Photo by Guy L. Adams
Gardening by the Yard
By Tom Corbin
A Fairlington Gardener
Questions and comments can be directed to
firstname.lastname@example.org - please reference:
"Gardening By the Yard Column."
(Posted August 17, 2006)
This summer has certainly been one of extremes - first, record rainfall then record heat and now amazing autumnal-like coolness with little or no rain. If you remember, last fall was extremely dry with trees and shrubs going into severe stress at a time when they should have been at their healthiest. Hopefully, this will not be the case this season.
Click on Photos Below for Larger Image and Plant Descriptions
(Photos by Tom Corbin - All Photos on this Page are of Tom's Garden)
(Photos Taken August 16, 2006)
September Gardening Notes
If, indeed, the "dry spell" continues into the fall, remember to water trees and shrubs with good soakings at least once a week when there is less than an inch of rainfall. Soaking is the key word here. A light sprinkling does little or no good for deep rooted plants. Thorough watering is particularly critical for newly planted landscape materials which need a healthy root system before freezing weather.
With the onset of shorter daylight hours and changes in the sun's angle, annuals and late flowering perennials take on brighter colors.
If you have maintained your annuals with regular attention - fertilizing, deadheading, watering, and pruning - they will reward you with a burst of fall color that should last until cold weather.
Sometimes their display is so colorful at this season that one hesitates to discard them in order to put in winter interest material - mums, pansies, "flowering" kale and cabbage, etc.
The gardener's "catch - 22" is whether to enjoy the bountiful annuals and risk being too late finding healthy winter-interest material at the nursery or to remove the annuals at peak bloom in order to find a variety of winter/ spring material before it is all sold out!
There is usually some garden area which can be cleared without regret so that you can plant some of those early pansies to enjoy during the fall season.
Plan for Your Fall Plantings
I wait until much later in the season to plant out all of my pansies as it is easier to plant them at the same time I put in my spring bulbs; however, waiting too late means poor selection.(Dilemma, dilemma!)
Dress up the soil with some slow release fertilizer and any organic material you have on hand or can cheaply purchase (humus, dehydrated manure, compost, etc.) when you plant your pansies. Keep them deadheaded, and they will reward you with blooms until the hot weather of next year!
Hopefully you noted last spring some places in your garden where you could plant some spring bulbs. Remember those tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils that are so lush in April are planted in the fall.
Early bloomers - crocus, grape hyacinths, windflowers, snowdrops, and winter aconite - are best planted in September. Daffodils should go in the garden in late September or early October, and tulips can be planted as late as Thanksgiving if the ground has not frozen.
Squirrels like most bulbs - daffodils are the exception - so take some precaution to protect your investment. I find that a "rodent repellant" sprayed where bulbs are planted works; others swear by applying dried blood to the soil; and there are special repellants in which you soak the bulbs before planting.
Many mail order bulb companies offer discounts for orders by a certain date. Dutch Gardens (www.dutchgardens.com), for example, currently offers $25.00 off on orders of $50.00 or more if the order is placed by September 10. This is a catalogue offer and I'm not certain it applies to on-line orders. Check Brent and Becky Heath's website and that of White Flower Farm for bulb specials. (Note: Web addresses are given at the end of this column.)
During the bulb planting season, you can find good bargains on-line. Last year I ordered (at a bargain price) several bags of "Ring of Fire" daffodils from Wayside Gardens. They were exceptional bulbs even though the sale was at the end of the planting season with most flowering this spring with at least two blooms per bulb.
Did you know there is an autumn flowering crocus - colchicum or meadow saffron? They have somewhat larger blooms than the spring variety; in the spring they produce leaves which die off in summer's heat with the blooms emerging in September. Nurseries usually have a few bulbs at this time.
In addition to preparing for the fall and winter and, indeed, spring garden, autumn is a time of reflection about the garden in terms of what worked and what didn't this season. Two mainstays of my garden have been coleus and lantana. This year I tried the "stained glass" coleus series (new this year) which I found at Thanksgiving Farms in Adamstown, Maryland. (Thanksgiving Farms is well worth a visit as the owners usually have the newest - cutting edge - plant varieties in their greenhouses.) It has been a beautiful plant with red and green veined, ruffled leaves. I also tried a "trailing" purple variety which has remained small and compact and would make a nice addition to a container planting or hanging basket arrangement. This variety has fortunately not set any blooms, which with coleus is a problem as they look unkempt if the flower spikes are not removed.
Lantanas can get to be the size of small shrubs if planted in the ground. The old-fashioned orange one grows the largest for me, and it blooms more abundantly. The pastel varieties and the solid yellow bloomers are also well suited for Fairlington gardens. I have two hanging pots of the orange ones in the patio area which are favorite plants of our "pet" cat bird! Lantanas readily set seeds (green turning black when ripe), and the seeding plants really need to be cut back to encourage more bloom. The cat bird has seen to it that the hanging baskets are kept deadheaded as he feasts on the seeds in the early morning and evening! Lantanas also attract butterflies.
It's really a fool proof plant. Rebecca Ward in Mews Court 9 actually had a pink lantana to winter over in her west-facing front bed. This is very unusual, but with the changing climate anything is possible! Lantanas are "winter hardy" further south with the plant dying back to its roots in the winter.
A couple of "accent plants" which have jazzed up my border this summer are a black stemmed elephant ears and a salmon colored impatiens.
The elephant ears are very dramatic with dark green shield-shaped leaves edged in black on towering black stems. The salmon impatiens is more delicate than the orange/ pink/ red variety and can tolerate deeper shade - it really doesn't shout as the "louder" colored ones do. I have one planted in front of some yellow-variegated hosta and a pink "Endless Summer" hydrangea. The color combination is quite striking.
And a final note, I was lucky in having my garden featured in the July/ August issue of "Washington Gardener" magazine with pictures of last summer's border. This is a "localized" magazine for DC, Virginia, and Maryland gardeners and with each issue it appears to be on its way to becoming a very professional and useful garden periodical.
Spring Garden Materials
And really the final, final note…check out these websites for spring garden materials, general plant information, and their gorgeous color photographs. There are also periodic on-line sales which are real bargains!
- White Flower Farm (www.whiteflowerfarm.com) - Their catalogues are worth saving for their gardening advice and tips.
- Brent and Becky's Bulbs (www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com) - They are considered the premiere American bulb company, located in nearby Gloucester, Virginia 23061.
- Old House Gardens (Heirloom Bulbs for Every Garden) (www.oldhousegardens.com) When you want that bulb that grew in Grandmother's garden, you can find it here!
- Wayside Gardens (www.waysidegardens.com) Get on their mailing list for their seasonal catalogues. Also check out their on-line specials.
Click on Photos Below for Larger Image and Plant Descriptions