Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Waiting for the drop of fall.

The mornings now are chilly but the afternoons are spectacular. The dahlias are explosions of color that drip down their laden stems. Bouquets made by the handfuls pile up all over the house and I have started to gather the seedpods of cleome and angelica to toss into spots that are empty of greenery in hopes that next year they will be more petalled.

I adore flowers, as we all know, and the way the flowers that are still in bloom in the garden glow in the fall light is beyond photogenic. That golden glow that gilds each petal with a 24 karat sheen at the edge of late afternoon each day locks the entire garden in an amber embrace. This is the magic of fall. It’s last hurrah is a celebration of gorgeousness.

My crape myrtles are flaunting their rainbow shades as the flowering pear starts to put on a shimmy show of deep jewel tones and wine. I have added more fall foliage plants in the last couple of years just to be able to expand this fall flourish, this last madness of color before the grays of winter descend. Since I tend to be a purchaser of flowers, to have chosen things based on foliage is a real step forward for me. Not that the clethra is without flowers, or the lindera, but they were selected to enhance the months of October, to add accents and depth and shimmer.

I do have one flowering plant that every righteous gardener should have, and that’s Rabdosia longituba, commonly called long-tubed trumpet spurflower.  A member of the salvia family that’s a riot of blue flowers on arching stems, it’s significantly underused plant. Ignored by the deer (I know fairly incredible right?) and graced with azure flowers that weigh each of the three plus feet long stems into elegant arches, it is a most becoming flower. I have to plant it behind plants so I don’t just randomly remove while weeding in the spring as I do my asters every year as it is somewhat unassuming until the fall arrives. But now, as the sky seems to deepen with meaning and the clouds look like painted cream puffs just waiting to be bitten into, it’s blue is like someone scattered sky sprinkles all over my shade gardens. Oh did I forget to mention it’s a shade plant? Divine right?

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to talk people into using it with the same ease that I have brought leucosceptrum into people’s lives, but it and aconitum, the monkshood that also is a true, clear blue are two of the best fall flowering deer resistant plants that I have in my palette. I have a great plant palette, with a vast range of plants to chose from now that I have a deer fence, but to truly expand my range, I must start to choose evergreens with the same passion I have for the floral, and I am, slowly, learning to embrace them, but it’s hard to resist plants that are waving  branches with electric yellow, screaming orange and ruby red leaves dangling as if piled with costume jewelry.

It’s at this time of year that I always promise myself a gingko. The first leaf to turn, a messenger of the shifting season and changing light, it’s a vivid yellow promise that the days are becoming shorter and the end of the year is beginning. I want to wear those golden leaves in my hair like barrettes or on my jacket like a broach on encircling my throat choker like. Their elegance is astounding and I’m sure the cultivar Jade Butterflies would be smashing on my eastern bank.

Another plant I’ve promised myself, is, of course, a fall blooming camellia. Hardier then the spring ones, they are evergreen, so I am allowed at least three this year and presently they are on sale and awaiting my tags. I am torn between choosing three different varieties or making a grouping, although I know the grouping is the right way to proceed. I already have a tag on a fothergilla. It’s not an evergreen, unfortunately, but with it’s honey scented flowers -- something the bees love about this southern native plant – and it’s fancy fall dress, it’s a must for the garden. Best grown in bright shade or preferably at least some sun for the best foliage show, this southern native is late to color up and so is a perfect way to extend that amazing autumn burnished golden time.

Of course, as I haven’t been given the green light to be active again, I don’t know how I’m going to get these plants I’m tagging into the ground. I’m already way behind on my garden chores and have already had to ask for help with the tedious task of picking up all my fallen apples, a crop that is beyond excessive this year. No one in the family is volunteering, so I’m calling Gerardo and begging for his assistance. Maybe he can also help with the tomato plants that are awaiting removal as they collapse upon themselves in increasingly billowing folds. My tulip bulbs have started to arrive and are piling up in the basement and it’s time to think about planting my garlic. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I must get better faster!

I am resigned to the fact that the vegetable garden is going to morph into a rose and dahlia bed, it just isn’t getting harvested properly and I’m tossing more then I’m eating which seem just very silly, so I’m going to try and cut back on the herb and vegetable purchases next year. Although we all know that fall promises are often lead astray by spring temptations. The fig will be allowed to remain regardless of what direction the vegetable garden takes as it’s getting enormous and is covered with small figs that unfortunately, will never ripen before frost arrives. I have high hopes for a milder winter, as that would mean the fig would be amazing next year, but I have no idea what this winter brings and I’m not in any particular hurry to bring it on and find out.

Paige Patterson has a counter full of apples for sauce, pie making and juicing, but fears she will drown in the cascade of fallen fruits.