Lest we be blinded by all that shimmering beauty, nature offers other choices in her palette – some subtle, as in the native grasses, and some more dramatic, as with the scarlet Euonymous …
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Lest we be blinded by all that shimmering beauty, nature offers other choices in her palette – some subtle, as in the native grasses, and some more dramatic, as with the scarlet Euonymous ‘alata’ (burning bush) or the purple plum and ash.
All this colorful exuberance permeates my being so thoroughly that I want to fling my arms wide and run freely about the hills, reveling in nature’s glory. For all you mountain leaf peepers, I say leave your vehicles and walk for a bit, preferably above timberline where a patchwork of subtle kaleidoscopic color lies at your feet. There, plucky little alpine plants also proudly display their own color shows.
But enough indulgence in frivolity. This is a gardening column and October’s chores await gardeners.
All frozen vegetable and annual flower foliage must be removed from gardens to prevent transmission of diseases and eliminate insect wintering spots. Do NOT compost if this foliage shows any sign of insect or disease activity, except for slug feasting.
The new thinking on perennials is to leave them standing until spring. I, like others, can’t stand to view all that unruly dead foliage all winter, and I also have too many other tasks in the spring when our weather is uncertain.
A compromise: cut foliage down to about 6-8 inches which is fine for the plant, but leave a few plants standing if they have seeds. The little winter birds will appreciate the seeds and flock to your garden.
Q. The petunia worm destroyed all my petunias this year in spite of my efforts at control. I even replanted in mid-season. I’ve had occasional problems in the past, but this year, they were out of control. Will I have this problem next year?
A. Perhaps. Insects were particularly prevalent – and virulent – this year, primarily caused by weather. Our warm, dry winter permitted them all to overwinter, and the following wet months enabled them to proliferate. Then, too, the abundant vegetation everywhere offered daily gastronomic feasts.
Solution: Don’t plant petunias next year, or plant them in new locations. If you’ve planted them in containers, remove all the existing soil, sterilize the container and start with fresh soil next year.
Q. I’ve happily grown beautiful iris for years without any problem, but this year both the established ones and the newly divided ones seem to have problems. The rhizomes of the new ones seem to have rotted out and the leaves of the established ones have yellowish streaks and small brown spots.
Can I save my iris or have I lost plants I’ve spent years collecting?
A. The extensive rainfall in late spring and early summer probably caused your iris problem, since these plants prefer life on the drier side.
The leaf spots possibly are a condition called fungal leaf spot which will overwinter on old foliage. Cut the foliage back and destroy (not compost) all the leaves. Then hope for a drier growing season next year. Otherwise, you may have to resort to using a fungicide.
The real problem is the rot. This is a serious iris disease and occurs in plants subjected to excess moisture while growing in poorly drained soils.
Destroy all the diseased rhizomes and create new beds where you thoroughly work in generous amounts of quality compost to guarantee that you will have well-drained soil for your newly planted healthy rhizomes. Don’t fertilize. Excessive nitrogen can also contribute to bacterial rot.
Q. During one of my walks I recently saw a lovely plant that has delicate pink flowers that were about the size of a cosmos flower. The plant appeared to be a perennial. Any ideas? I would love to have something that fragile-looking in my autumn flower beds.
A. I’m guessing you saw a Japanese anemone, a vastly underused plant here. It is indeed a perennial and is very hardy. It blooms in early fall and continues until hard frost. The abundant foliage from which the flower stalks emerge is attractive in its own right. It likes morning sun, although mine survives well in my flower garden that has west sun until late summer when tree shade becomes more intense. These anemones even make nice cut flowers, although they don’t last long indoors. Look for them at your local nursery next spring.
Enjoy October’s riotous color extravaganza. Plant lots and lots of spring bulbs. (You can never have too many.) Decorate porches with mums and fall foliage and savor every perfect day to store in your memory bank for months to come.
To a glorious October!
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