The Secret of a Fabulous Fall Garden

The Secret of a Fabulous Fall Garden

Let me let you in on a little secret. Fall gardens are the best. We have just survived heat waves and monsoons and all kinds of extreme weather patterns. The ground is deeply saturated, a rare occurrence in mid-September compared to years past. The nights are cool. The plants are lush. And our gardens are simply bursting with color. 
I love Boltonia asteroides. It is hardy, has pretty blue-green leaves, and adds such a softness to the fall garden. Diane St. John said it was one of the first perennials she ever planted! 
Having a fabulous fall garden is something you have to PLAN. It doesn’t just happen. Most of us shop like mad in May and June when spring fever is at full pitch.

New England asters couldn’t be easier to grow. On Sunday I went around and labeled dozens of plants in my home gardens so I can sort out the colors and propagate them for next year. They are vital for migrating monarchs.
We fill our wagons with colorful perennials and flowering shrubs that are in full bloom. Summer comes and those plants finish blooming. Shopping and digging holes slows down. We still have a full compliment of summer blooming plants at Natureworks, but summer planting just doesn’t have the same urgency. Fall arrives and, for many folks, the garden is a tangled, tired mess. Once you get out and clean it up, it just seems easier to pop a few annual mums into your porch pots and slide until hard frost kills everything. Let me tell you, YOU ARE MISSING OUT on something truly wonderful. A fall garden in full flower is a sight to behold. 
Forget the blobby annual mums. Plant PERENNIAL mums for giant masses of flowers in October that will feed the hungry late pollinators. This is ‘Raspberry Sorbet’. What an action plant! We specialize in these hard-to-find varieties.
I just returned from a few days in Vermont. I loved my vacation but was actually glad to get back to my garden. Then I returned to Natureworks, in awe of the gardens here as well. Do you feel that way about YOUR garden right now? This is something we plan for. 
I couldn’t believe it when I returned from vacation to see Alstromeria blooming on our benches.

The plants that are turning heads in September and October are green and unexciting earlier in the year. But, if you plant them in the spring or summer, they will bulk up and give you quite the show, even in year one. If you plant fall perennials now, they will be well established and bring you great joy at this time next year. Not sure what to plant? That’s where WE come in. Our benches are overflowing with so many varieties of asters (most of them native) Eupatoriums, perennialmums, Echinaceas, Vernonias, Liatris, Phloxes, Chelones, Coreopsis, Kirengeshoma, and more. Don’t know these plants? Come in and let us teach you. Wander our gardens and ask questions. Start NOW. Don’t wait. Many of the best fall bloomers are only available at this time of year. Draw a Succession of Bloom chart to track what you are doing or use my book as a guide. 

There are so many choices for the garden in autumn. Flowers, fruit, and foliage all combine together so beautifully. Think beyond the normal and create a garden that thrills you at this time of year.
Fall is the time when you can SEE the garden- the good, the bad, the beauty, the mistakes. Grab a notebook and a digital camera and really start analyzing your gardens. Print the pictures and write all over them. Let your creative imagination flow. Is it too green? Do you have gaps where earlier bloomers have been cut back and there is nothing to take their place? Are plants too crowded? Are your plants falling over? This is when you realize the importance of that June pinching. I could go on and on. If you have never taken a design class from Natureworks, sign up TODAY for our October 20th seminar Solving Garden Design Dilemmas. Karen Bussolini, Christine Froehlich, and I will teach you so much about garden renovation and design on this day. Click here to read all about it and register soon. The signups are really coming in fast and furious for this exciting event. I am sure it will fill up as space is limited in the hall.
Do we still have monarchs? You bet we do! Diane captured this photo above of one of newly tagged monarch butterflies on a zinnia with a bumblebee below the flower and a honeybee heading towards the flower. Our gardens are so full of life, it’s magical. As of today we have 205 chrysalises, 70 caterpillars, 73 eggs, and we have released a whopping 573 monarch butterflies! Releases happen constantly. If you are here, we will teach you to tag. Monitor our Facebook and Instagram feeds to hear about spontaneous releases. Bring your children. Bring your friends. It is such a satisfying, educational experience. We will be tagging all month. Most likely every day, but so you can plan, please join us on one of the days  listed below and we will show you how to do it and let you tag your own butterfly too! You will get to touch a monarch butterfly! (I was so excited when I started…)

The tag is carefully placed in a certain spot on the wing.
Tagging Days:
Note-these dates are weather dependent. We do not release in the rain. If it is a nice day, we will tag! 
        Thursday, Sept 13, 1pm
        Saturday, Sept 15, 1pm
        Thursday, Sept 20, 1pm
        Saturday, Sept 22, 1pm
Our main crop of winter pansies have arrived. If you have never planted pansies in the fall, you are in for a treat and a surprise. Not only do they get better and better the cooler it gets, they 

usually live through the winter and return in very early spring to provide you with well established drifts of color super early, when you need it the most. We also have been getting in lots of fresh annuals, including the cutest little purple hot peppers, fluffy Celosias, marigolds, orange cosmos, 

We have the BEST organic fall veggie seedlings EVER! Lettuces, kales, broccoli, Swiss chard. Keep on planting food!

dwarf zinnias, and so much more. My current favorite is sweet alyssum (Lobularia). My alyssum plants at home were planted in April along side of my early lettuce crop. They are still blooming, in fact they are happier than ever now that the cool nights have arrived. And, I am continuing to plant more lettuce from seed and seedlings. Alyssum is the ideal companion plant for lettuce as it attracts a beneficial insect that preys on the insects that eat the lettuce. Perfect! 

This Thursday evening on Facebook Live, Diane will demonstrate how to reduce your lawn and plant a mini-meadowusing the native perennials and grasses that we love. What is so interesting about this style of planting is that the plants hold each other up. Red Panicum grasses drape over Echinacea seed pods. Boltonia asters weave in 

Stately Coreopsis tripteris blooms with purple New England asters in my garden. These plants hold each other up and weave together so beautifully.

amongst arching sprays of goldenrod. Eupatoriums and asters combine together to look as natural as the fields I drove by up in Vermont. You can do this! Ironically, on Saturday morning, Diane is also teaching a FREE workshop on Growing an Organic Lawn. If you are going to have lawn, it MUST be organic. Period. She will walk you through the steps of soil testing, renovation, feeding, and seeding. FALL is the BEST time to establish an organic lawn, not spring. Don’t miss this annual event- bring all your stubborn unbelievers and get them on the bandwagon. Lawn chemicals are BAD for us, our pollinators, the birds, our pets, our childrens, and all creatures. It’s TIME. 

So that’s what’s going on at Natureworks this week. Butterflies are being born, bulbs are being unpacked, plants are arriving and leaving daily- it’s a bit chaotic but OH so exciting. I hope you can come by and visit, tag a butterfly or two, learn about lawns and mini-meadows and fall flowers, pick up some new houseplants and succulents, and get inspired to make your garden a place of beauty and inspiration. 
We look forward to seeing you…
Nancy DuBrule-Clemente and the staff of Natureworks