Fall is a special time for gardeners.
Gone are the sweltering, long, hot days of summer. Rain is a little more plentiful. Plant growth has slowed down. Everything seems calmer and less hectic. But we often see this as a time to head inside and binge watch all those shows we missed this summer and sip something pumpkin-spiced.
A fall garden can be a place of beauty by adding some plants and trees that will have you leaving those programs behind for a winter show.
Maple trees never fail to show off, in a spectacular way, in October. Varieties such as October Glory, Red Sunset or Brandywine will not only give you decades of shade, but breathtaking color change, come fall.
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The Hickory tree, which the city of Hickory gets its name from by the tavern built under a large Hickory tree, turns shades of yellow and gold. The Sourwood tree, after its pretty white flower clusters have faded, turns shades of crimson-red to reddish-purple colors in the fall.
There are numerous shrubs that can fill your yard with color, after your summer flowers are gone.
Fothergilla Mt. Airy has a sweet bottlebrush bloom in spring which smells like honey, but come fall, it is stunning with its yellow and red foliage.
Itea Henry’s Garnet is surprisingly lovely with its slender clusters of fragrant flowers in the spring, and then lives up to its name in the fall, as foliage becomes a deep garnet color.
Red Twig Dogwood, not only an attractive shrub during the growing season, is also a larval host for butterflies and supports bees and birds. The foliage turns reddish-purple in the fall but is a scene stealer in the winter when the stems turn red.
Not all flowers fade away at the end of summer. Anemone September Charm sends up delicate pink flowers that hover over dark green foliage. Sedum Autumn Joy has florets that start pink in the summer, turning deep rose in fall, to chocolate colored by winter. Amsonia Butterscotch is a willowy perennial with blue flowers in the spring which suddenly turns that color in the fall.
Ornamental grasses gain attention as their seedheads and tassels become more noticeable. They provide fall and winter interest with their swaying forms.
As fall comes to an end, and the beautiful leaves fall to the ground, consider leaving the leaves, rather than raking and bagging them to be sent to the landfill. Leaf mulch and fallen leaves will slow and block water runoff, giving it time to soak into the ground, where it is need. Insects will hibernate in the leaves and, come spring, provide food for birds.
Once the leaves are down is the time to assess your trees. Look for broken limbs, crossed branches or even split trunks. Find a good arborist to help you determine the health of your trees before the next round of spring winds.
Remove any diseased plant material so it doesn’t cause a problem in the spring. Fall is a great time to plant shrubs and trees. It is also a great time to divide perennials. If you have a home compost pile, spread it out in your garden and scratch it in to the surface soil. Come spring, your plants will be very happy. Now is also the time to get spring bulbs in the ground.
And don’t forget tools! First walk through your garden and gather up the forgotten ones from this summer. Use warm soapy water and a scrubber and clean the tools. Sharpen pruners and wipe with a lubricating oil to protect from rust and corrosion. Store tools in a dry area. Don’t forget to drain the water from the garden hose.
Gardening doesn’t end with the last summer blooms. There is the possibility of the tapestry of fall color and plenty of work to keep you busy during the daylight hours, leaving you with those serial-killer episodes just before bedtime.
Laurie Rubner is the owner and operator of The Arbor Garden Center in Bethlehem.