Autumn Actions

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By: Eleanor Moyer, NC State Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteer in Clay County

What superb weather we’re enjoying! I want to amble through the mountains, light a bonfire, read a book or watch football now that my gardening chores are over. That may be what I feel like doing but gardening is far from over! In fact, fall is the best time for planting and garden chores. Thankfully it’s getting dark sooner, so I can stop sooner.

Even though the air is cool, the ground is still warm. That creates the perfect environment for planting woody plants and perennials. There is time for roots to get a good foothold before winter without the added stress of flowering and fruiting. Do a careful analysis of what worked or didn’t. Think of color, scale, hardiness, and disease resistance. Plants grow, so what worked three years ago, may have outlived its space. Think of areas that need filling in both now and in spring.

A neighbor planted a ‘purple pixie’ loropetalum in a turquoise planter. I’m not sure how well it will survive our winters but its effect in the landscape was magnificent! So scour magazines and the web for more shrub inspiration. This is also an excellent time to plant trees especially those with vibrant fall colors. Chinese pistache trees have emphatic color and seeds while not being overlarge. For fruit try planting heritage apple trees (at least two are needed) many varieties of which were destroyed during prohibition. What the fruit lacks in looks, it makes up for in taste!

Perennials are great fillers for years of beautiful flowers. Irises have thousands of variations of color, size, fragrance, and rebloom with the addition of lovely swordlike foliage all summer. Together with daylilies they generate months of beautiful flowers. Be sure to divide perennials that have become too crowded. They will reward you with vibrancy next season.

This is the ideal time to plant bulbs for spring bloom. Daffodils do extremely well here and there is nothing as hopeful as crocus flowers in February. Bulbs are easy to plant (pointy side up) and return year after year. With good selection, you can have flowers from February to May.

Natives offer the best hardiness and disease resistance. I’d been eager to locate a buttonbush plant (Cephalanthus occidentalis) but, it does best in moist to wet soils which I don’t have so….even though it’s a native, it won’t work for me. Do some research before making a selection.

There are lots more chores I can remind you of, but the game is on so I’ll save it for another day!