Virginia Landmarks
December 2, 1998
Fairlington Historic District
Gardening By The Yard
National Register
March 29, 1999
Photo of Tom Corbin, Gardener
Photo by Ron Patterson
Gardening by the Yard
By Tom Corbin
A Fairlington Gardener

Questions and comments can be directed to - please reference:
"Gardening By the Yard Column."

Fall Gardening 2009
(Posted October 12, 2009)

O suns and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October's bright blue weather.

- from "October's Bright Blue Weather" by Helen Hunt Jackson (1830 - 1885)

Even though the temperatures are cooling down a bit, there is still much life left in the summer annuals and the fall-blooming materials. Unfortunately in order to install winter-interest materials, such as pansies, "flowering" kale, grasses, and other items that will take the garden into the early winter months, we have to "sacrifice" the summer bloomers in order to make room.

Photo of Gladiolus - Tom's Garden 2009
Tom's 2009 Garden
Click Here for Summer Color

(Posted July 7, 2009)
Photo of Calla Lily - Tom's Garden 2009

The Glory of Late Summer and Fall

Photo of Sunflowers

The soil remains warm in the fall in spite of the falling air temperatures. This is the ideal time to transplant perennials and to install any landscape items that you have put off planting. They will root easily now and be ready to grow next spring. Garden centers want to get rid of their stock so you can find some real bargains.

Mums make an immediate impact in the garden. Unfortunately if you buy them in full bloom their impact is fleeting. Look for plants in the bud stage for a longer period of color. Try some of the Korean variety mums if you can find them; they are the single, daisy variety which come in pinks, amber, and rose. They have a delightful fragrance and bees love them. They also are hardy if you have the space to carry them over the winter in the border.

Pansies and Kale

The old stand bys - pansies and kale (cabbages) - are readily available. Pansies are amazingly hardy and bloom through all but the coldest of the winter.

Apply some slow release fertilizer and keep them deadheaded for continued bloom. Pansies planted in the fall provide early spring color. If you can find it, "Tuscan" kale makes a nice addition to the fall/ winter garden. It is a gray/green textured leaf upright plant which lends color and structural interest in the border.

Flowering cabbages and kale deepen their colors with colder weather; unfortunately they tend to rot with ice and snow and extreme cold. Cabbages that survive the winter actually bloom in the spring, and their airy yellow flowers are a good compliment to spring bulbs.

Photo of Pansies

Tuscan Kale gives a real boost to the fall garden!

I always put in the spring bulbs when planting fall materials. This makes the job much easier. There are so many spring bulb varieties that it makes the mind whirl, especially since most of us don't have the space for all the colors and varieties we would like to plant. Mid season daffodils and late flowering tulips are good choices since they are not subject to the ups and downs of the spring season and bloom when the weather is more settled.

Photo of Tuscan Kale

Many Fairlington residents complain about the squirrels eating their bulbs - especially tulips.

Some ways to keep tulips safe from these critters are (1) planting them with daffodils (all parts of which are poison), (2) spraying the bulbs lightly with rodent repellant when planting, or (3) sprinkling dried blood in the hole and on the surface. If you plant the bulbs six to eight inches in depth, usually the squirrels can't get them!

Top off the bulbs with some slow release fertilizer and install some pansies - you will be amazed at the spring show this will produce.

Planting Bulbs

Remember tulips can be planted as long as the soil is not frozen.

Sometimes you can find some real bargains on tulip bulbs, just before the appearance of Christmas items. If you have some "holes", but some and plop them in!

Planting bulbs in large containers also gives portable color in the spring. The container needs to be large enough (24 inches deep) to prevent freezing.

Layering bulbs - tulips on the bottom, small daffodils next, and crocus on top - gives flowering over a longer period of time than just planting one kind of bulb. To prevent the container from getting too cold, place them against the brick of your residence.

When you see them sprout in the spring, move into direct sun. Usually container bulbs bloom earlier than those planted directly in the ground.

Photo of Tulips in a Container

Photo of Pruning

Clean up your border. After the glory of summer and fall, a clean, well mulched border provides a visual break from the abundance of summer. Cut down perennials; remove annuals; trim any dead or overgrown shrubs, and apply a light mulch to carry you through the winter.

Tidiness and cleanliness in the border are essential at this time. Raking the mulch and freshening it a bit with some new provides a well kempt look.

Remember not to prune spring and summer flowering shrubs now - particularly hydrangeas and azaleas. Doing so removes the buds which are already set for next year.

The "Bones" of your Border

Take a look at the "bones" of your border - the evergreens and deciduous shrubs - that give structure to the landscape scheme. Many materials - whether evergreen or deciduous - give winter interest with foliage, berries, stem formation, or colorful bark.

Fairlington has many crape myrtles - take a look at the bark and twig arrangement in December. You will be amazed at the visual impact these shrubs and small trees make. They are truly a plant with four season interest.

Many grasses, if you don't object to their informal look, add winter interest up to late January and early February when they tend to become "winter weary" (as do we all). But that is the time to shear them off before new growth begins, so they, too, give us a multi-season interest.

The larger grasses are inappropriate for our spaces, but there are some smaller growing varieties which add grace and movement to the winter landscape.

Check the labels for plant size and growing conditions and you will probably find some you can grow.

Photo of Grasses

Don't forget that even though landscape materials are going into dormancy, they still need water until the ground freezes. Roots are still actively growing. Soak materials when there is insufficient rainfall.

Photo of Sweetbox Boxwood

And don't forget to buy some of those plant bargains and create some container plantings for the patio. Small boxwoods and dwarf conifers mixed with some pansies and smaller grasses in larger containers look great on the patio. Just don't forget to keep them watered. One overlooked plant that does well in containers is "sweet box" (not boxwood). It is an evergreen that has small blooms in the early spring which smell heavenly.

"Coral Bells", in their unlimited variety of leaf colors, also look great (and do well) in containers. They may look a little ragged in the depths of winter, but are usually attractive especially in the protective patio areas.

This is a great season for gardening, so get out there and "make pretty" for fall and winter.

American Horticultural Society
Web Site
Photo of Gardener

The American Horticultural Society (AHS) is one of the oldest national gardening organizations in the country. Since 1922, we have provided America's gardeners with the highest quality gardening and horticultural education possible.

We accomplish this with the help of an impressive network of experts -- from the members of our Board of Directors, specialized Advisory Committees, National Great American Gardener Award Winners and corporate sponsors.

At AHS you’ll get connected -- to great gardens around the world, gardening education for all levels of skill, sources of information on any garden subject imaginable, a community of gardeners eager to share their experiences, other great gardening events and activities, and much, much more.

"Go Green"

In the interest of protecting our environment, there are many thing the small-time gardener can do to limit our impact on the planet.

Plant native species. The American Horticulture Society (located near Mt. Vernon), Blandy Farm (the VA arboretum near Winchester, VA), Green Springs Farm (located off Little River Turnpike), and local farmers' markets offer native species which will grow in our area.

Use natural products. Limit the use of chemical sprays and fertilizers in the garden.

Consider drought tolerant plants. Once established many plants, including native species, are drought tolerant. Discover them through a little garden research.

Promote Natural Growth Patterns. Encourage the natural growth form of plants and shrubs. Sheared plants are stressed out and use more water than those left to grow in their natural pattern.

Photo of Earthtaken by the crew of Apollo 17 in 1972.

Photo of Flowers
Photo of Flowers
Signs of Spring
Tom's Garden - April 2008
Posted April 17, 2008
Photo of Flowers
Photo of Flowers
Photo of Flowers
Photos by Andy Eschen and Larry Fickau
Fairlington Flowers - May 2008
Posted May 28, 2008
Photo of Flowers
Turn your backyard into a haven for wildlife

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