Thursday, November 03, 2005

Fall Gardening at Wildflower Woods

I know it's been a while since I last posted and this may be cheating, but I've been asked to write a garden article for the site's newsletter. Here's the inaugral article for my column called "Under the Arbor."

With a riotous backdrop of chrysanthemums, asters, sedums and cosmos and the sound of school children touring the garden, the gardeners have been busy this fall getting the Formal Garden ready for winter.

Before the heavy frost and snows, most beds have been weeded. The west Arbor bed has been readied for renovation next spring. With deep shade, competition from the wisteria vines and lack of irrigation, this bed was overtaken by wildings, to use a Gene Stratton Porter term. Others may call these wildings weeds, but a weed is only a plant where it doesn’t belong. Wild ginger was running rampant in the arbor bed, but it is a delightful plant along the paths in the woodlands.

Fall is also the time for planting. We are planting spring bulbs, but this fall we had a very special addition to the garden. One of the Board members discovered that a large bed of fringed gentians were in danger of being destroyed by a gravel pit. We dug four plugs, about six inches square, and transplanted them near the flagpole. They were planted in sunken pots filled with gravel, in order to mimic natural conditions. Since fringed gentians are biennial, with seeds germinating into small plants the first year and blooming the next year, we may not see their fragile blue blooms again for two years if we were successful in this tricky transplant.

Seeds have been collected to plant next spring with the extra seeds packaged for sale in the gift shop, benefiting the Society. We are attempting this winter, for the first time, to save the especially beautiful or rare tender annuals by pottings or cuttings. These annuals are spending their winter in the big bay window at the farmhouse.

Many bulbs have been dug and dried on screens in the Garden Shed (reminiscent of The Harvester) before being stored in the cool, dark farmhouse basement for the winter. These include gladiolas, begonias, canna lily, peacock orchid, and dahlias.

The hardy plants overwinter in the garden. Some have been cut back, but those with attractive foliage or seed heads remain intact, as they are especially beautiful in winter laden with snow.

Perhaps the best part of fall gardening is planning for the next season. We have inventoried the plants in the formal garden beds, noted what works well and what hasn’t thrived. We then cross-referenced the existing plants with the plant list maintained by Gene Stratton Porter from 1912 through 1922. And we talk about the “what ifs.” What if we plant these in drifts for more impact? What if we revive the yellow bed, perhaps adding this plant? What if we make part of the herb bed into an herbal tea garden? What if we outline these beds to draw the eye to the layout? What if we move this to the rock garden? What if we add some cabbage roses to the rose bed? What if? What if?

If you have some “what if” ideas to share, now is the time.


Peg said...

How does one sunscribe to the newsletter?

Earth Girl said...

They would love you to joining the society. I'll get you a brochure.