Fall Bloomers, Part 2

Normally these asters are my favorite fall flower. When they were planted eight years ago, I did not know much about perennials. I got the asters along with a couple of dozen other perennials at an end of season closeout. The next year, I watched the plant all summer thinking, “When is that darn thing going to do something? Is it a flower or a weed?” Then, one September day, I looked out the window andaster-monch.jpg “Wow,” the color was amazing.

Now, it’s looking wimpy. It definitely has a fungus. I could spray, but I try not to use a lot of fungicides in the yard, so I’m going to take the low-tech approach. As soon as it finishes blooming, I’ll cut down the foliage completely, and throw it away in the garbage–not the compost. Because the plant was looking sickly, I consulted my perennial Bible, Growing Perennials in Cold Climates by Mike Heger and John Whitman. Mike is a contributor to Northern Gardener and also owner of Ambergate Gardens in Victoria, MN.

Mike and John recommend dividing asters every year or two. Mine have never been divided. So after I finish cutting them back, I’ll probably divide the crown and move it to the plant holding bed I’m setting up in the backyard. Plants sometimes benefit from moving around, so I’m going to move the asters to a different location in the garden next spring. We’ll see if that perks up their bloom.

Fall Bloomers

It’s September, so every garden I know of is bursting with Clara Curtis daisies. These pretty fall bloomers are a member of what was once the chrysanthemum family. (It’s been broken up by plant scientists and classifiers, and these are in the Dendranthema genus now.) Whatever their scientific name, these hardy mums fall-bloomers.jpgare incredibly easy to grow. They also spread. About four years ago, I bought one plant. I now have Clara Curtis daisies in four flower beds. I can’t bear to get rid of them because just when other parts of the garden start to look droopy, these guys burst into their pink and yellow glory. Many of the catalogs and plant web sites will say Clara Curtis daisies bloom from June on, but not around here. They always wait until September.

Watermelon–A garden first

Me and my watermelon
Market gardeners amaze me with their ability to grow melons. This is the first year I’ve grown a watermelon to eating size. I only got one off the plant–but hey, it tasted good. I harvested it a hair early because of the critter situation in my yard, but it was ripe and juicy. It was a Sugar Baby melon that I bought as a seedling at Frattalone’s Ace Hardware in Shoreview. My mom and I buy plants there every year and they usually perform well.

Plant BIG Trees

The single best landscaping decision we ever made was to plant big trees on a new lot. Like many new homes, our house was built on a former cornfield. It had been terraced, but it was bare. At the suggestion of our landscaper, Leif Knecht of Knecht’s Nurseries and Landscaping, we planted six large trees, as well as eight smaller trees. The picture is of an Autumn Blaze maple I grabbed from Leif’s web site. I’ll post one of my maple when it turns color.Autumn Blaze maple

The big trees had to be moved in with a special tree-hauling truck. The six we planted were:

  • An Autumn Blaze maple
  • A Pin Oak
  • Two White Pines
  • A Swamp White Oak
  • A Marshall Seedless Ash

With our other plantings and the small trees, our lot looked “full enough” from the beginning. Now it looks great. Some of the trees are taller than our house, which helps to keep the house from looking like a huge box as so many new homes do. They also provide shade and privacy. Big trees can be expensive, but if you consider the difference they make in the appearance and your enjoyment of a new home, they are worth it.

Welcome to My Garden

Even though I edit a garden magazine, I’m not an expert gardener. My mother has a green thumb, but I was not one of those gardeners forced to pick beans or hoe weeds as a child who cannot get gardening out of their blood. For years, I refused to have houseplants because I killed them so efficiently. As a young woman, I had a small community garden plot, which I neglected. Total harvest: Three yellow beans and a melon the size of a ping-pong ball.

The first home my husband and I owned had a mature lot with beautiful trees and a dozen or more hybrid tea roses. One-by-one, the roses died, but as I learned about gardening, we were able to grow asparagus, herbs, tomatoes and a big old-fashioned rose–Sir Thomas Lipton. It still towers over the fence in that yard.

I’ve moved on to a different house and garden now, and I am still learning about gardening. I’ve learned a lot since I started editing Northern Gardener magazine in 2005. This blog is an attempt to share what I’m learning with readers of the magazine and anyone else who gardens in the north.