Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Scotty's Fall Perennial To-Do List

Robert Scott spoke to our seminar attendees the other day about perennials and tasks that should be performed this time of year. Scotty has worked for over 20 years buying, selling and providing information about plants that come back every year. Here are his notes from Saturday's presentation.

Fall is a great time to plant perennials. The cool air temperatures and warm soil temperatures allow roots to expand even as the plants' foliage and flowers slow down.

Dead Heading (insert Jerry Garcia reference here) is important to keep flowers blooming into fall. Removing spent blossoms encourages additional late blooms on the following perennials:
Many daisy-shaped flowers benefit from deadheading
Plant these perennials for fall color.
In Full Sun
Tall Sedums
Chrysnathemum nipponicum (Montauk Daisy)
Heliopsis (false sunflower)
Rudbeckia fulgida
Ornamental grasses--Many colors and sizes look their best this time of year

Solidago (Goldenrod) and ornamental grasses provide color and interest well into fall
In Part Shade
Geranium Rozanne
Japanese Anemones
Chelone (turtlehead)
Begonia grandis
Tricyrtis (toad lily)

Planting tips
Use Espoma Bio-tone to establish plants faster
Use Leafgro compost to mix into soil (3 parts soil to 1 part Leafgro)
Dig holes 2-3 times as wide as root ball but only as deep as the rootball is tall

Care following a heavy frost or freeze
Scotty's Hamlet voice "To cut back or not cut back, that is the question"
Herbaceous perennials will likely die-back on their own, Try to leave 4-6" of the main foliage stem visible (Coreopsis, Astilbe, most Ferns etc.)
Tickseed Coreopsis will die back on their own. Deadhead them often for extended bloom time
Woody perennials may be deadheaded or leave the seed heads for winter food for finches and other birds. Cut-back in spring after new foliage disappears. (Perovskia, Lavender, Eupatorium, Caryopteris, Veronica etc.)
Eupatorium or Joe Pye Weed provides late summer and fall color. Butterflies love them. 
Leave these perennials intact for winter interest including seed heads.
Taller Sedums
Ornamental grasses
Perennial seedheads provide winter interest and food for the birds
Winter mulching
After a heavy frost, as soil temperatures cool, apply 1-2 inches of shredded hardwood mulch or compost around the perennials. Avoid putting too much over the base/crown of each plant; use barely enough to cover the ground. Mulch provides several benefits. It insulates the soil providing protection to the plants from freezing. Mulch also keeps soil temperatures more uniform, preventing plant heaving from occurring during extreme changing in soil temperatures. Mulch will also maintain some soil moisture.

Diseased leaves
As gardeners trim back foliage, be aware of any diseases that may be present. Discard leaves that may harbor fungi like powdery mildew, botrytis, or other leaf diseases often present on plants like Phlox, Monarda or Peonies. Dispose of all infected leaves; do not add them to the compost pile.
Pat cuts back perennials in our butterfly garden

Thanks again to Scotty for sharing this information. Please feel free to contact him on the phone at 410-527-0700.

Friday, September 18, 2015


I get it. Mums are ordinary. Everybody has them.
But, the reality is that they do their job, and do it very well. Mums bring color to our fall porches and gardens. They have hundreds of buds when we first see them in early fall, which translates to hundreds of flowers over a 6-8 week period.
And the hues and shades are extraordinary.
Suzanne, Dotty and Katie water mums most days. The plants' prolific root systems and robust foliage and blooms make frequent watering necessary to keep the plants nice. Once they are transplanted in the ground, mums may require less water, but keep an eye on them on bright, warm sunny autumn days.
Here are a few tips to be successful with mums
  1. Choose mums when they are heavily budded and cracking color. Expect 6-8 weeks of bloom, though that will depend on the weather
  2. Water mums daily if left in pots and containers
  3. Once buds have started to open, mums will continue to color-up in sun or shade. If the plan is to compost them at season's end, sun or shade is fine. If planted in the ground with the expectation of returning next year, plant in full sun 
  4. Double flowering mums will "age" better than their single-petaled counterparts. The flowers will fade but remain attractive well into the fall season
  5. Ideally, choose up to 3 colors to display together. Almost any combination is pleasing to the eye
  6. Darker colors fade to light as the season progresses. Burgundy, red, and purple are all very popular
  7. Purple is especially popular in the Baltimore area since mums and Raven's football share the season
    Work up a fall combination of flowers to celebrate our teams. Red and yellow for the Redskins, and yellow with whatever for the Steelers
  8. Buy the bigger plant. Once the buds have started to open, the plant will not grow much more this season 
  9. Use mums to decorate for your own fall festivities. Mix them up with pumpkins, squash oddities, corn fodder and other fun fall d├ęcor
  10. Wait to cut mums back until spring if you are over-wintering them. Then, remember to cut them back to about 6 inches on St. Patrick's Day, Mother's Day and the Fourth of July. They will be compact nd full of buds come next fall
  11. Purchase mums from local growers. Ours are grown on our own farm in Hydes, MD
Mums are by no means the only thing to plant in the cooler months of autumn. Pansies, ornamental cabbage and kale, scores of perennials, and trees and shrubs all benefit from being planted now as the air temperatures cool off while the soil remains warm.
The colors of fall are beautiful. Enjoy the season.