This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.
As we move into the holidays I am keenly aware that it gets harder and harder for me to motivate you to play in the garden. I get it. You have been moving hoses around all summer, mowing the lawn every week, now you are sick and tired of it. But I would propose that the beauty of the fall is that you no longer have to deal with the mundane tasks of mowing and watering and can concentrate on the fun stuff like planting bulbs, overhauling your containers for winter interest or even raking leaves.
There is something about hanging out in the garden in the fall, with the autumn colors, crisp air and the smell of damp soil and drying leaves, that is so special. The deciduous trees and shrubs take on a whole new personality with their summer clothing shed and their delicate branching patterns revealed.
There are surprises like the fall blooming crocus my wife planted under the fragrant snowbell or the hardy cyclamen under the weeping beech, that have actually been blooming for a month but we didn’t notice them until the leaves on the Korean Wax Bells fell off the other day.
There is so much happening in the garden in the fall that I never get bored. While many plants are going to sleep some are actually waking up.
Winter bloomers like Mahonia “Lionel Fortescue” are pushing spikes of yellow blooms that brighten up my shade border and delight the hummers that are hanging around for the winter.
Fall blooming camellias (sasanqua varieties and their hybrids) are blooming as we speak with their colorful, mostly single or semi-double, blooms in shades of red and pink with splashes of white surrounding a center of bright golden yellow stamens, all set against a backdrop of dark green, glossy foliage.
Skimmia japonica is in full bloom and if you are lucky enough to have both male and female plants, you will have bright red berries that are great for decorating for the holidays.
Speaking of berries, my wife’s Beautyberry is covered with the most elegant purple berries this time of year which look magnificent in the garden but also on the kitchen table combined with a few sprigs of zebra grass, a fading hydrangea bloom and some seed heads from the Crocosmia “Lucifer.”
Arrangements from the fall garden don’t need to be blousy and outrageously colorful. A simple collection of twigs, berries, blades of ornamental grasses and dried blooms makes a stunning composition. The understatement of it all always speaks to my soul this time of year. Nature just seems to know what we need after the cacophony of summer passes and the calm of winter approaches. Fall is the perfect transition between these two seasons.
There are so many reasons to get out and enjoy our gardens in the fall. Plants of course are at the top of my list, but let’s not forget the incredible intricacies of a dew laden spider web or the brilliance of a sparkling crystalline blanket of frost as the morning sun reflects off of its surface. The smells of decomposing leaves or the tactile thrill of touching the hairy branches of a staghorn sumac never ceases to amaze me.
Personally, all of these elements combine to create a spiritual experience that often brings me to the edge of tears. Explore your garden this fall and see if you don’t feel the same way.
Sunnyside will also be hosting a free class, “The Beauty Of Hellebores.” Saturday, November 4, 2017, at 1:00 pm.
Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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