The Mid October Garden

The Mid October Garden

If you listen to the weather forecast this week, you will find that the focus is on the possibility of frost. Don’t fear, this does NOT mean the garden season is over. The

One year later, and this perennial mum has gotten huge! Plant NOW for an amazing garden next fall. Do it!

very first mild frosts (32 degrees at night) can melt down your very tender annuals. BUT, so many plants will continue to thrive, in fact so many plants are still to flower in our world, that this is merely a blip on the radar. Frost makes the leaves turn brilliant colors. Frost knocks down the most tropical foliage. Here in CT, our gardens can look brilliant after a few cold nights. Let me explain.

Here are a few categories of plants that come into their own in mid-late October.
1. Shrubs with colorful berries are in their glory right now. Beautyberry (Callicarpa) with its dayglow purple berries, is stealing the show in our front yard. Winterberries (Ilex verticillata), which is our native, deciduous holly, have the best berry set in years because of the wet weather. Both of these shrubs will drop their leaves after a frost, making the berries really stand out.
I planted my Flame willow where the setting sun lights it up all winter long. I also harvest the glowing stems for autumn and holiday arrangements.
2. Shrubs with colorful stems also steal the show now. As the foliage falls off the flame willow (Salix ‘Flame’), the orange stems glow in the setting sun. Redtwig dogwoods also are stunning right now.
3. Plants with colorful fall foliage are turning heads. Cephalanthus ‘Sugar Shack’ (the new native, dwarf buttonbush) has yellow and rosy pink leaves this week. Hydrangea paniculata ‘Quickfire’ has deep burgundy foliage. 
European ginger is a shiny evergreen that loves our shade garden. Notice that we are leaving the leaves all around it!

4. Plants that have shiny, evergreen leaves really stand out. Tassle ferns (Polystichum polyblepharum) and European ginger (Asarum canadense) are two perennials that come to mind. We even have two of our favorite Hellebores in stock for fall planting- ‘Ice and Roses Red’ and ‘Pink Frost’. 

We have Helleborus ‘Ice and Roses Red’ in stock!
5. Many perennials have a nice fall color as well. Start looking around your perennial gardens and you will see what I mean- Tiarellas, Heucherellas, Hellebores, Monarda ‘Blue Stocking’, Amsonia hubrechtii- wow! They add to the tapestry of color right now. 
6. Ornamental grasses come into their own in October. My favorite this week is Schizachryium ‘Standing Ovation’. This vastly improved variety of our native little bluestem stands up tall and has blue leaves that are turning red as I write this. 

7. There are tons of perennials that are either STILL blooming or haven’t even started to flower yet! Our perennial mums are a good example, as are many of our asters. Montauk daisies, monkshood, 

Perennial ageratum (Eupatorium coelestinum) is still going strong. August thru October blooms cover this easy care perennial that fills in the gaps in your late garden.

Japanese anemones, willowleaf sunflowers (Helianthus salicifolius ‘First Light’), perennial ageratum (Eupatorium coelestinum) are all examples of cold tolerant, late blooming perennials on our benches and in our gardens.

8. Don’t forget winter pansies! They may seem small now, but they will keep on blooming until winter sets in and then return in early spring to put on a show. 
An additional benefit of a mild frost is that it allows you to start cutting back parts of the garden to make room for BULBS! I plant tons of bulbs between the crowns of the plants. I also plant them under shrubs that leaf out late, such as Callicarpa and butterfly bushes. It’s hard to imagine how bare your landscape will look in March and April. Believe me, you will be longing for the color bulbs bring when that time of year comes around again. I talk about some of my favorite unusual bulbs in the article below. More have just arrived and some varieties have started to sell out. If you aren’t going to PLANT them right now, at least grab the ones you want and store them in a cool garage or shed until the time arrives to get them in the ground. I usually do my own bulb planting in November  from a large stash I accumulate in my garage in October. 
We welcome the cold weather so the leaves will turn yellow and then fall off the Callicarpa shrubs. The berries are the star of the show!
A helpful hint: If you want to protect some tender plants from frost, cover them with cotton sheets, NEVER plastic! Plastic conducts the cold. Cotton cloth doesn’t. If you have edibles like lettuce or beets, they can tolerate a mild frost just fine. Eventually the night temperatures will drop into the 20’s. That’s when floating row covers on hoops add extra protection and prolong the harvest. Kale actually gets sweeter as it gets colder! 
There is still time to sow grass seed- in fact, my husband sprinkled more on our newly renovated front lawn just before last Thursday’s rain. Not that the seed that was sown a few weeks earlier wasn’t coming up nicely. He just remembered Diane saying that the best defense against weeds is grass seed. A healthy, organic lawn can outcompete the weeds. 
If you are looking for a late blooming native perennial to feed the bees, check out Vernonia ‘Iron Butterfly’. The leaves are thin and delicate, and the flowers are beautiful purple clusters. 
As I was digging in my daylily border in the front yard (next to the lawn) on Sunday, I dug up quite a few grubs- dead grubs. I was thrilled. Our organic lawn service company had found lots of grubs eating the roots of our lawn and put down the new organic control (Grub Gone G) and it worked! In the back yard (where we didn’t have them apply it) the grubs were alive. Diane restocked this product again and it is on the way here as I type!

Another benefit of fall gardening is you get to plant garlic! We are having a second

We have organic hardneck garlic- 4 varieties! Plant this fall and harvest next July. #growyourown

How to Grow Organic Garlic workshop this Sunday. We are getting low on some varieties but have plenty of our two most popular types since we ordered extra- Music and Russian Red. Garlic is also a bulb, so there is no rush to plant it but you should buy it now to be sure you get the kinds you like. I will be planting my garlic right after the full moon in October or November. Our 2019 Gardening with the Mooncalendars have arrived. The calendar makes this ancient practice easy to do. 

I am very proud to say that I spent the better part of Monday bringing my houseplants indoors for the winter. Usually I am outside on a freezing cold night after dark dragging them in and dealing with them later. I groomed them, cleaned their pots, pruned them, and repotted those that needed it. Waking up to the morning sun streaming through the lush greenery in my home office made me so happy. I have a few plant stands that are still empty, so it’s a good thing that Diane and Amber have been regularly buying fresh indoor plants for the shop. Be sure to use our Organic Mechanics potting soil, or the Cactus and Succulent mix for those that need better drainage. There is something soul satisfying about staging the indoor landscape. It helps chase away the short day blues that most gardeners feel right now. If you aren’t sure how to get your plants acclimated to indoor life, Click Here and read my handout The Houseplant that Came in From the Cold. We have the organic sprays, worm castings, potting soil, clay pots, saucers, and fertilizer that you need. Let us help you create your own indoor oasis. 
Weekend projects can be so satisfying. I took home 2 bright red perennial Minnesota Mums, a red daisy Korean mum, and lots of Montauk daisies to beef up my main border. The past-bloom Aster ‘Twilight’ was to add to my already established stand- I adore this September bloomer! I ended up working outside on Sunday for 6 hours, loving every minute of it. I weeded, edged, planted, rearranged, and divided until it started to get dark. 
This Saturday is our exciting all-day workshop Solving Garden Design Dilemmas. It is almost sold out so if you haven’t registered, do it TODAY. Our Decoupage Pumpkins workshop this Saturday is already sold out! Sunday’s FREE workshop on Growing Organic Garlic welcomes walk-ins. Take advantage of the crisp, fall weather and come in for a visit to Natureworks. There is so much to see, with new things arriving inside and out every day. 
I hope to see you very soon…