Monday, November 6, 2017

Deconstructing the 2017 Garden

Just as exhilarating as the spring garden awakening is for me, deconstructing the garden in fall brings a unique sort of satisfaction to my organization gene. I love having the landscape put to bed before winter, and tidying up both the perennial and annual beds is one of the things I like completed before holiday decorating, preferably before Halloween. I make a list of all the chores I want to check off, and get to work. This is the heavy duty stuff, and all hands are on deck to help. I enlist Mr. P. as well as my trusted friend and gardener who has been with us since our installation in 2004.
Fall 2017 contemplating the list of garden chores
A bit like playing beat the clock, it's hard to tell when Mother Nature will turn the corner from summer to fall for good. Mother Nature's fickle that way, we all know.
Fall 2017 moody skies and landscape
I started my work around the projected warm, sunny days expected in mid-October. I cut some of the last blooms remaining, in between rainy days and cooler temps.
Fall 2017 final garden bouquet
I tackled the containers in the courtyard first. I had forgotten about putting a brick in each of the containers by the hot tub for weight, and the roots of my plantings had grown completely around them. We drained the hot tub in order to clean it too, and refilled it for the winter months.
Fall 2017 (clockwise): deconstructing containers, hot tub maintenance
I deconstructed the other two containers in the courtyard in phases. I liked how it looked as I cut each of the overgrown plants out (see photo below, in clockwise direction, starting top L). I knew it was best to completely empty and clean the containers for winter storage, though. We shut the water off and cover the hoses by the first freeze. 
Fall 2017 (clockwise): deconstructing courtyard containers
Even my porch went through deconstruction this fall. For the first time ever, my pumpkins in my original topiary began to slowly rot, starting in late September. I attributed that to the really hot September we had, since I purchased them from the same farmer and same timing as years before. I end up tossing first the bottom, then the middle of the topiary stack, and rearranging what was left. See how it unfolded in the photo frames below, clockwise from the top L. 
Fall 2017 front porch decor stages of deconstruction
I don't know what got into me next, but I decided to tackle cleaning the downstairs windows and  frames  - eleven in total - and the front porch. Landscape uplights attract spiders, so I scrubbed (Lysol and Awesome), sprayed (Windex), wiped, and then sprayed all the ledges and frames again (Terro).
Cleaning windows, ledges and columns
Seven dozen quart-size containers of pansies were planted in the front beds of the house and gate, replacing all the overgrown and fading summer annuals. Windows are all shiny with blue skies reflected!
Fall 2017 front beds: boxwoods and pansies
I had to wait for the yew hedge on one side of the house to be pruned before I could get a ladder behind it to clean the two middle windows pictured below. Even then, the clearance wasn't enough among the thick undergrowth branches for the 6' ladder. So, I used a small stool and climbed the brick ledges like Spider Woman to get the top glass frames. Note to self: reassess replacing yew hedge with something else!
Fall 2017 yew hedge
The courtyard roses and lavender were next. All tidy and neat now, the lavender is kept just high enough that it should easily withstand the brunt of any hard winter freezing. It can be cut back yet again sometime next February or March, before new growth begins.
Courtyard rose, lavender, before & after fall 2017 pruning
By the end of October, the garden was more than half way deconstructed and put to bed. Most of the east side of the landscape has been sheared: knockout roses, dwarf butterfly bushes, irises, and spirea.
Fall 2017 east side landscape, sheared
There's still a lot of work to go, though. Most of the entire south side of the landscape still needs pruned and cleaned out, including the tree butterfly bushes, hostas, Otto Luyken, hibiscus, black-eyed Susans, Mexican sunflowers, coneflowers and sedum. Leaves you see below are just the beginning of our maple outside the brick wall shedding.
Fall 2017 south landscape interior, work-in-progress
Pictured below is how the maple tree and south side of the landscape looked on Sunday, November 5. Overall, there's been about a two-week retard in color and overall change from summer to fall here in our region this year. Also in the photo, you can also see the edge of where pruning has paused on the left side of the frame (spirea).
Fall 2017 landscape, looking south toward maple tree
Besides the maple at the center back wall, I'll also have leaves from my Japanese maple and Kousa dogwoods to rake (pictured below, left and lower center tree line, respectively). Magnolias shed all year, but right now the berry cones are a challenge, as are the leathery leaves (which do not mulch!). A cluster of purple hyacinth bulbs have been planted beneath the Japanese maple, so that is something I'm looking forward to for next spring.
Fall 2017 landscape, looking north 
As for the huge and colorful sassafras tree on the riverbank, along with all the silver maples? We just blow those over the riverbank.
Sassafras (L), silver maples along riverbank, Fall 2017
Fall is a great time to get in the garden for much-needed maintenance. Clean up the leaves to prevent harboring unwanted insects and fungus growth around plants. Walk the garden and examine plants critically, assess the health of each, take pictures and make notes. Take steps to mitigate any damage (gentle or hard prune, treat and/or replace). If plants are diseased, pull them now, but you don't necessarily have to replant now. Although fall is a good time, you can also take time to plan your plantings, and research what you like and what's suitable for your region and soil. Some more tips I wrote previously that you may find helpful can be found in this post.
Nandina hedge, Fall 2017
Thanks for your visit today, and always. Your readership is appreciated, and comments are always welcome. You know we gardeners love sharing the dirt, so feel free to spill!