Alicia's Horticulture Notes
Many thanks to Alicia Jenks for offering the following inspirational gardening advice.
November 2020: November in the Garden.
As I sit at my desk looking out the window, I can see that the colors on Mount Ascutney are becoming more muted. The green of the pine covered summit is in sharp contrast to the white mist surrounding it. Halfway up, the coppery oaks and a golden maple here and there still hang on to a few of their leaves.
This year has been different; a year so unlike any in recent memory. Our own garden and gardening in general, has played a special and important role in our lives and the lives of millions this year. The simple act of gardening has brought peace and a sense of well-being to so many who are struggling. Luckily for many of us, gardening is second nature and easily accessible. For folks newly discovering the pleasures of gardening, it was a godsend. Working in our gardens is something we can do so easily. For others, it may have been an unveiling of a world of wonder and sensual delight, a calm within a pandemic storm. The act of gardening may be something we take for granted. For folks learning to garden with children for the first time it may have been a source of indescribable joy.
November is the month we associate with the giving of thanks. We could all give thanks for being gardeners here in the very green State of Vermont. This is a place where the prominent figure standing on top of the golden capitol dome in Montpelier is Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture (Right). Vermont is where the land and its inhabitants are highly valued and protected. Farmers and farms are appreciated and supported. As gardeners, we know how lucky we are to have such a wonderful nurturing place for our gardens to thrive. That is part of what we are about! Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.
October 2020: October in the Garden
Many gardeners think spring is the busiest time of year in the garden. I think October wins by a mile. The recent freezing temperatures put us all into high gear and we started to cut back our gardens much earlier than usual. One day we were admiring the last delicate blooms of late summer and the next day those same blooms were the droopy darkened victims of Jack Frost. As we clear away the spent foliage and plant the handful of new bulbs we ordered, we can ponder our garden year.
October is a time of garden reflection but consider this...it is also time of "golden opportunity." Now is the time of year to assess your garden while your visual memory is still fresh and consider what improvements you can make. Once you do that... remember the location of the plants you have, decide which plants have made a striking showing and can be readily divided and set in another location. Make a plan to divide two or three of your "best in show" and put them in a spot in your garden that needs some improvement.
My suggestion for plants that benefit from frequent division when they are in large clumps are:
Siberian iris, Hemerocallis (day lilies), all colors of Phlox, and Peonies, (if you know how to move them). The reason I suggest two or three transplants is that sometimes older plants can be difficult to dig up and divide. Don't be discouraged! You will reap the benefits of division tenfold if you manage to wrestle that Siberian iris out of the ground and split it into four parts.
Most coordinated garden plans include repetitions of the same plant in the overall design. Divide that day lily or iris and locate it in several places in the same bed. You will be surprised at how well it pulls together bed design in terms of color, height or texture. Transplanting does require some serious digging but if you do two or three plants a year, you end up with a very satisfying outcome. October is the time to do it. You won't regret it when you see the results next summer.
A word about the dry conditions. Currently our gardens are not ideal for transplanting. You can dig and divide and set your divisions on a tarp in a protected area where you can water them on a regular basis. Once we have some fall rain you can place them back in the garden in their new location and water them in. I am being optimistic about the fall rains. If this sounds too risky, try one transplant.
September 2020: In the Garden: What's Blooming in the Garden You Ask?
This is the time for annuals to shine. If you have planned well, your annuals and container plants are bright and loaded with color. You must have been trimming them just right over the summer and cutting back those spent blossoms on your hanging plants to keep them blooming.
As many perennials are reaching the end of their bloom time, annuals are the secret to making your garden last well into fall. There are a few fall blooming perennials I would like to mention that you may not be familiar with. All of them are a delight and if you have not tried them, I would encourage you to do so. They range in height and color but all are well worth a try. Fall blooming anemones, often referred to as Japanese anemones are some of my favorites. They thrive in sun or partial shade with a mix of rich, evenly moist, well-drained soil. Here are the names of some species: A. hupehensis. A. tomentosa, and A. vitifolia. These three are lovely and well behaved and you will look forward to seeing them in the garden each fall. Who does not love asters? They range in color from the deepest to lightest shades of purple to the brightest magenta. Some tower at four feet and some are under a foot. The largest asters I have are at the back of one of my gardens. Every spring I vow to stake them up...maybe next year.
The last flower worth mentioning is the strange but wonderful Colchicum autumnale or autumn saffron. This plant is really a bulb that shows its lance-like leaves over the summer and then the leaves disappear. As fall comes on, up pops the lovely large crocus blooms. They are a wonder and very fun to see late in the garden year. We gardeners like to have our gardens last as long as we can and this time of year can be one of the very best times in the garden.