Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Beauty of Fall

The Beauty of Fall is but a fleeting moment- today there are deep golds, blazing reds, bright yellows, and copper colors. Amazing contrasts, and deep shades of warm colors. But tomorrow it can all be gone with a strong wind, heavy rains, or a frost. Only to leave us with the bare branches and some brown leaves hanging on until another windy day when they're whisked away. Enjoy the fall now because you know it won't last. I guess I was right when I wrote in my September 25, 2014 blog issue that I thought it would be a great fall with lots of color because of all the rain we had this past season. It certainly has been a beautiful fall!

It's that time of year again. Time for the fall clean up. I've been cutting back my perennials that have finished blooming. Some of them even have some green left on them like the peonies. I wished I started my clean-up sooner because now I'm trying to weed these gardens as I cut back the perennials, but the falling leaves are blocking my view of the weeds. I'd rake off my perennial beds, but the leaves aren't all down yet meaning I'd have to do that chore twice. Actually, in reality, I'll be lucky if I get that done once. Because once the weather turns cold (like below 50F) I usually hibernate. I don't like working outside in the cold, damp weather.

Fall color of Variegated Solomon's Seal
I had some fall photos in this blog post, but then I wasn't really satisfied with them so I deleted most of them and added more current ones of our yard and surrounding areas. Sometimes the fall photos can be pretty drab so I decided to add what is visually appealing to me at the moment. Some of these pictures were taken this morning (10/15/2014). And while I was finishing up it started to rain. Got a few just in time.

I loved the color of these Solomon's Seal in the picture above. I usually don't cut them back. They will die back in the ivy and the remnants won't even be noticeable next spring once the ivy starts its new growth.

Redbud tree
I noticed over the last few months that several trees did not leaf out very well this year. I think it has been the strain put on them due to our weather the last few years. This past winter we had ice damage in areas north of here that damaged several trees, and in addition to that problem we also incurred a long winter and late spring. And to add to those conditions, the last few years have been significantly dry, almost drought conditions.

Hostas and Sundrops

When trees are stressed like this over several years they tend to decline and eventually they might die. I had two ornamental trees, a weeping cherry and a red bud that never flowered this year. They leafed out very well and appear to be ok so I'm hoping that next year they will re-bloom. Maybe it was due to the late spring. Also, one of my iris beds didn't have a single bloom in it. I think it must all be weather related.

When we first moved to our house here in Mexico, N.Y., I noticed that the pine trees were turning brown. I thought they were dying. I had no idea that pine trees lose their innermost needles in the fall (that comes from my years of living in a city and not having a pine tree in our yard).

Fall is a good time to plant new trees and shrubs. The weather can be cooler and most of the time there is sufficient rain to water your new transplants. If you decide to plant trees or shrubs this time of year be sure to plant them early enough in the fall so that the roots get established. Newly transplants should get at least 1 inch of water per week. Some may dry out faster than others and may need to be watered every day. It's hard to judge how much you need to water your trees because it's easy to either over water or under water them. And either of those conditions will kill your trees. Water your transplants right up until the ground freezes and even after the trees or shrubs lose their leaves. Your new trees, especially evergreen trees, should be well watered in the fall to prevent desiccation. Desiccation is very extreme dryness. It can occur from evaporation through the pine needles of the tree during the winter winds. Desiccation happens when the amount of water taken up from the roots to the needles/leaves exceeds the amount of water the roots are taking in, and if the ground is frozen the roots will not be able to take up any water.

You can apply mulch around your trees or new transplants after the ground freezes to protect them from frost heaves which would push your new plantings out of the ground.

A few more things to remember are to protect the young tree trunks against damage from animals such as mice, rabbits and deer. Also do not pile mulch up high to the trunk. Leave at least a one or two inch space from the trunk. If mulch is piled high and close to the tree trunk it can attract insects and rodents. Another problem with mulch piled high against a tree trunk is that it can cause conditions that contribute to rot in the trunk.

Garden Tip: Do you have any green tomatoes left in  your garden? Here's a trick  you might want to try to have them last a few weeks longer for you. My father did this and it actually does work. You harvest your green tomatoes before you get a frost. Try to harvest the oldest tomatoes because the very immature ones might not work. Then you wrap them individually in newspaper or tissue paper and store them in a cardboard box or paper bag in a cool place. A basement is best, but keep them away from your furnace. Then check them every few days and they will start ripening up. Usually the top layers will ripen first. Sometimes though quite a few will ripen at the same time. The cooler the place they are stored in, the longer it will take for them to ripen. Try it and let me know if it works for you. At least you should be able to get a couple of more weeks out of them rather than having them rot on the vine due to frost and cold temperature. I researched this online to see if this was valid and here is a link I found 2 Ways to have Fresh Tomatoes this Winter

I like to do a lot of clean-up in the fall. I feel that the more I can accomplish in the fall the less I will have to do in the spring. There is usually plenty to do in the spring: weeding, mulching, fertilizing, planting, etc. One garden blogger wrote in a post last week that she likes to leave her garden in the fall look the way she wants to find it in the spring. So discard your annuals, cut back most of your perennials (there are exceptions to this Fall Pruning), clean bird feeders and birdbaths, take cuttings now of some of your plants you would like to overwinter to plant outside next spring. Cuttings are easier to handle than large pots and usually transplant better, too. Put away (or discard) flower pots and containers. I have a bad habit of saving too many of those plastic pots from the nurseries. I save some so I can transplant and share perennials with friends. Also store your garden ornaments, plant stakes, tomato cages and peony hoops.

If you have perennials that you wanted to transplant to another area of your garden, it's still not too late to do that. As long as the perennial has about six weeks before a heavy frost you should be ok. If you have stuff in pots that never got planted either plant it or toss it (I should take some of my own advice. I still have stuff that needs to be planted.) Or if you are really desperate you can dig a hole in the ground and put the pot right in the ground with your plant in it and dig it up and plant it next spring. Fall is also a time to plant garlic, rhubarb, and spring bulbs. If you would like some color in spring plant daffodils. I actually prefer the tulips, but deer and rabbits love tulips but not daffodils. Also, tulips usually only last a few years and then they die out. Crocuses are also a nice spring bulb to plant now.

Dig up tender bulbs and corms like dahlias, canna, and calla lilies. Store them in a cool, dry place that doesn't freeze.

And the leaves. If you don't have time to rake them up, just mow them up with your lawn mower. They'll break down and it will be fine.

Clean up the vegetable garden and discard leftover vegetables. You don't want to attract mice or moles.

A last rose from one of my miniatures.
Bring in your houseplants that enjoyed the fresh air outside over summer. Check them over for insects that want to spend the winter on them indoors. Transplant your houseplants now, outside, while the weather is still fairly nice. It is less messy than doing it in your house in the winter.

White-Crowned Sparrow

You know that winter is just around the corner when the Junkos have arrived from the north to spend their winter here, and the White-Crowned Sparrows are passing through to their winter destinations which are south of New York State.

Listen! the wind is rising,
and the air is wild with leaves.
We have had our summer evenings,
now for October eves.
~Humbert Wolfe, P.L.M.: Peoples, Landfalls, Mountains, 1936

This photo and the next photo is from Harrisville, N.Y.

Thanks for stopping by,
Feel free to leave a comment!


  1. You are making me homesick for WNY!But I will get over that soon enough.Our leaves on Florida Maples and Sweetgums don't turn until November or December.And we use the needles from our slash pines as mulch.If you have a pine in your yard your neighbors love you.LOL!Your photos are amazing.

    1. Thanks Chris. It probably won't be long now before we start getting the white stuff and you'll still be in your flip flops. hahaha. The pine needles do make great mulch, but I think they are almost harder to rake up than leaves. Then when you rake them up in the fall around here you have to rake them up in the spring again because they continue to fall all winter and you have to wait til the snow melts.

  2. Fabulous shots Sue. I hope that cute sparrow visits us. Our trees are just about bare from the wind and rain this week. I will have some clean up done but no garden work this fall due to knee and back issues so it will mostly wait for next year.

    1. Thank you, Donna. The White Crowned Sparrow usually just stops for a rest and to search for food and then they are off again (this time south). Luckily I was around and got this photo of him. (Even though it was getting ready to rain and I took the photo through the window & screen) Hope you get a chance to see them on one of their migration stopovers.
      Everything is pretty wet around here with all the rain we've had so I'll have to wait awhile til it dries out before I get anymore garden work done. Hopefully before the snow flies.
      So sorry to hear about your health issues. Hope you are on the road to recovery and will be back in the spring with renewed spirit.