Fall is officially here with the weather this week! We had 2 inches of snow, a hard freeze to 28 degrees and much cooler temperatures. As autumn finally begins to turn the pages of the landscape, we begin to assess and think about what we can do different in our gardens next year. This is also an excellent time to plant new things in the landscape, from trees and shrubs to perennials and grasses. The soil is still warm and plants will root in quickly an establish with less water than those planted in spring and summer.
This is also a great time to divide and move plants around in the garden. Some plants that are easily divided and moved to new locations include hosta, iris, daylily, peony, bleeding heart, tall sedum, obedient plant, goldenrod, and grasses. These can be moved to new beds in the landscape or given to friends and neighbors for their own gardens. Shrubs, especially those that sucker and spread via rhizomes, can also be moved or divided and moved easily. Shrubs to divide and move include prickly ash, American plum, ninebark, smooth hydrangea, old fashioned lilac, and dogwoods.
Grasses in the garden, when planted in groupings and mass can be a showstopping addition to the fall landscape. I recently watched a series of videos on the gardens created by legendary designer Piet Oudolf. He uses large masses of plantings to add movement, repetition, and harmony to the garden. I see the living landscape as a masterpiece of art and music, with the changing colors and textures, the blooms of different plants, and the wildlife that vibrates within it.
Trees have become the focus of American gardens in the central Great Plains and Midwest, where homeowners and gardeners alike plant maples, oaks, and others by the hundreds for their beautiful fall colors, sometimes disregarding the soil conditions and locations of the trees. Trees plantings need to be designed as much as other landscapes. Do not just “plop” a tree into a spot because you want to see fall color from the picture window in your living room.
Think! Trees are best when planted in the proper location for size, water and soil conditions, and visibility combined. Trees should also be planted in groupings, close together, with large mulched areas around them, eventually under-planted with shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers to create a harmonious ecosystem.
Above all, get out and enjoy the fall. Rake a pile of leaves over your kids for unique photos. Play a game of catch with someone. Go on a leaf hunt and see how many different kinds you can find. Carve a pumpkin. Enjoy life!