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.