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Gardeners rejoice at the approach of autumn

Encore azaleas remain a top choice for Piedmont landscaping and come in many colors and sizes. This is Autumn Embers, which has a rich color that is well-suited for fall bloom.
Encore azaleas remain a top choice for Piedmont landscaping and come in many colors and sizes. This is Autumn Embers, which has a rich color that is well-suited for fall bloom. McClatchy file photo

Autumn seems so close I would try to reach out and grab it – if the humidity weren’t too thick to get my hand through it. But the Piedmont is likely to have just a few more weeks of real summer, and then we can move on to the long and delightful season of fall.

In the meantime, the wise gardener will take time to contemplate the work he or she wants to accomplish this autumn.

That’s because autumn truly is the best season for Piedmont gardeners, a time for reorganizing and rebuilding, replanting and renewal.

All that requires thought, and since thinking can be done out of the heat and humidity, now is the time for it.

The major investments for gardeners are trees and shrubs, the major plants that define a landscape. Luckily they are also the plants that perform best when planted in the cooling weather of autumn and early winter. That gives them time to grow new roots and settle into their new place before the stress of hot weather next summer.

As you contemplate changes, consider these points:

Overgrown shrubs are plants that have outgrown their space and perhaps are not justifying the room they take. They may have grown haphazardly or at least out of shape.

If you like the plant well enough to keep it, or if it makes a contribution to your landscape as, for example, a screen, mark your calendar to give it a rejuvenation pruning late next winter. If you don’t like the plant, take it out and replace it with something new and better.

Shopping for new plants is a delight and people who have not done it for a while may be amazed at the great range of offerings in hydrangeas, viburnums, camellias, azaleas and more evergreen and deciduous shrubs. The range is so good you should aim to have something great for every season. It is not unreasonable to enjoy something in bloom all through the year from flowering shrubs. Camellias are certainly the beautiful workhorse of this effort, and careful selection can mean camellia blooms from mid-autumn to early spring.

As you contemplate these changes, first and foremost consider the space they will occupy in terms of the amount of sun or shade it gets and the width and heights you have to work with. A label on trees and shrubs should give the mature size of a plant, and this is a good guide.

You may also have empty spots where you wish to plant something. This should be easy, but you must consider the size of the space and the neighboring plants. This can be the opportunity to add something that is very different or fills a gap in your continuing season of bloom.

All of these decisions require some thinking and study as well as a look through the garden centers to see what attracts you. Take your time; look and think. See what catches your eye. The heat and humidity will be gone before we know it.

Ask Nancy

Q. I have some vining house plants that have gotten very stringy and don’t look so good. What could I do for them?

A. Sounds like you have either a pothos or philodendron. Both benefit from pruning that should make the plant fuller over time. You can put the cuttings in water and root new plants, too. If you use a clear bottle, it is fun to watch the roots emerge. Once the cuttings develop roots, transfer them to small pots of soil.