Fall In Love With Gardening

In upstate NY we are beginning to baton down the hatches and scurrying with the squirrels in preparation for winter.  Most of our gardens have diminished to woody overgrown bean plants, snail infested tomatoes, and dots of fleshy hubbard squash waiting for harvest.  But with the right planning you could marry aesthetics and practicality to make a smooth fall garden transition into winter.

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Right now in bloom you may have intense purple or red salvia, mums on the cusp of blooming, or attention stealing kale.  These are all easy to grow and bring the garden from summer to fall with great color selections.  So just weave some of your fall plantings right in between the magic of the pre-existing plantings.  For example, try sneaking in more ornamental daffodils and tulips or useful bulbs of garlic.  They all need the cold winter resting period and reward your patience in the following seasons with color, fragrance and food!  If you are a gambler than there is always a betting chance that a crop of lettuce or radishes can be squeezed out before the frost if they are planted late August or early September.  The summer sun has already warmed the soil so roots grow twice as fast in the fall than spring!

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Color and texture are the real fall favorites in our region.  Mums are a staple in our climate.  We depend on their resilience to pests and drought and love their consistent, dependable manor.  So if you want to spice up an oldy but goody, try contrasting colors around the mums or something more posh like an assembly of secondary colors.  I just love autumn peach, lavender, and fresh green.  Add an assortment of gourds or squash for an inexpensive ornamental flair to punctuate your gardens or window boxes.  The best part of this time of year is that anything goes.  Dried components mixed with fresh, herbs with ornamental, and annual with perennial.  Think outside of the box and figure in some great transitional plants and mediums to help keep your Autumn spirits soaring.
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Can’t Keep A Gardener From Growing

Today we are happy to share another guest blogger, our very own designer Robin!  She is sharing some of her latest gardening research with us.  Happy reading:

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Everyday of my life nature has inspired me.  As a sleepy tot, leaves served as a mobile for me while my mother did outside chores, wild daisy and black eyed susans later taught me how to braid and chain halos.  I was free to move about in the garden at my own speed, free to indulge all my senses.  Working the Earth steadily all these years completes me and offers physical and mental workouts.  Lately that freedom of movement and opportunity has taken on a new meaning.

Recently a family friend, who shares my passion for plant hoarding and appreciation for garden design, has become physically incapacitated.  She will not heal from her disease and in her early 50’s a wheelchair will now be her only means of mobility.  Along with my suffocating empathy for her situation, I have found a panic button in myself.  One that triggered the fear that at any moment of one’s life, their physical status may change for the worse.  Whether by disease, accident or aging, it is life altering and something I personally would struggle with to the extreme.  So at the root of my fear is ” how will I garden???!!”
I have started researching handicap accessible gardens in hopes to be reassured that there would still be opportunities for my gardening brothers and sisters (and someday possibly myself) that may need a little help in completing their garden or landscape visions.  I was slightly annoyed that there were so few options.  Most photos were of wheel chair accessible gardens to visit in larger cities.  That may be nice for an afternoon visit or a bit of inspiration, but a real gardener needs to get their hands dirty. (Need, not want!)  There were a couple different architectural samples for the homeowner.  Mostly wood raised beds that are the correct height for a wheelchair to glide next to.  The thought is nice, but weeding can sometimes become a contortionist art.  Pulling or planting while facing the wrong direction is not efficient or comfortable.  Leverage and gravity are mandatory.  So I dug deeper for more information. Finally I came across proper raised beds where a wheelchair could pull right up to the planting beds that fit like a table over the lap.  There was a glimmer of hope!  The outside of some of the raised beds were even nicely covered in field stone for a much more natural feel.  There were large gardens of brick or stone that had small coves built in for a very accessible and natural flow and beautiful paths that to the untrained eye would appear to be like any other inviting garden walkway.  On closer inspection the paths are flanked with woody plants, shrubs and trees that need pruning and shaping at a 3′ to 4′ foot level.  Maintenance after initial plantings was thought out professionally.
There are lifelong gardeners and beginners but the common thread is that once you connect to the soil and plants it’s difficult, if not impossible, to pull yourself away.  Blisters, cuts and pulled muscles are just the ignorable side effects of a beautiful personal garden oasis that brims with your own pride and creativity. No matter the physical limitations, We will always find a way to keep up the work.
So I will now keep my eyes (and mind) open a bit further in finding creative and well engineered planting beds that everyone can use.  I would love to see more community gardens offer accessible gardens for everyone and to see more selection and inspiration of raised beds and greenhouses.

Robin’s Garden

We’re excited to have one of our own designers, Robin, as a guest blogger this week. She will be sharing information on one of her many passions, gardening:

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My yard in Spring is like an out of control, multicolored soiree. The flora and fauna go from stark to lush in 2 days of sunshine. There are old friends arriving, new guests from who knows where, no shows and the inevitable unwanted guests usually in creeping weed form. The house and multitude of chores inside must wait until October now, for the real party has begun outside.

In all this chaos we must remember not to rush out of the gate prematurely and that there may be better times to plant or prune certain species. There is no blanket rule for your pruning duties. So don’t get Edward Scissor Hands on your shrubs without researching your specific variety and it’s tailored needs.  For example, some hydrangea varieties are best to be pruned when you can decipher new and old growth by swelling buds in Spring.  The buds of some plants have set themselves in fall and by pruning at the wrong time you will cut off any potential flowers. Our cold, windy winters prove to be too much for some deeply pruned and hallow Hydrangea stems. A light prune just to shape the plant is always safest until you know for sure.

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Be careful raking too early, “your roots are showing” isn’t just something of a coiffure slam, but your actual lawn has tender shallow roots in the early spring. By raking too soon you will rip and damage that manicured lawn you are striving for and eventually killing with kindness. If you unsightly stalks or clumps of leaves, just pick them up by hand until we have more consecutively warm days and the grass has started flourishing.

Some other fun spring tidbits that will help you out is to be patient. You may have received a beautiful bulb garden basket this past Easter or even for Mother’s day. The best treatment for the bulbs after they have bloomed is to trim the dead flower stem off and allow the foliage to run its course and eventually wilt. After wilted, place the container in a cool, dark, dry place for the summer. In late fall after temperatures drop, is the perfect time to place them in the ground with a little fertilizer/ bone meal (follow the instructions about depth. (Not too shallow!)  The bulbs should pop up in the spring and be back on their “normal” schedule.

Last but not least, I will single out my favorite spring flower. The true sign of new beginnings, the flower of Wales and the most resilient of the bulbs, the Daffodil. Ever since Narcissus drowned in that pool of water after being so taken with his own beautiful reflection, the plant has had many myths surrounding it. Animals instinctively know not to eat the poisonous plant. The sap has sharp crystals of calcium oxalate that may irritate your skin and are poisonous. However, it is fine to place Daffodils in a vase of mixed flowers as long as the water is changed daily. There is nothing better than to see a few simple stems of their happy yellow faces peeking out from your favorite vase.

Tick-tock, Spring time is fleeting in Rochester, Ny so go out and enjoy the fresh, new pallet of your space and the pride in last year’s good planning.