Like school, the gardener’s year begins in late summer. It isn’t because someone has sounded a bell calling students to class. It is more subtle – a feeling that it is time to get going again, launch projects, get things done. Factors such as a drop in the humidity and the reduced intensity of the sun are just two things we welcome as the calendar moves toward autumn.
Fortunately, the autumn gardening season is long, lasting until days get short and cold about mid-November and your thoughts and energy turn to the holiday season.
Getting started can be as simple as a walk around your landscape. There, you can identify problems, such as gaps or deteriorating plants to deal with during the peak planting season for shrubs and trees this fall.
You can also contemplate how your life fits in with the existing array of plants and paths. For example, it may become clear that a walk created by pavement didn’t turn out to be popular route, The popular route is now obvious by beaten-down grass, a problem that could be solved easily with paving stones. Or perhaps the patio is in such a hot and sunny spot that it is used rarely in summer and desperately needs shade from a spreading ornamental tree such as a Yoshino cherry.
Those are just two of the smaller problems that may leap out at you once you start to evaluate your landscape. A bigger one could be the amount of lawn you dedicate to grass.
Some of this grass, struggling under the shade of a large tree and losing the fight for water with the tree’s roots, could be replaced with an evergreen ground cover better suited for the area. This is a project to put at the front of your brain now.
At the same time you contemplate replacing poor stands of grass, look over the shrubs and make a serious evaluation of their performance. We had a decent amount of rain this summer, so many have grown robustly – too robustly in some cases.
This is where you make the hard decisions about shrubs that are overgrown and require more maintenance than you can handle. It is not a crime to remove a plant that you simply cannot control and replace it with one whose mature size will suit that place. The same is true for plants that seem to catch every germ that comes their way, resulting in marred leaves on the plant and unhappiness for the gardener.
Other things to look for as you study your landscape:
• Cracked or broken limbs in the trees. These are easier to see once the leaves come down, but you should look for them now and have them tended to avoid danger to people or property.
• Your containers. What can raise their style? While pots of pansies are lovely from fall to spring, they are not your only choice. Small evergreens such as the lime gree Lemon cypress look lovely in large pots, with a frill of pansies, at the front door.
• Your decks, patios and steps. Don’t let them remain unadorned until next spring just because the summer flowers play out this month. Keep them lovely with fresh plantings. They will draw you outside – and there are many days in late autumn and winter when it is nicer to sit outdoors than it was this July.