November 30, 2013

Garden lessons learned: autumn 2013

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Of all the transitions between seasons, this is the weirdest one to write about. Moving from autumn to winter seems to happen faster than the other transitions, and it feels odd to write about "autumn lessons" when we've had "winter" weather for a couple of weeks.

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Of course there's plenty of material for this "Lessons Learned" meme, because I learn (and re-learn) every season of the year.

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So here goes. Here's what I learned during autumn 2013:

• Get the camera ready for the Purple Lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis). This misty plant has a similar effect to Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)--clouds of soft fluffy color in early autumn. Plus, it blooms from August through October. I discovered a patch at the cottage this year, and the purple/pink cloud of inflorescence was magical in the afternoon light. But I didn't have a decent camera with me. My bad.

• Sow perennial seeds in late autumn. It's easier and cheaper than purchasing and planting perennial plants in the spring. This autumn, I planted seeds for Agastache foeniculum, Boltonia asteroides, Carex pennsylvanica, Conoclinium coelestinum, Mertensia virginica, and two species of Asclepias. Who knows if any of them will germinate and grow next spring, but the investment in seeds was minimal. Plus, it's kind of fun anticipating which plants will appear.

• Add some veggies to the display. Swiss Chard, Pansies, and Ornamental Kale all perform well in my autumn climate--long after the first frost and into the late winter. I'm already planning my autumn potted arrangements for next fall.

• Wear comfortable sturdy, supportive shoes when visiting public gardens or traveling. I thought I'd packed the appropriate "comfortable" shoes for my London trip this fall, but after only one day of walking through airports and London streets, my feet ached! By the time we got to Kew Gardens, walking was painful. My fondest memories of Kew are sitting down outside the Orangery restaurant and taking a slow tour through the Grass Garden (including sitting breaks). Fortunately, I had other shoes along to wear for the rest of the trip. But next time I'll be ready with hiking boots or athletic shoes with extremely supportive, durable soles.

• Prepare for a quick seasonal shift in November if October is mild. This fall was brief. It almost seemed like we went from summer to winter overnight. No complaints here, because the extra warm days were nice. But I need to remind myself to be ready for the sudden blast of arctic air.

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Now it's your turn: What gardening and nature lessons have you learned and relearned this season? If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, please share your spring lessons.

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To join in the Lessons Learned meme, share a new or a previous post you've written regarding things you've learned. No Linkys necessary: You can simply add the link in your comment.

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Please also join Donna at Gardens Eye View for the Seasonal Celebrations meme. Posts that cover both memes offer a chance to reflect on the past season and look ahead to the next at the same time. Both memes will be active until the solstice, when we'll post the wrap-ups.

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59 comments:

  1. Boy can I relate Beth. Our fall was the opposite though...spectacular and long. I saw so many migrating birds and monarchs because of the extended season so never count them out I say. I plan to sow perennial native seeds in spring and fall in a unique way that I saw recently. I agree it is such a better way to go...and I love the challenge.

    I'll be linking in on Monday with my lesson learned. Stay warm my friend.

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    1. Actually our autumn was long, too--which made the recent transition even faster than usual. It will be fun to compare notes about the results of our seed-sowing experiments. Thanks, Donna.

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    2. Here's the link:

      http://gardenseyeview.com/2013/12/02/gardens-eye-journal-december-2013/

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  2. Nice are your photos!
    Greetings, SK

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    1. Thank you. I find vining plants fascinating. I hope to experiment more with them as a photo subject.

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  3. Ja jedynie trawę ozdobną wysiałam późną jesienią i ciekawe co z tego będzie wiosną. Do miejsc, gdzie wiem, że będę dużo chodzić ubieram tylko wypróbowane wcześniej buty . Pozdrawiam.
    I'm merely ornamental grass sowed in late autumn and wonder what will become of the spring. To places where I know I walk a lot just wear boots tried before. Yours.

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    1. I'll look forward to hearing how your seed-sowing works out, Giga. I have a new interest in ornamental Grasses, so I hope you'll post about it in the spring and summer!

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  4. Oh I so agree...Autumn is in a blink of an eye here too. Same with Spring. Not enough goodness to savor. I LOVE that first photo. The textures and colors are just perfect. Like you, I find so many things to capture with the camera, but I feel rushed for the most part in a season all about slowing down.

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    1. Thank you, Donna. That first photo was taken at Kew in October. It seemed to fit with my vining theme for this post. I actually cropped the photo to enlarge the vining area. The larger photo is like a tapestry of luscious Grapevine foliage. It was beautiful at Kew--covering an entire wall. I agree about the season. I guess it makes the time with short days pass faster.

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  5. Beautiful atmospheric autumn photos! I can completely relate to the shoe lesson. Like you I also love to visit public and private gardens (by the way I have been in England in June as well this year and posted about some of the gardens that I saw on my blog) and it can be a disaster when the shoes are giving you a hard time. Can even distract from the loveliest of all gardens. Wishing you an enjoyable rest of the autumn, even though it is already very wintery in your neck of the woods.
    Christina
    Christina

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    1. Thanks, Christina. Boy, you are so right about the shoes. I imagine England would be gorgeous in June! Happy rest of autumn to you, too.

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  6. I love your clematis photos! Autumn is always such a nice season for us but its passing happens so suddenly here, too. One day all is glorious, then a hard frost later, winter has claimed the leaves. My lesson this autumn had to be patience. I am usually so busy in the garden tis time of year. But I had to take extra time to heal and so had much more time to actually relax in the gardnen.Truly an unexpected gift from my surgery back in July!

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    1. Thanks, Deb. I was so thrilled the Clematises finally took off this year. I had to protect them from the rabbits with layers of chicken wire, foil, and other barriers. You have such a healthy attitude about your recovery. I'm so glad you're making the most of the time in the way you can to appreciate all the beauty around you. Your garden seems like the perfect oasis to me.

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  7. The first photo is gorgeous! Good lessons learned. It's always surprising how much we walk on a vacation. The plants we didn't capture seem to be the ones we remember. The grass sounds beautiful, will need to find some photos of it. Our seasons are so erratic we can only go by the calendar.

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    1. Thanks, Shirley. I think I learned a secret about selecting footwear from the experience, so the pain served a purpose. But, gosh I was miserable for a couple of days! I think I would prefer your erratic winters to my ... brrrr.....bitter cold ones. I'm trying not to whine, but that's how I cope this time of year. ;)

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  8. Sowing seeds in autumn is something I always mean to do but generally don't. The only exception this year was scattering the seeds of my Cleome. However, I did draw a few lessons about things I want to do come spring.
    www.gardeninacity.wordpress.com

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    1. Thanks for participating, Jason. I love Cleomes and I need to remember to plant them again next spring. I'm so curious to see which seeds will germinate!

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  9. Shoes and camera proximity, yes, both traps I have fallen in to, though sometimes I find it good to be fully present without the distraction of trying to preserve the moment with my camera. I did manage to sow some seeds this autumn, and some are even already showing signs of germination, but when I have time there are definitely lessons learnt that I should record...

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    1. Oh gosh, I agree about setting aside the camera sometimes. I do feel so much more present without it, but then I think, "Wow, that would be a great shot. Darn, I don't have my camera with me!" I'll look forward to hearing about your results with the seed-sowing, too.

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  10. That first photo is gorgeous, Beth--it looks like a still life painting! I also planted just a few perennial seeds this fall--it will be interesting to see how our seeds fare come spring and compare notes on what worked. I can relate to all your lessons here, including wearing the right shoes:) But most of all, I agree that fall seems way too short; wouldn't it be nice to enjoy all those beautiful colors for awhile longer?

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    1. Thanks, Rose. When we happened upon the wall of Grapevines at Kew, it pretty much took my breath away. Yes, fall was very short this year--but that meant summer weather was longer, which was OK by me. It sounds like a lot of us tried the autumn/winter seed-sowing this year, so yes it will be very fun to compare notes next growing season!

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  11. Appropriate footwear - always a good lesson too learn! You've learnt some good lessons this autumn Beth. Good on you for getting those seeds sown.
    Sad to read your fall was ever so short. It's usually like that here but not this year. We've had our first frosts but still plenty of green around.

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    1. Usually, the summer-like weather ends in late September here, but this year it stretched into October. And then, crash, in November winter was here to stay. So, I can't really complain because we had mild weather longer than usual. It just made the transition a little harder. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only person re-learning the footwear lessons!

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  12. I hope to wintersow some agastache myself -- but I'll be trying it later in the winter, I think.

    I'm pretty much a newbie when it comes to wintersowing. Guess that means whatever I learn it will be an interesting lesson! :)

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    1. Actually, I just remembered...I planted the Agastache as bare root stock! But, of course, I hope those plants survive and thrive, too! I've been reading lots of articles about planting seeds from native plants harvested near your home--that's how it would happen in nature. Seems like a fun, inexpensive way to do it! I can't wait to see the results! Good luck to you, too!

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  13. You've touched on many lessons learned and re-learned in my garden too :) We are still experiencing fall here. I just took some shots of the Japanese Maple that has gone a brilliant red. It's a gorgeous time of year but I hear we will be getting some arctic air later this week. Bummer :/ Your captures are beautiful as always.

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    1. Thank you, Cat! I can only imagine what a wonderful place Austin is in late autumn and winter. One of these years it will be my vacation destination. I enjoyed San Antonio and the Hill Country when we visited there. Enjoy your beautiful weather--I hope it doesn't get too cold your way!

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  14. There is a beautiful light in your photos...a late autumn it's really winter here, [and here] kind of light.

    I sowed a bunch of seeds too...wondering what will come of it.

    Jen

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    1. Thanks, Jen. The light this time of year makes the photography easier, but the challenge is the frostbitten fingertips--I know you have experience with that, too. Such a drag. Winter would be so much more fun if it wasn't so cold! ;-) Wow, another seed-sower this fall. I'm sensing a trend ...

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  15. These are real spectacular art photos, each one is so beautiful. I was choosing the one with the hairy seeds, then as i scroll down, oh i can't choose one anymore, as i love them all. These inspire me to get photos of the tendrils at home in the province, don't forget my macro lens here in the city. I can emphatize with your cold, as my officemate wants the aircon fully on as I am shivering and needs more cups of coffee!

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    1. Thank you! Your mention of coffee makes me want to grab a mug, even thought it's evening here as I read this. ;-) The tendrils of plants are very dear, aren't they? They're always with us, we just have to look closely and notice.

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  16. Great list of lessons! I always tell myself I will sow fall seeds and plant bulbs and I just never get around to it. There are so many things to do in the garden in the fall and I always run out of time! With regards to achy feet...I found that alternating shoes each day helped when I walked a lot in Europe and trying to change the surface you are walking on also helps. Walking on concrete all day vs. soft grass makes a huge difference (I know it is not always doable but worth trying if the opportunity presents itself).

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    1. Yes, good advice about the shoes. Fortunately, I had three pairs along so I could alternate. But only one pair was truly supportive of my soles. But I learned (I think) my lesson! I hope some of the seed germinate and grow, but we shall see! ;-)

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  17. Some great lessons here Beth, I feel I learn something new every week in my garden, and I certainly learn a lot from all of you other bloggers :-) I haven’t done any autumn sowing yet, haven’t really got anywhere to store the seedlings but I have a plan of sowing hardy seeds and leaving them outdoors – next year perhaps?

    My biggest lesson this autumn has been about my fuchsia cuttings, I took 25 cuttings indoors to try to save them over winter, and left a few outdoors as I simply had not enough space for them indoors. Those indoors are all more or less dead, those still outdoors are just fine! I think they simply found it too warm indoors, can’t find any other reason. They just wilted in the first week and now look very sad/completely dead. The 3 mother plants are still looking gorgeous and in full flower outside :-) Not sure how they will cope with the next few months….

    Although we officially started winter 2 days ago, it still feels like autumn here, many trees have still got leaves on, my clematises are still flowering and my dahlias have not died down yet, one of the hydrangeas are still green and with flowers – can’t really say it feels like winter!

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    1. Thanks, Helene! Actually, I planted the seeds directly in the topsoil of the garden. I added some mulch and stamped a bit to keep things in place, but they were placed like they would fall in nature. Who knows if they'll germinate and grow in spring, but it will be a fun experiment. ;-)

      You had a fun experiment with your Fuchsias! They were among the most amazing plants I saw in your garden--obviously they're planted in the right place. I hope they make it through the winter for you! I'm envious that you still have autumn weather. We've had a few warm days again, but now we will have a deep chill on the weekend. Ick.

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  18. It's hard for me to pick which one of your lessons I like best, as I relate to all of them. I never seem to have the picture I need when I do a blog post, and I never seem to get those perennial seeds in the ground in fall, either. I have a bunch sitting in the refrigerator right now. I guess my lesson learned is, it's hard to change, so if you don't want to make yourself miserable, just accept imperfection.

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    1. Oh yeah, I wish I had some photos of the Purple Love Grass. I'm imagining a series of posts about that meadow next season ... it was just magical! I really like your advice about accepting imperfection! I learned that one about housekeeping years ago when my kids were little! Cheers!

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    2. Hi Beth - I'm back, with my official Autumn Lessons Learned - be grateful for what you have, among other things. Thanks for prodding me to link back here.
      http://www.gallopinghorsegarden.com/1/post/2013/12/my-extra-late-blooming-kniphofia-rooperi-part-3.html

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  19. Such special photos in this post, Beth. I can relate to the notion of needing to learn and relearn - I haven't got my head in order to muse on my learnings this spring, so I'll appreciate your even more.

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    1. Thank you, Sue! I'm not sure I have my head in order either, but I'm trying. ;-0 I imagine you are pretty busy, though, with everything blooming! That's the busiest time of year (after the holidays) for me, too--but I guess you have both at the same time. Wow!

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  20. Oh how delightful are your photos, so clear and rich in shadows....what have I learned? I love that we are given the chance to learn first of all, at any age, and so here goes:

    1. The life cycle and death cycle are natural, nothing to fear, and waits for no one.
    2. One must constantly cultivate goodness and an environment rich in the nutrients necessary for the plants to survive the changes in the climate.
    3. Each of us needs some sort of nature's offering, whether a veggie garden, flower or green...or the chance to stop and listen to the silent sky; we cannot live without our life-line to nature.

    Oh what a lovely post, and thank YOU for visiting my home! Anita

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    1. Good lessons! I think sometimes we separate ourselves so much from nature that we forget we are a part of it. And then we're surprised when natural things happen that we should expect. Of course, we also cause changes to nature, as well--hopefully, we learn not to destroy it. Thank you, Anita, for your kind words!

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  21. Great post. I've done the fall seed sowing and it can reap good results. In Sept. of this year I sowed Dalea and Plume Poppy. They're up and looking good. Also I planted a 'Lacinata' kale in spring and it grew like crazy and still looks good. I had never grown Kale for ornamental purposes but wow, what a great plant.

    Great photos!

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    1. Hi Grace: That's good to know! I'm embarrassed to say I've never tried it before, so this will be fun! I'll have to wait until March or April to see the results, but the anticipation is part of the fun. :) I love ornamental Kale, too!

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  22. Lots of lessons learned ! The quick morphing of one season into another means that relevant tasks need doing immediately ... ahem ... like planting tulip bulbs ! Otherwise, 'someone' might be left with 2 bags of them to plant, and soil too wet to dig ... :-(

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    1. Yes, so true! That happens to me a lot. I have good intentions to plant bulbs and then I procrastinate or I forget where I put them. Drat! Oh well, all part of the process, and the lessons.

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  23. I enjoyed your lovely fall photos. The seeds I planted last fall didn't come up, but a number of plants did some self sowing. I was going to try to plant some again this fall, but didn't get to it yet. I don't know if I can still do it now that it's snowed.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. I'll be sad if none of the seeds germinate. :( Oh well, I guess it's still worth a try. I attended a native plant conference this fall and they suggested planting after the first hard frost and any time during the winter when you have bare ground. I'm glad I got mine in before the snow. But if we have a January or February thaw it would probably still work, if you cover the seeds with some light mulch. But I can't really give advice as this is my first attempt with fall seed sowing! ;-)

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  24. I'm going to have to check out that purple lovegrass - it even has a fabulous name! And the lesson about shoes that one can wear and walk in all day is one that I painfully have learned in the past, too. Sorry that you learned that lesson at Kew! I am linking in with my short lesson learned. It's not specific to autumn, but one that could be useful anytime during the year.
    http://dreamingofroses.blogspot.com/2013/12/blooms-from-indoors.html

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    1. Thanks for joining in, Holley. I hope you're feeling better now! The Purple Lovegrass is enchanting! I can't wait to see it next summer. I have this romanticized idea of the light hitting it just right, and I'll have my camera and my tripod ready, and I'll capture the most amazing photos. Hehe. Here are some lovely photos of it: Purple Love Grass.

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  25. That first photo of the grapevine is gorgeous, suitable for framing.

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    1. Thank you, Carolyn. It was an amazingly beautiful display at Kew Gardens. The entire wall was covered with grapevines, and that photo is one small section of it. Anyone who lives in London and never visits Kew is really missing out!

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  26. I don't remember if there had been a hard frost yet. I may have planted them too soon, and they got eaten by critters. I think I planted them in October. I remember most of them were not supposed to have dirt over them, so I was wondering how that was going to work out. The rest of those seed packets must have fallen into the recycling, because I haven't been able to find them to try again.

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    1. Keep me posted, Sue, if you decide to try autumn/winter sowing again. I'm really curious how this will work out!

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  27. Thank you for the invitation to share my Lessons Learned from 2013. I learned so many lessons that I'm splitting them over several posts, but here is the first Lessons Learned post! http://www.gardenofaaron.com/2013/12/eight-top-performers-from-2013-creeping.html

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    1. Thanks for linking in, Aaron! I learned a lot this fall, too. In that sense, it was a very good harvest. ;-)

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  28. My lesson is brief and simple.
    When all else fails (the plant WON'T!), go back and read the instructions.
    http://eefalsebay.blogspot.com/2013/12/buttery-yellow-hibiscus-tiliaceus.html

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    1. Got it! Thanks! I love Hibiscus plants. It's an attraction that has grown with age. I'm not sure why--perhaps a longing for tropical climates...

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