You might not consider fall to be the ideal season for evaluating your garden’s design, but you can learn a lot by studying a garden when all the leaves have fallen. Shapes and texture have their moment to shine and although the view has changed, it should still delight. There’s a link below, to listen to the podcast now, or you can access the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher. If you’re the type who prefers to read, scroll down below the photo and dig in.
Happy day before Thanksgiving. How about this weather? It’s not quite picnic weather, but I’ll take it. We did have Thanksgiving outdoors one year, about 20 years ago. It was the warmest Thanksgiving I remember experiencing. There will be plenty of time for snow, so I’m thrilled it’s not rushing in.
I know gardening is not at the top of many to do lists at this time of year, but it’s actually a great time to evaluate your garden design. So if you feel like getting some air after your Turkey feast, why not wander about the garden. If you can bring someone who doesn’t usually spend much time in your garden, all the better. A fresh set of eyes is always an advantage.
What on earth would you look for at this time of year? We’ll if you’re asking that, the first thing to consider is winter interest. You get the same view out your windows 365 days a year, it might as well look good 365 days.
Of course you won’t have striking displays of colorful flowers, but there should still be color. That can take the form of evergreens, (or golds, or blues). It could be berries. All that’s left of my beautyberry is the lavender blush of its fruits. The birds don’t usually devour them until after they’ve frozen a few times. There are lots of easy growing red berried plants, like holly and winterberry and their golden cousins. The big bonus of berries is the birds they attract. You get 2 times the color for 1 effort.
Bark is hidden most of the year by leaves, so this is its season to shine. There are showoffs, like red twig dogwood, and subtler barks, like the peeling park of Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku‘), Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamillia), or Heritage’ River Birch (Betula nigra ‘Heritage’)
Sometimes it’s just the shape of the tree or shrub that entertains. Harry Lauder’s walking stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta‘) is certainly flamboyant, but so many tree silhouettes are mesmerizing when there are no leaves on them. Looking at them now gives your the vantage point of seeing whether limbing up would make for a more pleasing form or whether a little judicious pruning for balance might be called for
If you haven’t cut back your perennials and grasses, you’ll have the chance to see how they perform as they start their inevitable decline. Grasses that remain upright and haven’t gone all ragged are worth buying more of. The same goes for perennials that retain some semblance of attractiveness. Plants like tall sedum, coral bells (Heuchera) and heather (Calluna vulgaris) weather the seasons much better than short lived joys like peonies and lilies. I wouldn’t give up peonies or lilies, but if you’re interested in a long season of interest and possibly lower maintenance, sedum, coral bells, and there like are plants you’ll want to keep adding.
Don’t forget about interesting seed pods. Plants like poppies, Chinese lantern (Physalis alkekengi), and even the humble Yucca, have such fascinating fruits, you forgive them for not being in flower.
While you’re out there soaking up all this autumnal beauty, keep an eye out for things that would make nice arrangements. Certainly those seed pods and red twigs would be worth bringing indoors, for a closer viewing.
The idea of gardening 365 is not really practical in the Hudson Valley, but if we stretch the notion, there’s no reason we can’t enjoy our gardens all year, even if most of the gardening we do during the winter is in our heads. To be honest, I do some of my best gardening there.
I hope you enjoy every minute of your Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday. No pressure, just enjoyment and gratitude and good conversation. Thank you for spending a few moments with me today. Don’t forget to pick up your free Guide to a Four season Garden and let me know if you have any ideas to add. Enjoy!