Fall is simply Mumbelievable for gardening

People ask me…..Rick why do you always say Fall is one of your favorite times of year to garden? Well first…. I like Autumn….that makes me the fall guy. But a more important reason is it is one of the most efficient and effective times of the year to plant. It’s also a time for the Mumbelievable, playful Pansies and fabulous foliage. That’s why they call it Awwwtumn. And Mums the word for instant color! Mum Ma Mia! Chrysanthemum is coined from Greek words chrysos meaning gold and anthos meaning flower. They are Mumbelieveable!

For instant color they are simply Mumbelievable!

1. Plants in Fall put their efforts into establishment (roots) instead of a focus on top growth (spring)
2. In Fall the soil is warm compared to spring making it easier to work with….and again great for root establishment.

Fall is for planting (click on image to enlarge)

3. You can effectively feed woody plants in Fall. Even though air temperatures drop the soil stays warm often all the way to Christmas! Hoe Hoe Hoe. The plant can take in the fertilizer and will get next spring off on the right foot!
4. We generally get plenty of natural rainfall in Fall. That’s why they call it rainfall!

Fall is a great time of year for perennials

5. Autumn provides great comfortable weather for people to work in the yard.
6. You can often get end of season bargains in Fall.
7. It beats watching your favorite football team frustrate you….again.
8. It’s the perfect time to fix your lawn….September and October is the ideal time to seed a new lawn or reseed or repair an existing lawn.
9. An ideal time to control weeds! Winter annual weeds (like Henbit or our friend Harry Bittercress) are establishing in the yard so get them now before they bloom next spring and produce seed. Perennial weeds (Dandelions) are like the trees shutting down for winter so when you spray them with an herbicide it is more effective getting into the root system for total kill versus the top kill only you often get in spring. Take me to your weeder!

Fall is the perfect time to establish or repair a lawn

10. Bulbs! Dig drop and done. Bulbs are easy and when the tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, allium, crocus and more bloom next spring you’ll be glad you invested in Fall!

Fall is for planting Spring Flowering Bulbs!

11. It’s a great time of year to move plants. Cooler temperatures means less stress AND a moved plant gets a dormant time of rest (winter)…..not like a spring planted plant that has the heat of summer to follow.

If you’re going to move some plants Fall is a great time to do it

12. You don’t want to leave roots above soil level (in pots) so get them in the ground. The plants may be winter hardy but the roots will freeze if left in the pots above the soils surface. If you don’t have the planting area yet, plant them pot and all temporarily to be moved next spring.
13. You can even plant “Annuals”. Ornamental Kale, Pansies, Swiss Chard, Snapdragons will tolerate frosts to bloom this Fall.

Plant some annuals for Fall color like Ornamental Kale
Kick in the Plants!

A plant with a rich history…Baptisia

Baptisia australis or “false indigo” is native to North America from the Hudson Bay in Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. A hardy and herbaceous perennial it seems to grow well in both northern and southern zones. The plant has never tried to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes so the moniker “false indigo” seems somewhat unfair. Baptisia australis has always been used as a dye but considered “inferior” to dye made from “real” true indigo, Indigofera tinctoria native to Asia. Settlers to the New World saw native Americans were dyeing things blue with a different kind of plant, and called it “false indigo.” Not as effective as the true indigo plant, necessity is the mother of invention so they named it false indigo and the rest is history. The Baptisia element of the name comes from the Greek root bapto- meaning to dip or to immerse. The plant was called Baptisia because people were dipping their fabrics or cloth in juice extracts. Humans throughout the years have used indigo dye to impart a lasting blue color to a wide variety of textiles. Blue is my favorite color and considered one of the most desirable if not the most desirable color in the garden. From blue flowers to blue jeans the color has a rich history.

Baptisia Blueberry Sundae
Dirty blue jeans and “False Indigo” or Baptisia


In the 1700’s the British Empire’s appetite for the color and blue dye went well beyond the supply of Indigofera native to the West Indies. Real life reality of supply and demand was a damper as there was too little of it to supply demand. Soon the English remembered the colonies across the ocean and learned native Baptisia could be used as a substitute. The quality was not as good but you do what you have to do. They dubbed the plant false indigo and in the spirit of commerce it became an important export. If you think the first subsidized agricultural crop in America was tobacco, corn or cotton you would be wrong. It was the color blue as in false indigo. 


From an economic standpoint the colonies output enhanced the larger British economy and supported the expansion of the British empire. What could possibly go wrong? With indigo plants one couldn’t eat it, smoke it, feed it to animals, make it into clothing, or build a house out of it. The process of extracting the dye from the plant was costly, time consuming, and labor intensive. In 1775, South Carolina exported more than one million pounds of dried indigo cakes to England. Indigo cakes had fared better than tea during diplomatic tensions. Can you imagine a tea party demonstration with indigo dye ending up in the harbor?  It would have been colorful that’s for sure. Indigo business was good in 1775 but immediately followed by a near collapse of the industry the following year.  The commencement of the American Revolution put a wedge between American farmers and British customers and certainly a damper on business.  


The color blue has a calming effect in the garden and in tight spaces. Baptisia today as a landscape plant thanks to plant breeders has evolved into an array of color choices and varieties that go well beyond “indigo blue.”

Baptisia Pink Lemonade
Plant breeders have developed all kinds of fun and colorful Baptisia for your home landscape!

June is the month to swoon over flowers

As we turn the corner to the month of June it’s time to swoon over the plethora of bloom that awaits us. As the flowering annuals planted in the month of May kick into gear and perennials and roses show off, the month of June is arguably one of the best months of the year to enjoy the landscape. The days are long as we approach the summer solstice giving us a lot of time to enjoy the beauty around us. Plant growth with the long warm days will be at a maximum so it’s a great time to be thinking about feeding hungry hard working plants at this time. Grabbed my camera to shoot a few pictures in the garden to celebrate as we turn the corner to June and approach the first days of summer!


April Snow…A Common Michigan Occurrence

It seems to happen every spring in West Michigan.  An early spring warm up gets the earth growing and hopes high and then reality sets in. We live in Michigan. Reality in the form of a mid-April snow event. This is usually followed by clearing skies leading to some hard overnight frosts between mid-April and Arbor Day. April snow showers bring May flowers. The snow is not so bad because it is insulation and tends to melt quickly. The tough part is when the clouds clear, the air goes calm, and trees in bloom or flushing plant material are affected by overnight temperatures that drop into the 20’s. Here are some photos I took in the landscape of the snow event on April 15, 2020. (Click on photos to enlarge in gallery) 

Deer resistant plants

I have no I-Deer what to do

Deer pressure in the landscape can be very frustrating. Some people reach the point they have “tried everything” and have no “I-Deer” what to do anymore.

Last week sharpshooters from the USDA were in my neighborhood and shot 30 total deer permitted under our city’s agreement with the federal agency. (An authorized deer cull) A couple days later there were around 15 deer in my backyard as though nothing had happened. They ate my Hydrangeas to the nub. Don’t cull us…we’ll cull you. They walk right into the yard and begin feasting as though it is a buffet. One of these days I expect them to ring the “deer bell” and make a request. Oh my deer friends. We’ll talk about it Saturday on the Flowerland Show February 22 Podcast Deer Edition: Here are 4 pictures from my backyard to help get the conversation started…..

Scene in my backyard a couple days after sharpshooters had culled 30 deer from the area.
My neighbor was excited about some large Arborvitae he planted as a screen along an area where he does entertaining. In short order the deer turned them into “topiary” works of art. I suggested he pick up Bonsai as a hobby.



Now does this deer in my backyard look like someone that is going to cooperate with me? Has that I’m going to eat your Hydrangeas look in it’s eye.
They resort to eating plants you would expect they would “leaf” alone like this Yucca….that has to be tough and “stringy” but they eat it!