Your neighbors with the nicest yards and gardens are those who invest time to improve them in the months of October and November. If you own a home it most likely didn’t come with an owner’s manual. Landowner spelled phonetically is “land-oh-ner” although horticultural challenged types would pronounce it “land-oh-no” as they ponder where to start. A great place to start is with some fall planting. Fall is no time to throw in the “trowel”. It is a window of opportunity that comes along once a year. The perfect time to plant, move existing plants or in the case of perennials, split your plants!

Fall is the third act in a four season drama, and for some the most spectacular of seasons. A kaleidoscope of color and a last hurrah before dormancy drops the curtain and ushers in the final act, the arrival of winter.

"Orange" you glad it's fall?

“Orange” you glad it’s fall?

Fortunately dormancy is a reversible stage, providing anticipation and suspense for the arrival of spring. Until then senses are heightened in fall with vivid colors, distinctive aromas or tastes and the sights and sounds of leaves fluttering in the breeze. The trees provide a carpet of nutrient rich organics, investing in the earth to feed future generations of growth.

Plant some bulbs this fall. I love to create “hot pockets”…..small open spaces in your landscape where you plant a clump of spring flowering bulbs to surprise you next spring. You don’t have to dig out trenches or large beds with back breaking work to enjoy bulbs. They are as easy as dig drop done. Plant them in groundcover areas by using a spade and opening up a soil “pocket” in the ground cover area. Drop 5 to 7 bulbs in the hole and next year they’ll pop up through the groundcover. If deer and rabbits are a problem plant some Alliums, Daffodils, Dutch Iris and Fritillaria…..all munching resistant. Not tonight deer!

Easy as Dig Drop Done

Easy as Dig Drop Done

Stay grounded my friend

Stay grounded my friend

Another reason fall is for planting? You can pick up lots of bargains on plant material in October. As Donna Summer said, you work “yard” for the money…..and fall is the time to save. Besides, there’s always room for more jello and plants. I’m always pulling up more sod to put another new plant in the ground. Like a kid in a candy store, especially when it involves spending money on a plant bargain and a new plant. I guess that’s why they ask what’s the difference between a gardener and a mutual fund? The answer is one actually matures after 20 years and makes money. I get my “green thumb” from digging in my wallet, unable to resist the next exciting plant. You can save money too by bending over and splitting your plants. It will entertain your neighbors and you’ll be glad you did next spring when the plants start to pop up. Just make sure the fall divided root clumps are large enough and a light layer of mulch is placed over the top so they don’t heave out of the ground in winter.

Many landscape plants put on a spectacular show in fall. Woody deciduous landscape shrubs like Viburnum, Itea, Oakleaf Hydrangea or Fothergilla light up the landscape with color. Witch Hazel started the drama back in spring with its unusual yellow blooms in March. It saves the best for last with a fantastic foliage collage of orange, yellow and red all on the same plant. Autumn Crocus or Colchicum get in on the act with crocus-like blooms in fall. Also known as “naked ladies” these beauties bloom in fall void of foliage. The foliage waits to appear the following spring. Ornamental grasses add interest to the landscape well into winter with a harvest of dramatic inflorescence dancing in the breeze. Fruit and berries add to the color from the rose hips of Rosa Rugosa to the bird “berry-liscious” fruit of Crabapples,Viburnum and the stunning color of Coralberry with a botanical name that says it all…. Symphoricarpos orbiculatus. Today’s new generation of own root landscape shrub Roses like ‘Knockout’ put on a show in fall, many blooming all the way to Thanksgiving. Roses take a while to naturally shut down for winter and some don’t exit stage left until mid to late November!

Witch Hazel leaves laying in a bed of Lamium groundcover

Witch Hazel leaves laying in a bed of Lamium groundcover

Fall is a time to “grow” with the flow. Food reserves manufactured by the foliage are being transferred to the roots. The plant isn’t spending like it does in spring on top growth. The plant is investing in its “hortfolio” and root establishment for future growth. Even though air temperatures have dropped, the soil remains warm enough for root activity well into early winter. Your investment will grow because fall planted landscape plants have a big jump start on spring planted material.

Be a Smarty Plants

Recently I asked my friends on Facebook what their word of advice would be for someone new to gardening and just starting out. Many offered some well rooted advice to mulch or water or be open to change. Having a vision, a good foundation of organic soil and to start small were other popular words of well grounded wisdom. One of my Facebook friends suggested that frozen berries in wine was a good pain reliever.

Don't "wine" about your landscape....do something about it this fall

Don’t “wine” about your landscape….do something about it this fall

Another suggested buying Motrin along with a lot of plants. Those who had thrown in the “trowel” suggested the new gardener give up before their backs and hips, have a drink and hire someone to do it for them. I liked the fact some felt variety was important and that gardening is good therapy.

In the spirit of turnabout is fair play, I asked myself the question. If left with suggesting one thing, I would recommend that a “smarty plants” invests time in their garden in September and October. Along with great deals on plants, the fall climate is perfect for plant establishment. In fall the soil cools down after a hot summer but is still warm and rainfall is more plentiful. Plants put in the ground focus on root establishment instead of top growth. Plants put in the ground in fall are well rooted and take off quicker in spring. This applies to woody landscape plants, trees, perennials, bulbs and even annuals like pansies. Frost tolerant pansies provide color in fall and then overwinter under the snow to outperform spring planted pansies the following spring.
The weather in fall is enjoyable for yard work, even mundane work such as the lawn. Feeding your lawn in fall is important to develop a thick well rooted lawn. Grass seed grows well in the fall for patching or starting a new lawn, September is arguably the best month of the year to start a lawn in Michigan. And when it comes to weeds, well “weed” need to talk. Perennial weeds send their food reserves to the roots in fall just like the trees. If you apply weed killer you’re getting good translocation of the herbicide into the roots instead of just top kill. Also many annual weeds like Henbit germinate in the fall to become rampant and blooming in the spring. Fall applications of weed control keep these weeds from becoming a problem in spring.

Lawn along top of the picture cut short all summer.....lawn in foreground deck was raised on mower. Any questions?

Lawn along top of the picture cut short all summer…..lawn in foreground deck was raised on mower. Any questions?

If you “plant”-asize about gorgeous flowers in spring, September is the perfect month to plant flowering bulbs. It can be as easy as dig, drop, done. Bulb selections go way beyond tulips with many of the “minor bulbs” like Scilla, Fritillaria and Alliums or Dutch Iris to name a few. Planted in a well drained soil these miracle orbs will pop up and surprise you next spring.

Bulbs are planted....time to run in the 5K event

It’s bulb planting time!

September planted Mums provide brilliant fall color. Mum-Ma-Mia! Hardy Mums and Asters can be displayed in pots for fall color and then if planted in the ground before winter with a light mulch covering should come back next year.
Be a “smarty plants” and make a date with your yard and garden this September.

Mum Ma Mia!

Mum Ma Mia!

Hot Plants never go out of style

Hot “Plants” Never Go Out Of Style.

Agastache in bloom....attracts Hummingbirds, Butterflies, Bees and Sphinx Moths in August

Agastache in bloom….attracts Hummingbirds, Butterflies, Bees and Sphinx Moths in August

Hot pants were all the rage just in time for my high school years in the 70’s. Daisy Dukes cut offs inspired by the Dukes of Hazard Catherine Bach or Wonder Woman in her hot pants outfit were looks we could never imagine ever going out of style. Some people consider the 70’s the decade that taste forgot, and looking back at some of my pictures I would have to agree. In my gym class in the 70’s the guys too and the basketball team wore very short shorts. They were so short that a revolt followed the 70’s and the pendulum swung the other way until people were wearing shorts so long you didn’t know if they were short longs or long shorts.
Short shorts may have gone out of style but hot “plants” never go out of style. Both Annuals and Perennials offer an opportunity to be colorful as things get steamy. August is a great time to rejuvenate our flowering landscape Annuals and zip up your plants! Pruning back stretched tired or leggy annuals and then feeding with a water soluble fertilizer will give them new life. Whether Petunias, Impatiens, Zinnias or the many other flowering annuals we planted back in May, they often need a pruning and a kick in the plants by August. They’ll kick back into gear and produce a new flush of growth and color well into October. Mums and Asters become available starting in August to supplement your rejuvenated annuals for continuous color.
It’s the hot weather favorite Perennials that get me excited in the heat of summer. On steamy days these hot plants put on a show as both tough and beautiful plants. Be a smarty “plants” and pick from my list because every diverse landscape should have a few of these in the sun. Check it out and plant one on me!
Hot Weather Favorites…Hot Plants that never go out of style
Achillea, Agastache (hyssop), Althea or Rose of Sharon, Baptisia, Buddleia, Carex, Chives, Coreopsis, Crocosmia, Echinacea, Helianthus, Heliopsis, Hemerocallis (Daylily), Hibiscus, Hydrangea (panicle), Lavender, Nepeta, Oregano, Ornamental Grasses, Perovskia, Roses (shrub landscape own-root roses), Succulents (Sedum, Sempervivum), Thyme.
If you have some “thyme” on your hands, get out there and put some hot “plants” on your landscape. You’ll be short on boredom and long on landscape color!

Some “Grow”-tivation

In July the summer heat can lower the “bloom” on some people’s enthusiasm for gardening. It’s at that point I need to give them some “grow”-tivation. We all need a little boost now and then. Besides, my Mom told me there would be “daisies” like this.

Mom told me there would be "Daisies" like this

Mom told me there would be “Daisies” like this!

Some would refer to it as the dog days of summer. I love July, love the heat, and only need to think back a few months to the long cold winter to appreciate what July has to offer. Fortunately there are a number of plants that are heat lovers and thrive in July.
Succulents have developed a new found popularity in the midst of water concerns in some areas across the U.S. Succulents come in many shapes and sizes and are easy to grow provided you don’t drown them with kindness. Herbs are a great choice too. Herbs are sun lovers and thrive in the heat. Basil, Lavender or Oregano are a few examples.

I think Basil planted near tomatoes makes them taste better but I can’t scientifically prove it!

There are many “own root” or shrub roses available to today’s homeowner from the “Drift” series of groundcover roses to “Easy Elegance” roses they are a workhorse in the landscape. I have some Proven Winners “Home Run” roses in my yard and they have continuous blooms and great disease resistance to both black spot and powdery mildew. They are heat tolerant, cold hardy with no winter covering and require no deadheading. I give them a general pruning back and feedings a couple times a year and that’s it!
Remember a light layer of mulch helps plants through the summer months cooling the roots and helping retain some soil moisture. When watering, try watering at the base of the plants as “mulch” as possible and morning is a great time to water.
Everywhere I go people tell me they enjoy my garden puns and sense of “humus” to which I say thank you very “mulch!” They then tell me in addition to the puns they like my lists. So here goes, my list of heat loving plants to try. Give a few a try….I knew you had it “zinnia!”
Annuals: Celosia, Cosmos, Cleome, Gazania, Scaevola, Diamond Frost Euphorbia, Gomphrena, Zinnias.
Perennials: Agastache, Coreopsis, Crocosmia, Echinacea (coneflowers), Ornamental grasses, Gaura, Gaillardia, Sedum, Nepeta, Helianthus, Heliopsis, Yarrow.
Woody Flowering: Own-root Roses, Buddleia (check out new dwarf butterfly bushes like ‘Lo and Behold’), Panicle Hydrangeas.
Rick Vuyst

H2O

Every day I drink a lot of tap water without giving it a thought. I wet my “plants” with water from the hose expecting it to be there so my hydrangeas don’t wilt. I’ve always lived close to Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes here in Michigan.

Running for fresh water with Team World Vision

Running for fresh water with Team World Vision

As a gardener and a runner, water is important to me, but I am so blessed with it I often take for granted the plentiful resource it is at my disposal. I was reading the other day that, of the world’s total water supply, over 96 percent is saline. And, of the total freshwater, over 68 percent is locked up in ice and glaciers with an other 30 percent of freshwater in the ground. Those are amazing statistics if what I read is true. Of course everyone would agree that every child deserves clean water. Yet I’ve come to learn that more than 1,000 children a day die from unsafe water… more than from AIDS and malaria combined.

Team World Vision!

Team World Vision!

Clean water, basic sanitation and hygiene can prevent disease and deaths of children in our world. World Vision is one of the largest providers of clean water in the developing world due to the support of World Vision donors all around the world. New or rehabilitated wells and water points as well as sanitation facilities help many children, families, get the sustained clean water they need to live… something many of us take for granted everyday.

This October I will be running for Team World Vision to help raise money for this important cause. Would you take a moment to look at my Team World Vision page and consider helping provide clean water to those in need? Here is the link and thank you very “mulch!”

Please support me here: Team World Vision: Rick Vuyst – Madison Square Church

Rick Vuyst