Here on the second to the last day of summer you can definitely feel the change of seasons. Fall color hasn’t really kicked in yet but lots of things are starting to fade. I consciously planted this garden with fall interest in mind, a lesson I learned at the Miller Garden, but signs of fall are slow to come. It will be about another month before it really looks like fall. For me, this is the time I don’t always like how the garden looks so I have a few things I like to do so that I still enjoy the garden without feeling like I have a ton of work to do.
First off as some of the earlier perennials fade I go ahead and cut them back if they are not aging gracefully. Many turn nice colors or dry up while still maintaining their shape. This adds interest to the garden so they get to stay awhile longer, especially if they have good seed heads or pods. By cutting back some of the uglier plants it makes the others stand out and look much better. The whole garden looks much better. You are probably the only one who would notice the vacant space. Other perennials, such as Brunnera, die back slowly so I just cut off the black leaves and then the rest of the plant looks ok. This might seem a bit labor intensive but I can clean up my one acre garden in less than a couple hours. That isn’t a lot of time to make the garden look good and make you appreciate it for this time of year. You are going to have to clean it up sooner or later anyway so this just gives you a jump on the more serious fall garden clean-up.
This is also a good time to make a few short term containers to celebrate the season. We place them by the front door so we see them coming and going. We happen to have some good pots in seasonal colors of yellow, orange and rust which will accent almost any plant, even house plants you may have. We try and do a few small collections of pots so we can add and subtract as they come and go while still having the same basic look. This year we have a few small purple asters, some yellow pansies and a red grass. It isn’t so much about the plants as color. Whatever you have is worth playing around with and try to come up with something pleasing to your eye. We even added a few Blue Hubbard squash because the color is a great contrast. Looking for seed pods, rose-hips or even veggies from the garden can brighten up a pot at least temporarily.
Another easy color spot for in the garden are hand cut bouquets from the garden. We just wander around the garden and cut anything that we find has interesting color, form or texture. We use a few flowers but add grasses, pods, rose-hips, branches and even a few vegetables. As some particular element fades such as a flower you can just take it out without ruining the arrangement. Since the night time temperatures are now dipping into the 40’s and the daytime highs are only in the 60’s or low 70’s the bouquets will keep for weeks. We usually have one on the table on the patio and another on a stand close to where we often sit outside. Since we spend more time outside than in we can enjoy these more than if we brought them into the house.
I’m not ready to give up on gardening for this season yet but do want it to be a little more enjoyable. The garden in decline makes me think I should be doing something. What I should be doing is enjoying it. These few simple things gives me the allusion that life is in control, at least for the minute. Stop and smell the roses (or at least its hips).