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Fall colors are here. We were taking a walk about a week ago and noticed that some plants were starting to show off their fall colors. This week it seems like the plants are in hyperdrive to show off! The much cooler nights and shorter days have triggered a colorful rush of foliage to appear. If you get a chance take a drive to check out the great color. Some of the best is up at the Hoyt Arboretum! Don’t miss it.
This week we featured...
Fall Peony Care
Fall is the time to get out and clean up your garden for the coming winter. If you have peonies you may wonder how to take care of them to get them ready. To learn some tips about care, we stopped at Adelman Peony Gardens (503-393-6185). Carol Adelman told us about the possible dangers of grey mold (also known as botrytis). It can form on the dying leaves of your plant and if left unattended it can weaken or even kill your plants. The best way to prevent it is to cut off all the leaves and throw them away. If you compost the leaves the spores will not be killed and when you spread the compost the next year they will just spread to your plants again. For herbaceous and intersectional peonies the foliage gets cut off. If you have a tree peony, leave the woody stem and just remove the leaves. Don’t cut off the woody part of the plant! Now is a good time to fertilize the plants too. Use a good tulip fertilizer around the drip line of the plant. The fall and winter rains will wash it into the ground.
Fall is also the time to dig and divide your favorite peonies. Carol showed us, in an earlier story, how easy it is to do. She even told us that you don’t need to divide your plants as you would with other perennials. These plants don’t get overgrown or choke themselves if they get too large. Still you can use this technique to get extra plants for your friends and neighbors. The keys to success are to make sure you dig a large root, make sure your divisions include an ‘eye’ and to build a good planting area for your new root with a quality bulb fertilizer and a little lime. Carol even showed us how the rules remain the same for different styles of peonies, including the newest intersectionals. If you have questions about peonies or you are interested in purchasing one, you can contact them at the gardens. You can find her story on digging and dividing in our Garden Time archives.
Fall Lawn Overseeding
We had told you that fall is the time for planting, and Chris from JB Instant Lawn, told us the reason why. The ground right now is retaining all that heat from summer and so the grass seed will grow better now. In the spring the air may be warm, but the soil remains cold so germination is a lot slower. The first thing you need to do is to get rid of any moss and weeds that you may have in your lawn. You should use a weed and moss control that is a liquid instead of a granular product. The liquid is fast acting, where the granular could take up to 6 weeks to be effective. Next You should mow your lawn to its shortest height without doing too much damage and then you can thatch and aerate your lawn. This will remove the dead thatch and moss, and allow for greater contact with the soil for your new seed. Then you can apply a garden lime to ‘sweeten’ the soil. Our native soils tend to be a little acidic. Finally you can apply your new seed. Be sure to pick a seed that will work for your conditions. Consider how much light your lawn will get and then pick the appropriate sun or shade mixture. Once your seed is down, cover it with a light layer of top soil and then keep it moist, but not soaking wet. This will allow the seed to germinate and grow. If your seed starts to grow and it dries out, you may have to apply more seed since the younger plants may have died.
Fall is also the time for fertilizing! To really keep your lawn healthy in the winter and give it a boost for the spring, now is the time to apply a good fall and winter fertilizer. The numbers on the bag can be confusing, but what you are looking for is a well-balanced slow release fertilizer. Your lawn is slowly fed all through the winter and then gets a jump start when the temperatures warm up in the spring. Keeping your lawn well maintained in the winter helps to prevent problems later. For more lawn tips and other great information, check out the JB Instant Lawn website or Blog.
Tsugawa Fall Color
This is the season of color, not the same type of color you experience in the spring and summer, but the warmer colors of the fall foliage and leaves. This different type of color makes fall a favorite season for a lot of gardeners. To get an idea about the different types of plants you can use, we stopped by Tsugawa Nursery (877-658-0566) in Woodland, to talk with Brian about some of the fall color plants he likes. We were surrounded by different colored trees and shrubs. We started with the Itea – Sweetspire ‘Henry’s Garnet’. This one was just stating to change color and even though it has wonderful white flower spikes early in the summer, it will really show off with reddish foliage now in the cooler days of fall. There are a lot of different varieties and they are all starting to look great. Another great late summer and early fall plant are the Crape Myrtles. They have incredible blooms spikes in the late summer and then they move into their fall color show. Some varieties do not have wonderful color, but they all end up with beautiful bark in the winter when those leaves fall. Maples are the signature plant for fall color in our area. There are tons of different varieties from standards to shorter Japanese style types that all have wonderful shades of orange, red, yellow and purple to share. We saw one type, ‘Autumn Blaze’, with hot, fiery red leaves. The final group of plants was one that a lot of people don’t equate with fall color, the Nandinas. These small shrubs start to turn as soon as the weather starts to cool! Vibrant colors on the ‘Heavenly Bamboo’, their common name but not real bamboos, now also include variegated varieties!
As the seasons change, you can still surround yourself with color! Check out the selection of fall color foliage at Tsugawa’s or any of your local independent garden centers.
Fall Pumpkin Decorating
Halloween is almost here and it is time to put out the decorations. If you are looking for something that can decorate your doorstep for Halloween and beyond, you need to check out this project. Ryan and Judy did a couple of different ways of pumpkin decorating. We started with Ryan and he showed us how to decorate a pumpkin by just gluing decorations and plant material to your pumpkin. You can just use a hot glue gun to attach garden material and sedums to the top of a pumpkin. He had a great selection of hardy sedums from Little Prince of Oregon. In just 10 minutes he transformed a pumpkin into a wonderful little decoration. The best part? This one won’t rot on your patio, it will last a couple of months if you keep it dry. Once the fall is over you can just pull off the sedums and plant them in your garden. Very cool!
The second method was done by Judy. She simply cut the top off a pumpkin just like she was going to carve it, but instead of carving the outside she just filled the pumpkin with some great Black Gold All Purpose Soil and placed a fall mum inside the container. If you have a bigger pumpkin, you can just drop in a few more plants. You’re using the pumpkin as a decorative pot! Give it a good watering and then just put it by your door step to scare the kids and delight the neighbors. Check it every few days to see if it is starting to rot. Since this pumpkin is cut and full of soil, it will rot much quicker than a regular carved pumpkin, so plant it just before you plan on displaying it. After it starts to rot, move the plants to your garden or another container to enjoy them longer.
The pumpkin is a traditional decoration for Halloween and Thanksgiving, and this is a way to show your creativity with a twist on the usual Jack-o-lantern!
Fall Hydrangea Pruning
In the fall, most of your plants are starting to go dormant for the winter and for many of those plants they have already set their flower buds for next season. If you prune a lot of your perennials in the fall, you could be cutting off the flowers for next spring. A lot of hydrangeas are exceptions to that rule. To learn more about fall pruning of hydrangeas we stopped by Hydrangeas Plus (866-433-7896). Kristin joined us in her display garden to talk about the different types of hydrangeas and when you can prune them. We started with the macrophylla, or mophead type. These are the ones with the snowball type of blooms. The family also includes the lacecap type of flower too. In your garden yours are probably past bloom and you have fading blooms on your plant. These can still look gorgeous so you can leave them or you can cut them and dry them for display inside. To prune these for next season’s blooms, you will want to cut them back right now. They grow on new growth for next year. Kristin went down to the base of the plant and counted up 3 leaf nodes. These are the junctions where the leaves attach. At the leaf node she cut above the leaf. If you look closely at the leaf node you can see the buds where the new growth will come out for next year’s branches and blooms. She also told us that you should cut out about 1/3 of the oldest part of the plant, right down to the trunk. This will stimulate brand new shoots that will be your flowering branches in years to come.
We then moved down to a different part of her garden where we saw some of the arborescens family of hydrangeas. These have the huge flower blooms like ‘Incrediball’ and ‘Annabelle’. These hydrangeas are native to the U.S. These bloom on new wood, which means that you can really take them back when pruning. Kristin had already pruned some of these back and they were REALLY short. These are not so critical for pruning in the fall, these can be cut back during the fall, winter, or even in the very early spring. Another type that you can prune in the fall, winter or early spring are the paniculate, or cone shaped types, like ‘Limelight’, ‘Phantom’ or ‘Grandiflora’. Kristin told us that she likes to cut them back in the spring so they don’t get so tall and floppy.
If you are looking for some great tips on taking care of your hydrangeas, check out their Help Desk link on their website. There is a lot of great information listed there.