Fall cometh and gardens need work

looking outside the front door into the garden

looking outside the front door into the garden

West side of front garden

West side of front garden

East side of front garden

East side of front garden

Chessie coming through a flower bed of zinnias

Chessie coming through a flower bed of zinnias

It was so wet and humid this summer, we didn’t do much in the gardens.  We have three separate gardens, and they all have different purposes.  They are not large gardens but they have enough work and plantings attached to them to make us pay attention.

I like fall plantings anyway, and clearing away the summer foliage gives a sense of the design and structures in the gardens.  You can see what you have and what possibilities there are.

This fall is very early, there are only a few species of trees changing. We need a harder frost I believe for all that to happen, and though we only have random maples this far south, the sumacs and dogwoods, the scyamores and willows have their own magic of color.  We have some species of oaks that turn russet and some trees turn downright purple in foliage.

But we have only a red maple in the front garden besides a large apple tree to root everything else around them.  So our plantings are generally topiary, made up of bushes and of course the ivy that has grown over the very high wood fence.  That makes a wonderful background for beds and and vines on trellis.

Every year I go out and am overwhelmed at what to do.  This year I have help:  Florid and over-the-top ideas and examples but there are some good ideas in there even for small gardens.

I am reading  “Gardening at Sissinghurst” by Tony Lord, and though we don’t have acres and acres to look across, we do have 9 acres of fields and far away woods once the frost has cleared the kudzu and the leaves have fallen.  It’s enough of a vista to please and delight and beautiful even if it isn’t ours to dig up.  We do have enough on our hands if we apply ourselves to our own small property.

I have always designed the property into small rooms….mostly developed by shrubs and plantings with outdoor  furniture.  It takes some pushing around those ‘rooms’ before you get a feeling of comfortable usage, but it is worth doing.  They they should stay put and be further developed by just tending to the plantings and letting them develop the atmosphere of the area.

We have been doing this for decades, and it’s sad that the weather this summer didn’t cooperate, but hope springs eternal.

Today I went out in the rain and pulled many dozens of Iris, intending to plant them in another bed all together.  That is part of the problem with beds, they have to be well tended or at least filled for the best effect.  I have one large bed with a statue of a little boy in the middle on a plinth, and a large crepe myrtle blocking the sun to the back of it.  I will, once again, have to cut down the lovely lavender flowers and foliage, but it over powers the bed.

I dug and replanted all my peonies into the front of the bed and hope that they will give more heads next summer than they gave this time.

I decided that no one needs 30 tomato plants again, so I am planning a permanent herb garden that will take fully 1/2 of the main garden parterre.  It’s already a walled garden, and will share this space with a grape vine.

I am thinking  I am over my rose period and there are other things to plant, but I still have about 30 roses.  They are, unfortunately…scattered over the property and either need to be brought together in drifts of color and species….or hacked out of the earth.  But I can’t do the latter because they are still healthy and give good blooms….especially the David Austin varieties, like “Heritage” and “Graham Thomas”.  I have a tremendously vigorous “Madame Alfred Carriere” growing up the side where the siding is going, so I cut that back severely this summer.  It’s growing again, but at least it will be easier to lay on the ground when the siding gets done.  The bonicas have woven themselves through the archs and pickets in the back and there is no cutting them back.

Roses lose their leaves in the south after the first good bloom in the spring, so they need the underplantings of zinnias, peonies, cosmos, and perhaps iris.  I think I will plant a lot of very low growing roses in the front of beds just for the beauty of them.  Once one does begin to love roses, it’s not something one leaves off easily.  Decades of roses create such expectations that you never get it out of your bloodstream.

The ivy on the surround fences have to be cut severely back in and outside the property and I did reseed the grasses and they have taken well with all our rain.

I will plant tulips again in three beds, (and in all the window boxes) just because looking outside in the very early spring, through rains and  gloomy skies,  there is nothing more uplifting than seeing those brave tulips waving their colors  in the spring winds.  Because there are cats and puppies and a few (very few) kittens buried in my tulip beds, I don’t dig.  I just put wheel barrels of composted soil over the beds to a height of 8 inches or more.  Don’t want to disturb the peaceful dead.

Last night some friends and neighbors down by our beautiful and too -dark park were robbed, at gun point.  I wrote a blog entry about it, and then decided to delete.  They came for breakfast this morning, both of them still in shock and with other mutual friends as supporters.  They were lucky they weren’t killed.

We sat outside in the side patio at first and then in the front garden amongst the 4 o’clocks.  Since it was early and overcast, the multi-colored 4 ‘oclocks were still fragrant and open and I think it helped us all to be outside, safe and drinking coffee, juices and eating pastries.  It was a sense of normalcy where their lives were so disturbed by the sudden violence of the night before.

I realized how much my fenced property has brought me calm and serenity over the years. But it’s also brought me some structure to my environment.  Having the delight of changing the plantings, of cutting topiary  and planting seeds to see how they will look when they are massed together and blooming…well, that is the life that comforts.

The garden catalogs are coming in now, and I was throwing them away, thinking that there wasn’t much more I could plant this year.  But I think I will start to read and buy from them again just because the sheer mystery of what happens when earth touches bulbs and seeds is worth the wait.

It’s the stuff of life.

Lady Nyo

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9 Responses to “Fall cometh and gardens need work”

  1. Berowne Says:

    > we do have 9 acres of fields and far away woods … even if it isn’t ours

    The Japanese call that concept “borrowed scenery”, I understand.

    > pulled many dozens of Iris

    What type, bulbs or rhizomes? I find the rhizomatous types like Louisiana iris tend to run amok, so I stick with the bulbs. They stay put.

    I managed to keep our place down to two roses, one in front and one in back. That seems about right.

    Ivy I regard as the enemy, like blackberry canes. Ours had roots the size of my arm when we replaced a boundary wall; I had to take an axe to it. Now I go after the young shoots with Roundup. This is war.

    > The garden catalogs are coming in now

    Botanical pornography; I swear some of those plants in the photos are silicone-enhanced. I have something like 60 bulbs to plant because I gave into temptation last June, reading one of those catalogs.

    P. S. Your energy level in juggling all these tasks amazes me.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Berowne,

    hehehe….it doesn’t mean they will all get done, but most need to.

    Rhizomes…. and that doesn’t mean they all bloom, and I think they need to be UNDER more soil. I planted them around the base of a maple years ago and soil washed away because they were too much up against the trunk. Now, they will have a better chance.

    I like iris because of the greenery….and the flowers when we get them. I love the pale blues and whites and I have a few yellows, but they are good filler plants none the less.

    Reading about Sissinghurst is not a good idea….there are hordes of gardeners to do the properties bidding. Just me in a few weeks…alone, with a shovel.

    “Borrowed scenery”, well, that fits what we have here. But I look upwards and out and see the ‘saddle’ of huge trees in the distance, eastwardly, and it is quite striking, with the drifts of maples and oaks in the distance…..across chimney pots.

    Ivy…! Yes, war, I understand that, but I try to leave it alone. The ivy is holding up the wooden fence around the front of the house and without it, there would be no fence. We have already had to pound stakes into the ground to wire off the fence, to give the ivy some help. I dread the labor that needs to go to repair the whole thing. I’m hoping I die first.

    Roses: Only two???How can you stop at two??? At least consider “Heritage” for the luscious bloom and fragrance. I don’t plant roses that don’t stink.

    You get out there and plant those bulbs, Berowne. What are they, tulips??

    I am going to try crocuses and more daffs this year….in the south tulips and daffs need to be replaced each year because it’s not cold enough for the bulbs. One trick is to put the bulbs in the bottom of the fridge for about two months, but by then you can forget them or confuse them for onions….in the dark.

    There is nothing more therapeutic than working in the earth. It makes up for the insanities of humankind. Believe me, Berowne, the call of the soggy soil sounds better and better after the last few days. Dirt I can understand, most other ‘things’ I can’t.

    ….and blackberry canes have their place, just not all over the garden. I brought back a few about 5 years ago from our property in the NC mountains…and they have rooted and give a few berries a year, but they are basically food for songbirds…along with my blueberries.

    Lady Nyo


  3. Berowne Says:

    You might try Dutch iris bulbs; after they bloom and the leaves turn pale, the stems can be cut to ground level. I like that in bulbs; unlike say daffodils which are wonderful in February here, but spend the next two months elaborately drooping and dying, and you can’t cut them back or they’ll look awful the next year. So, through most of the springtime the beds are filled with dying plants. Bleahh. I am over daffodils, though several remain of the 400 we planted a decade ago. (They *are* nice in February, though.) Anyway, think about Dutch or Japanese iris; quite different from the big bearded iris varieties.

    We have a Mr. Lincoln hybrid tea rose in the front; very fragrant, good cut flowers, I mean to take a couple inside today. And a Sarabande floribunda in the back yard; no fragrance but a mass of red blooms April through fall, and need no care besides pruning suckers. Two roses is enough; I’m more into California native plants, well adapted to this area and low-maintenance. (I’m very into low-maintenance.)

    I wonder if some variety of Eriogonum would grow well in Atlanta? They attract butterflies, and they come in all sizes from ground cover to 8 foot high shrubs. We have several species here. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eriogonum)

    What bulbs did we get this year? Coastal California is not good bulb country for many types in catalogs because it rarely freezes here, and from painful experience I’ve learned small bulbs that don’t have to go deep are a lot easier to deal with than big honking daffodils that need eight inches of soil on top, or tulips that are essentially annuals. I bought Triteleia laxa (The Bulb Formerly Known As Brodiaea; “Ithuriel’s Spear”), Nectaroscordum, and Iris reticulata. (Goes to cellar; counts; returns.) Forty-six total, might do them this weekend.

    > There is nothing more therapeutic than working in the earth

    I think the thing is that the benefits are proportional to the effort. You spend an hour, you get results; you spend two hours, you generally get twice the results.

    > blackberry canes have their place

    In Oregon just north of Humbug Mountain State Park, there’s a stretch of old coastal Highway 101 abandoned when they built a cutoff. It makes a great hiking trail if you know the path to scramble up to it from the campground. One September we were on it just as a quarter mile of blackberry bushes had ripened; there must have been a ton of berries hanging over the pavement. You could just reach out and grab a bunch of them and stuff your face. We did.


  4. Margie Says:

    Today I went into the yard and severely cut back (mutilated?) two butterfly bushes. Not my favorite shrub – though they are lovely when they are covered with new bloom (and butterflies and hummingbirds) in just a few days the blooms turn to seed and must be deadheaded, a chore I hate! It did give me a chance, however, to enjoy the last blooms of our iris. We tried reblooming iris last year and thought we got ripped off as they did not bloom last fall – but this fall we got dozens of second blooms!

    I also repotted my lemon tree and harvested about a gallon of rose hips. I’m going to try to dry them for tea, although I’ve never done that before. Tomorrow we rip out the tomatoes and the watermelon vine!

    Loved the pictures. I love the small room concept. I’m designing a small sitting area for next year beneath the grape arbor.

    @Berowne – botanical pornography is a perfect way to describe all those many catalogs. Just when I think we can’t possibly cram any more into our 1/4 acre, the catalogs come and I wonder if I could possibly get a fig tree, or an apple tree, or maybe pecans?


  5. ladynyo Says:

    Oh, Berowne! It sounds like your weather patterns are like ours in Atlanta…but it does freeze here, just not enough for tulips to be regenerating….though we always have one or two the next year. I do remember when I was a child, in NJ….the one blub, an old tulip that came back year after year…a striped yellow and red bulb…that striping is from a virus I understand.

    Then, about 20 years later, it was just greenery that came up year after year, but who knows how long it was in the ground before we brought the property?

    Iris. Well, I think we have the Dutch iris, and some of the big bearded ones, too, but mostly the common light purple or blue ones. We have a few Japanese iris, smaller and a different blue…but I can’t seem to find them anymore in the bed.

    “bought Triteleia laxa (The Bulb Formerly Known As Brodiaea; “Ithuriel’s Spear”), Nectaroscordum, and Iris reticulata. (Goes to cellar; counts; returns.) Forty-six total, might do them this weekend.”

    Oh~ that sounds lovely! It’s a good sort of work that goes into the ground.

    I cut the tops down of my iris, to about 4 inches, divided them severely and replanted them into new composted soil. I guess I planted about 60 in a bed. I went on a rampage of ripping them out of the ground around the trees and against the foundation and I guess I need to fertilize them with bone meal?? for next spring.

    I bought a tray of pansies….multi-colored, watercolored ones, and planted them in the front of the bed, backed up by what should be taller iris. But the pansies will only last until; spring and then they become too leggy. But it is amazing how they survive a deep freeze, and snow and they are so pretty when the dead of winter gives nothing except black trunks of trees, and gray skies and brown burned off grasses.

    Blackberry bushes!! Oh, that sounds wonderful! Nothing better than wild blackberries. You happened upon a treasure chest of fruit.


  6. ladynyo Says:

    Margie, I get you about buddendelia….(not spelling that correctly..) They are lovely, but they do need constant deadheading. I had two large bushes about 10 years ago, and moved them to the back and they died. You reminded me of them, and I would love to have some again, but then again, it’s always a question of where to put them?

    Actually, you gave me a great idea!! I’ll buy two and use them as dividers from the vegetable part of the garden and the herb part. We are supposed to plant those plants and bushes that attract bees and I would think that butterfly bushes would do so. In any case, they attract hummers and butterflies, and that is part of the way there. Bees are dying off in massive amounts due to a bee mite infection that effects their throats and also their navigation. I understand this is of a crisis proportion in some states and countries. Spain for one.

    That is amazing about the iris reblooming….I didn’t realize that they could do that.

    The small room concept. Well, it’s a good way to utilize a small front yard, and for some reason by dividing it up it tends to look bigger. I wish I had a long alle for a vista, but not having that, I have to steal the vista of the burnt off kudzu field. Works though.

    Those botanical pornography you and Berowne are talking about should be illegal. it’s the key way bulbs, trees and shrubs are bought and then discarded after we realize that that bush or shrub is toooo large by far for the area. Or a tree.

    But a fig tree is small and good in the mouth. I say, go for it.


  7. shia1 Says:

    I love your gardens. I would love to sit back there sipping a mint julip.lol And of course some good converstion.

    Your cat resembles mine. Ours is named Lilly.

    Lots of work in the garden. I have to clean my flower beds out yet.



  8. ladynyo Says:

    Hi shia.

    Lots of work there….and I worked my fanny off this weekend…it was so beautiful…now? overcast.

    Lilly is a good name for a cat. I have had one Lily many years ago. Chessie is getting old but he’s a wonderful cat.

    Mint julips! Haven’t had one of those in many years. You drink them from silver cups…mint julip cups…and I don’t like metal in my mouth…not in cups or bridles…LOL!

    You know what? Our garden rooms are ‘new’ to friends and guests…but we don’t appreciate them as much as we should. Any place you plop garden/outdoor furniture, you have a garden room….or sorts. It certainly can get more involved. I like the concepts and practice of garden vistas. Far points accented with a statue or a bench. It’s rare to get it right, especially when we are working with shortened spaces. You have to, as Berowne says, ‘borrow’ space…a la the Japanese.

    Go clean those flower beds out…ours were a mess of 4 o’clocks, which get leggy and nasty after their season. Want some seeds???


  9. shia Says:

    Sure send me some seeds. It is nice to have something from someone you know in your garden. Maybe I can send you something.

    Have to clear the flower beds for sure. I stayed inside most of the day and hated myself for it. I had so many things to do that I didn’t make it outside but just a few minutes to play with the dogs.

    You are way ahead of me… You go girl



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