Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Autumn Crocus; Japanese Irises; Impatiens & Downy Mildew; 2013 Garden Highlights; Preparing for Winter

Autumn Crocus

Autumn Crocuses

 Autumn Crocus or Colchicum

This is what the Autumn Crocuses look like in the spring.
The flower doesn't appear until early fall.
These fall beauties pop up in a matter of days in early fall. No foliage- just the flowers on stems. The foliage appears in the spring and then dies back in early summer (see photo at right). The Autumn Crocus is not a true crocus, but species or hybrids of Colchicum, a group of fall flowering bulbs in the lily family. They do best planted in full sun. You can plant them in low growing ground covers or perennial beds. If you want to move or divide them do it in summer after the leaves have died back, but before the flowers come up. 

Japanese Iris (Iris Ensata)

Japanese Iris 2013
These irises bloomed earlier in the season but they were so beautiful that I wanted to share some pictures of them with you. The Japanese Irises flower a little later in the season than bearded irises. They also have the characteristic of a flat top. To me, they are similar to a Siberian iris except that the flowers are larger. Japanese irises do well in wet soil in the spring, and moist soil and full sun in the summer. As long as the crown of the plant is not submerged under water the plant will be fine. They do not like to dry out and they do well near pond areas. They are hardy in zones 4-9.

Newly transplants require a lot of water. If you have very dry soil you might have to water them every day especially to get them started. They might take 2-3 years before they start blooming. Do not use bone meal or lime on your Japanese Irises. They can kill your plants. And do not fertilize newly planted or transplanted Japanese irises either.
Japanese Iris 2013

It is important to dig up and divide your plants about every 3-4 years to keep them vigorous and also because the new roots form above the old roots forcing the crown of the plant out of the ground.  When dividing, cut back 1/3 of the foilage, dig up the crown, divide into fans and cut off the old roots. To prepare them for winter, after a frost cut down the foilage to the ground.

Impatiens And Downy Mildew

Impatiens 2009
I haven't planted any standard impatiens in the last few growing seasons. Last year was the first year I saw reports that the east coast was having a severe problem with downy mildew that was affecting our standard impatiens (wallerina). All of the standard impatiens including the doubles are susceptible to this very harmful spore. Other plants can be affected by a form of downy mildew but not this strain. If your impatiens had the following symptoms it could very well have been from downy mildew: yellowing of leaves, downward curled leaves, and the underside of the leaves had white spots on them. Young plants appear to be stunted and older plants would drop their leaves and flowers.

The disease can spread from flowers to other areas of your yard by the wind carrying the spores, and the spores can also survive in the ground over winter. If you had infected impatiens this year, you should not plant them next year because the spores could still be in your soil. At this point in time they are not sure how long the spores can survive (1-5 years?). Downy mildew survives in humid or moist conditions, as well as crowded plants. If you have them in your garden now, and they have the downy mildew, when you remove them do not add them to your compost pile. Discard them in the trash. One of my neighbors had downy mildew on her impatiens last year, and replaced them with new plants from a nursery and the same thing happened to the new impatiens. After discarding the  plants and soil and replacing it with new soil she planted them again this year and they were fine.

The New Guinea impatiens are not affected by this downy mildew. I think that might be one of the reasons there were so many New Guinea impatiens planted on the grounds of Boldt Castle that I shared with you in the previous issue of my Garden Blog.

Here is a link with pictures of Impatiens with Downy Mildew: Impatiens and Downy Mildew

2013 Garden Highlights 

Oriental Lily - "Tiger Woods"


Sundrops are one of my favorite perennials. They are not invasive, but they do spread out, and are easy to remove if your clumps are getting too crowded. I like adding these around the different areas of our yard because they bring a "pop" of color to selected areas in early summer.

Lady's Mantle  (Alchemilla Mollis)

I love how the rain beads up on the Lady's Mantle. They can get a little washed out and pale looking around the middle of the season and if that occurs you can cut them back and they will come back the same season. Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla) has chartreuse flowers and does well in partial shade.

Spirea japonica  'Shirobana'


Ligularia "The Rocket"
I like the serrated leaves on the Ligularia. They are really different and it flowers a little later in the season too. It's nice to break up your plantings with a variety of shapes as well as textures in your gardens. You can achieve this with various shades and shapes of leaves as well as flowers.

Japanese Stewartia Tree

The first year our Japanese Stewartia tree bloomed.
Attractive bark on Japanese Stewartia Tree

Crab Apple (wild) I've never seen these crab apples this beautiful before in our area

Preparing for Winter - What You Need To Do

Favorite Tools
I have three favorite tools: My number one tool is a pair of scissors from the dollar store. I don't know how many pairs of scissors I have discarded by mistake when dumping my plant trimmings. You don't need pruners to do all your yard work. I only use them for the really heavy duty stuff like trimming woody stems. I like the scissors for deadheading. It goes pretty quick with them. And with the scissors I also cut back most of the perennials that need trimming in the fall before winter, except the tall sedums, mums and a few other perennials that don't have to be trimmed back until spring. When you are trimming back your perennials it's easy to grab a handful of spike leaves and snip them off with scissors.There are differing thoughts on what should be trimmed back before winter in your garden. Some like to leave stalks of flower heads for the birds, and some think they also protect the plant over winter. I cut most stuff back in the fall because it's less clean-up in the spring when there is a lot more stuff to do at that time of year. And also, with the gardens cleaned up there are less harmful bugs hiding out for the winter in my plants. My second and third favorite tools are the trowel and a D-handle round pointed shovel (30"). You need a trowel for weeding and planting small plants. The D-handled shovel is lighter and shorter than a regular shovel and is great for planting and dividing perennials, Sometimes I even use that shovel for weeding out the big stuff. It's easy to carry the D-handle shovel around too. I also use a 5 gallon pail that I carry around with me with a carpenters apron tied around it to hold my scissors and trowel. I put my tools in the apron, and I can deadhead, pull out some weeds, toss them in the bucket, and that makes an easy way to dispose of them.  I also use a garden kneeler. This reduces strain on your lower back from stooping and bending; and sore knees from kneeling on the ground. And the arms makes it easier for getting up off the ground. And the one that I have you can turn it over and you have a seat, and it folds for storage.
D-handled pointed shovel (30") and kneeler

Fall Chores in the Garden
Continue to weed your gardens. Fall is a good time to weed because with all the rain the ground is not as hard and the weeds usually pull out easier. And you will keep weed seeds from sprouting next spring. If you are having a dry fall you will need to continue watering your newly planted perennials, shrubs, and trees so their roots can get established before winter. When you water you need to water deep, not just a spray or sprinkling. With a deep watering your plants are sending the roots down deep. With a light watering the roots will stay near the surface where the water is and will not send their roots down deep. 
You will need to rake up leaves if you have a lot in your yard. You will want to get them off your lawn because if they are thick and stay on over winter they can suffocate your lawn. Use the raked leaves as mulch in the garden or add to your compost pile. And the same with pine needles. You can rake them up and put them around your azaleas, rhododendron, and your strawberry plants. You will also need to pull out your dead annuals. Sometimes I even pull them out before a frost if they are not blooming very well. If you mulch your perennials be sure not to cover the crown or center of the plant because if water builds up in there it can cause rot. If you have any house plants outside, now would be a good time to re-pot them if they need it. Check them over for any bugs as well. And of course- get your snow shovel ready!

Japanese Anemone


  1. Wonderful photos and information, Sue!

  2. Hi Sue' Lots of information, thanks. I pile up my leaves in the Fall and then in the Spring I take them off of the pile and lay the wet leaves around the perennials so to suffocate the weeds as the weeds germinate. Being wet, the leaves stick together and stay together in the garden. It has made my weeding almost non existent. Time to get the veggie garden tilled and planted with the winter rye which will get done over the weekend if all goes well. bye for now, Judy

    1. Thanks for your information on the wet leaves, Judy. I haven't heard of that before but it sounds like a great idea. I'll have to try it. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I have avoided impatients for a couple of years too, hoping next year they will be fine as I have a north facing garden and they grow so well there. Good idea using scissors from dollar stores for snipping plants. Our weather has been glorious for September and it is hard to start those Fall jobs but I know the weather will change quickly so I had better get them done.

    1. Thanks for your comments Linda. Yes, our weather has been great, and I know what you mean about starting the fall clean-up chores. It's great to enjoy the nice weather while we have it because you know it's not going to last.

  4. Can I take perennial seeds and scatter them now or should I wait for the first snow fall for next year

    1. Maureen, you can scatter the seeds now. Some perennial seeds need to go through a winter dormancy before they germinate. You might want to mark them with something so that when they come up next year they don't accidentally get pulled up as weeds.

  5. I have never been much for changing out what I plant because of fungi or plant diseases but sometimes it has to happen.

    1. I agree with you. We have so many dependable flowers that we use from year-to-year, but when something like that happens with the Impatiens it's not worth struggling with them. One article I read was that they recommend changing up your annuals every year, that way different plants draw different requirements out of the soil. Thanks for your comments.