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Fall 2004 Mary's Plant Farm Newsletter

September 2004

'My garden is a pleasant place of sun glory and leaf grace'
-- Louise Driscoll

      So its fall again. It has been pleasant working in the garden in August, except for a few days. The cool weather (49 degrees one morning) frequently has been the topic here among customers. Plants are blooming out of sequence; certain trees and shrubs are going into early dormancy in August. It could be the weird spring we had, with extreme early heat, then back to hard freezes. The May freeze hurt us, but we trimmed off the damage and the plants recovered nicely. We may have a pleasant cool fall which is a great time for planting most plants, shrubs and trees. The soil is warm and in good condition with ample moisture, so plants can become established before the winter. Early frosts aren't always harmful to many fall perennials.

     In September and October there is an abundance of color in the garden. If you are into native plants, grow the tall spikes of Lobelia Syphilatica backed by Rudbeckia Goldstrum or R. Triloba (Brown-eyed-Susan). I control the height of R. Triloba by trimming it to six inches when we clean the borders the end of June. This keeps them at around fifteen inches tall. Trimming any of the Rudbekias can force later bloom for September instead of the end of July into August. The Heleniums that are now a mass of bloom, are trimmed a couple of times during the summer to force more buds. Remember that trimming can not be used on all perennials to delay bloom. I never touch the tall fall fibrous rooted Anemones. Their lovely white or pink bloom sprays are timed for September. My favorite is A. j. 'September Morn' with its deep pink blooms with silver backs, that start by late August and have lovely tufts of cotton seed heads later for winter appeal. The winter garden is very important to me.

     The fall is also the time for the lovely foliage of the Arum Italica variegata to shoot up. We are still getting a lot of comment on the Arum's leafless nine-inch stalks of scarlet berries that are in many places in the garden. Plant them where you can see the foliage in the winter from a window or near an entrance. The late August and early September lacy white balls of Allium orientallis always charm me. It will grow in dense shade for a spot of white to lighten an area. Just be sure to remove the seed heads or you will have much more than you want. The white Shasta nipponicum blooms at this time of year. Also the true blue of Salvia pitcherii. This is another perennial that can be trimmed early to control the height, as can the Verbena bonharensis. I saw this Verbena originally in an arboretum in New York trimmed to thick clumps not more than two feet tall. After finding seed from T&M and growing the plants, I was shocked at its true growth habit. So, some I trim, and some I allow to wave in the breeze.

     In September there is also the pink flowers of hardy Begonia evansiana (Grandis), which also has gorgeous foliage all summer, and the deep blue blossoms of Cerastotigma plumbaginoides blooming in sun or shade whose foliage and seed heads turn wine in October. For late season bloom we dot the Colchicum among the other perennials that have already bloomed, or at the gardens edge. There are so many varieties available in lavender or white, in double or single flowers. If you're not familiar with them, they look like crocus on steroids. For native plant lovers use the soft blue of hardy ageratum (Eupatorium coelestinum) or the white blooming Snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum) and the fluffy dark purple Vernonia. Trimming during the season can control the Vernonia's height. It has a great texture contrast if planted by the shrub Callicarpa dichotoma, with its sprays of glossy purple berries. Or if you prefer the startling white berries, use Callicarpa Leucocarpa. I planted it in the shade to brighten that area in the fall. If it is berries you want, now is when the Viburnum dilatatum 'Erie' and V. d. 'Cardinal Candy' are loaded with gorgeous red fruit. Don't forget the Viburnum setigerum (Tealeaf viburnum) which likes shade and was used for tea at one time. It's berries and foliage are a vibrant red in the woodland.

     The fall blooming true perennial Chrysanthemum 'Ryan's Pink' is unbelievable and lasts all through October. Our Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Clara Curtis' blooms in early August and can be trimmed to control its height, but I never trim the 'Ryan's Pink'. Horticulture magazine had an article on true chrysanthemum, but did not have a picture of the 'Ryan's'. We have the picture of it from our garden, posted on our web-site in the perennial listing if you have not seen it bloom. Our past fall newsletters are also listed there. In reading last years copy I find there is a lot of good fall gardening information you may want to read.

     In the fall I always try to think of what new interest I need for spring. I fell in love with the new tulip 'Picture' we ordered in last year. And have designed a planting using the beautiful rose pink 'Picture' tulip and the double peony flowered tulip 'Black Hero' to either side of my Physocarpus Diabolo, which has wine colored foliage. This planting also has a gold leafed Spirea 'Ogon' next to it, so the color contract between the bulbs and other foliage should be great.

     More than half the 1400 varieties of daylilies I grow are listed as re-bloomers, but many have not. Of course, there are my favorites that I can depend on to re-bloom no matter what, but this year with the ample rains, we have had tremendous re-bloom on many different ones. We are clearing some daylilies from the back field to make room for more herbacious and tree peonies. Those Daylilies we dig will have special sale prices for fall. Remember now is the time to dig Peonies if you are transplanting. We are now digging those placed on order this spring and to pot for next year. For those planting or who have peonies, we suggest planting a few Lycoris Squamegeri in front or behind the peony and to the other side, a few Narcissus bulbs. This will create months of bloom in one spot. The peony foliage will hide the foliage from the early bulbs, and then the Lycoris has peony foliage to soften the look of its leafless stems in July and August.

    As the garden begins to go dormant we are starting to do our fall field stock digging. Many items will be fall sale priced to move before spring. And during the next two months we have our wide selection of spring and fall blooming bulbs. You can not enjoy a bulbs bloom in the spring, if you don't plant them now. We will be having our last seminar on Sept. 25, 10:30 a.m. on 'Hardy Bulbs: 12 Months of Bloom'. There is no fee, but reservations are appreciated. We are also planning on doing a class to make tufa pots in October. Inquire as to date and time if you are interested. 

     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.

     Have a great fall and winter in the garden,

-- Mary Harrison

Mary's Plant Farm & Landscaping


©Mary Harrison 2004