What To Do About Autumn

As the rain beats steadily against the windows of our office, I sit and think about the upcoming season. This is my 6th season as the Maintenance Foreman at Grimm’s Gardens, I look forward to even more to come. Autumn always brings about a relief and dread. I love to see the colors of autumn spread slowly across the landscape-from the reds and golds of sugar maples, the oranges of chokeberry, and the purples of ash and beautyberry, to the silvery dews of the early morning light. We continue to pull weeds, prune straggly branches, and prepare for the onslaught of fall cleanups.

Streetscape in Hiawatha during peak color time of Sugar Maples

I do not really dread the season, I enjoy preparing the landscape beds for their winter sleep. It is just sad to see bare trees and shrubs, the faded blossoms of rose and coneflower, and the wilted annuals following a hard freeze. 

White ash in full glory of purples of autumn

We wait impatiently for that freeze, knowing how many landscapes we have to prepare for winter. We sharpen our tools on cool, rainy days, and look to the skies for sunny, bright days. Once the freeze hits, we will race around cutting grasses and perennials, pulling dead annuals, and raking leaves. We plant bulbs in the ground for next season’s beauty and fertilize trees and shrubs for their best growth in the spring. There is lots of work to do!

Fallen leaves

I like to leave some perennials such as grasses, coneflowers, alliums, baptisia, and penstemons for their winter interest. Some want their grasses cut down, so we do. Hostas and daylilies get cleaned up and divided. Iris and peony are moved if needed. We cut back shrubs like butterfly bush, vitex, and blue mist spirea. Leaves are raked into neat piles and then into our barrels and then into the trailer or truck bed. No garbage bags for us. 

Purple beautyberry berries

We take time while working to enjoy the beauty of it all. The colors and sounds of autumn, the decorations on porches, the smells of late cut grass and fallen leaves. Soon, too soon, we will be done with yearly maintenance, and will begin preparing for winter pruning. In November, after cleanups are finished, I will head out to put up holiday decorations, green boughs of juniper and red twig dogwood, and seedpods for in containers and beds, to be enjoyed until after Christmas. 


Welcome Autumn! And happy planting…

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