It’s hard to believe it’s October already. Our gardens will show that last burst of color before going into the long rest of winter. Our trees and shrubs are going to lose the green provided by the chlorophyll in their leaves and go to their true colors of red, orange, purple and yellow. We’re fortunate to live an area with hills and valleys where we can get a great perspective on the amazing colors of our fading gardening season. A walk in a city or state park is always a good idea this time of year.
After that walk, we’ll find that there is still plenty of work to do in the garden. One of my primary goals will be dividing and moving perennials so that I can fill in all open spaces in my garden. Now, that doesn’t have to be your goal at all. There is something to be said for open areas of mulch and space between plants. Depending on your preference in how you want your property to look and the types of plants chosen to achieve that goal, you may just be dividing plants to keep them from taking over. In my garden, I divide with the idea of filling in spaces that don’t have a plant. I just like that really full and kind of crowded look.
The first plants I’m going to work on are my hyperion daylilies along my back steps. In just two seasons, they’ve gone from a handful of flowers per plant to a dozen or more per plant and the leaves are hanging halfway over the steps. I’ll remove the entire clump, use a sharp garden knife to separate the roots, install some in the original spot and move the remaining to areas around the front and back gardens. Daylilies recovery quickly and will bloom next year.
I’ll also be moving many of my ostrich ferns. I love a plant that easily spreads without being a headache to deal with and ferns fall in that category. In the shady areas of my backyard, I continually add more ferns from my existing stock. Ferns look great as a foreground to my hydrangeas, viburnums, serviceberry, arborvitae and dawn redwood. And, the deer don’t eat them, which is a bonus.
Another plant that I’ll be dividing is my gooseneck loosestrife. This plant does spread rather quickly but with a little bit of work in the fall, I can have it under control for next year. I’ve actually taken to adding the roots I remove to the bank of a wooded creek in our backyard and its doing a fine job of holding back the hillside. And it’s much better looking than the wild mustard there currently. The flowers on this plant are very eye-catching.
Other plants that will come under the dividing knife are my sedum, ornamental grasses, daisies, and beebalm. Plants that will receive a pretty heavy fall pruning without risk of ruining any spring color are my oakleaf hydrangea and low-gro sumac. The former just gets a little too tall in some areas so I head it back by about one third to one half every few years and the latter just needs a heavy pruning once a year. After it sheds its scarlet leaves, I give it a heavy pruning knowing it will take off again in the spring.
It’s important to keep in mind that while the growing season is wrapping up, our gardens still have plenty of work that can be done in the fall that will provide big dividends next spring and beyond. Do this work before it gets too cold out and we get too near the busy holiday season.