The Four-Season Garden

September 30th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Fall is for planting. Make the most of the nice fall weather and plant trees, shrubs, ground covers and bulbs now during the fall planting season.
    • Cover crops should be planted in the garden as soon as you pull out summer crops. They will feed the soil and prevent erosion over the winter.
    • Replace tired petunias with bright pansies, snapdragons, calendulas and stock for garden color this fall and winter.
    • If your bearded iris blooms were sparse this year or the plants are more than 4 years old, now is the time to divide and replant them. Mix some bone meal into the soil, and plant the rhizomes just beneath the soil surface.
    • Chrysanthemums are the brightest flowers for the fall garden. Plant some now.

The Four-Season Garden

Gardens can be beautiful in all four seasons, not just spring and summer. By choosing trees and shrubs with interesting fall and winter leaves and bark, you can make your landscape attractive year-round.

Seasonal change is vital to a four-season garden. Brilliant fall foliage and berries are just as important as stunning spring blossoms. Plants that offer an interesting aspect in more than one season are especially important in small gardens.

Japanese maple trees turn a variety of reds and burgundy shades in the fall. Their autumn foliage is a glowing contrast against evergreens and faded perennials. These trees are also attractive in winter with interesting branch patterns, and in some varieties, colorful bark.

Heavenly bamboo is another multi-season plant. It is upright and evergreen, lending a graceful texture to the garden. In the spring it has white flowers which turn to red berries that hang on through the winter and attract migrating birds. Its bright red fall foliage is a colorful accent.

Ornamental grasses add interest to a garden at any time of year. Fall foliage and colorful plumes, with fuzzy seed heads that rustle in the slightest breeze, provide an attractive contrast to evergreens and brightly-colored shrubs. Use them as accent plants where their golden foliage can shine in the winter months. Feather Reed Gras, with its tall, stately plumes, is particularly striking.

Colorful fruits and berries also brighten the colder months. There are many trees and shrubs to choose from. Cotoneaster, barberry, pyracantha and holly are outstanding shrubs. Strawberry tree produces bright red berries throughout the year. Crabapples, hawthorn trees and persimmons have colorful fruit that hangs on after the leaves have fallen.

Many trees have interesting bark. Birch and alder trees have white bark. The bark on Paper birch is chalk white. Sycamores have brown and white flaking bark, Trident maple has peeling bark in gray, orange and brown, while Paperbark maple has peeling cinnamon bark. Crape myrtle trees also have peeling, cinnamon-colored bark, and few trees have more beautiful bark than our native madrones.

‘Sango Kaku’ Japanese maple is striking in winter with coral-orange-red stems and redtwig dogwood has bright red branches. Willow trees have bright yellow branches that stand out in the winter landscape.

Some trees have attractive winter silhouettes. Dogwood trees have a layered branching pattern that is very decorative in winter. Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick has fantastically gnarled and twisted branches that are a real curiosity. Of course oak trees are some of the most wonderful trees to enjoy in the winter, with their picturesque, twisted branches.

Try to design your landscape with an artist’s eye, blending fall colors and contrasting patterns of leaves and branches to make yours a four-season garden.

Chrysanthemums are Fall Beauties

September 19th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Fall is for planting! Trees, shrubs and perennials planted now will grow twice as much next year as those planted next spring.
    • Apples, pears and other fruit trees can be planted in the fall from containers to get a head start on next spring.
    • When blackberry vines are done fruiting, prune back the canes that bore fruit this summer. Twine young canes around the fence or trellis.
    • Keep apples picked up from under the trees to help control the spread of codling moths which make wormy apples.
    • Fertilize lawns now to build up root systems for a healthy lawn.

Chrysanthemums are Fall Beauties

The Greeks named it chrysos anthos—gold flower. The Chinese have revered it for thousands of years and the Japanese made it their national flower in 910 A.D. Yes, chrysanthemums or “mums” as they are commonly called have been around for a long time.

Chrysanthemums make some of the best cut flowers around. They last up to two weeks in the vase, and give fresh color to the garden when nearly all other perennials have finished their show for the year. In your garden, they will grow 2 to 4 feet tall, and have long stems for cutting.

Fall-blooming mums come in a dazzling array of colors. The “fall colors” of yellow, gold, rust and magenta are very appealing. But they also come in pink, white, purple and lavender.

There are “cushion” or “button” types which form low, bushy plants covered with blossoms as well as tall varieties with larger flowers. Most mums have fully double with flowers 2 to 4 inches across.

When you buy mums, they are tight, compact plants in 4-inch pots, blooming at about 8 inches tall. They will never do this again! The growers treat them with growth regulators that keep them very compact so they will bloom nicely in a small pot. In your garden, they will grow 2 to 4 feet tall, and have long stems for cutting.

These taller varieties need frequent pinching until midsummer to encourage full, stocky plants and large blooms, and they should be staked to keep their tall stems from breaking.

Mums will bloom with little care, but they need pinching to grow bushy plants and have an abundance of flowers. Without pinching, they will grow skinny stalks and have few flowers. Pinching forces branching, and therefore, more flowers. No pinching should be done after mid-July to allow plants time to set flower buds for fall.

To encourage prize-winning blooms, pinch all but one bud per stem. Remember to remove dead flower heads to force more flower production. Don’t overhead water because this encourage blossom rot.

When mums have finished flowering, cut the stalks down to a few inches above the ground. They will come back year after year with more beautiful flowers.

Plant mums in the flower beds along the house or by a fence in a sunny place. The soil should drain well and be enriched with compost. Set plants 18 inches to 2 feet apart and feed them monthly through the spring and summer until buds form. Stop feeding when the buds show color.

Fill a container by the entry with bright colored chrysanthemums or fill a flower bed with a riot of vibrantly colored mums.

Enjoy this final burst of color in your flower garden, and cut some long-stemmed beauties to admire indoors.

The Other Planting Season

September 19th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Pansies, snapdragons, stock, calendulas and primroses can be planted now to replace summer annuals.
    • Plant cover crops in areas of the garden that have finished producing for the summer. Crimson clover and fava beans will grow over the winter and enrich the soil for next year.
    • Choose chrysanthemums in a variety of colors now. They are hardy perennials which will brighten your garden each fall.
    • It’s time to divide overgrown perennials that bloomed in the spring or early summer. It’s also a good time to choose and plant some new varieties.
    • Lettuce can be planted from starts for a quick fall crop.

The Fall Planting Season

Here in California, we are lucky to have two planting seasons: spring and fall! Though we don’t get spring fever this time of year, fall is a much better time to plant, especially if you’re tackling major projects like putting in a new flower bed or border. Transplanted now, plants ease into the garden naturally. Trees, shrubs, lawns, ground covers and spring-blooming bulbs will all get established over the winter and be ready to survive their first hot summer more easily.

In the fall the soil is still warm and roots begin to grow rapidly as soon as they are planted. Cooler air temperatures put less stress on newly planted trees and shrubs, and watering needs are less. Once the rains begin, the plants receive plenty of water encouraging deep rooting as the roots continue to develop through the winter. These plants will be much more drought tolerant and not need to be watered as often next summer.

Fall is the ideal time to plant a tree — both for the gardener and the tree! The weather is cooler, so it is more enjoyable working outdoors. The tree also benefits because the soil is better able to retain moisture now than during the hot days of summer, so it becomes established easily. Trees and shrubs will show no growth above ground, but by having time to develop a strong root system over the winter, they will be ready for a major growth spurt next spring. Studies have shown that trees and shrubs planted in the fall will grow between one-and-a-half and two times as much next summer as the same tree or shrub planted next spring.

Lawns and ground covers do best when planted in the fall. The cool season grasses, which do best in this area, are most vigorous in fall and spring. By the time next summer rolls around, your lawn will be well-established and ready to enjoy.

Ground cover plants need to establish strong roots before they can begin top growth. This is the ideal time to plant them to get the most growth next spring and summer.

Perennial flowers like Shasta daisies, coral bells, columbine and lupines need to live through a winter before they will bloom. When you plant them in the spring, you have to wait a whole year to see them bloom. But if you plant them in the fall, they will bloom next spring.

Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and other spring bulbs must be planted in the fall to enjoy their beauty next spring. They need several months to develop roots before they can bloom. By choosing different varieties, you can enjoy spring flowers from late winter through spring. Bulbs will brighten your spring garden with their lovely colors each year and need very little care.

Fall is almost here, so get ready for the best planting season of the year.