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Fall 2003 Mary's Plant Farm Newsletter

' - and in the fields, still green and fair, late aftermath's are growing.'
-- Helen Hunt Jackson

      Who can read the poem October's Bright Blue Weather without getting excited about fall. It's perfect weather for planting. Cool nights, rain, warm sunny days and the soil is warm, not cold and wet like spring. As the lines above, later aftermath's are growing. Plants do make that last spurt of growth. The volunteer seeds of half hardy annuals or biennials pop up and no matter low tiny (2 inches perhaps) or how thin the root is going into the ground, they will withstand freezing temperatures, even below zero, and be ready to shoot on up in the spring. They then give us those delightful clumps of blue nigella, purple larkspur, fragrant hesperus, reds and golds of calliopsis in July and euphorbia marginata's cool white bloom in late August. We always get inquiries about these when they bloom and we try to explain they're never as nice when seeded in the spring. The seed is ready now. Sow it where you want it and let nature take it's course. Fall is best also for tree and shrub planting. It is the best time to renew or revise your garden. Maybe you need a new interesting area or to enlarge an area already in existence. Flower and shrub borders need not be along the property line or along the driveway. There's quite often room near a large shade tree to plant an understory tree. Example: roots of a large maple approximately fifteen feet from my kitchen window had grown out of the ground. It was almost impossible to mow that area. I didn't want another flower border, but that area needed added soil over those roots. So I swirled a line around the tree and down and back forming an asymmetrical flowerbed and raised the soil level at least six inches. I used my landscape paint marker to draw the line, but your garden hose will do the same job. You can move and adjust the line till it pleases you. I planted a dogwood on one side about eight feet from the tree, and on down on the other side I planted a Xanthoceras with it's lacy leaves and long racemes of purple stamened white flowers. A Styrax or Vitex Agnus Castus could have been used instead. With the added soil near the tree, I was able to plant fall and spring blooming Cyclamen Coum and Neopolitanum with their lovely evergreen foliage. Cyclamen must have a dry, well-drained area, and the maple sucks up all the water. Then I discovered it blocked access to the far corner of the lawn, so I put a winding path of the fern and leaf imprinted flagstones. PLUG! we do sell these lovely stones. I added some epimediums, coral bells, lilies, hydrangeas, hosta and tucked in small minor bulbs for fall, spring and summer bloom. By not over planting and since its a dry area, I can use mulch. It has been a very easy care area, and gratifying to see from the dining room windows in all seasons. A planting area should look good in all season, so even a perennial border needs shrubs and small trees to enhance it. In the long North border, stand Althea (Rose of Sharon) in the background. Don't say Ugh! I don't like them either when they are allowed to branch from the bottom to make bushy shrubs. When they are young, I trim everything off from the ground, leaving one stem that is cleaned off to approx. five foot up and allow it to bush from the top. Trim the top off into a round ball in the spring, leaving it about a foot or so wide. In August and September their large flowers (I only like singles) look like rose standard, and now you can plant beneath them. I also like the September and October color of the Heptacodium minioides. It is August 21st, and as I write this the white clusters are starting to bloom. But the real show will be in October when all the seed bracts turn scarlet so it looks like it is blooming again.

     Sherri and I toured the Chicago Botanical Gardens last weekend, and when riding the tram to the outer reaches and tree plantings, the tour guide asked if anyone was from Ohio. I was very pleased when he then proceeded to point out the Ohio Buckeyes. I've learned that this Ohio tree is the only tree that can withstand a prairie fire and still live. We have several varieties of lovely flowering buckeyes (Aesculus). Aesculus Pavia stays fairly small and is red flowering, and the A. Briotti blooms pink. Another he showed was the Gymnocladus Dioica (Kentucky Coffee Tree) which resists drought, tolerates city conditions and is a good city tree. The American Hornbeam (Hop Hornbeam) is also good for any soil type, and tolerates both wet and dry conditions. These are a few of the unusual trees we have available and in landscape sizes. I am enamored with so many unusual varieties of trees and shrubs, I think it is a pity to plant so many maples and ash trees. Especially with the emerald ash borer coming down from Canada and killing the ashes. The Agriculture Dept. has destroyed over 3000 already trying to contain it.

     Don't forget our fall bulb seminar and tour Hardy Bulbs: Bloom for all Seasons on September 13th at 10:00 a.m. By knowing which bulbs to plant, you can have hardy bulb varieties to bloom from winter through fall. Don't just think of tulips and daffodils, which we love, but those minor and usual bulbs that will turn your head in the garden. The seminar is free but reservations are appreciated.

     In tagging trees and shrubs in the field for fall digging we are offering some wonderful 'sale' prices on lovely stock. Some trees available are the Cladrastris Lutea (Yellowwood), Chionanthus retusus (White Fringe Tree), Carpinus Caroliniana (Hornbeam), Parrotia, Malus (Crabapple), Syringa Reticulata (Japanese Tree Lilac), Halesia Monticola (Silverbell), many Viburnum, Hydrangea and Magnolia varieties.

     We will also have sale prices on selected varieties of miniature Iris, Hemerocalllis, and roses. Don't forget that fall is the time to plant your bulbs. The sales barn will be stocked from ceiling to floor with our selections for this season. Including the fall blooming Colchicum, Crocus and Sternbergia. Just remember, many of these are hard to find and will sell out fast. Many have put their mail orders and spring pre-orders in early. We hate to disappoint our gardening friends, but pre-sales on many of these have been brisk.

     Remember to visit us on line at and for those who come to visit us at the nursery, our fall hours are Tues. - Sat. 9:30 to 5:00.


-- Mary Harrison

Mary's Plant Farm & Landscaping


©Mary Harrison 2003

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