettest season) I am leaning toward too much reflected heat from the street and driveway. They are in a morning only sun position as they require but just inside the shade canopy and the literature does caution against reflected heat. The three Correa were the only plants lost in the new bed–any thoughts about the cause?
I’ve made my first two additions to the 12′ X 140′ side bed. The burgundy foliage and rigid form of Berberis ‘Helmond Pillar’ is a good contrast to the weeping grey-blue ‘Tolleson’s Blue’ juniper as its backdrop. It’s tucked behind the boulder Dave dragged out from under the juniper’s canopy (see my Labor Day post). Around the corner I dug in a $2 (yes, two dollars!!) Grevillea ‘Pink Pearl’ I picked up on my Sacramento trip. It looks like a drop in a very big bucket now but literature puts it at 6′ X 6′ in average garden conditions. My Virginia and Maryland travels in June have cemented my goal to get out of the small leafed, medium green rut and strive for more variety in foliage shape, size and color. Mature trees and compacted soil are making this new lawn-free bed a challenge to plan and plant–look for a spring post when the project is completed.
Just to make sure there is no rest this fall and winter, we have targeted another lawn area. The lawn has been chemically killed and awaits a man (or woman, I guess) with a shovel to remove the remnants. The foreground of this photo is the site for my Little Free Library to be added along with a sturdy bench. Stay tuned on this area also!
A couple of other winners from this year–
One of a few staging areas for special finds, potted up divisions of perennials and crate after crate of iris in holding mode ready to go into new bed areas. I am really excited about the weeping redbud, Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’–gorgeous heart shaped burgundy leaves! Autumn is the best time for planting but the worst time to find plant material so I accumulate specimens throughout the summer months in areas I can count on them having some afternoon shade and a nearby hose.
A mixed bed in the back garden still sports nice blooms–mostly small flowered salvias.
This Salvia ‘Fancy Dancer’ was cut back about 3 weeks ago and has rewarded me with fresh green foliage and another nice bloom cycle.
No horticultural degree needed to know I have totally lost control of this climbing rose, ‘Morning Magic’. Yes, that is a cane about 6 feet long laying horizontally. Definitely moving this tidying up task toward the top of my list.
Autumn is my favorite season. Autumn is the busiest season in my garden. That just about covers it.